Last September we celebrated a very special day: Graham’s first birthday!
We always knew we’d have a party of some sort, but the details didn’t come together until the months leading up to it. We settled on a family party at our home, and decided we will save inviting Graham’s friends for when he’s a bit older.
I initially thought a nautical theme would be fun… and then within about a day of adding nautical details to a Pinterest board, I started to feel myself getting stressed and overwhelmed by possibilities. That was all I needed to throw the theme straight out the window, and instead a fun color palette of blues, aquas, and greens became our focus. Best decision I’ve ever made! It saved us grief, money, and made it a whole lot easier to not go overboard with any details. (And, as you can tell by the colors of this blog design, I was certainly in my element.) I picked up inexpensive decorations and plates whenever I came across them, mostly at Target and our neighborhood 5 and 10, ordered a dozen colored balloons in mixed hues and a big silver number one balloon at Party City, and made a banner with paper I already had in my stash.
I designed the invitations and had them printed by one of my regular print vendors that we use at Curious & Co. I absolutely adore how they turned out!
I was (and still am) so, so proud of how the cake turned out. I love to bake, but I’m mostly a cookie girl and I had never baked a layered cake and decorated it myself before. I went back and forth about making a cake from scratch, but my wise sister-in-law told me there is nothing wrong with a boxed mix, and I decided she was very right.
Standing in the cake mix aisle at Target, I Googled the top rated cake mixes, and Good Housekeeping told me Betty Crocker SuperMoist Golden Vanilla was a good choice. That was enough to convince me: I bought two boxes to make my layered cake. I also purchased food coloring gel to make 3 of my 4 layers different shades of aqua/teal for an ombré effect. The batter was so bright and fun! I should have taken pictures. But no matter, because they still looked amazing once they were baked, too. I baked the layers the week before the party and froze them until the day before — this actually seemed to make the layers even more moist, and also meant I wasn’t baking the day before the party. Win-win.
When it came time to decorate, I used canned buttercream icing in between layers, and then watched this video tutorial to learn how to create an ombré effect with the icing on the sides (using more food coloring to achieve the colors I wanted). I loved that imperfections just added to the charm, and I am still so in love with the final result! I didn’t have any fancy tools or a lazy Susan to spin the cake like in the video — I just used my cake stand and a spreading knife to go around and around until I was happy. I added edible pearl details around the top edge and blue crystal sugar to the center as the final touch. I ordered 6″ tall white candles on Amazon to top things off.
The cake was delicious and every last bite was gone in a flash!
We tried to keep the food as simple as possible in terms of preparation, but still made sure we had plenty to feed to our guests. We ordered a few large hoagies and sandwiches and cut them into smaller pieces; I put Nick in charge of getting lots of fruit, veggies, and cheeses to put some trays together (much less expensive than buying pre-made trays), my best friend brought a yummy spinach dip, and I made cupcakes in addition to the cake, in case some guests preferred chocolate cake. I topped the sandwiches and cupcakes off with little flags that I made from washi tape and toothpicks, after I saw how cute it looked when Amy from The Nifty Foodie did it.
I ordered a bunch of square Instagram photos of Graham from PostalPix and hung them on twine with mini clothespins around the house; my best friend helped me string banners of multi-colored, varied length streamers that we hung in doorways and outside to greet our guests. I printed the outline of large letters (in one of my favorite fonts) on a few different shades of paper that I had in my stash, and cut them out with my X-acto blade to make a banner that we hung on my grandmother’s large mirror in our dining room. Truth be told: the banner stayed up until it was time to put up Christmas decorations! I was sad to take it down and will probably break it out for as many of Graham’s birthdays as possible.
Because it was just too easy and I couldn’t resist, I made water bottle labels, too.
I definitely had fun with some of the details (I am still me, after all), but I didn’t let myself get stressed out, which was key. We had a great day with our little guy and our families, and it was so bittersweet to celebrate the end of our first year as a family of three (and the fact that Nick and I survived the first year of parenthood — hooray!).
We are positively crazy about this kid.