With my sister’s 40th birthday a couple of months away, my brother-in-law and I started tossing around some ideas. Amanda has a classic taste and quickly shot down any notions of a themed party, costumes, etc. Fine by me. I started thinking about her favorite things and how we might incorporate those into a sort of non-theme party to give us some direction. Preppy, monograms, her favorite colors, a capella music, favorite books, television shows and movies from our childhood. Anything we were using had to either fit in my checked luggage or be shipped in advance up to her house. Hmmm….

I wanted to do something bright and cheerful to offset the gray January weather in Massachusetts. Here’s the invitation I designed.

I wasn’t sure if anyone would even see this, but I think it’s hilarious. She told me later someone called it to her attention.

Mom and I rendezvoused at our connecting flight and arrived at my sister’s house ready to help throw a party. The party was on my sister’s actual birthday so my brother-in-law sent her out with friends for a day of fun, while he and other friends picked up the cake and flowers, then rolled up their sleeves and helped us set up for the party.

Store-bought paper medallions in our party colors were embellished with the monogram from the invitation and with a version using “40.”

Old photos were displayed through the downstairs for guests to continue discovering as the night went on. Some pictures were displayed on store-bought photo clips featuring her monogram, while other photo stands were made from wine corks stuck in inexpensive glass candlesticks and topped with paper clips to slip the picture in. I wrapped the corks in green washi tape for added coordination.

I created a series of Always/Never rules to live by called “Wisdom at 40,” as a way to work some of our favorite lines from favorite movies and (even a few inside jokes) into the evening. I knew the birthday girl would “get it” and felt sure some of the guests would have a laugh too.

The “Rules” got funnier to us as the night went on.

BRF is real. My sister and I are lifelong sufferers. Newsflash: You cannot always assume that someone who is not smiling is unhappy or angry. It is, however, safe to assume you will put them in a bad mood if you suggest they smile. Rant over.

There were quite a few other versions displayed throughout the house with old photos. OK, one more…

I totally just put that one in for meanness, and because I plagued my sister with this Olivia Newton-John earworm on and off for weeks before her party. And now she’s reading this post. And talking ugly about me. Aren’t you, Amanda? You’re welcome.

Anything that would stand still got a photo or twelve.

I thought this was funny because of its British origin–not unlike my sister, who was born in England while my Dad served in the Air Force. And because I am so over this trend. Tired of keeping calm. Stick a fork in it, folks. Done.

There were beautiful flowers in several spots,

simple door decor,

initials for the mantel,

custom paper wine charms,

and even a little metal chicken a la Beyonce, made famous by a series of posts from The Bloggess, showed up with her morning coffee.

I don’t know what that chicken is up to these days, but I am sure she is resting comfortably in a place of honor.

My BIL handled the cake and the food, and he did a great job! Dinner was catered with some of their favorites and was delicious. After we ate there was cake, which coordinated with the party colors and featured the birthday girl’s monogram.

When guests left, they each to home a packet of green and blue tissues. You know, to cry about lost youth.

We had a fantastic time with my favorite sister and her family and friends celebrating her 40th birthday!

And if you’re ever in a pinch for a birthday gift idea, remember your 40th is big metal chickens. When you start to look, you see them everywhere! Knock, knock…