Saturday, July 21, 2012

The New People's Champ of Making Parties

I threw myself a party once. It went pretty well. I've arranged birthday happy hours, which involves little more than picking a location and sending an appointment in Outlook, and those went well too. I think it's because of those, um, "events" that my sister decided to turn to me to request a party for her birthday this year. She asked me before Christmas, giving me plenty of time to plan a party for somewhere around March 31st.

Did I mention she wanted it to be a surprise? Yes. She requested a surprise.

If you want great ideas on party decor, planning, and the like, there are many online resources to help you and also make you feel like a loser for not being able to execute all of the fabulous ideas, even when you start planning months in advance. I made a fabulous surprise party for my sister in April, and it was perfect. Not because I implemented all the million+one ideas that I found on the trusty interwebs, but because the end result was beautiful and great fun. I'm pretty sure that is more important than custom appetizer picks and candy buffets with professionally calligraphied (that IS a word) labels.

See my inspiration. I was feeling pretty ambitious.

I wanted flowers in mason jars and candles in big hurricane vases. I wanted to wake up knowing how to make a flower arrangement. I wanted an unlimited budget. I wanted!
I wanted to serve a few cocktails and mocktails. I NEEDED a photo wall and planned to use fabric for the background. And who doesn't want tissue flowers or poofs or lanterns or all of the above?
Other items on my (ideal) party to-do list included: finding a venue that was wheelchair accessible, coming up with activities to give us something to do (some family parties have been a little...stiff), creating the perfect playlist, getting enough indoor seating and tables (a party in Portland in April - using the outdoors is no guarantee), figuring out a way to keep the kids happy, creating and executing the perfect menu, and actually pulling off the surprise!

Here are some pictures of the actual event:

L to R, T to B: flowers and notecards for birthday wishes; buffet; bar tables with more flowers and notecards; and appetizer table with Wii (that didn't get played due to abundant sunshine)

The decor ended up being heavy on the green and light on the blue in spots, and heavy on the blue in others. We ended up not having any pretty pitchers to serve the drinks with. I think we used a regular ole' cooler when we realized we didn't have galvanized drink tubs. The indoor activities were unnecessary because the surprisingly amazing weather drew everyone outside. Lastly, I had way too much food and seating because some party guests weren't able to come.

Look at that face.

But who cares? There is definitely a middle ground between party perfection and something with as much thought and effort as a bad frat party.

The look on her face was worth every moment of planning and every plan gone awry.

We had good food, good music, great friends and family, and lots of laughs. My sister Sarah acted as head chef, and together we made potato salad, collard greens, green salad with beets and blood oranges, spicy coleslaw, carmelized onion dip, and taco dip (I promise its good). My brother-in-law provided delicious pulled pork, and we also had a fancy meats, cheeses, and olive platter.

Liz's friends helped us mix up a pom-lemonade vodka cocktail, and also had beer, sodas, and sparkling water.

It was a freakin' feast.
I brought what I thought was enough decorative paper to be a backdrop for the photo wall. It was not. So, no backdrop. And you can see the tape holding up the custom sign I made. Meh, what are you gonna do?

The photo wall was so fun. Those pictures are my favorite from all the party pics!

Aw, mother and daughters! Let's just pretend that my mom's eyes are open. 

Also, did I tell you that the sign is gold because it was Liz's golden birthday? She turned 31 on the 31st (of March).

Here are Liz and some party guests enjoying the day. It was so sunny and beautiful Liz could hardly see. One thing I love about Portlanders is their enthusiam for nice weather. Since most times of the year the sun rarely shines, people waste NO time in moving a party outside on a nice day. Even if that means sitting on the ground, which some people did.

Also, please note the adorable tots. My cousin is showing off her manicure, if that wasn't obvious.

We didn't get any pictures of The Liz Quiz, a trivia game I made up about my sister that I forced everyone to participate in, even my friend's boyfriend who had met Liz for the first time that day. I was quite pleased with myself.

If I do say so myself, I made a pretty badass party. Normal, not ready for a magazine shoot, but badass nonetheless. I am a normal party making champion.

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