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Friday, July 11, 2014

Carys's Third Birthday : Under the Sea

Let me preface this post by saying two things:

1. I LOVE party planning and doing. Will someone pay me for this? I love it. I know it's crazy. But it's so fun. You should have seen my wedding. Details galore. And that was pre-Pinterest. And pre-blog. CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN LIKE IN THE ERA OF PINTEREST?

2. I save money on party supplies/favors in two huge ways: first, I am lucky enough to have a friend who gets a big discount at one of the stores listed as a source.  Second, I have a friend who also has a July 2011 baby child and we do the same party theme and split the costs of all the items. So with those two HUGE money-saving situations, I'm able to go a little bigger than I would otherwise, and spend money on things I would never otherwise.

(Did I say two things? My bad. Make that three.)

3. This is so much fun for me. I can't reiterate that enough. Like, I don't enjoy cleaning up afterward. And I don't like worrying about the weather. Or trying to gather RSVPs. But the pinning and the planning and the crafting and the designing? LOVE IT.

I kind of hate feeling that I have to defend all this ridiculousness (and let's be clear: it is kind of ridiculous), but with mommy wars and conspicuous consumption and all that jazz and I feel the need. So I do parties like this because I love it, I do it cheap, and it's all re-used. And because FUN.

So. Ahem. Off of justification and onto our "Under the Sea" slash "Beach Party" slash "Mermaid Party" birthday.

Since she's a little kid with opinions and shit now, I thought it'd be fun to do a theme that related to her interests this year. Unfortunately, those interests change daily. I asked her what kind of party she wanted a few times over the course of a few weeks, and it would go something like this: "Frozen." "Pink." "Princess." (WHOSE CHILD IS THIS?) "Mermaid."  Mermaid started to stick, which was kind of weird to me since she hadn't seen the movie The Little Mermaid at the time (obviously I rectified that unfortunate situation quickly).  For ease of decorating and to minimize the cheesiness, I expanded it to a beach/under the sea/water theme with a side of mermaids.

The first two years were limited to mostly family, but this year we invited a group of her friends that she gets to see and play with regularly - all the girls are the ages of two and three, except for one who is a couple years older (and who Carys just hero worships so hard). We also invited a few close family members because I love my family and seriously, it'd feel so weird to be celebrating without them there. I was on the fence about whether she was too young for a 'friend' birthday party, but they all had a huge blast and I'm glad we did it this way.

I designed the invites using some modified clip art from this Etsy shop.

You can check out the Pinterest board where many of these ideas came from here: Beach/Mermaid Party Board.

The main table started out well, but ended up just being cluttered when things got set there during set up and we ran out of time to move them before guests arrived (specifically, the cake and cupcakes should have been moved, but OH WELL).

I LOVE the streamer background and the fishing net with the balloons, as well as the ruffled "seaweed" garland surrounding the deck doors.  We wrote on the doors with window markers. It looked awesome in person. I meant to also decorate the front door with some waves but forgot (Actually, a common theme throughout. I also forgot to change out into a real bra and to set out decorations that usually live in the bathroom - people probably just thought I really committed to the theme - and to use some decorations that Carys and I had DIYed earlier. Also see those yellow tiki torches hiding behind the table? Yep, forgot about them too. Whoops).

A few details from the table...

Fish rings and sea life gummies from Oriental Trading Company. Jelly beans from Amazon. A pound of Jelly Beans is not a lot, FYI.

Delish sand dollar cookies from here, on a bed of brown sugar/crumbled graham cracker 'sand.'

Close up of the cupcakes, which were made by my sister and decorated with a sea turtle made by my sister-in-law (which were inspired by here, but I couldn't find gumdrops anywhere so made do with Dots instead. Also, Dots are frigging delicious. I'd kinda forgotten. But I maybe ate the whole box afterward.).

Cardboard letters from Hobby Lobby (UGH I KNOW I HATE THEM TOO) covered in cut-out fish scales. 

This sand pudding (from here) is AMAZING. Please make it. And invite me over. Also, the Nilla Wafer/Oreo "sand" looks and even feels so much like actual sand that some people weren't sure if it was edible.  Bucket from Dollar Tree.

The cake, made by my sister and topped with turtles and crabs with mustaches. I don't know why they have mustaches. My sister-in-law who made them said they're French. Crabs inspired from here. Except those don't have mustaches. Because they aren't French. Also the spiky thing is supposed to be a sea urchin. When I pointed out that sea urchins don't float on top of the water, my sister reminded me that she made the cake for free and that I could kindly shut up. She was right.

More of the numbers because why not? You can see here the gold glitter washi tape I used to line the outside and inside. The sea urchins (can you even tell they are supposed to be sea urchins?) were half dome styrofoam, skewers cut in half, and spray paint. I had the wicker balls and driftwood already.

The 'seaweed' is just crepe paper sewn together and ruffled. Really cute and easy, but takes a ton of crepe paper - it took an entire roll of each color just to make those four. 

When you come to my party and ask what you can do to help, you might be handed a watermelon and a knife and the instructions, "Make this into a shark."

The favors - all from Oriental Trading Company. Decorated with twine and a letter cut with the Cricut machine.

The tissue paper garlands were on sale at Target a few years ago. The seahorse garland I made courtesy of a borrowed Cricut machine and some twine.  All of this stuff was supposed to go elsewhere but I totally forgot to move it. 

I found some air dry clay that was leftover from a Christmas ornament project last year and decided to make mermaid tail necklaces out of it (this is the stuff we usedthis stuff might be sturdier and heavier). All we bought was the satin cord. I started out with just Carys's, and free-hand sculpted it (below). When we expanded to making one for everyone, I used a cookie cutter. Carys rolled the clay out and helped cut them out. Then, after drying overnight, she painted them and dumped glitter on them after I'd sprayed them with adhesive. So that the moms wouldn't hate me for spreading glitter everywhere, I knocked as much of the glitter off as I could, and then sealed it in with a couple of coats of fake Modge Podge (1:1 white glue and water).  She really loved this entire project, and loved handing them out to guests.

Lanterns from Oriental Trading Company.

You know what you DON'T need at a party? A coloring station. I don't even think a single kid glanced at this. 

If you came just for party decor inspiration, you can stop reading now. The rest are just one million party pictures. But if you leave now, you probably don't have a heart because they're cute pictures.

One of my favorite party projects was this mermaid cut-out, um, photo prop. Is there a proper name for these things?? I don't even know what to Google to find it if there is..."What do you call the signs that you stick your head through to take a picture so it looks like you're someone or something else?" (Hm, apparently yes.)

I just got a big piece of mat board (I also considered foam core and plywood but this was the cheapest) and hand-drew the same mermaid from the invite, then painted her. The background was watercolor because I thought it'd look transparent and wave-y but it really just looked badly painted and splotchy. Why do I keep telling you all the failings of the party? You'd probably never have noticed any of these things if I just stopped writing them. I love it, regardless. I don't know what we're going to do with it but I can't bring myself to throw it away!

(Note: I do have permission to post pictures of all of these kids.)

Her birthday present from her dad and me - great deal on Amazon. I love this GIF because it looks like Carys is levitating. 

I love this birthday outfit. Shirt was on sale at Old Navy earlier this year and skirt was on sale at Hartstrings a while ago. 

We borrowed this pool from a friend but you can find it here.

Got the seahorse blow up and some beach balls at Dollar Tree.

Emmeline was there too! Although she slept through most of it.

Like last year, the adults had just as much fun as the kids.

I made this mermaid wig with three separate wigs from the Dollar Tree that I hot-glued together since they were super thin. And made this guy model it.

Watch out, L! There's a water balloon headed right for your head!

My cousin's daughter was hoarding the water balloons. 

A second from being hit by a balloon.

I love having adults in my life that know how to have fun like they're three years old.

The two girls above are from Carys's swim class. They've all been in class together for 2.5 years now!

My dad's artwork. Show off. ;)

Carys has been coveting these sandals since seeing her friend with them - so her friend's mom got her a pair of her own! She hasn't taken them off yet.

The mermaid necklace in action.

I didn't think this tiny kiddie pool would get any use. WRONG.

My sister trying to reanimate the starfish with water and salt. I think she needs to go back to biology class.

The green and pink cups are from Dollar Tree (4 for $1). Each kid got one and we wrote their initials on them to avoid mix ups.

Look at all that Play-Doh. People know her well.

So this is the part of the party where her cake caught on fire. Like they do. Right? The traditional lighting of the cake?

Chris got this novelty candle from a fireworks stand last year, thinking it was a firework.  First, the middle flame was huge and it totally "foosh!"ed when we lit it. Then I didn't consider how open it would get, so one of the petals landed on one of the regular birthday candles. The regular candle caught the petal on fire.

Needless to say, everyone laughed and Carys cried. Not because her cake was on fire, but because she thought everyone was laughing at her.

But some cake soon stopped her tears. Cake solves everything.


The hallmark of a great kids' party? When the guests cry when they have to leave. Right? 

So now that I have two kids I get to do this all over in six months. I'm already thinking of ideas for Em's first birthday. I also already feel bad for her, with a birthday that's no only close to Christmas but also in the dead of winter. When she gets older, maybe I'll offer her the option of having a party in the summer. Carys's first birthday was her smallest one (but also my favorite because I DIYed everything and made her entire outfit), so we'll see what happens with Emmeline's. 

And thus, Carys enters her fourth year of life and I might just sneak away to go cry over a glass of wine about how fast time is going.


  1. Love everything you do Lara! You are so inventive!

  2. What a great, great, GREAT party! So cute! We are also doing water balloons for Ethan's (he hoarded over HALF the basket at our family July 4th party). I love those mermaid tails! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow! It looks like everyone had a great time, I'm amazed at your party planning skillz. Great job!

  4. I literally LOLd at the "here, make this a shark" part. Great party!

  5. Wow, super impressive party!
    Visiting from my blog link-up party and now following you. Thank you for the follow too!