One Winter’s Night: DIY Dinner Dance Decor!

I’ve coordinated a couple of high school dances over the past few years, and I always have a lot of fun with the creative ideas my creative students come up with for decorations and details! Each year, I am fortunate to have have a couple of truly fantastic students who volunteer to be on the planning committee, and 2014 was no exception! After polling the student body for ideas, we met up and settled upon our Winter Ball theme:

One Winter’s Night

Keeping our plans simple and elegant, we set out to provide thoughtful details that might enhance students’ experiences of the evening in question. Some of the things that we organized as part of this year’s festivities included . . .

Setting the Menu & Enjoying the Venue

Winter Ball FOodWe have the delightful opportunity of enjoying the delicious menu of italian cuisine provided by our venue of quality! The spread was delicious and everyone ranted about the chicken parm in particular. The food, however, was just a small organizational detail of the rest of the planning, which was far more hands-on!

Warm & Cozy Favors

What better to give as a favor for a Winter Ball than Hot Cocoa? Inspired by some adorable winter wedding favors on pinterest, we decided that it would be a fun direction to go, and we were not mistaken. We designed our own label, used some of the same cardstock we used for the leaf-creation, and put them together one chilly Wednesday afternoon. They turned out adorable!

Favors - Winter Ball 2013

They looked so pretty on the tables, as did our second focus of decor:

Twinkling Centerpieces!

centerpieces and tabletops

For several weeks before the dance, we brainstormed ideas for the centerpieces. In years past we’ve done everything from live fish to traditional floral arrangements to elaborate candy jars, and we’ve come to the conclusion that non-living centerpieces can render the set-up far less stressful! After doing some scouting and brainstorming, one of my students remembered that I had made some paper-leaf branches at one point. We looked at the paperstock available online, and decided to make our own silvery foliage, just for the occasion.

centerpieces 1

Making these branches  was a cinch, actually. First, we gathered up some sticks from the trail around the school. Then we made two different sizes for leaves and cut them all out by hand before attaching them with hot glue to the branches we had collected. The result looked quite lovely!
centerpieces in action

 After making the branches, we purchased some beautiful twinkly lights (via Amazon.com) to twine through them and the result was like something out of a fairy-tale!

Centerpiece - silver leaves

To these leafy, twinkly, not-quite-floral arrangements, we added a cut-crystal dish of navy-blue, white, and silver m&ms as well as a small glass to hold those lovely, snow-flakey pens pictured above. What might theeeeey be for, you ask? Well, I’m so glad you brought it up, because that brings us to our next element of themed fun . . .

Wintry Mad-Libs
madlibs - winter style

Mad libs are something that we make a point to include every year, at every dance. For one thing, they help break the ice and fill those occasionally stilted social moments before dinner or dancing commence. But, for another thing, who doesn’t like mad-libs? We used a paper punch to make this batch particularly dainty and then placed them at each place setting on the big night. madlibs in action

After that, as students found their way to tables and seats, all that remained was to watch as they took their snow-flakey pens in hand and general hilarity ensued! Let’s face it:

There is no better atmosphere than laughter.

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Bachelorette

I usually dread Party Games. In fact, I might go so far as to say that MOST people are with me on this one. Especially when you don’t know everyone attending, which is increasingly the case as friends from high school and friends from college converge for the Big Day Festivities. Last week, however, I managed to successfully DIY my way through hosting a bachelorette party game  successfully!

The rules? Simple, every attendee must select a card from the deck and complete their challenge before the end of the night! People who don’t complete their goal have to pay the penalty of the bride’s choice (often times this involves buying her a beverage-of-choice). While not necessarily all that original, this game is a little audacious, without ever crossing the awkward line into downright uncomfortable. It was a great success, and I am happy to share the [very rough] blueprint for the challenge deck with any of you who are on the hunt for a non-awkward bachelorette party activity!

Challenges!!!

Bachelorette game – DIY

In Case You Missed It…

Me, in a mask, because it was a masquerade!

This year’s Masquerade Prom was a visual feast and a resounding success. . . check out a few of my favorite theme/decor photos from the event:

Lovely Table Setup

The whole evening just glittered!

Mad Libs

Masquerade Libs So fun!

Settings

Elegant and Fun!

Scintillating

Photo Booth Sign

photo booth funAll photo credit goes to our awesome photographers, Danny and Brandi Ebersole!

Prom: Life’s a Ball!

The theme for our Prom this year is Masquerade!

So, as is the now-annual tradition, I have the privilege of planning/coordinating the aesthetic details, in all their (hopefully creative) glory! After last year’s fishy-centerpieces and Enchantment under the Sea theme, I was pretty excited at the potential for timeless elegance as a decorative choice this year! The ladies of the student council set the colors as black, white, and red, with accents of gold and silver. With those in mind, we tackled the details, and This year, we have quite the rundown as far as decor is concerned!

Detail #1: Making the Night Glitter

A few years ago (my how time is flying!) one of my favorite people of all time was planning her wedding. Being the ridiculously creative lady that she is, Kat (my roommate at the time) tackled scads of artistic details with DIY vigor. Of the dozens of creative things she did, one small detail from her wedding came to mind as we began to plan our Prom decor. . . Kat made her own colorful paper accordion wheels that added a splash of brightness to the chairs used in the ceremony. Inspired by Kat’s concept, I did a little research of my own and found these:

starry origamivia

Despite being in Norwegian, I managed to figure out the way these bad boys are put together . . . mostly thanks to one of my students helping me over one of the folds! There are also tutorials on Youtube. . . my favorite has great visual models, but is also in a foreign language (German this time). Check it out if are making these and you get stuck! So, you start with simple paper (I used printer paper, after making sure it was a square 8.5″ by 8.5″)

The Beginning

I would walk you through the rest of it, but the tutorials from earlier really are better. When you have 8 of the finished pieces, you slide them together until there are 8 connected pieces!

Putting Together the Pieces

After we finished making 70 different stars, we decided to use gold and silver spray paint to make these little beauties really shine.painting the stars!

Once we were done, the finished product is quite lovely!three stars

With a little hole-punching and some fancy ribbon, these were ready for action!Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 6.49.50 PM

They wound up looking pretty magical when we tied them to the back of the chairs – alternating gold and silver!!

stars upon stars

Detail #2: Centerpieces

With a dozen cheap cylindrical dollar store vases on my hands (a combination of those from dances past and a few present-day purchased to match), I thought we might be relegated to less-than-perfection as far as centerpieces go. . . until I remembered a random spool of red ribbon I had picked up after Christmas in some sale bin.

Trying to Embellish the Vases...Not perfect, but an improvement nonetheless. Fill these up with roses and baby’s breath and you are good to go! Well, baby’s breath and another little starry detail . . . I made up some gold and silver mini-stars in the same style as the big stars (only with about 2 inch square paper to start with). When they were done I hot-glued them to some slim little dowels to make the bouquet accents.

Small Stars So Sweet

The final effect was quite lovely, if I do say so myself!

Put it all together, and . . .

Detail #3: Tabletop Touches

Tables that GlimmerWe finished off the tabletops with some scattered little “diamonds” and a couple of twirled white pipe-cleaners!

Detail #4: Bathroom Baskets

We always try to keep some necessities available in the bathroom, for those just-in-case moments when students wish they had planned ahead! I happened to have a couple of baskets around, and so I decided to jazz ’em up for the masquerade theme.

Bathroom Baskets for a MasqueradeGood things to put in here include: tide sticks, wet wipes, band-aids, lotion, hand sanitizer, bobbie pins, safety pins, fresh shoe-laces (for mens dress shoes), deodorant, mints/gum, hair ties, lint rollers, hairspray, nail clippers, dental floss, and sometimes even duct tape! We even put socks (animal print, because disguises are du jour in a masquerade) in the girls restroom for when they ditch their heels on the dance floor.

Detail #5: Mad-libs and Favors!

Four original mad-libs (thanks to my friend Andrew’s mad-lib writing expertise), edged with an intricate paper cutter (thanks Martha Stewart) got tucked into the napkin folds, and then our favors included a mask for everyone, as well as a little bag of red, black, and white m&ms.
masks and sparklesEverything coordinated quite perfectly.

Sweet Favor

As cute as the favors themselves were, I think what one of our students wrote for the tag was one of my favorite aspects of the evening – what a take-home message!

so sweet!

What a fabulous night!!!

One Swell Picnic!

What is a picnic without scrumptious food?

Not too long ago I had the chance to help host a little picnic in honor of a friend. Despite being rained indoors for the majority of the day, I managed to put together some tasty treats for the meal – because what is a picnic, if not all about the food, am I right? Fresh is important

The first rule of thumb is to have as many delicious fresh things as possible, because picnics are a summer privilege and should really reflect it! Thick watermelon slices and fancy cut crudités are a must. It is easy to throw together a “sauce”, or dip, with sour cream, dill, fresh ground pepper, and a little touch of mayonnaise to taste!

salad variety

Cucumber salad is classic fancy-picnic food. I am still in search of my favorite recipe for this, because too often the cucumbers lose their crunch! I don’t have a recipe worth sharing, but would love it if somebody else does! I thought the cucumbers were all right in this one, but still nothing to write home about, if we’re being honest. . . The Fruit Salad, on the other hand, is to die for! Throw together a combination of blueberries, grapes, blackberries, raspberries and pink grapefruit (peeled with the skin removed so its not bitter!) and you’ll never look back. IF you want to give it a little juicy push, you can also put about a quarter cup of organic fruit juice in. ALSO, they didn’t have pomegranates at the store, but pom seeds make a nice crunchy addition, too!

beverages

Beverages aren’t hard to come by, but sometimes they make all the difference in rendering a simple picnic more elegant. Nothing screams classic style like homemade lemonade, freshly brewed raspberry iced tea and icy cold water adrift with fresh fruits for flavor! Please also notice the flowers and candles. . . any incorporation of canning jar candles can be really fun, and if you do wind up outside, it’s a nice way to keep citronella candles around to chase away any buggies.

deviled eggs and delicious pickies

A friend of mine introduced me to deviled egg variations a few years ago, and I was amazed at how delicious these could get. . . I”m not quite as thrilled with the less-than-stellar presentation of these particular deviled eggs (it comes out MUCH nicer looking if you pipe the filling in with a pastry tip!) but adding minced dried apricots and a dash of curry to the filling really does turn the flavor into something special!

As for other foods, the small picture on the right shows a tray of skewered dates-and-gruyère (a pairing that was made in heaven, I’m 99% sure) and fresh mozzarella skewered with cherry tomatoes and a basil leaf from the garden! I also baked up some fresh rolls and we did a simple chicken-salad to go with them. Presentation-wise, you can always fancy-up your chicken salad with slivered almonds and red grape halves (make sure the grapes are pretty firm if you do this!).

Don’t forget Dessert!

sweets to the sweet Vanilla Sugar Tea-Cakes are a shortbread-y cookie that came to me courtesy of Martha Stewart. I will have to locate the recipe for sharing, so if anyone wants it, just ask!

My mom passed on a mean chocolate pound cake recipe, as well as some homemade cherry preserves. Add to that unbeatable combination a little vanilla bean ice cream, and the result is insanely perfect and classic delicous flavor.

Tarts, all on a summer's day

Blackberries are the unsung miracle of the berry world. They might actually be my new favorite particularly when it comes to baking and canning. So, it stands to reason that blackberry tartlets were also a tasty addition to the dessert party! These were also Martha Stewart inspired. . . click here if you’d like to see the recipe!

All in all, the meal was an elegant success and everything tasted excellent, which means that it fit the wonderful company of my friends to a tea!

the dessert spread

This summer I think I’ll have to throw another picnic on a less rainy day!

Any bright ideas for adding to my picnic menu?

Soda Shoppe Sock Hop!

sock hop?!

Its a Soda Shoppe Sock Hop!!!

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What better way to brighten up the winter months than with the charming colors of the fifties and the sweet classical feel of a soda shoppe? Think  of young Jimmy Stewart serving up soda fountain drinks. . .

    georgebailey via

Now, as my three student Dance Committee volunteers and I sat reading off the list of suggested themes from a list, I saw that common ideas for the impending winter formal included:

  A. Winter in Paris

  B. Masquerade

  C. 50s

  D. Pokemon

It was safe to say that option D was out (the middle schoolers were attempting sabotage of the HS dance) . . .  and we decided Masquerade was a little too formal for the winter semi-formal. Lacking enthusiasm for attempting to reconstruct the Eiffel Tower in order to effectively achieve Winter in Paris, we turned to our final option: The 50s. As I sat across the table from a sophomore and two juniors, all born in the 1990s,  trying to explain the lovely Era in question, I mostly encountered confusion. I gave up explaining context and wound up listing random things that typified the fabulous fifties.

Now, I solemnly swear this was not something I necessarily intended to be taken at face value…but one of the girls heard me say “Soda Shoppe” and the idea was a hit!

Without further ado, we undertook some fancy  fixings!

Soda is a Favor(ite!)

Soda seemed like the thing to do when it came to favors, and there were some darling little straws I found on Etsy that seemed like just the right touch of colorful detail!

Our next step? Centerpiece Planning…

I started to meander through the world of clever arrangements and stumbled across this image:

ice cream carnations!Carnations I can handle, it seemed like the right place to start was collecting soda glasses. Thankfully, these seem to little the aisles of thrift-shops like newspapers in an episode of hoarders! It only took two trips!

Ice Cream Shoppe LOVE\

After that, it was a cinch to arrange the carnations the-day-of!

Ice Cream?

Next on the list? Accumulating an obscene amount of Records!

Mysteriously WONDERFUL!

via

There is a magical place in Gloucester, MA called Mystery Train Records. . .  where there is actually a wall of records that they allow you to take for free.! Sure, you can only take 5 at a time, but with enough trips, or a decent enough crew of friends, it can be done cost-free in just a trip or two! As much as they are magical finds in and of themselves, I lack a record player to truly do them justice, so I settled for using them as foundational pieces for some attractive centerpieces and table decor!

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It made for a really charming background! Especially when we add in the Candy Jars!

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That’s right, I said Candy Jars

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Seeing as how soda fountains also doubled as sweet-shoppes, it was only appropriate to include a hefty amount of colorful sugar for the centerpieces!

Centerpiece Candy!

Mad libs are always a nice touch – a cherry on top!

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Mad libs are just a great ice-breaker!

Madlibs as usual!

Sometimes Madlibs can be the key to easing the social interactions at the start of an evening – you know, just the thing to get everyone laughing and goofy, even if they are always somewhat inappropriate!

Then there was the question of music!

What would a dance be without music, no? In lieu of the snazzy jukebox one might actually have found in a fabulous fifties Soda Shoppe, we instead went with the more popular option of a DJ. . . it was not likely we would find a jukebox with Gangnam Style in it. One of my artsy student helpers put together this lovely painted jukebox to lend to the decor.

The Jukebox!  Requests

We used it to point people towards the request list, which students kept filled up all night long!2013-02-01_18-18-47_825

Overall, the event was a success,

Ready to Sock Hop

I got to wear a petticoat, the decor was adorably effective, and the students had fun! There were fewer moments of chaos and mayhem amid the planning than usual, and everyone had a lovely time! Even the catered food was delicious, which is pretty darn amazing!

One Sweet Evening

I hope the next dance is equally as fun to plan and organize!

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Stay tuned, it sounds like the prom will be masquerade-themed, so throw me any ideas that might be inspiring as they come!!!

LOVE-ly Ideas!

V is for Valentine

via

Top Ten Inspirational Ideas for VALENTINE’S DAY!

#1: Make & Share the best medicine

love is the best medicine

via and via

#2: Walk in Love

heart walk

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#3: BUBBLES BUBBLES BUBBLES!

BUBBLES!!!

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#4: Give Caffeine To Those You Truly Love

Valentines Warmthvia

(go to “Eat Drink Chic” for the free printable)

plus, if you are feeling especially loving, and can bake, you can include these!

#5: Sweeten that Coffee (or tea) with LOVE

sugah

 

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#6: Wear your heart on your . . . legs.

Heartlegs!

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#7: Say it with FROSTING!

Hidden Messages

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#8: Hand-deliver any secret messages with some lacey flaire!

doilies doilies everywhere!

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#9: Watch and revel in as many romantic or happy relationship (including Friendship) movies as possible!

Oh Rhett Butler, you suave charmer, you!

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#10: Send small messages without inducing cavities!

Healthy Love!

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And, whatever you do, don’t stop with just Valentine’s Day!

Valentine's Afterparty!

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