…So long, Farewell, Aufwiedersehn, Goodbye…

Texas Sized Presents

With dragging feet, the Expressionery team gathered together for a bittersweet celebration – one of our team members has moved away. The leader, founder and visionary behind the Expressionery blog, Elaine, found herself a new adventure and while we were sad to see her go… we couldn’t let her leave without a proper Texan farewell.

Elaines Gifts

We rustled up a Texas sized gift basket filled to the brim with Lone Star State memorabilia! From Texas shaped tortilla chips (yes, we have those here) to Bluebonnet seeds, we made sure Elaine had everything she needed to keep a bit of Texas deep in her heart.

Cake Balls

We munched on burgers, sipped on sweet tea and enjoyed lots of jokes and laughter during her farewell luncheon, but the highlight of the event came in the form of Elaine’s last request. Our resident baker, Johanna, made Elaine a special batch of cake balls in a shade of Texas-sky blue!

Expressionery Group

It’s so easy to show appreciation for the people you encounter on a daily basis at work or at play. Take time to gather as co-workers and friends with good food, a bit of fanfare and fellowship. Our Texas style send-off, we hope, will be part of Elaine’s memory for years to come – especially when she’s enjoying the Texas shaped tortilla chips. ;)

We wish Elaine all the best in her new endeavors!

Adorable Elephant and Giraffe Baby Shower

Jen's baby shower

‘Tis the season for weddings and baby showers! Another of our bloggers, Jen, is expecting a new baby girl soon, so we put on our Baby Shower Planning thinking caps yet again! (I know, we’re a lucky bunch.)

Party theme inspiration started with one of Jen’s very own stationery creations, a design that hasn’t hit the proverbial Expressionery.com shelves yet. Here’s a sneak peek…

Giraffe & Elephant shower invitations

Giraffe & elephant shower invitations

The deep plum color combined with the elephant and giraffe imagery set our creative wheels in motion. We gathered party supplies in plum and assembled other special items showcasing the elephant and giraffe details.

Giraffe & Elephant Decorations

Our crafty friend Johanna Martini (specialist on the product development team) created this too-cute-for-words diaper motorcycle! This unique centerpiece / gift was created using diapers, hooded towels, washcloths, socks, a sippy cup (for the headlight) and a cuddly plush giraffe – all much-needed items for Jen’s new baby.

Giraffe diaper cake

Continuing with the gifts-as-decorations idea, we created a clothesline of onesies, tights and ruffle-bottomed pants. We found a set of pink and purple elephant onesie stickers online and clothespinned each sticker onto each adorable baby item. (How cute would those elephant stickers be on a ruffled baby bottom?) Since 12 stickers were included (one for each month of the first year of baby’s life), it created a large decorative impact in our shower space.

banner of baby clothes

A banner of baby clothes

Custom-designed favor stickers, cupcake flags and table tents continued the theme of our baby shower. (Read on to find printables below!) Small metal tins filled with nuts and mints were tied with colored ribbon to give our guests a keepsake from this special event.

Cupcakes and elephant & giraffe favors

Cupcakes and elephant & giraffe favors

Because we try to be thorough party planners, the team worked diligently to conduct extensive cupcake research. We began our first taste tests a couple of weeks before the event, trying everything from an Elvis cupcake that combined chocolate cake, peanut butter frosting and caramelized bacon topping to traditional Italian Crème.

We tried 10 cupcake flavors in all and felt sick sure about the cupcake selection for the shower. After much discussion, the team reached a consensus on a trio of flavors for the party: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cinnamon and Italian Wedding Cake. They made not only a delicious part of the party, but a gorgeous display as well!

The mum tradition

All mommies deserve a pretty corsage to wear during their shower, and we presented Jen with a Texas-sized version in the form of a homecoming mum. For those who don’t know (like Jen or our fearless blogging leader, Elaine, both innocent bystanders who grew up in Kansas), mums are a huge Texas tradition.

They started out as special flowers that you wear to your homecoming football game (which is akin to the Superbowl on a high school level) and have grown bigger and fancier every year, often dripping with ribbons, stuffed animals and other unusual decorations.

To non-Texans (bless your hearts), these mums may seem unusual or (gasp) some might say ridiculous, but we felt that Jen’s little girl should have her very own mum awaiting her arrival – after all, she’ll be a native Texan!

elephant and giraffe shower presents

Jen with her daughter's mum and presents

Free baby shower printables

And since we’re in the gift giving habit, take a peek at the free giraffe and elephant shower printables! These easy projects will add a special touch to the decorations at your own party!

4th of July Party Decorations

fireworks

Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood that was made up of 2 acre lots. We were about eight minutes away from a large city, and our town was what you’d call “rural.” We didn’t have a post office, and our fire fighters were volunteers. I loved growing up in that neighborhood for so many reasons, but some of the best memories I have growing up “in the country” (we called it) were the July Fourth parties we had.

Since we were away from the city a bit, we could have fireworks in our back yard. The big stuff, not just roman candles, although they were my fave. We lived pretty close to a lake, and there were two fireworks stands near us that we would excitedly look forward to shopping each year for the coolest new firework.

Of course, we also gathered sparklers, Black Cats and those weird snakes that were really just ashes. We ate hot dogs off the grill, helped turn the handle on the ice cream maker and stayed up past our bedtime to shoot and watch fireworks.

The Fourth of July is magical for me, partly because it falls right before my birthday (on the 6th, just in case you’d like to send me a gift!) and partly because I have such fond memories from my childhood. I look forward to this holiday every year, from planning the party to covering almost everything I own with red, white and blue.

I don’t know about you, but Pinterest is one of my favorite places to find inspiration for a party, and I’ve found countless ideas for a Fourth of July celebration. From outfits to games to crafts and party food, there are plenty of totally doable red, white and blue ideas to create the perfect birthday party for America.

Add a few bursts of color to your household and party décor with easy-to-make crafts! Try a flag pick wreath on your front door.

4th of July Party

Or pick up a handful of red, white and blue bandanas and whip up a color-block tablecloth or simply layer them across the center of your table for a no-sew table runner.

4th of July decorations

Easy DIY paper pinwheels and pom pons (that look like fireworks!) pack a big visual Fourth of July punch for pennies. Add them to the potted plants in and around your home or display them centerpiece-style in vases filled with sand.

4th of July pinwheels

You can’t celebrate the Fourth of July without some yummy cookout classics! Hot dogs, burgers, corn on the cob and potato salad are timeless favorites, but it’s easy to add a splash of red, white and blue in your party snacks too.

Dip strawberries in white chocolate, then sugar tinted with blue food coloring or layer on colored icing for a festive treat!

4th of July strawberries

Or add sliced strawberries, bananas and blueberries to skewers to make a patriotic flag fruit platter.

Party treats

No patriotic party is complete without homemade ice cream! We have made this in-the-bag version for a couple years now and it’s PERFECT every time. Jazz it up with colorful blue and red sprinkles.

Ziploc ice cream

Now that you’ve got your food and decorations down, shop for some pieces to coordinate your personal look with the party theme. With nautical styles trending for summer, now is the perfect time to find pieces in red, white and blue for your ensemble.

Navy and white stripes

Nautical stripes

Pair with some red accessories…

Red accessories

Or a custom painted mani can make your Fourth of July look sparkle.

Striped nails

Don’t forget to plan for some fun for after the sun sets. Find yourself a great seat for a local fireworks display or make your own lightshow with DIY glow in the dark fun.

Fireworks in jars

Share your favorite Fourth of July projects, decoration, or food ideas in the comments!

Our safari animal baby shower

Corina's safari animal baby shower

Corina's safari animal baby shower

If you haven’t noticed from our other parties, we Expressionery.com girls love celebrating! We recently threw a baby shower for our own Corina Murray, and we wanted to share the fun with you.

Corina is expecting a baby girl this month, but she’s not a big fan of pink. Instead of sticking with the traditional pastel pink color palette, we thought it would be fun to spice things up with bright, bold colors. You can’t get much brighter than the animal suite:

Animal baby shower

Animal suite

The four designs are available as invitations, plates and more – plus printables we created for Corina’s shower. (Okay, so we snuck in a little pink here and there, but just as an accent color!)

For our safari animal baby shower, we made sure to include Corina’s favorite animal – giraffes – along with some other cute characters. Giraffe, elephant and crocodile cutouts were designed especially for her, along with a bold “Congrats” banner, and we’re sharing them with you as free printables!

Baby safari animal cutouts

Baby safari animal cutouts & "Congrats" banner

For the banner, just print out the PDF on card stock, then punch holes and tie the triangles together with ribbon.

To make the safari animals, grab some card stock or craft foam in the colors of your choice, print out the PDFs on everyday paper, cut them out and use them as stencils to trace the designs onto your card stock or foam.

Next, cut and glue on embellishments. (Hint: all the animals’ eyes, and the elephant’s toenails, can be created by using a hole punch, so don’t worry about trimming a perfect circle by hand!)

Finally, glue craft sticks onto the back and use your baby safari animals around the refreshment table, or tape them up to the wall.

We couldn’t resist throwing in these two “pregnant” animals we found at a local craft store:

"Pregnant" lion & elephant

"Pregnant" lion & elephant

Once we had enough animals, we tied the colorful shower theme together with tablecloths, place settings and ribbon. You might have noticed how we used green as the base color for the dessert table, then highlighted the animals with contrasting banners made by trimming vinyl tablecloths into strips.

We also found some zebra print ribbon at the craft store and tied it around the napkin holders and cake pop box. How simple and affordable is that?

Finally, we added to the safari theme by creating wild tissue-paper flowers. The blog craft team had a blast with these –

Elegant tissue paper flowers

Elegant tissue paper flowers

For your own party, you can use a single color of tissue paper for a natural look, or go wild by pairing several colors in one flower for a bright, bold safari theme like ours. You can find step-by-step instructions for these elegant flowers on Martha Stewart’s website.

Cake pops & gifts

Cake pops & gifts

Here are a few tips we learned along the way:

  • Pick 3 or 4 colors for your baby shower theme. Repeating several colors instead of just one makes the shower more fun and less frilly.
  • Not all your baby safari animals have to match. Throw in a set of these printables, then mix and match with ones you find at the store – like the adorable baby book Suzanne found (above).
  • Letting everyone in on the theme will help them select gifts that match too! Corina was thrilled that we followed her suggestion to have a giraffe and non-pink theme, since that’s how the nursery is being decorated. Now she has lots of safari themed décor – even a giraffe print diaper bag – which she’ll enjoy for months to come.
Gifts, cookies and the guest of honor

Gifts, cookies and the guest of honor - the stamp on the gift tag is available at Expressionery.com

Free safari animal shower printables

And now, for the best part – free printables for you! The “Congrats” banner, adorable baby animal cutouts, water bottle labels, place cards and hors d’oeuvre flags are yours to print and use at your own special occasion.

Pair them with the matching animal suite from Expressionery.com or mix and match with your own unique style – then don’t forget to share your creativity by posting a link in the comments!

Toddler birthday party ideas

Toddler birthday parties

Toddler birthday parties

There’s something magical about birthdays when you’re young. The decorations, the friends, the cake and the presents are details that so many kids look forward to all year long. I know my little man asks me when his birthday is at least once a week! Creating a special event for your toddler takes planning, but with a little effort can be easy, affordable and fun!

Location, location, location

If there’s a local pizza and game center or kids’ amusement park, they can host the whole party and plan food, activities and decorations for you. But remember, you don’t have to spend a fortune on kids’ birthday parties.

If your toddler has a summer birthday, take everyone to the park where the kids can run and play – maybe even feed some ducks – and your house will avoid being destroyed in the process. The park might be just as special to them as a formal event, and unless you plan to rent a shelter, it’s free!

Toddler party themes

Once you know where you’re having your party, deciding on a theme is the next step. Consider the details of the party through your toddler’s eyes. Keeping their favorite things in mind will help you tap into creativity and create a special event all the kids will enjoy.

  • What are his or her favorite foods?
  • What games or activities does your child enjoy most?
  • What are your child’s most treasured toys?
  • What are the books he or she reads over and over (and over)?
  • What TV shows or movies does your child love to watch?

If you’re planning a first birthday party and your child hasn’t developed an affinity for anything in particular, some continually popular kids party themes include princesses, fairies, trains, robots and cars. Mustache themed parties for boys and owl themed parties for girls have also grown over the last year.

Mustache party theme

Once you decide on a theme, set the tone for the birthday party with matching invitations. My youngest son turned one last year, and we threw him a Mini Man Mustache Bash with these adorable invitations:

Toddler mustache party

Handlebar Invitations from Expressionery.com

Birthday party food

Deciding on what foods to serve is the next easy step. The time of the party will determine the type of food you should serve. If the party is held during a meal time, plan on serving more substantial foods like build-your-own sandwiches or personal pizzas. If it’s before or after meal hours, simple snacks like fruit, veggies or Goldfish are more appropriate. (Try to take naptime and bedtime into consideration before you choose the time for the party!)

Of course, the feature food of the day will be the birthday cake! Coordinating the party theme into the design of the cake will make it even more special for the birthday boy or girl. Simple store-bought cupcakes with rings are popular and easy – or you can try your hand at a more elaborate cake.

Train birthday cake

Toby the Train Cake

You can get really creative with toddler birthday cakes – they’re so young they’ll love whatever you try, even if it’s not perfect. As long as there’s cake under there somewhere, you really can’t go wrong.

Since my son’s favorite food is bananas, we served banana flavored cupcakes decorated with mustaches and speech bubble picks. Not only did they appeal to the kids, they made for a terrific centerpiece. We also had a smaller mustache-shaped cake made just for the birthday boy. It was so funny to watch him try out his first licks of chocolate icing and handfuls of chocolate cake!

Banana cupcakes

Banana cupcakes at the mustache bash

Toddler birthday party decorations

Decorating your party space doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The toddlers will be happier with simple balloons they can play with than fancy decorations they’re not allowed to touch. Work with materials you have on hand, or hit up the party aisle at your local superstore or dollar store.

Grab plates, napkins and plasticware in the colors of your party for a simple, affordable way to give your party a cohesive look and feel. Banners are a terrific way to decorate your party space and add a special message about your birthday honoree!

For our party banner, I used photos of my son from birth through his first birthday, added a mustache to his little face with an online photo editing program and printed them at my local 1-hour photo processing center. Then I simply punched holes at the top and threaded them onto a length of tulle.

Toddler birthday banners

Voilà - a custom birthday banner!

Party favors are another element that add to your event’s theme and send your guests home with a piece of the fun! Dollar stores and party retailers offer a wide selections of favors. We sent the kids home with a DIY ‘stache-on-a-stick, candies and a Wooly Willy game. Bubbles and fruit snacks are inexpensive favors that are sure to be a huge hit with the kids.

Toddler birthday party activities

If you plan your event at a location that hosts the party, the activities will be taken care of for you. Let those kiddos run wild and play! If you are hosting the party in your home, there are a few things to consider.

  • Are you inviting mostly big kids, little babies or a combination of ages?
  • Do you have enough space for the activity?
  • Will you holding the party indoors or outdoors?
  • Will you conduct the activity or game, or will it be self-directed?

Thinking through each of these details will allow you to properly plan appropriate activities for the party. Because we invited a range of ages to our party, we offered limited structured activities allowing the kids to play with toys outside or inside as they chose. The one party game we did play was a revised version of Pin The Tail On The Donkey. We switched it up a bit to fit our Mustache Bash theme and played Stick the ‘Stache on the Birthday Boy!

Toddler party activities

Toddler party activities

Planning your next kid-friendly party can be a piece of cake! Share your ideas (and blogs) for kids’ birthday parties in the comments below.