Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Monday and Happy Memorial Day for those of us in America. Today is the day we honor those who have served our country, and are currently serving, in the Military. There will be lots of family gatherings today. Barbeques and picnics all across the nation and more than one red, white and blue birthday party I'm sure! Today we give you the party plan for a very special First Birthday!
First off the invitation by but there are hundreds of different invitations you can use including those that use the photo of your baby! So cute!
Speaking of can always dress your birthday boy or girl up in a sailor suit or just this adorable hat from for under $5!

 I have been that young mother with a baby and no budget so when I found I was immediately hooked. These multicolor nets that can be draped across your backyard fence, tables and used as curtains across doorways are only $4 each. Even one would add beautifully to your theme when draped across your food or cake table!
 Speaking of easy, this nautical banner is under $10 for 100 feet of decoration...this would go around your whole backyard or decorate every table for very little budget!
 Not everyone has these fancy decanters but I wanted to show you how you can use just a little of the banner mentioned above to add decor to your plain white tablecloth! Set up the drinks in pitchers or cans/bottles for the same look. Stripped paper straws are available almost anywhere but, with this colorful party, regular striped straws would work as well.
 I love simple DIY. These labels from Etsy are under 50 cents each and so easy to just stick onto grocery store clear plastic cups.
 Your food table can be really easy to tie into the theme as well. Just get a yard of striped or starred fabric and drape it right over the center of the table. If you have one of those nets handy, drape that over the entire table. Then just set your food and drinks onto it.
These little popcorn buckets would be perfect for a DIY centerpiece. Fill with popcorn, stick in a Nautical Flag made from scrapbook paper and glued to a skewer and you have the perfect decoration for your table.

 Favors don't need to be complicated at this age. Ask your friends if their kids eat fruit snacks before giving them these or candy but don't be tempted to buy those huge bags of kid trinkets either...most of those are a choking hazard for this age.
Since a first birthday party is usually a family affair you could make up these really cute Bon Voyage bags by using brown paper lunch bags and scrapbook paper that you have printed on your home printer. Attach the tag to the bag with double stick tape and fill the bag with something fun like kettle corn or cotton candy!
 Finally there is dessert. Cupcakes are really the easiest thing for a Mom on the go to make. They take just about 20 minutes are easy to frost and you can just pop in cupcake picks like these from .
You can, however, make a bigger deal out of them with this 1st Birthday Sailor cupcake holder! From it will set you back only $8. What a great way to decorate the center of your food table for just a little of your budget!

Next week we are going to be spotlighting summer picnics! How to make your family picnic a bit more special!


Monday, May 20, 2013

 Happy Monday! Recently I toured Sicily. Now, as a photographer, this is a wonderful trip because Italy is so picturesque. But as a party planner I was treated to a few really incredible venues where I could just SEE a gorgeous wedding taking place. I decided to work a party plan around one of those incredible places, Casabianca, so you can see how easy it is to plan a gorgeous wedding and let your venue do the decorating for you!
In California we have a lot of really gorgeous vineyards but they are usually considered too expensive to have as your venue for the wedding of your dreams. However, if you consider the cost of the venue as also most of your decorating budget as well then it's not so expensive! In California, as it was in Italy, Bougainvillea is in bloom everywhere this time of year. So why not let your invitations set the mood with this beautiful flowering vine! These from PaperCrave would be simple perfection for this theme!
 A venue like this one has lots of places where you can set up chairs for your ceremony. Can you imagine standing in front of this doorway...
...or this doorway for your vows? How stunning would that make as a backdrop for your ceremony and wedding photos? And, at no extra cost!
And speaking of no added cost. You can tie in your look with the bougainvilleas very easily too. They have very sturdy stems on them so it's easy to just tuck one or several away into your hairstyle. 
You can have your bouquet made of bougainvilleas too! They come in several colors so just have your florist mix them up for a beautiful textured bouquet.
Then make sure your photographer finds a wall with the flowering vine growing up it like this one and pose you in all of your beauty in front of it! 
 These places have tons of rustic touches as well. Real brick ovens that not only add a wonderful taste to your food but ambiance for your guests as they stroll the property.
 A lot of vineyards also have items that they have set out to evoke memories from how it use to be. Ready made backdrops for your wedding no extra cost!
 Wonderful rustic rooms can be set up for your reception as well. Most vineyards have tables made from wine barrels or casks that will add to your rustic touches.
 Or set up a buffet in one of the rooms and have your reception outdoors overlooking the vines. The effect is rustic and beautiful. 

 Don't be afraid to use color in your set up. Many vineyards will already have table and chairs and, because you want to keep it rustic, you won't need to provide tablecloths, just napkins. Again, saving money by using the natural decor of the venue.
 A simple set up is always best in these venues. Because they serve "family style" you don't really need centerpieces. A couple bottles of wine, or a jug of wine in this case, along with water for your guests is the perfect touch for this venue.
We started out with appetizers of Bruschetta (pronounced Broo-sket-ah) topped with olive oil, fresh tomatoes and herbs and Focaccia (pronounced Pho-Kah-Cha) bread  filled with cheeses and spinach. The perfect way to introduce your guests to the homestyle menu that awaits for them.
 Serve comfort food family style and your guests will feel like they have been invited for a wonderful family dinner. It's a very intimate and inclusive style of wedding. The Italians start off with Risotto and Pasta. If you have some vegetarians on your guest list, this will be their main meal. This risotto had mushrooms to help flavor it and the pasta is called Pasta Norma. It is made with eggplant that they, somehow, make taste like meat even though the dish is totally meat free! 
 But the rest of your guests will enjoy the main course. We were served veal scallopini as well as these incredible meat balls that required no sauce. But for your guests you could easily substitute with any type of roasted meat such as a pork roast and sausage. They paired the meat with butter potatoes and salad.
 Italians like to cleanse their palette with fresh fruit. This is a great way to include those who are trying to watch what they eat. This allows them to have dessert without the extra sugar. In this case the strawberries were macerated with limoncello liqueur but you could just serve them fresh or macerated in just a bit of sugar.

 If your venue produces a particular product, such as wine or olive oil or honey, then they make the perfect favor for your guests. Ask them what they have to offer and see if it fits into your budget. You can, however, make your own very simply. Michaels sells little bottles such as these. Fill them up with olive oil, tuck some rosemary, sage or garlic into it and then tie a simple Thank you tag to each one. Or use these for your place/seating cards and write out your guests name and/or table number on each tag. Place them on a table near the entrance of your reception area or at each place setting on the tables for an adorable and yummy favor for your guests.
And for either when you and your groom walk back down the aisle or for when you two leave your reception to head off to your honeymoon, how sweet would these little cones of bougainvillea petals be to have one of your maids hand out to guests. Showered with these gorgeous flowers would be a perfect way to end your celebration.
But, of course, first there is cake! A simple cake that fits into the rustic feel of your venue, like this lace cake from Cat's Cakes, would be perfect. Dress up the cake table with some scattered bougainvillea petals and your decorating is done!

So don't worry about the cost of the venue being high. The fact that it does most of the decorating for you is where you will even out that budget. And if you are considering a Destination Wedding then please do consider Casabianca  near Lentini Sicily. They can accommodate up to 300 guests for your wedding.

Next week we are all red, white and blue for a Patriotic Themed Birthday Party! In the meantime, remember to stop on by our Facebook for daily tips for all of your party plans!