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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Carys's Fourth Birthday : Camp Carys!

For about 10 months, starting from the day after her last birthday party, Carys wanted a Julius Junior party (which I was going to merge with rainbows to make it a little more generic). Then I suddenly realized, "Oh, shit! Her party is in eight weeks!" - AKA that time period known as "Crap, better get planning!" So I verified the Julius party theme. Yes. Still on. Let the serious Pinning commence. The first step to any successful party, right?

Until she had a dream about monsters, and then it was a monster party. 

That lasted two days, until she talked to my sister (her aunt Kimberly), and they talked about camping. Then suddenly she wanted a camping party. While I loved the idea, I assured her she could go camping with Kimberly even without a camping birthday party, because I wanted to make sure that it was what she really wanted. As much as you can be sure with a three-year-old, which is pretty much not at all. However, she didn't change her mind. I told her I was going to sit down right. that. second. and buy the first party supplies so that this was the last chance to back out, and she told me in no uncertain terms ("Mom, I want a camping party, please stop asking now.") that she was sure. 

I was pretty excited about this turn of events, because we camp a lot (see: my Camping with Kids post), so we had a lot of things we could use around the house already, and both girls have kind of a nature/hippie component to their bedroom decor, so we could shop our own house for party supplies. (You can check out the Pinterest board I made for this party where I stole many of the ideas from here.)

And can we just take a minute to appreciate real parties with real kids? I love Pinterest, don't get me wrong, but those aren't real parties. Like 99% of kids' parties don't involve party planners and thousands of dollars and renting fancy venues. They are great for inspiration (and by all means, if you can afford that, GO FOR IT! I'm legit jealous!), but realistically, they are far from feasible for most of us. For this party, the goals were: cheap, easy, cute, and lots of fun for the kids. 

Invite front/back

I set up this stuff up on the entryway table. We already owned everything except the "Welcome to Camp Carys" sign, which I modified from an existing one I found, and the mossy 4 (just a wooden "4" that I covered with moss using spray adhesive).  Oh, and the "Don't Blend in at Camp" sign is from a Mini-Boden catalog received a few days before the party (it's like they sent it just for me).

I had to print out this series of pics. They make me laugh so hard. Such a cheeseball.

The favors were MY FAVE. Although I owe every other adult there an apology for the whistles. My bad. But the kids loved them. And that's what counts at a kid's party, right? (If you're throwing a similar party and want to skip the whistles, we also considered these bug finger puppets or these compasses, which I REALLY wanted but they were sold out when I was ordering.) I found a pack of Shrinky Dink paper, so I printed out a little "Camp Carys" logo and wrote names with Sharpie, then shrunk it in the oven to make a little keychain. Each kid got a whistle and a flashlight...

....as well as an adventure hat from Oriental Trading Company. These were awesome - we've used ours at the zoo and on walks and I heard from other parents that their kids love wearing them as sunhats! (The whistles and flashlights are laying on the leftover moss from making the "4".)


We ordered these huge campsite signs from OTC as well, and I couldn't resist making a corny "outhouse" sign.


I've had people write her well-wishes every year. I can't wait to have her go back and read them years down the road.

A "Do Not Feed the Bears" sign on a box of Teddy Grahams. We owned the bear already (I'm pretty sure it was actually a Christmas decoration purchased at like 90% off after the holiday).

Another of the camp signs, plus a cool cardboard 3D tree puzzle we already owned. The mints are from OTC and featured the little camping icons, but I don't see them listed anymore (their inventory turns over so much that if I can find it on Amazon, I'm linking to that instead). We scattered already-owned, forest-dwelling mini beanie babies and plastic lizards all over the house, and also bought a big bag of play bugs to use as decor as well. I let Carys decorate with them; hence the haphazard-ness. The terrarium and the little bird/nest bowl that's holding the toothpicks we've had for ages. That's a pound and a half of chocolate rocks in that white bowl. The blue bowl just has that classic popcorn trail mix - popcorn, M&Ms, peanuts, pretzels. And then fruit because that's delicious.


I love these wooden sporks (advertised as forks, but BONUS they were totally more like sporks and everyone knows that sporks = camping) and birch tree straws. Perfect for the theme plus CHEAP so total win-win. Hi squirrel! 

On the "dessert table" we had her cake and some cupcakes, as well as s'mores three ways - s'mores trail mix (mini marshmallows + teddy grahams + mini pretzels + M&Ms), s'mores dip that was totally delish (marshmallow fluff + chocolate frosting swirled together with graham crackers, strawberries, and Nilla wafers for dipping - I'm pretty sure I invented this so YOU'RE WELCOME), and traditional s'mores. The "Live in the Sunshine" print, the mini nest, the white mini tree, and the little wooden bird we already had. We got two of these adorable mini lanterns to use both as decor for the party, and to use later when we camp.  

I put out some sunscreen (my favorite kid-friendly sunblock), bug spray, and glow sticks since it was the middle of a hot July day. Stay safe out there, yo! Plus more beanie babies (my grandma gave us a huge bag a few years ago) and a plastic snake.

I couldn't resist this wall decal (which I taped onto a canvas we already had to make it stand up like this). The giant pinecone was a gift from my sister, who shipped it to Carys from California a few months ago. And another of those red lanterns.

I also hot-glued a bunch of pinecones to a piece of twine (and then put a piece of gold glitter tape on top to cover the hot glue). I actually had WAY MORE plans involving pinecones (a wreath! scattered on tables! as little card holders!), but someone CHRIS!! threw out a bag containing three week's worth of pinecones that I'd been collecting. And the perfect stump that I found to use as a cake stand. whomp whomp sad trombone

I put together a little scavenger hunt for the kids to do - just stapled the sheet on a lunch sack and threw a crayon in the bag.  Since most of the kids attending weren't readers, I used things that could easily be represented with an image.

When they completed the scavenger hunt, they got a couple camp tattoos. Always a huge hit with the kids.

We also had two other activities for the kids: sun art, using 8.5x11 sheets that I cut in half (be prepared to print directions for this, and don't forget a dish of water to finish developing it!), and paper foldable binoculars that actually work (shockingly) well. I mean, for paper bonoculars, anyway. The binoculars were a HUGE hit; the kids loved decorating them with stickers and crayons and then using them outside during the scavenger hunt. Chris redeemed himself from the pinecone debacle by getting really cute stickers for this activity from Hobby Lobby (10 husband points earned; level up!).

I set my parent's old tent and my old hiking backpack up in the backyard, and the kids had fun running in and out of it and "hiking" around with the backpack. And of course, bubbles. I just bought a cheap 12-pack from Walgreens and set them out. Multiples of bubbles are KEY.


A few more in-progress party pics...

I told her if she made that face I was putting it on the blog. 
You have to follow through with these consequences or they never learn.


I had the sandbox with the kinetic sand out in the sunroom and I'm pretty sure there was at least one kid playing in it every minute of the party.

Cake and present time!

I don't know what I did as a parent to make her this way (probably nothing) but she was so genuinely pleased and excited about every present and card. It was so gratifying to see that in your kid, especially at this age.

Watching a four year old open presents is truly a thrilling experience for the adults in attendance.

Well, for some of them.

Carys has been begging my mother-in-law to make her a mermaid tail she can wear in the bathtub and she delivered!

With her aunts and uncle (my siblings).

As the party wound down, I let her put on her tail in the kiddie pool.

These two pics kind of make me want to bury my head in memories of the last four years and cry.

Emmeline is chill as f*ck.

And a more few of the birthday girl because she's cute. Oh - I made her shirt and Emmeline's shirt with iron-on transfers. I got the shirts on sale at Old Navy for $4 each (serious score) and then bought some iron-on transfer paper and made the design in Photoshop. I'd seen a similar shirt on Pinterest that I used as inspiration. I randomly found the exact same fire that they used on the shirt when I searched for "camp fire clip art black and white," and then distressed it and the text in Photoshop with this tutorial. (And I made Em's say "Tiny Camper" instead of "Happy Camper"). I almost put her name and age on the back of the shirt, but I wanted to be able to hand it down, so left the back plain.


And ending with this bug picture because relevant. 


  1. Your parties are MY FAVORITE!! So beautifully put together and creative. Lucky Carys! She's looking so tall and happy, too! Glad she had a wonderful birthday <3

  2. I love this SO MUCH!!! Lara you should be a professional party planner. Happy birthday to Carys, the cutest camper eva!

  3. When you did your iron on transfers did you cut around each letter and around the campfire and make them separate pieces? Or did you just cut around the whole design?

    1. Oh, I should take a better pic and explain more. So after I created the design, I actually READ the instructions and it said you shouldn't use free-floating letters or designs or else you'd get a halo effect around the letters. WHOOPS. Then I realized I could scrape the extra white (non-printed area) from around the letters with my fingernail and it didn't take too long. So I cut as close to the letters as I could, then scraped the white off between the letters and around the letters/design to prevent the halo. Does that make sense?

  4. I love your parties. I have used them as inspiration for my son's parties. I should also tell you that your c section info was invaluable to me while I was pregnant. It's so hard to find an accurate positive description of what happens in surgery and what to bring to the hospital. I share it with everyone and I know who is having a c section. So thank you!

    1. Aw, thanks, Stephanie! That's so sweet! <3

  5. Ow it's lovely to see providing a beautiful birthday party. It's a lot to organize a party. All time it is not perfectly done. If you want to give a big party you need to hire an event planner to mange all the things from food serving to decorating plus guest receiving. You can get it more comfortably.

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