Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Not-So-Quiet Birthday Celebration!

This past week, we celebrated Daughter's ninth birthday!  She thought it would be fun to have friends over for a party, and I thought it would be fun to share some of the things we did.  So, this is how we celebrated.

Saturday was her birthday 'for real'.  We celebrated as a family, which was fairly low-key, really.  If she had wanted to do something - go to a pumpkin patch, play at the park, whatever - we would have, but she was content to stay home.  I think that was due, in part, to her birthday present, which was a game for the Wii.  I'm about to sound totally clueless (because I am!), but it's called Skylanders.  There is a little thing that looks like a tree stump, and there are critters that sit atop that tree stump and it make the game play.  (shrug)  The neat thing is that we got the starter set with four critters for $15 secondhand.  It was like new.  The lady I purchased it from said her son really wanted it, but then just never played with it much.  We re-set the characters to the beginning, and she has been happily Skylander-ing ever since.  (Well, not constantly or anything...just, when she has some time she's allowed to play Wii.)  I stamped a birthday card for her as well, and she got phone calls from all her grandparents, who had sent gifts during the week.  It was quite a lot, really!

In our family, the birthday person gets to choose the main meal.  She wanted Cesar salad.  I am pretty sure that every year, she chooses either Cesar salad or the Chinese restaurant.  Anyway, I made some Cesar dressing and croutons, chopped some salad, thawed some steaks and baked some potatoes.  It was a lovely meal.  Since there are just three of us, I used one cake mix to make a 9x9 cake for her birthday, as well as a dozen cupcakes for the party that we had the next day.

I stamped images, cut them out and mounted them on toothpicks.  It's unusual, but Daughter loved it!
Sunday was party day.  We had it in the afternoon.  For her party, she wanted a wildlife/forest theme.  It was really fun to plan.  I put the word out that I was looking for items that went with that theme, and a friend gave us a couple of cute toy deer.  We used them on the table for 'decoration', and Daughter got to keep them after the party.  For favors, we strayed from the theme a bit.  I did get one of those toy animal 'tubes' at Jo-Ann's - there was one of North American wildlife.  I used a 50% off coupon for it, which saved a good bit.  Each child got a small thanks-for-coming box that had one of the little animals, some (Halloween) candy, owl stickers (Dollar Tree) and a coupon for a free Wendy's frosty.  There was also a hologram pencil (Dollar Tree) taped to the outside of the box.

Most of the decorating was actually low-key.  I stamped owls, leaves and acorns onto paper plates that I got on sale and with a coupon.  The napkins were coordinating in color, but didn't have animals, and the cups had little owls on them.  Daughter wanted the cups because of the little owls, so we got them, but they were only 5 oz.  Next time, I think I would just use household cups, and put stickers on them or something, because I spent a lot of time re-filling little cups for thirsty kids!

I used a fairly plain tablecloth so it wouldn't compete with the 'decorations' which were actually the food.  We did chocolate cupcakes (dirt) with green frosting (grass) and each had a little stamped image on top.  I stamped those, cut them out and taped them to toothpicks - easy peasy!  We also had strawberry mice - they were super cute and very easy to make.  I made them a couple of hours before the party, and the tails (twizzlers, that peel apart) got soggy and didn't stay.  I don't know if you can really make them ahead of time, because I can't think of a way to make that not happen.  Still, they are adorable, and were a big hit with the kids!

We made a 'forest floor' snack mix that we made up ourselves.  It had twigs (stick pretzels), seeds (candy corn and popcorn), worms (those pull apart twizzlers again), bears (bear shaped cookies) and deer poop (chocolate covered raisins).   The kids thought it was funny.  Daughter spotted these maple leaf serving dishes (Dollar Tree) and really liked them.  We will use them for other fall snacks as well.

We also made acorns from Hershey kisses, vanilla wafers and butterscotch chips.  I was disappointed that the vanilla wafers were larger than I expected them to be (the box said mini, but they were bigger than what I've seen used on Pinterest), but I just let it go and decided that the kids really wouldn't mind...and they didn't!  You 'glue' the parts together with a bit of frosting, and they can be successfully made the day before, so yay!

Finally, there was a cheese owl.  I saw this idea on Pinterest, and then there was a sale/coupon combination on sliced cheese!  It was really fun to make, and it was easy, too.  I sprinkled some twigs (pretzels) around the edge and we used black olives for eyes.  The kids really enjoyed it!  Truthfully, all the food was really simple to do.  Too bad about the mouse tails, though.

Our beverage was 'forest berry punch'.  I made some tropical punch kool aid - the kind in the little packet - and used some fruit juice that I had on hand, along with some sugar, to sweeten it.  When it was time to serve, I put some frozen blueberries and some fresh, quartered strawberries in the pitcher with ice piled on top.  Then I added fruit punch and Sprite, without really measuring it.  I had to re-fill the pitcher a couple of times - the children (and the grownups) really liked it, plus it was pretty.

We didn't want competitive games with prizes, because that always seems to end with drama.  I had a few things in mind, but last minute, Daughter said she wanted a fishing game.  She went in the yard and gathered sticks so that each person would have a pole.  She got yarn and took fridge magnets and made the poles for us.  I printed a page I found online that had six different trout on it...and I printed the page three times.  On a whim, I looked up fortune cookie sayings, and we wrote those (some adapted a little for kids) on the back.  We put a paper clip on the 'nose' of each fish, put a blue towel on the floor for 'lake' and got out of the way.  I was surprised by how long the kids played this.  I can see some neat applications for older kids - even adults - as well as Sunday school or Bible school.

We called our other 'game' (it was really an activity) Forest Friends Rescue.  Before the guests arrived, I had hidden forest animals all around our property.  Each animal (except the last one) had a clue attached, and I had a clue to give them to find the first animal.  They had to go in order (even if they happened to see an animal on the way to a different one) lest they miss an animal that needed to be 'rescued'.  The clues were silly little made up things, some of which (sort of) rhymed, and the animals were Daughter's stuffed animals.  Again, I wasn't sure how the kids would react, but they all seemed to enjoy it a lot.

These descriptions are out of order.  When the guests first arrived, they  played outside on the swing set for a bit...allowing time until everyone was here, as well as burning off a little excitement.  Once everyone arrived, we did the Trout Fortunes game.  When that began to wind down, Husband supervised the Forest Friends Rescue, which allowed me enough time to assemble the punch and pour some into the cups and get the cold items out onto the table.  (I had put everything else on the table before the guests arrived, and I am glad for that!)  The kids spent a fair amount of time at the table eating and visiting, and then Daughter opened her gifts.  My friend brought some real animal pelts that she had - they are like the ones you'd see at a nature center - and the children really enjoyed those too.  Plus, that gave them something to hold/touch while gifts were opened.  From there, the kids played outside for a little longer, then Daughter gave them favors as they said goodbye.

It was a fun party, and not expensive.  I haven't done an exact total, but looking over the list, I spent about $30 for the party, favors, food, games and all.  Mostly it came out of our grocery budget, and there were lots and lots of leftovers....mostly things that I didn't even 'make', like plenty of sliced cheese that's left for us to eat, lots of pretzels, more candy than I want to think get the idea.  I probably could have done it for even less, but I am happy with how things turned out and I think we did a good job of keeping it frugal too!

I hope there are some ideas here that will be useful to someone else.  Thanks for reading!


  1. I love all your ideas and wish my kids were still young enough to copy them :) I might yet steal your acorn cookies and strawberry mice though, those are adorable enough that even teens would enjoy them. It sounds like you all have a great time and it cost you less than what most people spend on a cake alone!

  2. What a fun birthday party..
    Happy birthday to your daughter.

  3. I think this sounds like a fun party! I can just see the kids playing those fun games and thoroughly enjoying them. Happy Birthday to the birthday girl!

  4. So cute! It sounds like such a fun party!

  5. Such creativity!! You guys did an amazing job. Love the cheese owl :)


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