Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kate's Garden Party/Bug-themed First Birthday

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My little Kate’s first birthday party was just as much fun for me to plan as her big sister’s third birthday party (if not more so). I wanted to try and use as much of the same items for Kate’s party as I did in Elena’s (to save a bit since they were so close together) but I wanted them to be totally different. Elena’s was more fun and whimsical but Kate’s was more sweet, sophisticated, and feminine. For Kate’s party, I started with her pet name that has kind of stuck: “Katie-Bug.” I had seen some adorable lady bug parties out there, but once again, did not want to go the traditional route. What started out as a bug theme, evolved into a garden party theme.

The color choices came next. The green gingham was a given since I had cut out table cloths, backdrops, etc. for Elena’s party. I also still had a good bit left over. I had a plethora of canning jars so I decided to use them again as well. I love Kate’s baby blue eyes, so I added baby blue to the mix and topped it off with simple white lace (since I also had a lot of lace and ribbon given to me by my grandmother). Green grass with butterflies and dragonflies completed the design elements.

I once again made four basic designs that I repeated throughout the different elements of the party: the number 1 in green gingham, a blue butterfly, grass and bugs and “Kate” with blue outlines/green gingham.

Since the theme was about gardens and growing, I included pictures of Kate, birth through 11 months on the front of her invitation.

I don’t know about you, but I have always had the toughest time trying to determine what to give a baby for their first birthday. I know that the babies will not remember the day, but I want the gift to be something special that they (or their parents) will enjoy. We had a very special gift given to us when Elena turned one: a tree to plant and watch grow as she grew. Thinking of that gift led me to the flower idea: I asked each family to bring their favorite perennial flower as their gift to Kate. With each invitation I included a business card insert that read, “Help Kate’s Garden Grow. As your gift to our growing girl, please bring your favorite perennial flower to plant in the Birthday Girl’s garden.”

Birthday Outfit
For the birthday dress, I used the number 1 design element on the front of her dress. The blue fabric was from a pillow case that I no longer used. I used the green gingham and some eyelet lace that I already had for trim. I also made the matching bloomers and a cute little bonnet. I’ll admit that this beautiful garden party got my ideas flowing. I followed her tutorial for this bonnet to complete the birthday outfit. At first I was a bit skeptical about putting her in a bonnet. Would she keep it on? Would it look too much like a costume? Would it be practical? She did tug at it a bit when I first put it on her, but once we were outside, she forgot she was wearing it and it protected her little head and face from the sun (not to mention the fact that she looked pretty adorable in it). To match the dress and bloomers, I pleated the ruffle instead of gathering it and added a bit of white eyelet lace to match as well. I also made her a bib to wear during her smash cake time. I cut the bib from the center of an old bath towel that was coming unraveled and bare in some places. Total cost for her outfit: $2 for a bit of extra lace on the bloomers and bonnet and $1.35 for the trim on the bib.

We actually had to reschedule the party due to several conflicts and some illnesses in our family so what started out as a light afternoon menu turned into a light lunch right after church. I served sub sandwiches, butterfly-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, lime-kissed fruit salad, a veggie tray, layered potato salad and confetti pasta salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing.

For desert I made vanilla pound cake cupcakes with cream cheese icing and my home-made vanilla ice cream (I'll try and post my recipe for this one later since I had several people ask for it). Using my four basic design elements, each cupcake was then topped with a cupcake topper that I made using my 2" scalloped-circle punch and candy sticks. Using this free template, I made cupcake holders from paper doilies.

I used the same dollar tree serving platters that I made for Elena’s party but with a fresh coat of blue paint to match the décor better. These were made using three round metal serving platters, two glass vases, a smaller glass bowl, and two foam rings. What I liked best about these creations was the ability to fill the glass vases for a special touch and versatility from party to party.

I used the same punch and design elements as on the cupcake toppers to make labels for the cups. Each guest wrote their name on their cup for identification. For the children, I purchased inexpensive cups with straws from Oriental traders and made my own inserts with their names to match the party décor. For the babies, I found sippy cups at the dollar tree. For personalization, I found a place online where you can purchase waterproof, vinyl, inkjet labels by the sheet. I simply printed out matching labels for the babies and put them on their sippy cups (though I'll admit, I wasn't happy with how the labels held up in the dishwasher). For beverages I served our version of sparkling strawberry limeade and iced cucumber water (water with slices of cucumber for freshness) in inexpensive beverage dispensers (I learned my lesson about using canning jars for the beverages at Elena’s party). These were inexpensive purchases from Walmart that I am sure we will use again many times.

I used the scallop punch and printed green gingingham papers to make the napkin rings for the cutlery sets. I used solid blue paper products and a few bunches of babies breath to complete the look for the buffet table.

Since the party was outside, I didn’t go over the top with decorations. I put up a single canopy for the food table and “show and tell” table. I spent most of my time and effort putting together the display table with items from her first year. I hung various outfits and pictures from her first year on a clothes line as a backdrop to the table. Following the garden theme, I purchased inexpensive plastic pots that I painted blue and filled with green grasses. I then glued cardboard letters to dowels which I nestled in the grasses to spell Kate’s name across the back of the table.

The display table also featured various items with photos of events and happening from Kate’s first year. The photo frames were also dollar tree purchases. I just painted them blue to match. When I put out the basket she lay in for her first week photo shoot, I shed a little tear to think of how tiny she was, and how quickly our babies grow!

The gift table was probably my favorite element of the party. The centerpiece was a “tree” made from a fallen branch from our yard.

I simply painted the branch white, attached a few painted silk butterflies, and anchored it in a pot that I painted blue with lace glued around the base. We called this “Kate's Tree of Future Hopes and Dreams.” Each guest removed a metal plant tag from the tree and wrote a wish or prayer for Kate’s future on one side and their names/their plant name on the other. We placed the plant tags with the plants in her garden. I know that these will be special keepsakes that our family will treasure every time we visit Kate's garden in the years to come. She will always know how special she was and is to the families that came to her first birthday.

I made simple centerpieces for the tables using canning jars, a small amount of lace, babies breath, and butterfly images. I also had folding fans just in case it was warm out (it was perfect weather so we ended up not using them). On the kid table, I had bug boxes as place-cards. I purchased the bug boxes online for $1 each then spray painted them to match the décor. I made simple name tags that I tied on the front of each box with blue ribbon and lace.

Since the party was held outside, in our back yard I had everyone park on the street. I used sidewalk chalk to point everyone in the right direction, down our driveway rather than through the front door. Though I did manage to clean house a bit, I only opened the basement to guests for the bathroom and some play time in the playroom if needed.

As guests arrived, the kids played on our play set as the adults perused Kate’s show and tell table. Once everyone arrived, we had a quick prayer of blessing for the food and thanks for Kate’s sweet little life. We sang happy birthday to her. She of course had her fun smash cake experience then everyone enjoyed refreshments.

After eating, I had planned to gather everyone up to plant Kate’s garden and share our prayers for our sweet girl as we placed each plant, then send the older kids on a bug hunt with their bug boxes (we had purchased plastic bugs to hide throughout the yard), but since the party was rescheduled, and it was during nap time for most of the kids (including our own), we had to forgo those activities.

As party favors for the kids, I used large half-gallon canning jars for the containers (don't EVER do this if you're having an outdoor party on a day with any wind. The jars actually blew over and busted before everyone arrived). I attached blue card-stock butterflies to the top of wooden dowels with ribbons for butterfly wands and purchased dollar tree butterfly nets. I found an inexpensive butterfly party pack at Party City which I included. Finally, what outdoor party is complete without a little bubble fun, so each child got a dollar store bubble wand as well.

Each family was given a “Thank You” magnet with the same design as Kate's invitation.

The families also received a small packet of flower seeds for their own garden. I purchased the favor tins through Oriental Traders and made the labels from card-stock. Using the Avery round labels and scallop punch, I made planting and growing instruction labels that I stuck on the bottom of each tin.

The Garden
The following day, the four of us enjoyed some special family time planting Kate's little garden. We placed it in a sunny spot next to the girls' play set with the park bench from MaMa & PaPa so Kate can enjoy it each time she and her sister go out to play.

We have been so blessed by wonderful friends and family and a precious first year with our sweet baby Kate. We pray she will always know how truly special and loved she is and we look forward to watching her grow with her garden!

The DIY Show Off

Monday, April 11, 2011

My sweet Baby Kate is One

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I know every mother says this, but I can't believe it has been a year since our sweet baby Kate entered our lives. In a way it seems like she has always been a part of our little family and in another way it seems like just yesterday when she was born. I didn't know that two children from the same mom and dad could be so drastically different. Kate has given us a run for our money this first year: unexplained choking spells, a scary overnight stay in the hospital, gastroenterology appointments, allergist appointments, MANY sleepless nights and separation anxiety (SO attached to Mommy). On the other hand, she has brought us countless joys in her first year: cuddle times, first words (it helps that "Ma-ma" was her first), nursing times, that first time crawling, sister time, and ALWAYS that sweet little open-mouth grin!

What an awesome privilege God has given me to be your Mommy.

I pray that you forever grow in His Grace.

I pray that you will grow to Love Him

I pray that you will grow to show His love to others

I pray that you will have all the joys your heart desires

I pray that I will always be able to guide you along the right path

I pray that you will always know how very much you are loved

I pray for His wisdom in raising you to be all that God designed you to be.

I never knew I had such a capacity to love. You and your sister have taught me so much about myself. With your birth, you fulfilled my dream of being a Mommy to two. With your little life you continue to fulfill dreams that I never imagined. I am soaking up this precious baby time because I know all too quickly you will no longer be my baby:

I love hearing you giggle at your sister when she plays peek-a-boo with you

I love how excited you get as soon as you hear Daddy's  footsteps on the front porch in the afternoon

I love seeing your face light up and your chunky hands clap when I sing to you

I love the smell of your baby breath when you attempt to give me a kiss with your wide-open mouth

I love the feeling of your little head burrowed into my neck when you are sleepy

You complete our little family just perfectly. You are your Mommy's joy, precious Kate!
I love you with all of my heart. Happy Birthday to my sweet baby girl.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sparkling Strawberry Limeade

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We're getting ready this week for "Katie-Bug's" first birthday party. As promised (on my last post about a MONTH ago) here is the recipe for our Sparkling Strawberry Limeade. I first got the idea from Sonic. We have a Sonic a little less than a mile from our house and last Summer, I got addicted to their sparkling strawberry limeade. They stopped serving it over the winter and I immediately set out to try and re-create it here at home. After multiple attempts with various results (some complicated, some too sweet, some not "sparkly" enough) but not spot on results, my husband came up with this simple version that is our favorite:

1 12 oz. container frozen Minute Maid Limeade concentrate (thawed)
1 10 oz. package frozen strawberries (thawed)
1 1/2 liter chilled Lemon Lime Seltzer water (NOT lemon lime soda like sprite, it's too sweet)

We double or triple the recipe for parties. It has a nice balance of tartness, sweetness and sparkle. Let me know if you try it, what you think, and what variations/changes YOU like!