Well “the time has come” to post again, and for those following my blogging journey can I tell you this has been quite an educational experience for me. I have THOUSANDS of photos that I have spent days culling back (I’ve only made a dent) and my desktop storage space was nearly about to burst and so I’ve transfered a lot of it onto a separate hard drive – all of this before I downloaded the photos from Rachelle’s party.
Then as I started to work on this post I realized my file sizes were way too big and so I relearned how to resize them, which led me to reload my Adobe Photoshop program, which led to me to learn how to crop and brighten and edit the photos as well.
Phew! So after many youtube tutorials and practicing, and learning more about how to use wordpress itself, I am ready to “start” this post. 🙂 Forgive the long intro, I just feel like it’s already been such a growing experience for me! And again learning how to photoshop has been on my personal “to-do list” for years….so it feels really good to be getting to it now, and am pleased that this blog will help be the means to get me there!
(Quick sidenote I did reduce the file size to 500 X 333 pixels and if that ends up too pixilated I’ll adjust that for future posts.)
And now for the main show:
Rachelle’s YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE birthday party! March 2017- 2 years old!!
The first birthday party for my first baby was pretty lame – presentation wise. In my defense we had house guests staying with us and had been traveling until just the day or so before, and I had yet
broken down persuaded Varian into supporting my drive for theme parties and spending time and money on kid birthdays…he-he. Technically speaking, I’m still trying to convince him that it’s worthwhile.
So for Jaren’s first party- I had run to the store and quickly grabbed some paper pirate hats and some chocolate gold coins and snake lollies. I printed out miniature pirate flags and stuck them to toothpicks on cupcakes I had shaped into the number one.
It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t much of a production. No games, no decorations, no pirate outfits as you can see. It’s not that it wasn’t fun, but it could have been so much more! 🙂 So from then on our parties have all been much more coordinated and themed (and awesome!)
I think I owe a lot of my birthday party drive to my sister Katie who likes to pick themes and make a lot of decorations and theme cakes and games for her girls. I have loved talking over party planning with her and getting cake decorating tips and ideas!
Also I owe a shout out to my best friends: “The Katies” and Liz. Those who know me well, will know who I’m talking about. Those girls and I loved throwing theme parties in college and we have many fun and crazy memories from all our attempts.
So I have really found planning and throwing these theme parties to be a nice outlet for my creative side, and a fun way for said child and I to get excited over their birthdays. I should put out the disclaimer now that my parties are on a budget and are for the most part “homemade.” I admit I sometimes feel a little discouraged at all the productions out there and money spent to make a party spectacular [curse you pinterest (and bless you)] but in the end I’ve always been pleased with how our parties have turned out and it’s been a special bonding for my kids and I to plan their upcoming party (or the next 2 or 3) and I hope it makes them feel loved and important.
Okay, I can already feel this post getting long (I’m sorry being concise has never been my strong point- thorough and detailed…now those are words that better describe me 🙂 )
On to the party.
I picked this theme because months before when I would tuck little 1 year old Rachelle into bed I would start to sing her whatever lullaby had come to mind and she would stop me and ask for You are My Sunshine. She only wanted that one each night and got really good at singing it for a one year old if I say so myself! 🙂 It was adorable her little voice singing along to those words and as I’m always on the look out for the next idea, thought this would work perfectly for her next party.
I may or may not have encouraged that to continue to be her favorite song. By the time her party came and went we were all getting a bit sick of it and ready to move on to another bedtime song!
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”
Some theme parties come together quickly for me and games are more obvious, this one took a little more effort but in the end came together well. We started having everyone sing “You Are My Sunshine.” This helped highlight the lyrics for the rest of the games to follow.
“You make me happy when skies are grey…”
There were two games the guests could do at any time throughout the party. The first one – guests were to write a note to Rachelle to let her know how she made them happy. I would have used something else to write on (perhaps have them write the notes on little suns and stick them on our grey walls…) but for her 1st birthday we had done a butterfly theme and people had written to her in this sparkly notebook, so I thought we’d carry it on to this birthday as well.
“You’ll never know dear, how much I love you…”
I bought these love heart sour peach lollies at Kmart for a buck a bag. I think I got about 143 of them in this container. Guests had to write down what their guesses would be and whoever came the closest won them all. We never snapped a picture of the winner, but congrats to Cameron for a guess of 140. I decorated the top of the container with a happy sunshine face (which as you’ll notice matched the wall decoration sunshine and the birthday cake.) I made a little smiling grey cloud and taped it to the bottom so people couldn’t count the hearts and get a better guess.
“Please don’t take my sunshine away…”
Up until the night before I had planned on making little clothespin smiley faces and having guests clip them to their clothes and if they crossed their arms or touched their faces or said Rachelle, then they would have to loose the clip to the person who caught them, like you play at baby shower games. It got vetoed. That game can be fun, but also a little annoying and probably works better when you’re trying to help guests who don’t know each other mingle and get talking.
Instead, for this part of the theme, I bought these smiley face balls and blue-tacked grey poster board in the shape of a cloud to some wooden shields that my kids already had. (For my Aussie interested readers, I bought a huge stack of poster board from a Modern Teaching Aide outlet and it has lasted me for years and works out so much better than buying individual sheets!)
Three people had to stand in the middle line of our patio, and try to “take away” the “sunshine,” a.k.a. smiley balls, from the rest of the guests passing them back and forth. Kind of like a big keep away/monkey in the middle game. If they could catch the sunshine balls or block them with their grey clouds, the person who threw it had to switch them places. It was fun and family friendly (luckily no one got hit in the face) and we played until the joviality started to peak.
“The other night dear, while I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms. When I awoke dear, I was mistaken, and I hung my head, and cried.”
Okay, this song is a bit depressing, I admit, and it’s one that Varian’s never really liked; but I grew up singing it around campfires and have always loved it and have loved singing it to my kids. For a game – I liked the idea of having a person close their eyes and have to “hold someone in their arms” and maybe guess who it was. But I thought that might get a bit invasive and pictured people getting uncomfortably groped…not so family friendly. 🙂 I settled then on just hand holding and not full body hugs.
Each guest took turns putting on the sleeping mask and picking out two names from the bowl (if you’ll notice I wrote the names on little yellow suns). Quietly I would show the names of who was picked and they would come forward and give the person their hand. The guest would then have to feel the two hands and guess which two people they belonged to. If they got at least one of them right they could have a bag of sunshine (cheese and bacon balls) and if they lost they would get a tissue to “hang their head and cry.”
Our first contestant was Reid who took this game literally and when he didn’t guess the right people (it was harder than you would expect) he ran off and cried and had to be soothed back into the game to get a second chance to earn his sunshine snack. It was a quiet game, but one with lots of suppressed giggles and laughter once the sleeping mask was taken off.
A quick little note about these adorable outfits. I had found clothes for the boys, but I was having such a hard time finding a sunshine-y outfit for Rachelle. I had left it too late and checked at so many places trying to find a puffy yellow dress or a cute sunshine shirt and found nothing that would work. Luckily just the week before, I came across these at Target and they were perfect!
We served a brunch and although I had come up with various yellow themed foods I thankfully gave over this part of the party to my sweet hubby who put together a delicious assortment for us.
I should mention a special thanks to my parents who were staying with us at the time. Bless their hearts, they helped me get the house all set up and helped with the food, and my mom, despite her jet lag, stayed up late with me the night before helping me with the decorations including cutting all these little clouds out for the sunshine straws.
I’ve discovered a treasury of party supplies at Bargain City which I don’t think I even knew existed until this year, and it has already come in handy for a few of our parties. From there I bought this banner with these little tissue paper balls that were so pretty for our sunshine and cloud theme.
A piece of cake!
The cake was truly a piece of cake, comparatively speaking, and was sooooo delicious. I had pinterested so many awesome but intense looking lemon cakes with lemon glazes or curd (which despite it’s name looks so amazing). I don’t remember why we had been so busy other than getting ready for my parents who flew in the day before to stay with us for a month of festivities and travel. Oh and did I mention I have four little kids so life is always busy (they may or may not be watching a show as I try to finish this post.)
Anyway, I settled on a recipe that I found online (click HERE) though the cake mix I bought was a coconut lemon cake which made it a bit tropical in a good way, and I of course added all the lemon zest to the batter to make it extra tasty!
I had planned on making two circle cakes and using one for the sun and one to chop up into triangle rays. But the batter was CRAZY runny and I was worried that it would just drip out through my spring loaded cake pans. So I ended up cooking it in two 9 X 13 pans which worked fine, and then let them set in the fridge overnight. It was perhaps a bit tricky to get it out of the pan because you poke holes in the hot cake and fill it with a lemon glaze making it so juicy and delicious, but it’s not really intended to be removed and sculpted into shapes.
But I got the first cake out of the pan without too much cracking, cut a circle out of it and leveled that, and then used the remaining section to cut “rays.” I did use toothpicks to keep them in place just to be safe. I had doubled the recipe, but ended up using only the one pan. I then just whipped up some cream with some vanilla, a little powdered sugar and some yellow food coloring and spread that on top. This was the easy part. I will one day learn how to make/use fondant (sigh- still on the to-do list). This cake was so moist, a butter cream or other frosting would have been a disaster, but the cream was super easy to apply and looked and tasted great!
I then used two extra heart lollies from the guessing game stash for the eyes, the ends of a marshmallow sliced off for the cheeks, and black piped icing for the smile. The face of the cake and the sign kind of came together at the end and I was so pleased that they matched and were so bright and happy. It ended up tasting so moist and lemony, I loved it! I don’t think it’s the prettiest cake I’ve ever made, but it was fine and matching and was so lemonylicious!
We had a lovely party. Bless my Aston Family for always being so willing to come and participate in all of my ideas. We’ve made a lot of good memories over the years, and I’m so grateful for them. They are great sports and wonderful people and I love them dearly.
Also what a special treat to have my parents here for one of our parties! What a huge effort and cost it is for them to come over to Australia to visit us and I will forever be grateful that they do! My heart aches that my family can’t be with us for all of our celebrations. They mean the world to me and I love them so much!
To end I do want to say how much I love my dear little Rachelle. She truly is a ray of sunshine in our lives! We are so grateful she came to our family. She’s our miracle baby, and truly God wanted her in our family, and we love her so much! Happy birthday my darling! You’ll never know dear, how much I love you!!!