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.