Friday, September 26, 2014

Mystery Party: Setting the (Crime) Scene

Welcome behind the scenes at Jenna's Mystery Party! Here is where we share all the individual party elements - decorations, food, activities, take-home goodies etc. so that you can adopt them for your own parties or crafts. Click on the links throughout the posts to go to the places where I've bought my supplies and various knick-knacks.

This first post is all about how we set up for the day. 

As with all our parties, we kept the decoration sparse, and saved all our energy and time for the activities (and food). 

We decorated the outside of the garage (our crime scene) with crime scene tape,

and hung, with clothespegs, a line of brown paper packages 

containing individual dollar store kits as prizes for solving The Mystery. The kids got to pick one each at the end of the party. These are two of the three -or four? I can't remember- different kits we bought. 

The brown paper bags were an inexpensive way to wrap them so the kids didn't know which ones they were getting.

Completing the garage door decor was a Facts Of The Case poster. We made up the suspects and gave them identities.

Here is Jenna's birthday poster. Birthday posters are one of my favorite birthday traditions. I don't remember when or how they began but I've drawn them every year since, for every child, and they've become a photo prop as much as a way to announce and celebrate the birthday kid. The yellow "birthday tape" is just printer paper cut and joined into long strips, and wording hand-printed on them.

While on the subject, I've often been asked how or where I learned to draw and do my lettering. I don't remember; it feels like I've always done silly drawings. As for the lettering, I have several "natural" handwriting fonts that I use without having to think about them. But sometimes, when I need to print a special lettering for a poster or card, I'll look up a font on my word processor and copy that. When I was a little kid, Dad owned a catalog for a French dry transfer lettering company called Mecanorma, very similar to the UK company Letraset. For years, I used that catalog as my font reference manual to hand-print block lettering for my posters.

The other thing I will share about ink lettering (pastels and crayons are another story) is to use the broadest, fattest marker you can find. Don't bother with the pointy-tipped regular Sharpies or even kids' markers. Buy the square- or chisel-tipped ones and be confident with your strokes. I've even painted mine with a brush just to get the thickness I want. Draw pencil lines to help you keep your letter heights consistent if you need to, but when actually drawing the letters, print them without being tentative or hesitant. It sounds weird, but you will see the difference immediately.

Theme food next. This being Jenna's party, there had to be cookies, because Jenna is the baking enthusiast in our family. We made sugar cookies - simple round shapes frosted to look like thumbprints

and magnifying glasses. 

These latter ones were rolled extra thin, cut out in circles, and baked in pairs, sandwiching popsicle sticks between them. We found this method preferable to cutting out thick cookies and shoving a popsicle stick into their middles, which would've resulted in the dough being all smooshed and deformed (ask me how I know). 

This way, they kept their perfectly round shape. Find our recipes for the cookies and frosting here.

To welcome and accommodate our guests during their staggered arrivals, we had two activities. The first, which was Emily's idea, was to have them create their own fingerprint cards. She created a 5-cell grid on the computer and printed out enough copies for everyone. Then we provided a fingerprint pad (far superior to a stamp pad, and worth every cent) and pencils for the kids to write their names on their fingerprint cards and Emily ran this station downstairs while I welcomed guests (and visited with their parents) upstairs.

The second activity was personalizing ID tags. We don't own a Polaroid camera, but if we did, we'd have taken pictures of each guest as they arrived. Instead, we assembled the ID tages beforehand: we printed out photos from the school yearbook and our home photo library 

and stuck them on white cardstock. We bought our lanyards here, because it was part of the fun of party-supply shopping, and because they were quite inexpensive, but you could just as well use ribbon and omit the snap hooks altogether.

We made sure to include one for Bunny.

We set these IDs out with a basket of markers for the kids to choose their detective names.

In the next post, we'll unpack the colorful Detection Kits. 

See you back soon!


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