Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Penny Carnival baby shower

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This post originally appeared on my personal blog. Baby Penny, whose imminent arrival we celebrated here, just turned one! I can't wait to show you her unique first birthday party, but let's look back at her baby shower first.

We finally had Mimi and Kevin's long-awaited Penny Carnival baby shower over the weekend, and it was an adorable success! My friend Sharon graciously offered up her home, which has a great open layout for parties (plus no toddlers or chihuahuas to disrupt the fun), and along with Jessica, we hosted a fun and memorable shower to celebrate little Penny's impending arrival.

The mantel sort of served as the centerpiece of the event, with Penny's big name banner (made from scrapbook paper and cardstock, sewn with grosgrain ribbon, and lettered with the help of my Christmas present--a Cricut Expression, using the Carousel Lite cartridge). We flanked the mantel with big jars of animal crackers and circus peanuts. Underneath we pinned photos of the happy couple to some leftover red ribbon. We left the hearth open to collect all the gifts as guests arrived.

Over the food table, we covered Sharon's chandelier with poms and lanterns, making sure not to let any of the paper touch the hot little bulbs. I actually "borrowed" the fabric we're using for my own baby-to-be's window treatments to make a quick table runner. You will see it again in valance form (hopefully soon!).

I wanted a fun backdrop (to cover Sharon's lovely but non-theme-specific curtains), and I had been searching for striped fabric or something else to use, when I decided just to use white sheets I already had, and make the stripes out of red crepe paper. I tried to steam the sheets (I promise!), and if I had it to do over again, I would have ironed them, but whatever. Total cost: $1 for a roll of red crepe paper.

I made silly, carnival-inspired signs for the food: "Hot Dogs! Peanuts," "Cake Walk," and my personal favorite, "Food on a Stick."

Amidst all the junky fair food, we wanted to work in a couple of healthy options, especially for the pregnant ladies, and we figured putting it on a stick kept it theme-appropriate.  I made little flags for the skewers out of leftover scrapbook paper. My collection of Fiesta Ware came in handy here because it matched some of our decor.

My friend Jessica made delicious sugar cookies with cream cheese frosting tinted to match the shower decorations, as well as some fantastic chocolate cupcakes topped with animal crackers.

I made the "popcorn" cupcakes (tutorial here), and displayed them on a red tray I scavenged from my kitchen (my coffee maker usually sits on it--picture here). I ordered the cupcake collars from Oriental Trading to save myself a little bit of time.

Jessica's little niece received a popcorn machine for Christmas, and she was so sweet to let us borrow it, even writing out some too-cute instructions on how it worked.

We placed some  different seasonings and some plastic popcorn boxes (snagged on clearance in the Target dollar zone a while back for about twenty-five cents a pop!) nearby and let people help themselves.

Candy tables/bars are everywhere, but the "penny candy" idea was just too appealing to pass up. We kept it small since we already had other sweet treats available, but we made sure to include some penny-esque chocolate coins.

Guests used the remaining popcorn boxes to fill with their favorite sweets-to-go. We added a little color to the table with one of my pashminas--how's that for cheap and cheerful?

We had big tubs of bottled water, sodas, and beer outside, and we offered up lemonade inside as well. The "Test Your Strength" version contained alcohol; "Kiddie Rides" was nonalcoholic.

We didn't have any traditional shower games (I think I've been pretty clear on how I feel about those, so I was relieved Mim felt the same), but we did have one optional guest-participation activity: guessing Penny's "fortune." I made a goofy fortune teller "booth," inspired by the machines I'd seen at arcades and carnivals, and let guests write down their predictions. The base is actually part of a hat box I bought to go in my little one's nursery.

At the last minute, I worried that we didn't have anything to hang on the front door. I grabbed the box lid from the striped base of the "fortune teller" booth, stuck a Cricut-styled "P" to it, and hung some leftover bunting over it.

We hopped on the popular "photo booth" party trend, setting up Jessica's tripod in Sharon's back den and offering up some goofy props for the guests. I can't wait to see how those photos turned out.

Kevin and Mimi passed out some fun, creative favors: scratch-off lottery tickets, complete with a "lucky penny" for each guest.

Kevin and Mimi had a great time, and I think all the guests did, too. I was so happy to be a part of celebrating their baby-to-be and her awesome parents.

Poms, bunting, banners: handmade using the Cricut "Carousel" cartrdige for all lettering and die-cuts.
Cupcake stands, striped cupcake collars, some candy: Oriental Trading.
Lanterns: Asian Ideas (repurposed from Ruby Anniversary party)
Beverage jars: Target (snagged on clearance last summer, but still available at full price--$20-ish-- in the glassware section)
Photos: My charming sister-in-law, Kara Knox Pin It

"How Does Your Garden Grow?" First Birthday Party

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This post originally appeared on my personal blog. Camilla Drew just turned two, so let's look back on her first birthday party.

Camilla Drew, you darling you,
How does your garden grow?
With sunny skies and butterflies
And cupcakes all in a row!

Hi it’s me. I have been lax about updating, but it’s not for lack of stuff to write about. Plus, I was sort of busy having a baby (more on that later)! Speaking of that baby, three days before he arrived, my niece Camilla turned one.  I was so excited when my sister-in-law Kara asked for a little help with her daughter’s first birthday party. As the mom of two boys (wow, that will take some getting used to), I really don’t miss girly things that often, except when it comes to sweet girly parties. Okay, and I might have a twinge of longing when friends post their daughters’ ballet pictures on Facebook. I mean, come ON. And I never even took ballet as a kid! But I digress.

Kara wanted the party to be relaxed and garden-themed, with an eclectic, flea-market feel. I think she did a great job!

Kara and I made the banner with a patchwork quilt in mind. She cut out different squares of patterned scrapbook paper with scalloped-edge scissors, and I matched them up with solid background pieces, put letters on them, and sewed the pieces together. We kept all of the words as separate banners, in case she wanted to put the "Camilla" banner in the nursery later.

We did so much with a couple packs of scrapbook paper! Kara made these adorable paper chains--definitely one of the easiest, least expensive ways to add some color to a party. 

The centerpieces of the party were two gorgeous dogwood trees in full bloom in the backyard. Kara took advantage of this by using them as a place to display Camilla's monthly photos from her first year of life. She made little paper "frames" for each photo with cardstock backing and, you guessed it, scrapbook paper, and hung each photo with a simple ribbon. So cute!

Kara set-up a "photo booth" in one corner of the yard by simply hanging up a pretty vintage quilt and providing flower- and bug-themed masks and props she found in the Target dollar zone. She made a few signs for guests to hold.

The entire party was adorable, and the food was no exception. Kara displayed the little tags I made for all the food in miniature flower pots. We made collars for the cupcakes out of--what else?--scrapbook paper, using a template we found online.

Kara made these little dessert stands out of vintage china from the thrift store and "crystal" candlesticks from the dollar store.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are so much cuter in flower shapes!

Cupcakes, cake pops, meringues: The Almond Tree (no longer open)
Banner, invitation, paper decorations: all handmade
Photography:  Stella Dolce photography

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Lu Turns Two: A Rainbow Party

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This post originally appeared on my personal blog. Lulu is about to turn three (gasp!), so let's look back at her adorable second birthday.

Rainbow parties have been making the rounds in the ol' blogosphere for a while now, and it's a charming theme I really love. When my friend Marianne, co-writer of the hilarious and adorable Looks Good from the Back, decided to go with a rainbow theme for her daughter Lulu's second birthday party, she did what she always does with her clothes: takes a trend and makes it look effortless, chic, and better than most people do it.

I love this giant "2" balloon:

What a clever and easy (though I'm betting time-consuming) way to dress up some plain wood columns:
 Marianne made the cake herself and painstakingly placed every M&M to make the cool rainbow stripes.

Taste the rainbow! (Sorry, I just wanted to say that. In fact, I probably would have said it multiple times if I had been at the party. I guess this is why I don't get invited to things?)

Food included M&Ms, rainbow goldfish, multicolored tortilla chips with salsa, and this awesome fruit rainbow.

Activities for younger guests included bubbles and finger painting (activities for older guests likely involved that box of wine I spy in the background above. That's what I'm talkin' about). The kids also enjoyed feeding the fish in Marianne's parents' koi pond, and taking "fairy walks" in the woods. Favors were fun rainbow crayons individually wrapped in wax paper.

Rainbow tutu?! Stripey babylegs? Sponge painting? PIGTAILS? I think I just died from cute overload.

Happy Birthday, Lu! And great job, Marianne!
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Backyard Bowl-o-rama

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Well, another birthday has passed, along with another promise to my husband that we would just do Chuck E. Cheese's or some bouncy place next year. But Graham had a blast, and all the kids there seemed to have fun, so all the hard work was worth it.

Enough blather, on to the pictures!

I made a little sign for our mailbox to point guests toward the back yard. I tried to base it on the vintage sign at the local Madison Bowling Alley. I really wish I'd had time to make some nice cardstock letters for this, but time was running out (literally, we had about 20 minutes until the party started), so I smeared some paint on it and called it a day.

I borrowed my in-laws' cute vintage table for the snacks. I hung the banner over it. My mom hung some sheets on either side to cover some of the grubbiness of our garage door. One year I'll make a backdrop, but this wasn't the year. "We" (meaning Seth, 100%) had a swingset to put together this time.

Some of the themey food. "Turkey" wraps, veggie "pin" wheels, peanut "gutter" balls, and "strike" sticks in ranch dressing cups.

My humble attempt at cake pops. They sort of looked like bowling balls. I think? Anyway, they tasted goo-ood, and I totally see why bakers charge $2-3 a pop now.

The pinata, may she rest in peace. This was a messy job, one I wish I had started a couple weeks before the party. I'm going to act like I meant for it to be vaguely mummy-esque.

Bowling pin and ball candles! My mom made the adorable cake. That bowling lane is fondant!

Favor bags--more on these later!

The kids attempted to actually bowl with the giant bowling set for about 5 minutes. Then, just as all of the reviews warned me, the kids went all Lord of the Flies with them and began chasing each other with them, and then (thankfully) just chasing and whacking the ball with them. I must say, this set was sturdy!

Graham had more sugar that day than in the last year. But that's what birthdays are for. 

Photos courtesy of my sister, Laura Covington, and my sister-in-law, Kara Knox.
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