Throw the best party ever!

Happy Halloween!

What are some of your favorite things to do on this magical holiday? I love Halloween because it embraces three of my FAVORITE things:

1.) Treats involving apples and pumpkins (Yummy!)

2.) Lots of magical tales (Yippee!)

3.) PARTIES!

rainbow project

(Click the photo for a magical rainbow pumpkin project by Alexa Westerfield)

On this magical day, I thought I'd treat you to my top five tips on how to throw the best party ever!

Why listen to me? Nearly every week I plan and implement birthday and holiday parties for families. I've seen nearly every party theme and I often experience the perfect party scenario! This fun expertise has given me insight on which parties will work out fabulously and which parties will end up a stressful disaster. Here is my list of musts:

1.) KEEP IT SIMPLE.

I can't emphasize this enough. Children don't need bounce houses, pony rides or great-grandma Ann's famous 18 layer birthday cake. What they do need is for their family and friends to relax and have fun. The best way to have a stress free party is to KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Checklist:

Snacks and drinks

Games (an art project and/or an activity)

Playground

Smiles, hugs and plenty of love

Smiley

Some sort of favor to remember the magical day

magical stones

stone

2.) Activity

When it comes to an activity or game, make sure that all developmental stages can participate and that all guests (even adults) feel included in some way.

But don't stress out about finding the perfect activity or game (refer to tip #1).  There are hundreds of indoor and outdoor variations of tag to fit your party's theme and a simple art project--even just providing a few coloring or painting pages-- is always a crowd pleaser!

If in doubt or stressed about the mere thought of entertaining a large group of children, hire a professional. Trust me, we do this all of the time and we will make sure everyone leaves your party smiling. It might surprise you just how inexpensive professional support can be. Here are pictures from my own birthday storytelling program:

storytelling

emmy storytelling

emmyb

 

hazel

emmy tale

dance

silly story

Emmy's rainbow dance

3.) Location

Make sure the location suits your plans and always have a back-up plan should poor weather occur. If you are on a tight budget and your home is not an option for a party, then there are still many inexpensive places to rent a room or a picnic shelter. Call your local community centers, parks departments as well as churches.

If your summer party is outdoors, make sure that the children have a cool, quiet place to escape the hot sunshine. Also, provide plenty of fresh cool water as well as clean bathroom facilities. Similarly, if your winter party is outdoors, make sure that the children have a dry place to get warm.

awning

4.) Let go and be a child again!

Choose a theme that excites you and that makes you feel childlike again!  Your own positive energy and childlike excitement will have an enormous impact on your child and your guests.

Make a list of the of the colors, decorations, foods and activities that sound fun to you and go for it!

Make sure that your party is easy enough where you do not have to remain the host or hostess, but you can also let go and play!

This is a picture of the birthday girl's mother, Rachel. Not only does she love rainbows, but she is filled with magic, so this party was fun for her:

Rachel and Emmy

5.) Play it out

Imagine the worst case scenario and play it out in your head. Then take a few breaths to release your fears and worries...LET THEM GO. See how dropping that custom-made cake really can be funny?!

Now, step away from Pinterest and imagine YOUR party. Visualize the party and feel the party! See how everyone is laughing and smiling? That's because you kept it simple and you are having fun.

cake

Hopefully everyone enjoys a holiday packed with sweet treats, magical tales and a party or two today! Lots of love and magical rainbow pumpkins! Xx

Picture 3

P.S. Feel free to e-mail me with questions about parties or for more party advice! Or visit my Facebook page to keep in touch.

Celebrate love!

Hello again! Hopefully everyone is filled with love after my lovely love activity! Continuing with the Saint Valentine's Day theme, today's post is about celebrating love. Whilst most people celebrate Valentine's Day by exchanging presents, here at the enchanted tree house, we celebrate by filling up our friends, fur beasts, neighbors and strangers with love!

Here are some fun ideas:

1.) Surprise each and every person that you encounter this week with a loving gesture. No, you don't have to bake five-crazillion heart-shaped cookies. A simple compliment, act of kindness or favor will do just fine!

2.) Love yourself by filling the week with activities that you love. Climb that tree you've been eyeballing. Drink hot cocoa and load it up with marshmallows. Take off work early to do yoga (or just take off work early).  Turn off the television and go write the next bestselling book or paint a masterpiece. Turn up the music and dance dance dance!

3.) Fill yourself with laughter and play games. Here's a fun storytelling game to try: Write silly words and themes onto tiny slips of paper. Then hide the papers inside of candies. (I replaced Hershey's Kisses tags with the papers, but any candies will do). Have everyone playing the game draw several pieces of candy and tell a story using the elements on their papers OR go around in a circle and have each player use their element to add onto one collaborative story.

4.) Put a smile on an unsuspecting person's face! Make special gifts with your talented hands and give them to those who least expect it. Last year, I surprised our postal delivery person and garbage collector with canned treats. This year, I painted teeny tiny Valentines and wrote haikus to hide around town.

5.) Spread the love online! Take time to "like" photos, comments and profiles on Facebook. Leave comments on your favorite blogs. Share blog posts and tweets with your Twitter followers. It feels good to be loved and appreciated, so let other people know you love and appreciate their online presence!

Spreading love and kindness to those around you costs nothing! Just check out this fun video made by the Love Foundation in Austin, TX and get inspired!

Happy Valentine's Day, friends! Xx

Magical activities for your holiday!

Hello again magical friends! Glad to see you back at the enchanted tree house so soon! Here is the second holiday blog post, enjoy! Xx This week a concerned teacher and friend told me she had to return her daughter's Christmas presents because her husband lost his job. She cried, "What can we do on Christmas if there are no presents to unwrap or toys to play with?"

Remember, money and gifts don't make your holiday special, your imagination and inner magic does! I have never had the funds for a Christmas celebration like I experienced whilst growing up, but every holiday since has been just as magical and memorable! Here are a few activities that I use to brighten up  my holidays...

1.)  Gingerbread House Contest. This Christmas we are having an extreme gingerbread house building contest. A simple box of generic graham crackers, colorful and textured inexpensive candies and bright icings are all you need for hours of holiday cheer! (Don't waste money on expensive icings, just make a cheap paste out of sugar, water and food coloring!)

2.) Oral history. Share your traditions or special stories about past magical holidays with your friends, your children or your partner. Remember that children (and adults, too) are sensory-oriented, so add in "treats" and visual aids to turn your story into more of a "show and experience" tale. For example, if your favorite holiday memory is making cookies with your grandmother, then find the recipe and make the same cookies while you share the tale.

3.) Storytelling game. Place 10 holiday treasures or unique items on the table. Have every participant choose an item and then take turns telling stories about these items. Stories can be false or true! Here are some ideas to try: Make up a holiday pourquoi (a story that explains an origin) about that bizarre piece of machinery you found in the garage. Or come up with an incredible fantasy about how the Elf on the Shelf saved the life of a giant polar bear who had fur like a pine tree!!

4.) Treasure hunt. Make small gifts (like coupons, sweet treats, finger puppets and crayons) more special by creating a holiday scavenger hunt. Write age-appropriate clues that include hide-and-seek activities, riddles and challenges. 

Here's an idea to get you started: Tell the players they have to call a relative and sing a holiday song in order to retrieve their next clue. (Be sure to call the relative in advance and give them the child's next clue). To make the challenge more difficult, let your child try to figure out which relative you chose. Hopefully several of your relatives will get a holiday serenade before your child finds the correct person.

Another idea for younger children would be to ask them to find tiny surprises that a little holiday elf or faerie left around your home. The possibilities are endless!

5.) Fill your day with a variety of holiday activities. Take a walk to enjoy the lights and the evergreens. Go sledding or make a village of snow people. Write and illustrate your own holiday storybook. Give your child the power of creating the entertainment. My favorite activity as a child was to put on holiday plays, musicals and puppet shows. (And dare I mention holiday charades around my family? This game will yield hours of laughter. And be warned, you just never know what's going to come out of Grandma Judy's mouth as she guesses!)

It doesn't matter what activity you choose, just make sure you fill your holiday season with BRIGHT COLORS, LOVE, LAUGHTER and MAGIC! And who knows, perhaps you will discover some new holiday traditions! Xx

Spice up your fall with storytelling activities

Greetings friends! Like the blustery fall winds, I'm flying around Portland spreading enchantments! Whilst I'm busy with fall faerie tale programs and bonfire programs, I wanted to send some magical fun your way! Hope you enjoy! Xx

Whether you're enjoying roasted butternut squash stew around the hearth or sipping spicy apple cider around the campfire, fall is filled with enchanted foods, fragrances and festivities! Try making these autumn moments more magical with storytelling activities! You can also try these storytelling activities while heading to the pumpkin patch, the corn maze, the apple orchard or the colourful forests. (Hopefully you have lots of fall exploration adventures planned.)

Here are three of my favourite storytelling games that I have been playing since I was a child:

1.) Liar Tales 

Have one family member tell a story about his or her day. It can either be true or it can be completely made up. After the story,  have each family member decide whether the tale was true or a lie.

2.) Roundtable Tales

Have one family member start a tale by saying the first sentence. Then have another person add onto the tale by saying the second sentence. Continue having each family member add one sentence onto the tale until you have your very own story.

3.) Picture Tales

Show the family a photograph or picture. You can find one in a newspaper, a magazine or on the internet. It can also be a photograph or postcard. It doesn't have to be fancy, some of my favourite stories have come from advertisement mailers. Let each family member tell a quick story about the photograph. I guarantee that each unique story will start up dialogue, giggling fits or lead into more stories.

Telling stories is a great way to exercise the mind! Happy tales to you!! Xx

Psst...Here's an enchanted contest just for you!

Photos of Enchantment Contest 2011

Where do you go to be surrounded by magical enchantments? Perhaps you are like me and find the deep, dark woods filled with magic, danger, refuge and adventure! Or perhaps the urban forests are more your cup of tea. No matter your preference, throughout the magical month of October, I want you to share the enchantments in your neck of the woods! (And by sharing a bit of your own magic with the Emmy Blue storytelling community, you could win a personalized fairy tale as well as other magical prizes!)

To enter the Photos of Enchantment Contest you need to take a photograph or photographs of your very favourite enchanted location. (If you don't have a favourite location, then you have a whole month of exploration adventures ahead of you!) 

Once you have a photograph, either (1) Post the photo on your own blog, facebook page or google + page and then post the link in the comment section below; or (2) Post the photo on a free image hosting site such as yfrog, flickr or twitpic and then post the link in the comment section below.

Bits...

  • The enchanted photograph may be urban or rural. The photo may be taken in a land far, far away or right in your own backyard.
  • You may enter as many enchanted photographs as you would like for the entire month of October.
  • You may enter the contest as an individual or a family. If you are a teacher or leader of an organization, then you may enter your entire class or group. (**Please see note below**)

and Bobs...

  • The more the merrier! Feel free to copy the contest logo from above and paste it on your blog or Facebook page to encourage others to share their magic with us too!
  • The winners will be mentioned in a very special October 31st holiday blog post!

Grand Prize: Chosen by a random drawing, I will write the first place winner, and/or whomever else they choose, as the heroine(s) or hero(s) of my next original fairy tale or forest legend. He or she will receive a digital and hard copy of the one-of-a-kind story and illustration. This exclusive package would make a unique birthday present and a magical surprise for a loved one or even your school!

Second and Third Place Prizes: Chosen by a random drawing, the second and third place winners will receive limited edition Emmy Blue postcards and bookmarks featuring my magical characters and tales. If a class or organization wins, then you will receive a box of enchanted surprises for everyone.

What are you waiting for? Get your camera and start your exploration adventures immediately! And remember, don't worry about the quality or quantity of your photographs, just have fun finding a bit of magic in your own neck of the woods!

Happy October! Xx

**Note: If you are a teacher or organization, you can incorporate this contest into your literature or creative writing curriculum by adding reading or writing components to the photo contest. I would be happy to post links to your class blog or post links to student short stories and poetry. Just let me know how I can support your enchanted projects!