July 7, 2013

Balloons and Bubbles Birthday Party


The theme for Nicki’s first birthday party basically materialized out of thin air the day before her party.

I stated planning this party before she was born. I found these colorful pinwheel cookies on pinterest that looked like something from a book of Seuss. I loved the Seuss growing up, and I figured we would be reading Seuess daily, so I wanted to make Dr. Seuss my pary theme. My imagined first birthday party for Nicole was going to be colorful with a sense of whimsy. I was going to bake those cookies onto a lollipop stick.

But Alas, pinterest failed me. All the Seuss parties inspiration ideas I found were based on “The Cat and the Hat”, or “Green Eggs and Ham”, my two least favorite Seuss books. There was a dearth of other ideas. Adding insult to injury, a few months ago I discovered the Llamma Llama Books, which I loved even more the Seuss. I was quickly becoming disenchanted with the Seuss theme, so I started thinking of the party as Dr. Seuss Inspired, rather than Dr. Seuss Themed.


At first I wasn’t going to do invitations. We invited 4 sets of family members, three which had to fly if they were going to attend so I coordinated the party date with everyone months in advance via email. There is no need for invitations when all pertinent party details had already been shared.

But that’s when I had discovered custom printed balloons. Nicki loves balloons. She spied the birthday balloon Domingo bought for me before I did it, and commandeered it. I had to have custom printed balloons. It was a compulsion. The custom printed balloons were from Balloons Tomorrow and set me back $75. (Splurge #1)


I figured the best way to incorporate the balloons would be on the invitations. Of course this meant I had to design the card to affix the balloon too. The Seuss invitations on pinterest were not my style, and I couldn’t come up with anything, so I decided to go off theme. My first instinct was to do a marbled border for the invitation, but my graphics program didn’t have the right texture. I settled for “smoke” texture but something was still missing. I started playing around with “tubes” and found yellow bubbles against a purple “smoke” background really popped. It’s rare for me to be comfortable pairing multiple colors. Normally I pick one hue and vary the shades. Since the yellow bubbles seem to fit so well, and Nicki loves bubbles as well as balloons, it just seemed meant to be. I used the left over card stock to print my invitations. (I am totally getting my money’s worth out of that card stock!)

Picture of the invitation coming. I apparently forgot to take one.


One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is The Lorax, so I loved the idea of creating an enchanted forest. Once again I turned to balloons. The idea was to create a “balloon forest”. Domingo would later refer to it as a “balloon fog”, since it was toddler height at 2.5 feet tall per “tree”.



We used up all three large tanks of helium, but only 100 of the 300 balloons I ordered. There were 16 balloon trees, each tree was tied to an organza bag filled with marbles. I triple tied the bags since marbles are chocking hazards. Truth be told, so are balloons. I wasn’t too worried, Nicki was the only one there under 25 and there were always multiple pairs of eyes on the birthday girl.

The final cost for the balloon forest was $198 after a 20% off coupon. (Splurge #2) I do feel a touch guilty about this purchase being so over-the-top, but Nicki loved the balloons and I could not find cheaper helium. And really, how often does your baby turn 1? Judge away if you must.

Of course the balloon forest would never work in our home, so we needed to find a venue. (That sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? The “Venue” was just the club house at our complex. The cost to rent it was just $35, and we were responsible for cleaning it afterwards.) I don’t think I can count the venue as a splurge. We had 9 adults and Nicki attending the party, and it would have been a tight fit in our living room, even without all those balloons.’

The “Venue”

Putting the extra balloons to good use.

It just so happened I had snapped a monthly photo for Nicki lying on different colored sheets. I had intended to them to make a Happy Birthday Banner, but the venue didn’t have a convenient place to hang a banner. All the windows were too narrow, and the only bare wall was the brick fireplace. I ended up taping her monthly photos to the windows.

I admit this is totally neurotic of me, but I didn’t want rectangular photos. Where’s the whimsy in that? I settled on circles because they’re relatively easy to cut out and different enough. My originally plan was too have numbers printed out on card stock and overlapped on top of the photos, but they ended up being ridiculously hard to cut out neatly, so I cut them out as a circles as well.

Sample age bubbles for 10 and 11 months.


I never made the pinwheel cookies. Truth be told I forgot about them, which is probably a good thing because we had so.much.leftover.food. (Splurge #3)

For the adults we standard party snack fair for us – one cheese, one fruit and one veggie platter. Before Nicki was born I built a bit of a reputation as a dessert guru in the family even though I mostly do easy stuff. I haven’t had the chance to really bake since then, so I over indulged my inner domestic diva wannabe. We had ice cream cone cupcakes, rise krispie and fruity pebbles treats, and multicolored chocolate cake balls.



My sister and mom ended up making the cake balls. Yummy.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a first birthday party without a smash cake. I wanted a smaller cake (we had already done a smash cake) so I purchased a $8 4-inch cake pan off Amazon. I decided to use this number idea. (Since the softer, albeit bigger sprinkles were not a problem on our previous smash cake, I felt safe trying these smaller ones.) Unfortunately I must have forgot to grease the pan and the top of the cake popped off when trying to remove it from said pan. I was so annoyed at myself. At that point I had made 4 cakes (the vanilla ice cream cakes, 2 chocolate cakes for the cake balls, and the ruined smash cake) for a party serving just 10 guests. My mom convinced me to use icing to glue the two pieces of the cake back together and move on. Trouble was, I could no longer level off the top. The cake was just too fragile. I was forced to keep the doom shape.


After icing it I realized it looked like a giant (4-inch) round bubble. That’s when it dawned on me that the invitations had bubbles, and the monthly photos were round like bubbles. I had a theme to her party after all!

Total cost of the party: $316 (plus the cost of food, which I forgot to keep the receipts)

The Birthday Girl Loved It

Catch me if you can!

I’m surrounded!

Inspecting the tree tops.


Yup, Good Party.

I totally failed in my momtographer duties. I did a good job with the still objects, but photographing a one year old in a balloon forest is like trying to capture photographic evidence of big foot. I had so many blurry, obscured photos, it’s ridiculous. I have a photo where the only thing you see of Nicole is her hair ribbon, and another where you can tell she’s smiling but the top half of her face is obscured by balloons. Every single photo has at least some motion blur. This was the best I was able to capture. Daddy did much better with the video camera. Next time higher ISO. Much higher ISO.

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  1. […] planning Alexis’ second birthday party I decided to keep all the elements from Nicole’s first birthday party that were kid favorites (the balloon forest!) and ditch the ones they didn’t care about that […]

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