Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Under the Sea" Mermaid 4th Birthay

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We all want to celebrate what our children love and what makes them special, but they often love popular cartoon characters, and the idea of a party filled with pre-packaged, commercial, plasticky decorations and favors can be unappealing. Camilla loves The Little Mermaid, and her mom wanted to honor that but in a less commercial way. We decided to take the party in a more general "mermaid" direction, with some fun nods to her favorite movie. We settled on a pinks and aquas for our color scheme, with seashells and watery details.

I used 36" balloons with tassel tails and small paper lanterns trailing ribbons to evoke jellyfish. Camilla's name was printed in pink glitter cardstock on a watery blue background, with a glittery pink "4" on a seashell announcing her birthday, and some glittery bubble accents.

Camilla's mom Kara kept the snacks simple and adorable. Clamshell cookies, starfish sandwiches, coral cupcakes, bubbly bite fruit kabobs, and crustacean crisps. 

We hung some more of the jellyfish lanterns in the trees, where the breeze really made them look lovely.

For games, we had a mermaid sack race, so the kids could "test out their sea legs." I cut simple mermaid fin shapes out of craft foam sheets and hot glued them to some thrifted pillowcases in our color scheme. I loved how they turned out!

The kids looked so adorable hopping through the grass. And the birthday girl won!

We followed that up with a treasure hunt, with a couple fun nods to The Little Mermaid. We did indeed hide dinglehoppers (plastic forks) and snarfblats (bubble pipes, in this case), and we threw in some candy items for good measure. The kids collected their treasures in beach pails.

After games, the kids happily grabbed their cupcakes and snacks and settled down for a round of "Happy Birthday" and some present opening. My peacock wicker chair seemed like a perfect seashell throne for the little birthday mermaid.

 Happy birthday to the sweetest, bubbliest little mermaid I know!

All photos by Stella Dolce Photography.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

My Dean-O-Saur's 3rd Birthday: Dino Trek at Nashville Zoo

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(I'm catching up on updates from this summer and spring! Enjoy!)

We've all heard the saying that the cobbler's children have no shoes. Sometimes, when I spend so many weekends throwing parties for other folks, the thought of planning my own children's parties can wear on me a little bit. In fact, when my seven-year-old opted to skip his birthday celebration this year in lieu of taking a couple friends to the big trampoline park, I was pretty relieved. But back in April, I found a happy medium between the stress of hosting a bajillion people at my house and skipping the party altogether: the zoo! 

The Nashville Zoo has a wide range of party options, starting at the bare-bones option of just showing up and putting your own food on one of their many picnic tables, all the way up to a catered affair with a personalized tour. We opted for the former, buying tickets for any friends and family members who did not already have memberships, having them meet us at the zoo entrance, and treating them to a low-key picnic and Dino Trek exhibit. It was the best of both worlds: personal, but low-stress. The beautiful weather definitely helped.

When everyone had arrived, we entered the zoo, set up our picnic table, and took turns visiting the Dino Trek exhibit, an amazing walk-through experience featuring many lifelike animatronic dinosaurs. For dino-obsessed Dean, it was heaven. 

I handed out foam dinosaur hats I had found at the Dollar Tree (!) and we explored the prehistoric trails. 

The kids really enjoyed the adorable mini archaeological dig at the end. 


At the end of the Dino Trek tour, we reconvened at the picnic table for some very casual snacks and cupcakes. This part was a bit of a test of my resolve, but my desire for low stress won out. I threw a blue sheet over the picnic table, tossed some of Dean's wooden dinosaurs on the table, simply opened up my plastic containers of sandwiches and snacks, and told everyone to dig in.

Well, I mean I still had to label everything with dorky names. This is me we're talking about. Herbivore snacks (carrots), Pternadon Ptalons (Bugles), Dino Bones (cheese sticks), Velociraptor Eggs (grapes), Brachiasaurwiches, and Tar Pit (chocolate) cupcakes.  

My sister made some adorable dinosaur coookies, too! I love all the bright primary colors. 

Dean was a pretty big fan of the cookies, too. 

You can't go wrong with Bugle claws/fingernails.

After the snacks and gift opening, everyone was free to leave or enjoy the rest of the day at the zoo. We hauled our things back to the car in our wagon and had a little fun watching meerkats and riding the carousel. When we went home, there was no mess to clean up. It was a wonderful, stress-free day.

Happy Birthday, my little Dean-o-saur. You are the cheeriest, funniest little guy I know. Thanks for making me laugh every day.
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Friday, November 7, 2014

Wynnie the Great's Magical 8th: a Magic Party!

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We had a magical time celebrating Wynnie's 8th birthday in September. If you follow Smarty Parties, you may remember Wynnie from her science-themed seventh birthday. Well, another year has come and gone, and her sweet parents asked me to put together a totally different experience for her. Instead of bright and modern, this year they wanted vintage and ornate. And instead of science, magic!

At the entrance to the party (a walkway that led around to the back of the house), I positioned a chalkboard easel, flanked with balloons and announcing "Wynnie the Great's Magical 8th!" Guests then followed the lighted path to the back yard to find magical surprises.

We kept the color palette to dark red, black, and ivory, with gold accents. Decorations involved top hats, rabbits, decks of cards, and anything vintage and magical.

Small cafe tables provided snacking space for the guests. Each one was set with a top hat centerpiece atop a gold charger, ringed with favors of wands and personalized decks of cards.

I positioned the dessert table against the back wall of the house, hanging red velvet panels on either side of black foam board, in the center of which was a lighted marquee "W" I made from a cardboard form and spraypainted gold. On either side of the marquee were rabbit ears peeking out of black top hats.

Across the front of the table was the birthday girl's banner, made from her name (Cricuit Carousel font) interspersed with giant playing cards featuring the number 8, in honor of her 8th birthday. 

Now for my favorite part of any party: the dessert table details! 

I ordered these custom "Vanishing Cupcakes" from Nashville Sweets. Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and fondant toppers featuring playing cards, stars with 8's, and magic wands. They did an amazing job, as usual, and also made this beautiful special cupcake for the birthday girl.


In addition to cupcakes we offered "Hocus Pocus Popcorn" that we popped onsite in a retro popcorn machine--not only was it a tasty snack, but it made the whole party smell especially festive.

And some pretzel wands for some more salty to balance the sweet cupcakes:

Also on the snack table were some sweets for guests to take home. They were invited to fill their magician's trunks (plastic treasure chests from Oriental trading) with tricks:

Strawberry "wands"

Coin Tricks (chocolate coins)

"Pick a card, any card!"

Guests gathered inside for a wonderful magic show by local magician Gary Flegal.

And the birthday girl herself even got to be his assistant--they made this table float!

The magic show was a huge hit with the guests--children and adults alike--and afterward, everyone went back outside for cupcakes and more snacks. Everyone had fun posing in the photo booth with their magical props.

Happy Birthday, Wynnie! Thanks for letting me share it with you, and I hope you have a 
magical year. 

All styling, planning, and party decor: Smarty Parties
Magician: Gary Flegal
Cupcakes: Nashville Sweets
Chocolate playing cards: Candy's Candies
Wands, favor trunks: Oriental Trading
Top hats, rabbits: Amazon.com

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