Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Very Hungry Caterpillar Themed 1st Birthday Party

Planning a party for Bruce's First and Dean's Fifth Birthdays was a wonderful distraction from all the daily stressors.  I love a good party with a fun theme - and an excuse to get a little creative!  We could all use a bit of fun around here!

I'm a fan of coupons, DIY, being thrifty, and snagging a good deal.  I cashed in a ton of Huggies Rewards Points for a $75 Amazon gift card and snagged some great party decorations, got coupons from Recycle Bank for $14 savings on the food items from my local grocery store, and was able to use Shutterfly coupon codes to order free Thank You cards, address labels, and photos I used to decorate a wall for the party.

I made these fun invitations on Picmonkey by using photos Meagan took at Bruce's 1 year photo shoot & clip art I found on a blog.  Bruce was the main focus of the invite in part because it was his FIRST birthday (and that makes him the star) and also because Dean isn't a big fan of cooperating for the camera. I chose to order 5x7 photos from Costco to send out, but I did get a 4x6 out of curiosity and that actually looked just fine, if you're looking to minimize costs even more.

 Decorations were easy - the butterfly garland I got with the Amazon gift card - it's "Eric Carle" brand. Balloons and streamers from Target were a great cheap decoration and we got a few helium balloons from the dollar store to tie to the mailbox & add color to the living room.

I took our usual framed photos off one of our living room walls to make space for photo caterpillars.  I taped photos from each monthly picture of Bruce & his giraffe on the wall, with the age written in green circles. For Dean I found a few from each year and made another caterpillar for him as well.  A bit of red & purple cardstock for the head completed the look. I saw this idea on Pinterest and those photo-caterpillars were way cuter than mine (but the subjects of my photos are cuter than anything out there!).  I also added some of my favorite pictures from Bruce's One Year Photo Shoot to the wall.

We had a display on the piano of each of the boys' baby books (yes, each of my kids gets 2 so I can give them one when they graduate/get married/something like that) and their Shutterfly birth - 2 weeks album. 

I snagged this adorable little caterpillar at my local Half Price Books (and used a $5 off coupon from Recycle Bank plus my educator discount).  A few Sharpies in a mason jar (plus a sign my daughter made) sat beside it.  All the guests signed the body & it makes an adorable keepsake in the boys' bedroom!

Rainbow cupcakes - no, we didn't NEED more cake, and no, they aren't Very Hungry Caterpillar themed, but the colors did match nicely, and since it was Dean's party as well, I made these for him.  Dean is OBSESSED with rainbows. He chose funfetti cake - so I used a box mix.  Homemade buttercream frosting tinted blue and piped on, with mini marshmallows and Airheads Extreme for the rainbows.  Mine weren't as pretty as the ones on the cover of All You Magazine, but Dean was thrilled. 

This is the fat caterpillar at the end of the book. :) Bruce has many food allergies, so I made his smash cake (head of caterpillar) dairy-free. My very first foray into fondant - using homemade marshmallow fondant. This was simple cookie cutter letters - and with the leftover fondant my daughter made "confetti" circles to decorate the tray.

Costco cake - just in case there wasn't enough cupcakes, or mine were an epic fail.  $17 for a half sheet of chocolate with chocolate buttercream -sooo good!

Despite never having had cake, Bruce seemed to know it was worth diving face-first into!

Bruce insists on using a fork or spoon every time he eats! This had to be the LEAST messy a toddler has ever been with a cake! #lovethiskid

This was my first foray into piping frosting onto cookies - they turned out pretty good for a first try.  Julia (my oldest daughter) and I made no-chill sugar cookies. Way unhealthy, using a boatload of butter, but sooo yummy and very easy to roll out and work with the cookie cutters.

Royal icing was a simple powdered sugar and water combo - thick for outlining the edges, then a bit more water added to thin the frosting a bit to fill in the rest of the cookie.  I used Wilton gel colors to tint the frosting and piping bags with different size tips to frost the cookies.  It did take a looong time to make 4 dozen cookies though, so these were a true labor of love.  (Gave me a great excuse to binge watch Sherlock!)


The Hungry Caterpillar only ate through ONE lollipop and that just won't do for a party full of little kiddos, so I made this fun centerpiece to add a splash of color and ensure enough suckers for everyone.  I used that Amazon gift card to order suckers and gumballs.  These fruit gumballs are so fun - they taste just like the fruit they are shaped as and have little sprinkle seedlings inside.  I filled a glass vase with the gumballs, stuffed all the suckers into a styrofoam ball and placed that on the vase.  Then I added one larger, fancy schmancy lollipop and a label.  Total hit with the kids.  

 These candy-coated marshmallow caterpillars did not turn out entirely like I had imagined in my head, but then again I was in a total time crunch from a too-long to-do list. I did learn that Kraft jumbo marshmallows shoved on the skewer held up much better than the store brand ones.  I just dipped them in melted candy coating - they probably would have looked a bit nicer if I dried them upright in a styrofoam block a la cake pops.  The chewy Sprees in the vase were a BIG hit - even the grown ups were devouring them by the handfull!

I filled 2 tables with food, here's a shot my daughter took of the work in progress.

Rainbow Jello for Dean.  He was soooo excited about the rainbow and clouds (Cool Whip on one, none on the other for Brucie, me, and any else who is dairy-free - hey, that rhymes) AND it was actually really good. Then again, I'm a Jello fan.

Those deviled eggs back there have a sign "A tiny egg lay on a green leaf" because that darned caterpillar did not eat enough regular food and I had to get creative.

LOVED the Trix bars! They were cheap and easy to make, added a pop of  color (they totally match the decor, right?!), tasted better than rice crispy bars, AND Bruce could eat them (he's allergic to rice).  I am especially proud of the "chocolate cake" my hubby made.  We already had a cake and 2 types of cupcakes, so I opted for brownies with frosting and cherries on top.  They were super cute.

Pickles, cheese, sausage and salami, crackers, watermelon, apples, oranges, strawberries, sub sandwiches with fixings, and yogurt covered raisins (egg on a leaf - my daughter was proud of how clever that was and I HAD to encourage her creativity on that one).  The punch dispenser was labeled "butterfly nectar" while rainbow barrels of juice were called "bug juice."

The chicken caesar salad was Sunday's "one green leaf."

Julia made signs for all the "stations" around the house (which was very sweet).  In Dean's room we had party hats, paper lunch sacks, clip art from the book printed out, stickers, glue, tape, markers, and glitter.  Guests could decorate a party hat and a goodie bag.

Bubbles with a caterpillar label taped on, stickers, lollipops, Chewy Lemon Heads (fruit shaped!), mini color books,
fruit scented markers, glitter glue, and glow balls and "caterpillar" fidgets.

One of the Birthday Boys! Dean has very minimal experience with parties and I was impressed he held up as long as he did.  Towards the end he was walking up to people and asking them to leave his house! Sensory overload perhaps?! :)

Forgive the awful quality of the photos -- I forgot to take photos before the party, so these are shots of the aftermath taken by my 12 year old.  And yes, my cat IS that fat. We had a few activities set up in the basement: egg carton caterpillar making, coloring sheets, and colorful necklaces made with Fruit Loops and colored pasta.

Photo Credit: Meagan Wanschura

What a blessing this past year has been!