Friday, January 22, 2010

Elizabeth's 5th Birthday

A few months ago, my friend Amanda sent me an email with the subject line: "My new obsession - party blogs!" and the links to some of these blogs. I proceeded to spend the next four hours of my life in the kind of trance that only happens to people mentally trying to figure out how to best match festive personalized water bottle labels to the ribbon on the cupcake tower, stopping only to jump over to etsy to look at custom pinatas. I won't link to these blogs here in case I end up making fun of them, but email me or Amanda if you want the links.

A typical entry in one of these party blogs might begin:

For Anna Claire's 4th birthday, we had a Mad Hatter tea party. To make the Royal Croquet Court, I cut the 4' King and Queen of Hearts out of plywood and drilled rebar into the base.

So when I read the party blogs, I feel kind of the same way I feel when I read the Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook - awestruck, scornful, inspired, scared, and defeated - and yet somehow I can't look away.

Because I really really REALLY love planning parties. Especially children's parties. And baby showers. I am so glad that I still have some young friends who aren't finished birthin' yet, because I don't know what I'll do when I have nobody to make a diaper cake for. I'm a complete sucker for a theme, and somehow themes seem to work best with children's parties. I did make David a snowman cake for his birthday one year (I have a related obsession with Nordic Ware novelty cake pans), but the theme pretty much began and ended with the snowman cake. But with children's parties, you can have the snowman cake, snowman treat bags, pin the corn cob pipe on the snowman, snowman yard art, "snow," snow cream pops, and an igloo made of styrofoam blocks. There are really no limits to the excessiveness. (Although I like to think that I will never host a party that requires me to break out the power tools. If I can just stay on that side of the line, it'll be okay.)

So I love planning parties, and Elizabeth is really at the perfect age for a fun party. The problem is, her birthday falls right after Christmas, so I usually end up scrambling to throw together a party for her (this never happens to the party bloggers, who plan their parties months in advance). So I kind of had to scramble to put her party together, as usual, and I ended up making a bunch of stuff because I didn't have time to order it. That's okay - sometimes it just feels good to have scissors in one hand and a glue stick in the other.

The party theme was "Princess Tea Party." This married two of Elizabeth's great loves, yes, you guessed it - princesses and tea parties.

The party room:

As luck would have it, we had cleared out the sun room (which served as a play room) for our Christmas party, and never moved the toys back in, and the empty room just seemed to scream "princess tea party!"

Here's a closeup of the birthday banner:

Amanda has this awesome machine that would've made speedy work out of this project, and she generously offered to let me use it. I'll probably take her up on that next time, but I ended up doing this one by hand, cutting and gluing in front of the TV over the course of a few nights. It was kind of peaceful. I felt like I was really giving the right side of my brain a workout.

Activity: Make your own flower arrangements:

That is Elizabeth's Flower Market. I covered up the kids' blue & red play market with lime wrapping paper and scrap fabric from Elizabeth's old baby bedding. I can't sew, so I just kind of wrapped the canopy like a present and duck taped it like MacGyver. It looked awesome as long as you didn't look too closely. I lined up vases on one shelf and tumblers of pre-cut flowers on top. The kids made their own little arrangements to put on the tea party table. FACT: daisies, while lovely, grow in bunches more than single stems, and are therefore not the best choice for this activity when you are dealing with the under 10 set (since there may appear to be 6 blue daisies, but really only be one stem's worth of blue daisies, which will cause angst among your little partygoers). But as you can see, they worked it all out in the end:

Another activity: paint your own teacups:

I got the teacups from a local paint-your-own pottery place. The kids seemed to enjoy it for 10 minutes (I had been banking on 30, but who's counting?)


I set out princess dresses in case anyone felt the need to fancy up a bit. I had planned to hang the dresses on a clothesline or something. But I was halfway through a 10 mile run with my training partners the day before the party and saw this princess coat rack in a store window. I couldn't resist (it's that theme thing again). I went back and got it later in the day.

And over in this corner, we had Princess Pedicures:

Really it was more manicures and face painting, but I loves me some alliteration.

I know what you're thinking: "Cathy, is that CURLZ????" Why yes, it is Curlz. For both the birthday banner and the pedicure sign, I downloaded traceable letters from this cool website. I couldn't resist going with Curlz for the pedi sign, but as I was cutting around all that curlziness at 1:00 a.m., I started to feel like I was just as crazy as the rebar lady.

Oh, the tissue paper pom poms! I saw them on a blog and decided that I had to make them:

I read and re-read the instructions for these things, but I kept getting lost at step 3. I emailed them to David at work and said "do you understand how this works?" He likened it to a Bob Ross drawing lesson on How to Paint a Tiger: "Draw a circle. Now draw a line. Okay, now finish your tiger." Anyway, once we started doing them, it all made sense. I don't know if I'll ever have another party without these pom pom balls - I loved them! Think twice before you ask me to co-hostess your party -- I'll probably try to force tissue paper pom pom balls on you.

An apothecary jar full of ring pops. Just 'cuz.

And balloons, because I was born without the gene that would allow me to let a birthday pass under my roof without balloons:

Here are the cupcakes and the tea party spread:

Elizabeth blowing out her candle:

The tea party:

Me with my birthday girl:

Elizabeth and Jacob (he was such a good sport about all this):

And Caroline. She's a mess. She was definitely in her element here:


Elizabeth is joy personified, and has been from day 1 (well, maybe more like from day 43). She has a sweet heart and a loving and playful spirit. I will never be able to fully articulate my love for this child.

Happy birthday, my sweet Elizabeth!