Wednesday, April 25, 2018

School Volunteer Ice Cream Social


This past weekend, I organized and hosted an ice cream social for our school volunteers. It was the first one of its kind that's funded and given by the school PTSA. As a volunteer coordinator this year, I have been trying to push for an appreciation event for all our volunteers since the beginning of the school year. The teachers have countless appreciation events that the PTSA organizes for them and they are showered with gifts throughout the year but we never did much for our volunteers. Plus, the teachers get paid and we offer our time for free. I mean teachers are great but so are volunteers and I saw that we needed to do much more for them. By showing volunteers that we value them, not only will we help recruit new volunteers and retain volunteers, but we will also inspire and encourage existing volunteers to do more.

It's not like we were getting nothing. There is always a volunteer breakfast at the end of the year that is hosted by the teachers but only a select few of us get an invitation. The volunteers that have a presence at the school usually get invited but many of our volunteers work from home behind the scenes. I'm one of them! And no, last year I was never invited even though I put over 300 hours of volunteer work towards the school. That's just not right. Instead of getting mad at the PTSA, I decided to make things right by being a volunteer coordinator this year.


Last week was National Volunteer Week and April is National Volunteer Month. In celebration of this and to show appreciation towards our PTSA, we had an ice cream social. And it was a success! I am so relieved the volunteer ice cream social is now over. It wasn't actually a lot of work because it was just ice cream. Everyone kind of expected me to do something after pitching so many appreciation ideas but after a few failed attempts at getting a budget approval, I didn't really want anything to do with it anymore. I was also busy with other stuff too. But then they started asking me about it and so I felt I had to do something. The ice cream social for our volunteers during National Volunteer Month was easily approved. Even if we didn't have something to celebrate, a social for volunteers was important for volunteers to get to know one another. The work and cost was minimal and we couldn't have been luckier with the weather. The event was held at the school playground and field to keep it nearby and to save costs on renting a venue.


I made a poster. Actually I made many posters. That's kind of my thing lately. I'm the poster/flyer lady. After this event, I'll probably be known as the ice cream lady. They are already asking me to do it for the next school next year. The boundary changes in our neighborhood is sending us to a new school next year. And yesterday, they were trying to recruit me for VP of Volunteers on the board. I sort of said no. I think I need a break.



The event was a hit for everyone who made it out but my estimates were really off. I proposed a budget based on attendance for 200 people and I pre-bought ice cream in advance when they were on sale. If all our volunteers came out with the their family, that could have easily been more than 400. I took a risk but only half my estimate RSVPed yes to the invite. Of that, only about 70% actually showed up. What! I did not expect that one. So we had leftover ice cream. A LOT of leftover ice cream. I don't think I can return them so I'm just going to eat them all over the next several months and get fat. Ha!

114 people replied yes to my invite. I brought along 15 tubs of ice cream, expecting extra people to show up because of the nice weather. I recruited three parent volunteers to help scoop ice cream, trying to stay away from board members. If anyone needs a break, it would be the board members! However, one of my good friends insisted on helping and she's on the board so she was the exception:) The other volunteer coordinator was also present to lend us a canopy tent and to help at the greeting table and help set up. Yes, we had a greeting table for an informal check-in where volunteers could get name tags. The idea was for them to write their name, along with a program or event that they helped with at the school.

We also had three kids help with sundae toppings. My son, my friend's daughter, and my son's friend, who was also the child of one of our ice cream scoopers. The kids of all the adult volunteers were actually very helpful in setting up too and were even fighting over turns with the toppings stations. I really wanted to involve the kids to help give relief to more parent volunteers. Let's not forget this was a volunteer appreciation event as well.

Here was what I brought along to the ice cream event:

9 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Vanilla Ice Cream
3 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Chocolate Ice Cream
3 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Strawberry Ice Cream
1 box of 12 single fruit popsicle sticks (dairy-free)

42 oz Crushed Oreos
1 tub (7lb 8 oz) Chocolate Syrup
10+ oz Colored Sprinkles
2 bags mini marshmallows (10 oz coloured, 10 oz white)
1 jar Cherries in Syrup (containing over 100 cherries)

160 small water bottles (8 oz each)
4 bags of ice (7 lbs each)

What I should have brought instead:

5 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Vanilla Ice Cream
2 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Chocolate Ice Cream
2 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Strawberry Ice Cream
2 box of 12 single fruit popsicle sticks (dairy-free)

20 oz Crushed Oreos
1 small bottle Chocolate Syrup
5 oz Colored Sprinkles
1 bag mini marshmallows
1 jar Cherries in Syrup (containing over 100 cherries)

80 small water bottles (8 oz each)
4 bags of ice (7 lbs each)

As you can see, I totally overdid it! Lol. But this is the first time we did this so now we know. The idea was to give each person a generous 6 oz ice cream serving in a cup. That is like 2 big scoops of ice cream. Unfortunately, we started off serving smaller scoops but I didn't notice since I was so busy with the setup of the sundae topping table. Half way through the event, I told our volunteers to offer up to 3 scoops and we allowed people to come back for seconds and even third servings! Lol. The event was only 1 hour long but the ice creams were already starting to melt.

Here are a few tips I would give to those who are thinking about doing an ice cream social:
  • Expect only about 80% of the RSVPs to actually show up & even those that show up may not want any ice cream
  • Be generous on the ice creams and toppings. It's hard to run out.
  • Don't pre-purchase ice cream until you have a good idea of the numbers.
  • Ice cream sundaes are great but even the non-dairy people wanted popsicles. Easier to have?
  • Buy an extra bag of ice or two. That may help keep the ice cream colder.
  • When there is no lineup, put the ice cream back in the coolers.
  • 1 hour for the social is plenty! Any longer and there will be a big melty mess.
  • Here was one of my favorite resource page: http://www.ellenskitchen.com/bigpots/plan/sundae100.html


It took me a few weeks here and there to research, organize, design the posters, search and shop for bargains and supplies. The cost of the event was only about $128, which included the cost of about $20 for posters. I made the posters with the idea that they could be reused year after year. So more cost savings down the road. Because I'm a skilled bargain hunter, I was able to buy a lot more and choose better quality ice cream and present everything in a more professional manner. We served Tillamook ice cream people! We were essentially able to give people pretty awesome sundaes at the cost of around $1.55 per person. Since we had so many leftover supplies, we could have served even more people and that would have brought the cost down even more. My goal was to keep it at no more than $2 per person so I'm quite happy with the final calculation. I'm a bit disappointed with the turn out but overall, I think the event was a success. And the weather was fantastic!  Yay:)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Ultimate Valentine Cupcakes


I am a Room Parent for my 9 year old son's class. As a Room Parent, I plan, prepare and some times host the class parties for Halloween, Valentine's, and the Year-End celebration. This involves researching ideas online for fun food creations and finding suitable craft projects or games for the age group in the class. Everything planned needs to be achievable in around 1 hour and has to be within the class party budget of roughly $50 per party. We are very fortunately at our school this year because our generous PTSA is giving every class up to $150 to spend on class parties for the year, which works out to be $50 per party. We buy what we need and then we reimburse for it. Since I make a lot of my own stuff from scratch, that is more than enough.

I have been a Room Parent since my son started school. Big surprise! I do spend a lot of time on it but I enjoy it. And it's only three times a year so it's not that tiring. *cough, cough* I love coming up with cool foods but the crafts are equally fun to work with too. To save time, I usually do a lot of prep work at home like pre-punching circles, pre-cutting triangles, and pre-painting sticks. And that was exactly what I did for our recent Valentine party! I can't do everything for them so the kids did have to cut out their own ears, eyes, glue, and write messages on the back of their craft. I think the cool part about the fox craft was that they could attach magnets to the back and put it up on their fridge.



Forget the craft, the showstopper at the party were the cupcakes though. But maybe it's because I love to eat sweets so much. I don't know. I made sure we served the cupcakes last. I had other healthier food servings like fruit cups and little cucumber bread bites to serve first. Another one of our awesome Room Parents made a fresh batch of strawberry watermelon lemonade as well. The kids in this class are truly spoiled!



Cara cara oranges, bananas, strawberries.

So about those cupcakes! Well, they weren't just cupcakes. They were cupcakes, cookies, and candies all in one. Why the heck not? I made my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and whipped up an extra large batch of swiss meringue buttercream. The cookies and XOX gummies were from Trader Joe's. And I'm so glad I bought them when they first arrived at the store. They sold out pretty fast! At first, I thought all the decorations were too much but now I think they were great. Because they're on top of the cupcakes, I was able to make sure everyone received the same thing and it was stuck on so nothing shifted during the travel to school. And they're kind of cute, no?



I was going to stop here. But then decided to keep going.


And just like that, we're down to one more party to do before school is over! I can do this people.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Harry Potter Birthday Party: Book Themed Cake - Part 4


It was a great party. Great because we pulled it off without too many glitches and I wasn't even that stressed out on the party day. That is largely thanks to my husband and family for helping out while I concentrated on the kid's activities. I may have planned the whole party by my myself but I had a party crew to help me execute it. I knew exactly what I wanted so I just had to demonstrate and then they took over. Volia!

We provided lots of entertainment, good food, and I absolutely loved the Harry Potter decorations. The kids even took home a cool loot bag. But I'm very impressed and pleased that my husband and other family members thought to take a lot of pictures at the party. It's not always the case but this year we had tons of photos. That made the day even better!


Oh yeah, and the cake turned out alright. Lol. The themed birthday cake is one of the main attractions of a birthday party. I actually only get to make themed cakes once or twice a year. The last themed cake I made was a year ago for my son's 8th birthday party. I know I don't make them often anymore so there was a little part of me that wasn't quite sure I could pull it off. When it came time to make a fresh batch of fondant, I hacked at it a bit and it felt a little stiff to me. It was definitely different and it was challenging to roll out. Jeez, I should just follow the recipe! Aargh.

I found a great tutorial online on how to create the Harry Potter book cake and I more or less followed that. I watched it a day or two before making the cake but I probably should have reviewed it before making the cake because I forgot about some of the features. Oops. I probably only used half the fondant they used in the tutorial. I did not have any fondant under the cake. I figured I could slide just bits of fondant on the sides and make it look like it was underneath and I was right! I hate using so much fondant because it's so sweet and everyone in my family complains about that, including me. However, when fondant is rolled super thin, it's so hard to handle. Duh.


I wished I took more pictures of my cake as I was making it but my hands were sticky with fondant and covered in cornstarch and food color. No one was around for me to ask for a photo. Believe me when I tell you that I had serious doubts this cake was going to look good. The cake itself was fine and would be delicious since it was cooked perfectly. My fondant was too thin (I never learn!) and it was so difficult to place on the cake. It cracked and ripped in so many places and I tried to lift it to move it, which was a big mistake. The better solution I found was just to slide it since the icing below is slippery. So it looked pretty messed up. At that point I thought this was going to be a disaster.

As time went by, the appearance of it improved. I was in total repair and fix mode for an hour or so. I started to patch more things up and I strategically placed design pieces to cover a lot of the flaws. It still had cracks in the end but it was alright because it was meant to look like an old book. I had to fix an entire section by removing a corner and then putting new fondant on it. It was a risky move but it really helped make things look better. Then came the dusting, painting then labeling. So after several hours, I was finally happy with it and could dismiss myself to bed. Good grief!

Left side: The goal. Right side: What I actually achieved.



I had to buy some black color powder to make my cake. But that was it! I'm so glad I was able to create my cake with everything else I had at home. The golden snitch is a cake ball wrapped in fondant. The wand is all fondant. I really wanted the cake to be 100% edible and the idea of using toothpicks for the wings sounded like a bad idea for me. My fondant would have never held. So it wasn't how I imagined it (it never is!) but I got it done! All things considered, I think it was a success. I'm done for another year! :)

Check how thin that fondant is!

We all had Harry Potter themed clothes on. Because we're a dorky family, yo :P

Friday, December 1, 2017

Harry Potter Birthday Party: The Loot Bag - Part 3


There's no better way to end a great birthday party than to go home with a cool souvenir or loot bag. Kids birthday parties are super awesome.

We invited just a small group of kids to my son's 9th birthday party. Six kids were invited and five were able to make it. That's all my husband can handle at our house. The nice thing about such a small group is that we could give each of them nicer things in their loot bag.

Here were the things I decided to put in their loot bags:
  • Homemade wand
  • Plastic cauldron container and broom pen (bought)
  • Spell sheet
  • Small chocolate bar (Dementor chocolate)
  • Jelly beans (Bertie Bott's every flavour beans)

I went to Michaels with my son and got him to pick out the jewels to attach to the wands we were going to make for him and his friends. For his own wand, he picked the marble piece and he drew me a picture of exactly what he wanted his wand to look like. Lol.



The wands were so easy to make and they looked fabulous. I finished them off with a label and some twine. If Computer Science doesn't work out for me when I get my Green Card I may just start up my own etsy shop and sell wands. Lol.


I bought a wax candle and stamp ages ago and never had the chance to use it until now. It just all came to me lately. Loved that! I wanted to include something else in the cauldron instead of just the pen and I didn't want it to be more food. The spell sheet was perfect and it would give the kids a little something to remember the party by.

The small chocolate bars are from Trader Joe's. I bought some that were all milk chocolate and some were milk chocolate with rice krispies. The cool labels I found online and I just had to resize them to fit my chocolates.


The jelly beans were also from Trader Joe's. I had to photoshop the design and package the beans and the whole treat took me the longest time to prepare. As a result, I actually have a total separate blog post on it and wanted to make the Bertie Bott's every flavour beans label available as a download on my site. For personal use please!



I drew glasses and a scar on a large kraft bag and then printed off a thank you label I found online for the other side of the bag. I placed everything into the bag except for the wands since we had to use the wands for activities during the party.

And that's my Harry Potter party loot bag. I loved it and I think the kids loved it. Hopefully, I am able to give others some cool ideas too:) And that makes all the work worth while.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Harry Potter Birthday Party: Entertainment - Part 2

 
Our Harry Potter party was from 1-4PM. We had plenty of games and activities lined up for the kids in between all the eating and picture taking. In my experience, if you don't give the kids an organized activity, they create their own and that usually means they watch crap on youtube or they goof off and destroy our house. Both bad.

Watch Harry Potter

Not every kid at the party knew a lot about Harry Potter. Some of them watched all the movies or read all the books like my son, or a bit of both. So I wanted them to watch a bit of Harry Potter just to remind them about the wizard world. I found a good quality super trailer online composed of all 8 movies in just 20 minutes. It was perfect. After allowing everyone to arrive in the first 15 minutes, we played the super trailer.

While that was going on, I had my husband and brother prep the pizzas and chicken wings. I wanted everything cooked and ready. We could always warm things up a bit later. I took this chance to set up the table for our magic show. Yes, we indeed did magic for the party!

Magic Show

It was a Harry Potter party so it was the perfect time for us to do magic! It's embarrassing but we bought a magic set over 10 years ago in Vegas and never got to learning a single thing from it. Until now. Our show was actually a combination of two magic sets and some stuff I learned from watching magic tutorials online. Ha!

To tie the magic show to Harry Potter, I had my son dress up in his Harry Potter costume and assist in the acts. He would point his wand at the act and call out an appropriate spell like one to disappear, reappear, repair etc. When he didn't we took his wand and made up a spell. Whatever. It was a hack job.

It was a total family effort. I performed most of the magic tricks but I got my son and husband to do a few as well. My son was happy to learn a few things but I had to force my husband. Lol. I told him it's a bit of a pain to learn all this in such a short time and under stress but it's good because it's actually forcing us to finally crack open our magic sets and do it. I would say we're somewhere between magicians and a bunch of guys who can perform a few tricks.


We practiced magic for the very first time and we did it on and off for about one week. In the end, we weren't ready for it but had to do it anyway. Lol. We messed up on a few tricks and in doing so gave away some of the secrets. Whoops! We had a few laughs and we had a few wows. Some of the kids would be like "I know how you did that!" or "you have an extendable wand!" (which was not true but I kept quiet). The kids kept wanting to stand and inch closer so I had to repeatedly tell them to step back and sit down.

I think a magic show for 5 year olds would have been met with more applause and awe than for our crowd of 8 and 9 year old nerds. Overall, I think it was entertaining for everyone and best of all, it took up about 40 minutes of the party. And that was with skipping a few of our acts in our performance schedule too. Because of the magic show, this party was definitely the most time consuming party we have ever prepared for.



I wanted to spend a bit of time teaching the kids one of the tricks too but since the show was so long, I decided we had to move along. Lunch was ready!

Wizard Battle

One of my son's friend, who was coming to the party, requested a wizard battle at our party. It was an interesting idea and it involved wands, not swords, so there wouldn't be any direct contact so I went with it. I got my son to come up with five spells we could teach everyone at the party and we had them use and act them out during the battle. We came up with funny ones that would make the other person dance, laugh, shake with electricity and just blast and block. We typed this out (in the LUMOS font) and even included the print out in their loot bag as souvenirs. Also part of their loot was a homemade wand and they each got to use their own wand for the wizard battle. The battle was a blast but the house got super loud. You could tell they had a lot of fun! This activity lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, including a review of the spells.


Wand Balloon Race

I gave each kid a balloon and asked them to blow it up. Only half of the kids were able to do this. Lol. My son actually only started blowing balloons when he was 7 years old. And then I believe my son was the only one able to tie up his blown up balloon. I helped one of the boys blow their first balloon ever so that was exciting.

Once we all had balloons, I lined them up in a straight line and we had a friendly balloon race. Using their wand and calling out the spell, "Wingardium Leviosa," each kid had to balance and juggle their balloon across the room and back a few times without it falling to the ground. It was chaotic but fun. This activity lasted around 15 minutes.

That's it! At this point I had to help clear the lunch table, although my family had done most of the work already so I had to set up the cake area. The kids just wanted to take a break from everything and sit on the couch and watch more Harry Potter trailers. There were plenty on the recommended feed from the previous one they watched so that was fine. It gave us about 5-10 minutes of quiet time to set up dessert.


All the activities were a success and time just flew by. I'm so thankful that my family pitched in to help. I basically only had to supervise and give them directions on what to do and they were able to take over while I led all the kid's activities. We had a backup activity as well in case things went south. Lol. We were somewhat prepared to throw in a game of Taboo. Harry Potter themed Taboo but it wasn't necessary at all. Phew! :)

Harry Potter Birthday Party: Food and Decorations - Part 1


I can't believe I'm now a mother of a 9 year old boy!

Now that I have had some time to recover, I'm ready to start sharing all the craziness that went into preparing for and hosting our Harry Potter themed-party. My parents were in town for the party and then stayed an extra week with us so I'm sort of recovering from that as well. Lol.

Like I mentioned in one of my earlier Harry Potter Halloween post, there are tons of ideas online for a Harry Potter party. Plus, there are tons of books and movies to draw ideas from. It's just insane so I basically picked my favorites and went with those. I've only watched a few of the movies and I never read the books but I did do a lot of research for the party. And I'm good at research. Hehe. My son is the only one that read all the books so he was my party consultant :)

I started planning this party on and off for two weeks. If my parties look like work, it's because they are! These things don't get put together like magic, although it sure does look that way. I have to plan early too because the craft store, Michaels, is sort of out of the way and I would prefer my husband to drive me there to shop and that can only happen on the weekends.




Harry Potter DECORATIONS

My local party store didn't have a lot of Harry Potter dinnerware and I just didn't like the wizard party stuff they had. I was told that Harry Potter discontinued their party stuff years ago. I guess around the time the last movie came out. My son was too young to have a Harry Potter party then but he's a total nerd now that he's 9 years old. I ended up buying napkins with the four house banner logos on it but the rest of the decorations were sort of home made. Well, I bought the red brick wall plastic cover too for Platform 9 3/4 but I'm hoping to reuse that for Christmas decorations. The plastic cover was HUGE so we cut it into three pieces and then only used two pieces for the party. It was plenty. I think the red brick wall was the best decoration piece we had. It was so nice, we picked that as the backdrop for our big family photo at the end of the day as well :)


Front door sign

Each guest was greeted with the "password" lady at the front door. Then they would step in, take off their coats and shoes and then go through the red brick wall to get to the party area. We had the Harry Potter soundtrack streaming all day long in the house. All the music is available via Amazon Prime Music so that was awesome!

Boo! Guest bathroom on the party floor

Hehehe.

Small spiders from the fireplace leads to large balloon spider across the room.

Large balloon spider Aragog


I picked balloons that could be colors of owls like white, gold and gray, filled them with helium, and then got my family to draw owl faces on them with a black sharpie. They did a really good job actually. I took the string of each floating balloon and attached a wand to the end so that they would sit lower to the ground. The wands were homemade and were gifts for each of the kids. We bunched all the owl balloons in a corner to greet the kids when they arrived. I made all the wands different and had my son assign each one to his friends. They looked so cool in the corner but we have no picture of it! It was as though the owls were delivering wands to each kid. I'm bummed that no one at the party took a picture of that. It was so rush rush that I shouldn't be surprised either.

For the rest of the signs, posters, and banner, I photoshopped what I could and we just printed it off. I was able to find everything online and so I just had to make minor modifications. It's for personal use after all :) Thank you Internet! So. Much. Good. Stuff. As payment, I'm going to document all my work here so that others like me can grab ideas or copy from it. And I want to make my Bertie Bott's every flavor beans label a free downloadable for you to use for your own party! :)




Harry Potter FOOD

We had so much food. Some carried a Harry Potter theme and some were there just to feed us. My family came down from Canada too and with the kids, there were a lot of people to feed. There were a few things I missed at the party because I forgot to put them out as well. I had Gringotts Gold and Dragon Eggs too but I forgot and I think I lost their labels. Oops!

Lunch Menu

MAIN

Sorting Hat puff pastries
Broom 1: Pretzel and string cheese (Nimbus 2000s!)
Huffle Puffs (aka Pirate Booty)
Homemade pizzas using bakery bought taftoon bread
Homemade baked chicken wings

Poly Juice Potion (aka lime sherbert, lemon lime soda, dry ice)
Blood orange sparkling juice (kids called this "unicorn blood")

Apple cut outs with broom stick cookie cutter
Persimmons (plain - boring but we needed more fruit!)

DESSERT

Troll Boogers
Broom 2: Pretzel with peanut butter cups (Firebolts!)
Golden Snitches (Ferroro Rocher with gold wings)
Harry Potter themed cake (homemade)







The pizzas and chicken wings were devoured. There was a huge demand for the Poly Juice Potion. The unicorn blood was popular too but my son tells me that unicorn blood is actually white so not totally accurate. Ah, who cares! I loved that the kids got into the naming of the food too :)

My two brothers and one of their girlfriend came over with my parents from Canada so I had a large party crew to help with decorations the morning of the party. Knowing that, I actually wasn't too stressed out. Thank you family! But I did have to cook a complete new meal for everyone the night before the party, on top of making cake and doing some of the food prep for the party the next day so that was a bit stressful. But after dinner, I got to relax a bit and just focus on completing my cake.


All the kids ate well so I'll call the food a success. But heck, there's no going wrong with lots of fat and carbohydrates! There were only two things that I remembered that weren't flying off the shelf though. Only a few people wanted to try the Troll Boogers because they sounded gross. My husband raved about how good they were and couldn't get enough of them. I agreed! I used extra marshmallows to make them gooey like booger too. I wanted them stringy and slimy! The apple cut outs weren't that popular too because by the time we got to eating them, they were a bit discolored. But the kids weren't into anything healthy for the party anyway. That was fine because I just wanted them to eat something. When it was cake time, everyone had some except for the one kid that I knew did not like chocolate cake. I tried to offer him just a bite but he just woudn't budge. But everyone else loved it :)
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