Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Winter ONEderland Unfolds...

About a month before Abby's birthday, this story floated around my Facebook feed.  My intent is not to start a social/political discussion, but it really struck me.  It's a letter to an advice columnist from a mom who thinks her son has decided to be gay (and she would like to convince him to change his mind) because he is trying to get back at her for forgetting his birthday three years in a row.  The focus for most people, of course, is her non-acceptance of her son's homosexuality, which I think the columnist responded to beautifully.  However, seeing as how this came out a month before Abby's birthday, and I had already been planning her birthday party for a month, I was absolutely befuddled that this mom had forgotten her son's birthday, you know, the day she gave birth to him, for not one, not, two but three years in a row.  Even if you and I have different opinions about gayness, I think we can probably agree about the birthday thing.  Now, this woman says she is "very busy with work," and I am a recovering event planner turned stay-at-home-mom, but still.

But anyway, the point of this post is not to give social commentary on homosexuality or to go on about what a horrible mother I think this woman is, but to discuss about how I may have gone a little overboard with my own little one's first birthday.  No chance I would forget this girl's special day a single time.

At the party, a friend said, "I think people just do those crazy parties so they can blog about them."  I don't know if our party was "crazy," but I'm blogging about it.  If you're bored by party-planning, just skim for the pictures or skip this one all together.  I'll post about the actual birthday goings-on soon.

Disclaimer:  Remember, I planned events for my job for eight years, and voluntarily for several years.  I love using my creative energies in this way, and in no way do I mean to imply everyone should have fully-themed birthday parties.  You are not a bad mama.  Only if you forget your kid's birthday three years in a row.

I hemmed and hawed over a "theme" for the party.  Should I just make it pretty colors?  Go with her nursery theme?  "Fabulous Firsts?" I posted on a local mommy Facebook group, looking for ideas, and someone directed me to a site that I should have never looked at.  Hostess with the Mostess.  Oh my.  This site makes me want to spend a lot of money.  They have hundreds of different party themes with pictures from people who have done them.  They are all beautiful and over-the-top.  I knew that I didn't need to have that kind of party, but I wanted to.  My heart ached to transform our home into a magical birthday palace, or even...a Winter ONEderland. 

It was perfect.  We have a winter baby, and she's only going to turn one once, so Winter ONEderland it was.

We made a "Happy BRRthday Abby" banner using wintery/Christmas-y scrapbook paper (a huge book of it on sale at Michael's).  We strung it together with coordinating bakers' twine, found in the yarn section at Joann's - much cheaper than the small packets in the Martha Stewart section.

Luckily, Kevin's mom is an elementary school teacher and was able to use the letter-cutting machine at her school to cut the letters and snowflakes.  Otherwise, who knows how long it would've taken to make this!  I had wanted to do little pennants, but would've ended up wasting a lot of paper, so we went with diamonds, instead.  It came out much better than I expected!

We did the same thing for her high chair.

Oh, it's *that* kind of party, is it?
We strung up a couple dozen snowflakes from the ceiling, along with some springy 1st Birthday dangly things from Oriental Trading.  It was a bit of a pain to thread them all and keep them from tangling.  We ended up wrapping the string around each snowflake to keep them sorted out.

It also helped that we had the Christmas decorations up.

I really focused on the dining room as a focal point for everything.

I had a lot of fun decorating the chandelier, but it took forever to curl all the ribbons.

I got the sparkly green chain at Joann's, and the sparkly snowflakes at Party City.

We also hung all of her monthly photos using Christmas-y clothespins under a banner that said, "What a ONEderful Year!"  I made the banner in Microsoft Publisher, then printed it out and glued to scrapbook paper from that same pad.

I'm particularly proud of the dessert table.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Prindiville.  Please excuse my camera getting in the way in the upper right corner.
The cupcake and lollipop decorations are from Oriental Trading, and the plates and napkins are from Party City.

Kevin's mom made adorable snowman sugar cookies, and I made chocolate peppermint crinkle cookies.  I had also wanted to get powdered doughnut holes, you know, "snowballs," but Wegmans didn't have any, and I ran out of energy to get them from Dunkin' Donuts.  As for the giant cupcake...I don't want to talk about it.  Let's just say I think I tried too hard.  Instead of just throwing any old cake recipe into the giant cupcake pan, I searched high and low for a "giant cupcake pan recipe."  A pound cake was recommended, and, after trying two different recipes, this one came out like a brick.  It's no wonder Abby cried at it, but more on that, later.  The cupcakes turned out much better.  We used the simple chocolate cake recipe from The Science of Good Cooking (which is becoming my new favorite cookbook), and the buttercream recipe from the ridiculous Blackberry Red Wine Chocolate Cake I made for a friend's birthday.  Now, I have to honest and let you know that Kevin both baked the cake and made the icing, as I was ready to throw all cakes out the window.  There's a reason that I am not usually the one to bring cupcakes to the party.

Kevin takes on the baking.

Tracie needs a beer.

We also made a strawberry tree, inspired by this one from DIY Cozy Home.

They stuck their strawberries on with chocolate; I knew there was no way I could pull that off without making a mess.  So, we just covered a foam cone with foil and used frilled toothpicks to stick the strawberries in.

It's funny how you get caught up in things, though.  I was at the store, like, "I NEED A DOILY" (per the silver doily under their strawberry tree), then I realized, "HEY DUM-DUM, JUST USE A NICE PLATE."


The last thing I'll mention is our favors - Pioneer Woman's Birthday Cake Popcorn in cute penguin boxes from Oriental Trading.  I was originally going to make popcorn balls, because, you know, snowballs, but found this recipe and thought it looked easier.  I even found cake mix with ingredients I could pronounce.  Executing the recipe verged on disaster.  Probably because it vaguely involved cake, and I just had bad cake karma for this party.  I tripled the recipe.  It called for melted white chocolate, which took about 3 days to melt, because I had so much of it.  Then, you're supposed to mix in dry cake mix.  I had stirred in just one-third of what I was supposed to, and the mixture was thick like, well, cake batter.  We could barely mix the popcorn in with it.  If we had tripled the cake mix, it would have been a block of vanilla cake fudge.  Which might not have been bad, but not what we were going for.  It was actually delicious in the end, but if I did it again, I would mix the melted chocolate with the popcorn, then just sprinkle the cake mix on top.

But anyway.  The party was a lot of work and wouldn't have come together without a lot of help from Kevin and my in-laws.  It was beautiful and it made me happy - BUT - I may keep it more simple in the future!

If you are truly fascinated, or planning your own Winter ONEderland, here's a link to my Pinterest board for the party.  Much of it was inspiration, but much of it we actually used.


  1. That's awesome. I love the theme and kudos to you, Kevin and the rest of the family. I know that Abby will look back at those photos with pride. Your creativity is one of your many assets.

  2. I thought the decorations looked great! I think the most important thing to remember is that it made you happy to do it. When beautifully decorated theme parties for small children stop making you happy, stop doing them. :) Doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

    1. I could write a whole other post on this, but it's the mommy-guilt thing. I don't want other mommies, ones who work and don't have time, or who are not-so-inclined, or who don't particularly care, to feel bad about not having a fancy party for their kiddo. I remember one of my coworkers comparing herself to mamas who had time to do the party crap or make adorable treats for daycare, and it made her feel bad. So, I just want to make it clear that I did it because I appreciated the chance to be creative, and it was fun, and not because "this is what is done." If that all makes sense.

  3. I say if you have the time/stamina/resources and it makes you happy, go for it! You had that great resource of baby watching help at the right time, too, so smart to take advantage. I have a theme for Derek's party, but I don't know how far I'll have time to go.

  4. PS My mom's friend makes those chocolate strawberry trees and they come out perfect every time. I have had her teach me, and still I wind up dipping them in chocolate and eating them because they won't stay.


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