A Handmade First Birthday Party

A child's first birthday is sweet, momentous, and exciting... and also noteworthy because it's the last birthday party you will have full creative control over.  After the first birthday, you'll be filling requests for SpongeBob SquarePants themes, skating parties, and the ultra dreaded eight eight-year-olds sleepover.  So have your druthers with number one!

For me and my husband, that meant a party at home, lots of friends and family (mostly adults, by chance not design), no theme other than "birthday", and adult-tailored food and beverages (although I did put some Baby Mum Mums in a bowl for the under-two set).

I was very excited about making decorations for Natalie's first birthday, and I proceeded to Martha Stewart out, big time.  I love those penant-flag banners you've seen popping up at cute places, like the Paper Source, and decided I could make one myself, much longer than the kit would allow, and for less than they were charging.  My craft closet was already full of the supplies, after all.  

(Yes, I have a Craft Closet.  What??)

I also thought of making paper chains, like we used to do as kids to count down for Christmas.  Those things give you a lot of bang for your buck, time and materials-wise!  I got five designs of scrapbooking paper (two double sided and one single sided) and started cutting them into 2" x 6" strips with my awesome paper cutter, the Handy Guillotine (that is it's actual product name.  I would have bought it anyway but I delight in calling it the Handy Guillotine every time I use it.  Best $19 I have ever spent).

The Handy Guillotine, ready to slice and dice.  Please note the presence of my silent and constant partner, Starbucks VIA.

Then all you need is a stapler, and you're in paper-chain-making business.  I had my laptop handy so I could watch old episodes of Cougar Town online while making them.  If you're watching Cougar Town, I recommend having a glass of wine handy, as well.  Notice how this whole process is very handy?

Finished chains adorning the arch between dining and living room.

I really hated taking them down.  It took me over a week to put them in storage after the party.  Total cost of 16' of paper chains, $4 (for scrapbooking paper).

Now onto the festive penant-flag banners.

I made these using a stack of 6" x 6"printed scrapbooking papers which were already color coordinated, and which had been taking up precious real estate in the CC for too long.

I will admit I totally eyeballed cutting these, as I tend to do.  When you've got to repeat something 48 times, "measure twice, cut once" just isn't going to happen (unless of course you're talking about joists, studs, eye bolts or similar).  With paper birthday decorations, eyeball it.  I used an Exacto knife, a metal straight edge (this is what my drafting instruments are reduced to these days), and a cutting mat.  I borrowed the shape from Paper Source's kit, with a foldover tab on the top of the flag to wrap around the banner string.

Then I folded each flag's tab over my natural colored yarn and secured it with craft glue.  Total cost for 24' of penant flag banner, $2.50 for the yarn (since I had everything else already).  Definitely a savings over the PS kit, of which I'd have needed two.

I think the thing most people get excited about for first birthdays is the baby's first cake experience.  The guests, anyway.  They want to see smashing, grabbing, throwing, and sugar rushes.  As a mom, I was thinking, once she tastes frosting, my homemade sweet potatoes are history!  She's gonna get frosting in her hair/on the walls/in her ears/on the dog/inside the heat registers!

But what are you going to do - deny your child cake for 18 years?  It's one of those "feel the fear and do it anyway" things.  

Did I just say I was afraid of cake?

Well, I'm not.  I decided to make the Birthday Baby her very own, double layer, pink sparkly creation just to prove how unafraid I was!

It's yellow cake, from a mix, with white frosting, from a tub.  That's the actual name of the flavor: White.  A drop of red food coloring, and some sparkly pink sprinkles brought it up to Very First Birthday Cake status.

I baked the top layer in a giant size silicone muffin tin.  The bottom layer was baked in a 8" round cake pan, and trimmed (mmmm, cake trimmings...) by about an inch all the way around.  The cute little "1" candle is made by Tag, and I got it at Mrs. Cook's in U-Village.

So for the rest of the guests... cuppycakes!  

Coconut and Birthday Cake flavors.  I was a little scared to make only coconut cupcakes, since apparently some weirdos don't like coconut (I happen to love it, you remember the Skinny Coladas, right?) so luckily there was enough batter and frosting from Natalie's cake left to make a round of cuppycakes, too.

The coconut were a total hit, however.  I used a semi-homemade approach to these, and doctored up a white cake mix (again, how is "White" a flavor?) with coconut milk and some other things as recommended by this recipe on Allrecipes.com.  

Ever notice how even when you serve cupcakes that are made from mixes and tubs, if they are dressed up a bit with frosting, sprinkles, and coconut, (and made with love, of course) people still go ape you-know-what over them?  I love that.

Almost too pretty to eat, which Natalie acknowledged by daintily swiping at the frosting with her fingers.  Her dad finally fed her some bites of cake with a fork.  And she's still into sweet potatoes, just like before!

Total cost of Natalie's cake and 36 cupcakes, $16 (including fancy $4 sprinkles and $2 candle from Mrs Cook's).

It was a wonderful party, and Natalie had a fabulous time being a social butterfly with her guests!

Next year, I'm prepared to produce a Disney Princesses party if asked, but I'm hoping for more homemade cakes and free reign with the decorations.  Good luck with that, right?