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January 20, 2011

How To Balloons

Simon likes to quote a comedian who says, "There are two types of drivers: idiots and maniacs. Everyone who goes slower than me is an idiot, and everyone who goes faster than me is a maniac." That pretty much sums up how I feel about Christmas decorations. If my tree is still out a few weeks after the holiday, my heart is warmed to see other kindred souls embracing the spirit of the season regardless of the calendar and the Valentine's Day displays in the grocery store, but then, as soon as we take down and pack away our Christmas stuff? I drive by a house with a wreath on the door and cheery LED candy canes lining the walk and I tsk tsk at such a sad display of living in the past. I'm only telling you this because Wombat's birthday party was five weeks ago and all those balloons are still hanging from the ceiling beams, and it's okay Because I Said So.

(The Christmas lights and garland are long gone, though.)

A bunch of people have asked about the balloons--balloons! in lines! on the ceiling! with no helium!--so let me tell you about them. It's not hyperbole to say this is the best and cheapest way to party-up a room for any occasion, and if you want to impress your guests while sticking to a budget, you should absolutely do this for your next event.

I've always wanted to cover a ceiling with balloons (I thought about using greens and blues for Wombat's first birthday to go with the ocean theme), but I let that dream float away as soon as I realized how many balloons it takes to fill even a small room, and how much it costs for all that helium. Mere moments after I settled on the balloon-themed non-offensive e-invitation, though, I was struck by a rare moment of creative inspiration, which revealed how I could conflate my love of balloons (I mean Wombat's love of balloons) with the overplayed-and-yet-still-insanely-adorable banner/garland/bunting trend. By Jove, I would hang the balloons upside-down from the ceiling! Eureka! (I seriously never think of stuff like this on my own, and although I'm sure it's been done a thousand times before, I still had to jump back and kiss myself because, dang, this is a good idea.)

(A few months ago I came up with the idea of making life-sized speech bubbles out of plywood and chalkboard paint, and then I Googled my grand, life-changing invention, just to make sure no one else had stolen my million-dollar idea, and within seconds I realized it had not only been done before--and done cheaper and easier than my version, which would have involved tools and hardware and muscles--but it was also the prop of choice for every other wedding and graduation party held in 2010. This is the same thing that happened when I invented the Internet, by the way.)

Anyway, I ordered a 100-pack of balloons for $10 on Amazon, and it took me and my dad about a half hour to blow them all up using a double-action hand pump. (The 11" balloons were a nice big size, and the brand was super high-quality such that only a handful have popped or deflated over the last forty days, during which they've been chilled, heated, hugged, sat on, and batted around by two cats. You might want to make sure none of your guests have latex allergies, though.) Before we strung them from the ceiling, we let Wombat crash around in them for a few hours, which was a party in and of itself.

I didn't know what I was going to hang the balloons with (fishline? string? twine?) or how (tie the line around each balloon's knot every so many inches?), but what ended up working (and being super fast and super simple) was cheapo white sewing thread. I used a needle to draw the thread through one side of each balloon's loose end, i.e., the part that hangs down after the knot. (Important note: If you sew the thread through two layers of the latex, things get all tangled up and stuck; I learned this the hard way.) I strung a dozen balloons of the same color on each line, and ten minutes later they were ready to hang. (Stringing balloons together like this is also a great way to transport them if you have to inflate them off-site before a party. You can also use the threading method to tie together giant bunches of balloons if you like that look.)

We attached each end of the thread to the wall using thumbtacks. I was planning to just eyeball the placement, but my father the mathematically minded perfectionist got out a measuring tape and carried the one and divided by pi and made sure that each row of balloons was placed such that it was pleasing to the eye of the arithmetic gods and the ghost of Archimedes. Once the strings were up, the balloons easily slid back and forth along the thread until they were all evened out. Against our white ceiling, the thread disappeared and the effect was mighty impressive, if I do say so myself (and I do). That's why they're still hanging, five weeks later.

When the ceiling fan is on to circulate heat from the fireplace, the balloons bump and sway and look so pretty that I think I might never take them down. They also help sustain the fantasy that a party might break out any second. If/when it does, I'll be ready for it.


I love this! It is beautiful. Also, my daughter and I both have latex allergies and I always have to tell her that she can't have balloons at her parties. I think she can have them next year if I could get my husband to string them up, it would be a great way to allow balloons at her party. Out of reach!

I love this idea! Considering stealing it for Avery's 2nd birthday party...

This is awesome. I'm considering stealing it for myself. For no reason whatsoever. My birthday's a year away, but I want some happy balloons, dammit!

Nicely done, Ms. L. Nicely done.

My favorite part of the video is when it sounds like Wombat is saying, "Outta mah WAY..." as he runs towards the camera.

Your sewing thread was a good idea. I'd have figured they were just taped to the ceiling with scotch tape and you spent a lot of time going up and down on a ladder.

Balloons are SUCH a party thing, but I don't think they have to be. I'm seriously considering moving these to our guest room, just to liven thing up a bit in there. I bet they'll look extra cool with the pitched roof...

This rules! I have no new ideas for what to do with my next kid party since was stupid this year and did both a bunting and tissue poms. Thanks for sharing how you strung them up.

Tape was my original idea, but I worried about it staying stuck. I think it was my dad who actually suggested a needle and thread.

This is such a genius idea. I bow before you, madam. Don't be surprised when you come to my housewarming party and I've stolen it point blank.

Faaaaaabulous! I love this. I will never do it, because I am unbelievably lazy, but I LOVE it and admire you for making it happen so ingeniously.

(Also, hooray for full-feed in my feed reader!)

Love it!!

I had what I thought was an amazing and original idea two nights ago involving Shrinky Dinks. I made sketches and notes! To find out if I could find the supplies I need Right Away I did a search for Shrinky Dink and the very first image was of someone using them for exactly the purpose I intended. I thought insomnia had finally paid off, but, no.

I'm playing a sad trombone for you, Melissa. *whomp whomp* :(

Now tell me about your brilliant idea!

I love this idea! I never would have thought of the needle and thread.
(Also, it warms my heart to hear of other perfectionist dads. My dad is currently helping me build shelves and it has turned into a Thing that involves plans and drawings and precise measurements and ohmygod DAD I just want simple shelves in my closet, thankyouverymuch.)

Hillary--Everything with my dad is A Thing. The best example was when I had to record some numbers off our house's water meter for a school project when I was about ten, and instead of just showing me where the numbers were on the pump, I got the entire history of energy technology plus a tour of our sewer system. And then he got annoyed that I got annoyed, because I should have been grateful for all the information I totally didn't care about. That said, he could build a hell of a pinewood derby racer!

I'm seriously stepping out the door for my birthday dinner but needed to comment (about your FULL FEED, and) how much I love the balloons.

Oh god. I have a balloon phobia (latex only, not mylar; I know) and while I can admit that they're pretty, the thought of standing there, under DOZENS OF BALLOONS, makes my heart race. My poor children have been deprived of balloons at their birthday parties for their entire lives. I can't even watch the video of your kid playing with the balloons.

But yes! They're pretty and festive...as long as I don't have to actually see them in person.

Loved this post. Thanks for the pictures and the great idea.

This is totally the best.

I love it! Jack's birthday is in April and I'm totally keeping this in mind for his party!

Awesome. When I saw those balloons I thought it looked like way too much work for me. But, now that you shared your secret I'm thinking I could do something like that for the 2 yr birthday coming up in my own house.

You THREADED them? I never would have guessed. That's genius.

i was thinking..how long is it going to take me to tie all those knots...
Genius! A needle and a thread!

Oh I am SO doing this!! Love love....
I hope you don't mind if I share this amazing idea on our blog. :)

LOVE this! Genius!!! I posted a picture of the ones we did on my blog today with a link to your post. Thanks!

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