Sisi's Birthday Un-party

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I told myself I wouldn't throw a party this year.  So I found a loophole and threw a family "dinner" instead.  The dinner ended up being very much like a party, except smaller crowd, less pressure, and no presents (well, I asked people not to bring presents but some just couldn't contain themselves!)
I'm so pleased with how the evening turned out.  It was low-stress and low-budget and high-fun.

We chose an ocean theme based on our trip to the aquarium last week...

I originally told myself no decorations, but decided that as long as they were dirt cheap, I could do it. The only supplies I needed to buy were curling ribbon, clear balloons, and paper bowls.  The rest I had at home.

Our new sunroom has been wonderful for entertaining.  It opens up the entire space so much.

Our new covered patio also gives us lots more dining space.

Cute little jellyfish garland!
Clear balloon "bubbles" and paper bowl jellyfish hung from fishing line.  I suggest buying paper bowls that are pure white on top and bottom and painting both sides.  I was bummed that they didn't look cute from the bottom, which is the angle that people saw them from most.  Oh well ;)  I also made paper anenomes/sea urchins.  Basically just made polish star ornaments with less layers.  These are a lot of work, but so geometric and cool looking.
We had blue gak and kinetic sand for the kiddos.  Adults love this stuff, too :)
Paper bag jellyfish craft.  Another practically free activity!  Also, random toys on the lawn for kids of all ages.

We hid glow sticks all over the house, turned off the lights, and sent the kids off on a glow stick hunt!

Always a crowd pleaser!  Berries and chocolate fondue.  I make the chocolate a little healthier by using dark chocolate bars melted with coconut milk and a touch of honey.  The result is a super creamy, not too sweet puddle of chocolate goodness.

No fancy designer cake, just paleo cupcakes with frosting that I squeezed out of a ziplock bag.  I need a real pastry bag, for sure.  That frosting looks too much like dog poop.  Sure was tasty though!

Such a fun evening!  A few lessons I've learned (via trial and error) about throwing low-stress kids parties (er, I mean "dinner gatherings".)

  • HAVE IT CATERED.  I prepared a few simple appetizers (bacon wrapped dates, chips and guac, cheese and salami plate) but had our favorite local Greek restaurant cater.  It was delicious, and I was able to feed each person a hearty meal for under 10.00.  I couldn't have cooked cheaper!  Really, catering doesn't have to be that expensive.  Or, don't even serve a meal.  Choose a time when guests won't be expecting a meal, and serve snacks and drinks instead.  
  • DON'T GO NUTS ON DECOR.  I didn't even buy flowers for this party, and I'm a former florist.  It felt blasphemous, but really, no one noticed or cared.  Instead, I snipped succulents from our garden.
  • DON'T HAVE TOO MANY DESSERTS. There was a time when one funfetti cake got the job done.  Nowadays we serve huge dessert buffets. They look gorgeous, but I learned the hard way with Sisi's 1st bday party that people often don't eat a lot of dessert at parties.  This was evidenced by the fact that we had  no "real food" leftovers, but 6 huge bundt cakes leftover that my mom had to give away to coworkers.  This time, I made a few dozen cupcakes and fondue and that was it.  It was more than enough to satisfy the sweet lovers.  
  • DO YOUR HAIR AND MAKEUP FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.  If you rush around prepping for the party all day, chances are you'll have no time to freshen up before guests arrive. Everything else will seem more important than primping, and that's just not true :)  
  • MAKE ICE AHEAD OF TIME.  The day before the party I made several batches of ice and saved them in zip lock baggies.  
  • CLEAN THE HOUSE, BUT NOT OBSESSIVELY.  I didn't mop the floor or wash the windows beforehand because I knew people would mess it up pretty much immediately.  Instead, I deep cleaned afterward.  BUT I did thoroughly clean the bathroom and made sure to have a neat and tidy sink area.  
  • ASK FOR NO GIFTS.  Or not, this is a totally personal matter.  I just preferred people come empty handed because we're minimalists and Sisi already has more toys than she knows what to do with.  But many of our sweet guests could not resist themselves, and she got a handful of really cool gifts anyway.  
  • TELL YOURSELF IT'S NOT A PARTY.  Call it a "play date" a "dinner" or "get-together".  This was a good mind-trick for me.  It took off so much of the pressure.  I didn't feel the need to make it magazine-worthy or spend lots of money at all.  It was just a special get-together for family and a few friends to spend time with my favorite 3 year old.  
  • PUT OUT A FEW BIG TRASH BARRELS.  That will encourage guests to help clean up a little :)
  • ORGANIZED GAMES AND ACTIVITIES ARE A BONUS, BUT NOT NECESSARY.  We did have a simple craft and a glow stick hunt, but other than that, the kids ran around the house and made their own fun.  It made my job a lot easier!      
  • KEEP IT SMALL!  I really wanted to invite all my friends and their spouses and their kids and their pets, but my house is tiny and that would have been chaos.  Instead, I kept it to family and a few church friends.   


Angel @ January 28, 2014 at 10:22 PM  

Such great tips (the ice one -- I need to remember that!) and I looove all the pics. Makes me so sad to have missed! The paper sea urchins are incredible! And you look GORGE in that polka dot dress. Love you!! (hope you got my vmail yesterday; let's chat soooooon!) xox

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