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Hunting for Birthday Treasure…

This past monday, my husband celebrated his 31st birthday, and we got an extra special present in the form of our nephew being born! So as birthdays go it probably is pretty high, but hopefully last years birthday still holds a special place in his heart as it was the ‘Year of the Birthday Treasure Hunt’! We had just moved to NYC, away from family and friends, it was a ‘big’ birthday and well, David can be a bit funny about birthdays in general, so I knew I had to do something special. At some point I had come across yet another adorable idea from Oh Happy Day and her great birthday surprise and it had stuck in my head as a great way to involve all of David’s family and friends back in England. Logistics, timing and various scenarios meant this project snowballed into quite a different project which worked out in a way I never could have expected…an adventure birthday hunt around the city, with clues and presents along the way ending with a poster of birthday messages from around the globe. This day/project/birthday had a lot of elements to it, none of which I want to fall by the wayside, but it’s all a bit of a mouthful so please bear with me as I try and go through it all. I’ve included a full rundown at the end, not for the faint of heart!

The Adventure Hunt, Messages & Poster (aka the setup)

1. I setup a topsecret email address away from prying eyes about a month and a half before the big day and set out begging for peoples memories, stories, pictures, drawings…ANYTHING to make David’s day better. Then I sent email after email chasing submissions!

2. Meanwhile I was arranging ‘the day/advenutre’ portion of it…David’s parents were making the trip over to the US for his birthday, so I also invited my dad, stepmom, brother and sister-in-law from the surrounding states to make a day trip up. This turned David’s birthday into a small reunion for people who don’t get to see each other often, a tourist trip for people who don’t live in NYC as well as a birthday. Whew. I started brainstorming EVERY day on the way to and from work about what people would like to see, where they would like to go and how I could link them all together. I think in some sort of post-traumatic-stress disorder from it, it all it goes a bit hazy after that, but after much to-ing and fro-ing I settled on locations and started researching facts and clues about each place (useless knowledge and trivia about cities, or well anything, is like catnip to me, so this portion was sort of like a present to myself).

3. With about a week to go, I started compiling all the submissions from family and friends and started laying out on an A1 layout (for US’ers thats approimately 8 pieces of letter sized paper). It was all going to get cut up, but I ignored where all those lines would be so it would be puzzle-like. In a separate document I started making my clues and hints in a completely different colour pattern so the two sides wouldn’t get confused as they were two separate, albeit parallel things. I made the clues (see above) in all different shapes and sizes but filled each design page completely.

4. At the time I didnt have a printer, so I took it off to Staples for an unnecessarily eyewatering cost considering the lack of quality, but it came out acceptable. Of course right after I had it printed, I had three of David’s best friends FINALLY return their submissions. I couldn’t afford (or wouldn’t!) to get it reprinted but also didn’t want to miss out on these messages which actually led me to one of my favourite parts of the poster-3d pullouts (see above)! I found areas that were filled with lines or deadspace and created fold out cards to hold the extra messages!

5. I now had 8 pieces of A3 paper, so I glued the clues pages to the back of the poster message pages and then holding my breath started cutting out the clues, ignoring what I could be cutting through on the other side on the messages side. Now I had a bunch of irregular clues pages, with abstract bits of message on the other side, but when arranged formed the poster of messages!

The Day

David’s parents were staying with us and I had informed David we would be going out to see New York City with them and gave them a time I wanted to be out of the house by…just five minutes after the time I had given my Dad & Stepmum to arrive at our apartment! This is where slight behind-the-scenes pandemonium ensued. Unbeknownst to David, my family was having MAJOR issues finding a parking spot (it was marathon weekend) and had been circling the neighborhood for over an hour and a half. In fact both parties had driven by us when we were out with the dog! It hindered timing slightly but all things considered it was the only minor blip! Anyway, after surprising David at the door, we headed down the street to the location that ‘Deals in the currency of the celebrities’…I’ll give you a second. Currency: Bucks. Celebrities: Stars….Starbucks! I know heading to Starbucks on an adventure hunt…how exciting. BUT it was exciting that my brother and sister-in-law were waiting inside (in the warmth!) so David walked by doing a double take and then finally our little group was all present to get started.

From there we walked from movie location spotting on the Upper West Side into central park, receiving clues and riddles along the way. Occasionally the clue was ‘for a pie piece’ (a nod to Trivial Pursuit) and those resulted in a gift (which I was carrying in my totebag of tricks). Eventually we found ourselves outside Top of The Rock (Rockefeller Center) with tickets for all of us to go up to the observation deck. Lunch around the corner and then outside to find a limo waiting for us to transport 8 people painlessly around the rest of our journey.

David was tested on his special agent skills when forced to ‘crack a safe’ at a local bag drop to find his gift from me, a watch. From there he had to use the time on his stopped watch, to get the address of a location on 5th avenue ( my work) and use his new binoculars (a gift from his parents earlier) to see into the seventh floor window. ‘The Bronx is up…’ and the Battery is down! And that’s where we headed to show off David’s work area and then finally a drop off back home for tea and cake and the final surprise. David finally got all his completed clues back to turn over and complete the puzzle for a big birthday message!

Thanks to everyone who was involved, it turned out amazingly well and David was so pleased! Of course my 30th next April is looking a bit daunting for him and who knows how I’m going to deal with his 40th?!?! Around the world in a hot air balloon?! Currently accepting ideas at hello@pillarboxpost.com


Sweet View

London visitors rejoice, for your souvenir quest is over…Jack Noel from Sweet View contacted me a few days ago regarding his fine art prints that were born from a sketchbook diary that he used throughout 2009 to draw whatever was around him on a daily basis. I love the limited and unexpected colour palettes and would love to have such a personal viewpoint on a print, but unfortunately I don’t have much of a relationship with any of these areas (I’m a west London girl), but OH WAIT! They are still considering locations for the remaining six inner London boroughs and would like your help choosing them. Plus there is a chance to win a free print if they choose your location, win/win!

To enter the competition just email Sweet View (or leave a comment here  and I’ll pass it on… I’d love to see your requests!) with a suggestion of a location in Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, Islington, Camden, Greenwich or Lewisham which Jack can draw. Their favourite suggestion for each borough will win a free print of your choice. The closing date for entries is 31 January 2011.

Sweet View Prints £28 each
There is a limited print run on each picture of 200 copies and each one is signed and numbered by the artist. Sweet View pictures are printed on high quality paper in A2 size (594 x 420mm).


Back to my desk…

Oh here we go again…a trite ritual, but any excuse I can get to think about my desk or school supplies is a good day. Here’s my 2010 roundup of things I’d like to use on my desk. I’m noting a strong theme in repurposing items, like laboratory test tubes/beakers (thanks to an old Blueprint article that got me hooked on having test tube blocks to hold my writing utensils) and my latest thing is using old barber bottles/straw holders as a pencil holder. I used to have a vintage straw holder from my great grandma. oh if only my 11 year old self would have seen into the future, I could have saved myself a few pounds!


ONE. pencil holder from French by Design etsy shop || TWO leather mason bag from museum of useful things $76 USD || THREE world map from these are things $75.00 USD || FOUR engraved glass jars by Pale and Interesting from £14.95 || FIVE metal shelf tags from present and correct || SIX laboratory vase from urban outfitters $18 USD – thanks to eatdrinkchic || SEVEN kraft address labels from paper pastries $10.00 || EIGHT test tube rack $23.49 || NINE pencil dispenser from museum of useful things $18 USD || TEN antique storage files from threepotatofourshop $35.00 || ELEVEN experimental beaker from Anthropologie £8.00 || TWELVE letterpress number clips £9.50 || THIRTEEN striped masking tape £5.95 || FOURTEEN Box of six japanese masking tape from papermash £16.95  ( I just purchased some japanese masking tape from papermash and it turned up with some gorgeous tags! I can’t wait to use it!) || FONT Mrs. Strange from da font – thanks to eatdrinkchic for the font heads up!