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Our New Year's Eve Survivor Party

Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013 in: Nerd Life

I’ve always loved a house party more than going out to a club. I like knowing the people there and getting to know the newcomers. I love those late night, long conversations sitting on the kerb under the streetlight feeling like the badass 15-year-old I never was. I love not having to wait 45 minutes to get a drink while the bartender serves everyone and his mother before you. And unlike the sofas in nightclubs that have seen God-knows-what over the years, with house parties I like that you can fall asleep on someone’s couch without fear of getting chlamydia.

When no major Perth New Year's Eve ideas surfaced this year, Mr House Nerd and I decided to throw a Survivor NYE house party. We asked two of my friends – massive fans of the show who actually went on a Survivor-inspired honeymoon to Palau last year – if they'd like to host with us. It was a BLAST. They say the devil is in the detail... so I thought I would share some photos of our party preparations. For me, half the fun of a party is always the planning, brainstorming and styling.

ABOVE LEFT: I made a voting pen by sticky-taping bubblewrap and paper around a Sharpie and painting it haphazardly. ABOVE RIGHT: The African tribal mask I pinched from my dad's study and hung in our garden. The signs were super-easy to make, as you can probably tell! BOTTOM RIGHT: We wanted to serve Survivor-inspired food - we put out fruit, choc chip cookies (they always have cookies as rewards, right?) filled a watermelon with alcohol, and made a pot of stew served with crusty bread.

ABOVE: My sister Simone helped me make these buffs for all the contestants (they were a bit too expensive from eBay). When each contestant arrived we asked them to pick a team by choosing a buff and then I branded their arms with their names in permanent marker. To the quiet guy called Justin I accidentally branded Justine, I'm really sorry. I was drunk.

ABOVE LEFT: Simone with the immunity idol we made for the winning tribe of each challenge. We made it out of a cardboard mask from Spotlight, string and a wrapping paper roll. ABOVE RIGHT: I decided our house should be given a Survivoresque island name. "ICHICABUNA" came to mind but it was only after I wrote it on the invitations that it sounded like a slang term for an STD. Nevertheless... I hung it underneath our old dragon tree because it kind of looks tropical and exotic.

ABOVE: Some fierce Survivors... that's me in the middle, with brown hair and uh, showing teeth.

ABOVE: Hanging up one-dollar paper lanterns in the garden. It's good to have tall model friends especially when you are stumpy-legged and short.

ABOVE: We lit the garden with $15 fairy lights from The Reject Shop and $3 flares from Bunnings. Bonus was that the citronella from the flares discouraged the mozzies from being in the garden - they all went inside the house instead.

ABOVE: My lovely photographer friend Crystal Patterson somehow always manages to make even iPhone pics look enchanting, like this one of our lantern tree. We lit all the lanterns and got these huge paper stars from IKEA for $9 each. They are Christmas decorations, but aren't they pretty for New Year's too? They lit the garden really well too.

We've had a few house parties here at The Crap Shack since we first moved in and I’d always thought a Survivor party would be awesome, even though I never watched a season properly until recently. Mr House Nerd has been a fan for ages and finally I watched the first episode of Season 25 with him. One hour later, I was hooked. Ohhh, Malcolm! Mr House Nerd and I danced around the house when he won immunity and I think I wailed out loud when he was outed by Denise, Skupin and Lisa. We wanted the “What would Jesus look like playing Survivor?” nice guy to win so badly.

The idea we came up with for the party was to divide the guests into two teams and have a series of challenges or games through the night. Because doing tribal councils and voting people out would have been too lengthy and complicated, we decided that at the end of the party every guest would vote on who they thought deserved to win - whether that be because of that person’s mad giant Jenga skills or their impressively loud Hawaiian shirt (there were a lot of Hawaiian shirts. And shorts. And a guy in alarming Hawaiian print pyjamas that he kept insisting weren’t pyjamas).

ABOVE: We set up our garden for challenges, marking a circle on the lawn with white sand. We deliberately killed our lawn to give it that genuine rough Survivor look. Or the sprinklers broke and there was a Perth heat wave. The white paper lanterns were a dollar each from eBay and I think I will reuse them in our wedding.

ABOVE: A Survivor party has to have an urn for collecting the votes! I used this tea jar - I glued twigs on it and wrapping string around it before painting it roughly. Yes essentially I destroyed it.

ABOVE: The 'tribal council' set up outside on one of our old school desks. To the survivor who voted for, "the hot girl with the tight body and the bangin' boobs" sorry we couldn't figure out who you meant.

ABOVE LEFT: My sister gave me this skull mug from England years ago. On the night I was too tipsy to remember to use it. The vintage tiki mugs I got from eBay - coconut cups were too expensive. ABOVE RIGHT: I bought this snake and his insect friend at Melville Markets from two middle-aged ladies having a clear-out. They looked at me funny when I asked how much they were (the middle-aged ladies, not the snake and the insect). They laughed when I explained that they were for a Survivor-themed party. (And they were 50 cents). BOTTOM LEFT: Two of our awesome friends brought these fresh coconuts filled with rum and pina colada mix. They were divine. I had two. Maybe I will make this my signature drink now, like Bond and his vodka martini. BOTTOM RIGHT: I bought this very cool skull bowl for $2 from the markets (another seller who gave me a bemused look!) We filled it with Doritos. And it's something you can totally use it again, like at Halloween, or your first baby shower.

ABOVE: That’s me on the left with my sister Simone, who came as Lillian Morris, the Scout Troop survivor known for wearing her uniform. She actually still fit into her childhood Scout uniform. I bought Wayne Cooper shorts from the markets for $5, $2 white singlet that I cut up a little and a one dollar necklace. I know, I know, "markets' is a key word on this blog! Expect to see it a lot more often too :) Dog was from Gumtree however.

The person with the most votes would be the ultimate survivor, and score a bottle of whisky or a load of Lindt. One of our co-host friends would come as Jeff and announce the challenges throughout the night and then at the end read out the votes and announce that the tribe had spoken, while snuffing out a flare of course.

Initially we thought maybe 25 people would come. Then after people seemed to get really into the idea, we figured (not without a touch of panic!) that it might just reach 50. On the night we counted 73 all up. That’s a lot of people for our backyard! But it was a blast and the night went really well – our biggest house party yet and maybe our best. 

For me, half the fun in having a party is doing all the planning and prop-finding and styling. For this one, I bought things on eBay and at the rotary markets… lots of weird bits and pieces with the idea of giving the party as much of a tribal, island kind of feel... well as much as you can when the venue is a backyard in Perth with lavender bushes and a Hills Hoist.

PROPS GALORE: I picked up cheap 'props' from the markets to try to give our yard a tribal-inspired island look. We made a staff for Jeff from things in this pic so he could snuff out flares and announce that the tribe had spoken.

ABOVE: Spotlight supplies that we turned into props - like this tree face... it looks amazing at night! The mask sort of melts into the bark and when it's lit up just up just a little it looks really spooky. I've actually left it up in the tree, partly because I am short, partly because I am lazy.

ABOVE: Simone, mid-craft, helping me make Survivor props. At my dining table. Do you see why I need a craft room? There is no room for dining on this dining table. And I am pretty sure I dipped my paintbrush into my cup of coffee and drank my painting water.

RECYCLING: This old garden bench I'd had since I was 15 met its maker at our second-last party while an unfortunate (and actually very tiny) guest was sitting on it. So for the Survivor party I recycled the bench into signs. I gave the wood a worn, dirty look with murky brown and black paint. Ichicabuna is the name Igave to our island (a la our backyard).

If you are thinking just a little bit, “Oh, a Survivor party sounds like a fun party theme” – HAVE ONE! You will not regret it. Your friends will love it. You can borrow my props.

The best bit about the party was that everyone came ready to get into it, and the challenges acted as icebreakers. I was a bit worried initially about a few guests there not knowing anyone else and I wanted them to have a good time. But I think the challenges made it easier for people they didn’t know, and people really mingled.
Plus the challenges were really fun! I think when you get older, and become more staid and serious, it’s nice to do something ridiculous, to indulge your silly side. It’s fun to let loose and play silly games and scream and try to pop other people’s balloons. I don’t know why party games are just for kids. I want to play party games at all my parties from now on. Happy New Year house nerds, hope yours was just as fun.

ABOVE: We take Polaroids at all our parties. Mr House Nerd gave me a Fujifilm Polaroid camera our first Christmas together. It's been one of the best presents I've ever received. We only use it for parties and special occasions. I love Polaroids. I like that there's no erasing that moment. Especially when we live in a time when shouts of, "NO! Delete that one! My eyelids look squishy and I look like a mole" are not uncommon after a digital photo (and hey I am well guilty of proclaiming statements like that myself, having squishy eyes and frequently looking like a mole). Plus I don't know why, but there is something HAPPY about a Polaroid. It reminds me of the old photos in my parents' photo albums... often more special in a way. (And everyone's skin always looks amazing in Polaroids!)

ABOVE LEFT: Our Polaroid pantry door in the kitchen. Sometimes I feel like we should do something more creative with how we display the photos (there are so many creative ideas on Pinterest) other times I like it so much I think if we moved house I would just remove the door and take it with us.

ABOVE LEFT: A Survivor-esque centrepiece on our rock table in our garden. ABOVE RIGHT: The good thing about having a party where you buy lots of bananas that no-one eats? You can use them for healthy morning after banana smoothies. Perfect hangover food.

ABOVE: This is one of my favourite photos of the party - it captures it! These are my lovely friends Enid and Tung at countdown - we passed out sparklers to everyone. It was a magical party moment, 70 people in our yard, chanting and waving sparklers... okay that sounds like a cult, but you get what I mean.

Love to hear what you did for New Year’s – I only just felt fully recovered myself about three days ago! I'll do another post on the challenges we played soon.

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