Why we loved the movie Frozen!

Since the movie Frozen came out, we have been flooded with requests for characters Anna (the Ice Princess) and Elsa (the Ice Queen) to visit your Utah princess birthday party. We loved Frozen. Here's why:

1. Olaf. Need I say more? Everyone loves to hang out with an optimist. This snowman from the movie Frozen is sweet in his innocence and cheerful with his outlook - even when there isn't much hope. His song about loving the summer-time is a fun sidenote to the main storyline.

2. Obstacles don't always have to equate to evil. This movie chooses not to make the character with the problem a villian. Yes, Elsa has icy powers she can't always control. But she doesn't want to hurt others. In real life, we encounter conflicts. Sometimes, it's a matter of working through hard times to solve difficult issues while believing the opposition isn't necessarily our enemy. 

3. A good reminder to let your unique abilities shine. No one knows about Elsa's power to create ice wonders, but communication would have made all the difference. And when the Ice Queen (Elsa) finally feels like she can "let it go" and create ice scultptors and castles, they are magical and beautiful creations. 

4. We get a life lesson to take your time when it comes to making life's big decisions. Anna later regrets her first day engagement to a charming stranger. The Ice princess (Anna) finds her true soul mate by going through tough experiences with Kristoff and seeing that they will be good partners through the thick and thin.

5. Sister power! Anna and Elsa are different, just like all sisters are. But they are loyal to each other. Elsa leaves because she doesn't want to hurt Anna and the kingdom she loves. And Anna believes in the good within Elsa and risks her life to save the Ice Queen in the end. Sisters appreciate the good in each other and respect their differences. Sisters are true to each other.

If you haven't seen Frozen, you've got to go. And if you have seen it, it's worth going again!


Why you should take your little princess to the Daddy Daughter Princess Ball

This will be our fifth Pirate and Princess Parties Daddy Daughter ball, and there are oodles of reasons you would enjoy this event, but I'll give you the best three.

1. Meeting all of the princesses. We send princesses to birthday parties. Usually it's just one princess that comes to your party and for less than the price of meeting just one princess, your little sweetie can meet them all. She can have her picture taken with the Ice Princess, ride in Cinderella's horse-drawn carriage (weather permitting), visit with Rapunzel, and dance with The Little Mermaid. Our princesses aren't the teenagers down the street in Halloween costumes. Our princesses are true actors that take great pride in looking and acting the part. If she likes princesses, it's worth attending our Daddy Daughter dance for this aspect alone. Although I'll be the first to admit that's not the most important reason why you should come.

2. She's only little once. You tell her she is special all the time, but your actions speak louder than words. Getting dressed up and attending a royal ball gives girls a chance to feel like the true princess they are. That three year old will think there is magic in Cinderella's gown but your twelve year old will roll her eyes and text a friend when you bring up a ball with dancing.


3. Dad time. (or grandpa/uncle/male person of influence) There are a few memories I have with my dad from when I was a little girl that mean a lot to me. When I did well but didn't win in the spelling bee, he brought me a rose and misspelled "yew ar mi favrit spellr" on the card. The rose and note were symbols that he was aware of me. I cherish a memory of a special date night with my dad as well. The benefit of the influence of a male figure in a young girl's life has been well documented and it makes sense. If DAD, who is busy with important things like work, will set aside time for her, she must be important too. Our professional photographer will take a picture of you with your little princess (included with your ticket) so she'll have the photo to look at and remember that special night for years to come. 

For tickets to the Daddy Daughter Princess Ball Feb 28, 2014 visit aprincessparty.net under the "store" tab.

Frozen movie party ideas

I was more than excited about the new Frozen movie coming out. I had read the Snow Queen stories and was anticipating the story and how it would be portrayed. After seeing Frozen, I thought the characters were interesting, the snowman (Olaf) was adorable and the message was powerful. Frozen, the movie was a treat to watch. 

When we decided to have a Frozen movie party, we planned "ice and winter" themed activities. Making Olaf the snowman out of marshmallows was a hit. The younger children enjoyed throwing faux snowballs (balls) at each other and I had laid out gloves, mittens, scarves and hats but the kids weren't interested in getting dressed up in warm gear. Another idea would be to have a relay race where kids put on layers of winter clothes. Another "Frozen" themed activity at our party was to make snowflakes. This is a timeless craft that was a big hit. Kids enjoyed designing their own snowflake and decorating them with glitter glue and crayons. 

The kids wanted to talk about the movie. When sisters Anna and Elsa were little, they played outside in the snow and make snowmen and shared wonderful childhood memories together. But as Elsa grows up, her power to freeze things strengthens and she becomes fearful of her power. Anna is surprised by Elsa's ability when it comes to light because it has been kept a secret for many years. Elsa (the Snow Queen) doesn't want to hurt anyone so she goes away where she won't have to suppress her freezing powers.  Anna believes in Elsa's inherent goodness and doesn't believe she is a threat, but Elsa doesn't trust herself. Anna performs a heroic act when she steps in front of a villian to protect her sister Elsa. Elsa isn't sure if she can thaw the ice and snow she spreads, but Anna believes it is possible.

Of course, the most important part of our Frozen movie party was meeting the Ice Princess. The kids were thrilled to meet her and she gave them each a small bag with treats and presents inside. They wanted pictures with her, they wanted to dance with her and they wanted to know how the Ice Queen made the beautiful ice castles and how it felt to be frozen when she stepped in front of the villain to save her sister. 

The Frozen party theme was a lot of fun with many different activities that would be enjoyable for both girls and boys.

Imaginative play at birthday parties can be a healthy aid for families in this economy

You hear about the recession in your car on the way to work, there's talk about lay-offs around the water cooler, your family decides not to exchange gifts this year. Adults get the daily dose of gloom surrounding "these economic times", and we hope our kids don't sense the stress of it. But they often do. 7 year old Savannah says "my dad said we didn't have enough money to buy the Christmas tree I wanted. I saw a story on TV about a family where the dad lost his job and they had to give up their house. I hope that wouldn't happen to us." Kids internalize more than we think and make conclusions that might frighten them more than they say.

An important remedy for children's stress can be the world of make believe. A recent study by Professor Sandra Russ at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University found that first and second graders who show high levels and quality of fantasy and imagination in their play scored higher on a test measuring their ability to accommodate to stressful situations. More imaginative kids were better able to deal with forgetting their lunch or being picked on by a bully. "Because children come up with different ideas in fantasy play, taking on different roles and voices, it's practice for divergent thinking and problem solving," says Russ.

Pirate & Princess Parties, a local business opens the door into a world of fantasy for kids.  "The party guests get to meet someone whose rags were transformed into a beautiful gown before dancing with the prince at the ball," says Pirate & Princess Parties founder Kendalyn Harris. "We all need to get away and Princess Party hosts create a magical place where every girl is a princess, where anything is possible and where kids can just be kids." In addition, Princess Parties realizes what families are going through. "We know money's tight," says Harris. "That's why we have a low-cost option for families where a princess can just visit for a few minutes.

 The adults love the escape too. Cami, a mom who recently hired Pirate & Princess Parties talked about the event and the effect it had on her. "I was caught up in the excitement of what food we would serve and how I would make the day special for McKayla but when she opened the door and saw Snow White, her reaction was the highlight for me. She won't ever forget the day a princess came to her house just to be with her on her birthday."

 Boosting morale during tough times goes with Pirate & Princess Parties territory. At parties, the character tells her story which inevitably involves hurdles she overcame. There's the one who ran into the woods to discover a cottage, only to find it a filthy mess. And who could forget the princess who remained sweet despite a harsh step-mother and step-sisters screaming orders all day. Princesses are proof that people can get through tough times with dignity and grace. And that could be the most helpful gift our kids could receive.


Family-friendly paint fight / Hunger Games party idea

All the rage now-a-days seems to be themed parties based off of popular blockbuster movies. My family takes pride in our creativity and recently threw ourselves a Hunger Games party in honor of the movie release. How did we execute such a fun celebration? Well I will tell you.

If you are familiar with the story, you know that the movie and book can be quite dramatic. We wanted to recreate the story, minus the violence of course. 

If you are familiar with my family, you would know that we like to get messy, so what better way to have a paint war party?!

We filled water balloons full of brightly colored paint.

We loaded up our water guns.

We got sponges, buckets and water bottles and armed ourselves. 

True to Hunger Games fashion, we had our "Last meal" before the games began, which was pizza, bread sticks and cupcakes.

We placed all our "Ammo" in the "Cornucopia" (which was the cement floor of the pavilion at the park)

We had "The Capitol" (Family members who had places to go, so they werent getting messy) count down from ten. 

Once we ran and got our ammunition, we had to clear away from the Cornucopia and wait one full minute before we could pursue our fellow tributes.

But once that minute was up, it was fair game.

We had a blast!

To throw your own hunger games party, all you need is paint and clothes to get dirty. Optional items are; sponges, buckets, spray bottles, etc. We found that although the "weapons" were fun, we just ended up using our hands to scoop the paint and hurl it at our opponents. 

We also had a friend who is a photographer come because we knew this would be something we wouldnt want to forget.

If you dont want to get messy, you can always do a nerf war, or even laser tag. 

You can even have Effie Trinket come and host a party for you. You can have a "reaping" and draw everyone's names to be tributes. We also thought it would be cool if everyone had a specific color assigned to them so after the games, we knew who "won"  by who had the most of that color on them. 

It was an awesome party and you can bet your championship earnings that we will be doing this again when the next movie comes out.

Happy Hunger Games!



Birthday party age appropriateness

Children develop so much emotionally and socially that a 2 yr old is on a completely different level from a seven year old. When planning your party, it's important to look at what your child is capable of handling so their birthday party isn't overwhelming for them. We have mom's call us all the time telling us their sweet little princess is turning three years old and is obsessed with princesses.

They want to invite a princess to their party. Three years old is the first birthday party where we recommend sending a party host because the children are old enough to have definite interest. But it's important for parents to be in tune with what their child needs. A three year old may be scared of a princess or overwhelmed at the prospect of having Cinderella in her living room. If parents suspect this may happen, but know the child will warm up to the special guest, it's a good idea to meet Cinderella in the front yard or a big open space. Watch her approach from afar so you can gauge the child's response. Ask the child if they want to play with the guest. If the birthday child is especially shy, it might take ten minutes of watching the princess interact with other children before they feel comfortable joining in the party activities.

Another consideration is the length and time for your party. Timing of naptime, meals or a busy schedule can make for a tired and overwhelmed birthday child. Some parents want to make it a special day so they go to lunch and a movie with their child before the party. Adults are capable of processing and participating in all these activities, but kids need to break up the stimulation or they get irritable, without even understanding why. We recommend having your child's birthday party be the highlight of the day. Birthday parties tucker out kids with even the most endurance. Much of your child's energy is spent because of the focus being on them, the excitement of all the kids to play with, sugar-filled foods being consumed, and don't forget presents to open. I'm still a believer in keeping parties relatively short. You don't need to offer free child care for half the day. If your three year old would be happy with an hour-long party, it's ok. Keep it to a length that works for their emotional tolerance. Older kids can handle a two hour party, but even then, you don't have to provide hours of entertainment that leaves all the kids drained. Less is more. They will be satisfied, even happier if you keep it simple.

When it comes to your child's birthday party, consider your child's needs, their true interests and their tolerance for excitement. Then your activities should be attuned to their age and ability to enjoy what you have planned.  


Why it's ok to let her have a princess birthday party.

Why your little princess is obsessed with them.

You know the drill. You ask her what she wants to do for her birthday party and she insists on a princess birthday party theme. Why is she so obsessed, and is it healthy? Is it the desire to have servants to do all the household chores or the wish of a lavish lifestyle with beautiful gowns, sparkling jewels and adoring peasants? Or is it the belief that somewhere deep inside every girl there is a little bit of royalty? Why does she want to sleep with her crown on? This obsession with princesses can't be good for girls in today's world.... Or could it be?

Princesses might have all they want, but it's more than that. The way Disney portrays the Cinderella story shows a kind and gentle princess who had to work hard to get where she was. The rags were transformed into a gown and she went to the ball, but the change didn't spoil her. This princess' beauty goes well beyond the blue eyes and perfect skin. Cinderella's grace and charm were evident because of the dignity and kindness she continued to show, even through trying times when her step-mother and step-sisters treated her as a servant in her own home. The message is a powerful one for little girls who covet the princess life: Part of what makes a princess is how you act, even during the most difficult of times.

And what about marrying a handsome prince and being carried into the sunset? Is it a little naive to expect that a man will take care of you and treat you like royalty without you having to lift a finger? "Women are spoon-fed the Cinderella myth from childhood," says Cele Otnes, a University of Illinois consumer behaviorist and co-author of Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of a Lavish Wedding. Maybe it's old-school, but in my opinion, there's nothing inherently wrong with a little princess hoping for a handsome prince to care for her. Who doesn't crave stability and security? And while a girl needs to become educated and accomplish goals of her own, the prince represents the possibility of feeling loved unconditionally and protected. I may be old fashioned, but there is value in finding a supportive partner. I certainly appreciate those things. And I don't think it's too impossible to hope that a good man might want to protect and provide for a woman he loves.

Another reason for princess appeal is the fantasy aspect. Mattel brands President Matt Bousquette says; "There's more and more pressure today for girls to conform and compete in school, in sports. It's hard for young girls. Parents realize the value of play and fantasy. Barbie Princess is a release valve for young girls to believe in happily ever after."

The princess obsession little girls have speaks to me most, when it comes to the question of self worth. I believe part of why little girls want to act as princesses at their birthday parties or why they have every last Disney princess movie memorized is simple: They want to be important. Princesses are important. And after the glass slippers and sparkly makeup comes off, girls want to know that there truly is a spark of royalty inside them. It's like the line from "The Little Princess"...."all girls are princesses". In my opinion, if every girl really believed this, we'd have far fewer teen pregnancies and suicides and more girls reaching for goals that touch more people than those in their immediate kingdoms.

So while it might get old, that she wants to wear that old Snow White dress even though it is literally falling apart, don't be so quick to discourage the princess obsession. It might just play a role in keeping your little princess in tune with who she really is and what she could become. 



Birthday party places

Where to have your party? Moms call and ask us for advice on this all the time. We have rented dance studios spaces, used churches, parks, grandma's house....you name it. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering where the birthday bash is to be held.

Keep it close

If you aren't actually having it at home, stay in the general area. I felt bad when a mom held the party at grandmas 25 miles from her house and the other kids couldn't make it because their parent's didn't want to make the drive. Have consideration for your guests and keep it nearby and in familiar territory unless you are offering to transport the kids.

Outdoors is fun but have a plan B.

Even if there's no chance of rain, wind can make the party less than fun. And even sunshine can be too much. I was sweating like crazy in my Cinderella gown at a recent backyard party where there wasn't adequate shade.

Ask a friend or relative

If you have a small place but know your BFF has a huge carpeted basement area, ask if you can bring the party to them. They won't mind if you left it how you found it.

Places to party

Bowling alleys, recreation centers, movie theaters and craft stores host birthday parties. You can send characters from Pirate & Princess Parties to any location.

Consider home

Sometimes moms rule out having the party at home so they can avoid the mess and the hassle. But sometimes home can be a good solution. If you have a backyard, the kids can play outside and you can call them in when you are ready to begin. And if it gets too loud later in the party, you can send them back out. Another perk of having the party at home is that you don't have to drive any kids anywhere.... they come to you. And they are all contained in your home. Unlike a kids activity center, you know where the potty's are. You don't have to worry about strangers kidnapping your party guests when they go down the hall and around the corner to find the bathroom while you are trying to cut the cake. If there are odds and ends you need for unpredictable occurrences, you know where to find what you need. Need matches for lighting candles? Does the birthday boy want to show his cousins the new bike? At home, it's all at your fingertips. You call the shots at home. Often times, at commercial locations there are restrictions on what can be done. There's a limit on the number of kids allowed, you can't bring outside food in, everybody needs socks for the activity etc.... At home, you make all the rules so you decide when the performers will come, what food you'll eat and (most importantly) when the parents should all be at your doorstep to take their children away. And if you don't have a lot of space, remember you can keep the number of children to a minimum. Even with just three or four friends, your child will be excited for their birthday party and will feel just as celebrated.

When it comes to your child's special day, where to party can make a big difference in the cost and ease of the event.


The Princess Festival - a big Princess Party!

The Princess Festival starts this week and for those of you who haven't been, (and even those who have) you don't want to miss it!

This year, Pirate & Princess Parties is a sponsor of the annual event that starts tomorrow (June 19) and runs through June 30. Last year, we weren't affiliated with the festival but we did go and I was so impressed with the whole thing. We are a natural partner because our parties allow princesses to visit your home and bring the birthday party year-round. On the other hand, the Princess Festival is a big party at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah where you can attend any day during the 2 week run. You'll be entertained by skits and stories, interact with princesses on a personal level and get to do simple and fun acts of service while you are there.

When we went last year, we heard a story from a beautiful Arabian princess and her friend Aladin. We also saw a performance by the 12 dancing princesses, chatted with the Princess and the pea, got some pictures with Rapunzel and saw the Little Mermaid hanging out by the water. The grounds at Thanksgiving Point have walkways that lead to different princesses and activities. The environment is so beautiful - with flowers and landscapes that feel like magic, it's the perfect setting for the festival.

One of the best things about the Princess Festival is the new princesses they have introduced. Mila, Alyssa and others have original stories that regular kids can relate to. These princesses are unique in their personalities and their look. One has short hair and another original princess has glasses. The stories of these new princesses always teach a lesson.... usually that you become "more than a princess" by reaching beyond yourself to give service.

Speaking of service, there are lots of service opportunities at the Princess Festival. These are things kids can do such as write a letter to servicemen and women serving our country. What little girl wouldn't enjoy coloring a picture for a soldier far from home. Teaching a child to think about other's is empowering because they really can help and make a difference in the world for good. "Our own quiet way" is a charitable organization that receives donations through the Princess Festival. My kids were amazed at the jar of brown water showing what some water looks like in remote parts of Africa. There are little princesses (all girls are princesses) in Africa that don't have access to clean water. How refreshing for our kids to feel a little more grateful for the things we take for granted including clean water. And to learn that there are small things they can do to improve the lives of others - even little children in Africa.

Pirate & Princess Parties is offering you a 10% discount to the Princess Festival during the first week. Just go to  http://princessfestival.com/  and enter the discount code Plums34 to get the deal.

See you there!


New birthday party theme ideas - Hunger Games party

Here at Pirate and Princess Parties, we have come to know what kids love at parties - especially 3-8 yr olds. So when a mom approached us about her older daughter wanting a "Hunger Games" party, it was unfamiliar territory. But because our team is so talented, I knew we could plan and host a Hunger Games party the kids would love and remember for years to come.

We debated whether the host should portray "Katnis" - the main character who is a victor in the book, or "Effie Trinket" who is from the evil Government entity that puts on the Hunger Games. "Effie" won out because her costuming is so colorful and outrageous and her character is in a natural position to lead the game because she's supposed to know how it's run.

We started by having the tributes (each party guest) practice their skills. You could do activities with plastic swords, arm wrestling, a bow and arrow with a target, to get them warmed up.  We also had the kids look at small cups with items from nature inside to test their knowledge of whether or not the flower or food was pois0nous, edible, or good for medicinal purposes.

Then Effie was introduced and ran the show.

The first order of business for Effie was to announce the rankings of each tribute party guest. The rankings were determined by adding up how many correct answers each child got in the nature challenge. She also gave some instruction about how the games would work and gave the rules. Everyone had one minute to get supplies, then a 15 minute period would ensue where "killing" would be the order of business. This would be followed by a 2 minute "night" period for resting where no one could be shot.

Then Effie sounded the bell signaling the beginning of the games and encouraged the group "May the odds be ever in your favor".

There was a bag of supplies in an open area in a big back yard. The children had to decide if it was worth the risk to go out in the open to grab one of the bags. Inside they would find water, nuts, dried fruit and the most valuable weapon of all - a water squirt gun.

If they shot someone with the squirt gun in their torso region, they would be "dead" and it would be evident because the water stain would give the victim away. After being "shot", Effie would sound the horn and the tributes would join Effie on the balcony to watch the remainder of the games.

Our Effie character was fantastic! She made snide comments and decided to change the rules occasionally on a whim, just like a Gamemaker from the Capitol would. She ate chocolate (a gift from the capitol) on the balcony as she led the games.

At first, the kids used strategies such as hiding out so others would not anticipate the spray they would get or trying to seclude themselves to wait it out but as the time passed, they made alliances, turned on their alliances, and all "died" except the lucky winner.

And what would happen to the winner? Their district would receive honors starting with the winning tribute getting the biggest piece of cake!

We were so happy with this birthday party plan - but more importantly, the birthday girl and her mom were thrilled! The kids all had a great time.


Party planning? Don't sweat the small stuff!

I come from a family of extremely detail-oriented people. And I mean extremely. My grandfather was known to clean his cars with a toothbrush. My mom takes half an hour each morning to put mascara on each of her eyelashes individually. I tend to get upset if drawers or cupboards are left even slightly ajar.

So... clearly, I am no stranger to wanting everything, even down to the last nitty-gritty detail, to be "just so." I completely understand, perhaps even better than most, trying to make sure I've considered every last detail, contingency, and possibility. After all, the old adage of "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" holds true, right?

I contend that while, yes, the adage does indeed hold true for 90% of life's situations, when it comes to birthday parties, more planning does not necessarily equal more success .

Let me explain what I mean. I do not mean to indicate that advance preparation isn't preferable and necessary. It certainly is both of these things. But sometimes in our quest for perfection we miss the forest for the trees - we get hung up on details that in the long run will have no bearing on how fun or successful the party will turn out to be.

An obvious example that Kendalyn has already discussed is food. Details in the food department are almost always lost on children.

Another is decorations. I recently visited a party where the mother had spent what I assume was multiple hours stringing "Rapunzel hair" (in reality, plastic yellow tablecloths loosely rolled and strung end-to-end) all over the exterior of the apartment building, through the trees, winding around the staircase, and all the way out to the street where I parked my car. Impressive to adults, but... what are the chances that the actual guests of the party even looked up long enough to notice? I can only imagine the hours this sweet mom invested that, frankly, were only appreciated by adults dropping off and picking up their kids.

The trick -and I personally think this is applicable to almost everything in life - is to work and plan smart instead of more . One great way to do this is to involve the kids instead of doing everything yourself. This same mom had had her daughter decorate the sidewalk leading to the front door with sidewalk chalk. The salutation of "welcum prinsisses" was every bit as darling as the extensive hair, AND it couldn't have cost mom any work at all. As an added bonus, I can imagine that the birthday girl had quite a bit of fun helping to get ready for her own party!

Another great way to plan smart is to involve your child in the decision-making process leading up to the party. If it's a detail your child doesn't care about, you will know instantly. But, beware of asking open-ended questions. Presenting choices and observing your child are the best ways to gauge interest.

Party games don't have to be complicated either. I have a strong tendency to avoid games that require props, inordinate amounts of advance preparation, or could potential result in broken valuables or bones. Ask your child what games they like to play at recess. Check the Internet for simple nursery games and rhymes. Remember that what impresses you and other adults will probably go unnoticed by your child and her guests.

So, to all you other detail-oriented nuts out there, I totally hear where you're coming from. But as someone who knows, I can't say it enough... don't sweat the small stuff, pick and choose what you worry about when planning a party, and of course plan smart .

And, as is my traditional admonition when ending these posts... have fun!



What's the Princess Festival?

At Pirate & Princess Parties, we've partnered with the Princess Festival where enchanting performers and the beautiful grounds at Thanksgiving Point combine for a magical 2 week event in June. At the Princess Festival, every girl is a princess. Every boy is a Prince.  You'll want to visit and plan to play for at least a few hours if not all day. Your girls (and boys) will be thoroughly entertained! Tickets are $15.

The Princess Festival's characters teach us it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor by the world's standards. You are a royalty through and through.

You can recognize the royalty that is already right there in your heart as you share your gifts with the world. Being a Princess (or Prince) is more than glitter and ribbons - a true Princess knows how to make a difference in the world by using courage, compassion, and grace!

You are thoughtful and kind. You love your neighbor and you are helpful whenever needed. You are gracious and generous. You can share your smile with everyone! You have the power within you to make a difference wherever you go, just by being who you are.

 Join the Everley Princesses on their journeys through their own life adventures as they learn the magic of love ... and discover the Princess within you!

The Princess Festival ( http://www.PrincessFestival.com ) is an experience where little girls have the opportunity to meet, play with, and help the Princesses of Everley in an interactive setting while setting the stage for lifelong values based service.

Foremost in our minds, is that we want to teach the girls (and boys) the values of the Princess Festival:

It's fun to look beautiful but to be more than a princess you must learn to care about others.
A True Princess wants to make a difference and creatively finds ways to do that
The "real magic" comes not from fairy or "quizzle-dust", but from within the heart and mind of the Princess.

See you at the Princess Festival June 19-30 at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi!


Birthday party ideas for present opening

Twelve children all under the age of ten are running around, excitable, screaming, and
packed full of sugar. The cake has been eaten, the songs have been sung, and the only hurdle left
to surmount before everyone can go home and is opening presents. But no one seems quite sure
of how to corral this energy into a fun, yet orderly, present-opening scenario.

Sound familiar? All too often adults feel present-opening is just too much of a headache -

and as such will either skip it or push through the chaos to get it over with.
Remember back to when you were a child. Go on, picture yourself. Here's me:

Do you have a clear picture? Do you remember how opening your birthday presents was the
most exciting and magical part of the whole endeavor? The anticipation of thinking anything
could be inside those brightly concealed packages, and then the excitement of seeing the gift
actually emerge - I still get excited about opening presents! So, rather than skipping over or
pushing through gift-giving time at a party, here are some ideas for making it magical for the
birthday child, and yet structured and headache-free for mom.
First, some general tips. I am a huge fan of bulleted lists, so here we go:
• Everyone will want to see. Gather the children into a large circle with the birthday child
either at the head or in the middle. Sit in the circle yourself to help direct the activity.
• Plan ahead, particularly if you desire to use one of the activities I will talk about here.
• Consider placing the gifts where they are accessible to you, but inaccessible to the
children, until the time is right. This helps avoid distraction.
• Have a garbage receptacle at the ready from the beginning of the party. This eliminates
the need to go searching for one while festivities are already in full swing.
• Remember that simpler is usually better! If you don't feel up to doing something fancy or
complicated, don't. Your child will never know the difference.

And now for the fun part! Here are some simple games I have played over the years to
elp with distribution of gifts. I'll be sure to indicate the ages for which each game is most
appropriate. Feel free to play with these suggestions, and of course, have fun!
• Ballooon pop - works best with children older than 4; particularly fun for teenagers!

o First Variation - Prior to the party, ask your guests to not label their gifts with
a "to" and "from." As each guest arrives, assign each gift a number (a sticker
or a piece of paper taped on works best), and make a note of who brought
that number of gift. For example, Susie just arrived with a gift. I tape "25"
to the box, then on my sheet of paper note "Susie" next to 25. The only
distinguishing marks on each gift should be a number.
When setting up for the party, blow up balloons and include a slip of paper
with numbers corresponding to the numbers that will be assigned to the
presents. If you are planning on ten guests, you will need a balloon for each
number 1-10.
During present time, have the birthday child pop the balloons one by one,
and find the paper that was inside. That is the present they will open next.
But before they can do so, they have to guess which of their guests gave it
to them! If they guess correctly they can open it, if not they guess two more
times. Of course, even if they don't get it right after three guesses, they can
still open their present! Be sure to let them know (from your master list) who
brought the gift so they can say thank you. Continue until all the presents are
Alternatively, each guest can take turns popping a balloon.
If playing with older children, a sharp object (such as a pin) can be used to
elp pop the balloons faster.
o Second Variation - This is the same as the first variation, except guests can
label "to" and "from" on their gift, and the birthday child doesn't guess who
brought the present. Slightly easier because it doesn't require a master list.
Pass the buck - this works great for children of all ages! Younger ones may be a
little confused a first, but will catch on quickly because it plays just like Hot Potato.
Designate a certain "special" or "magical" object. This can be any old thing around
the house: a ball, a button, a hairbrush, etc. Pass the object around your circle while
singing a song. Some songs you might sing are the happy birthday song, any favorite
songs of the children, nursery rhymes, songs from a movie, etc. When the song stops
(i.e.: when you stop singing), whoever is holding the special object can:
Give their present to the birthday child to be opened
OR, pick any random present for the birthday child to be opened.
You should pick one of these and establish what you'll be doing before the game
Alternatively, you can play music while the object is passed if you don't want to
Continue until all presents have been opened. Everyone is in a circle, so no one
will be crowding around you trying to see what was inside the wrapping.
What do you wish? - this is also great for all ages; younger children will need
supervision on how to be gentle.
o First Variation - In my day, this was known as "heavy, heavy hang." I can't
take credit for it. Have the birthday child cover their eyes. Point to one of the
guests, indicating they should retrieve their present. Don't say their name out
loud, or the game will be ruined. Have the child with the present stand directly
behind the birthday child and, with a disguised voice, say "heavy, heavy hang

over thy poor head; what do you wish me with a BUMP on the head?" At the
word "BUMP," have the gift giver gently bump the birthday child on the head
with the present - this is why it needs to be done gently! The birthday child
then has to guess:
Who the gift giver is
AND/OR what the present is
They get to open the gift whether they guess correctly or not.
Continue until all presents are opened, making sure each child has a turn
to "heavy, heavy hang."
o Second Variation - In this variation, the gift giver, in a disguised voice, says
what they wish for the birthday child to have. For example, "I wish you... a
lot of money!" There is no bump on the head. The birthday child guesses who
is giving them the wish.
Hot & Cold - great for all ages! However, children older than 10-11 will probably
find this somewhat juvenile.
o First Variation - As guests arrive, have them hide their gift somewhere in the
room (this works best if you can greet guests in a different room than where
the bulk of the party will be held, so that the birthday child doesn't see where
everything is hidden. However, there is generally enough going on to provide
sufficient distraction while presents are being hidden). Make a note of the
iding places.
During present time, have the birthday child walk around the room. When
they get close a hidden present, have the children say "hot, hot...!" When
they are far away from any hidden presents, have the children say "cold,"
and "warm" for in between. The notes you took previously of hiding places
will help you make sure you don't miss any presents.
Make sure each gift is opened one at a time, even if two share a hiding spot.
Have the guests stay in their circle while the birthday child walks around the
o Second Variation - This requires more time. Instead of hiding the gifts as the
guests arrive, let each child have a turn to hide their present during the party.
Gather everyone into the circle, then pick a child (or have the birthday child
pick a guest) to retrieve their present. Request the birthday child to go around
the corner while the gift is being hidden. Call them back once the gift-giver
as chosen a hiding place, then use the same directions from the first variation
to help them find the gift.
Repeat until all gifts have been hidden and found.

I hope from now on opening presents at your kids' birthday parties will prove to be
magical rather than migraine-inducing!


Princess party host pet peeve

Part of what makes a party - whether for a birthday, or another special occasion - fun is that it includes everyone. Friends and family all come together to celebrate and enjoy themselves. But what if an element of the party is neither fun nor inviting for certain guests? One of the keys to a successful party is to identify and eliminate these uncomfortable factors as
efficiently as possible.

Now, it's true that not all irritations for all people can be 100% removed. But one of the easiest and most obvious places to start is with your pets. In the same way that it would be inconsiderate or even dangerous to overlook a guest's known allergy to, say, peanuts, it is unfair to expect guests to love your pet as much as you do.

I will fully admit that this is, in every sense of the word, my personal pet peeve. Many times I have visited a friend or neighbor's house only to have their dog or cat want to get cozy with me. Not only am I not a dog/cat person, but I also suffer from allergies to both. Yet, as a guest, I don't feel like I can speak up without being perceived as rude.

This is particularly bothersome when I am directing a party in character as Rapunzel. The birthday child and her friends don't understand why Rapunzel is not as excited to see pooch as they are; meanwhile, I am desperately trying not to make it obvious that I would prefer almost anything over having that dog climb up on my lap. This happened to me just recently at a birthday party; the family dog climbed up on my lap in the middle of our singing time, and it was all I could do to refrain from leaping to my feet. Thankfully, I was able to maintain presence of mind enough to semi-subtly push the animal off my lap while continuing to sing. Still, it remains one of the more awkward party moments I've experienced to date.

But I digress. The point is to consider beforehand potential uncomfortable situations for your guests and do your best to remove them. Lock pets in another room, or outside in the backyard. This will also help cut down on distraction and chaos. Try to be aware of food allergies, particularly ones that could be life-threatening.

Above all, remember that what is normal and fun for you (e.g.: a pet) might be frightening or intimidating for someone else. With these considerations in mind, you can make your party comfortable for everyone. Here's your chance to share what you think a party host should consider: what's your pet peeve?


Kids birthday party food tips

When it comes to parties, we love to think about the food. The birthday cake is so important. Will it be chocolate, white or another flavor of cake? What color frosting? Should we go with a bakery or will you do it yourself? And what about the ice cream? What's the birthday child's favorite kind? Ice cream and cake are absolutely important parts of a birthday party. But what about the spread in the dining room? How much time, money and energy should you put into food for your kids' party?

When I started visiting parties as a character, I was amazed at how much effort moms would put into the food. Tea parties are always a great excuse to go all out with delightful pastries, cookies, lemonade etc... but what I came to believe was that kids were not generally impressed by fancy food. I remember a party where a certain birthday girl stained the entire front of  her white "Snow Queen" gown with chocolate. She was sucking the chocolate off the chocolate-covered strawberries. She ate four or five of them.... I guess "ate" isn't really accurate. She sucked four or five chocolate coverings off the berries and had a dress, hands and face to prove it. I'm not arguing that food isn't worth the mess, it's just that she would have gleaned the same delight from a few Hershey's kisses which cost less and are simpler to eat. I witnessed a similar scenario when kids cut the breading off mozerella sticks (with scissors) to get to the cheese. String cheese may have been easier.

Usually kids are hungry.... or they're not. When hungry, they'll wolf it down. I can't believe how much a tiny body can ingest after playing hard working up an appetite. Two big pieces of pizza later, they feel satisfied and run to play. The more common alternative is the kid who rearranges their food, playing, talking, wiggling.... anything but eating. You can't imagine how they keep growing because you don't see much proof of nutrition. The point is, if they're hungry, they'll eat. If they aren't, they won't. Either way, there's not much pressure because kids aren't placing much value on the food itself. After five minutes, they are done whether they ate or not. So it doesn't really make sense for parents to spend a fortune and large amounts of time on preparation. If you want fancy food because you want fancy food, that's just fine!

You dont' really need a meal at a kids birthday party, but if you want to serve one, kids do fine with hot dogs (have a grownup on ketchup-duty), pizza, chicken nuggets, carrot sticks, broccoli (say they are dinosaurs eating trees), cheese sticks, grapes, apple and orange slices, and keep the drinks to Sprite or Lemonade (clear or light colors that won't stain). Cut younger children's food in small bites to prevent choking and ask parents for food allergies on the invitation.

Food can be a fun part of the occasion, but don't be disappointed if Jonny can't sit still for a 45 minute three-course meal because he wants to run out and see the pinata. Kids won't (for many years) have a true appreciation for fine food so give yourself a break. Simplifying the meal can save you money, sanity and your birthday child won't mind one bit!



Birthday party game ideas

Have a party coming up and dont know what to do to entertain a bunch of kids?
My family loves to get together and play Minute to Win it games.
They are cheap. They are hilarious and they are fun.
There are ideas for different games all over the internet, but I have a few personal favorites that are sure to make lasting memories.
We started by splitting everyone up into three teams and for each game, one player from every team would compete.
The first game is the cup game.
The object of the game is to make a pyramid out of the cups, {without letting them fall!} then deconstruct it by stacking them together again. Whoever does this the fastest is the winner of the round. When we played, we made the adults make a bigger pyramid than the smaller kids since it was harder for them to blance the cups.
We had a blast and all we needed were plastic cups!
Next came the tissue game.
For this game, we gave each contestant a box of kleenex tissues. Each player had to remove all the tissues one by one using only one hand. Who ever accomplished this first won.
This one was really fun because we got to make a mess, but it was still really easy to clean up.
Next is the infamous cookie game.
We had everyone participate in this one because its just too funny not to see everyones faces.
The object of this game is to tilt your head back and place a cookie {We used Oreos} on your forehead. Then using ONLY your face muscles, you must move the cookie from your forehead to your mouth.
You will never laugh so hard in your life. Some people tried whipping their head forward and catching the cookie in their mouth, but this isnt very effective, but oh so funny to witness.
The last game we played is the yoyo game.
For this game, you place four of the plastic cups in a formation on the ground. {Any formation will do, just make sure its the same for each contestant.} Then you tie a yoyo around the players waist. They then have to swing their hips to make the yoyo knock over all four cups. The first to finish is the winner of the round.
I loved this game, I never knew my dad could swivel his hips like that.
These are just a few ideas of games to play at your party. They can be adapted for any age and are super affordable. Just make sure you grab the camera because some things just need to be relived over and over again.
For more ideas, go to  http://www.nbc.com/minute-to- win-it/how-to/

Will it be a princess or a pirate? How to make gender reveal cupcakes!

A couple months ago, my husband and I got some exciting news.

We would be expecting our first bundle of joy in the end of May!

We were thrilled! We were ecstatic. . . And we were clueless. {And still are.}

We have learned some things since first finding out our lives were about to dramatically change and we have excepted them as graciously as we could.

Pregnancy has been a roller coaster for both me and my husband, but it sure is one grand adventure.

I consider myself a 'crafty' person, and this little bundle has made me want to make EVERYTHING!

And thanks to Pinterest , I feel like I can attempt to be that kind of a mom.

One day while I was browsing, I found the cute way of announcing the baby's gender to your friends and family by making Gender Reveal Cupcakes.

How darling ! I thought. I HAD to try this.

They day before we were to have our ultrasound, where {hopefully} we would find out if our babe was a pirate or a princess, I got to workin.

I made cupcakes galore!

First, I just bought some white cake mixes from the store and whipped them up. {I made a couple dozen}

Next, I cut a circle out of the middle of the cupcake, but I didnt throw it away!

I made sure not to go too close to the edge or the bottom of the cupcake, so that the frosting wouldnt be seen on the outside. I also made sure that the cupcake tins were a DARK color so any frosting wouldnt show.

I then made frosting. Since, I didnt know what color to make it, I kept it white so I could add the appropriate food coloring later.

We went to our appointment and waited.

And waited. . . and waited!

Our little baby was very stubborn and wouldnt let us determine if they were a boy or girl!

I told my tech that I made cupcakes and asked if she could try one more time.

I though it would be a boy. Gavin, my hubby, it would be a girl. . . We were anxious to find out!

Lucky us! The ultrasound tech was FINALLY able to get a good angle and we left the hospital with huge smiles on our faces.

I hurried to the kitchen and finished making the frosting.

I filled each cupcake with the frosting that would reveal the baby's gender.

Then I put the circle cut outs back on top and finished frosting the tops with blue and pink flowers.

That night, we brought some to Gavin's family and my family and made the announcement. . .

Baby Gardner is a.....


We are so thrilled and it was so much fun to make this little announcement to our family.

I hope you give it a try sometime!



Birthday party decorations

Do you need decorations for your birthday party? It's all up to you. Some people don't have the time to decorate and if your activities satisfy the birthday child, maybe it's something extra you don't need to worry about. On the other hand, if you are having a home birthday party, decorating can really change things so it's not so ordinary and can transform your home into a place to celebrate! It doesn't have to be expensive or extensive. Sometimes, adding simple birthday party decorations go a long way.

When I was little..., well actually to this day, my mom makes signs for birthdays. She would mix powder tempura paint in our favorite color on a huge piece of butcher paper. That paint and paper became a banner sweeping across the big front window. "Happy Birthday Aaron. We love you!" All the neighbors knew it was a special day at our house. And each child felt pretty important that a big sign was broadcasting to the world for them.

Another thing she would do is bring home a bunch of balloons. Balloons are a cheap and colorful way to liven up a space and they can feature your child's favorite character or color to personalize the occasion. Balloons serve as table centerpieces or mailbox markers to indicate the party house. Balloons floating up from the back of each chair around a table can add splashes of color to the dining area when it's cake and icecream time. They also make a perfect party favor for kids leaving a birthday party.

Using the birthday child's favorite color as a basis for decorating can serve as inspiration. You can hit the dollar star looking for all things pink. Following a color scheme can also make for fun birthday party favor loot bags. Kids love attending a "purple party" where everything in their goody bag is purple. Plastic tablecloths can double as colorful billows strung from the ceiling and matching plates, cups, napkins can make for a festive table. The table area is a popular place for singing happy birthday and snapping pictures so it might be worth some decoration.

After it's all said and done, it usually just goes in the trash, so there's no need to spend a fortune on birthday party decorations. But picking up a few items that add color and pizzazz will bring excitement to your child's party and can transform your home making your child's birthday party a special memory.

Kids parties, of course! But Teen parties?

Most parents consider their child's graduation to tween and preteen status to be the death
of fun and whimsical birthday parties in their home.

But I am here to argue... not so! Let me tell you a story.

Many moons ago, when I was in high school, my friends and I developed a tradition of
throwing each other themed birthday parties. Sometimes these were surprises, sometimes they
weren't. The point is that our parties were whimsical, fun, and reminded us of the good things of
childhood. In my humble opinion, win-win-win! Most importantly, they are some of my most
dearly-held memories from that period of my life. To this day, I look back on those events with
fondness and a chuckle or two.

The thing is, teenagers are focused on being "cool" 90% of the time. And, sadly, more
often than not, cool does not include admitting that they enjoy the things they did as children.
But, let's be honest, all of us continue to secretly enjoy at least one or two things from our
childhood, long past teenage-dom and well into adulthood - this is the very reason I do princess
parties! There's nothing wrong with trying to keep these things alive for our children.

Older children and teenagers can still have and enjoy whimsical birthday parties. So, the
question comes down to this: how to strike the balance between cool, and fun? How to invoke
the joys of childhood while still allowing your child to grow up?

I would like to suggest some possible themes and ideas for teenage birthday parties that
fulfill all these criteria. Having planned and pulled together theme parties as a teenager myself, I
know they will be a big hit!
An "I don't want to grow up" party - ideal for teenagers for whom turning legal age
is pending. I threw one of these for a girlfriend who was turning 17 and was sad about
leaving her childhood behind. We featured a tea party (apparently it's ok if it's done
ironically), childhood games (such as duck, duck goose), balloon pop (see my post
about gift opening ideas), asked guests to bring gifts for a child (like toys) and dress like
young children, and ended with a viewing of Sleeping Beauty. A fun idea to play with,
depending on your child's personality and likes.
"Congratulations! You're 'legal!'" party - celebrates anyone who is turning 18, i.e.:
becoming a legal adult. Can feature such things as dressing in "legal" costumes (police
officers, judges, lawyers, etc.), We actually planned to have one of our friends mock
arrested, which she totally fell for. Priceless!
"Hawaiian Luau" party - always a classic, for all ages. Particularly fun if it takes place
in the winter, so you can crank up the heat and have your own little slice of summer in
your house. Ask guests to wear leis, sarongs, flip-flops, or even swimsuits. My friends
and I wore coconut and seashell bras over our shirts. Serve food like smoothies, fresh
fruit, etc.
A "sporty" party - great for a child who is passionate about sports. Can center on
one particular sport of sports in general. Have guests come in their uniforms and bring
athletic-themed gifts.

Above all, play with and build on the hobbies and personality of your child. Decide on
a theme, and use that to determine the smaller details. Have fun!! As long as you're not
overbearing, your teen will too.


P-A-R-T-WHY? Are birthday parties worth all the effort?

"I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even ifthey aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us. Didn't your father ever tell youthat? Didn't he?" ~ A Little Princess (1995)

From the time I was a very small girl, my father was always sure to emphasize that I was a real princess. Not because I needed or deserved to be spoiled out of my mind, but because Iwas special to him. It was also important for me to understand my true worth so I would know to behave and treat others as royalty would.As I grew older, a tradition developed between the two of us - something that was and still is uniquely ours. Every morning when dropping me off at school, my dad would tell meto "remember you're a princess!" as I exited the car. And he meant it. This routine lasted year after year - well into my teens - to the point that I would refuse to get out of the car, or he wouldrefuse to drive away, if one of us forgot the recitation.As a result, I entered adulthood firm in the knowledge of two things:First, that I was inherently and irrevocably a princess,And second, that I mattered.I mattered to my dad.I mattered to my mom.I mattered to myself.It mattered to always comport myself like I knew I should.To this day, I hold those morning reminders - and every reminder in between - extremely dear to my heart. They have carried me through good times and bad.

So, what does all this have to do with birthday parties? I have just recounted a very tender way in which my father made me feel special while growing up, and how that has stayed withme as an adult. There are so many different ways parents can accomplish this; parties are one way we help our children to feel they are special. They don't necessarily need to be princess-themed, and certainly don't have to be fancy. But doing something to show our children that they, their triumphs, and their birthdays are important to us makes all the difference in the world.Contrary to what adults tend to think, children do and will remember. They will notice when you make an occasion special. They will remember that they mattered. As adults, they willknow that what they say and do and how they treat others makes a difference.Why are children's birthday parties worth the effort? Because children are worth the effort, and they deserve to see that in real and concrete ways. Because a simple act goes a longway. And because they will remember.


What it takes to be a princess

Every girl is a princess and since I started at Pirate and Princess Parties as Snow White and The Little Mermaid, I have learned a bit about what it takes to be a princess...

First off... If you happen to be lost in the woods, just find a cottage full of dwarves. They are very hospitable.

2} Quick fixes are never a good idea. Never make deals with sea witches or eat an apple to make your dreams come true.

3} Love comes in the most unexpected places. Your prince may be disguised as a beast, a frog or a street rat.

4} When in doubt, sing! Any emotion can be expressed through a great Alan Menkan song.

5} Feeling lonely? Play dead. Prince Charmings are always wandering around looking for comatose maidens to make out with.

6} Being nosy may in your favor. Feel free to tresspass and go into that room he told you not to. You might find something magical!

7} Be careful what you eat off of. You never know what woodland creatures have been licking them clean trying to be helpful.

8} A princess' hair does not get flyaways. She gets gentlyfloataways.

9} A princess should beware of fruits and vegetables. Pumpkins tend to turn into carriages, apples turn out to be poisonous, peas tend to give you uncomfortable sleep.

10} When older women are ugly, they are super trustworthy but when they are are pretty, watch out! They are evil.

11} A true princess never trips or falls- she merely saunters vaguely downwards.

Ok in all seriousness, it can be difficult to be a straight up "fairytale" princess like that but it is possible to act like like a beautiful, kind and successful 'princess'. Here is a list of qualities of a REAL princess:

she is kind

she is beautiful on the inside, and cares about how she presents herself.

she is gracious, understanding, and forgiving.

she cares about animals and children, and in general all people's comfort

she looks for the good in life and in people

she trusts

she believes in herself

she is honest

she is hopeful, even in the presence of evil

she does not tolerate evil

she shows respect to all creatures she mediates and attempts to help people get along

she lifts up her man {prince} she supports him, and believes in him

she is easy to please and enjoys life

she is generous

she is joyful

she accepts help and is grateful

Each day I try to be a bit more princess-like. I think its a marvlous goal to work towards. Don't you?




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