My Baby Girl’s First Birthday Party

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It’s hard to believe, but Pinterest wasn’t even a thing when my son and daughter were little.  If it had been, well, I’d have done a better job of planning their first birthday parties!  I’ve often thought over the years that I didn’t exploit the fact that they have no expressible opinion at that age, so I could have essentially done whatever I wanted to do for just one year. So, between her Ralphie inspired pink bunny first Halloween costume last fall and wedding-esque first birthday party,  I think I may have made up for a little of what I lost with the other two.  I may just be able to make it through the next several years of Dora, polka dots, and animal print.  Or not.  Probably not.

As you’ve probably already surmised, we celebrated our sweet, tiny girl’s first birthday this past weekend.  I took some time away from the blog to research her party, construct a tablescape, order a custom outfit and invitations from Etsy, flowers from a florist, and some other decoratives to make it a beautiful and rustic first birthday.  I want to show you all the details because I love to share these things with you along with all the other things we regularly have on tap and, also, because this is something you can easily pull off yourself.

le Petite Posh - Onesie and Tutu

The Outfit

Custom Onesie (name and number) and Tutu from le Petite Posh on Etsy $50.95

Paper 'n Peonies - Pink & Mint Floral Birthday Invitation

The Invitations

Pink and Mint Floral Birthday Invitation from Paper n’ Peonies on Etsy $15

I had them printed at Staples for $19. Right now they have an offer to save 20% off Cards and Invitations with coupon code 85067. I used the create your own 5×7 one-sided portrait cards. It only took about 10 minutes and they did a beautiful job.


The Flowers

I bought two bouquets from a local florist, broke them down into smaller bouquets, and picked out some roses to decorate the cake. I ended up piecing the remaining flowers together for a full bouquet, too. They were lovely. So, so lovely.

Teleflora Cotton Candy Bouquet – Standard Size –  $32.95

Teleflora This Magic Moment Bouquet – $47.95


The Table

I used a 90×132 White Economy Polyester Tablecloth I bought from LinenTablecloth for $5.18. They have lots of other sizes and their prices cannot be beat. Along with that, I used a Burlap Runner I picked up at Walmart for $8.

From here, I dotted 10″ Wilton Paper Doilies ($2 at – cheaper than in store) along the runner on either side of the Wood Slice Cake Stand I bought at Sur La Table for $59.95. They have other beautiful complimentary Wood Slice Serveware, too – coasters make nice bases for the votive candle holders.

And since someone is sure to ask what I did with it, so I want to point out that you’ll see my Pioneer Woman Timeless Beauty 10″ Cake Stand in some pictures, but we didn’t end up using it. It’s a Jadeite color green and I didn’t have coordinating jadeite pieces to tie it in.  I planned to do that, but was pressed for time.  It would have been lovely with the pink/mint theme I had going.

I placed my tiny girl’s special healthy 3 ingredient cake on my 9″ White Scalloped Cake Stand from Pier 1. $14.95.

Also dotted around the table, there are 5 Silver Mercury Glass Votive Candleholders I picked up at Amazon. I liked the assorted styles vs. buying 6 of the same. $39.95. I only used 5 because I didn’t like the globe style of the 6th.  I’m no decorator, but it didn’t seem to tie in well to me.

I also bought a lot of Milk Glass Vases and Compotes on eBay. $23. I used 2 Bud Vases, one regular Vase, and 3 Compotes.

For the remaining two bouquets, I used white acrylic paint on a couple of Quilted Ball Jelly Jars I already own.  After the paint dried, I rubbed them lightly with a piece of, get this, printer paper to give them a distressed look.  It worked just fine.  In all, I had 6 bouquets of flowers.

We didn’t do anything fancy for the plates.  I used Chinet.  We only needed white, so that worked out perfectly.

For the food (standard grill fare), I used the two sets of Better Homes & Gardens 2 piece Rectangular Serving Platters I already own – $22.20 each set.  Two Compotes were filled with fruit salad, and the other with plastic cutlery.


The Cake

This is one of the standard cakes I make for my kids’ birthday parties – Duncan Hines Delicate White Chocolate Cake.  I only follow the cake directions.  For the filling, I always use Henry & Henry Red Raspberry Filling.  The frosting is the classic Buttercream Icing recipe (below)  I’ve used for years.  I’m a big fan of white/raspberry wedding cakes, so I always make one of these cakes for either my son or daughter each year.

I used two 10 inch round cakes and two 8 inch round cakes and stacked them.   Underneath is a Wilton 12″ Silver Cake Platter and 12 inch Doily.  It wasn’t what I intended to use, but it was what I had on hand and it coordinated with the votives.

Buttercream Icing


  • 1 stick Crisco
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 tsp clear Vanilla Extract
  • 7-8 cups Confectioners Sugar, sifted. If you don't sift, use less.
  • 4 tbl Milk


  1. Cream butter and Crisco. Add vanilla and milk. Blend. Begin adding confectioners sugar, one cup at a time, until it is dry, but not so dry that it's crumbly. Use immediately or cover bowl with a damp cloth.
  2. *For this cake, I assemble the layers with filling and use icing only between the stacked layers because it can't be seen, so it doesn't need to have any kind of finished look. Then I freeze the cake for several hours, so that when I frost it, it doesn't crumble with the heavier icing. After it's sufficiently frozen, I frosted the cake. The icing will freeze somewhat. That's ok. After frosting it somewhat smoothly, I run the cake spatula under hot water and smooth the frosting on the cake for a satiny finish. Granted, I'm no professional, but it looks perfect for a rustic theme when I'm done.

The entire party cost a total of around $350 + the cost of food and beverages we typically incur for any party we have. It was so worth every penny.  I’m going to dry some of the flowers and keep the flower from her skirt for her to use as her something old, maybe, when she gets married.  Tears.

Happy Birthday, my sweet, precious, and beautiful, Anna Banana.

Inspired by Kara’s Party Ideas.

Double Birthday Party: Princess Cake & Blue Swirl Cake!

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Princess Castle Cake

Wondering where I’ve been this weekend?  Labor Day weekend is when we host our double birthday party for both kiddies.  This year, we’ve been so busy I didn’t even have time to remind you!  That said, I thought I’d let you know now that things are slowing down a bit and share a few pictures with you of the cakes I made!

I have to say that, for once, I love the way my daughter’s cake turned out.  I only wish I had used sugar cones for the turrets (I use the Wilton Castle Cake Kit).  I forgot them at the store!  I would have used Wilton Color Mist in Purple to paint  them and then Pearl Lustre Spray to give the nice pearly, sparkly appearance.  Instead, I sprayed the plastic cones that came with the turret set.  Yeah, that doesn’t work out well in high humidity.  She loved it.  That’s all that matters to me.

Roses on Princess Castle Cake

This is the best close-up should I could get of the pearl spray.  My daughter thought it was pixie dust.  I love her perfectly sweet innocence.  My precious tiny girl.

 Blue Swirl Cake 2

My buddy did not want a cake with a lot of bells and whistles this year.  He  wanted to make sure his teeny sister had a really nice cake, so he settled for a swirl cake.  It’s my first one, so it didn’t turn out like I hoped.  He loved it so much that he wants a tiered one just like it next year.  We’ll see if my skills improve some by then.  I’ll practice throughout the year and we can compare them next year.  🙂

Oh, and we planned to go to the zoo, but the kids didn’t want to go there…again.  We went to the Renaissance Festival instead.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Labor Day weekend!  I’m sorry to see it end, but I’m looking forward to getting back to work, too!



Party Fun – Kids: Balloon Flip Flops!

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If it’s warm, I’m in party prep mode….even if it’s March.  Since my children nearly share a birthday, literally August 31st and September 1st, we have a dual birthday party that gets more elaborate by the minute, ahem, not year.  Jeez, that sounds bad, doesn’t it?  Please don’t confuse elaborate with expensive because the cornerstone of everything I plan is cost!

I also like to find really fun activities that won’t involve tears, and are reusable as well as cost efficient.  Well, this easy project more than fits the bill.  If you were here last year, you’ll recall that I put together some take home gift bags from Dollar Tree and that all of the included items were purchased there.  And because I split multi-packs of hair bands, clips and some other items, I was really able to stretch my dollars in some areas,  and still had some nice individual items (bag, sunglasses and flip flops) as well.


Now that the kiddies are getting a little older, our projects can (finally) become a little more advanced.  Tying knots is an easy task for an 8 year old.  Doing it repeatedly and in a pattern makes it a little more complex, but do-able, so it retains a healthy level of confidence upon completion.  With that in mind, if you’ve got a fun pool or summer birthday party coming up or just a sleepover, give this Balloon Flip Flop craft a try!

Photo Credit: One She Two She


Balloon Flip Flops

From Dollar Tree or your local dollar store, you’ll need:
Flip Flops in assorted sizes and colors
Primary Color Balloons – 100ct
Pastel Balloons 100ct

For either the pastel or primary colors, you may want to decide on a pattern to repeat like pink, green, blue, yellow, purple, etc.  You don’t have to do this because randomly chosen colors look equally as nice as a pattern.  You know I’m neurotic, so that’s my answer for you.   Hah!

And while this costs a bit more, you may want to buy some solid color balloons and do something like 6 yellow and 6 blue or something like that….perhaps for older girls who want school colors?  It’s really up to you, the attendees, and the nature of the party.  There really is no wrong way to do this.

Double knot each balloon along the sides of the flip flop thong.  In the end, you’ll need approximately 50 balloons to complete each side.  Obviously, this will vary considerably with size.   This average will help you decide how many balloons to purchase though.

Above all else, have fun, and send me your nifty pictures!  I’d love to see your creations!

Adapted very slightly from One She Two She

For Fun: My Double Birthday Party Update!

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If you’re new to us, I wrote a couple of posts (HERE and HERE) a few months ago when I was in the early planning stages of my children’s dual birthday party.  They share back-to-back birthdays, so we always celebrate them on Labor Day weekend.  Now that Labor Day has long since passed, I figured I had better update you on the whole thing.

For me, it was a bust.  I felt as sick as I have since this entire saga started.  I even cried because I felt so bad and had for days prior.  But hey, the day wasn’t mine or even remotely about me.  I sucked it up, as we all do, and moved on.  The kids, on the other hand, had a fantastic time all around!

So, let’s get to it and have a look at the cakes:

All right, so the cakes did not turn out like I planned…much less attention to crumb detail than usual.  Like I said, I was sicker than sick, but the kids still thought they were pretty neat – especially the water.  That’s all that matters.

My mother decorated her yard with inflatable palm trees, flamingos, grass table skirts and hibiscus flowers that she had kept from parties past.  That added to the tropical feel when the kids had their scavenger hunt that led them around the yard for stuffed parrots and leis.  In the end, each child got to keep a lei and parrot.  Fun, fun!

Some of you must be saying:  Parrots?  I don’t remember anything about parrots.  I got them at Oriental Trading.   Meh, it was a cute take home prize.  I couldn’t resist.  The leis were multipacks I got at Dollar Tree.   🙂

We also bought a bunch of dollar store toys, games and stickers and dotted them different colors.  These were the prizes for the duck game.  When the children finally matched a pair of ducks, they got to trade them in for a color matching prize.   My buddy traded his for a wallet.  He takes it EVERYWHERE with his dollar from the tooth fairy inside.  Sniff…sniff…

When they finished playing around with the ducks, we all went inside to eat and decorate a take home tee.  Instead of buying those at Dollar Tree, I got a whole bunch of Hanes tees at Meijer.  They had a promotion to spend $10 on Nabisco and save $10 on Hanes products, so I got a few packs of tees for that fun project.  I picked up some super cute stampers at Michael’s.  They have sets of 10 or so for around $9.99.  You can use a 50% off coupon and save a ton on that one item.  As you can see, my daughter loves her creation.

 We didn’t have enough time to make any soap with the ducks, so we’re saving them for the Halloween party we’re planning.  I cannot wait.  🙂  I think we’ll also decorate black tees with glow in the dark paint and Halloween stampers.  Of course, you can expect to hear more about that, too.

Birthday Party Crafty Fun: Swimming Soapy Ducks!

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OK, so I’m game planning for this upcoming birthday party.  It just so happens that Party City gave me a great idea for some double the fun activities.   They’re remarkably simple to pull together and fun for the kids too.  Younger kids can only have limited participation in the second part of this activity, but they’ll enjoy the result…you’ll see.

The last time I was at Michael’s, I picked up some two packs of bathtub toy ducks.  They’re in the dollar section.  I got 4 of them, but my kids have since opened them…grrr, so I have to buy more.  I’m planning to buy six this time around to put together this fun carnival style game.  I’m going to set up the kiddie pool.  From there, I’ll use one of my many free magic markers to make a large dot on the bottom of one of the ducks.  Each child will remove a duck from the kiddie pool, and the one who chooses the dotted duck wins a prize!   He/she also gets to keep that lucky duck for a later project.  Oh, and the prize will likely be a book like Make Way for Ducklings by Robert  McCloskey or The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack.  These are books I generally consider lost to this new generation.

The second portion of this little project is not for the teeny people.  They can be easily hurt by heated glycerin, so plan accordingly if you think this looks like something fun to do.  What you’ll need at minimum:

block of glycerin soap

First I’m going to chop the soap into small chunks for easy melting.  Then, I’m going to quickly melt down the glycerin in the microwave (30 second intervals) in a plastic wrap covered CorningWare type container.  When it’s almost melted, I’ll stir it to finish the melting process with the residual heat.  After that, I’ll fill the molds 1/3-1/2 depending on the mold.  When it sets, I’ll have the children place their ducks on top of the first soap layer, then pour in the remaining soap.  When it hardens, it’ll look like their ducks are swimming in water….sorta.  Kids don’t care how perfect it looks in the end.  It’s going to be a fabulous and fun birthday keepsake.   And no, I’m too cheap to buy soap coloring.  And no, you cannot use food coloring or you’ll stain your skin. :/

How much does this cost?
As low as $5.97.  That’ll get you one brick and 4 ducks.  For me, each brick (or mold)  was $9.99, but I used 50% off coupons to pick them up individually.  Since messing around with soap is something I plan to do routinely, it was a worthwhile investment for me to purchase molds.

If you want to shave off some of the cost, you can easily substitute a plastic bakery container like the one below for your mold:

So there, that’s just one part of my birthday party plan!  As they get older, my ideas seem to be getting more grandiose! But as long as I can do it inexpensively, I’m in!

How To Throw An Inexpensive Birthday Party For Kids

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Many of you sent me messages wanting to know more about my birthday party food and decorations – how much the items cost, and what my total outlay is expected to be for a party like that.  Honestly, it isn’t that much.  The bulk of the money we spend on the party is specifically for the theme, and that has more to do with my laziness than anything.  I could do it for much less if I really wanted to…and should.  So far, I’ve spent around $30, but there are ways to prevent spending that much.  Even so, that is probably ALL I’ll spend.  I’ve already got a stockpile of hot dogs, hamburger, buns and baked beans for which I’ve paid nothing.  Hopefully, I’ll have enough Catalinas around the time of the party to pick up items for veggie trays and a fruit bowl.   All of this takes a lot of careful planning and preparation, so let’s cover a few points to help YOU get organized and throw a party for much less.

Set A Goal
First, you should always know how much you can reasonably spend and stick to that limit.  Once your child settles on a theme, you can decide how to pare down the cost to your limit.  For example, a Knights & Princesses party can be very expensive.  There are plenty of ways to cut costs though.  The best way to do that is to make decorations and favors yourself.

For example, you can make princess cone hats very inexpensively.   One sheet of poster board from Walgreens can be your base for a couple hats.  For a fancier hat, hit some garage sales and buy used pink satin nightgowns to cover the poster board.  The frillier the better.  Look for nightgowns with lace edging or some other kind of pretty enhancement to go around the bottom of your hat.  If you’d like, you can also use construction paper to cover the poster board and make pink and purple hats.  Use some big rolls of inexpensive ribbon to enhance them.  Cut several strips, curl them up,  then staple them (all together) on the inside of the top of the hat before you fold it around so they trail down from the top.  You’ll have spent only a few dollars on 6 or so hats when you buy 3 sheets of posterboard.  Those make great take home gifts and the kids can decorate them at the party with stampers or crayons.

Tangibles With Bucks
I have something that I call *Buying Tangibles with Store Money.*  Yes, we can roll our register rewards and other stores money into more items, and that’s generally what I do.  When I’ve got a LOT of bucks or register rewards from a particular deal or deals, I’ll roll them into *tangibles.*  For example, I’ve bought a patio table and four chairs with UP Rewards.  I’ve also bought a summers worth of tank tops for myself when they’re 5/$10 at Walgreens.  Tangibles, for me, are items I would normally have to pay for to get.  Now, they can also be cans of Van Camps Baked Beans or ice at Walgreens, too.  Let me say, I don’t just go to Walgreens intending to use all of my Register Rewards on items like that.  I ALWAYS try to shop well in advance of a planned event to purchase these items along with money makers.  That way, I don’t have to use my Register Rewards at all and they’re still free for me.

A Little Help From Friends
There are even more ways to cut costs when you enlist the help of your friends.  Kids are basically the same.  If one child has a princess party, all the attendees want one too.  Use that to your advantage and go in together on decorations!  Three ladies can spend $10 a piece on decorations for 3 different parties and pack up the supplies for reuse at each one.  If you set a max of $20 per person for decorations and supplies, this gives you a whole lot of wiggle room.  That’s $60 in total for some really fancy decorations!

Take Home Gifts
This is the easiest one to shave costs.  You can pick up lots of multi-pack items at a dollar store – whistles, bubbles, sidewalk chalk. In addition, it seems there is always a  free gum opportunity at the drugstores.  Take advantage of that and all the free candy bars!  Another great idea for a fun party craft is to create a take home tee.  My Dollar Tree has all kinds of t-shirts for… ummm $1.00. You can also pick up a multi-pack of Hanes tees when they’re on sale too. Pick up a tee for each attendee and decorate them with old stampers that you pick up on e-bay or garage sales.  Since they’re reusable, they’re a great investment.  For our mock Prince/Princess party, pick up letters, so you can spell prince or princess and a star stamper makes a nice touch surrounding the letters.    Also, McDonald’s coupon booklets are fabulous gifts.

As I stated above, use your ECB’s, UP Rewards, Catalina’s and RR’s to cut costs on food.  If that’s too difficult, have family members bring a dish for a potluck – pasta salad, bags of chips & dip, soda, baked beans, corn, buns etc.  They’re all relatively inexpensive, even for a non-couponer.  You can supply the meat since it’s the greatest expense.

Gifts for Your Little One
Even with a few attendees, birthday parties are much like Christmas.  DO NOT spend a lot of money on gifts.  Buy ONE gift that you KNOW only you are going to purchase. Let the attendees carry the weight for the rest.  If your child has 5 guests, that’s 5 gifts!  Done-diddly-done!  Besides, kids love the party atmosphere more than the gifts in most cases.

To summarize, planning and early preparation are the biggest keys to a successful party.  You can easily throw a very inexpensive yet fun party by making just a few changes.  And honestly, your child won’t remember much except that you cared enough to bother.  In the end, that’s what it’s all about anyway, so have fun!

Double Duty: Birthday Party Style! Cakes, Decorations & Take Home Gifts!

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Birthday party prep is in full swing around here.   That’s a bit sad because I’ve got a 4th of July party I still need to get under control.  Hopefully, I’ll pull enough of that together to take pictures for you too.  In the meantime, here’s a bit of birthday background for you.  My son and daughter nearly share a birthday.  Yes, they’re one day apart – separate years, of course.   We always have a joint birthday party for them on Labor Day weekend.  Convenient, huh?  Through the years, I’ve made some interesting cakes.  I’d show you more pictures, but MY computer died and I have to use the other one.  Perhaps duh, but the new one doesn’t have old pics on it.  So, here’s what we’ve done for the last two years:

The Duck Cake (I used the Wilton 3D Rubber Ducky Cake Pan) was for my daughters first birthday.  My son turned 5 that year, so he got 2 cakes – a pirate ship (Nordic Ware Pirate Ship Cake Pan) sailing toward Skull Island.  Why?  I have no idea.  He liked the dry ice volcano so much that he wanted it again last year, but with a different theme.  This time it was Indiana Jones complete with a  fun scavenger hunt.  My girlie was forced to share that one.  Meh, she didn’t know the difference.  :/

This year, we’re doing a tropical theme with very understated cakes.  We’ll see if I can leave that alone.  I may have to enhance them with some kind of island decor…lagoon with flamingos & toucans or something.  I got the idea from this month’s Sandra Lee Semi Homemade Magazine, and my kids think it’s the best ever.

The beading around the edge is made of Sixlets.  What a fab idea!?!

For the tables (no pics yet), we’re covering them with pink and green vinyl tablecloths and lining them with grass skirts.  I also snagged some coordinating invitations, napkins, paper cups and straws.

Since I always make take home bags for the attendees, I put these together yesterday at Dollar Tree.  Not free, but fab!  Ya know, they have some plastic cups with screw on tops that look like pineapples that I think I’ll add to the take home bags.  So cute!

I missed the flamingo hat for the green bag picture, but you get the general idea.  These bags will be filled with hair clips, hat, sunglasses, goofy glasses, head band and a 4 pack of Charms Blow Pops.  I still have one more to make for our little guy attendee…always tougher to do for some reason.

My son and I are also crafting some votive candle holder sets for the Grandmas for birthday keepsakes.  Again, the idea came straight from Sandra Lee’s Magazine.   And you thought I was kidding…I love Sandra Lee!

I’m going to be doing two different color schemes for these – Green/Blue and Pink/Yellow to coordinate with the cakes and represent the two children.  They’re really easy to do and the supplies are crazy cheap.  I picked up a bunch of two packs of votive holders and tissue paper at Dollar Tree too.

For this nifty project, you’ll need:
Mod Podge or some other decoupage sealer – cheap at Walmart or you can wait for another 50% off regular priced item at Michael’s.  Side note:  It may only cost (and save) a few dollars, but I’d rather use a 50% off coupon on an item like that than save 50% off a $100 item just to get the max value.
Irregularly cut, small pieces of tissue paper
Parchment paper

How to pull it off:
Line your work area with parchment paper.  With your paintbrush, paint one third of your votive with Mod Podge in long even strokes.  Lay the pieces of tissue on the painted surface.  They do not have to cover the entire votive.  In fact, it actually looks better with some clear glass peeking through.  Repeat this process  with the remaining sides. When you’ve covered the entire votive with tissue paper, seal it with another coat of Mod Podge.  It’s that easy.  Let them dry and you’re done.

Our wonderful Grandma’s will have some equally wonderful take home keepsakes and my little guy gets his artsy homeschool-ey lesson in one.

Final pictures coming soon… 🙂