Monday, March 19, 2012

Party time! Star Wars Edition

Back around Christmas, J asked if he could have a Star Wars-themed birthday party. This gave me lots of time to plan and prepare. I can honestly say that this party was a lot of fun for me. J, at that time, mainly knew about Star Wars because of the Star Wars Legos so that's where I started my planning. Right after Christmas, I went to the Lego store to check out their clearance items. I found some great Lego Star Wars Magnet sets (3 mini-figure magnets on clearance for $3.49) and some Lego Star Wars key chains on clearance for $0.98. I bought 4 packs of magnets and 10 key chains. Then I started collecting other little goodies as I saw them. Next, I went on Pinterest for inspiration. So many great ideas out there. This is what I ended up doing.

I let J invite 8 friends from his class. Five ended up being able to attend. So with J and N, we had 7 children which was perfect. The children watched part of a Star Wars movie while waiting for everyone to arrive.

Here is everyone waiting for the last child to arrive:

Our first game was a light saber building contest. I built 3 light saber bases out of black and gray Duplo blocks and gave each team a base. Then I put a pile of red, blue and green square Duplo blocks in between the three teams (I precounted out these blocks so we had an equal number of each color.) They then raced to build their light saber before the other teams.This was a really simple game, but they seemed to enjoy it. It was a quick way to get everyone involved in the party. We picked teams by letting each of the older children pick a "card" and then finding the person with a matching card. The cards were actually holographic Star Wars Valentines that I got on clearance for $0.10. N was a bonus member of the blue team.

Our next game was pin the light saber on Yoda. I saw this idea on Pinterest, but it was originally from this blog. We found a picture of Yoda from one of our coloring books and enlarged it at the copy store. Then we simply cut it out, colored it in, and glued it to a piece of posterboard. I found a sleep mask and J decorated it with Star Wars stickers. The light sabers were cut out of extra large post-its (from the sticky strip--so they stuck easily).
After the "pinner" got blindfolded, we spun them three times while the children said, "Turn, turn, turn. May the force be with you." They thought that was pretty funny and it kept everyone involved.

Our next game was a punchbox. This is an idea I first saw on Tip Junkie. It's an alternative to doing a pinata. You take a display board and cut circles out of it. Then you glue tissue paper over the hole (from the backside so the front looks pretty). Then you put some goodies (I did a mini Star Wars fruit roll-up and two pieces of candy) into a paper bag. Cut the top of the paper bag off to make it shorter, and then tape the paper bag over the tissue paper covering the hole. Then the children simply pick a hole, punch through the tissue paper and get their goodies. I forgot to take a before picture, but here is a picture of J punching the board.
Here's the front of the punchbox after it's been punched:
Here's a picture of the back so you can see how it is done:
The punchbox went really fast, but the children seemed to really enjoy it. N's already requested that we do it again at his birthday party.

To get more info about making a punchbox, there are tutorials here and here.

Next, we did a scavenger hunt. I had rounded up a few different goodies and wanted a fun way to give them to the children--versus just handing the treats to them in a bag at the end of the party. I gave each child a brown paper bag with his or her name on it and read the first clue. Each clue started with a description of their mission as Jedis in training. The second part was a clue to where to go next. Each stop had a brown bag with a treat for each child and a new clue.

The first clue:

The first goodie (a Star Wars pencil with Qui-Gon Jinn--leftover from J's Valentine's) and the second clue:
The second goodie (a glow bracelet "light saber") and the third clue:
The children loved running up and down the stairs to get from clue to clue. They really got into the scavenger hunt!

The third goodie (a pixie stick "light saber") and the fourth clue:
The fourth goodie (a Bossk Lego key chain) and the fifth clue:
The final stop (black playdough and glitter to make galaxy dough).

The end of the scavenger hunt led us to the makings for our next activity--making galaxy dough. This was another idea I found on Pinterest. I followed the playdough recipe here. This was my first time making playdough and I can't say that it turned out great. It was too sticky at first and so I added more flour. Then it was too crumbly so I added oil. The consistency turned out okay, but despite my use of black food coloring--it turned out a bit more like a dark forest green. Not the best playdough and not the best activity. The children seemed to enjoy the idea of it, but not so much actually working the glitter into their playdough. J didn't like it because it was messy. Oh well.

At this point we cleared off the table and served cupcakes, pretzel rods with colored icing (light saber-esque) and juice drinks.
I used the clearance Lego Star Wars magnets as cupcake toppers. I think they looked right cute and the children were excited to get to take them home. B was kind enough to make the cupcakes and icing--white cupcakes with chocolate icing.

After we were done with the cupcakes and pretzels. It was time for these:
I had made a light saber for each child out of a pool noodle. I saw these first on Pinterest too (from here). These were so easy and so inexpensive and I love how fun and soft they are. I simple cut each pool noodle ($1 at Dollar Tree) in half with a serrated knife. Then I covered the cut end with two smaller pieces of duct tape. Then I wrapped the duct tape (I chose the shinier "Chrome" finish) around the pool noodle for a total of 4 rows. Then I used black electrical tape (2 rolls for $1 at Dollar Tree) to add the details. I did the four vertical stripes and then added the horizontal bands at the top and bottom of the duct tape. I think they turned out great and the children LOVED playing with them in the backyard. The parents appreciated how soft and safe they were. Lots of "fighting" and no injuries.
So that was J's Star Wars birthday party. It was great fun! Thanks for reading this giant post. I appreciate your dedication. Happy Monday, everyone! May the force be with you :).


Last week J turned 6. SIX! I still can't believe he's that old. He seems so grown up these days with his reading, writing, math skills, playing soccer, etc. It's fun but a little crazy.

Anyway, we've had lots of birthday celebrating. His birthday fell over his Spring Break from school so we took cupcakes to school the Friday before his birthday.

J's school requires store-bought treats, but J wanted to make them "Star Wars." Instead of spending a ton on fancy cupcakes, we bought plain cupcakes and made these Star Wars cupcake toppers with things we had at home. J gave me his Lego catalogs and I cut circles out with pictures of Star Wars Legos. Then we glued these onto slightly larger circles cut out of cardstock. Then we taped two toothpicks to the bottom of the back.
I think they turned out pretty cute. And everyone had fun hamming it up while eating them.Even N got to come to J's school and enjoy a cupcake.

On J's actual birthday, he got up early and opened his presents--Ninjago Lego set from B and I and Star Wars fighter pods from N.
He had soccer practice that night and then we had a few neighborhood friends over for cupcakes that night.
Then a few days later we had a Star Wars-themed party. But that will be a post all in itself. Still can't believe I've been a mom for six years. Can't decide if it seems longer than that or much shorter. Happy Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Empowered: A Post about Women & Knitting and (a giveaway)

I was recently contacted by Laura at Open Road Media about participating in a Blogfest for International Women's History Day. The goal of the Blogfest is to build on the 2012 National Women's History Month Theme of "Women's Education - Women's Empowerment" by talking about how women are empowered by knitting. Each blog post starts with the above video made by several Open Road Media authors (Joelle Hoverson, Andrea Berman Price and Melanie Falick).

I was instantly intrigued and agreed to participate. I was so honored to be asked. So here are my thoughts on Knitting and Empowerment. I found I had a lot to say.

When I first thought about the history of knitting and women, I thought about how women began knitting as a necessity. They needed a way to make warm clothes and thus they knit them. And I too see the power in knitting something that meets such a basic need. Clothing. It's right up there with food and shelter. And there is something very empowering about creating such an essential item, especially when I am knitting for my children. I feel a little bit like Supermom every time I see one of my boys in a sweater I've knit him. I love that I created something that both keeps him warm and brings a smile to his face.

Knitting gives us women not only the power to create a functional piece of clothing, but it also gives us the power to create exactly the piece of clothing that we want. It starts small--the power to choose the color yarn that you want to use. Next you might chose a specific yarn fiber to meet your specific needs of climate or wear. After that you get to make choices about sizing--making parts larger or smaller to fit just right. Next you get to choose to follow a pattern or even create your own. Finally, and in the mind of my boys, most importantly, you get to choose the finishing touches, the trim, the buttons or other embellishments. I don't know about you, but I've never seen a rainbow cardigan with red elephant buttons in the store, but that is exactly what my son needed. I have to power to make that for him and it is wonderful. Knitting has the power to create not just knitted items, but the power to create smiles.

Knitting to me is truly a labor of love. Knitting something for myself or my child or a friend, is the process of putting that love into an object one stitch at a time. That finished object, whether a sweater, a shawl, a hat, a blanket or a pair of mittens, can be worn, held, treasured. It is a tangible, lasting symbol of my love. I have the power to create that each time I knit and it is amazing.

The power of knitting is not just in the finished objects, but in the process itself. There is a special kind of magic in the way two sticks and some yarn can turn into beautiful fabric. I am always amazed when I look at the simple beauty of stockinette stitch. The fact that by combining a few simple stitches I can create cables, textured patterns, and lace--LACE!--it is magical.

Knitting is a kind of therapy. The repetition of stitches, the process of producing something gives the knitter a sense of peace and purpose each time she sits down with needles and yarn. I often call knitting my happy place. It is the one thing guaranteed to make me feel at peace. It is both soothing and rewarding. Knitting can turn mindless TV watching into something productive. I no longer feel guilty about the hours spent watching drama evolve in fictional characters' lives. I'm not just sitting--I am knitting. I am creating. I am being productive.

After a knit item is complete, the joy continues. Now knitters are empowered further by the kind words and complements we receive each time those items are worn. It is always fun when a non-knitter is amazed by something I've knit, but it is even more empowering when I share those items with a fellow knitter, for other knitters know the labor of love that went into that knit item. And knitters are an amazing bunch. They love to share their knitting knowledge and to encourage their fellow knitters. Knitters have built themselves such a community of support using the internet to spread the love and information. Locally at knit shops and internationally through Flickr, blogs and Ravelry, I have been adopted into that community of knitters. And each time I get a comment from a fellow knitter, I feel further empowered--empowered not only by the accomplishment of another skill learned and another project completed, but also empowered by my membership in this community of women who all embrace the art of knitting and all it stands for.

Knitting gives so much. The power of productivity. The power of creativity. The power of purpose. The power of pride in a job well done. The power to show my love, my knowledge, my creativity one stitch at a time. Knitting is not just a craft or a hobby or a skill or a job, it's a superpower that this community of women have shared and will continue to share for generations.

So what do you think? How does knitting empower you? If you're not a knitter, what craft "superpower" do you have?

Don't hold back. Comment away. Next week, Laura from Open Road Media will give me and one random commenter from this post a complimentary review copy of the ebook edition of Michelle Edwards' incredible A Knitter's Home Companion via NetGalley. This looks like a wonderful book about knitting and I can't wait to read it!

To check out the rest of the Blogfest and read some great posts, go to the Open Road Media Blog here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Light Sabers!

J's birthday is just two weeks away and this year he has asked for a Lego Star Wars themed party. In preparation for his party, I recently made 10 light sabers from pool noodles and duct tape. Tonight J, N and B tried them out in a light saber battle.

I think they were a hit. What do you think?