Tag Archives: Decorations

Teacher Retirement Centerpieces

6 Jun

After the pots and branches were set (instructions on how-to visit original Manzanita Madness post) it was time to decorate!  I needed something that would add color to my centerpieces, fit into my theme, and be the right scale for the branches and pot.  I happened across some school themed scrapbook paper I found on sale ($9.99 for 100 sheets!).  The sheets had multiple different patterns, sparkles, and colors– just perfect for the party, but I still had to figure out what I would use it for.  Then it hit me!  What screams school and teachers more than paper airplanes!  And, to top it off, the cost would be less than a penny for each plane!

How To

Perfect Paper Airplanes

I first used plain computer paper to figure out the size I wanted on the trees.  I went with about 4 inches by 7 inches.  I got four planes per 12 inch by 12 inch scrapbook paper (I eyeballed the measurement to make them all fit– three in one direction, one on the leftover top part).  Then I took a metal ruler and began folding the planes.  First I folded in half, then folded the sides in once, then again (to get a good point and a slimmer plane), then brought the two sides together and folded down from the middle.  Or click here for a pictorial tutorial.  I had purchased some yarn ($1.29 for a ton of yarn at Wal-mart) and cut lengths of about 5 inches and tied them into loops.  I placed the knotted side into the middle of the planes and then stapled them together.  I then tried to place one of each pattern on each centerpiece to get a lot of color for not a lot of cash!

Gingham Placemat

I thought gingham would be a good compliment to a teacher retirement party.  I purchased 4 yards and cut the squares roughly about 2′-0″ x 2′-0″.  I used a roller cutter on a cutting board.  I noticed I had some frayed edges and decided I needed to finish it off.  I had some wired red ribbon about 2 inches thick.  I used regular Elmer’s white glue to glue on the ribbon to the edges of the fabric along two sides.  If needed, I went through and “hemmed” with the white glue on the other edges.  The ribbon added some weight to the mats and made them see more expensive.  I sprinkled colored buttons around like confetti on the placemat due to our guest of honor being a home economics teacher.  I used the placemats also on the memorabilia table.

Mini Blackboard Table Cards

The table cards were made from black foam core that was cut in order to be able to use wooden tongue depressors.  I cut them about 4″ x 6″ (approximately).  I used hot glue to adhere the wooden sticks to the foam core.  I used scissors to cut blunt edges on the depressors.  Next, I used my Cricut to cut the letters for the mini blackboards.  Then I used a coordinating ribbon from my gingham placement (same ribbon just in a 1/2 inch size).  I used green floral sticks with metal wires attached to wrap around the ribbon and shove into my foam (worked really well and held them even during transport!).  I covered the area with an apple– it didn’t need it since the moss covered everything, but I liked the shiny apple at each table.  My table names went along with my theme and were based on stereotypical school cliques.  The tables were the:

  • Drama Queens
  • Bullies
  • Nerds
  • In-Crowd
  • Cheerleaders
  • Jocks
  • Outcasts
  • Preps
  • Misfits
  • Honor Students
  • Teacher’s Pets

 The guest of honor had a seat saved with a blackboard saying, “Saved for teacher” and had a matching red ribbon bow in the back of the chair that matched the gingham placemats.

Moss & Pencils

As I mentioned in my post Guest Book with a Twist, I instructed the guests to actually engage with the centerpiece by using little yellow golf pencils that were placed in the green moss.  They were to look like they were part of the theme only, but were actually functional for filling out the guest book and also for the surprise pop quiz (as mentioned in  Teacher Retirement Party Activities post) that was given.  We bought the pencils for cheap at an office supply store and sharpened them up a bit before placing them out.


Teacher Retirement Party Activities

1 Jun

Guests can sometimes be stuck to their chairs all night and not socialize.  To keep your guests from suffering for “Tree Stump Syndrome” I crafted some activities to get people talking, laughing, and, most importantly, learning more about the guest of honor.  I needed something to match my ‘Last Class’ theme that would get the guests to interact with one another doing something benign and silly.  These little activities usually help people loosen up and helps make the party more memorable.

Dunce Cap Doodle

I decided to create a song as a tribute to the guest of honor.  The springboard for the idea came from a message board site.  I liked the Yankee Doodle themed song since could download it from you tube without words to have the guests sing to at the party.  To keep with my theme, I decided that I would make Dunce caps and those with the caps would automatically be chosen to sing the song at some point during the party.

At first, the Dunce caps were around and people merely thought they were just decorations for the party.  However, the guest of honor began to choose people as she met and chatted with them.  She picked people like her old boss, some old friends, etc.  As soon as they received the hat, I discretely went to them and handed the song so they could read it over.  The guest of honor only knew she had to hand them out, but did not know why.  Then before the speeches, we asked all those ‘Dunces’ to come up to the front to receive their ‘punishment.’  Since I had about 10, people who were shy could still get up there without feeling bashful.  I was surprised at the amount of people who got out cameras to get everyone singing!  Everyone got a kick out of the whole production!

How To

I bought gray poster board and referenced First Palette for a little help on making a conical hat.  I measured my head with the string and then halved it.  I then attached the string to a pencil, held the sting at the center of my circle, and traced my semi-circle.  I cut out the shape carefully.  Then I secured the hat with a staple at the bottom and then fixed the rest of the seam with dabs of hot glue.  To make it more festive, I bout some spray glitter and glittered those bad boys up!  I also used my Cricut to cut out the letters “Dunce.”  I glued those on prior to the glitterization.

Party Pop Quiz!

Another idea was to help the guests be better informed about the retiree.   To do that we had a memorabilia table with old pictures, old year books, awards, etc. spread along the table along with mementos and decorations.  In addition, we had a sideshow running that had fun facts about when she started teaching compared to now (e.g., the average teacher salary from the 60’s to average teacher’s salary now).  Hopefully all the guests were paying attention because we had a POP QUIZ right after the speeches were done!

How to

I printed these out on my card stock I used for all the rest of my projects.  I chose questions that were tailored to those who attended (like the neighbors invited would get the car color correct, while work people would know about how many years she taught).  The questions were meant to entertain and to get people laughing and, at the same time, learning a little more about the retiree.  We also had some tie breakers in case we needed them.  We gave the top two guests gifts for getting the most questions correct.

Guest Book with a Twist!

22 May

At some point during that party, your guests will be sitting at the table with some idle time on their hands.  So, to keep them busy, why not have the guest book right at their fingertips!  Going along with my ‘Last Class’ Retirement party theme, the guests were going to “pass a note” to her during the party.  I first caught this idea from blog The Sweetest Occasions, where it had a great 80’s school themed wedding profiled.  I used past pictures on the pass a note (I had four different combinations of past pictures on the cards to keep it interesting!).  I accompanied the guest book with a pink eraser card holder to tie into my school theme.  I had mini golf pencils available for the guests to use.

The cards were 4 x 6 and can be put into a photo album easily.  I plan to place the note cards amongst the pictures from the evening.  The pink eraser holders were easy to make as well– just cut a deep slit into the eraser and insert the printed card stock.  I found there is a difference in pink erasers and some are easier to cut than others.  The pink erasers were 3/$1, so it will not kill the budget.

Pencil Vase

17 May

Finding an easy buffet and memorabilia decor was tricky.  I started in August and hit up the numerous sales for back-to-school.  Combined with a little bit of google searching, I found a cute and easy pencil vase idea!  I first saved and washed peanut butter containers.  I put some spray adhesive on paper and attached it to the plastic container.  I then put the pencils, eraser down, on with a hot glue gun.

I went all the way around, using the table as a level guide.  The process went pretty quickly and was not too hard.

I also turned the logos on the pencils so I could use multiple brands of pencils.  I then put a rubber band around the pencils and placed two contrasting decorative ribbons to hide the band and glued on a bow.

And viola!  Easy decor for the party!  Best part is that if you skip the hot glue, all the pencils can be donated/used!  More pictures of the vase “in action” can be found here.

Manzanita Madness!

17 Apr

Placing a centerpiece on a big table can be daunting– What size?  How tall?  How many??  I took to my google search skills and found Manzanita branch centerpiece.  The branches offered height and a bit of mystique, and still allowed guests to see through the piece to converse.    This was my answer to all my questions…

Manzanita madness, I have it.

After a little research, I ordered from Nettleton Hollow, but also looked at Save-on-Crafts.  Both have great options, different sizes, and color options.  I decided on the 24″ – 36″ sized branches because my tables are approximately 8′ diameter and seat about 8-10 people.  The cost per branch was about $10 after shipping costs and everything added.

Deciding on how large of branch, I decided I needed something that would be substantial enough to fill the space, and not be overpowering.  Blooms and Branches had a handy guide to measuring Manzanita branches that might help in your selection:

After the huge box arrived, I carefully lifted each piece out– they tend to get caught together, so be careful!!  Being a natural product, each branch is unique and has its own quirks.  Best part is that you can trim whatever does not agree with you.

I decided on Terra Cotta pots because the price ($1.47/pot) and the availability of sizes.  I spray painted them white (first with a cheaper spray paint that I used as a primer, and then with a more expensive gloss spray paint) to match the decor of the party.

Now time for the creation!  I bought stones from the store to set in the bottom of the pots to add some leverage against tipping over.  If using the clay pots and painting them, you need to make sure the rocks are dry or the it will make your paint bubble.

Next I put duct tape to plug the hole at the bottom of the pots.  I shoveled in the rocks (a little at first, placed the branch to secure, then added more rocks on top).

Then I had the options of how to set the Manzanita branches in the pots.  One is to use plaster of paris, but after finding out that one little package is about $8, I needed a better option when I was making 12!  Also, the prep and time involved in mixing plaster, pouring, and setting it was a little daunting.  I decided on expanding foam (about $3.50/can).  For all 12 centerpieces, I used only 3 cans (mostly because I over did it– probably could have used only 2 cans if I did not have such a heavy hand).  Also, follow the directions on the can about safety and precautions– this stuff is sticky and most likely only be removed with acetone (nail polish remover).

Example of my bit of over spraying is below.  The can said the foam will double in size, I would say in my conditions in my garage (approximately 80 deg, 80% humidity), I got about 40% expansion.

I sprayed the foam in and around the rocks and around the base of the branch by pushing the spray can straw down into the rock layers.

The product sets up in less than 8 hours, and then we were able to cut away the excess from my heavy handedness.  I trimmed it with a plastic knife and made it slightly below the rim of the pot.  The foam cuts extremely easy, and since I would be covering the foam, I sometimes ripped off what I did not want.

After all the pots were trimmed, I put some store-bought green moss to cover the foam.  I lightly placed some hot glue around on the foam to secure the moss for travel.

And  that is it!  Beautiful (and easy) centerpieces that are ready to be decorated!

After all this, I wanted to see how secure the branches were, so I brazenly picked up the whole thing by only the branch– the branch didn’t move, didn’t wiggle, didn’t budge.  I was suprised at the strength of the hold considering it was holding the weight of the 8″ Terracotta pot,  2-3 pounds of rocks, moss, foam, and the branch itself.  I would not recommend throwing them around the room like that, but good to know that this branch is very secure and can withstand a lot of top heavy decorations.

Here are the Manzanita branches decorated for the school themed retirement party.  I put paper air planes and pencils in the moss with an apple and the table name.

Graduation Awesomeness!

18 May

In an addition to Hubs graduation party, I ran across these on the hostessblog.  These are credited to Bakerella.  She has quite an incredible website with how-to instructions on everything, including this little diddy below!  So incredibly simple and cute!

graduation candy pops

The finished product.

graduation candy pops

The materials needed for graduation-pops.

Bachelorette Bash

16 May

For some oddball reason when we chose our wedding date, it was only two weeks after my graduation from graduate school.  Not to mention that I was planning it in my hometown which was a 2 and a half hour drive away.  That meant, between 16 credit hours and thesis writing, we had to go down practically every weekend to plan food, the venue, the flowers…well, you get the idea.

So, some little things fell through the cracks like my bachelorette party.  My bridesmaids were scattered throughout the state and the country, and two of them, to top it off, were getting married the month after my wedding.  We were all stressed out and pressed for time.  My then fiance stepped up and planned my bachelorette party.  There was just a mass party invite on Facebook, which included boys and girls, and mostly involved people in the area since I sent it out a week before hand.  I had a great time– don’t get me wrong– but after attending other people’s more planned parties, I took on the challenge to see what I could have come up with and ideas that would have been fun to do.  I am still working on a budget since it has just become a habit to me now.


Some themes that aren’t too tacky or expensive:

  • Black & White Party. This is where all invited guests must wear black or white and the bride (and maybe the bridesmaids too) wear a vibrant color.  The theme would work well since every girl has the iconic black dress somewhere on hand.  Works well if you are going out on the town.
    • IDEA: I would then have either bright feathers and ribbons to attach on the guests to signify they are with the party. Like a pin or something easy to make and it could be a favor as well.  Activities help people who know the bride well, but maybe not the other guests– it can act as an icebreaker.
  • Destiny Revealed Party: This might involved a little bit of money if you were to hire a fortune teller to tell all the guests futures.  The decorcould involve lava lamps, beaded doorways, and a crystal ball.
    • IDEA: A set bag of questions that a magic eight ball would reveal and help the girls meet one another.  This would be if you were not leaving the site and were there the entire night.
  • Brides-Night-In: This idea seems really fun, again, if you can swing hiring someone.  The night would be contained in a residence or somewhere large enough to host a slew of girly things:
    • Hiring a pole dancer to teach your guests pole dancing would be fun or know somewhere to go that offers pole dancing lessons;
    • Hosting a passion party (its something to giggle at, but at the end of the night, the representative will most likely expect people to buy products which could put off some people)
    • Hire a belly dancer to give lessons to everyone.
  • Sparkling Party: My maid of honor did this for her party.  Everyone who attended was asked to wear head to toe sparkly- sequins, fake jewelry, anything that would be fun and bright.  At her house before hand, we made more glittery stuff from little gems and feathers to wear out.  This is a nice cheap way to get everyone involved and it made for some great pictures!
  • Girls Night Out on the Town: Do the typical games and presents at someone’s home or hotel room, then go out on the town with the girls.  This one could escalate in price if you go wild on food, decorations, and game props.


Facebook invites are good and all, but I really enjoy the paper kind of invitation.  There is a wide variety of invitations that range from tea party to explicit.  I would like to cultivate the European idea of sexy as opposed to the American idea (i.e., slutty).

I like Brandy Seitz’s (how to instructions on link) lace up invitation via make-your-own-invitations blog.

Invitation Total: 95¢

Investment Purchases Total: $28.68

Creating this invitation will be a bit higher if you do not already have some of the tools needed.  You could always skip the eyelets and just punch holes, but I think you would looks the tied look a bit.  For the price, I would assume that the eyelet kit and hole puncher are investment products simply because you can use them for other projects.

  • Eyelet Puncher with Eyelets: $24.49
  • Hole Puncher: $4.19
  • Ribbon: $1.72/roll (I would say 3-4 cards per roll, so 43¢/card)
  • Card Stock: $12.99/25 pack of 12″x12″ or 52¢/sheet (I like this neat sparkly card stock, but the linen will be good too)

IDEA: The insert could have a fish net stocking stretched across it as a belly band or maybe surrounding the entire invitation.

IDEA: Since the invitation invokes a lingerie aura, then the invitation should suggest that guests bring something for the bride to wear, or use, on her honeymoon.


Outfit Total: $110.06

  • The dress from Forever21 is something I normally wouldn’t wear, but a girls night out deserves something a bit more fun for $27.80.
  • Next, the earrings would be something slightly sparkly like these from Express for $19.50.
  • The bangle is something I am starting to like.  This one is from Forever21 as well for $5.80.
  • The clutch is something that should add to the dress, but not be missed when your out dancing.  This one is from Target and goes for $16.99.
  • I love a cute pair of black heels and these look like they could be dressed up or down from Tilly’s for $39.97.

Another look that would go well with the sparkly theme:

Outfit Total: $122.99

  • The dress is flashy but understated from Express for $69.50.
  • The shoes are still sparkly, but doesn’t take away from the dress from Target at $22.99.
  • The earrings and bracelet are stylish and can be worn again from Forever21 both for $5.80.
  • The clutch ties everything together for $18.90.

Decor & Favors

I think even if you are only staying a few hours at someone’s house or a meeting spot that can be decorated, do it.  It provides a fun backdrop to pictures, and most decorations can be reused for another person’s party.

  • The favors mirror the lingerie party theme, and offer to be decorations on the tables for $20.28/12 or $1.69 ea. (comes in an assortment of colors).
  • A another cute idea to call out the bride is a personalized sash that could be bought by bridesmaids as a gift since it is $24.50 ea.
  • The Candlesare an easy inexpensive project.
    • Purchase varying sizes of pillar candles (these can double as favors/prizes for games) at $5.24 for 8″ candles.
    • Cut out the desired paper size to wrap around and attach with either spray adhesive or two sided tape.
    • Use your newly purchased eyelet puncher and kit to duplicate the look of the invitations.
    • Lace ribbon through.
    • You can embellish the edges with pearl ribbon or jewels– just remember to keep it is a candle and things can catch fire!
    • IDEA: Place inexpensive mirror tiles (at Walmart) underneath the candles and the boas and sprinkle with sparkly confetti to complete the tablescape.
  • Feather Boas are easy as displays on tables and also can be worn once you leave to party (image via blog australiaentertains).  I would use sparingly since one 6′ feather boa runs about $9.99.

On the Menu

For the bar, there can be several different serving options to choose from:

  • Make-your-own
    • Provide a selection of alcohol and mixers, maybe a blender, for people to dabble.
    • Provide various fruits to mix in like limes, lemons, strawberries, etc…
    • Place suggested drink recipes on cards near the ingredients.
  • Made-to-order
    • Either have pitchers of sangria, mimosas, or other easy to mix drinks on the table.
    • If you have a friend willing to man the bar, have them make mixed drinks in the blender from a selection of drinks for the guests.
    • Place cards of what you are offering that evening that coordinate with your decor.
  • Remember to include staples like wines, beer, and sodas.

  1. Champagne Pomegranate Cocktail
  2. Sangria Blanco
  3. Plastic Glasses at $11.99/25 or 48¢ ea.
  4. Red Headed Slut shot (could change it to whatever color the bachelorette is) Ingredients: 1.5 oz Jägermeister,1.5 oz Peach schnapps,Fill with Cranberry juice
  5. Vodka Ginger Lemonade
  6. Cosmo Slushie
  7. Jello Shots (The link has some good recipes for jello shots). Don’t forget the Shot Glasses! The glasses could be customized with stencils.

For the nibblers on the table, Myrecipes.com suggests:

“Most bachelorette parties end up with the guests out on the town for a second round. Serve some simple but sophisticated food that will get the evening started without much prep time. The girls won’t be too full to party, but will have enough to keep going. To make the most of the time catching up with friends, choose food that’s easily eaten without utensils. Finger foods move with the girls as they mingle through the party.”

  • The cake is something that is a little unexpected: you will need a cleaned Ken doll and different sizes of cake rounds.  You can easily make little outfit and miniature paper money to stick in his hands.  This is especially good when you do not have a stripper, or want one.

Graduating Ideas

14 May

My hubs is right in the middle of his college program to become a nurse, and I think it is never too early to start thinking about the graduation party.  It is that time of year when most students are graduating, so there are a lot of goodies online.   Being that he is in a field dominated by women, there are not many ideas out there for a male nurse graduation theme.  This will probably progress as the time gets near, but one thing that will not change is that I do not want to go broke with all the planning.  So, like everything that is cheaper, this will require a bit of work, but doing most of the things myself is rewarding.


This top invitation from StationeryStudio.com happens to be completely customizable– allowing it to be for male or female, and also hosting an assortment of faces and colors.  The bottom one is cute as well with similar wording.  I think I will just probably use the wording from this invitation and do a more formal one.  The prescription bottle one is from the internet Google image search and I think would cause some concern if you sent if through the mail, so it might be better hand delivered.

The How-to

I think the invitations will include the wording above, but be more like this from FineStationery.com made by Checkerboard.


I want this to be a more of a formal affair as opposed to a raging kegger, so I want the decor to set the tone for the guests to abide by.   Everything shown would be tailored to his school colors and, of course, the whole nursing theme thrown in tastefully.

The Breakdown

  • Love the idea of creating homemade labels to adorn beers, sodas, wines, and favors from Martha Stewart.
  • The lanterns (in the school’s colors) would be great at filling space, and they’re cheap at $13.99/dozen from Oriental Trading.
    • IDEA: Make a stencil either with the school’s logo, or spell our ‘Congrats’ on the lanterns and light with LED Christmas lights.
  • I like this simple glass vase adornment with a grad hat and ribbon (via sparklythings).
    • IDEA: Buy the ribbon in the school’s colors, spray spray adhesive on the vase, and wrap the ribbon completely around the vase. Then you can either put the grad hat on it, or maybe just leave it.
  • The cupcakes are the easiest way to bring in the nursing theme from Petit Cupcakesof London.
    • IDEA: This can easily be made from homemade colored fondant or other edibles like graham crackers and white chocolate for the band-aids, cut gummy worms for the pills, etc…
  • My wedding planner proposed this idea, but I think it would work for a good keepsake for a grad party.  This is from Martha Stewart, and it is simply a customized backdrop, a photo printer, and a trustworthy friend ( one who will not lose the camera or wander away) to take pictures.
    • IDEA: If you have a IT inclined friend and a HDMI hookup, you could upload the photos directly to a projector, tv screen, or computer slideshow so people can see it and someone could also take pictures of people just being themselves.  This would save you on printing the pictures out, but still would be a great keepsake that you could later share on Youtube.
  • As promised in the invitation, these cute personalized shot glasses will allow you to not only make your own shots, but no cleanup!  The are a steal at $11.99/50 at Oriental Trading.

On the Menu

The food has to be benign enough for people to not eat.  Good/interesting food alway will get unfamiliar people talking to one another.  I suggest looking over some deli and catering options as well because it might be more cost effective and time efficient.  I would also make another ‘main’ food item and more canapés as people drink, they will want munchies.

The Breakdown

  • Little mints could be put into clear goody bags, or just out on the table for people to munch on.  Super cute and taste like pineapple from the Candy Warehouse.
  • Another way to personalize the event that isn’t too expensive are the napkins.  Stationery Studio has them for $26.96/100 napkins with graduation personalization and an assortment of colors.
  • Food Ideas (I would supplement this with a cheese platter and some other pre-made deli items):
    • The White Bean Veg Dip from MyRecipes.com dip is always a good staple for people watching their weight or for vegetarians.
    • The Pill bottle cake is a great idea from CakeCentral.com.  It could be personalized for the grad.
      • IDEA: To make this, just bake 5 round cakes in your flavor of choice, cool, then stack them with a bit of frosting in between (you can make your own or buy frosting).  Then begin carving with a sharp knife the top part to your desired shape.  I am not a good fondant person, so I would just use colored frosting and then pipe in the words.  You could put Twinkies with frosting as the pills
      • Or just skip the cake and use Twinkies decorated as “pills” on a platter.
    • Sliders are always a crowd pleaser and these can be made ahead of time!  They could be made with or without cheese and offered with different toppings via MyRecipes.com.
    • You have to always have a pasta salad that is safe for everyone to try.  This one from MyRecipes.com has tuna, but can be eliminated– and it is low fat!
    • To round out the meal is a tropical fruit salad.  It is familiar enough, but will offer a little edge to get people talking.

What to Pour

Being a nursing graduation, the drink names can be a creative way to get the theme back into the food.  Of course you need to have the obvious drink of Bloody Mary served in nice glasses.  Next would be a nice pleasing Sangria.

There would obviously be beer, white and red wines, and some variety of shots named in honor of completing nursing school and being a student like Tainted Fruit Jello Shot that can be made into any color and flavor, or a drink I would call “The All-Nighter” shot which has red bull and alcohol, or “Allergy Shot” (Incredible Hulk recipe).  People, well at least my girl friends, are up for anything that looks fun and different.

Well, there are tons more that I want to add, but maybe it will be another one when he graduates with his masters.  I can only hope, lol!