The Elephant of Surprise

The Elephant of Surprise

January 29, 2015

Host a Favorite Things Party!

How many out there resolved to entertain more this year? Good for you! Contrary to much of what we love to see and pin on the internet, parties can be simple, budget-friendly, and easy to plan! I'll be posting a few examples as part of a series I've named, "So you want to host a party . . ."

One of my favorite parties from last year was a favorite things party I threw for my own birthday! Is that a party hosting faux pas? I don't know. But I figured, I wanted to celebrate my day with my friends doing something I love to do--host parties! Plus everyone gets gifts at this party, so I think it's totally appropriate. 

Favorite things parties can be done in lots of different ways. I've heard of some where everyone brings favorite items to "show and tell," and a treat to share. I've heard of parties where everyone prepares a basket of favorite things and then exchanges them. Lots of really fun ideas. 


Here are the simple details of how our party went down:
-Everyone brought 3 of the same gift to exchange.
-The gift had to be around 5 dollars (so $15 total was spent).
-The gifts were wrapped and put in a big pile.
-Everyone chose 3 gifts from the pile.
-We opened the gifts by giver. Meaning all 3 of the same gift was opened at the same time.
-Whoever was the giver of the gift then explained why it was one of their favorite things.
-As the host, I assigned everyone to bring either a favorite dessert, appetizer, or drink to share.

Not sure what kind of items to exchange? Beauty products are always fun, party supplies, stationery, favorite quotes, anything goes! One of my friends brought potted peony plants! That was awesome.

Before the party I made a list of other "favorites" we could go around the circle and vocally share. Things like favorite restaurants, places to shop for clothes, blogs and websites, books, TV shows etc. It's so fun to get ideas and learn more about each other.

This was such a fun party, and an easy one to host! Besides having my house clean, an appetizer ready, and my own 3 gifts wrapped, there wasn't much else to do. It might turn into a yearly birthday tradition for me.

January 26, 2015

Host a Waffle Party!

How many out there resolved to entertain more this year? Good for you! Contrary to much of what we love to see and pin on the internet, parties can be simple, budget-friendly, and easy to plan! I'll be posting a few examples as part of a series I've named, "So you want to host a party . . ."

Fancy themes are great, but if that's not your thing, no problem. Choose a simple but specific menu, and that's like a theme all in itself. Gather a few friends to watch a show you all love and tell them what the "food theme" is. You could choose a food type like Mexican, Italian, and ask everyone to bring a favorite appetizer or side to go along with. I like this waffle theme because it's inexpensive and quick. Ice cream sundaes are similar. As the host I provide the batter for the waffles, syrup, and milk. Each guest can bring a topping to add! So easy!

If you can wrangle up a few waffle irons that makes things even more convenient. Have the irons lined up at a station, and at another have paper cups filled with batter. Guests grab a cup and can add "mix-ins" right to the batter if they like. Bananas, nuts, chocolate chips, or whatever. Of course the same ingredients can be used as toppings rather than being mixed in if preferred. 

Hungry yet? Don't wait for a special occasion to host this simple gathering--everybody loves a little breakfast for dinner.

December 15, 2014

Jello Tree Squares

Christmas is nearly here! Hooray! We have been enjoying the month so much. I feel like my boys are finally old enough to really get into it all--the lights, the baking, the music, the wrapping. We've even had some successful service moments that, dare I say, may just have made a lasting impression on their hearts and minds. Boom! 

Anyway, this post is actually about creating one more Christmas moment with your kids at home. It's the rare quick and clean activity that by this point in the holiday season is just what you need. 

I've seen heart versions of these Jello squares for Valentine's day before, and I wanted to try a little "tree and snow" version for Christmas. Plus, my kids love jello (even though we rarely have it. And why don't I make it more because it takes like a tiny box and some hot water and 5 seconds to make it . . .) and I thought they would think it was extra cool if their jello had a tree in it.

The ingredients for this little treat are these: 4 boxes green jello, 2 packets of unflavored gelatin, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and water. Sweetened condensed milk. Mmmm. Add that to anything and it automatically goes up 10 goodness points. 

Below are a few process shots to help you get the idea of how this goes. I followed the steps on this blog, so just click right over to read the simple how-to.

We enjoyed these while watching the live Peter Pan production on TV a couple weeks ago, and it made for quite the evening. Did any of you watch that? My 4 year old said after the curtain closed, "That. was amazing." Me: "What part?" Him: "All of it." He was pretty enchanted. And I'm sure he was equally impressed with my jello. 'Tis the season!

December 8, 2014

Christmas Book Countdown

It's not too late to start counting down the days to Christmas. If you didn't start an advent on the first of December, counting down 12 days to Christmas is a great option.

Our family is counting down with Christmas books this year. We've wrapped all our Christmas books, placed them in a basket under the tree, and the boys take turns choosing and unwrapping one to be read each night. It's always a fun surprise for them to see which book is inside, and since they're anticipating it so much, it makes the whole bedtime routine a little easier too.

If your collection of Christmas books is small, head to the library sometime this week to check out a few. This coming Saturday marks 12 days before Christmas, so you have a few more days to get your books and wrap them. The books don't have to be Christmas books either. I think the most fun for kids is just unwrapping something and being read to. It's the simple pleasures in life, right?

December 5, 2014

Santa Cookie Containers

Wrapping up the Santa Cookie Exchange today with these cute little to-go containers! Everyone will bring their cookies on a plate or platter, but I always find it so much more convenient to have a separate container to collect all your cookies in. They're easier to save for later, and there's more room for all the extras you'll be taking home. 

These were easy to make using an oatmeal container and plain red paper bags. Follow the steps below to make Santa's belt, just adjust your lengths based on the size of your boxes/bags.

These could also be used for festive gift wrap. Cute, huh? Thanks for following along this week!

December 3, 2014

Cookies for Santa Party: Menu

 One of the best things about this party is that there really isn't much to plan as far as food. Everyone's bringing delicious cookies, so the work is pretty much done. Lucky you!
Many people like a little milk to wash down all that sweet goodness, so you might want to serve some. I take any chance I can to serve up milk in my favorite little milk bottles.

And to go along with the theme, you could also set up a hot cocoa bar. Do you have a favorite hot cocoa recipe? I've been searching for a good diy mix to whip up as gifts this season. Let me know if you have any recommendations. What I DO recommend is the Starbucks Salted Caramel mix. It is about as divine as can be. It's pricey, but my parents brought it to me as a gift when they came to visit  and meet my new babe last week. Heavenly, I tell you.

Lastly, I wanted to share the how-to behind those peppermint brownies--which are as divine tasting as they are looking. First off, I'm all about simplifying things around the holidays. Especially when I'm hosting a party. So, that being said--these brownies are definitely from a mix. But the most delicious mix I know of--Ghirardelli Triple fudge Brownie Mix. After the brownies were baked and cooled, I topped them with my new favorite treat on the planet: Peppermint frosting from The Pioneer Woman. Click here for the recipe. You will want to put it on everything. 

Any other favorite holiday cookie recipes you recommend? Don't hold out on us!

December 2, 2014

Cookies for Santa Party: Activities for Kids

Cookies, cocoa, and good conversation is enough to keep moms busy for a morning or afternoon, but if you want to make things a little more special for the little ones try incorporating a few activities into your cookie exchange. 

What's more appropriate than a letter writing station at a Santa party? Have paper, envelopes, and pencils available for the guests. Younger children can use crayons to draw their wish list if they can't yet write. 

Did you know that you can arrange a letter FROM Santa to arrive in the mail for you child?! It's awesome, and pretty simple. Click here to read about the Postal Service's Santa Mail System.

A service activity is always great to consider at this time of year. In your invites, you may consider letting your guests know that you'll be collecting used toys to donate. Many families like to clear out toys that aren't being used at home before new toys arrive Christmas morning. Moms will be grateful you're saving them a trip to the thrift store, and it's also a great opportunity to teach about the importance of giving.

Last but not least, a CRAFT! This is definitely fluff, but everyone loves a make and take, right? These "baking themed" ornaments are easy to make and look super cute. I have a bunch hanging from a mini tree in my kitchen now.

To make these spoon ornaments you'll need wooden spoons (we pre-drilled ours at the ends in order to string yarn through them), craft paint, and sprinkles.

Kids can easily dip their spoons into the paint, let excess drip off, and then lay flat on a piece of wax paper. About 5 minutes later, when the paint is beginning to dry shake on your sprinkles. I found that waiting until the paint wasn't super wet anymore helped to avoid the color of the sprinkles bleeding.

When they're all dry, string with yarn or bakers twine, and you're all set! Kids can write their name and the year on them as well before hanging on their tree at home.

Check back here tomorrow for more cookie exchange inspiration! 
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