January 21, 2011

Throwing a Firefly Shindig

You can have a spectacular Firefly themed shindig even if you don't have a floating chandelier or a spaceship.  You just need time, a lot of fabric, props, helpful friends, and talented folks!  That's not so hard, right?  Right.

Photo by Dina Kampmeyer
I only decided about three weeks before my 30th birthday that I wanted to have a big shindig.  I asked around for ideas, but the answer was there the whole time.  Firefly.  I wanted to go themed.  I wanted it to be wonderful and maybe slightly over the top.  I sent out an invite and encouraged people to wear costumes.  That was the easiest part.  Soon I dug into hours of clicking through screen caps and thinking about costumes and props.  I settled on an Inara's shuttle theme for the living room, some ship parts throughout the rest of the house, and a bar area in the backyard called the Maidenhead (yeah, the bar from the pirate party is still up).  It was a bit ambitious.  Or crazy.

I started with sketches.  Then I made the wish list of every prop and decoration I would want.  I debated between a Kaylee coveralls costume and something Inara inspired (I'm obsessed with the peach dress she wears throughout the series).  I got distracted by costumes and read about multiple ones for many more hours than I should have.  I made a food and drink list.  Oh, and somewhere in there I took a day to watch the show and movie again.  I was only going to watch one or two episodes; six hours later I figured, why stop?  It is the ultimate research after all.

My house was in a state of chaos the week leading up to the party.  We moved furniture, removed pictures from the walls, and boxed things up.  Theme parties are serious business.  I made list after list, ran a painful amount of errands, and prepped what I could in advance.  The real work came when my slaves friends arrived on the day of the party.  We furiously stapled fabric to wood beams that were barely attached to the walls (please don't tell my landlords).  I baked a cake while amazing friends transformed my backyard/patio into a cozy patio area with moody lighting.  They stocked the bar, they helped keep me calm, and they made it a fun day.  Oh and my dear guy even re-created Wash's console on top of our piano using a TV monitor, foam core, and a digital frame.  We remembered the dinosaurs.  We also remembered the little things that make it recognizable as Serenity.  Little Buddhas and a tea pot with wood serving cups in Inara's shuttle, the kitchen stencil pattern on foam core stapled to the walls around the food table, boxes with "Bobble Headed Geisha" labels, and Mal's discharge papers.

The party came together.  People walked in the door - about a quarter of the guests came in costume - and were amazed.  I think we set a certain mood and really surprised folks with our attention to details.  I was proud of mini-Serenity in my house.  I gave as many people as I could the tour of the ship, the food table, and directed them to the bar (a friend even bartended for me - that made life easier).  I had folks dressed like space cowboys wandering around my house nibbling on bao.  After a few Mudder's Milks, I gathered partygoers around Wash's console, put on Jaynestown, and we sang a rousing round of the "Hero of Canton."  We followed it with the theme song shortly thereafter.  Then we kinda watched Jaynestown for a while, and everyone was okay with that.  Yeah, it was the best party ever.  I hope that everyone had as awesome of a time as I did.

Pic taken by Adam Levermore

Now for the nitty-gritty detail stuff.

  •  Bao - Saffron made it for Mal, you can buy it (or make it if you must) for your guests.  Check out dim sum restaurants; they might sell it.
  • "Good Dogs" - Marinated strips of chicken on a skewer, label with a cardboard sign
  • Some Kind of Hot Cheese - It's the perfect kind of food to have on a buffet table at a fancy party.  I used this fondue recipe and served it with bread and sliced apples.
  • Strawberries - Ideally, you'd serve these in a box
  • Fortune Cookies
  • Core Planet Couscous - In the Visual Companion, one of the propmasters mentions using this in the first meal the crew eats together in the episode "Serenity"
  • Fruity Oaty Bars - You can make granola bars, but from experience, one's I've bought are tastier.  I found a kind with fruit and oats and cut the bars into thirds.
  • Oriental Snack Mix - Mine came from Trader's Joes!
  • Chocolate "Protein" Cake - I used two boxes of cake mix and four 8" round pans. I used dark chocolate icing between the layers and a milk chocolate frosting on the outside.  The messier you are the better.  It's supposed to look that way.

  • Mudder's Milk - You can make this version with wheat germ and stout for the sake of authenticity, or you can make White Russians.  I went with the latter.
  • Sake
  • Blue Sun - Double+ blue kamikaze shots
Reference & Supplies
  • Can't Take the Sky - Great site with screencaps from the television show
  • Leave Me The White - Screencaps from the movie
  • - Visual companions from the series - parts 1 & 2, great reference for costumes and props (the one from the movie is pretty much just the script with some images)
  • LiveJournal Firefly Costuming community - plenty of historical posts with links to dig through
  • Oriental Trading Company - Chopsticks, fortune cookies, dinosaurs, and parasols
  • Ikea - Great for square plates, mugs, fabric (check their clearance/returns section), and serving trays
  • India Overseas Trading Company - So many wonderful things on this site from hookahs to nautical stuff to Buddhas
  • Quantum Mechanix - I got the Firefly blueprints reference pack, but they also have Blue Sun travel posters and lots of Firefly awesomeness!
  • I also found things at Cost Plus and Party City.  Friends let me borrow a lot of things, and I happened to have all the fabric.
 Click to see more photos from the party!

And yes, I want to leave my house looking like Serenity.


  1. I love what you did with your living room. With your permission, I kinda wanna steal the idea wholesale. Not for a theme party or anything, just to class up the place semi-permanently.

  2. This is incredibly awesome and ambitious! You've inspired me to finally get my Dune theme party out of my head and into reality.

  3. That's a glorious way to celebrate. Happy 30th! :)

  4. Can we get more detail on the construction of the Wash console, please? That thing looks spectacular!

  5. You did such an amazing job with the decorations and the food! I'm particularly impressed by Wash's console. And everyone in costume looks great.

    No ice planets? I guess you had the chocolate-y cake, so it wasn't necessary. Anyway, I am thoroughly impressed. What's will the next theme party be?

  6. Benjamin - Please go ahead! We did a very temporary solution by just nailing narrow wood to the tops of the walls and stapling the fabric right to it. It was easier than I thought, and the look is lovely. I want to recreate the theme in my bedroom!

    Sarah - Oh, a Dune party! Brilliant. Please fill your backyard with sand or maybe just your bathtub. Be ambitious. Start out with crazy ideas even if they all don't end up being usable. :D

    Ruth - It was over the top and wonderful!

    Tiffany - The piano was the base, and it happened to be the right shape and size. All the pieces were printed and then attached to foam core. Then everything was trimmed roughly based on photos from the set. Where actual keyboards were, we cut the foam core and inserted old, broken keyboards. The lights are extra Christmas lights that we ran up through the foam core and plugged into the back. I think you can normally get them at hobby shops. The small monitor on the left is a digital frame someone lent us. I got all the monitor images for it from screen caps on the Still-flying site. The big monitor is our TV. We put it on top of the piano, and cut the foam core around it. The images on it came from scans of on-screen stuff in the Firefly Blueprints reference pack. :)

    Hope that helps some!

    Eleni - Thank you! It came out better than I could have dreamed. :D

    I thought about the ice planets, but I wasn't sure how to keep them cold or fit them all in my freezer. ;)

    The next theme party is Harry Potter!!

  7. That is so much fun! What a great theme. And of course you had to do all the research to do it right. ;) Happy 30th! With Firefly to start the year off I hope your 30th year is the best yet. Well done!

    1. It was the best party I've ever had for sure!

  8. This is totally amazing. The amount of effort you put in, I'm in awe.
    How did you make the kitchen floral stencil? Did you just use screen caps to replicate it?

    1. It was the best party!
      We referenced screen caps for the floral stencil, drew it on plastic, and then cut out the shapes. I think craft foam would be easier to work with though. :)

  9. This post has totally helped my husband and I with planning our daughter's 13th birthday party in October! She wanted a Firefly themed party this year, and your blog has totally helped us, more so than anything we've found. We're doing the kitchen in rustic backwater planet/Browncoat style...even bought the Independence flag as a present for her to hang in the kitchen as part of the decor. The living room she wanted in the theme of Innara's shuttle, so finding your pics as inspiration on how to do the drapery hangings helped SO MUCH; the lighting in them just worked so BEAUTIFULLY! As I'm typing this I have a ton of links pull up that we're cycling through for fabrics, Chinese fans and parasols, and gathering up the last supplies we need to set up the look for the dinning room/kitchen. It's coming along nicely so far and we definitely want to thank you for that. :)

    1. Oh, that's wonderful to hear! I'm glad anything I posted helped. I think your decor sounds perfect, and I hope the party goes well. :D I know I had the best time prepping for my Firefly party!

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