Plus, I love a creative challenge. I think that is why I do parties in kind of a crazy-big way, not that I think it isn't important to celebrate my kids' milestones. I do, of course, or we wouldn't do it. Truly, though, this mama loves herself a good project, and doing themed birthday parties allows me to express myself creatively with quite a few of them. Thankfully, Mia's desire for advanced planning helped me pull it off without getting getting too stressed out. In fact, I feel pretty fulfilled for making her 6th birthday party a success.
I designed a fairly simple invitation in Microsoft Word that would allow me to print 4 per page. At the top, I centered this "Have a Rainbow Day" image. For the wording, I used this free "Care Bear Family" font that I downloaded. (This is fun because the punctuation includes hearts.) I used different colors of the rainbow to set apart the key words: red for "What," orange for "When," yellow for "Where" (Note that the where is "Care-a-Lot" and I added our address in parentheses.), green for "RSVP," blue for "Cell," and purple for "Home." After the important information, I typed "Please help share in the birthday cheer!" emphasizing the words share and cheer because they related to the Care Bears theme. I also added "Your presence is your present," which didn't make too much difference, but it was worth a try. I included this image of Cheer Bear, which I made smaller and flipped in my word processing program. After printing, I cut them apart with my paper trimmer, used scalloped scissors to add decorative trim to the top and bottom edges, and then adhered them to red card stock.
I tied together some Dollar Tree balloons (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple) and had my husband put them on the mailbox, but they must have blown away at some point during the party.
Guests were greeted at the front door by a fun "Welcome to Care-a-Lot" sign that I made from a cardboard box and acrylic paint. The wording is again done in Microsoft Word with that same free font. You can find complete directions for the sign here.
I made these super simple and very inexpensive zig zag streamers following the directions I found on this blog. My only change that I would suggest is to specify that I used construction paper that was first trimmed in half (like a hot dog). Then, I saved myself some time by cutting several pieces at once. They don't need to look perfect. I used Scotch tape to hang them from the entryway to the dining room, three of each color: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. I had one extra streamer per color, so I hung them at the end of the hallway going into the kitchen, so that when people came in the front door, they saw the same rainbow: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.
The buntings on the ceiling were probably the most annoying thing for me to do for this entire party. I am not sure I even would have done this if Mia hadn't caught me looking at the picture online (which did not include any directions, by the way) and announced that she really wanted it for a decoration. I knew it would be inexpensive, so I decided to give it a try. I purchased some 97 cent table cloths from the party aisle at Wal-mart (red, orange, yellow, and green -- plus I already had the blue one that I had found at a garage sale over the summer -- for 10 cents). I cut the table cloths in half, and then folded each one in half again, length-wise, so that they were not as transparent. I used pieces of double stick adhesive that I had cut prior to getting started. They were about 1" squares, and I used at least 3 or 4 per section. (And then, I was climbing up again the following day to apply a bit more since some were falling down...) The white balloon cloud came from that same Dollar Tree bag of balloons (There were really quite a few in there, maybe about 45, so it was a pretty good deal.) and is tied together with light blue curling ribbon (also purchased from Dollar Tree two years ago). I also had a purple table cover from Wal-mart that I trimmed to fit our dining room table and our card table, taping down the ends so it didn't slip.
Since we were having a party with the most of the girls from the kindergarten class, and then having some family afterward, I wanted to keep the food simpler than I have in the past. (Basically, I told myself I am not serving a full meal, and I made myself stick to it.) I didn't even make a "fancy" themed drink; I just offered milk, apple juice, or water. I am kind of proud of myself for this. And they ate and drank from our regular kids' plates and cups from IKEA, because I hate buying stuff that would just get thrown away. For food, I offered crackers and heart shaped cheese. I took some sliced deli cheese that I already had and then used my little metal heart cookie cutter (actually, I think it's meant for fondant, but you get what I mean). I thought about doing a rainbow veggie platter, but my kids are not huge fans of peppers so I just did red grape tomatoes, orange carrots, and green cucumber slices so it wasn't truly a rainbow.
One of my only big to-dos for food was making the rainbow fruit kabobs, which were inspired by this photo. I used bamboo skewers, which I broke about in half. On each one, I threaded a whole strawberry, an orange slice, 3 canned pineapple pieces (note for future reference: buy something larger than tidbits), a slice of kiwi, a couple of blueberries, and a couple of purple grapes. Then, I cut off the sharp end of the skewers, and arranged them on my tray.
My other kind-of-a-big-deal food was 6 layered rainbow Jell-O cups, which were inspired by this blog. I used 5 ounce clear plastic cups that were left over from my failed chocolate business (waste not, right?). I did this as inexpensively as possible by getting Kroger brand gelatin for as many layers as possible, and I also bought as many sugar free varieties as I could get since the kids wouldn't likely know the difference, and why give them more sugar if I didn't need to? I bought the small 3 ounce boxes (0.3 ounces for sugar-free varieties). I used the quick-set method involving ice cubes, so each layer set up for about 20 minutes before I was adding the next layer on top. (I actually had this almost down to a science by the end: put Jell-o in refrigerator, set timer for 15 minutes, wash bowl and spoons, put water on to boil around when timer went off, repeat...) I guesstimated that 2 tablespoons of each flavor would be about right, and it was nearly perfect for making 16 cups. (I had determined that 16 cups was the max amount that would fit in my cake pan, and I planned to put the Jell-o cups in the pan to make it easier for all the in-and-out of the refrigerator. It was a great tip I had picked up here.) My layers from bottom to top were: Grape Jell-O, Berry Blue Jell-O, Kroger Sugar-free Lime Gelatin, Sugar-free Lemon Jell-O, Kroger Sugar-free Orange Gelatin, and Kroger Sugar-free Cherry Gelatin. I topped the rainbow cups with Cool Whip "clouds" and served them with the cake in lieu of ice cream. One good thing about this was that I didn't have to dish up any ice cream.
photo for my inspiration. I used my favorite white cake recipe and tinted the batter pink with Wilton icing color, purchased from Jo-Ann with my coupon. The head is a 9" round and the body is a 10" round. Plenty of cooking spray and waxed paper cut to fit the cake pans helped ensure that the cakes came out without breaking apart. I also used my cake knife to trim them so that they were flat before frosting them. The neck looked a bit skinny, and my cake, overall, was quite short since I should have doubled my recipe. I made 6 (short) cupcakes. One is the muzzle. One is cut in half and used for the ears. The other four are the paws. All are covered with plenty of frosting to keep them glued together.
For frosting, I made the Wilton buttercream recipe, which I again, tinted pink, and applied with an angled spatula. The center of the ears, the belly, and the mouth/nose area of Cheer Bear are all done with plain white buttercream that I had set aside.
It is fortunate that Valentine's Day is around the corner because that meant that seasonal heart-shaped candies were easy to find. Cheer Bear's nose is a red cinnamon jelly candy, which came in a bag for $1 at Kroger. The foot pads are pink marshmallow Peep hearts. I cut one in half, and placed the sticky sides down on the frosting. The eyes are a regular marshmallow, which I cut in half, and again, placed the sticky sides down. Then, I used black decorating gel to make the pupils. The freckles are red non-pareils (which I got for $1 at Target last Christmas). I used red decorating gel for the mouth and eyebrows. The most important part of Cheer Bear is her rainbow belly badge, which I made using red, orange, yellow, green, and blue mini M&Ms. (Note: The leftovers made delicious cookies, and I think I will buy the mini size for baking from now on.)
When guests arrived, they each got a party had that I made from colored cardstock using this template and directions. I made 2 hats of each color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Brett helped me assemble them, since I was struggling with getting the tabs into the slots correctly. Then, I found images of Care Bears online, put them in Microsoft Word, adjusted them so that they were all the same size, and printed them. I cut them out, leaving about a narrow white border. Then, I applied them to the hats with Mod Podge and a foam paint brush. After they dried, I added the ribbon ties. The directions didn't say how much ribbon to use, or even what kind of ribbon to use. I used narrow ribbons, about 1/8" wide, most of which I already had at home. I needed to buy orange and blue, so I got those at Wal-mart for about 50 cents each. (I actually got more of a turquoise shade because I planned to use it as hangers for the sun catchers they were going to paint.) It turned out that this project was kind of a waste because the hats wouldn't stay on the girls' heads, and when they were all leaving, there were some disagreements on who had which hat since I had used a different Care Bear for each, and apparently some are more desirable than others. Anyway, they looked great, but I am not sure I would take the time to make my own hats again, unless I used elastic cord, perhaps.
After they got their hats, I took their photos with my Cheer Bear photo prop, which was placed in front of yet another Wal-mart plastic table cloth. This one was a turquoise, which I thought would make a nice "sky" backdrop. It was doubled over and taped to our fake fire place.
Another party activity that we had was painting rainbow sun catchers that I had found in the craft aisle at Wal-mart for 53 cents each. To prepare before the party, I tied a narrow turquoise ribbon hanger to each one. I attached a piece of masking tape to each ribbon and folded it over to make a flag, which I wrote each child's name on. Then, I poured small amounts of sun catcher paint (which I borrowed, but you can get it from Oriental Trading) into small plastic cups with lids. These were also left over from my failed chocolate business so I didn't have to go out and buy them. I used 2 cups per color so they would have enough to share without having to wait for a color, or at least that is what I figured. Each kid got a paper towel and a small paint brush to use. This worked fine. The girls were very neat and put the lids back on without even being asked. We just left them on the paper towels on the counter to dry during the party and sent them home flat at the end. The most interesting thing, to me, was that none of them looked anything alike even though they started with the same sun catchers.
The home-made rainbow pinata was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I don't have any useable pictures of the game itself seeing as how it takes 3 hours to make something and it ends in about 5 seconds. The good news is that it was a pull-string, so it was not destroyed in that 5 seconds. My plan is to hang it in Mia's room.
Another game that I created was "Pin the Cupcake on Birthday Bear." I taped Birthday Bear to the same table cloth we had used for our photo back drop. This one lasted a bit longer than the pinata, and everyone was anxious to have their turn. We used Mia's winter scarf for a blindfold and that was very effective.
All in all, this was a great party. Things went smoothly. We had a nice turn-out. Everyone had a great time. Most of the things I planned came together almost exactly the way I imagined them. It didn't cost me very much. And most importantly, there was one very happy little girl. That's enough to validate all the time and energy I spent pulling this off.