Storybook Birthday Party

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One month ago, my darling baby Caitlin turned 2!

Of course, if you ask her how old she is, she says, “Cake!”

Caitlin is a sweet and determined little girl. She always knows what she wants and what she doesn’t! It has been so fun watching her learn over this past year: just when I think she might take forever to figure something out, she takes off running (literally. at 13½ months. walking is for chumps). She studies everything around her, speaks in complete sentences, and stands up for herself. She loves hugs and being outside and picture books. She loves shoes and farm animals and helping with chores. Her favorite foods are peanut butter and grapes.

Caitlin loves nothing better than sitting in our laps and reading books, so we threw her a storybook party to celebrate her second year of life!

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Candyland Birthday Party

Jake and Cake

My crazy little man is 4 years old!

Jake definitely gave me a run for my money this year. He is rambunctious and giddy and willful and very invested in understanding every single thing.

This year we celebrated Jake’s birthday in the most fitting way I could imagine: with a mountain of candy and a giant board game. Jake’s sweet tooth rivals mine, and he has spent the last year in a quest to become a board game geek like his daddy. (It should be noted here that his favorite game is called Just Desserts, which is a game where you feed pretend customers all their favorite sugary treats, and that when we play Candyland, he cherishes the pink dessert cards so much that I have a hard time convincing him to keep them in the stack.)

Happy fourth birthday, Jake! I can’t believe how big you are, and I can’t wait to see how you grow over the next year!

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First Birthday Bubble Bash

Caitlin's Cake

Somehow a whole year has flown by, and my baby girl turned 1!

In some ways, it doesn’t even seem real: she still has no teeth and she’s not walking on her own quite yet. Although she loves to enthusiastically yell, “Hi!” on the phone, she still seems to think blowing raspberries is the best form of communication. She’s still my baby—she can’t possibly be a whole year old!

Caitlin has a smile that lights up her whole face. She throws back her head when she grins, and it’s like her entire body quivers with joy. She loves her brother, she loves to explore, she loves hugs, she loves books and ripping paper (not the best combination), and she loves to put every small thing into her mouth. She certainly keeps us on our toes, and we are so glad to know her!

Bubble SmilesFor Caitlin’s first birthday, we threw a bubble bash. I bought bubble machines and wands and set out a bunch of food and we invited friends and family to come celebrate!

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“Should I Share My Ice Cream?” Party

Jake Licks Batter

My son is smart and wily and creative. He is thoughtful and determined and energetic.

And he is 3 years old!

It's My Birthday!This year for Jake’s birthday, I really wanted to keep it simple. I wanted to spend less time worrying and preparing, and more time marveling at how my tiny baby turned into this enormous, articulate preschooler, a little boy with a strong will and a contagious smile!

Jake never hesitates when you ask him what his favorite foods are: ice cream and pizza. (Clearly I have been teaching him everything I know…) So this year we decided to have an ice cream party to celebrate what an awesome kid Jake is!

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Farm Birthday Party

It happened.

Farmhand JakeMy baby turned 2! I am still not sure how this is possible, but every day he is chatting incessantly and singing songs and creating new things and just delighting us. (What a big difference from what he was doing two years ago!)

For example, this morning, he wanted to play with play-doh, and as I was getting it out, he announced, “Don’t eat play-doh,” (which, as you may guess, is a rule for a reason…) and then proceeded to build a layered birthday cake with little straws for candles.

Yeah, the birthday event really made an impression on him!

Look, Sheep!This year, we went to a local farm park to celebrate Jake’s birthday with family and some of his friends. Frying Pan Farm Park has a working dairy farm, a collection of antique tractors and farm equipment, a ton of animals to check out (and, bonus, the pigs and goats recently had babies), as well as open spaces to run around, a carousel, and two sets of playground equipment. It’s the real deal for kids of any age!

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Chocolate Prune Smash Cake + Curious George Party

Chocolate Prune Smash Cake

My baby is 1!!

How did that even happen?

In keeping with my goal to one day turn into Annie of Annie’s Eats, I planned the heck out of a birthday party for him. I landed on a Curious George theme (from the books, not the show), because my kid looooves to investigate anything he sees or gets his hands on. And he gets into everything. It seemed fitting.

Mantle and Gift Table I spent days and days cutting cardstock into circles and stripes and triangles to make favor tags and birthday signs.

Curious George GuestbookI framed pictures scanned from the Curious George books to accent the whole house (gift table, cake stand, activities for kids, you name it!).

Piano DecoI put monkeys and photos all over the house. (And you can’t see it, but on the far wall there is a giant slideshow of Jake over the last year!)

I blew up balloons and tried to redecorate the entire house into primary colors (um, yes, I did tack yellow vinyl tablecloths to the walls. I don’t want to talk about it). It took a lot of effort. I got very little sleep. But in the end, I was so happy with how Jake’s party turned out!

Fist Full of CakeHe seemed to have fun, too.

Especially with the cake (he is, after all, my son)! He grabbed a fistful of cake and shoved it into his mouth and ate/smeared/shared happily for 20 minutes. (P.S., I spent the entire birthday song choking back tears…how did my little bundle turn into a toddler already!?)

I am so proud of this smash cake! I wanted to make something that wouldn’t overload him with sugar out the gate, since we have been very diligent with his diet up til now: the only sweetness he’s ever had has been from actual fruits, and I’m not talking about juices or concentrates. I decided that I wanted to give Jake chocolate cake because it’s clearly the best, but I also wanted it to be vaguely familiar to him, with minimal added sugar. So I decided to include fruits, which would lend flavor, texture, and sweetness, without being overpowering. Hence, chocolate prune cake!

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Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels and Cookie Parties

So our annual cookie party was last week! I baked and I baked and then I baked some more. I think I made more than 30 dozen cookies in total. And then I decorated. And thankfully my sister-in-law had mercy on me and came and helped me decorate.

The key to keeping yourself sane when you’re hosting a party is making lists. I started with a list of the cookies and sweets I wanted to make this year, then I put them in order of least to most time-consuming to help me decide what order to make them in:

magic cookie bars
minty fudge
toffee
chocolate chip cinnamon cookies
pepper cookies
snickerdoodles
red velvet cookies
gingerbread
chocolate peppermint pinwheels
Russian teacakes
pumpkin spice truffles
candy cane cookies

Once I figured out what cookies I wanted to make, I also made a list for decorating. After all, what’s a Christmas party without decorations? I decided on an ornament theme, so I got hung little snowflake ornaments all over the house, filled a vase with ornaments for the cookie table centerpiece, decorated my fridge with ornaments cut out of wrapping paper (because we didn’t have a tree yet…), and made name tags for all the cookies in the shape of ornaments. (Thank you, Kelly, for your mad ornament-cutting skills!)

I got started about a week ahead of time and vowed to cross at least two things off my list each day, be it baking or decorating. My goal was to have everything made by the day before the party so that I could spend the day of cleaning the house for guests. And I almost made it—though I must admit I was frosting gingerbread cookies about half an hour before everyone started to arrive!

Over all, having the lists to rely on was amazing. Nothing slipped through the cracks, and I was still excited to be having the party as I was laying out the table just before our guests arrived. My main failing was in being indecisive about decorations (yeah, that list changed several times during the process), which meant that I spent several days buying and exchanging ribbons and twinkle lights, etc., before I could cross “buy decorations” off my list. But all in all, I would say that if you intend to host a Christmas party, you should make about a thousand lists and plot out a timeline for how to accomplish everything before the big day.

Now. Let’s make some cookies! My husband said these pinwheel cookies were his favorite, and while I still haven’t figured out how to get the chocolate not to crack during baking, they are pretty darn delicious!

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