The Birthday Party

This year I decided to go with a Sesame Street theme for Champ’s birthday. It was his first birthday party with kids his age over, and it was a blast.

This will likely be the only party he has with over a dozen kids, plus their parents attending. Not that it wasn’t super fun, and it honestly wasn’t overwhelming, but next year I’m guessing Champ will be at an age in which he has formed tighter bonds with a few kids. I’ve heard the idea of inviting one child per age of the birthday, so next year we will plan on inviting 3 or 4 kids.

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The invitations

Everywhere I looked online said it was bad taste to include any mention of gifts, even if it’s to say you don’t want any. Who are you to tell people what to do with their money? People like giving gifts—don’t deny them that joy. Et cetera.

So I decided to call it an ABC party. I asked parents to bring their favorite cookie recipe and a list of three of their favorite books. Then I’d compile the list and distribute it to all the parents. We got a ton of ideas, some people didn’t feel obligated to bring gifts, and others brought really great ones. Champ loves them all, and he’s slowly, slowly coloring thank you notes for his friends.

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I designed the invitations, of course, and printed them at home. I designed some cookies based on a Cookie Monster coloring page, printed those out, cut them out, and included them in the invitations. Parents wrote the list of books on the back.

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Presents from us to him

We don’t want our kids to be materialistic, so we limit how much we give them. I’m really big on gift giving, so this has been hard on me, but also freeing. Here are my rules for buying gifts for our kids:

  1. Is it something my child would want or need?
  2. Is it a good deal? (I make a note to never pay full price)
  3. Is it clothing?
  4. Do we already have something similar?
  5. Will it last through at least one other child?
  6. Is it educational?
  7. Is it open-ended / can it serve more than one purpose?
  8. Will it foster imagination and creativity?
  9. Is it something that promotes group play or family time?
  10. Is it something worth buying (as opposed to borrowing or making ourselves)?

We bought him a bean bag chair that was PERFECT. He fell in love with a huge one at my aunt’s house and when we looked, ones of a comparable size that weren’t overstuffed cost $70–$200. We bought what I’ve dubbed “the prune” new at Dock 86 for $30.

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We also got him a LeapPad game, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, to teach him math; a dry-erase book for practicing letters; a Look & Find treasury book; and the Disney animated Robin Hood on Blu-Ray.

Champ also received birthday money this year. We took out 10% for him to give to church, 10% to put into savings, and let him pick whatever he wanted with the extra money. When he starts to get an allowance, he can tithe out of that, so we won’t take 10% out of his gift money for church, but we will still have him put 10% of gift cash into savings.

He chose a water blaster, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask, a Toothless figurine (from How to Train Your Dragon), a play camera, and a tape measure.

From friends, he got play-doh sets, puzzles, a football, books, construction sets, gardening tools, bubbles, sliceable play food…and he’s been playing with all of the toys for the past few weeks. It will take us a while to get through the books!

Party games

What do you do with a dozen preschoolers? I had three mostly unstructured activities for the kids: Homemade Play-doh inside and a Cookie Monster cookie toss and “parachute” game outside.

This is the recipe I used to make a big batch of play dough, but next time I’m going to try this one, which is only slightly different and makes a smaller batch.

Here’s the Cookie Monster cookie toss game. I got the idea from here, but made up different rules and made and painted the cookies with this recipe for dough. The kids loved it, and liked the point system even more when I told them how many points they got.

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How to Play:

1. Have kids line up behind one another, with the box facing the first person.
2. Give 3 cookies to each of the first few kids in line.
3. Each child gets three tosses per turn.
4. Award 1 point for hitting the box, 2 points for getting in the box, 3 points for going through the mouth.

I made a ton of the fake cookies. Some of them cracked while drying, and some broke while throwing. The ones that turned out best were not made with cookie cutters. My advice: shape the dough into balls and squish rather than rolling out and using a cookie cutter. And do not flip them over as they are drying. I turned mine because they were starting to warp, but that just made them crack when they warped back the other way. Warping isn’t much of an issue if you don’t use cookie cutters.

For the parachute game, I bought 100 ball pit balls here and a sheet from Goodwill. The kids grabbed the sheet and shook while I poured the balls onto the sheet, then they flew up like popcorn. We tried it twice before letting the kids just throw the balls everywhere. It was a bit too much structure for some kids that were really excited, and would drop the sheet to try and jump into it. Couldn’t blame them for wanting to be in the middle of that!

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We made a game of picking up all the balls. With some kids I told them to pick up by color, but we just made it a race with most of them.

Party Food

Here’s what we had for treats:

  • Ernie’s Rubber ducky punch with lemon sherbet (where on earth can you get the pineapple flavor?)
  • Oscar’s trash (store bought chex mix on sale)
  • oscar broccoli tray and strawberry elmo tray
  • Big Bird cupcakes
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • “Slimey” sour gummy worms
  • Elmo’s goldfish

Captain also made some pizza bread (Italian loaf, toasted, with pizza sauce and cheese and toppings, heated in the oven)

plates-puzzlesI totally forgot about the fruits and veggie plates until guests started to arriving, so two of my dear friends put them together. The eyes were condiment cups from Culver’s with blueberries for the pupils. Oscar’s were filled with ranch, and Elmo’s were poppy seed dressing. The puzzles were hand-me-downs from my brothers.

I bought freezer pops for all the kids, but just realized they are still in our basement freezer. Oh well.

The cupcakes were my first attempt ever at frosting cupcakes with a frosting bag. hahahahahaha. Candy corn for the beak, and candy eyes from here. You can get them from Walmart or Michaels, too, in the cake decorating aisle.

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Favors

For the favors, I bought bright colored bags ($5 for 12) and added paper cutouts to make them look like muppets.

Inside:

  • a small container of play-doh from Walmart 10-Packs ($6 for 10)
  • a couple cookie cutters (ABC and 123) from this set of 50 for $17.50,
  • a snack size bag of mini-cookies (Walmart brand, 100 calorie variety)
  • a mini rubber ducky ($6 for 12)
  • a punch balloon

They cost about $3 or $4 per bag. I ordered from Prime or bought locally, so I didn’t pay shipping.

Well, I was hoping on including the book and cookies list here, but this has taken a huge chunk of time to compose, so I’ll have to do it later. I’ll link back here once it’s online.

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Speakeasy Party: Photos, Food & Dress

This post is full of pictures! It includes some photos from the photo booth, what to wear, how to do 1920s hair, and what food & drink we made for the potluck. Click here to read Speakeasy Party: Part One

Photos

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We clean up pretty nice!

Inspiration:

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via flickr

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Purchase your own on Etsy from this seller

Don’t you love Pinterest? That’s how I got most of the ideas for this party. I bought some poster board and dowels and ended up making all the props and moon and stars myself. But you can buy the set of props above from Etsy! The favorite prop of our guests, though, ended up being Neville. :)

I set up my Macbook Pro with Photo Booth so people could take their own photos. While we did take a handful of those, we ended up having a party-wide photo op, and took turns taking photos with the nicer cameras. Here’s a sampling from the ones off my camera, photoshopped into a 1920s rich black and white:

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1920s Dress

Captain wore the suit he bought for our honeymoon cruise. Men are pretty easy, if you ask me. Suit, suspenders or vest, tie, fedora, those caps I call “cabbie hats.” (I just looked online, and that’s actually what they are called! I’m so proud.)

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He’s pretty super.

Women could wear flapper dresses or little black dresses (introduced in the 20s by Coco Chanel). But good luck trying to find maternity dresses from the 1920s. They looked like this:

Don’t ask me how they fit babies in there.

Creamy colors work best for daytime 1920s parties, and blacks and reds work well for late night parties. But pretty much any color is game—it’s the silhouette that’s important. Nothing you need to be sewn into. Dropped waists or no waists for the non-pregnant folk.

I grabbed the only dress from Savers that I could find that would 1) fit my bulbous form flatteringly and 2) had some Art Deco lines to it. It had holes along the top seams, so I got it marked down from $10 to $6. I bought matching thread for $1 and sewed up the holes. Call me Sherlock Holmes, but I’m pretty sure the person who owned the dress before me was a student. The seams were worn down where a backpack would create enough friction to tear them.

As for hair, I looked up a ton of YouTube videos, and I think this one is the best one:

She also has a more classic finger waves style (wet hair) and a 1930s hair tutorial. You can check those out here.

I’m pretty sure the back of my head was a disaster. I was afraid to look, so I never did. The finger waves I had to redo so many times. The gel I used wasn’t meant for this type of thing, and the waves kept falling out no matter how much gel I added, so I ended up using long, thin bobby pins to hold the finger waves in place. I waited for the rest of my hair to dry, then curled the ends with an iron and rolled into pin curls as shown in the video. Then I let dry, sprayed exorbitant amount of hair spray, and let it just sit on my head for an hour or two before removing all the pins and combing through the hair with my fingers.

Here’s what it looked like by the end of the night:

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As for accessories, I ditched my glasses during the party and donned a string of fake pearls. The headband I created myself. Walmart has a “make your own headband” sort of station in the craft section with a bunch of flowers and accessories, stretchy headbands and the clampy kind of headbands (yeah, I don’t know what to call them. The classic kind of headband, shaped like a U). I got the flower there, found an ivory ribbon with plenty of texture, and hot glued the ribbon onto a headband I already had.

I kind of forgot about makeup in the rush of getting food together, so I just used eyeliner. But there are plenty of YouTube videos on the subject.

Food

This was a potluck shindig to save some money. We made hot dogs in the crock pot for the main meal (throw in as many as you need, without water, and cook on low for 4 hours).

Also creamy mints:

click through for recipe

and homemade lollipops with gold sprinkles:

Click through for recipe

And my grandmother’s recipe for punch:

Mix together 48 oz EACH of apple, orange, and pineapple juice (frozen concentrate is fine, but add water, obviously). Right before serving, add a 64 oz bottle of ginger ale.

This punch is amazing and super easy. I don’t even like punch much, but this is gooood.

I was going to make a virgin pina colada for myself, but ran out of time. Friends brought drinks to share as well.

That’s about it! It was a grand party, and we had a ton of fun.

Speakeasy Gender Reveal Party

We decided to throw a Prohibition-era shindig celebrating my pregnancy. Originally it was going to be a gender reveal party, but some of us “slipped,” so we just had a rip-roarin’ time together!

Guests needed a password for entry. They came in via the kitchen through a back door, much like they would if they were going a real dig. (Speakeasies were covert bars that sprouted up during the prohibition era.)

Many of us dressed up in 1920s garb. We played cards, had drinks, and placed bets on Baby Lion’s stats. It was a night full of light carousing and a lot of fun.

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The categories for betting were birth day, duration of labor, time of birth, AM or PM, weight, and length.

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Guests needed tickets to place bets. They could purchase tickets or earn them by winning a card game, bringing food & snacks, or wearing 1920s clothing and accessories. My brother-in-law came prepared with an alias and fake business cards inspired by the Sylvester Stallone movie Oscar, which is seriously underrated and seriously funny.

speakeasy tickets

I included some information about Champ’s birth to help people make guesses. The Lion cookie jar below was where people deposited their tickets. I scored it for $2.50 at a thrift store! It’s going to hold keepsakes from Lion’s baby years.

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I pulled out my typewriter in case anybody wanted to write notes to Champ and Lion.

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We played two party games. The first was “Guess the Girth.” We passed around a ball of yarn and guests cut a length of yarn that they estimated would be the circumference of my baby bump. Hilarity ensued, as many guesses were much larger than I actually am. The winner got a ticket from each participant. I’ll have to get a photo of this from one of the guests.

For the second game, I passed out Play-Doh to everyone. They each had 2 minutes to sculpt “a baby.” The winner received 4 tickets. Runner up, 3. Second place, 2. Third place, 1. I awarded the grand prize to the creative interpretation.

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Favors were homemade lollipops. These were quite an adventure, let me tell you.

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But the best part of all was the photo booth. I saw a link to a bunch of 1920s photo props on Pinterest and created my own. Then we set up a curtain with a moon and stars, inspired by a photo from the 1920s I saw.

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This photo was taken the morning after the party. The moon had fallen down! I’ll include the photo booth photos in the next post. I’ll include the gender of Baby Lion in yet another post. If you absolutely can’t wait, though, head over to my Facebook page to find out!

Christmas Party

Yesterday we had an outrageously fun Christmas party, with ugly sweaters, awkward family photos, an ornament exchange, games, food, and much laughter.

Photos

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We had some nice ornaments…

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And some White Elephant ornaments…

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Adam West as Batman, and Nicolas Cage Cats ornaments…
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If you have a weird sense of humor and want some Adam West or NickCageCats ornaments yourself, you can download and print my file here. I don’t own any of the images and made no profit from using them—these are for personal use only!

Menu

  • Cocktail Meatballs
  • Homemade peanut butter cups (filling: 1 cup peanut butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 stick of butter; coating: chocolate almond bark)
  • Chocolate Fondue with fruit, pretzels, and marshmallows
  • Pinwheels (tortilla, cream cheese, ham, and pickle)
  • Da Vinci Dip
  • and these, made with peppermint Kisses (click image for how-to): https://i1.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/-zuSLkgkgeRg/TzG8LNyxQmI/AAAAAAAABII/2Mp5STEOWQY/s1600/pretzel+buttons.jpg

Games