Friday, June 17, 2011

DIY Birthday Party


I really like throwing parties. I have a hard time not going over the top every year for Jackson's birthday, and usually do go over the top. It's something I really enjoy and I like making birthdays a big deal. Jackson turned three this week and we celebrated this past weekend with a birthday party at home. In the past, I've most definitely gone over the top, from the invitations to the party favors.

His first birthday was a beach theme. I hand delivered the invites, which was an individual message in a bottle, complete with sand and shells.
The party favors were beach sippy cups and leis. I had the cake made to look like a sand castle. (And paid an arm and a leg for it, justifying that it was his first birthday, but I swear I'll never pay that much for cake again! I don't care how good it tasted!) His second birthday was basketball theme. He was SO into basketball at the time. He still kind of is, but he was nutso about it this time last year. The invites were inflatable basketballs with the party information written on them. The party favors were custom "Team Jackson" tee shirts, with each child's last name on them. I screen printed them myself, and it really ended up being a rather inexpensive, albeit time consuming, favor. Learning my lesson from his first birthday, I decided to make his birthday cake. Of course in the shape of a basketball. This was the first cake I had ever decorated, so I was okay with any of the little imperfections there were. This year was the year of the airplane. I was determined to save as much money as possible, and do as much myself as possible. The problem I had, though, was a total lack of any airplane related ideas. I just couldn't think of any fun airplane games, airplane related food that was also toddler friendly, or airplane party favors. I started off with a boarding pass invitation that I created myself using free gimp software. I put each child's name on the "passenger" info and included all of the other important party information. As you can see, I put "Sunday, June 13th". Well, guess what? The party was actually on Sunday June 12th. But I didn't realize that until after all of the invites went out. I can totally blame that on my pregnancy brain! At least the entire cost of the invites came to exactly zero dollars! I did the work myself and printed it on card stock I already had with my home printer.

My next stressor project was the cake. I had zero energy to put into a cake this year. I called around to a couple of places to see how much an airplane shaped cake was and was getting insane quotes like $100-$150. I don't think so. And a plain sheet cake with a hand drawn airplane just doesn't fit the birthday's personality. So, I came to the conclusion that making the cake myself was the only option. I bought a Wilton airplane cake mold, normally about $13, for only $7 with a 40% off Joann's coupon. I also got a couple decorating accessories (icing bags, couplers, and tips) totaling about $10. Then I got three boxes of cake mix, for $1.78 each, and the ingredients to make the butter cream icing myself. (Butter, powdered sugar and icing coloring). All of the ingredients were about $15. So, all in all, I had about $35 invested in this cake. (Including the additional box of cake mix I had to buy when the first airplane cake tipped in the oven, resulting in an unevenly cooked and unusable cake, and a very dirty oven) All of that made an airplane cake and 50 cupcakes. Much cheaper than anything I could have bought.

For the food, I decided to go with traditional cookout food. The party was at 3:00, so not really lunch, not really dinner, but I still felt I should serve something. Hot dogs don't really have anything to do with airplanes, but I wasn't sure what else to do.

For the decorations, I didn't do much. I bought two helium tanks (using 40% off coupons from Hobby Lobby) and blew up sky blue balloons and filled the dining room ceiling with them. Then I attached a few foam gliders (that I also gave away as party favors) to some balloons with clear thread, to make it look like they were flying.

The kids were pretty entertained playing with the toys we have, and I also got a shuttle pinata for them to break open. When it came time to break it open, we let Jackson take a few cracks at it with the stick. Then his friends all tried too. After everyone had a two or three chances, we let Daddy rip it open and spill the candy out. The funny thing was all of the leftover candy. Each child just took a couple of pieces, so there was quite a bit still on the ground after wards. I guess we have all trained our kids pretty well to "only take one".


For the party favors, I got some little gliders that they can build, airplane whistles, and some "dog tags" for each kiddo. Not my most creative moment, especially after the personalized jerseys last year, but I don't think the kids minded.

All in all, Jackson was pretty happy with his airplane party this year. And hopefully next year, I'll have a little more energy to put into it!

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