Friday, July 31, 2015

A Very Merry Un-Birthday Party...Special Celebrity Guests

On Monday, I gave you a behind the scenes look at the planning and preparation that went into our end-of-the-year Miss Manners get-together, A Very Merry Un-Birthday Party. It was a major undertaking, but it was so very worth it! If you haven't seen that post, you should probably click here so you can get up to speed!

We only scheduled the party to last an hour, but it was an action packed one! We began by having a little pre-party meeting where I gave the girls their jobs and told them exactly what was going to happen during the party. (I did hold back one very important detail, which I'll share in a moment!)

The older girls were stationed outside to hold the door open as the ladies came in and to help some of the ladies out of their cars.

The younger girls were positioned inside at the door to the Fireplace Room. They took turns greeting the ladies and then seated them.

We had them seat the ladies in every other chair when possible
so that the girls could then sit between the ladies.

The girls loved the privilege of escorting the ladies to their seats.

Once everyone had arrived and was seated, I welcomed them and explained what an un-birthday is. Your un-birthday can be celebrated any and everyday except your actual birthday! Since July 19th was no one's actual birthday, we were all celebrating our un-birthdays. Un-birthdays should never be confused, however, with half-birthdays, which occur exactly six months after your real birthday. July 19th happened to be my half-birthday, but I still celebrated my un-birthday as well!

I reminded them that while Alice in Wonderland was written way back in 1865, the un-birthday party and song was made famous in the Disney classic film of the same name. I then explained that while they were our honored guests, we also had some celebrity guests joining us as well...

We were so lucky to have Alice (of Wonderland fame), The Mad Hatter (who kept assuring us he really wasn't mad at all!) and The March Hare (who actually has a very good sense of time - despite what many people have said) join us for our Very Merry Un-Birthday Party!

The girls were just as surpised as our older guests!

I then invited everyone to enjoy their refreshments, as well as the company. The girls were very helpful in setting up for the party - we really wanted them to enjoy themselves, as well. Nancy, the other mothers and I served and poured the lemonade. 

Of course everyone used their very best manners...

And the conversation was absolutely sparkling!

While everyone was enjoying themselves,
our special guests made their way around the room taking pictures and signing autographs!

One of our young ladies had come dressed in her own Alice in Wonderland costume!

Everyone was anxious to get a little face time with our pretty Alice!

After making their rounds, Alice, Mr. Hatter and Mrs. Hare
had a seat at the head table.
They enjoyed the refreshments as much as anyone!

I must take a minute to tell you about our special guests. Nancy's husband, Dennis Itson, played the Mad Hatter. Their daughter, Haley Scott, portrayed Alice, and the March Hair was one of our Miss Manners moms, Veronica Ours. Nancy had made the costumes years ago for another party she hosted and also used them during Trunk or Treat at church one year. (I told you she goes all out, no matter what!)

(Haley also makes a wonderful Cinderella. My friend, Melissa Lester, once hosted a princess-themed party for one of her girls. All the little girls dressed up in their princess costumes. We all gathered at the foot of the stairs and Haley descended dressed as Cinderella in her blue ballgown. I am not kidding you when I tell you the girls were speechless and all of us mothers had tears in our eyes! Jewell had her picture made with "Cinderella" and kept it on her dresser for years. She was much older before she realized (and I admitted) that Haley had played Cinderella!)

Before making his way back to Wonderland, The Mad Hatter proposed a toast, asking us all to raise our glasses in honor of our collective Un-Birthday!

After they had left, my daughter, Jewell, took a moment to talk about Miss Manners from the girls' perspective and how they have enjoyed getting to know the ladies and learning from them.

My niece Mary Reagan lead a prayer.
This was the last party for our 6th grade girls, including these two.
However, Jewell and Mary Reagan will continue to participate as mentors for the younger girls.
One of the perks of being related to Miss Manners!

This party was so special to me because many of the ladies that attended are women that I have gone to church with since I was four years old. These are the ladies who have watched me grow up and have influenced me throughout the years! I was so grateful to get to spend the afternoon with them, and I am so glad the younger girls are getting to know them, just as I did, so many years ago!


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Monday, July 27, 2015

A Very Merry Un-Birthday Party!

Sunday was a week ago marked Miss Manners' largest undertaking to date - A Very Merry Un-Birthday Party for the ladies in our congregation who are age 75 or over. It was a big deal, not only because there were over 40 people in attendance, but because we hosted it at church. True - this meant none of the last minute cleaning and prep work at our own homes, but it did mean packing, transporting and unloading all our decorations and supplies before we could even begin to set up for the party - which happened to take place a mere three hours after our morning services were over! Add to that the fact that we had to clean up and get everything out before church Sunday night, and it was quite a busy afternoon.

Today I'm going to share with you the preparation and setup for the party. Later this week, I'll show you what happened once the party began!

Our end of the year party last year was a kitchen shower for our church. We had the girls come early one Wednesday night before church and we cleaned out and organized the church's kitchen and made a "registry" of what was needed. The girls then planned, decorated and hosted a shower where the ladies of the congregation attended and helped to re-stock the kitchen. It was a lot of fun and a great success. You can read about that here.

We began planning for this party by contacting the church office to find out who qualified for invitations. Ages were not listed for each and every member, and we wanted to make sure that no one was left out, so we ran an advertisement in the church bulletin about the party and requested those ladies 75 and older who would be interested in attending to contact us. We also knew due to the potential size of the party that we needed to host it at church. Nancy and I brainstormed one afternoon and came up with the eclectic theme of "A Very Merry Un-Birthday Party". This allowed us to mix and match our decorations and have a fun birthday theme, versus a more formal tea party. 

Here's a close up of the invitation. As you can see, we used the "Un-Birthday Song" from Disney's classic movie, Alice in Wonderland, as a springboard for the invitation, decorations, and more, as you'll soon see!

A little over half of our twenty-six Miss Manners girls were able to attend and help with set up and hosting. We had them meet us in the fellowship hall after morning services where we had a quick meal of pizza, chips and cookies.

Here they are saying a prayer before lunch. We had girls as young as 1st grade (Little Miss Manners) and several 6th graders (Miss Manners) along with everything in between. This was the last party for those in 6th grade, as they have aged out of the group now. I would love to have them continue in the program, but with twenty-six girls, and adding new girls each year, we just can't handle the number.

After lunch, we began to set the tables. We chose to use several eight foot tables, which we arranged in a horse-shoe shape. (We had a few daddies stay and help us set up the tables and chairs immediately after worship.) Nancy, my mother and I pulled out all of our white and pastel tablecloths and cloth napkins. We used the white cloths as a base and then layered a few pastel ones for color and dimension. Remember - this was a very eclectic tablescape.

Here you can see the splashes of pink on the white base tablecloths, as we begin setting up.

Here's a wider view. Once Nancy and Julia, one of the moms who stayed to help us, had the tablecloths in place, we got the girls to help us set and decorate the table. We put them to work in teams, each team completing a different task, like putting out plates, folding napkins, adding cups and silverware, etc.

Nancy collects old and unusual clocks, as well as large vintage-styled keys. These fit perfectly with our theme. You'll see them scattered throughout the tablescape.

Here's my daughter, Jewell, and Nancy's husband, Dennis, fluffing some tissue-paper flowers that Jewell and I made a while back for a Miss Manners Pancakes and Pajamas Party where we talked about sleepover etiquette. Besides these two parties, the pretty pastel paper flowers have also been used by a friend for a baby shower she hosted. I store them in a trash bag in my guest bedroom closet. They just need a little fluffing and they're good to go! I have already stored them to use again one day. They weren't expensive, or difficult, but they did take some time to make, so why throw them out? 

I'm surprised these two were able to get anything done for all their silliness!

The tissue paper flowers were scattered down the tables, along with Chinese paper lanterns that Nancy had purchased for past parties. These are less than a dollar each at stores like Michael's and Dollar Tree. She carefully disassembles them (removes the wire boning and flattens the lanterns) and stores them in a large gift bag. You can also see another clock face without hands in the picture above.

Pretty cake plates were scattered down the tables and filled with enough food to serve three or four people. The party guests served themselves, tea-style. Nancy printed cute "Eat Me" labels which were attached with ribbon to each cake plate. We had a simple menu of strawberries, cheese, sausage balls, nuts and cupcakes, served with lemonade. The girls were each assigned something to bring like a jar of nuts or a bag of cheese, etc. 

The young ladies were very eager to help, and with thirteen present, it was a job in itself to find tasks for each one to do, but they did whatever we asked of them, and when they weren't working, they enjoyed their time to play and laugh together. 

Since the table was set in layers, we had the older girls constantly going behind to make sure that each place setting was complete.

Here you can see some of the girls preparing the punch cups with "Drink Me" tags.

Teapots were scattered along the table as well.
Even though we didn't serve tea, it added to the tea party feel.

Here's a closeup look at the individual table settings. We used glass plates that Nancy has been buying from Dollar Tree. I think she has about three dozen now, so we supplemented with a few of my glass plates that my aunt gave me. She, too, had been collecting them over the years and found most of hers at yard sales. The pretty cut glass plate would be perfect on any well-dressed table, and at $1 each, you can afford to add these to your collection. 

Here's a quick tip for storing special dishes that perhaps you don't use all that often. After washing them, Nancy divides them into sets of 6 and 12 and wraps them in plastic wrap before storing them away. This keeps them clean and dust free and ready to go when you need them - no re-washing required! She also does this with glass pitchers. She learned this from Mrs. Alice Moore, the former cafeteria director at Faulkner. I have started doing this with my special plates as well after I use them. Since I have things stashed all over my house, it really helps to keep them together and clean.

We used glass punch cups for the lemonade. There were probably four different patterns of punch cups sprinkled down the the table. Each cup had a "Drink Me" tag tied to it. (Remember Alice in Wonderland?

Nancy has a large collection of pretty stainless forks, so we decided to use them as well. Under the forks were various colors of pastel cloth napkins. Over 20 years ago, a local Pepperrel Mills store went out of business and my mother picked up literally dozens of pretty napkins for next to nothing. Pink, peach, blue, green and yellow napkins dotted the table adding splashes of color. 

Baby food jars with a pair of grocery store blooms added color and softness to the setting. 

A cupcake was pre-placed on each plate, as well as a cupcake refrigerator magnet that I made which served as a party favor for each guest. The guests also took home their flowers and jar.

Another picture of the girls working together to set the table.

Nancy used the larger Chinese lanterns to decorate the entrance from the foyer into the Fireplace Room where we held the party.

A small table and topiary that belong to the church was used in front of the door leading to the party. Signage made by Nancy as well as copies of Alice and Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass give the party goers an idea of what's to come!

A view of the decorations at the head table. Who sat at the head table, you ask? Well, you'll just have to check back in later this week to see! But I promise, you won't want to miss this reveal!

Here's the pretty clock again that I showed you at the beginning. It added some height and its darker color was a nice break from all the pastel.

Here you can see that an elegant tea pot and a more casual cake plate can play nicely together when you have an eclectic, whimsical theme!

Large silk Gerbera daisies temporarily removed from their stems (they pop on and off easily) are a pretty accent to a white cake plate, decorated with pastel ribbon.

Mama, Nancy, and I scoured our homes for anything pastel or having to do with tea parties, and if you ask me, it all worked beautifully together! I am proud to report that aside from the flowers, we didn't buy anything for this party! The girls brought the party food and we spent less that $20 for the fresh flowers. We just bought whatever Publix had that day in their floral shop.

The table decorations were sweet and very feminine and gave you lots to look at during the party. Nancy and I were amazed at how well it all came together! 

I hope you've enjoyed seeing how we planned and set up for this party. Later this week, I'll introduce you to our special celebrity guests, as well as show you the fun that was had by all! See you soon!


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Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Sewing School - July 2015

Last Thursday was our July meeting for Summer Sewing School. It was Nancy's turn to plan the project and she picked a precious one! You should have heard the "Oo's and Ah's" when the girls walked in and saw the project for the first time!

(No owls were hurt in the making of this project!
He is "perched" safely atop a vase and propped up by a dowel.
He is definitely NOT skewered as it may appear!)

As usual, we had a sign-up sheet at church where the girls had a couple of weeks to let us know they were coming. We always prepare the kits ahead of time, and since we knew who would be there (we had a slightly younger class this time), Nancy did a little prep work ahead of time. She went ahead and sewed the white eyes on the owl since sewing inside a tight circle might be a little frustrating for some of the newer seamstresses. She also folded a piece of ribbon for a nose and secured it under the eyes before sewing them down.

When the girls arrived, the owls were laid out on a table along with a tin of straight pins. The fronts are a cute multi-colored cotton print and the backs are white minky fabric. 

Nancy took a moment to walk everyone through all the steps before turning the girls loose.

The girls picked up their owls and proceeded to Step 1.

Nancy had some flags that she had made for her grandson's birthday party to mark the various steps and display instructions for the girls. (Tip - always hold on to your party decorations and find ways to reuse them. It's more bang for your buck and effort!) 

In Step 1, the girls sewed on the black eyes using a simple "X" stitch. Nancy had already threaded the needles and knotted the thread.

Some of the girls can thread a needle, but we didn't want the younger ones to become frustrated. This little bit of handwork allowed them to practice finding where to come up from the backside of fabric and also how to tie off.

Once they finished this step, they went back to the first project table and pinned the owls right sides together.

Next they headed to the machines to stitch the owl together.
They were instructed to leave a 2" opening in the bottom.

Another table was set up for stuffing. Several of the girls compared this to making their own Build A Bear. I wish I had thought of that ahead of time. I could have made little "hearts" to put inside!

Here you can see the cute minky fabric on the back of the owl.
Not only were they precious, they were soft and cuddly!

Step 4 - They're almost done!

In the last step, they learned how to whipstitch and closed up their owls. They also tied a ribbon bow and attached it. Some used it as a hairbow, but a couple made them into bowties!

Again, Nancy was prepared and had pins
and threaded and knotted needles ready for the girls.

For a little bonus project, Nancy took some fabric scraps and sandwiched fusible interfacing between two pieces and ironed it. Then she used her Big Shot and a large metal die to cut out little book covers, along with some notebook paper for inside. She stitched them together ahead of time, along with a ribbon bookmark. The girls then decorated them with flowers and a title label that reads "An owl story by _______". 

Ashlyn and her finished projects!

Our class was a little smaller than usual, but everyone had a great time, and they all agreed that the owls were their favorite project so far!

That wraps up Summer School 2015, but we're already gathering ideas for next summer! I hope the girls will enjoy using the projects we made this summer and that they will pursue some sewing activities on their own throughout the year! Until next summer...


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