Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thrifty Little House on the Prairie Party

Earlier this week, I gave you a glimpse of my daughter's recent Little House on the Prairie party. I had a ball putting the party together, challenging myself to make like a pioneer and scavenge, re-purpose and borrow as much as I could. The end result, I hope, was a party that celebrated creativity and resourcefulness--two traits that Laura Ingalls and her family embraced out of necessity, and traits that I try to encourage in my own children. It also didn't hurt that the vintage and borrowed goods loaned a very authentic feel to the party. Following is a resource list, organized by activity, that demonstrates how thrifted items can be used to create magical special events:

vintage prairie-style clothing and accessories, including sunbonnets, aprons, skirts, and blouses (all thrifted except for the bonnets my daughters wore, which were originally purchased on etsy for Halloween costumes and a couple of the aprons, which belonged to my grandmother)

wash tub and doll clothes (thrifted), wash board (consignment store), drying rack (already owned), miniature wooden clothes pins (already owned)

large-eye needles (borrowed from younger daughter's preschool), pre-printed cotton napkins (thrifted gift from friend), embroidery floss (already had but easily thrifted), vintage embroidery hoops (thrifted and already had)


wooden candlesticks (thrifted--I think I got a giant bag of these for 50 cents!), acrylic paints (already had), paintbrushes (already had), mason jar for water (thrifted), vintage muffin pans to hold paint (thrifted), vintage bark bowl to hold candlesticks (thrifted), vintage pottery bowl for paint water (thrifted)

assortment of wooden doll bodies (already had, originally purchased from Casey's Wood Products), assortment of trims, laces, fabrics, and ribbons (already had and thrifted), small bottles of Aleene's craft glue (the best glue for fabric crafts, in my opinion), vintage pipe cleaners (thrifted), acorn caps (collected in the woods last fall), crate to hold scraps (saved from box of clementines), pedestal stand to hold scraps (thrifted), vintage gelatin molds to hold peg dolls (thrifted and inherited from my grandmother), calico table covering (thrifted)

small rag doll (already had but originally thrifted), vintage ring (received as a gift from friend), tea cup and saucer (thrifted), glass bottle with cork (thrifted), metal jacks (thrifted), small silver trophy cup (re-purposed Christmas ornament from my collection), image of a young Laura Ingalls (found online), large Indian head penny (already had, was mine as a child), vintage silver tray (thrifted), twig pencils (purchased at HomeGoods), handmade paper (thrifted)

small metal pails (purchased from dollar bin at Target--I had originally wanted to use tin pails that I thrifted, but ended up needing more than I had so decided to purchase new for this party and save the thrifted ones for my younger daughter's version of this party), food (thrifted--just kidding! all fresh food, each pail held an apple, bag of pretzels and a turkey sandwich), gingham pail liners (Target dollar bin), picnic cloths (canvas drop cloths, already had)

vintage candles (thrifted, they were the hard to find skinny candles that fit the vintage candle holders I love), vintage floral candle holders (thrifted), vintage plates (thrifted), silver cake knife and dessert server (thrifted), cake stand (from my collection), vintage cake decorating press (thrifted brand new in box)


wooden nickels (already had wooden disks, used paint we already had and then glued on pictures of my daughter taken at Old Sturbridge Village, hand painted "5 cents" on each one and then coated with Mod Podge), General Store sign (re-painted and re-purposed sign that was originally used at daughter's Mermaid party), props, including vintage mail cubby, vintage tin kitchen canisters, baskets, wooden boxes and crates, tin milk jug, and tin wall decorations (thrifted and borrowed from around the house), vintage picture frames (thrifted), small wicker baskets (thrifted), wooden rulers (purchased from Casey's Wood Products), wooden slates (also from Casey's), slate pencils (thrifted chalk), glass apothecary jar candy holder (borrowed from my house), tin coffee pot to hold candy sticks (borrowed from play house, originally thrifted), candy bags (already had in kitchen stash), metal scoops (thrifted), candy (purchased new, of course!), raffia (thrifted), and sewing kits (new Ball canning jars, thrifted aida cloth, new quilt pins, thrifted vintage safety pins, wooden thimbles purchased at Casey's, needles from my own stash, homemade directions and pattern for stitching top of jar, vintage buttons from my own mostly thrifted collection, and thrifted Pottery Barn labels)

Pulling together a party from vintage goods is so much fun I can hardly stand it! And lest you worry that I bought a bunch of stuff just for one afternoon, I can reassure you that most of these things will be used again for future parties, find a home (or return to their home) in the dress up bin, or be re-purposed into something completely new. This party also created very little trash (just the food wrappings really) and was super easy to set up and clean up. And most importantly of all, my little girl was beaming with joy. Next up, a vintage baseball party to celebrate my son's big day--stay tuned! In the meantime, I'm linking this up to the party at Elizabeth & Co.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Little House on the Prairie Birthday

One of my greatest joys as a mother is planning my children's annual birthday celebrations. The birthday child and I decide on a theme several months in advance, and then the brainstorming and collecting begins. For my daughter's 8th birthday, she and I settled upon a Little House on the Prairie theme. I will freely confess that I planted this idea in her head a couple of years ago, when she rejected it, but over time she came to think that it was a great idea and I was delighted when she chose it as her theme this year.
Most of the guests embraced the pioneer theme and arrived in old-fashioned clothing, with aprons and bonnets and smocking. So cute and creative! After a quick group photo (very proud--this was the first year I actually remembered to take one!), I divided the 15 girls into two groups, simply to make things more manageable. Half of the girls began at the "Washing Day" activity.

When is the last time you thought doing the laundry was fun? Let me tell you, these girls had a blast using an old wash tub and washboard and scrubbing vintage doll clothes before hanging them up to line dry using old wooden clothes pins. I've never seen clothes get so clean, and with such joy! The parents all joked that I missed the boat--I should have put out my real laundry for the girls to wash!

The other group learned to do counted cross-stitch, using vintage embroidery hoops and some pre-printed linens that had the cross-stitch pattern marked on it. This activity took a little time to get the hang of, and some of the girls expressed frustration that it was too difficult, but their frustration soon turned to triumph as they mastered the stitches.

You could see their little X'es becoming more even as they went along, giggling over their dropped needles (I recommend not doing this activity in the grass--talk about finding needles in a haystack!) and knotted threads.

After switching places so everyone could try both activities, it was time to move on. One group worked on painting small wooden candlesticks while the other group made peg dolls out of calico scraps, lace, ribbon and acorn caps for hats. The finished products were adorable, with little ladies wearing lace bonnets and aprons, babies dressed in gowns, and men in hats and ties.

After the girls had completed both of these crafts, we moved onto our picnic cloths to play a quick game of Memory before eating. A silver tray held eight vintage items and the girls had a couple of minutes to study the tray as I explained what each item was. Then the tray was covered with a calico cloth to hide all the objects.

Each girl then received a piece of handmade paper and a twig pencil, and was instructed to write down all the items they remembered being on the tray. This activity really stumped the girls but they seemed to relish the challenge.

By now, the girls had worked up quite an appetite, so the next activity was dinner time! Each child had a light meal tucked into a small tin pail. The girls happily ate their dinners on the picnic cloths before assembling on the patio for singing Happy Birthday to the birthday girl and eating homemade cake. One girl totally made my whole afternoon by taking an enormous bite and then loudly exclaiming, "Whoever made this cake is AWESOME!"

After cake, the girls each had an opportunity to shop for party favors at the General Store. I had arranged an array of old-fashioned goods among some vintage props, and the girls were each given an allowance of three wooden nickels to spend in the store. These nickels were extra special, for instead of a buffalo head, they featured an image of my daughter's face, framed by her pioneer bonnet.

My daughter played the role of shop keeper, and guided her guests through the store, helping them to select their goods. Each child received the following favors to take home:

a small slate and slate pencil (I taught my daughter to use that language instead of simply saying chalk! Details matter to me, what can I say?),

a personalized sewing kit that I had made out of a Ball canning jar, containing interesting vintage buttons, a needle and a wooden spool of thread, colorful quilt pins, a couple of vintage safety pins, wooden thimble, and directions for stitching their initial on the pincushion top of the jar,

and a small bag of candy sticks. I was touched by the number of children who politely asked if they could have an extra for their sibling at home. At least that's what they told me!

Each child was also able to choose one other item, either a small wicker basket, a vintage picture frame, or a wooden ruler.

I loved every moment of this party; it was so much fun for me and the kids. A lot of planning went into it but it was worth it because it ran smoothly and effortlessly. Of course, I could never have pulled it off without help and there are many who contributed to its success. My daughter helped with brainstorming and practical chores like painting and gluing the wooden nickels, and friends pitched in to help supervise activities and took some beautiful pictures of the party. My husband kept the adults in attendance fed and watered, and also helped set up for the event. Even with the help, though, I practically collapsed into bed after it was over and woke up the next morning with a splitting headache! Still, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. And in fact, I probably will do it again, when my younger daughter is just a little older. I do enjoy a good recycled party!

And speaking of recycling, tomorrow I will post more about how I used nearly all thrifted and repurposed goods to craft this magical party for some very sweet little girls. Hopefully, I can inspire you to do the same!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More Vintage Party Love

I know, I know, it's been a while. I have excuses galore--an outbreak of strep throat in the family, end- of-the-school-year activities in high gear, and a birthday party for a very special young lady that is happening this weekend. I haven't had a chance to do much treasure hunting, but I do have a couple of goodies to share. At my town's library sale, I picked up this mint condition children's party book:

It is truly darling and filled with great party games and ideas--especially for the younger set.

Sometimes when I pick up old party books, I do so more for the pictures or just because they are cute and I never actually implement any of the ideas found in their pages. (Bible Party, anyone?!) But this one is different; most of the games and activities would appeal to today's child while still being kind of retro. I am so glad I found it. In fact, I am using one of the featured games in my daughter's birthday party this weekend.

I also found this set of vintage miniature cookie cutters at a yard sale I stumbled upon on my way to the library. The sellers also had a variety of vintage toy kitchen items, but I decided to stick with the cookie cutters. Wishing I'd gotten the other things, too, but oh well.

What is really special about these cutters is that I have the "grown-up" versions of all but the cat.

If you can hang on a few more days, I'll be posting a full write up of my daughter's party. What does a child's birthday party have to do with thrifting, you might ask? Well, if you have been following along for awhile, you'll know that I incorporate many thrifted finds into my parties. This one is no different, and I can't wait to show you how I've used some of my treasures to set the stage and make the day unique and magical.