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How to Host a Back-to-School Party

September 25, 2013

Every other week, Anna Hezel talks about the innovations, decorations, and other quiet touches that make a party memorable.

Today: All the best snacks and crafts for celebrating the back-to-school season.

A Back-to-School Party on Food52

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Even though I am more or less an adult, every year when summer begins to dwindle, I get the back-to-school bug. I long for fresh notebooks, Elmer's glue, and a new pair of sneakers; carefully-planned bagged lunches filled with Fluffernutter sandwiches, cheesy crackers, and miniature juice boxes.

There's something undeniably optimistic about the season, which promises new friends, discoveries, and intellectual endeavors. And we non-students are not immune to this optimism.

This year, my friend Gaby and I decided to do something about it. We hosted a back-to-school-themed party for our like-minded friends, complete with classroom-themed decor (a textbook table-runner and paper airplane garland -- see how to make them both below!) and some of our favorite childhood snacks. Although our guests all happened to be 20-something-year-old Brooklynites, this party idea could be easily adapted for a kid-friendly event.

The Menu
- Apple Rye Punch
- Concord grape punch (a variation on the Concord Crush from Gramercy Tavern)
- Cheese crackers (take your pick!)
- Party Mix for Grownups
- Ants on logs
- Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats (or improvise your own cereal treat)
- Saltine Toffee

Textbook Table-Runner

As we were planning our party, I saw this idea on a lot of craft blogs. It seemed like a perfect way to repurpose old textbooks, which are otherwise pretty useless after a few years. I picked mine up at a used bookstore for $1. If you don't have a fancy paper edge punch, you can also use scalloped-edge craft scissors.

- an old hardcover textbook
- a paper edge punch, like this one
- Scotch tape

1. Slowly and carefully, pull the cover of the textbook away from the block of pages. You'll be left with a stack of pages, bound together with glue along the spine. The pages will probably be glued in little groups of 16. Firmly grasp one of these little sections, and gently pull it away from the glue of the spine. Once it has been pulled away, unfold it. You will have a stack of 8 two-page spreads attached together with a little bit of glue. Carefully pull these apart from one another.

2. Trim the edges that are furthest away from the fold with your edge punch.

3. Lay the pages out in a long line, and tape them together using the tape. Turn the runner over so that the tape is face-down on the table.

Paper Airplane Garland

This was such an easy decoration to make and gave the party a civilized dose of color. I used four very similar shades of blue for an ombre effect.

- a piece of baker's twine or other string, about 10-15 feet long
- scissors
- Elmer's glue
- paper

1. Cut paper into squares that are about 4 x 4 inches. Cut the squares in half diagonally, creating two identical triangles.

2. Fold the triangle in half symmetrically, creating two smaller triangles. Fold each triangle in half in the opposite direction, towards the original fold. No you have a little paper airplane. Repeat until you have 10-12 airplanes.

3. Glue to the twine by placing a little bit of glue in one of the folds on the bottom of the airplane, laying some twine across it, and allowing the glue to dry for about 10 minutes.

What would you serve at a back-to-school party? Tell us in the comments!

Photos by Anna Hezel

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Anna Hezel

Written by: Anna Hezel


rizzle October 7, 2013
What is the ice in the punch? That looks lovely (and tasty)!
Anna H. October 8, 2013
Thanks! It's just some lime slices frozen into ice (using a bowl as a mold).
Kristen M. September 26, 2013
This is so much fun -- nice work Anna (& Gaby)! I hope you guys made extra paper airplanes to fly during the party, to make sure they were structurally sound.
Anna H. September 30, 2013
Thanks, Kristen! If only we had thought of that...
Amanda H. September 25, 2013
I must have a paper edge punch right NOW.
Anna H. September 25, 2013
I am really excited about it. Other things I can't wait to use it for: gift-wrap, stationery, "How to Just Make Your Phone Bills Look Fancier Instead of Paying Them"...
Valerie S. September 25, 2013
Very cute. Though ants on a log sounds like the grossest flavor combination ever. Though I suppose I should not talk, since my favorite childhood sandwich was cream cheese with Bacon Bits.
Anna H. September 25, 2013
Ants on a log are completely inexplicable to me, because celery should not taste good with peanut butter and raisins, and yet...
Marian B. September 25, 2013
This is so cool.
Anna H. September 25, 2013
Thanks, Marian!