A TRICK OF THE EYE























Every once in a while I come across an outdoor art project that stops me in my tracks. This geometric projection by swiss artist Felice Varini plays our mind's presumption of perspective, painting a long colonnade to look like a colorful grid is hovering in front our eyes. The project was completed on the Grand Palais in Paris, so while I am here this week I will be stopping by to see it for myself!

Watch a video about the project's creation here.



BON VOYAGE!
































Well, it's finally here, folks! I am headed to Paris today with my handsome hubby and will be traveling throughout France until October 9. Hooray! We are so overdue for a vacation, it's not even funny. I will be posting periodically to make sure you don't go into withdrawal—including some sneak peak photos from the trip if I can—but I will be back in full swing mid-October. Until then, I bid you adieu!

(print from the super cute Etsy store 'theloveshop' here)



70TH BIRTHDAY BONANZA: FAVORS AND TREATS




























Are you sick of hearing about my dad's party yet? I hope not, because this is the last post (I swear)! It sounds silly but I think every good birthday party, for a celebrant of any age, should come with a goody bag or favor. I know it seems like kid's stuff, but if you choose the right gift it can really delight your guests and be a fun way to round out the party's theme.

Since we were playing off all things oceanic for this party, I decided to make all the guests monkey's fist key chains. Like most large-scale DIY projects, it took a solid weekend+ to tie and assemble 40 of these suckers, but if you do it while sitting outside, chatting with a friend, or watching a movie the time flies. The bonus is that the knot looks super professional even though it is relatively simple. It took some trial and error to get the hang of it, but using this tutorial, I was a pro in no time. The key is—which the tutorial doesn't highlight enough—the tightening phase which requires concentration and some attention to detail. My best tip for tightening is to visualize the knot in your head as three distinct sets of loops placed in different directions, ordered in the number you created them (first loops, done vertically, are #1; second loops, done horizontally around the first set, are #2; third loops, done vertically around set 2 and inside set 1, are #3). When you are tightening, make sure you start the tightening process from the first part of loop #1, the closest to the center of the knot. You can find this by looking at the loops and determining which was the first set and/or by pulling on each loop in turn; if one of them does not consequently pull a loop on an opposing side, that's your center. It sounds weird but, trust me, it will make sense when you are doing it.

I finished them off by hooking the extra cord around some some brass key rings and then sewing that loop closed with embroidery thread (tie a knot in the thread, stitch it through both ends of the cord near the monkey's fist and then wrap the thread around numerous times, covering the raw cord end and threading the needle under the wrapped thread to tie it off). To ensure the thread stayed put, I coated the whole wrapped section in this anti-fray treatment. Worked like a charm.

To ensure maximum cuteness, I used map pins to hang the finished keychains on a cork board that I painted white and blue with acrylic craft paint. I am pretty proud of the result, if I do say so myself.
























As for treats, I wrote about the cake last week but forgot to tell you about the cookies! I found this sugar cookie recipe on Pinterest where the cookies look like sand dollars and I thought it would be a perfect and tasty addition to our theme. Luckily, I am happy to report that the recipe is simple (though it takes a while to lay out those almond slivers) and extremely delicious. They didn't last more than five minutes at the party and that was while people were also chowing down on cake!

Check out the recipe here.


We're done! I am finally putting this seventieth birthday bonanza to rest! Feel free to wrote a note in the comments if you have any questions, suggestions or general thoughts. It's always fun to hear what you have to say! Back to regular posts again tomorrow.


70TH BIRTHDAY BONANZA: DELIGHTFUL DECOR























Are you ready for an epic post on the captain-quality decorations we used for the party? Get excited for some major festivities . . .























We set up a bar and activity table in front of the house and hung this signal flag banner that fluttered and flapped merrily in the wind.

















































We set the tables with white tablecloths. Some were topped with these blue runners, some were topped with this striped fabric, which I cut into long strips with pinking sheers. Being right next to the beach we were worried about the wind whipping all table settings off, so we came up with two clever tie-down systems. Dinner tables had lengths of red elastic (similar here) tied on either end; food and drink tables had large white cording (similar here) tied into eight knots (how to here) and wrapped on the ends with blue painter's tape.

Tables were topped with red gerber daisies placed in these adorable (and inexpensive!) bud vases and interspaced with frosted votives with electric tea lights like these (so the wind didn't blow them out).














































To up the silliness factor, I made newspaper hats out of the sunday comics for guests to wear. They didn't stay onto people's heads too well, but they sure looked cute as decoration! Follow this simple instructional to make your own.



























My mom had a great idea for one table's decorations: pulling out all my dad's childhood trophies! It was fun to check out all his vintage medals and awards for everything from swimming to bowling; I loved the way they looked all grouped together on the table with the guest book and birthday quiz.

























Vivid mums, gerber daises and sunflowers were grouped in monochromatic arrangements and tied with navy chevron ribbon on the serving tables. On a whim I decided to try this tutorial to make some fun typographic signs to jazz up the tables. Since I wanted to personalize the signs with nautical phrases, I laid them out in InDesign (though you could easily do it in Word) and made sure the kerning (graphic design nerd speak for spacing) between the letters was as tight as possible. Then I printed the words onto pieces of paper, lightly glued them (read: light layer of cheap kindergarden-style glue stick) to foam core boards and meticulously cut out the letters with an exacto knife and a cutting mat. You have to be careful to make your cuts deep and even (since foam core tends to pill) and not to accidentally cut off a letter in the process. No joke, it's tough work! Once the cutting was done I carefully pulled off the paper and gave everything a good coat of spray paint. Last but not least, I painted some small wooden dowels (like these) and a 1" x 4" piece wood white; after slowly and carefully pushing the dowels into the spongy part of the foam core, I drilled holes into the wood to push the dowels through. The whole thing was secured with a dab of wood glue at the joints. Probably more work than they are worth, but still a pretty sweet result!
















































One more finishing touch to top off a perfect party: globe string lights! I have bought about ten boxes of these reasonably-priced lights from Target and have found they set the best ambience for an evening soirĂ©e. Seriously, these babies can turn a boring backyard into a beautiful backdrop for a party in the couple of minutes it takes to screw a hook into a tree and plug in an extension cord.

Still with me? Good, because we're not done yet! One more party post tomorrow . . .


70TH BIRTHDAY BONANZA: ACTIVITY CENTER





























































I am a firm believer in having activities at parties. While it is fun to snack, drink and socialize, there is no better way to get a party going than to give all the guests a common goal or task; it's a great conversation starter, allows people who don't know each other to mingle more easily and provides a stellar way to set your event apart from all the countless other cocktail parties people have been attended.

We put together some striped red and white fabric from Ikea and cut it down to roughly five by seven feet. I tacked it over some windows in our house and turned some nearby ceiling spotlights onto the backdrop (if you don't have that option try using standing or table lamps just out of reach of the fabric and turning the flash on your camera on). I then set my dslr on a tripod and attached this handy cord which allowed the photo booth subject to snap their shot at will. Last but not least we pulled together a wacky selection of props, including two chalk board speech bubbles I made for the wedding (cut them out of foam core, spray with chalkboard paint, and edge with washi masking tape), this captain's hat and this lifesaver.
two activities for my Dad's party. One was a photo booth—my favorite party starter. Photo booths are surprisingly easy to set up; with a little prep and some creativity they can look downright professional. Here we bought

The second activity was a multiple choice quiz with fun facts and silly stories about my dad. These varied from the types of cars he had owned, the facial hair he had rocked and the silly things that have gotten him in trouble while traveling (like trying to smuggle a two-day-old tuna sandwich through international customs). I laid the whole thing out in InDesign and printed it on card stock to make it look extra designy, but you could easily do this in Word or another text-editing software. It's a great opportunity to get your guests giggling and your family reminiscing. I tell you, everyone loved it!

Let's keep the party going, shall we? More party posts tomorrow!















































Oh, I almost forgot! The best activity you can arrange for a party, in terms of posterity at least, is a guest book. I whipped up this quick little accordion-folding book from this PaperSource kit (I keep a couple on hand, they are quite handy!) and this wrapping paper I had stashed away. I added some of this ribbon to tie it all closed and asked guests write fond memories and sweet notes to my dad throughout the night. It all turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself, and only took ten minutes to put together.




70TH BIRTHDAY BONANZA: DRINK UP!

























More updates from the party! As you may recall, we decided on a nautical theme since we were hosting it at our cottage on the Connecticut shoreline.  So most of our decorations played on a color scheme of red, white, navy and sunflower yellow. I had these red and white striped straws with the "bottom's up!" and "cheers!" flags left over from the wedding, but I wanted to jazz them up a little bit and make them more seaworthy for the party. I decided to design some 'signal flags' to add to the straws and use as wine glass labels. I think they came out pretty well, no?

Should you be so inclined, you can download a pdf of my designs here. You can either print both sheets out on sticker paper (like this) and cut the flags out, or you can print the first page (the straw flags) on regular paper and attach them to the straws with double-sided tape.

More fabulous festivities tomorrow!


p.s. I also decided to fancy up the Le Pens I bought with a loop of this chevron red ribbon. Plus it has the bonus advantage of helping you spot loose pen caps at the end of the night!

p.p.s. These scalloped cards make really cute party signs!



70TH BIRTHDAY BONANZA: THE CAKE

the obsessive imagist
the obsessive imagist
the obsessive imagist
the obsessive imagist
the obsessive imagist
I have finally managed to sort through all my photos from this weekend (woo, there are a lot!) and I am very excited to share all the fun DIY projects I have been working on for my Dad's nautical birthday party over the last several weeks. Hope you are ready for some major crafting, because this week is party week!Without further ado let me present the centerpiece of any good party: the cake! My mom and I decided to have the party catered but, being an amateur pastry chef, I wanted to take responsibility for the dessert. I had a vision for a sweet nautical cake and, as you can see, I got pretty into it. Care to make your own version? Let me give you my insider tips!size and shape | I prefer round layer cakes as they can be put on a pretty pedestal (this one was from Crate & Barrel several years ago; similar one here) for an optimally professional display. To make this cake I used three pans each in two different sizes: nine inches (buy here) and six inches (buy here). To prepare the pans butter the bottoms and sides; sprinkle flour all over the buttered sides and tap off the excess; cut a round of parchment paper and place in the pan (trace the bottom of the pan with a pencil and cut just inside those lines; fits perfectly every time!). Another key to making a layer cake is to shave the top of each layer so that they are flat and can stack easily. Also, another insider secret is to stick several wooden dowels down the middle of the cake to anchor the layers to each other and keep everything upright. It works like a charm!recipes | Let me share a dirty little secret: I don't make the cake batter from scratch! Scandalous, I know! You can certainly do that, and I have had good results from a completely homemade cake, but when you are going to be spending a lot of time on the decoration I recommend a quick little shortcut: cake mixes. Specifically I used three boxes of Devil's Food cake mix and folded in a bag and a half of high quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghiradelli) right before pouring the batter into the pans. The chocolate chips make for a nice change in texture from the rest of the cake and up the chocolate factor exponentially. For the frosting I just made a basic buttercream, doubling this recipe but cutting the proscribed sugar in half. You can use your best judgment for the sugar input, just keep tasting it as you incrementally add the sugar and stop when it's at your desired level of sweetness.decorations | To make the scalloped effect on the side of the cake, I followed this easy instructional. I decorated the sides of the bottom layer with these sugar pieces and then topped it with these signal flag toothpicks. I then topped the whole thing with an array of striped, blue, white and red candles. The overall effect was perfect for a seaside party for a classy man like my Dad.What do you think? Would you try a big party cake like this? Do you have any baking tips to add?




WILD SKIES













How was your weekend? I had an amazing time in Connecticut and can't wait to share all the details of our epic 70th birthday party for my Dad. Unfortunately there are a gazillion photos I have to sort through to make a sensical post for you, so bear with me! Full details to come tomorrow.

Until then, check out this crazy rainbow sunset combo I spotted in front of our house on Friday evening! Gorgeous, right? I almost couldn't believe my eyes!

Hope you had a lovely Monday! Tune back in tomorrow for some major birthday inspiration!