As the school year dawns, my daughter's birthday approaches. She's an end of August child, making her the youngest in her class. But, unlike my own birthday at the start of summer, she gets to celebrate her birthday outside most of the time.

It's a wonderful time of year for a party, and we've planned pirate parties, craft parties, zoo parties, pool parties, petting farm parties. I enjoy the planning probably more than she does the event. However, as she gets older, she wants less of Mom and more of her own influence on the party planning.

Still, she likes to have ideas from which to choose. My work usually introduces me to many interesting people, which has influenced some of the themes. If you are looking for something, check out Martha Stewart's Web site, which has plenty of good ideas (and they don't have to be as perfect as hers).

I'm a huge fan of Birthday Express, which can package all your party needs together, but Christmas Tree Shops is also a good source of party gifts and ideas. I frequent Target and Michael's for goodies for the gift bags.

Finally, no party would be complete without a pinata. But don't buy the packaged pinata candy from the store, it tends to be old and may have been sitting on a hot truck for a long period of time. Clip your coupons and shop sales. Dollar Stores and Big Lots are also good spots for inexpensive candy.

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Tags: Erie, birthday, gift, girl, ideas, parties, party, pinata, summer


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 CHRISTMAS CRAFT SHOW AND BAKE SALE: Saturday, Nov. 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 4376 West Lake Road; crafts, Greek foods. Cost: Free admission. Info: 838-8808.

Celebrating Erie Arts & Culture: Saturday, Nov. 7, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Experience Children's Museum, 420 French St.; performances of "Honk" by Erie Playhouse performers throughout the day, visit with Musical Petting Zoo from the Erie Philharmonic, learn about Erie history and Flagship Niagara, more. Cost: $7.

Painting the Penguins: Saturday, Nov. 7, 6-8 p.m.; Erie Zoo, 423 W. 38th St.; paint a penguin on canvas with a real penguin as your guide; for adults. Cost: $30; $28 members; registration required. Info:, 864-4091.

Welcoming Winter Wildlife: Saturday, Nov. 7, 10:30-11:30 a.m.; Asbury Woods Nature Center, 4105 Asbury Road; learn how to make your backyard more welcoming to winter wildlife. Cost: $5; $3 members. Info:

'HONK!': Fridays, Nov. 13 and 20, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, Nov. 14 and 21, 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sundays, Nov. 15 and 22, 2 p.m.; Erie Playhouse, 13 W. 10th St.; Youtheatre performs adaptation of "The Ugly Duckling." Cost: $14. Info: 454-2852, Ext. 0,


WQLN Holiday Craft Show: Friday, Nov. 13, 1-6 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 14 and 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Rainbow Gardens, Waldameer Park & Water World; more than 100 local crafters, free pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, entertainment by Erie County Clarinet Choir. Cost: One day, $3.50; weekend pass, $5; children younger than 12, free. Info:


Parents Night Out: Friday, Nov. 13, 6-9 p.m.; Erie Zoo, 423 W. 38th St.; drop children ages 4 to 12 at the zoo for pizza dinner, games, movie, carousel rides and a walk on zoo grounds. Cost: $18 per child; $15 per child for members; each additional child from the same family, $15; $11 members; preregistration required. Info:, 864-4091.

 Erie Zoo Animal Art Show, Sale: Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 21 and 22, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Erie Zoo, 423 W. 38th St.; small animal painting demonstrations; purchase framed art and other items painted by zoo animals. Cost: Free admission for patrons who enter through the Education Entrance. Info:


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