We had The Boy’s Second birthday party last weekend, and it was a blast!
We went with a train theme, as The Boy is currently obsessed with trains. I opted not to use Thomas the Train for many reasons.
1- That shit can get expensive if you don’t watch it. All licensed items are. Since The Boy isn’t old enough to start begging me to do Star Wars or another licensed theme, we’re gonna stick with generic until I eventually give in, which will hopefully be a few more years down the road.
2- The designers of most licensed party goods just don’t know when to stop. They really don’t know the definition of subtlety, as Thomas’ creepy (yeah, I said it) face is staring back at you in large quantities and proportions. I mean, I know you want your customer to get their money’s worth, but do you really think they want THIS?!:
Said in Thomas’ creepy voice: “Haaaappppy Biiirthday!”
Just TRY not to have nightmares from that shit.
The 3rd reason I opted outta Thomas is that I’ve been slowly honing my design skills…or at least enough to be dangerous. I didn’t design the invitations to the party (which I sent out incredibly late and was surprised anyone showed up at all), but after I spent the money on them, I realized I should have. It would have been easier to pick a few Pantones, and build everything from there.
But noooo, Holly had to have the aqua and red chevron ones with the train on it from Simplytoimpress.com! No, really, I do love that company and get my Xmas cards made there every year. But…now that I know how to design it myself, it may not be the case this year.
With the invites in hand, I chose some Pantones that were close and designed away.
This was the overall look of the party:
There were a few things I DIY’d, but it was really pared down from last year. Which was a good thing, because I didn’t have all the food ready and on the table until the guests had already arrived. It’s okay; the beer and wine was already outside (priorities for a child’s birthday party, you know). Most family and friends who have been to my parties before know it’s customary for me to greet them from the kitchen, as I’m usually putting the finishing touches on items.
This year I didn’t have as much help, so I was in a bit more panic in the kitchen than usual, but all the food was prepped and looked awesome shortly after they’d cracked open their first beverage:
Raspberry Lemon cupcakes, rainbow fruit tray, ombre veggie tray, hummus and pita bread, chips and Bacon Ranch Dip.
Yes, Bacon Ranch Dip. That shit is amazing. You want a dip made from a dressing packet but not a fan of Ranch Dressing Dip? Go get this:
Whywouldn’tyou want everything to taste like bacon? Are you some kind of criminal?
I don’t go the mayo route; I just mix it with a small tub of sour cream and make sure it’s had at least an hour to chill in the fridge. I stumbled across this tiny packet of awesomeness at Freddy’s, and my head nearly exploded once I realized what it was.
Was any left over by the end of the party?
Nope. Not even enough to scrape out of the bowl.
I did, however have leftover cupcakes, but that’s a problem I’m always happy to have. It’s also why RSVPs are important; my friends and family are actually really good at letting me know if I’m going to be seeing their wonderful faces, which makes it easier to not panic when baking cupcakes in the morning when you should have done that the night before. It worked out, as I was ready to double the recipe in anticipation of ALL the guests, and then I would have had enough cupcakes to throw me into a heavier weight class.
This is what party-preparation-induced-sleep-deprivation does to a person.
But it also creates some really cute things. I created the cupcake toppers in Adobe InDesign, and I loved how they turned out:
The one mistake I made on these guys is that I didn’t have the right size of circle. I didn’t want them to be humongous, but I should have taken into account my circle punch, which is a hair larger than these circles, so I ended up having to individually cut out the circles by hand. That’s two circles for each cupcake topper. I really need to make a mental note for next year.
I also made a banner that was hung on the back fence and on The Boy’s highchair:
With color palette in mind, I bought multiple sheets of 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper and made a colorful paper chain that spanned the length of our crappy fence, probably drawing more attention to it than the chain itself. Don’t look at the fence! Look at the cute paper chain!
I really love the look of tissue paper poms, and my attempt at making my own last year only resulted in four of them. It was the night before the party, and I had used up all the tissue I bought for them, as I didn’t realize just how many sheets of tissue paper it takes to make just one pom.
Not this year, bitches!
I was going to make as many as my budget and timeline would allow me. I got the tissue paper from my friend who owns the fabulousPomLove, and she is a tissue paper pom-making maven. Her colors are gorgeous, and she’s been featured in multiple blogs and even Martha Stewart Weddings (!). I did not have room in my budget to have her make them for me, otherwise I would have. Plus, the party was a week away when I ordered the tissue, and I did NOT want to be that friend making a ridiculous request in the peak of her season.
I did discover that while I may not be the best at separating the tissue to become the pom, my mother-in-law kicks ass at it. If it wasn’t for her, I would have had four poms ready (deja vu!!), and six that were cut and folded, but not fluffed. Hopefully next year I’l have more planning and budget so this won’t even be a problem. If you don’t want this problem, just order from PomLove, but don’t do it last minute!
But what I really, really wanted out of this party was fun, especially for The Boy and his family and friends. A bubble machine definitely helped:
My boss was also super awesome and donated a plastic play structure and sandbox, as his eight-year-old twins weren’t using them anymore, and the kids had a blast playing around both items!
Cupcakes and presents helped, too:
His little striped tank top didn’t come that way; I used an iron-on transfer from SEI (it’s the same style as the one from his first birthday). Only I was dumb and waited until the last minute to find a good top to iron on. Why does every article of Toddler clothing have to have a saying, a screen-print, or some other embellishment on it?! I should have just gone to American Apparel, but I wasn’t willing to spend over $15 on the tee. I ended up spending less than $10 on the shirt AND the shorts, as it’s kids korner from Freddy’s (YAY!).
When it came close to bedtime, we could tell The Boy had a blast at his birthday party, as he was super cranky and absolutely crashed once we got him to bed. It was even more evident the next day, as he was perfectly content lounging around with Mommy and Daddy, simply vegging out.
And with a rambunctious, active two-year-old, I’ll take all the lazy, snuggly days I can get.
Hey there, I'm Holly Marsh (Maker/Illustrator/Mama/Nerd), the force behind MarshMueller. I started the company in 2011 after getting frustrated with the ho-hum options in big box stores when creating my first son's woodland-animal-themed nursery. I hand-pick every fabric, thread color, and zipper, design my own sewing patterns, and moosh them all together to create rad products for parents and gift-givers in my Astoria, Oregon studio (aka MarshMueller Secret Labs).
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