My youngest son turned two right after Christmas. I decided to base his party on a book by one of my favorite children's book authors, Dallas Clayton (you may remember this from my gift guide). The book is called An Awesome Book of Thanks and reminds kids to be thankful for all we have. The illustrations are whimsical, the writing playful but the message is important (you can read the entire book online here, as well as his first book, An Awesome Book). And because our friends and family are very important to us, and help us out immensely, we thought it would be a cool way to say thank you to them as well.
I usually make my own invitations but I have been dying to work with Amber of Pitbulls and Posies. I first met her when she entered my Lockheart Inspiration Board contest. We've kept in touch and I thought she might be the perfect person to create the invites. Boy was I right! She read the book on line and then drew up a draft and sent it over. Her illustrations are similar to those in the book but totally celebratory and perfect. I adored working with her. Not only did she create the invites, but she handled all the mailing as well. From the adorable address wrap around labels to the hand picked stamps (she drove all over town trying to get enough of the stamps that fit the theme best!) these are my favorite invitations I've ever had for a party.
We put the web address to the full book online on the invitation so people were familiar with the book before the party but I also wanted to have it available at the party in case anyone wanted to read it in person.
We held the party in the afternoon and provided some simple snacks. I didn't go crazy decorating the inside of the house. I created the braided garland and the banners and then added some photos of my son on the table to personalize it. I kept it all pretty simple but got to go crazy with the colors. This was my most colorful party to date.
My four year old son came up with the idea of having a juice bar one day. Brilliant! My intention was to juice everything fresh and have everyone make their own blends. But then I realized (luckily early enough in the week) that it takes about 6 apples for 1 small cup of juice...totally too much work. Instead, I went to Whole Foods and bought some natural juices and decided we would make it a make-your-own fruit soda bar. I provided club soda, Pelligrino and also Champagne (for the adults, of course) along with some agave syrup and ginger syrup. I gave two recipe example, but for the most part wanted to keep it up to the guest. I was so excited I got to use the alaphabet cups as I have been coveting them since I first saw them online. I think they fit in perfectly. Since this was on my dining room table I was worried about the liquids and the condensation from the ice. To fix that, I used a piece of wood that I had painted white and grey stripes on top of the table runner to display the juices and ice buckets on. It worked perfectly.
One of the treats I served were Push Cakes from Meringue Bake Shop. This was the first time I have served them at a party and they were a huge hit! She did three flavors, chocolate oreo, strawberry vanilla and chocolate pretzel - because I am obsessed with choco pretzels (all vegan) and they were scrumptious. I set out some gelato spoons in case people wanted to eat it that way as opposed to pushing them up. I had my dad create the stand to display them but lucky for you, Orange County, I gave it to Meringue Bake Shop. So you can totally have them displayed for your next party too! The adults were just as jazzed as the kids and several of them kept their container because they just knew they could use it for something else. I did these in place of cake or cupcakes for everyone and just let people eat them when they wanted. No need to wait for a ceremonial cake cutting to dig in to the good stuff.
As with my other parties, I made a food information sign that let people know what was in everything I served. From food allergies to vegan preferences we cover a lot of bases with our friends and family. This way I know that people can feel comfortable eating at my parties. To create the signs I copied some of the images from the book online and typed the info in the blank spaces.
The decor for this party was super fun because there was no guide and no expectations. It let me be creative and just have fun with it. I used more of the braided fabric garlands (I used patterned fabrics as well as old t-shirts) outside and love how they look. I don't think the picture does them justice. They gave the outside area a really fun atmosphere. The day turned out to be really cold so, unfortunately, this area didn't get used as much as I hoped it would. And I debated leaving them up but decided I should take them down so they can be reused. This is my little birthday boy. :) Don't forget the tutorial for these garlands is up on Hank and Hunt. I will post the "how to" for making them out of t-shirts too really soon.
Here is some more decor that I had around the party. I just did scanned in posters available on the Awesome Book website and printed them out larger in sections. To make the letters for the signs, I used these blank letters as a template and then created clipping masks using patterns from Dallas Clayton's posters as the fill.
We put up a photo backdrop but no props or anything. I love that the fabric from Ikea already had a banner print on it and required virtually no jazzing up. (Side note - my poor birthday boy got a fever right before the party started and while he tolerated everything, I am fairly sure we couldn't say that he had fun. :( He is usually not quite this pink and his eyes are generally open. My other son now only makes "funny faces" for pictures and even those are half-hearted.)
I had two small activities at the party. I had my friend Erika read the story to the kids. Most of the kids enjoyed it. :) Erika was chosen for her amazing performance skills (and a little because she is a dear friend). Not every party can say they have a stage star read to their kids.
The other activity was a watercolor activity. This idea came from Amber of Pitbulls and Posies. She suggested printing out some of the pages on watercolor paper for them. I thought it was a great idea but decided to add lines and ask them to write a thank you note to anyone they felt like they wanted to thank.
For the cake I wanted to try something I had seen in the Donna Hay kid's issue. I think they call it a smash cake and it is a chocolate dome over a cake with a hole in it filled with candy, which is a total surprise for the kids. As is usually the case when I try to bake something new it went slightly awry... Worried that the chocolate would be so fragile that it would break before the kids could see it, I dipped the balloon three times in the chocolate. Even as we set it down on the table I was freaking out any time a little finger would try to touch it. And then the hysterical part. I though my son's toy hammer would be up for the task of breaking through the chocolate. It did not. He hammered away at the chocolate and it didn't budge. The kids were so confused like, is this a trick cake or something? My husband gave it a few shots with the toy hammer, still to no avail. He finally went and got the real hammer from the garage. Still, the chocolate was tough to break! Just try to imagine the cheer that erupted when that chocolate finally cracked!
All the kids were totally in to it and excited to see what was going to happen. When they saw the candy they freaked out.
So we grabbed a knife and cut the cake up and they all just ate it with their hands. No plates or forks needed. And since this was outside, I didn't have to follow anyone around with a broom and wet cloth. I will totally do this again at my next party! But maybe use less chocolate. :)
For the favors I decided to let the kids put their own bag of goodies together. To tie it in to the book I printed out pages from the book and decoupaged them on to a board. I spray painted empty tin cans to hold the doodads and provided fun striped bags for the loot.
Most of the favor items were chosen because of things mentioned in the story. For example, one page shows a kid skateboarding, falling and getting a cut. I found finger skateboards and tied a few bandages to it. Another one was a page showing sea animals. I found sea animal silly bandz and put them in these cute little vending machine-style holders. Other items were little bundles of glow in the dark stars, rubber bracelets, magic rocks that my older son helped paint, rubber balls, plastic french horns and googly eye finger puppets. The kids really liked the favor board.
This was my favorite party to plan so far. I really like how it turned out. And thank you to all of you readers! You are awesome!
*A note about photos. When you are throwing a party, it is so hard to take all the detail shots that you want and paying attention to the guests. So when you specifically ask an amazing photographer (non-event photographer) to take pictures of your party, remember to tell them what you need. I forgot to point out some things I wanted pictures of and while I ended up with absolutely stunning photos of all the guests, you guys are out of luck. :)