March 10, 2016

Star Wars Episode V Party


Theme

My son had his heart set on a Star Wars party for his 5th birthday.  Because he was turning 5, we decided on Star Wars Episode V.  There were only two issues with the theme:
1. We had been to a lot of other Star Wars parties, and I wanted his to be unique; and
2. I haven't seen any of the Star Wars movies.

Luckily, it turned out to be a blessing that so many of our friends had thrown Star Wars parties (because my friends rock, and they graciously let me borrow a lot of things for the party).  I was also lucky to have Pinterest, Google, and Youtube to help me adequately research Star Wars so that it looked like I saw the movies.  You can check out my pinspiration here. 

One of the best things about my son's party was that it really did take a village to throw it.  I couldn't have made all the robes and lightsabers without help from my friends.  I also really appreciated all of the items that were lent to us to make the party even more special.

Invitation

I made a video invitation on imovie based on the opening credits of Star Wars (like this one).  I have no experience with imovie (or editing any type of movie), so I watched a lot of youtube videos that walked me through how to use imovie and how to make the video invitation.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, and the invitation was a big hit!

Once I figured out how to make the video, I had to figure out how to send it.  I contemplated sending the video directly in an email, but I eventually decided it would be better to use Paperless Post (so that I could track the RSVPs easily and so that I didn't have to worry about whether everyone could view the video).

I created a movie poster from the Star Wars Episode V poster to use as the main image on Paperless Post.  I uploaded the video invite to youtube (and used the privacy settings so it was only visible to those who had a direct link), and then I included a note in the Paperless Post invitation to click on the link to check out the preview.



Decorations




We had been to some amazing Star Wars themed parties, and while imitation is the highest form of flattery, I didn't want my party to feel like a carbon copy of the other parties.  I wanted to make the day special for my son.

I ended up sticking to the Star Wars Episode V theme.  I tried to use things from Episode V only (or things that existed in the Star Wars universe during the timeframe of Episode V).  I also had a theme of light side vs. dark side, as Episode V is the episode with the epic battle between Luke and Darth Vader (or, so I've been told).  I figured this would help make this party a little different than the others.

I used Star Wars action figures and toys (I even incorporated my son's Yoda lunchbox) as decorations.  My son now plays with all the toys.  We also had good friends who threw an amazing Star Wars party and who were kind enough to loan us some key items (including a giant Darth Vader!).

I like to do something fun in the entrance because it sets the mood for the party.  I saw so many great ideas on Pinterest, and initially thought I would get white balloons and add stormtrooper faces to them.  Then I realized how much work that would be, so I just decided to go simple with lightsabers.


For the tables, I got black tablecloths.  I was planning on making an ambitious centerpiece with two lightsabers crossed against each other, but I decided to simplify.  Luckily, I found Yoda easter baskets at Target, and I used those as the centerpieces.   (Have I mentioned how much I love the easter basket aisle at Target?  I also found the train centerpieces for my son's 2nd birthday party there).  I filled them with napkins, because when you have kids, it's always nice when there are extra napkins on the table and you don't have to get up!



Most of the other decor was done with signs.  I made sign for each food "station" to go with the theme.  I also made some signs to go around the house to go with the theme:

Food

The food was split up into stations, which I viewed as different restaurants or bars in space.

Each station was represented by a sign.  I bought black poster paper, and my son and I added "stars" to the paper by dipping toothbrushes in white paint and moving the bristles with our fingers, so that the paint would spatter (don't worry it was washable paint!).  We then used my silhouette cameo to cut out the letters on the signs.

We had the "Admiral Ackbar Snackbar," where we served "Vader Veggies" (veggie sticks), "Princess Leias" (potato chips), Dagobah Dip (lentil and bruchetta dip) with pita crackers, and other snacks.





We also had "Jabba the Hutt" for the kids, where we served Pizza Hut pizzas, Tauntaun Tenders (dinosaur chicken nuggets from Costco), Carbonite Jello, and Yoda's ears (edamame).


For the adults, we had "Obi-Wan Kabob-ies" which served Persian food (chicken kabobs, stews, rices, and salads)
























For the drinks, there was "Yoda Soda Shop"




I decorated my water dispenser with felt, and made a fun sign for the alcohol.  Because R2D2 was the main focal point of this area, I also added a C3PO to the ice bucket.




I had the hot drinks inside, out of the reach of the kids.  I found a great stromtrooper Starbucks sign that was perfect for the coffee!



For dessert, I had two tables one for the light side, and one for the dark side.

The light side table was full of fruit and had a sign that said "Come to the light side, we have wookies."



The dark side had Darth Vader with a sign that said "Come to the dark side we have cookies."  I included a variety of cookies (including gluten free options).  Because I know a lot of parents do not like their children to have a lot of sweets, I try to put any cookie or sweet options up high out of the reach of little kids so they have to ask their parents (and they can't just stuff their faces when their parents aren't looking).



My favorite cookies were the Leia ones I made.  A good friend (who had a Star Wars party for her kids before our party) made the most adorable Princess Leia cake pops for the party.  She took donut holes and dipped them in candy melts and then dipped them in a darker chocolate (for hair) and she added Leia buns and faces to them.  How cute are they: 



She let me have her extra lips (which were heart shaped sprinkles), and I was really tempted to copy her cake pops (they were so cute and so good!), but I didn't realistically have enough time to make them (and I arguably lacked the skill to make them too).  I really wanted to do something similar though, and eventually I found the perfect solution (thanks to Pinterest).  

I bought Vanilla Wafers.  I dipped the tops of them in melted chocolate for the hair and then I put m&ms on the melted chocolate (with the "m" side facing down) to make the buns.  I piped eyes with frosting, and I used frosting to make the heart lips stick to the cookies.  

  





For the cupcakes, I also stuck with the light vs. dark side theme.  The light side were homemade mini vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting.  The dark side were store bought chocolate chip muffins with Trader Joe's cookie butter (cookies 'n cream flavor) as the frosting.  I tried to make it look like a battle, with a center platter that held the candles and had Luke and Darth in their epic battle.   For the backdrop for the cupcakes I put up a birthday sign that I borrowed from another friend who previously had a Star Wars party for her son (her son has the same first name as my son, so it worked out great!).











Entertainment





I hired a Luke, Darth Vader, and Leia to entertain the kids.  They were great!  They introduced themselves, and then trained the kids to be Jedis.  Then, they went on a treasure hunt and the treasure was light sabers.  I made the light sabers with pool noodles and duck tape (luckily a good friend shared her tips from when she made them, and a lot of my friends came over for a craft party and helped me make them all - it was a fun girls night and a huge help!).

The kids also got Jedi robes.  I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to do Jedi robes, and I was trying to find an easy no-sew options.  I never expected for my friend to offer to make the robes, but that is exactly what she did.  I didn't want to take her up on her offer, because I felt like it was too big of a favor to ask someone, but she insisted.  I am glad she insisted because and it was hands down the highlight of the party.  She used this pattern.  I was told they were "easy" to make (but take that with a grain of salt because that is the opinion of someone who knows how to sew and is very talented).  She even made them in three different sizes - a large for kids 5+, a medium for the kids 2-4, and a small for the infants and little ones.  I hid them in different areas in the yard, so that when it was time to pull them out, we knew who was holding each size, and we could pass out the right sizes.  I like to respect the privacy of my friends, so I won't show the pictures I have with the kids faces, but trust me when I say that the sight of a bunch of kids running around our yard dressed as little Jedis was priceless!  And the little infants in their Jedi outfits were pretty priceless too!

We also had a bounce house.  I originally did not want one because we were hiring entertainers, but my the day before the party, my husband voiced that he thought we really needed one, so I got one last minute.  It was nice to have it, but I should have deflated it when the performers were there because some of the kids were slow to join the entertainers because they were bouncing and didn't want to stop.

Favors

The robes and lightsabers were the favors, but I also did a CD.  I always get a lot of complements on these, and so our friends now look forward to getting one.



October 2, 2015

To the Woman Who Wants to Have It All, While Wearing Stilettos



When I was deciding on a name for my blog, a friend suggested stiletto lawyer.  I loved the image it evoked - a strong, ambitious working wife and mother who managed to do it all while looking great and balancing herself on a pair of Sex and the City worthy stilettos.  As long as I can remember, I wanted to be that woman who had it "ALL."  I spent a lot of time anticipating how I would one day balance a career, a husband, children, a home, and me.  I borderline obsessed over it.

Then I had kids, and I felt so overwhelmed by all of the different responsibilities and parts of my life. I was an exhausted mess.  Very far from my vision of the woman who had it "ALL."  At points I worried that I would never find that balance, but then I learned to adjust my expectations.  I also came to the realization that the woman who has it "ALL" does three essential things:  (1) she learns to be as efficient as possible, (2) she delegates, and, most important of all, (3) she learns to choose her definition of "ALL" very carefully (unless she wants that definition to include a mental breakdown).

So since part of having a blog is that you get to give unsolicited advice, here is my advice for the mom who fantasizes about doing it "ALL" in stilettos:

1.  Perfect Your Balancing Act:  I try to be as efficient as possible.  Sometimes my efficiency has to do with me becoming better at something (like learning how to leave the house with two children - that could be an Olympic event; getting better at menu planning; putting better organizational systems in place).  I try to learn as much as I can from others.  Sometimes my efficiency is accomplished by overlapping my goals.  No time to exercise, spend time with kids, and have me time with friends?  Take a walk around a lake with your friends and your kids.  Turn on a dance video game or have a dance party with your kids.  No time to cook dinner and spend time with kids?  Have kids be your special helpers and turn cooking into a family activity that both teaches your children how to take care of themselves one day and is super fun!  Also, now that my kids are getting a little older, I have them help with clearing the table, cleaning up after themselves.  They are learning good habits, and we are all pitching in so there's less work for mom and dad to do.

2.  Get Support:  I have to admit that it's been a long time since I've worn stilettos.  It's taken me some time, but I have finally learned that it is never a good idea to make things more difficult for yourself then they need to be, and frankly, these days I need a lot more support.  I need a freaking platform wedge, and that wedge is my family and friends - my community.  My community is a crucial part of my life.  Hillary Clinton was right:  It really does take a village, and I am starting to learn that it is so important to choose the members of your village wisely.  I rely so much on the kindness of my family and friends, and I also try to spread kindness to others.  One of the best things I have learned from becoming a mother is to accept the help of others (and after becoming a mother to two kids, I have also learned to ask for help).  That was a really hard thing for me to do, especially because one might call me controlling, but it was so freeing to accept help and to learn to delegate to others.  In order to properly delegate, I had to focus on the fact that all that matters is that I don't have to do it.  If I delegate to my husband or someone else, they get to do it their way.  If I absolutely needed it to be my way, I don't delegate it.  I also try, to the best I can, to support others in my community as well.  Sometimes a small gesture (like making/picking up a meal for a friend who just had a baby or who is having a rough week) can really help someone out.

3.  Choose Your Definition of "All" Very Carefully (Or Learning How to Drop Plates and Shout Opa!):  This has been the hardest change for me.  My eyes are bigger than my arms.  I want to take on so much and balance so many plates, but I have to be realistic about my schedule.  Like Elsa reminds me (quite frequently), sometimes I have to just let it go.  More importantly, sometimes I have to drop a plate and learn to shout "Opa!" as it falls.  Sometimes it is an easy plate to drop (e.g., hiring a cleaning crew).  Sometimes it is really difficult.  When deciding what to cut out, I think about both how important it is to my kids, my husband, my friends, or me, as well as about how much my kids, husband, friends, or me enjoy it.

Sometimes I have to drop something because I realize the only good thing about it is the picture I have in my head.  For example, I thought having dinner together as a family was a very important part of being a family.  Before I even had children, I stressed and stressed about how I was going to balance my work schedule and commute to make it home for dinner every night.  With my son it was never an issue because he liked to go to bed late and sleep in when he was a baby.  But when my daughter came along it was tough because she liked to go to bed early, which meant dinner had to be moved to a time that I could never be home for.  When I stressed to come home early, it was always chaos.  The kids would scream most of the time from being cranky from their day.  It was hard to get them to all sit still around the table.  My daughter just wanted me to hold her, because she hadn't seen me all day.  It took some time for me to realize that I was bending over backwards to do something that wasn't working.  So, I let the dinner plate fall.  Instead, we started having breakfast together.  That way we still have a meal together, but it is a time when we were all home and the kids weren't exhausted and melting down.  It became enjoyable.  It was quality time worth taking.  We always make sure to have dinner together on Friday nights for Shabbat, and I look forward to that all week, but for the rest of the week, I am happy not to be stressing out about making something work that just isn't workable right now.  If when my kids get older that changes, we will adjust.  I can always pick a plate back up later if things change.

One word of caution when dropping plates:  don't just drop the plates that are for you.  You must keep a plate or three for yourself, and you must not feel guilty about it.  Many mom's will easily drop the plates that are for them, and will give their time to their work, kids, husband, friends, etc.  This is not healthy by any means.  Lots of my friends complain that their husbands take free time for themselves without even giving a second thought, but that they would kill for a break.  While perhaps there is some merit to those complaints, I actually think the men may have this one right.  When you are on an airplane and the stewards tell you to put your own oxygen masks on before putting them on your children - I'm pretty sure that message is for moms (not the dad's), because mom's typically think of helping their kids before providing themselves with the oxygen they need to breathe.  But here's the thing - if you don't have oxygen, you can't breathe, and therefore you are of no help to your children or anyone else.  You must keep a plate or three for yourself.  You must take care of yourself before you can take care of others.  Also, I don't think we are setting good examples for our children if we are showing them that parenting is all about self-sacrifice and loosing yourself in the process.

If you really are juggling too many plates, try perfecting your balancing act before you drop all the plates that are for you.  For example, I think it's important to have a creative outlet to express yourself and unwind.  I, however, happen to have several hobbies I love, and I cannot find time for them all (hence why there are so few blog posts on my blog!).  I particularly love to cook, entertain, take pictures, and scrapbook.

With cooking, it is hard for me to find the time to cook.  It is important that my family eats healthy, and I really, really enjoy cooking.  It's also a great way to spend time with the kids, or have some much needed me time at the end of a stressful day when the kids are in bed sleeping (while helping out my family).  While I do make cooking a priority, and I don't drop that plate, I make several adjustments to the way I cook.  First and foremost, I meal plan so that I don't waste time trying to figure out what to make.  When it comes to the actual cooking, I usually cook with my kids on the weekend, or I cook dinner the night before after my kids are sleeping so that I don't have to be home early to cook dinner.  I also don't make anything that is difficult or takes too much time to make.

With photography and scrapbooking, I have found an easy adjustment.  I take lots of pictures of my kids, and I do digital shutterfly scrapbooks online (which are much quicker than the handmade kind).  So that was an easy plate to keep!

However, other times I have to drop something I love because it just isn't practical (or enjoyable) anymore, like entertaining.  I love to entertain, but I do not have the free time to entertain as much as I would like, on the scale that I would like.  So when it comes to my children's birthdays, I get my fix for entertaining, and I try to make the times I do entertain really special.  Also, when I entertain I keep things very, very simple (and try to hide how simple it really all is).

Royal Puppy Party


Theme:  Royal Puppy Party

For my daughter's second birthday, I merged her two favorite things:  puppies and princesses.  I originally planned on a puppy party because my daughter loves puppies (and because I had a ton of dog bowls left from my son's Paw Patrol Party).  Then, right before her second birthday, my daughter discovered princess dresses and dress up.  She had so much fun dressing up and covering herself in pretend jewels.

For a two year old birthday, I try to pick a theme that has to do with a toy or activity the child enjoys. My thought is that most two year olds don't really understand that it is their birthday party, so my goal is just for the birthday kid to have a blast.  For my son's second birthday, I did a train theme because he loved to play with trains.  So for my daughter - I needed to figure out how I was going to merge puppies and princesses/dress-up.  I saw a lot of cute ideas for Palace Pets parties, but my daughter didn't really know what they were.

I ended up going with a Royal Puppy Party.  I imagined the party as a puppy party at a princess's house, where all her royal friends come to play with puppies and have fun.  Maybe it was a bit of a stretch for a theme - but my daughter had a blast!

You can check out my pinspiration here.

Guest List and Birthday Rotations

I love to throw parties, but I hate making a guest list.  I am a big believer of the more the merrier.  However, as much as I love opening my doors to everyone who is important to me, it can be exhausting and expensive to throw a large party for over 100 people for every birthday, especially now that I have two kids.

Then someone mentioned a great idea - the birthday rotation.  Each year, one kid gets a big party, and the other gets a smaller party (a family party or a class party) or special vacation or day trip.  Both kids are celebrated, but there is only one big party a year.  For the big party, I invite my kid's friends and mine.  For the smaller party, I invite just family and/or my kid's friends from school.  It seemed like a good idea (and it was really nice to throw a small party - so much easier to throw and so much easier to enjoy and talk to everyone), but I have to admit, I really wished that I had invited some of our closest friends too.  I was too caught up in not wanting to hurt feelings that I figured it was better not to set clear lines and not invite just some of our friends.  Next time I do a small party, I will include our closest friends.  It really wasn't the same without them.

Invite

I used Paperless Post for the invite.  I am a fan of the paper invite, but no one RSVPs to them anymore, and they are expensive.  I like Paperless Post because it is a little fancier than evite.  They have great designs, or you can just pick one of their photo layouts, and you can upload a digital image of your own (or a purchased one from etsy) to serve as the invite.  You can do a free invite, or you can play a small fee to have something a little more special.  I also like the digital invite, because I digital scrapbook, and I can easily add the digital image of the invite to my kids' scrapbooks.

The invite said "Princess [name] requests your presence at a Royal Puppy Party in honor of her Second Year of Reign"

I also asked guests to "Dress in their royal best."  My daughter's friends wore adorable princess dresses and the boys dressed fancy like princes.  I found this special princess dress for my daughter.  It looked so beautiful on her, and while it was more than I would normally spend on a dress-up dress, it was still more reasonable then the Disney dresses.  She still enjoys wearing it for dress-up.

Decor



I wanted a generic princess party, and I did not want to focus on a particular Disney princess (especially because I figure that with my daughter, there is a chance I will be throwing a different variation of a princess party for the next 5-7 years).  When I was looking online for inspiration for princess parties, the Princess Sofia colors stuck out to me the most.  I though the colors looked so pretty together, so I decided on a purple and pink color scheme.

I always like to do decorate our front door somehow.  It is the first impression of the party and it sets the theme.  I was tempted to go overboard and create a grand entrance - like a drawbridge, but I had to remind myself, this was the "small" party.  I toned it down and went with a simple royal crest with my daughter's first initial on it (which is now hanging in my daughter's room).


I wanted the decor to be fancy and "royal."  I planned to make elegant centerpieces from purple and pink roses and white hydrangeas with tiaras on each centerpiece.  I planned to line up tables with lavender linens and the centerpieces in my yard to follow the pink and purple theme.  Unfortunately, it rained, so we had to move the party indoors (did I mention how lucky I was that it was a very small party).  With the party indoors, I did not have enough room for all the tables I planned to use.  Since I already had the flowers (and no tables to put them on), I made a couple centerpieces for the kitchen table and to place around our living room, and I made some arrangements for the food tables.



To add some sparkle to the party, I stuck rhinestones to the base of the forks, knives, and spoons:  







Sparkle Station - Favor





The "centerpiece" of the party was the Sparkle Station.  I love the idea of allowing kids to dress up at a party to get into the theme.  We have been to a lot of parties where the hostess graciously provide the guests with costumes, but I could not figure out an affordable way to give out princess dresses.  I decided to ask the guests to come dressed in their royal best, and I provided accessories.

Pure joy is watching my daughter's face while she covers herself in toy necklaces and bracelets.  I figured the other kids might enjoy it as much as my daughter.

I had tiaras and crowns for our guests (I had more than enough for al the adults too):




I got a variety of necklaces (mostly from Party City, but also from here).  I placed them on a necklace holder I already had.  I put the necklace holder on a lazy Susan (which was covered by tablecloths and napkins), so that the guests could spin them around to pick which ones they wanted:








I also made pendants with my kids using mod podge shapes, glitter mod podge, and jumbo jewels, and ribbon (from Michaels).  I hung them on a towel rack we had from one of our bathrooms.  

I was going for a Princess Sofia-like amulet look.  (Click here to see where I got the idea, and for full instructions on how to make them).  They were a little hard for my 2 year old to help with, but my almost-5 year old loved making these with me.






I also had an assortment of bracelets.  I went with jelly bracelets and slap bracelets.  I also found some fun sequin bracelets.  I tried to stay away from any beaded jewelry because I was worried if any of it broke there would be choking hazard beads all over the party.  The slap bracelets took me back to my youth.  I used a hand towel rack from a bathroom to display the slap bracelets.  I purchased a bracelet display holder from Michaels for the jelly bracelets.




Finally, I had an assortment of rings.  I got bling rings, but also got light up rings (which by the way, are my favorite thing to bring with us to trips to Disneyland!).   The white boxes holding the rings may look familiar - they are from my son's train party (I used them to make the snack train).  




You can find the flashlight rings here, the gummy light rings here, and the bling rings here.







My favorite thing about these favors is that they were an activity at the party, but the guests got to also take them home and they can keep playing with them.  We also had a ton left because - shoker - I bought too much - and my daughter has a full drawer in the playroom with dress-up jewels that she still plays with.

The hardest part about the sparkle station was hiding it from my kids until the party started.  I tried to arrange it the day before so I wouldn't have to stress the day of, but my kids kept attacking it.  I guess that was a good thing (they had lots of fun), but I kept having to put it back together.  Finally, I wised up and covered the whole table with a sheet.  I uncovered it right before the party started.

Food & Drinks

I am a firm believer that food and drinks are very important at a party.  It is hard for guests to have a good time if they are hungry or thirsty.  I try to have something for everyone (and always make sure my guests with food restrictions have options).









Because I had such a small guest list, I decided to do all the cooking myself.  I like to have a lot of snacks for kids and adults as well as a more substantive meal.  I used my corner tiles (from Home Depot) for the food signs.

For dinner, I made:


1.  A Deconstructed Chinese Chicken Salad.  I separated the ingredients (butter lettuce, shredded carrots, mandarin oranges, won tons, chicken, sliced almonds, and candied pecans) so guests could assemble their own salads, adding what they liked.  I used the Far East Chinese Chicken Salad dressing from Costco, which is amazing!  I had vegetarian guests and I also had guests with nut allergies, so this made it easy for those guests to work around their food restrictions.



2.  Pasta Three Ways (pasta with marinara (vegan), pasta with butter and parmesan cheese, and tortellini in an alfredo sauce).  Pasta is easy to make, very inexpensive, and widely loved by kids.  Although I know it may not be the healthiest option, it can be difficult to get kids to eat at a party, so I like to make it easy on the parents by having foods that kids will eat.

It took me a long time (and lots of dinner play dates) to learn that there are a lot of kids who will eat pasta with butter and Parmesan Cheese and nothing else.  I also had a guests who are vegan or have dairy allergies, so I made another pasta with marina that was vegan.  I really liked the tortellini with alfredo sauce.  A lot of guests raved about it, but it was not as popular as the other two pastas.




3.  Dragon Nuggets (frozen dinosaur chicken tenders from Costco) with ketchup, ranch and BBQ for dipping.  Another popular dish for picky eaters are chicken tenders.  These were so east to make.  I bought them frozen from Costco, warmed them in the oven, and then popped them in a chaffing dish to stay warm for the party.



 4.  Roasted Green Beans 

I wanted to add a vegetable, so I made roasted green beans with parmesan cheese (Just preheat an oven to 435 degrees, spread green beens (or heir coverts) on a baking dish, toss them with oil, then sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and pop them in the oven for 19-23 minutes.  These are a hit with adults and kids, so I thought it would be an easy way to get the kids to eat some veggies.




5.  Edamame.  I also defrosted some edmame (another favorite of kids and adults alike), so guests could add them to their pasta or add another veggie to their plate.  



6.  Breadsticks and Marinara Sauce.  I got the breadsticks from a local restaurant that makes amazing breadsticks, and I kept the marinara warm in a small crockpot



For the snack table, I had a variety of snacks geared at kids and adults:




 1.  Toddler Snacks.  I had an assortment of my daughter's favorite snacks:  Freeze Dried Mango (Trader Joes), Inner Peas (Trader Joes), Yogurt Stars (Trader Joes), Veggie Sticks (Costco), Pirate Booty (Costco), and Veggie Pouches (Costco).







2.  Bruchetta Lentil Dip.  This is one of my favorite dishes to make for a party - so easy and so good.  You just mix pre-made steamed lentils with the pre-made bruschetta (both from Trader Joes) and voila - amazing dip!  My kids can't get enough of this one (and neither can the adults).  I serve it with pita crackers (also from Trader Joes).


3.  Artichoke Spinach Dip.  I have to admit, I prefer easy snacks that don't need to be heated, but when I came across the idea of a carriage filled with dip (here), I could not resist.  This was the centerpiece of the snack table.  I think every guest said something to me about it at some point.  It was so easy to make!  I just cut the top off a loaf of sourdough bread and pulled out the bread in the middle of the loaf.  Then I made a couple pieces of toast and cut them with a round cookie cutter.  I stuck toothpicks through the round toasts and added them as wheels to the carriage.  I found toy horses at Michaels (which my daughter now plays with), and I tied string around their necks to connect them to the carriage.  I had meant to add lettuce to the plate (to look like grass), but I ran out of time.  





 4.  Fruit.  I also did three fruit plates:  apples, cantaloupe mixed with raspberries, and honeydew mixed with blueberries and pomegranate seeds.








For drinks, I had water and an assortment of soda, iced tea, juices, and sparkling lemonade.  I also had beer and wine.  I tried to get wine bottles with screw on tops to avoid guests needing corkscrews.

In order to avoid guests loosing their cups, I put out stickers for the guests to put their name or initials on their cups.  When there are no kids at a party, I leave out a sharpie or chalk pen so guests can write their names on cups.  Sharpies are a problem at kids parties.  Then, when I was a party I saw the perfect solution - a brilliant friend put out stickers to mark the cups.  I loved the idea!  I wanted to make sure that guests understood what the stickers were for, and my sister-in-law came up with a great idea to explain it (short and sweet) on one of the cups:  "Put name on cup."  I will be doing this again!


I also had a coffee and tea station in the kitchen (out of reach of small children).  Because it was a cold and rainy day, I had a small hot chocolate station too with different kinds of marshmallows.



Cupcakes

A great way to save a big part of your budget is to make your own cupcakes.  Cakes can be very expensive.  Cupcakes can cost less than $5.  The best part about the cupcakes is that I make them with my kids.  My go-to cupcake recipe is an amazing doctored cupcake recipe here and homemade frosting recipe here.  I used the same recipes for my son's 3rd birthday, but I just picked different colors.  Everyone raved about the cupcakes.

I also got little princess fondant decorations made by Wilton (from Michaels) and I got little candy pearls.  I decorated my cupcake stand with a pretty pink ribbon I found at Michaels and I topped the cupcake tower with a tiara from Party City that said Happy Birthday.  I made mostly mini cupcakes (they are a big hit with the kids and the parents who are health-conscious), and I made a small batch of the bigger ones as well (mostly so that I would have cupcakes large enough to hold up the tiara and the candles).











Entertainment

1.  Puppies.  It was a Royal Puppy Party, so I hired a company that brings 10 puppies to your home (the same company I used for my son's Paw Patrol Party).  They were amazing!  They were at the party for an hour, an I don't think my daughter left the puppies for one second.  She was in heaven! The other kids enjoyed it as well.  I know some kids are a little scared of dogs, so I had them off to the side so that they could be avoided if need be.



2.  Princess.  I planned to have a small castle bounce house to keep the kids busy, but it rained.  I was trying to figure out how I was going to keep the kids entertained.  I decided to entertain them myself and made a playlist of songs we could dance to (Hold Still, etc.), but I was not sure how it would go over.  Then, a good friend saved the day.  A friend of hers had won a raffle for a free visit with a princess.  Her friend could not use it, so she asked my friend if she wanted it.  My friend said that she was going to a party and could not use it either, but that the party was a princess party.  My friend asked if the princess would mind coming to the party instead of to her home.  The princess graciously agreed, and viola, my daughter had Ariel (for free!) at her party.  If the stars were not aligned already - my daughter's first birthday theme was Little Mermaid, so it was a fun cross-over from the other party.  Ariel was a big hit!  She played with the kids and sang with them.  My daughter can be shy with princesses, but she warmed up to Ariel and even sat in her lap.

3.  Coloring & Toys.  I had a bunch of toys out for the kids to play with, and I also set up a coloring table with crayons and print outs of empty royal crests, so the kids could color in their family crests. I find there are always a couple kids who prefer to color during a party.  For some reason coloring is more well received than fancy crafts.  I think it's because the kids do it all themselves, and they can come and go as they please.