real parties: under the sea

Karen recently sent me me these fantastic pictures & details from her son’s Under the Sea themed birthday party. There were so many to choose from that I only hope I did it justice! Karen had a lot of great things to say about her ideas and prep, so I thought I’d simply share the party in her own words:

Invites: I found the invitations on, and I worked with the designer Heather from Chickabug, on some custom changes to the invitations, address labels, and ground signs. I added some animals here and there, and I made all the text my own. In addition, the address labels for the invites said: “Don’t be crabby, Sea you there.” The address labels for the coordinating thank you cards said: “Thank you for Coming, Sea you soon.”

Signs: Again, I worked with Chickabug to make ground signs leading into the party. “Clam on in” and “He’s a Keeper!”

Cake: The cake was custom made by a local bakery, Kalupa’s Bakery, in South Tampa. The cake – and the smash cake – were adorable – and DELICIOUS!

Ben's Fishing Hole: I used a small blow up baby pool for a magnetic fishing game – Ben’s Fishing Hole. The kids loved FISHING! For other games… Although I don’t have a good photo of it, I also had sand art for the kids to play with – with clear bottles in the shape of starfish, fish, octopus, and whale. For the little ones, I put a blanket down and had a few sea-themed puzzles, toys and balls to play with. Also, the party was at a park, so the kids did the typical playground stuff.

Favor Buckets: The favor buckets were stuffed with tons of fish and sea-themed items. I did one for babies and one for kids. Fish board books, under the sea fun pads, fish castanettes, fish teethers, sea creature tattoos and stickers, beach balls with sea animals inside, fish ring pops, Go Fish card games, sea stampers, shell bead necklaces, suction balls, etc. They were a hit. And, they all came with a favor tag that said: “Thanks for playing with me under the sea. So glad you were here to celebrate with me.” I wrote each child’s name on the back of the tag.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish: I tried to give cute sea-themed names to all of the food, and I labeled everything on Chickabug menu cards. Seaweed salad, Submarine sandwiches, Octodogs, Fruit of the sea, Shrimpy salad, etc.

Some of the photos were taken by me, and some of them (the better ones) were taken by
Susan Gentile.

rainy day red velvet cake

It’s raining outside (again) and it feels very much like a 'stay home in pj’s and bake red velvet cake' kind of day. Only that’s not what I’m doing... I’m stuck in a cube at work. Can someone help me out? Bake this cake and let me live vicariously though you, or show up at my office and bring me a piece. Your choice.

{recipe & image via joy the baker}

Red Velvet Cake with Fluffy White Frosting
makes 2 8-inch or 9-inch round cakes

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 egg
5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tablespoons red food coloring mixed with 2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Turn mixer to high and add the eggs. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and salt and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.

Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar. Turn to high and beat a few more minutes.

Spoon batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.

Let rest in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Fluffy Seven Minute Frosting

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

In large metal bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup water, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. Set bowl over pan of barely simmering water and mix with handheld electric mixer at low speed. Gradually increase speed to high, beating until mixture holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

Transfer bowl from pan to folded kitchen towel on counter and continue beating until mixture is cool and billowy, about 2 minutes more. Beat in vanilla. (Frosting can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered.)

real parties: a modern monster bash

Remember this monster inspiration board I created a few months back? Well Carrie of Pen & Parchment went all out and did her son's party proud! I'm thrilled to be able to share the photos with you... her use of bold colors and simple, clean designs set exactly the right look. The bunting is just to die for, as are those handmade stuffed monsters. But my personal fave? ... that little monster cake topper, designed to look just like the one on the invitation!

{images via pen & parchment}

custom inspiration board: monograms & mimosas

My friend Jessie from New Orleans, creator of the hot new interior design blog The Gimlet Eye (one of my regular daily reads!) asked me to do a follow up on her sister's recent Monograms & Mimosas bridal shower, and offer a few tips on how to throw one for your own special occasion. Here is the inspiration board I created for her, along with my suggestions on how to bring this theme to life...

1. Coordinate with color: For the purposes of this board I went with a yellow & orange citrus palette to play off the mimosas. Honestly, any color combo will work with the theme, but these colors happen to make decorating simple. Accent basic white tablecloths with centerpieces of fresh fruit and highlight with bright seasonal flowers or fruit trees.

2. Create a consistent monogram and add it everywhere you can think of... from the invites to the napkins. Oh, and the menus... and stir sticks... and coasters... the list is basically as endless as your budget. A site like
Before your Party allows you to create your own custom monogram and apply it to all the elements of your choosing.

3. This theme obviously lends itself to a brunch, so plan for a traditional mix of sweets and savories, and consider one signature dish... like
this recipe for baked orange pecan french toast.

4. A mimosa bar feels like a must, doesn't it? In addition to champagne and OJ, offer a few surprising additions like fresh orange slices, strawberries, mint leaves, or peach nectar.

5. Send your guests home with a sweet favor as a thank you for attending... like these monogrammed cookies from the
Gumdrop Cookie Shop packaged in ribbon-tied cello bags.

Photo Credits
Row 1: invite via minted; paper decorations via silly bees chickadees; lemon centerpiece & mimosas via martha stewart
Row 2: cookie via gumdrop cookie shop; mimosa display via eddie ross
Row 3: citrus table setting n/a; centerpiece via the knot; champagne bar via todd events; coasters via wedding bee pro
Row 4: napkins via wedding bee pro; french toast via florida’s natural; orange table via hwtm

a rainbow of happiness

Sorry this post is so late... it's been a long day. But did anyone see this cake featured on Martha this week? It's enough to turn anyone's frown upside down...

{image & recipe via whisk kid}

ainbow Cake

White Cake (but not really)
2 sticks (226 g) butter, room temp
2 1/3 c (466 g) sugar
5 egg whites, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 c (375 g) flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/2 c (355 g) milk, warmed for 30 sec in microwave to bring to room temp
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple GEL food coloring. Liquid will not be vibrant enough!

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Oil and line how ever many 9” cake pans you have (I have three and I just reused them).

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream the sugar and butter, then add the egg whites (I cracked them all into one bowl) and add them a little at a time. Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Then, alternating between wet and dry, add the milk and flour mixture in two parts.

Divide the batter amongst 6 bowls (I did it by weight. Weigh your mixing bowl before you begin adding ingredients and then subtract the weight of the bowl from the final measurement after the batter is completed. Divide that number by six and add that weight of batter to each bowl), and then whisk a fair amount of the appropriate food color into each bowl. Pour into the pans and bake for 15 minutes each.

When you remove them from the oven, let them rest on the cooling rack, in the pan, for ten minutes. Then flip, cover, and stash them in the fridge to cool quickly.

Lemony Swiss Meringue Buttercream

To fill and crumb coat:
9 egg whites
1 ¾ c (350 g) sugar
4 sticks (532 g) of butter, room temp
2 tsp lemon extract

To frost:
5 egg whites
1 c (200 g) sugar
2 sticks (226 g) butter, room temp
1 tsp lemon extract

Cook the egg whites and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing some between your fingers. If it's completely smooth, it's done). Pour into another bowl (a stand mixer is preferable) and whip on high speed until room temp. Then, on a medium-slow speed, add the butter, waiting until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer back to high speed and whip until it has come together, about five minutes. Add the extract, beat briefly and then use.

If the buttercream seems soupy after all of the butter is added and does not come together after whipping, refrigerate for 5 to 7 minutes and continue whipping until it becomes fluffy and workable.

real parties: around the world

Toni of Happy Hour Mom recently shared with me this super creative birthday theme held for her son- an 'Around the World' party. She included clever travel details like postcards and globe favors... but my favorite is the luggage tiered cupcake tower! The food menu was inspired by all the places their family has lived through the years and I must say... what a lucky, well traveled little man Dane must be. Be sure to go check out Happy Hour Mom for more party details and lots of other terrific articles about life, design & motherhood.

{images via happy hour mom}

custom inspiration board: a bird in the nest shower

As we all know, inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places. In this case it was the fabric of a chair that inspired Thi's nest themed baby shower. The modern colors of yellow, grey and turquoise are a great way to update the look and give the event a bright touch that compliments some of the more vintage details...

Theme: Nesting Shower

Party Ideas
Colors: yellow, grey & turquoise
Setting: a casual afternoon brunch with tables both indoors & outdoors
Decorations: hang an eclectic mix of colored birdcages and bird houses from the ceiling and porch. fill white and glass vases with cheerful yellow flowers and consider adding succulents for a pop of blue green color contrast. accent the tables with an assortment of nests and ceramic or fabric birds. consider scattering eggs and feathers where appropriate. instead of a guest book, create a wish tree of long branches and cut out bird shaped cards for guests to write messages and hang for the mom to be.
Food: serve a bird inspired brunch of eggs benedict along with roasted herb potatoes and spring greens. offer oj, lemonade and coffee to drink. for dessert, create birds nest cupcakes on tiered cake plates and consider candy jars of assorted chocolate eggs and jelly beans.
Favors: fill mini nests with jellybeans and wrap package in labeled glassine bags

Photo Credits
Row 1: chair fabric from crate & barrel; invite via tiny prints; cages via parents; birdhouse via diy ideas
Row 2: candy jar via lolliblog; cupcakes via
the knot; chocolate eggs via martha stewart
Row 3: cake plates via whitney smith; wish tree via the knot; bird topper via etsy; table setting via utterly engaged
Row 4: birdhouse via hwtm; nest favor via birthday girl; succulent centerpiece via ink & peat; seating cards via brooklyn limestone

real parties: p is for princess

When a photographer hosts a birthday party for her child, you just know the pics are going to be incredible. And of course, such is the case with Heidi from Wishful Thinking Photography and her daughter’s P is for Princess party. This sweet and simple party played off a pale pink theme with special touches including pom flowers, a gorgeous cake and a pink themed dinner... even paper crowns for the kids to decorate and take home.

{images via wishful thinking}

guest post: throwing a super WHY party

Birthday Girl is pleased to present the first post in a monthly series, written by guest contributor Leslie Blumenstein. Today's topic? Throwing a Super WHY theme Party...

Leslie Blumenstein is a work at home mom of one busy little guy. She is a freelance writer and covers a range of topics with a special focus on party planning. She is a regular contributor to, a comprehensive party planning site. Her passion for entertaining has led her to become an expert on budget party planning without sacrificing style. From baby showers to back yard barbecues, she’s done it all – without breaking the bank.

My son was turning 3 and when I asked him what type of party he wanted he said enthusiastically, “Super WHY!” I thought, “That’s a great idea”. Super WHY is a fun show from the PBS family of children’s programs and it is a perfect theme for a preschooler’s birthday party. Then I started looking for supplies only to find there aren’t any! So I dug into my party planning tool bag and began to think creatively. Here’s what I came up with.

The Invitations

I used the PurpleTrail Design Center and created a custom Super WHY invitation. It was easy and very affordable. I kept it simple. I just uploaded a Super Why image, added my text and party details and ordered my invites. I choose to order postcard style invitations to cut down on postage costs.

The Food

I kept the food easy and very kid friendly. One of the characters on the show is named Princess Pea. Her main saying is, “peas and carrots, carrots and peas, book come out please, please, please!” So I made delicious cold pea salad and cut up carrot sticks to serve with some dip. Wonder Red – a modern day Red Riding hood carries around a basket of letters on the show so I had a basket full of bagels (for the letter O). I also put out some “wonder red” strawberries. I kept the rest of the food very simple. I put out a few more assorted veggies and fruits and some lunch meat for the bagels.

The Cake

I really like cupcakes for kids’ parties. Since my little guy loves chocolate, I made chocolate cupcakes with butter cream frosting. I topped them off with red sprinkles and arranged them like a giant question mark to show off Super WHY’s insignia.

The Decorations

I have limited space so I use decorations as smartly as possible – as to not take up valuable real estate in the room for party goers. I used red, green, and blue balloons for outside. Then I created little red question marks and blue book exclamation marks (Super WHY’s trademark signs) and hung them above the food table. I used royal blue plates, green napkins and yellow cups – the colors Super Why wears. For the table I just cut a red rectangle disposable table cloth in half, folded that in half and used it as a table runner.

The Game

The majority of kids were 3 and under, so one game was more than enough since attention spans are limited! During each Super WHY episode, they look for super letters to help them answer their really big problem. Over the course of each episode, Super WHY collects the letters and puts them in the super computer to decipher the answer to the really big problem. Since most of the children attending didn’t yet read but could recognize letters, I kept the game basic. I created a red super letter message and posted it low enough on the wall that the kids reach it. I then took out most of the vowels and left up “blanks” as place holders. I hid the letters around the house. Then I asked them to help me complete the message by finding the missing super letters. Then some of the older kids helped us figure out where to put them once the kids found them all. It worked really well! They had a blast searching for the letters and when it was complete we read the message together “Happy 3rd Birthday E!”

The Party Favors

I really like to hand out party favors that you might actually use. This means limiting the trinkets and giving something either edible or activity related. In this case, I did both. I bought a set of alphabet cookie cutters for sugar cookies. I cut out a cookie with each child’s first initial (so I made 3 A’s and 2 T’s etc. instead of making the whole alphabet). I frosted the cookies and sprinkled them with red sprinkles and placed them in lime green cellophane party bags. For the other part of the favor, I just went to and printed of enough copies of their Super WHY printables to give each child 3 coloring pages. I got little 4 packs of crayons at the party store and folded up the pictures to fit into large cellophane party bags.

The party was a success! It was 2 hours of (mostly) smiling children running around excitedly. It came together really well. We all had wonderrific and terrific time. Now all that’s left is to create are the thank you’s (which luckily, I can just use the same design as the invitation to create) and make a photo book to preserve this tremendous 3rd birthday celebration!

custom inspiration board: under construction

This party board was initially created for Victoria who wanted a tractor & construction theme for her son's 1st birthday. Of course, in creating the board we realized the theme might be better suited for an older boy... there are just so many great activities that revolve around digging in the dirt!

Theme: Under Construction

Party Ideas
Colors: orange, yellow & brown
Setting: afternoon lunch party outdoors
Decorations: turn the area into a mini construction site using work signs, orange cones, caution tape and plastic hard hats. add bunches of balloons to the food tables and play areas. for centerpieces, use groupings of plastic dump trucks, tractors and steam rollers- add munchies like popcorn, pretzels & trail mix to load areas of the trucks for snacking.
Food: lunches served out of tin lunch boxes or labeled paper bags. Offer lemonade with orange slices to drink and call it ‘dynamite lemonade’. Create a dumptruck cake or cupcakes with themed toppers for dessert.
Favors: send each child home with labeled glassine bag including a small plastic toy truck and reeses pieces candy ‘dirt’.
Activities: consider a sandbox area ‘work zone’ for digging with plastic shovels & a table of legos or wooden building blocks.

Photo Credits
Row 1: invite via tiny prints; kids at work via family fun; work area via juicy bits
Row 2: tractor play via
sambellina; paper labels via the dann family; pin the nail via paper & cake; cake via oh dee doh
Row 3: blueprint table via
hip hostess; tractor cake via family fun; cookies via juicy bits; hard hat table via me & my insanity

Row 4: buckets via the dann family; I dig sign via etsy; lunchboxes via me & my insanity

custom inspiration board: pretty in pinkalicious

I created this party for Paula, whose daughter is turning 4 in May and loves everything about the book Pinkalicous. She didn’t want a literal take on the book, so I decided simply to incorporate as many pink & girly details as possible...

Theme: Pink Pink Pink!

Party Ideas
Colors: all shades of pink
Setting: a seated lunch (indoors or outdoors) followed by party games and presents
Decorations: pink linens for the tables with lots of luscious pink spring flowers (peonies, carnations, roses) in white vases. hang over sized balloons and paper pom flowers in various shades of pink. Tie pink satin bows to the chair backs. essentially there’s no such thing as too much pink for this party... just be sure to vary the shades to give the party a depth of color.
Food: light bites for lunch with lots of pink desserts: peanut butter & strawberry jelly tea sandwiches, mixed berry fruit salad, pink lemonade followed by pinkalicious cupcakes and a pink candy buffet for dessert.
Favors: a ribbon wrapped pink mini bakery box with an individual pinkalicious cupcake to take home
Other: tell the girls to dress in their favorite pink outfit and offer boas, beads and other pink props for a game of dress up...even consider pink manicures. Set out a copy of the book pinkalicious for all the girls to sign with their birthday wishes.

Photo Credits
Row 1: pinkalicious via
amazon; giant cupcake via oh sugar cakes; gifts via martha stewart; pink lemonade via imprintables
Row 2: pinkalicious cupcakes via
sophistimom; tables via the knot; carnations via hwtm
Row 3: paper pom flowers via
style me pretty; hanging balloons via the pleated poppy; girl with cake via martha stewart; donut via brides
Row 4: centerpiece via
artfool; favor table via style me pretty

real parties: sweet as candy

This sweet shop party comes from Glorious Treats and was created for her daughter’s 6th birthday. I simply love these bright cheerful colors... and what child wouldn’t swoon over the incredible display of confections? Glory spent about six months collecting the pretty jars and gathering ideas in order to bring this party to life, and I’d say it was well worth it. What a ‘sweet’ event!

{images via glorious treats}

real parties: sweets shop & sock monkeys

This week I've got 2 wonderful Sweet Shop themed parties to share with you. The first is from Beverly, created for her daughter's 1st birthday. She managed to turn her entire living room into a candy shoppe themed wonderland... if you look closely, almost every surface displays a part of the candy theme! She made nearly all the details by hand and even managed to tie in her daughter's love for sock monkeys by sneaking them into the decor...

{all images courtesy of beverly}

Stay tuned Thursday for another clever take on the Sweet Shop theme...