Celebrating a very special lady

Recently, my mom celebrated a milestone birthday (and she taught me enough manners to not quantify said milestone). Before any of us realized that she was about to turn a ‘milestone birthday,’ we were planning a simple party at my house, with lasagna and salad. When someone finally did the math and realized that the last number of the age she was turning was a ‘0,’ we knew lasagna wasn’t going to cut it!!

A real celebration was in order! I wanted this party to be elegant, beautiful and luxurious. I’ve been loving the combination of Gold and Blush. I took to Pinterest for inspiration and was overwhelmed by all the great ideas! With a few homemade items and some beautiful touches, it was a smashing success!

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Beautiful flowers are always a must for any party for my mom. She is such a gifted floral designer, I knew they needed to be on point! Above are the arrangements that we did for the dinner table. The photo below is the gigantic arrangement that my mom and Izzy created. Just look at the hydrangea blooms in comparison to the ice bucket!!! They were phenomenal.

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Here’s a peek at the table setting. We lined a long banquet table with satin pink tablecloths and used pink linen napkins. Serendipitously, I found these perfect gold chargers at Williams Sonoma, on major clearance – the wonderful folks at the King of Prussia Williams Sonoma called all around to get me enough chargers. I knew if I could find enough of these beauties, it was the universe telling me to go with the Gold and Blush theme. Thank you, Universe and Chuck Williams!!

The place card holders are little toy birds that I turned into elegant show pieces, really simple project! See that beautiful calligraphy on the blush place cards from Paper Source? I hired a local calligrapher, Manayunk Calligraphy to write the place cards in gold pen. Also, notice the gilded votives and the sparkly menu cards? A little glitter and gold pen go a long way…

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Even the kids got in on the action – Izzy and her cousin Brooke created these fun candy arrangements.

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Dinner was delicious – my friends at House in Media, hosted us with a fully customized menu and took all the worry out of the event. Though I love to cook, it was fun to get to focus on just the decor. Everyone loved their meal.

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The cake, from Whipped Bakeshop in Philadelphia, was a beautiful finish to a wonderful party – the swirls are blush, with gold pearls daintily arranged.

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I think she liked it!!

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Happy Birthday to the woman who taught me everything I know about entertaining and creating a beautiful space (and lots of other stuff, too)! You have been an inspiration to me and I loved getting the chance to celebrate you for everything that you are and everything that you do!! XOXOXO

 

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Gilded place card holders

For my mother’s big birthday party, I wanted to create a super lush, luxurious environment with tons of flowers, sparkle and bling. When it came to the place card holders, I was looking for something elegant, with a touch of whimsy. I took to Pinterest (where else would one go??) and got inspired by these fun golden zoo animal place card holders. I knew I needed a different animal for this event, so I headed out to Michaels and found these charming bird figures:

8SC_7529(p.s. the birds didn’t have the wire coming out of their backs – we did that. Read on…)

I used the following materials:

  • 12 gauge gold flower wire
  • Gold spray paint
  • Wire cutters
  • Drill

8SC_7544To start, I made the card holders (the wire coming out of the bird’s back). Using a marker, I wrapped the wire around, making a double-loop:

8SC_7545Next, I cut the length short, using wire cutters:

8SC_7546(I also cut the wire at an angle, so it would be easier to push into the drill holes.)

Here’s what the wire looks like all done:

8SC_7526Next, we drilled holes into the backs of the birds. Don’t worry, they didn’t feel a thing. It’s important to use the right bit. Nothing bigger than your wire gauge, because you want it to fit in nice and snug. I used pliers to push the holders into the holes – when I tried by hand, the loops bent and lost their tight shape. Once they are assembled, it’s time to spray paint. 

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8SC_7542A couple of notes on the spray painting. Make sure to apply in a well ventilated area. It’s winter here and it was snowing that night, so I had to make due in my kitchen. Not the best idea. Also, I held the birds by the wire while spraying them. That way, I was able to turn them around and get full coverage as well as not cover the wire in paint (since I still needed to put the cards in between the double-loop). Wear gloves!!! I looked like Goldfinger!

These birds were just what we were looking for – they were the perfect little holder for these stunning place cards, beautifully penned by Manayunk Calligraphy:

8SC_7575Of course, they were also the perfect complement to the lovely place setting – blush and gold – luxurious and spectacular.

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More on that soon… 

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Radiant Orchid Summer – Fun with Design + Life + Kids

Sometimes, as a blogger, I get to do really fun stuff. A couple of weekends ago, I was invited to attend a crafting event hosted by a fellow blogger, Kim Wardell, who writes Design + Life + Kids, an awesome blog that’s all about modern design combined with loving family. This event focused around Pantone’s color of the year; Radiant Orchid.

It was a lovely summer afternoon and Kim gathered a group of fellow bloggers and interested crafters to enjoy some delicious cocktails, wonderful snacks and fabulous cookies. Oh, and there was a craft too! I put my new-found dyeing skills to good use as we dip-dyed picnic blankets.

The cocktails – a Watermelon Lemonade cocktail with vodka, was presented two ways – over ice, or made into slushies:

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Aren’t those spheres awesome? I love how Kim added slices of lime and strawberry for decoration. These were made using Zoku Ice Ball Molds. I was lucky enough to get a set in my swag ‘bucket’ – can’t wait to try them out. Also, I want to point out the orchids in the background – they were furnished by The Bouqs, another one of the many great sponsors of the event. They are an online flower delivery service, unlike any other out there. Definitely check them out next time you want to send flowers to someone special. I’m looking forward to using the coupon they left in our swag bucket…

The second presentation used the Zoku Slush & Shake Maker (in purple, of course):

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And, not to brag, but I got one of these in my swag bucket too…

For folks who didn’t want a cocktail, the Brandywine Valley Brewing Collective brewed a special beer just for the event – Radiant Orchid Blueberry Wheat. 

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These stunning cookies were provided by the fabulous Whipped Bakeshop – one of Philadelphia’s premier bakeries. Their artistry is unmatched:

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Leave it to me to lead with the food and drink – this was a crafting party, right? The featured craft of the day was sponsored by Rit Dye. We all dip dyed flat sheets, using their liquid dye.

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Once we finished, we hung them on clothes lines to dry – don’t they look awesome? I’m hoping to convince Izzie that this will be a good birthday party idea some year…

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Mine’s the one in front that has a yellow hue to it. I’m still on the fence with how I feel about it. I learned a valuable lesson about dyeing – less chatting, more dyeing… Oh, also – buy the liquid dye. Just do it. It’s a little more money, but it’s so much easier!!!

In addition to the food, drink and crafting, we were treated to other drawings and giveaways from other wonderful sponsors – Minted gave away three prints, La Siesta gave away a super cool hammock chair to one lucky guest. Each of us walked away with a big swag bucket filled with lots of goodies – two bottles of dye from Rit Dye, fun books from Quirk Books, a lovely pearl necklace given by Panache BoxDreamfarm, a fun home accessories maker gave us a jot and a tapi, Bing gave us a calligraphy print and Bing Ads + Bing Rewards coupon codes, and the swag bucket was given by Casabella Clean.

Speaking of Minted, guess who forgot to bring her beautiful new business cards from Minted to the event? Yup, this girl. They are so pretty – I was so looking forward to showing them off, er, giving them out! Guess I’ll just have to show them off here:

biz card

 

I had so much fun at this event. I met some really creative women, enjoyed great conversations, and laughed a lot. Many thanks to Kim, her team, and to the many sponsors! It was a huge success.

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The Madhatter’s Ball

For the past few months, I have been completely immersed in the planning for a big fundraiser for my children’s school. This year’s theme was Alice in Wonderland. As the Party Chair, I was responsible for making this theme come to life. Which, I was more than happy to do…I take my party planning responsibilities very seriously.

I gathered a crack team of volunteers as my committee and we got to work. We wanted guests to feel transported to Wonderland, through sound, sight and taste. We wanted them to feel like Alice, a little off-center. I think we did a pretty bang up job.

The party was held at The Old Mill in Rose Valley. This historic building was the perfect setting for our plans. As guests arrived, they entered through a ‘card vortex.’ Hundreds of playing cards, in varying sizes were affixed to a bracing structure to create the sense of chaos. Kristin, our resident problem-solver / engineer (not to mention, very creative and talented woman), devised and built the structure.

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Once guests entered the building, they were greeted with an ‘Eat me, Drink me’ table, where we had little vials of potion, Cosmopolitans and Sazaracs, and miniature cupcakes. We worked tirelessly to craft the perfect cocktail, it was really hard work. Kiersten, an integral member of the committee, without whom much of this vision would not be possible, made both the cocktails and the cupcakes. 

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Here’s a close-up of the cupcakes:

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And the bottles of ‘potion’:

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I got these fabulous 2-ounce bottles from ebottles.com – they had a nice selection, if you want to buy a lot.

To enter the ballroom, guests had to peel back the velvet curtain to reveal Wonderland! Once inside, they immediately felt “10 feet tall” as they walked through the giant flower garden:

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One of my uber-creative committee members, Sue, did the lion’s share of constructing 39 of these giant flowers!! The impact was incredible.

Folks were also greeted by this guy:

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To honor the many generous sponsors, who made the event possible, we created this art installation, which we called, “Through the Looking Glass”:

frames

You’ll see in some of the frames we featured photos of students, past and present. We gathered old frames from Goodwill, auctions and donations from families, spray-painted everything gold and created this collage of frames. Tara, another one of our incredibly talented committee members, her husband and our beloved woodshop teacher did an outstanding job constructing this beautiful piece.

We also scoured auctions and thrift shops to curate a vast collection of tea pots, tea cups, old books and other accessories to use as our tablescapes:

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This was my favorite – do you see something out-of-place in the flowers?:

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Every table was unique, and wonderful!

Above the central table, we created a suspended base, from which teapots and teacups toppled from:

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This was quite an engineering feat – constructed and executed by Kristin. Super kudos to her.

Up on stage, Tara created our ‘Hookah Lounge.’ She constructed a giant mushroom which was surrounded by moss-covered sections of tree trunks. Seating was provided by pallets, layered with textiles and pillows:

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What you can’t see in the picture above is how she even created the ‘gills’ underneath the mushroom’s cap. The detail on this piece was amazing.

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No detail was overlooked – she even made tiny mushrooms, nestled into the moss growing on the tree.

Here’s what it looked like, with the cool mood-lighting – can you see how the mushroom is lit from underneath the cap???!!!:

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Oh, and do you see that crazy cool chair to the right of the mushroom? One of the parents heard about the theme and let us borrow her two chairs – they were a perfect addition to the space.

Everyone was encouraged to wear their finest hats – and our Head of School was no exception! Tara and I created this beautiful Madhatter’s Hat for him:

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Complete with a hand-lettered, tea-stained, burnt-edge price tag – just like in the original illustrations by John Tenniel (with a little artistic interpretation, of course!).

I can honestly say that I had so much fun working on this project. I am so lucky to have had an amazing group of women to work with. Not only were they incredibly talented, inspiring and hard-working, but the were so much fun!

P.S. I now find myself with a giant collection of china and old books, which I have no use for. Stay tuned for an eBay auction!

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Happy New Year!

Our New Year’s plan came together rather last-minute. I was trying to organize a play date for my daughter because we all just needed a little break from one another. She and her brother had had enough of playing together. Cabin fever had set in. In a big way. Luckily, the mom I was chatting with had the genius idea of combining New Year’s and a play date. Everyone wins!!

However, my house had taken on the look of four people, living in a space without actually cleaning up after themselves. Every surface had some project going on – Lego’s, Barbie’s, Gingerbread Houses, boxes turned into houses, laundry, Easy Bake Oven, etc. It was a total disaster. Oh, and, what to cook? It’s New Year’s – I can’t just throw spaghetti on a plate! I need to make it festive!! Plus, it has to appeal to five little kids. Sure. No problem.

I decided to break one of my cooking rules and make a different meal for the kids, because I had my heart set on delicious, hearty, melt-in-your-mouth short ribs on creamy goat cheese polenta from The Pioneer Woman with roasted Brussels sprouts and I knew my kids wouldn’t go for it.

For the kids, I picked Ina’s Parmesan Chicken with Skinny Fettuccini Alfredo from Gimme Some Oven and steamed broccoli.

Dessert – Chocolate Chip Lava Cookies from Kevin and Amanda. There was no need to make a separate dessert – chocolate chip cookies, oozing chocolate, with vanilla ice cream? Yeah, I think that should make everyone happy…

Now, here’s where the ‘twist’ came in. Literally. On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I decided to go work out. Let 2013 end on a positive note. Well, 2013 had other plans for me. We were warming up, just taking a little jog outside. I finished the jogging portion and started walking towards our next exercise (which the instructor was calling suicides – awesome) and my ankle just caved underneath me and brought me to the ground. Just for walking. Both my pride and ankle were in searing pain. I was helped to my car by a couple of classmates and I got my sorry butt home to the couch, with a bag of ice.

Surrounded by the squalor of my house and not one recipe started, I had no idea what to do. My husband and daughter decided to rally and became totally committed to pulling off this dinner party. I sat on the couch, and directed traffic and gave cooking tips, but everyone really stepped to the plate and made it happen. At around 1:30, I got up and started moving around – slowly. It was a full family effort.

The short ribs were flavorful and tender:

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Izzie breaded all the chicken and helped with the short ribs. My little eight year old is becoming quite the chef. The alfredo was really good – didn’t taste ‘skinny’ at all. The polenta was creamy, flavorful and so good. Sorry I don’t have pictures – I was back on a chair with a bag of ice and a large glass of wine when all of this was going on. There was a lot happening at the last minute – both the polenta and alfredo were made right before serving as was the chicken – so it was a bit of a juggling act. I would not necessarily recommend this.

The chocolate chip lava cookies were ridiculous. You should make them. You will be very happy you did. Don’t forget the ice cream.

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Even the table was festive. I never got around to the flowers, but, oh well.

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At the end of the day, we had a great night. I think it’s safe to say these kids had a blast!

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It never would have happened without the help of my husband and daughter. Along with the patience and help of our dear friends. I thank them from the bottom of my heart!

2013 has brought some epic highs and some equally epic lows. I am happy to close the book and learn the lessons of 2013. Looking forward to a year of growth and pursuit of long standing dreams. Wishing you all a bountiful year, filled with peace and prosperity.

Happy New Year!!

 

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Reptile Goodie ‘Bags’

I’m not a huge fan of goodie bags at birthday parties. They are usually filled with cheap, crappy stuff, that just gets lost in the most unfortunate places. However, I recognize that my kids and their friends freaking love a goodie bag. So, who am I to deprive them of that? When it came to my son’s recent reptile-themed party, I wanted to come up with something that the kids could use, but something that wasn’t super expensive.

Granted, it’s possible I may have spent more than most people do on goodie bags, but, sometimes I get carried away. I get so focused on the theme that I lose site of the bottom line. I’m working on this.

Ok, now that we’ve gotten past that, I was inspired by the jars I’ve been seeing on Pinterest with the animals adhered to the top, painted all one color. I thought it might be fun to find a jar, that could double as a ‘terrarium’ of sorts. In the end, I was able to transform this simple glass jar from the Dollar Tree:

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Into these totally adorable goodie ‘bags.’

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All in all, they weren’t terribly difficult nor were they terribly time consuming. Ok, they were more time consuming than your average goodie bag, I’ll admit that. But, they were fun, and I like to do stuff like this.

To dress up the outside I printed out the labels and hang tags from my printables package from AR Party Printables. For the labels, I used Avery self-adhesive paper (full-sheet) and cut them into squares. The hang tags were printed on heavier paper and I trimmed them to size, using a straight edge to guide my knife on a self-healing cutting mat. You could use scissors, but I don’t have a steady enough hand and the edges always look uneven when I do it that way. Then, I bought two cans of spray paint, formulated for use on plastic, one in brown and one in moss green. I spray painted the plastic lids and the plastic frogs that I found at the Dollar Tree.

lids and frogs

Hello, little froggies:

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A note about spray paint. Follow the directions on the can. I bought paint from two different manufacturers and the directions were different. The green paint instructed me not to do extra coats after the paint had completely dried. Well, they were right about that… I decided to ‘touch-up’ a couple areas after the fact and the existing paint started to crackle (if you look closely at the picture of the final jars above, you’ll see the crackling).

Once they were completely dry, I used a hot glue gun to adhere the frogs to the tops of the lids. I mixed and matched, instead of keeping the color uniform.

Inside the ‘terrariums’ I made a bed of ‘crinkle cut’ basket filler that I bought from Nashville Wraps. This site is an awesome resource for gift giving. If you are into packaging and wrapping, give yourself an hour or so and pour through this site.

shredded paper

By the way, there is NO way I needed this much basket filler. I may have used a total of one bag – and that’s pushing it.

Now for the contents. The shining star of these terrariums were the reptile shaped recycled crayons that I found on Etsy. Not only because they are awesome and totally relevant to the theme, but because the vendor, MadeByMaxx, is actually a young kid in Oklahoma who has a shop on Etsy. He makes them himself and his mom helps with the transactions and shipping. This is what arrived with my shipment:

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I mean seriously, how could you buy your molded, recycled crayons from anyone else??

The other focal point in this terrarium was a sheet of stickers. This was a bit challenging, because I need to find something that would fit into the jar. Here’s what I found:

stickers

I stuck those in the back (half of one sheet), as a ‘backdrop’ of sorts, then filled the rest with the crayons and plastic reptiles from Dollar Tree.

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They turned out great and I’m hopeful that the kids are using their little jars for something fun at their homes!

goodie bags

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An epic reptile party

My darling son turned five recently. Like many five year-old boys, he loves reptiles, bugs, dirt, puddles, etc. When it came time to plan his birthday party, I knew I needed to incorporate one of his loves. Enter the ‘Reptile’ theme… The highlight of this event was the live reptile show, given by Snakes-n-Scales, – in my living room. I’m still trying to forget the fact that a boa constrictor was IN. MY. LIVING ROOM. (Please forgive the lack of focus in this photo – I must have been shaking. Or rocking back and forth.)

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Regardless of the live animals, we had a theme – and once I have a theme, there’s no stopping me.

First stop, Etsy. Hours and hours on Etsy. Because, that’s what I do. I have to look at and analyze every single reptile related item available on Etsy. Seriously. Anyway, I found an adorable printable package that had the invitation, and a series of printables from AR Party Printables. We worked together to customize the invite and other items. I was able to carry this theme through every element of the party.

Drink Tags (blog post coming soon!):

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Grown-up Drinks – Blueberry Mojitos:

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This is super simple – I used a 2 inch circle punch to make the tags and took a little piece of adhesive putty and stuck it to the side of the mason jar. Clean-up is simple, because the putty just comes right off and you are ready to use your mason jars for another purpose!

Goodie ‘Bags’ (click for more detail):

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 Kid’s Drinks – Green Punch:

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Aren’t these adorable? I used half pint mason jars. I found these little lizards at the Dollar Tree and adhered them to the rings with a hot glue gun.  The ‘lid’ is just a cute cupcake liner that I found at Michael’s. Punched a hole in the middle of the liner for the straw and voila!

Flower Arrangements/terrariums:

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I already had these cool hurricanes. I filled the bottom with rocks I got from the Dollar Tree and added some plants from my water features(however, you could do this with plastic ferns or other artificial plants). Then we added in some of the plastic reptiles that we also sourced from the Dollar Tree, put water in the bottom and that was our centerpiece.

The turtle-shaped pizza:

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I used a turtle shaped cookie cutter, rolled out Trader Joe’s pizza dough, put on a little pizza sauce and cheese. To save time, we pre-cut the shapes and par-cooked them before the party. All we had to do at party time was add the sauce and cheese and bake.

The alligator-shaped cupcake display:

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I found this idea in “Hello, Cupcake”, a book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. It has lots of great ideas – if you love baking and cake decorating, this is a fun book. Theirs looks a little more professional, but it was about 200 degrees that day and the icing was so soft. Oh, and we don’t pipe icing on a regular basis, so, here you go. I still think it looked awesome – many thanks to my mom’s patient hands and piping skills.

In addition to these menu items, I served fruit salad, soft pretzel sticks and assorted sandwiches. Everyone had a blast. The other kids who love reptiles got to see and touch many of these reptiles, which was a huge thrill. Even the kids who were a little hesitant around reptiles seemed to have fun.  It was a huge success, despite the excessive heat. Parents and kids felt free to linger – which to me is always a sign of a good party.

Many thanks to Snakes-n-Scales, the folks who gave the presentation. All jokes aside, they did an awesome job. Nate was thrilled and they made sure all the reptiles stayed far, far away from me, which was much appreciated. They also ensured that all of said reptiles returned to their respective tubs and left my house. If you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or parts of New York (check out their website for specific coverage), I would highly recommend them. They are also a reptile rescue center, so the money you pay for the party goes towards helping animals.

BTW, did I mention there was a boa constrictor IN. MY. LIVING ROOM.???!!!! Not to mention, an alligator, python, lizards, giant turtles, I could go on…

 

 

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