I’ve been thinking a lot about parties lately. I’m actually in the process of writing an e-book about how to plan a party without losing your mind, and I’ve enjoyed looking back at the get-togethers I’ve hosted in the past few years.
Some of the most fun have been Annalyn’s birthday parties, so as I’m working through my book, I’m going to post some details about those events here on the ol’ blog. Even though I’ve posted pictures and plans for some of these parties before, my hope is that it will be helpful for you to see it all in one place.
Today I’m starting with Annalyn’s third birthday party. Our theme was Veggie Tales, and it was harder than I expected to find ideas and supplies. I’m going to spill all the details of our party here, in hopes that it saves the next mom planning a Veggie Tales party some frustration. (Also, I’ve noticed that VeggieTales.com is now selling more party supplies than they were last fall, so that will help, too!)
Planning a Veggie Tales Birthday Party
In our house, birthday party invites get tossed in the trash as soon as I can write the date on our calendar. What a waste! So when I send invitations to Annalyn’s birthday parties, I like to include a cute photo so it’s not quite as disposable. (I know, it’s possible that not everybody frames the photo or even sticks it on the fridge, but it makes me feel better about the time and money invested to think that a few people might keep it around longer than the time it takes to grab their planners off the desk.)
I happened to have a slew of photos to choose from, thanks to a red pepper photo shoot we did for my post about Garlic Chicken Pasta. I uploaded the pic to Picasa, added some text and printed several copies. Next, I opened a Word document found a label template that printed eight panels to a page. I uploaded a Veggie Tales graphic I found online and added party details and directions, printed a few copies and used my paper cutter to finish the job.
Then I bought a pack of brightly colored, folded cards (and white envelopes) for the actual card. I used double-sided tape to stick the photo to the front and did the same on the inside with the details and directions. The whole process took just a couple hours and cost less than $15 (plus postage).
Food and Drinks
Before you can send out an invitation, you have to decide a date, time and place for your party. For me, the time is totally dictated by what kind of food I want to serve. And that decision is often influenced by our party budget. For this party, I considered a full meal but ended up going with snack foods (and an afternoon start time).
To go with the veggie theme, I had a full veggie plate with carrots, celery, cucumbers and grape tomatoes. I also had a couple different veggie dips to choose from. In addition to the veggie tray, I also served fresh fruit (grapes, strawberries and bananas) and chips, and we had a cooler full of bottled water.
I love how vivid the colors are – and how well they matched the Veggie Tales colors! I really wish I’d made time for carving veggie bowls for the dip, though. Don’t worry! That sounds a lot fancier than it is! I simply wanted to scoop the seeds and gunk out of bell peppers and/or gourds and then serve the dip out of that. [Here's a tutorial.] Wouldn’t that have been cute?
Also, looking back, it would have been fun – and not that labor-intensive – to make Veggie Tales labels for the bottled water. Just print a Veggie Tales graphic on strips of paper and secure to the bottle with double-sided tape or whatever adhesive you have on hand. However, if I did that, I would not have dumped the bottles in a cooler full of ice, because that would have ruined the labels.
Coming up with party decorations is my favorite part of any event! I inevitably have dozens of ideas and have to scale back to fit my budget, timeline and skill level, though. Even with those restraints, I was really happy with how this party came together.
We held our Veggie Tales birthday party in a local park, so I had five picnic tables and a shelter to work with. But before I went to work gussying up the park, I started a little closer to home. I bought Annalyn a shirt with Bob the Tomato on it, and I convinced Mark to wear a green shirt. (It takes no effort to convince myself to wear a coordinating red shirt, as my closet is so full of red shirts I could wear a different one every day of the week. Yes, I like red.) Then I found a Veggie Tales CD that we could play with a boombox to set the mood.
[Unfortunately, our shelter did not actually have an electrical outlet, so we didn't get to play the CD. So - tip for you and for me - check for outlets in advance when throwing a party somewhere other than your own house!]
For the food and gift tables, I let the colorful fruits and veggies serve as decorations, along with red, green and yellow paper plates and napkins. I did frame and display an 8×10 print of Annalyn with the life-size Bob and Larry she met a few weeks before the party. But for the most part, we didn’t need anything extra cluttering up that space.
Note: You can purchase Veggie Tales napkins, but I decided to keep it a little more simple. I did, however, purchase square Veggie Tales stickers (from eBay) and put them on yellow paper cups. However, since I didn’t end up serving lemonade (as originally planned), we didn’t need the cups and are still using them for special occasions at home.
Edited to add: When I planned this party, it was virtually impossible to find a good set of Veggie Tales paper goods, especially at a reasonable price. But now, DaySpring is selling a line of party products with the “God Made You Special” theme. You can get a whole party set (for eight) for less than $25. Or you can buy everything separately: invitations, dinner plates, dessert plates, cups, napkins and thank you notes. Oh, how I wish these had been available when we had our party!
The rest of my decorations included balloons, streamers, a birthday banner, table coverings and centerpieces. The balloons were red, green and yellow, and I ordered them from a party store.
I planned to use red, green and yellow streamers to create a streamer backdrop, but tthe day of the party was crazy windy, so that didn’t happen. Here’s a tutorial, though, if you’d like to do this. It would really jazz up a party space, and would also make a great backdrop for photos – perhaps a photo of the birthday boy or girl with each guest!
My idea for a birthday banner was inspired by the dozens (hundreds?) of cute banners – some paper, some fabric – I’ve seen online, like this one by Parties by Hardie. I decided to keep it simple when making my own. I downloaded a font that looked similar to the one used in the Veggie Tales logo (you can see – and download – it here), then printed the words “Happy Birthday” in a point size large enough to require one page per letter. I centered each letter and hit print. Then I used double-sided tape to adhere the letters to cute scrapbook paper and planned to use mini clothespins to string them along a matching ribbon at the park. After realizing the wind would destroy a ribbon banner, we improvised and taped them vertically, as you can see in the photo above.
Finally, I decided to make simple, veggie-themed centerpieces for each table. “Simple” doesn’t exactly describe this little project, but now that I’ve done it (thanks to my best friend, who stayed up late the night before the party helping me!) I think it would be a snap. For you. Because I’m probably not going to throw another Veggie Tales party.
I covered the three picnic tables with kraft paper, and then I placed a few fresh vegetables (carrots, peppers, little pumpkins, tomatoes) in the center of each table. And for the piece de resistance (please hear that in my very best French accent, ala the Veggie Tales peas), I filled terra cotta pots with dried peas and stuck pictures of Veggie Tales on popsicle sticks in it. I wrapped a bright yellow, polka-dotted ribbon around each pot, fastened it with a glue gun, and voila! Adorable, “simple” centerpieces!
Two things to know about the centerpieces: I stuck floral styrofoam in the bottom of each pot and covered it with a piece of cardstock cut to the shape and size of the pot’s opening. That way, I only needed a couple cups of dried peas instead of several pounds. This is a lesson I learned the hard way and might never have figured out without Smitty’s help!
Also, the colorful Veggie Tales pictures I used on the popsicle sticks are from Who’s Who, a Veggie Tales Riddle Book. I scanned the pages and then printed copies, cropped them and adhered to colored paper and then the popsicle sticks.
Veggie Tales birthday cakes
Now, if you know me, you know that I often take shortcuts to preserve my sanity and generally make my life easier. That’s why I’m a huge proponent of paying someone to make a cute birthday cake for my child’s party. I am not a pastry chef or cake decorator at all. However, as you might have found if you’ve ever planned a Veggie Tales party, it’s not easy to find Veggie Tales-themed items. And that includes cakes.
According to the head baker at my grocery store, in order for a store to make a cake with licensed characters, they have to buy the rights to do so. And while they can make all sorts of cakes with Dora the Explorer, Winnie the Pooh, stupid Spongebob Squarepants and our beloved Mickey Mouse, they don’t have the right – literally – to make a Veggie Tales cake.
So . . . it was up to me. After searching all over the Internet, I quickly came to the conclusion that I was doomed. I couldn’t give up, though. As Larry the Cucumber says, “It’s for the kids!”
I decided to make one rectangular cake and one round cake. I’d ice the round cake with red frosting (Bob the Tomato) and then cut the rectangular cake into a cucumber shape for Larry. (I originally planned to make green cake balls for peas, but ran out of time. I did make mini cupcakes and frost them green, but my less-than-stellar icing skills made the little faces I painted look evil. I left the evil pea cupcakes at home.)
Let me just tell you, I was terrified of cutting into that 9×13 cake! Smitty suggested practicing, and that was smart. I drew weird-looking oblong shapes on paper until I was satisfied, then set the final template right next to the cake. (Of course, I waited until they were cooled before doing anything – cutting, frosting or decorating!) It took a LOT of food coloring to turn my white (canned) frosting into bright green and tomato red, by the way. It wouldn’t hurt to buy two sets of food coloring.
For the faces, I used pre-rolled fondant and black icing (this edible marker would’ve worked great, though). I’d never used fondant before and was so scared to try it. But it was actually pretty easy to work with – and kind of fun, too. (Still doesn’t taste great, but that’s to be expected.) Annalyn was thrilled with the cakes, and I was just so darned impressed with myself. I’m not saying I want to do it again, but I loved the final product!
I know it sounds like a lot, but it was really a fairly simple party. And, most importantly, Annalyn and her guests loved it!
Have you planned any fun parties lately? What’s your favorite (or, if you must, least favorite) part of planning a party?
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