So, yes, as of late, I’ve been missing in action. Well, mostly just “missing,” not much “action” lately. Some of my absence is to blame on planning a majorly huge first birthday party for mini Gwinn. It has occurred to me that many parents disapprove of throwing a big “first birthday” for the dumb reason of “the birthday baby doesn’t know what is going on”. It is to those people I would like to send a flock of pigeons to poop on their mini-vans. The first birthday party, as all good parents know, is largely a celebration for the new parents’ “survival of the first year”. We, as dutiful parents, make it a child- friendly party, give it an appropriate theme, graciously accept gifts for the birthday child, but everyone there knows it is just as much of a milestone for the baby as it is the parents.
In the spirit of selfishly planning this party, I picked out a theme like six months ago. My favorite very little person book is “The Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. I loved it when I was little, and thanks to Pinterest, I found excellent ideas on ways to make this party kick as-… butt. The good news is that mini Gwinn actually loves this book, so it didn’t seem hugely self centered to make this his party’s theme.
So when I say I started planning months ago, I’m absolutely serious. I picked the theme in March, found the ideas for invitations in July, made the invitations in August, delivered them in September… you get the idea. But, good readers, by spreading the work over months instead of days, the party itself came together (mostly) seamlessly. Rather than desperately grocery shopping for food the day before, almost everything was already finished. I’m going to share with you my super- genius party planning. Prepare to be O-MAZED.
Firstly, let me clarify. I actually came up with next to none of the ideas for mini Gwinn’s party. Secondly, it was completely serendipitous that Target’s dollar section had Hungry Caterpillar items the week I went shopping for goodie bags and accessories for the party. Lastly, if anyone copies anything from my party, I would be honored.
Pottery Barn Kids Invitations – I changed mine slightly, which are mostly visible in my own pictures. Word to the wise: Michael’s craft store sells green pom pom rope! That saved me a lot of time gluing individual pom poms together to make caterpillars. Instead of hand cutting each eye and mouth, I used a hole punch. The hole punch saw a lot of action during the making of the invitations. I went to Michael’s and bought a ream of multi- colored cardstock, used eight or nine colors for confetti dots, four basic colors for the invitation lids, and green for the leaves in the invitation jar. The mason jars were on clearance at Target, so of course I scooped them up. I used the leftover invitations to decorate the tables.
Fun Cheap or Free Party Planning – I used this website as a base for how to plan the party menu. She has a million great ideas. I bought my plates and cups at Costco, napkins at Ikea, utensils and tablecloths at the dollar store, serving trays at the dollar store and clearance from Target, and followed most of this lady’s advice. She even has a table for the type/ amount of food to serve based upon the time of day of your party. Now that I know where to buy party supplies, I will never, ever buy expensive supplies ever again. The amount of money we saved on decorations and serving was redonk.
Planning the menu was a lot of fun. We had 44 adults and 6 kids RSVP for the party, some with dietary restrictions, some with bottomless appetites, and some with discerning palettes (ahem, Luke). The party started at 2, and although that’s the more common lunch time for weekend days, I felt like it was safe to not provide a full meal. With that in mind, I grew up with a mother who cooked for an army of 100 every Sunday lunch, and as a good Southern woman with a Midwestern practicality, I know you can never run out of food at a party, lest you risk public humiliation.
I feel like the crowd you are feeding dictates what you serve. If we had more children at the party, more “kid- friendly” foods would have filled up the spread. Since we had so many adults, I served food according to our guest list.
Hawaiian Sweet Roll Ham & Swiss Sandwiches – I doubled the recipe. How did I keep them warm, you may ask? Redneck heater: giant foil turkey pan from the dollar store, large heating pad on “high” underneath. These sandwiches were a big hit, and trust me, you’ll love them, unless of course you hate food and yourself.
Costco Pinwheel Sandwiches – the tray serves ~30. They are sold at such a reasonable price, and they’re filling, so they’re hard to beat at a party. Kids can handle them, adults like them, and they’re pretty much wonderful.
Mac & Cheese Cups – my own pseudo creation. Velveeta (or Market Pantry) shells and cheese, bacon bits, two or three globs of sour cream, 1 tbsp. minced garlic, lots of shredded cheese. Mix it all in a big pot, then drop two spoonfuls into foil cupcake liners. These can be made the day before the party, shoved in the fridge, and reheated the day of the event. I’m enjoying a re-reheated cup right now. Again, another kid and adult friendly food. Super tasty, and very easy to handle.
Sensible Portions Veggie Straws – these are the baked equivalent of French fries. I filled up a green planter I bought from Target ( 84 cents!), dropped a cup in, and had out paper bags to fill with the straws.
Vegetable Tray with Spinach & Artichoke Dip – self explanatory.
Strawberry and Green Grape Caterpillar Kabobs – I originally had a grandiose idea to stick these in a styrofoam block, add some chocolate covered marshmallows, and make it look like a cute edible arrangement. When that failed, I just laid them on a crystal- esque tray from the dollar store. Pretty simple. Bamboo skewers from Publix, cut off the sharp edges, three or four green grapes and then a big strawberry at the end. They look reminiscent of the main (well, only) character of the book on which the party was based.
Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Juice – Crazy easy recipe. I sliced apples and froze them in a little bit of lemon water to keep them from browning. The drink dispenser looked quite pretty!
Cucumber Water – Plain old water with frozen cucumber slices. Turns out like spa water. My brother said it was too fancy.
Skinny Girl Funfetti Cupcakes – These were gone in MINUTES, people. MINUTES. I don’t know how they tasted, but I heard good things. I did a rough frosting (from the recipe on the website), then dunked the entire head of the cupcake in large nonpareil sprinkles. Very cute look. The cupcake liners were cute dots from Wilton which appropriately matched the large “1” candle.
Most importantly, THE CAKE – my mom made a GORGEOUS birthday cake for mini Gwinn. She has a groovy printer that prints sugar paper, so I asked for this pattern on a white, three layer, 10 inch cake with this filling. This cake was the best birthday cake I’ve ever had. She made cute fondant letters spelling the kiddo’s name, and it turned out to be a beautiful, clean looking cake. Amazingly, this cake actually served everyone at the party. I wanted the cake to resemble the inside cover of the book, which seemed a lot less busy than the rest of the cakes I’ve seen. This was by far my favorite Hungry Caterpillar cake. Thank you, mom!! I think I was her toughest customer yet, because I swear by homemade cake. After her hard work, we all agreed- homemade cakes taste the best, especially when made by mom!
The Smash Cake – I used a little bitty pan and this recipe to make mini Gwinn’s smash cake. No frosting, and he still went at it!
I ordered balloons from Publix (tip- tell them you don’t want high float. It adds to the cost and the balloons last ~12 hours without them) and strategically placed them in focal points of the main room, specifically, on the back of mini- Gwinn’s high chair, behind the main table, and in our fire pit/ present pit. Between the balloons, the table covers, the food and the kiddos, there was enough color that major decorations weren’t needed.
The Goodie Bag Contents:
For Kiddos Under 2: 1 pair of Hungry Caterpillar socks, one Hungry Caterpillar paper bucket, 4 Hungry Caterpillar crayons, one spiral top, one kazoo or one set of castanets.
For Boys Between 2-4: The above, but instead of kazoo/ castanets, one wooden train whistle
For “Big Kids” Between 4-11: One Hungry Caterpillar reusable bag (dark green, light green or yellow), and age appropriate awesomeness from the dollar bin, like hair ties, army men, stick on mustaches, sunglasses, slinkys and crayons
We also had a “predictions and wisdom” box for guests to fill out predictions for the kiddo’s future, words of wisdom, etc. He’ll get to read them when he turns 18, but Captain Laser Pants and I got a great laugh reading them last night. I put together a small box for the bigger kids with cloud dough, bubbles and coloring pages with crayons outside, just in case it was too crowded in the house (this was used!). My mom made a cute sign that said “come on in!” so people weren’t ringing the doorbell every minute. These were all last minute additions to the party that definitely made a difference.
Needless to say, the party was incredible. THANK YOU to all who were present, all who were there in spirit, for the incredible generosity, the love, support, laughter and friendship. We are beyond blessed, mini Gwinn had an outstanding first birthday party, and we are honored to have shared our son’s first year with all of you.
If you have ideas, thoughts, questions, etc- send them on down the line in the comments!