Thursday, March 1, 2012

Happy Healthy 60th Birthday Surprise- Details

A few months ago, my girlfriend Sarah approached me with an idea for her mom's 60th birthday. Her thought was to have a surprise hike on a trail that they visit near their house fairly often. Invited guests would be asked to arrive earlier in the morning, and be assigned to stations along the hike.

I thought the idea was great and off we were! The focus of the party was of course her mom, but really more than that. Her mom has been making changes to live a healthier and active lifestyle. I wanted to take that a step further and celebrate all the love and family she had "acquired" in her sixty years.

 The idea of a tree came into play and after a few attempts, I created a logo that was used throughout the party. A tree is a great symbol of life and an ever growing family.

(As you read, you can click on any photos to enlarge if you want to see more detail.)


With an earthy sort of tone (her mom is really laid back and we wanted the party to reflect her casual style) we started to think about invitations.

Again, invitations really set the tone for your party. We wanted to create a "package" for guests to open and feel as though this is one party they don't want to miss. Sending a boxed invite to 50+ guests could become very expensive quickly. It's one thing to do this for your wedding (um, I did!) but to keep our budget in check I got our creative cap on and tried to think about the "texture" of this party.

My plan was to use burlap but I found a fabric at my local craft store to use as a test run to create the invites. It was a canvas/linen look with imperfections with a bit of muslin feel. I came across some projects online that talked about printing on fabric using your inkjet printer. All I have at home is my hubby's all-in-one that I hijack from time to time for various projects and of course my coupons.

I had no idea how much I loved burlap until I started working on this party. It's such a fun fabric with great texture and nowadays comes in many, many colors. However, with all the lint (schnibbles as I like to call them) hanging around after cutting burlap, I didn't want to chance ruining the hubby's printer by getting all those fibers stuck inside. It's a nice all in one and I don't think I would have heard the end had it gotten wrecked. The other problem with the weave. Some of the burlap I was finding had a very loose weave which wouldn't work for this project. It ended up my original fabric choice was perfect. It didn't have a nap so I could print on it without losing spaces and it was very natural looking.

The very first thing you want to do is determine your invite size and find envelopes to fit. If you work the other way around, you could find yourself in BIG trouble with a gorgeous invite and no way to send them out! is one of my favorite paper sites. Their prices are great and customer service is really on top of things. 
I found a gorgeous green pocket to use on the back of the invite and a beautiful taupe A7 envelope.

 I ironed Pellon Wonder Under to one side of my fabric, then cut rectangles using a template of the size (5x7 plus .25" around) made from card stock. My plan was to use cereal boxes and cover with the printed fabric but with 50+ invites in the making, I found chipboard instead. It was a little thicker but not too bad. (think cardboard without the corrugation- found at Joanne's)

After the interfacing was ironed on, the fabric stiffened up and was very easy to cut. I still had the chore of figuring out how to run it through my printer to print. I found the easiest way was to use double sided tape on a piece of card stock, making sure the end that was feeding first into my printer was even and not coming up at all. With the fabric attached the card stock, it ran very well through my printer. (note this will only work with an inkjet printer, not a laser printer). I later figured out I didn't NEED to iron on the interfacing but it did make the fabric easier to cut and work with. Once I peeled off the backing, the fabric was once pliable with no real adhesive or coating on it.

 Here's the final product!

One side was the birthday girl, Susie's logo printed on fabric. That was wrapped around a piece of chip board using Aleene's Tacky Spray and double sided tape for the edges. Double sided tape adhered it to the green pocket back. The actual invite was an insert printed on white card stock with a subway art feel to it.. just a mix mash of information for the guests that made it look fun. Of course we reminded everyone that it was a surprise party. (if you click on the photos, they'll enlarge so you can see them better). To take it one step further, I created a liner for the pocket using google maps and added speech bubbles to show you where the start of the hike was and where the hostess's house was. The addresses were included on the invites but this was a fun visual for guests to make it seem like more of an adventure.

Thankfully Sarah came over for a few hours one day for us to assemble all 58 invites! They were definitely a labor of love and resulted in one of my favorite invites to date. It was great to hear from Sarah how excited some of the guests were when they RSVP'd and commented on the invites.

If you're still with me, there's much more!


Sarah's hubby got busy making a wooden sign for us to adhere these large printouts on.
 Each of these six trail markers marked a spot for guests to meet and relax while waiting for the birthday girl and her ever growing group of hikers to arrive. After the hike, guests brought them back to the house where they were displayed for everyone to see.
Trail mix in a 4" bag with custom topper

Signs on the coolers told them which trail marker to stop at. They were sent out on the trail in groups with one volunteer that carried the cooler. While they waited, they enjoyed mimosas and trail mix that was left for them in a cooler.


Sarah purchased table cloths online.. did you know you to purchase them was about the same cost as renting? Of course someone may not want to store that many tablecloths or think they'll use them again, but that's where reselling comes into play. There are always people online (me, me, me) looking for used party items.

Sarah scored some burlap runners on Craigslist that someone had used for their wedding. They came mighty wrinkled as they were shoved in a garbage bag, BUT they already had their edges folded under and ironed. I was nervous about tackling that job to make a clean edge on a runner. Again, love burlap but not the easiest fabric to work with. Thank you bride!

First I tried to steam out the wrinkles but that wasn't working. Got out my trusty iron and a spray bottle with water.. few hours later, nine runners were cut to size and wrinkle free!

Aren't these adorable?

Sarah found these pinwheels on Etsy. Each one had her mom's logo placed in the center. As you may tell from the photos, she lives on a gorgeous hill overlooking a canyon. Because of her home's location, it can get breezy to say the least. These pinwheels were perfect for the decor and each was placed in a pot (look at Ikea for inexpensive ceramic pots, 49 cents each!) with bright cheerful flowers.

We talked about how I could create pinwheels for her BUT if you find a seller than does it all time, and for not much money, I say outsource! Many times for the amount you'd spend on materials and waste, someone else could make for much less.


This isn't the finished tree but the last photo I took.
Give guests lots of room, this table doubled as the favors table.
Don't forget to leave your guests wipes and small trash basket
Everyone wants to recall years later who attended their event but a formal guest book isn't always appropriate. We decided to have a little fun with Susie's tree and create a piece of art that she could keep. I took that same tree image and removed all the leaves. We had it blown up and printed at Costco. They do print with a bit of sheen so that was a bit of a challenge but I found ink pads at Michaels that were very fast drying. Put it into a frame and removed the glass.

I wasn't sure how it was going to go over with guests but they LOVED it! At one time there were 10+ people flocked around the table checking it out and watching as the thumbprints were added. We also had a few fine tip markers so people could add their names to their "leaves".  A small sign a the table let guests know what to do. (I also started the tree with my family's prints so they had an example.


Knowing that a hike was the start and very important part of this party, Sarah wanted her guests to have a memento of their entire experience. The perfect to thing to hand each person/family as they headed out on the hike was a water bottle. This one was special because it had the same logo that was used on the invitations (and unknown at the time but throughout the entire party). They remind me of the can koozies we had made for our wedding in Cabo that our friends tell us they still use today (5 years later!) When ordering favors, especially semi-expensive ones. There will always be some left over. People leave early or don't think to grab one before the end of the party. As much as you remind them to do so. With that in mind, you don't have to order one for every party guest. Just order close or figure one or two per family.

Some people may not agree but those people probably didn't have 50 extra koozies after their wedding. (Just kidding, we had to have a min order for those and knew we'd have a ton left over) was a great vendor to work with. When I had some questions on the logo I was submitting, they assured me the person I spoke to on the phone was handling my order from beginning to end... how's that for customer service?! They came in time for the party and were packaged very well.


After the farm party, I'm obsessed with banners. Actually I always used paper banners but I'm really loving that I can print on fabric. I had some fabric left over from the invitations and printed a large birthday banner and a few smaller banners to pin on table cloths. I think that adds a little something special to each area. We also had colorful paper lanterns in various colors and shades of blue and green to both sides of the party. (I ran out of time or there would have been more hanging!)

Here's what it looked like in my living room.


The cake was absolutely gorgeous. It really is tough to cut into cake that looks so great. Sue, the same lady that did the Barn cake with animal cupcakes and the Mickey Clubhouse cake created this masterpiece. Sarah sent her a copy of the logo and I found a few tree cakes online but Sue's outdid them all! The cake was also displayed in a place where everyone saw it as they walked it. It was a real conversation piece!

Guests were asked to not bring gifts on the invitation. I know from past experience, that nobody listens to that and many will still bring gifts and cards. I wanted to have a place for those cards to go. I also wanted an excuse to buy another craft tool! Sooo, I found something that turned out to be lots of fun.

A Creative Versa-tool aka a woodburning pen. I found a small plain box at Michael's and went to work. I printed out the logo and using transfer paper, created something to trace with my wood burning pen. I went over a it a few times with different tips and came back to it a few times to add more "burns".  To finish it off, I lightly sanded it and I sprayed with with a glossy lacquer inside and out... The drying time was one hour between coats so I just set it up in the garage and set the microwave timer to remind me to add another coat. It turned out so pretty and a special place for Susie to keep moments from the day. For display I added a little pennant that said "cards" and guest knew exactly what it was for.

Wish I got a prettier photo of the finished result but I was very proud of my first project!


A few other things I made for the food table were cut logs (thank you to Sarah's hubby) with a few key words burned into them. I even added a little heart on one log with the birthday girl and her husband's initials.
One of my favorite purchases for this party were wooden utensils. Call me crazy but I thought they were perfect for our "natural" theme. I wrapped a wooden knife in a white napkin, place the fork on the outside and wrapped with brown kraft card stock and the same twine I used on the fabric banners.

I had in mind to stamp them with "60" or a cute saying (I even busted out my wood burning tool to see how that would look) but in the end decided to keep them plain and simple.

The guests ate yummy cold cut sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit and chips. These cute little flags were made and added to skewers to show guests the different types of condiments being served. Simple and oh so easy! Mason jars are one of my favorite serving dishes. They come in all sizes and are perfect for a casual spread.

One of the last projects I made was just something I had been thinking about for awhile. I'm so sad when the party is over and the decorations have to be taken down.. guess that's because I know how many hours went into making them. I wanted to make something the hostess (or her party planner) could use in their home afterwards. I had some burlap left over from the runners and came up with this. Fabric roses are really easy to make and hot glue makes fast work of the wrapping.

This is the same foam ring I used for the "She's about to POP" balloon wreath. I love reusing materials my hubby was glad to get it out of the garage.

It was an absolutely perfect day for a hike and a perfect day to celebrate one of my favorite people and her life at 60! Happy (and Healthy) Birthday Susie!


  1. You always come up with such wonderful creative ideas.

  2. Love love your "thumbprint tree"!!!
    Can you tell me how I can get one of your printable thumbprint tree???

  3. Hi would love a thumb print tree where could i get one plese x

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  5. Can I order a thumb print tree for my mother's 75th?