Happy Little Hooligans,  The Crafty Crap

Camping Parties are S’more Fun!

Every single year as I am prepping for Harper’s birthday party I swear up and down that the next year we are doing it somewhere else. Somewhere that requires me to do nothing but hand over my credit card. Having her parties at home I always go overboard. I always spend too much money. I always stress about decorations and food being ready in time. I always invite more people than could possibly fit inside my home. And I always, I mean always drive my husband crazy. 

But this year I accepted it. I love doing this. We did give her the option of having her party elsewhere, like most of her friends with smarter parents than hers, but when she chose to have her party at home, I inwardly did a little happy dance (because I couldn’t let my husband see just how excited I was to create the chaos again!). The stress, the mess, and the madness are all worth it for the outcome.

Harper loves it.

Her friends love it.

I. Freaking. Love. It.

And even my sweet husband who turns into such a Grumpy Gus the whole week leading up to the party, when the house is a wreck, when I am totally preoccupied with my hot glue gun, and when I have a list a mile long for him to complete… even he loves it. 

When all is said and done, when the kids are in bed and Dustin and I are cleaning up the 953 full, opened cans of soda, and scrubbing the mystery stains out of the carpet, we always recap the events of the day with huge grins on our faces.

“You did good, Mommy,” he always says. 

We did good,” is always my reply.

This year was no exception. We. Did. Good.

Okay, stop right here. Before I go on there’s something you should know. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. There. I said it. This means that if you click on one of my affiliate links and happen to buy something (that thing, or anything) from Amazon, I may earn a small commission at zero cost to you. I am not getting rich here, just trying to make enough to convince my husband it is okay to keep paying for this blog. Thank you for supporting me!! Now you know. Carry on.

At first, Harper wanted another unicorn themed, surprise party like last year. I told her no. For one, I am unicorned out. Done. No more unicorns. And surprise parties are not about to become a thing for us. We did it once. Done with that too. So because of a show she was watching about rich kids at a camp (you probably know the one), she asked for a camping party. While I’m not really fond of this show for an almost 6-year-old, a camping party did sound fun… as long as there was no actual camping. 

Papaw still wore his unicorn horn from last year!

So in the midst of my typical Halloween madness, I realized I was already behind on ordering birthday party invitations. As usual, I scoured Etsy and favorited any invitations that I kinda sorta liked. As you may know from Hudson’s birthday party, they have to have a picture, and in this case, it had to work for a girls camping party. Not that easy to find. 

Enter: Amanda from Ombre Designs. I found my favorite design, and took a chance and emailed her about collaborating on this post. You guys, not only did she respond, but she agreed! Those of you following me on this tiny little corner of the internet know that I am a total newb. But you still have no idea how excited this made me!! I got a sponsor!!!! 

Okay but in all seriousness, Amanda is pretty much the best ever. Not just because she is obviously kind enough to work with little ol‘ me (still blushing a little over here), but her prices are super reasonable and her designs are flipping adorable.Even if she hadn’t agreed to work with me, I would have chosen her design anyway. I mean, look at how cute this one is!

No, that is not my real address or phone number. I know better than that, but that’s a post for another day…

For someone who was already asking for a lot, I also asked her to make some kinda big changes, AND make me an additional invite to be used as a generic for this here blog post. Done, done and done. She was so super nice throughout the whole exchange and sent me everything so super fast. So believe me, you want to click here to visit Ombre Designs on Etsy. Favorite her shop even if you’re not looking for invitations right now. If you have kids, you will be needing invitations one day soon and you can thank me for finding you some adorable, decently priced ones that are a cinch to print. Tell her Jessica sends her electronic hugs. 😉

Sooo… I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that a camping party is super smart. Especially when it is mid-November and nearly time for Christmas decorations. Not only did I already have a lot of the decorations, but it was just about time to get them out anyway! Two birds, one stone. Genius. 

We started with the Christmas trees. Our usual one, our little one from college, Harper’s tree, and my mom’s big honkin’ tree. I also got a couple more table-top ones because they were cheap (and easy to find, given the season), and I just needed them. The more trees, the better, which was why I also ordered some wall-hanging ones from Oriental Trading (not an affiliate link, I’m just saving you some time hunting them down). We tease my mom all the time about how she always creates a faux window every time she decorates for a party, but apparently I decorate with trees of various sorts. I have no explanation. I guess I just like trees. 

We intentionally held the party at dusk. For one thing, we were having it on a weekday when the kids were out of school for Thanksgiving, and a lot of the parents still had to work. But what fun is a camping party in the daylight anyway? This left the perfect opportunity for fun lighting of various sorts that in my humble opinion (Ha!) really created the whole atmosphere. Dustin hung our Christmas lights along the fence in the backyard and I love it so much they may just stay year round.

I made a bunch of these fun little lanterns out of empty cans. Tutorial to come later because this looks so much easier than it actually is.

We also used some of my mom’s old mason jars stuffed with battery operated twinkle lights to look like firefly jars. I love these probably more than I should. They may also become part of my repetitive party decor.

I didn’t get the best picture of the little twig votive candle holders my mom made (they kinda blend into the canvas in this picture), but they were also super cute and totally added to the atmosphere. As did the owl… (affiliate link)

But the thing that really made the party was the campfire. Or in this case, the fire pit. We have been saying we are going to put in a gas fire pit since before we even moved into this house, but have yet to do it. Apparently, I spend all our money on birthday parties and whatever family adventure I get in my head. Shrug. 

We bought the cheapest fire pit (affiliate link) we could find and got Dustin’s dad to bring us some firewood. We like the fire pit we got, but we now have a big circle of dead grass so I’d recommend one more like the one in the link. He also brought us a few square hay bales to sit around it and thanks to Facebook, I found out that Harper’s old preschool teacher was needing to get rid of a few more. Score! I bought some cheap plaid flannel fabric in different patterns and used some of it to cover the hay for seating. 

Everyone thought I was crazy when I mentioned we were going to have a fire pit at the party with so many crazy kindergarteners and toddlers around. But this guy (the tall one on the left) is pretty much the best dad ever and spent the whole time manning the fire, keeping it ablaze while keeping little hands out. This was not an easy task. I picked a good husband, you guys.

You also can’t have a camping party without tents (affiliate link). We put ours up and borrowed the other one from my brother, promising to replace it if it were destroyed by said crazy kindergartners and toddlers. I honestly thought they would be all over those suckers but they weren’t nearly as interested as I thought. They preferred to try to injure themselves on the trampoline. Still, I was glad to have the tents because the kids would have asked where they were if we didn’t have them!

So many times I have used my burlap as tablecloths (affiliate link) and afterward said it would be better to just throw it away than to try to wash and reuse it. But once again, I dug out the (clean) burlap and used it as the bottom tablecloth, covered by the rest of the plaid flannel. No, I didn’t iron the burlap and probably should have, but ain’t nobody got time for that. My mom made me a bunch of pine cone garland/swag things (anybody know what these are supposed to be called?) and we hung them from the edges of tables and under the mantle. 

The food for a camping party is also super easy. Remember the fire pit? (affiliate link) Make your guests roast their own hot dogs and you don’t even have to do the cooking! All you need are the roasting sticks! (affiliate link) Unless of course you, like us,  have a bunch of kindergarteners that can’t sit still that long. Then you need a grill.

But I can guarantee they will sit still long enough to roast the marshmallows for their s’mores! Yet another use for the roasting sticks! Also, I have the cutest pictures of all the kids sitting around the fire roasting their marshmallows!

We also set up a cute little make-your-own trail mix station that was quite a hit – Especially with Hudson who could just barely reach to stick his grubby little hands in the Chex Mix. Oh well. He was the only one that wanted Chex Mix anyway!

And the cake! I always get compliments on my cakes, but my decorating skills are completely self-taught and it definitely shows. One day maybe I’ll take a class… but probably not. 

I decorated this thing the night before the party, after the kids went to bed. I was so excited to show it to Harper the next morning and the first thing she pointed out was that I gave it 7 candles (in addition to the “6”). Had to fix that. I guess I needed more sleep. 

I had a few activities planned, but they really had the most fun just running around being kids. As a matter of fact, Harper’s favorite part of the party was when a bunch of the girls all changed into her dress up dresses and came down to “perform” for the adults. I put on “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and they danced their little hearts out. The best was my niece, Nora, who is not quite 3 but was having a blast with the big girls. She was getting down! 

I had a scavenger hunt that a few of them did, but I think they all had more fun just finding the rubber snakes (affiliate link) we had all over the house and backyard!

And the potato sack race was so much fun! I got these potato sacks printed like sleeping bags from Oriental Trading (Not an affiliate link. Again, I’m just saving you some time). I wish I could share pictures of the kids jumping across the yard… and falling in the mud… but instead, I’ll just share the ones of Dustin cheating against me. 

I usually have a slideshow of pictures of Harper through the last year, but since she’s getting a little bit older, I had Ernest Goes to Camp (affiliate link) playing on the TV instead. I’m not really sure what the fuddy-duddies that just hang in the living room actually prefer, but I thought Ernest would be fun. Plus, when was the last time you watched an Ernest movie anyway?!

Also, I have come to love photo props. Most of the time when I come around with my camera everyone shies away. But when you come with a bucket of photo props, no one gives you a hard time! I got a ton of cute ones with the campers, but here’s a few of the fuddy duddies instead.

Also, I obviously love my boats. Remember our pirate ship and Dustin’s wild one boat? I got this river backdrop and cardboard canoe from Oriental Trading (still no affiliation with them), and for once, Dustin didn’t have to build me a boat! Some of the pictures I got (especially of the parents) crack me up!

Before the campers left, we sent them on their way with a hobo bag that I intended to give them earlier in the party and obviously forgot. The binoculars and the flashlights would have been fun for them to play with while they “camped,” I’m sure, but the candy was best sent home with them!

One more of the birthday girl in her third wardrobe change of the night!


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  • Crystal

    Firstly, your family is adorable! Secondly, that’s the cutest party stuff I’ve ever seen! Thirdly, is that a propeller in your den? I ask because I have one too! Mine is from a WWII Glider. I’m so glad to hear you got a collab as a newbie blogger! Don’t feel bad about talking a lot, that’s something else we have in common! The canoe in the rapids thing is probably my favorite, seconded by the trail mix station. Who am I kidding? It’s all adorbs! Great post. I’m subscribing 🙂

    • Jessica

      Yes, it is a prop! Except I’m not sure if ours is real. My husband is a pilot and it was a gift from his mom a long time ago. And I was so excited to collaborate with Ombre Designs! It’s definitely a start! And thanks for subscribing!!!

  • Maya Nelson

    Great post! I felt like I knew a little bit about you by the end of it. What a fun party idea and you really did a wonderful job. I loved all the crafts you did as well. I am sure it was a hit. You are a great writer/storyteller and I really enjoyed your post.

    • Jessica

      Thank you!! I used to say every year that the next year we were doing the party somewhere else. But we all just love it so much that I’ve finally embraced it! This is our thing!

  • Mandy

    What a lovely party!! The idea of using the Christmas trees as decorations- pure genius!! We have had a cookout/camping party for one of my boys. We just cooked hotdogs and did smores over a fire. No fancy decorations.. because boys.. and also we were living in a teeny, tiny house and I wanted to keep the whippersnappers outside lol. The kids loved it! It shocked me that most of the kids (7-8) year olds.. had never roasted smores before.. So they loved the party just for the fire. I will have to check back for your other party posts! You have great decorating skills lady!

    • Jessica

      Thank you so much! And yes, even the girls wouldn’t have cared if I had zero decorations but it was just so much fun! The fire was all we really needed!

  • Kendra @ HeartsandHouseshoes

    This is awesome! I can tell that you definitely put a lot of work into this. I’m sure it’s a memory you will all have for the rest of your lives though. It looks like sooo much fun that I wish I had been there. Have you ever thought about party planning? I bet you would be great at it! It all looks so amazing, but I think my favorite is the ship too. Great job. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jessica

      Thanks! You know, I love the idea of party planning but I think it would stress me out even more to be doing this for someone else!

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