Remember Project 365?
Shifting gears

Birthday Basics

Google alerted me that my November column ran yesterday. It’s rare that I miss it. By rare I mean that it’s never happened before. Yet another reason to love my Google Machine.

That reminder reminded me that I still haven’t posted my link to last month’s column on going back to birthday basics, so here it is complete with the pictures I promised my mom I’d post. Of course, I have to add my “after” commentary as well.

The column:—hardy

The prep:

Because I took a totally different, low-key approach to Sam’s birthday party this year (read the above article), I actually enjoyed every aspect of planning for his party. And somehow managed to pull off a darn good party without all the stress of last year. I spent approximately $60 on the whole thing. Due to our  restricted budget at the moment the party was kind of his gift, and since he requested that we gave little gifts to his friends, that counted as part of his present and he was quite happy with that.

Another thing that helped was starting the planning process well in advance. It made it possible to get what I wanted without paying extra for any of it. I broke it down into doable tasks and had fun all the while. This is not something I’ve been able to do in the past when I was stuck in my procrastination by perfection cycle.

First up was picking a theme that would be fun and flexible and totally Sam. We discussed some ideas, train-theme, book-theme and finally settled on camping. It was perfect!

I hit up the Google Machine and found this insanity:

That kind of inspired my column about going back to the basics.

Sam and I had fun making these toilet-tube decorations inspired by my beloved Pinterest:

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I made the cupcakes to look like mini-campfires with chocolate rocks, Reece’s Pieces and pretzel sticks from Winco’s bulk bins and dye-free gummy bears from Trader Joe’s. Lest it look like I’m bragging, the frosting I made was totally disgusting.

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I used Matt’s old Play Mobile toys to decorate the tray. Note: It was a terrible idea to use real rocks in addition to the chocolate rocks.

Another fun Pinterest-inspired idea was having the kids go “fishing” for snacks. They dipped pretzel, carrot and celery sticks into blue-tinted cream cheese to go“fishing” for goldfish.

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Cute + Cheap + Fun + Easy = Perfect! 

For the invitations I ordered camping theme stickers from Oriental Trading company and printed the necessary information in a triangle shape.

For the favors I ordered compasses, mini-flashlights and some bandanas which I used to tie the compasses, flashlights and granola jars into hobo sacks. Note: this was an unnecessary expense and I won’t do it again. The flashlights were cheap and the granola would’ve been plenty. Also, sticks don’t jive with the 3-and-4-year-old crowd.

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Note: I wrapped these in wax paper bags and made labels on my computer in colors that matched our theme. I have them saved if anyone wants them. They just say: “Happy Camper (Name).”


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For entertainment we played London Bridges, Hot Potato and Freeze Dance. And, of course, the main attraction: a tent pitched in the playroom.

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I’d love to post more photos of the kiddos but I don’t have permission from everyone’s parents and I think it’s super important to honor the privacy of other families, especially in our digital age.

Of course, none of this was the highlight of the day. For Sam it was all about the birthday stars. A story for another day!