Pineapples & Salt Cellars: A Housewarming Gift for Friends

Oof, it’s been awhile since the last post, but here we are. It’s MAY, there’s no snow on the ground, and the sunshine is giving me LIFE. So much has happened in my party life since the last post: a Saint Patrick’s Day party, a visit Fixer Upper Mecca visit, a one-year-old’s birthday as well as a few thirty-year-olds’, and lots of friends movin’ and shakin’, including a couple who just bought a new house. Stay tuned for posts about the rest, but for today, we’ll focus on the last note.

About a month ago I helped two friends move into the sweetest home in South Minneapolis. While other friends have bought condos and houses with roommates, this couple was the first to buy a full-fledged family home–the kind you SETTLE DOWN in. It’s in a fantastic neighborhood, close to restaurants and shops, etc. and it gets me very excited about owning my own house one day.

As I am not one to pass up an opportunity to celebrate, I knew this occasion called for a housewarming gift. Pinterest turns up a lot of great ideas, but one that kept popping up was this basket of items, each with meaning:

  • Bread: May this home never know hunger
  • Candle: May this home always have light through the darkest times
  • Salt: May this home always have flavor
  • Pineapple: May this home always have cheer and warmth
  • Sugar/Honey: May this home always enjoy the sweetness of life
  • Wine: May this home never go thirsty
  • Olive Oil: May this home be blessed with health

I loved the meaning behind each one and I also thought it was a nice collection of actually USEFUL items and little treats (hi sugar & wine!), so that’s where I started and here was the result for the couple and their dog, Calvin, of course:


As I was doing research I noticed that all the gifts I loved were ones that felt natural and abundant–like modern-day cornucopias– so that’s what I kept in mind as I started shopping. A few notes that helped me accomplish that overall vibe:

  1. GO WITH A COLOR PALETTE: I knew I was going to putting a pineapple in this basket so I played into the green leaves and then paired that up with calm blues that you can see in the candle, towel, chocolate, and Pellegrino bottle. It made everything tie together without being TOO matchy-matchy.
  2. TEXTURES: The pineapple was the starting point here too, but I chose a woven basket (that could easily become a doggy-toy holder) and the candle with a wooden lid to make the whole basket a bit more tactile.
  3. SIMPLE INGREDIENTS, PRETTY DESIGN: When it came to choosing each ingredient for the basket I definitely shopped with the design in mind. Minimalist labels, simple containers, they were little details that helped add to the overall feel. And because packaged good design continues to get better every day, the pretty stuff isn’t going to cost you and arm and a leg either.
  4. PERSONAL HINTS: I added a doggy toy and sparkling water based off of what I knew about the couple. They had also mentioned going with blues in the kitchen so that made the towel choice easy, too. I don’t think gifts have to be overly-personalized but a few sprinkles here and there can add just the right amount of thoughtfulness.

Olive oil: Target. Wine: Trader Joe’s. Welcome Home Card: Target. Pineapple: Target. Candle: Home Goods. Towel: Target.

I was able to find everything I was looking for (and then some!) at Trader Joe’s, Home Goods, and Target, basically my go-to shopping spots for all things home and kitchen. After putting this basket together, I can’t wait to do another one. I think there’s more fun to be had leaning even more into homeowners’ hobbies with themes like “Date Night In” or “Spring Garden”–really, the options are endless.


Breadsticks: Trader Joe’s. Notepad: Target. Chocolate: Trader Joe’s. Salt Cellar: Target. Dog Toy: Home Goods. Water: Target. Basket: Home Goods.

What do you all think? Are there other items you would add? I want more friends to buy houses so I can do more gift-giving. Is that weird? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Planning a Theme Party for Twenty-Somethings: Harry Potter Style

This birthday party was two years in the making. Actually, it was more like two years of good intentions followed by a week of making it happen. My best friend is probably the only person who loves Harry Potter as much as I do. So, when it came time to celebrate her 28th birthday, I already knew what I was going to do because I had initially planned to do it on her 27th birthday.

Considering that the first Harry Potter novel was published way back in 1997 and the first movie was released in 2001, hosting a Harry Potter-themed birthday party for a 28-year-old is not weird at all. We GREW UP with Harry and the crew. We knew what house we wanted to be in before we knew what our first jobs would be.

When you search “Harry Potter party” on the Internet, however, most results are strictly targeted toward kids and are SOOOO over-the-top/time- and money-consuming. Oh, you got custom wands and sewed new robes for all the kids? That’s cool, but I’m not about make robes that might end up with throw-up on them at the end of the night.

Nope, planning a theme party for twenty-somethings is not the same as planning a theme party for kids.

When it comes to planning a themed-party for twenty-somethings you want it to be themed enough for guests to get into it but not so in-depth that your time or money is wasted.

On that note however, unlike kids, your friends know when something looks like shit. So how do you find the right balance? I mean, you don’t want it to feel half-assed, but you also don’t want to be weeping over construction paper or your bank account at 2am. Here’s how I generally do it:

  1. Commit to a budget. Whether it’s $20 or $100 or whatever, the budget determines just how much you can DO in general but also how much you can DIY vs. just buy outright. A budget also encourages you to get creative. With the HP party I got VERY lucky in the decor department, but my budget also forced me to not buy/do too much. Which gets me to the next point:
  2. Devote ONE night (or 3-4 hours total) to DIY shit. DIY is all fine and dandy until you find yourself knee-deep in hot glue at 11pm with not a completed thing in sight. By putting a time limit on the DIY stuff you not only stay motivated to get it done, but you also limit the amount of DIY you commit to.
  3. Buy with future parties in mind (if you want more parties.) I am ANTI buying-specific-themed-items mainly because their ability to be reused is v. low. AND due to trademark shit, officially themed stuff can be stupid-expensive. Using things like remove-able labels, kraft paper, and household items not only saves money (in the short and long run) it can also make the party more charming.

With those three things in mind, check out a few pics from Lauren’s Harry Potter Birthday:


Okay, so the above picture is from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But below is the cake I made for the party:


Some people change out Harry for the actual birthday boy/girl’s name, but nah, we have integrity at PTY!


Ok, so I can’t take credit for this insane Platform 9 3/4 backdrop. A coworker made it for her kids (bless her) BUT I did ask to borrow it, and there’s a lesson right there: stalk coworkers’ Instagrams to see what theme parties they’ve thrown for their kids and BOOM swoop in and seize it.


Guys, these things were a hit. I was honestly surprised but apparently my friends are secret superfans of Ferrero Rochiers and/or thought this was super clever. Either way, I’ll take it. I wish I took more pictures, because there were a lot of fun things like:

  • A fat lady on the front door
  • Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom
  • Floating candles made from battery-operated tea lights, paper, and fishing line
  • A “potions” box full of shots
  • And a cauldron for the Butterbeer
  • For the birthday girl, I created a special invitation, direct from Hogwarts:


Also, has a pretty sweet font called Lumos that is perfect for anything Harry Potter related. It’s what I used for the invites as well as labels for other party items.

And there you have it, a twenty-something theme party in the books. We had enough booze, no robes, no throw-up, but enough Harry Potter to make everyone–but especially the birthday girl–happy.

See ya later, party animals.


Party Workhorse: Brown Kraft Paper

When it comes to planning, making, and hosting parties, there are some materials that do double-triple-quadruple duty. One of those things: brown kraft paper. I keep a roll or two stashed in my closet at all times because I use it in some way at almost every party.

Not all kraft paper is created equal. The stuff from the $1 section is usually a bit too fragile and will tear in all the ways you don’t want it to. There’s also skinny rolls and wide ones. The skinny ones are great for makeshift table runners, but I prefer the wide ones (think wrapping paper length) for their versatility. Also, some are a little too heavy-duty, too-stiff and hard to work with. So let’s go Goldilocks here, and pick the middle-ground that’s just right.

So what are all the ways I use this very basic material? Here’s some of my favorites:

Wrapping Presents


credit: résonances

Whether it’s Christmas or my mother-in-law’s birthday, chances are I’m going to wrap the present in brown kraft paper. This gives me a neat, blank slate that I can add different flair to in order to make it match the season or occasion. I love the simple greenery and string above, but I also love the idea of getting super colorful on top–think of stuff you already have on hand: stickers, markers, spare ribbon, I’ve even seen bows made of magazine pages. Brown kraft paper goes with it all.


That doubles as an easy way to label what food is where. A couple weeks ago my parents came into town for the Packers vs. Vikings game and we decided to do a simple tailgate. Out came the brown kraft paper and a Sharpie. I forgot to snap pics of the setup before all hell broke loose so here’s a pretty example from the Internet instead.


credit: pure wow

If you’re using the tablecloth where guests will be sitting, consider adding some things that get them involved! Perhaps next to each place setting you write an icebreaker question to ask. Or maybe draw a picture frame and have them draw the person across from them. It’s a fun way to get everyone talking and knowing each other.

Menus, Signs, Oh My

Grab some washi or masking tape and boom! You have a rustic menu that’s pretty but not too try-hard because apparently making everything look like you just “threw it together” is a thing. I like keeping it simple by using a Sharpie, but there’s also white chalk markers, gold or silver paint pens, or even actually paint. Whatever you fancy or whatever time allows!


credit: roxsam

Photo Backdrop

You don’t need streamers or tinsel, although I’m not one to knock some good shimmery action at a party. In a pinch, brown kraft paper can make a pretty sweet backdrop for taking photos. As with everything above, you can customize it however you want. Write the date, paint some clouds, add construction paper circles for a confetti look. If you build it, they will come (and take photos.)


credit: warm hot chocolate

Just writing this post I’ve witnessed a ton of inspiration I can’t wait to try out on my own. With the holidays right around the corner, you can never have too many tricks up your sleeve for last minute decor. Happy partying, friends!