Celebrating 80 years

This past weekend we were in Manhattan, KS, for almost 5 days to celebrate my Grandpa Max’s 80th birthday!!


We had so much fun hanging out with all of our extended family at the hotel, a toast and roast dinner for Max on Friday, a family BBQ/K-state watch party on Saturday, the reception on Sunday afternoon that nearly 230 people attended (!!!!), and especially at the donut food truck in Aggieville. Who wouldn’t love a macaroni and cheese grilled cheese sandwich?


But it wasn’t all fun and games…and donuts. The centerpieces for the reception on Sunday were my assignment. I struggled with what to do for at least a month! I wanted them to be personal, but there aren’t exactly a lot of ideas on Pinterest for an 80 year old man’s birthday party!

I finally decided that displaying family pictures might be the best option. I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to display them and collecting so many pictures, but I think they turned out great!


So here’s how they came together. First we cut a 4 x 6 into 6″ pieces (we borrowed a miter saw for this since our circular won’t go all the way through, leaving a weird ridge on the ends.)


Treated lumber isn’t exactly pretty, so I used a light gray paint and a cheap natural bristle brush to dry-brush every side of the block. (Dip a cheap chip brush in the paint, wipe excess on paper towel, and apply with light, quick strokes.)

photo 2

They still looked like rustic blocks of wood, but without the unsightly green tinge of treated lumber.

photo 1

For the focal point, I created pinwheels out of 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper. Here’s the tutorial I used from Dream Green DIY.  I didn’t follow it exactly since mine were double sided, so here are a few tips (which probably won’t make sense if you haven’t read the tutorial):

  1. I cut my paper into 4″ wide strips and used the 3 pieces to create one pinwheel. It looked full enough and used less paper. I folded each strip in half, then each half in half, and so on to keep my pleats a consistent size.
  2. To secure the pinwheels and keep them flat, I glued small pieces of wooden dowel on each side using super glue (short enough that they’d be covered by the circle). Hot glue also works, but is a bit messier and takes longer to dry.
  3. I used double sided tape to secure my sections of pleated paper together. Use 3M Scotch brand! Duck brand doesn’t hold!
  4. When securing the first strip to the last to complete the circle, I overlapped several pleats (with the last pleat facing down/in so you didn’t see a cut edge) leaving an untaped pocket in the middle to insert a dowel to hold it up.


My awesome graphic designer brother created a medallion for the middle that I printed out and glued in the center on both sides. White background on purple pinwheels…


And a purple background for the gray pinwheels. We went with purple as the main color because K-State is the sports team of choice for the Bayer family!


As for the pictures around the outside, I collected over 100 pictures from family’s Facebook pages, old pictures that were scanned and emailed, and my Grandma’s Kodak Pulse account. I had them printed so they would be on nice photo paper, and then cut them and attached them to the paper backings using re-positionable glue dots. Not as cheap as a glue stick, but much faster and way less messy! (4×6 prints are the cheapest, but I knew most of those would be too big so I edited them first to have some white space on the bottom and one side! Glad I did. I wouldn’t have had room for 6 to 8 pictures per block otherwise!)


I had initially intended to display the pictures on wires, but any wire thick enough to hole up the picture came in rolls, so it was kinked when it was unrolled! Hence, the wooden dowels!

Andrew helped me drill holes in the blocks: one in the center for the pinwheel and 6 to 8 holes for the pictures. (I had already organized the pictures and decided on the groupings for each block.)


Another tip here: We drilled the first few holes at an angle away from the center thinking this would allow more room for pictures. We quickly realized this caused each picture to tilt forward, making it difficult to see. It worked much better to drill the holes almost straight up and down.

Next, I cut a bunch of dowels into smaller lengths and used “gel control” super glue to attach a mini clothespin to the top of each one. We found the dowels and clothespins at Hobby Lobby. I couldn’t tell you what section since the whole store is the “craft section!”


Arranging them was the time-consuming part. I thought I’d be able to glue all the dowels and then put the centerpieces together, but it really worked better to do one centerpiece at a time so I could cut the exact length of dowels I needed to make each block’s pictures work together.


I did the blocks in loose themes, like travel (they travel a lot!)…


Important events with grandkids, Max and Sue (my grandparents) through the years…


Family, Wind River Ranch (a guest ranch we all went to together for 5 years in a row), etc.


The final touch was a square of purple fabric under each block. I bought 2 yards of a cheap broadcloth and cut it with a rotary cutter (thanks to my awesome sister-in-law) for clean edges. I thought it added a bit more presence to each centerpiece and helped it pop off the white tablecloth.

We sprinkled a few extras around the room, too.



Another relative had sent me old pictures of Max. I wanted everyone to be able to see them, so I arranged them in vases (using white beans as the filler…cheap and cute!) at the entrance of the party room where people could look at them as they waited in line to sign the guest book.


Apparently, there was even one photo that Max himself had never seen! I call that a win.

The centerpieces were also pretty easy to travel with since everything was detachable. I wrote out the order of the pictures for each block on a sticky note, stuck it to the block, labeled hole #1, and then put all the pictures (still on their dowels) in file folders lined up in a box. It made it really easy for other people to help me put them back together!

The party was so much fun, and I really think the centerpieces were a huge hit! I noticed several people throughout the party pluck a picture out of its block and carry it off to show somebody. My perfectionistic side wanted to scream, but I realized I should take it as a compliment that people were looking at the pictures and wanted to interact with the centerpieces! Can’t say that about a boring flower centerpiece!


All in all, it was a great weekend with family! I really had a lot of fun looking through the old pictures and I’m glad I got to be a part of making the day special for my sweet Grandpa. Happy 80th birthday, Grandpa Max, and here’s to many more!!

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2 Responses to Celebrating 80 years

  1. Shelly (the neighbor on Cherokee Cove) :) October 31, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    LOVE these centerpieces!! And how cool that you went to Manhappiness!! I went to school at Manhattan Christian College, along with K-State for three years. Though I truly am a KU Jayhawk fan, Manhattan will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart!!

    • Simple House Expressions November 7, 2014 at 11:39 am #

      Thanks! 🙂 Haha, well I suppose we can forgive you for being a Jayhawk fan. We really enjoyed being in Manhattan! It’s changed so much (for the better, I think!)