Hosting A House Party For Clara’s First Birthday

Oh man did we party like it was 1999. Clara’s big birthday bash was so much fun, and even the weather miraculously cleared up for us (which I fully contribute to all the anti rain dances you guys did – so thanks). Of course you’re all virtually invited, so let’s get this show on the road. Here’s what the living room looked like decorated with some giant balloons and the fabric flag banner that I begrudgingly made for the bean just minutes before the first guests arrived.

On the other side of the room I hung a paper pendant that I made a while back above the hallway sliders and John taped up all of Clara’s 52 weekly photos (see the whole collection here) on the fireplace. It turned out to be a great place for people to stand and study them all (everyone had a different favorite) and it was so amazing to see how much she has grown and changed.

It had rained all morning but I refused to let the dream die (you know, the dream of actually using the patio that John worked so haaaaaard to build before the party) so I strung up some balloons that I got from Target for a few bucks to create a festive come-hither-and-enjoy-the-new-patio look. The forecast said it might stop raining by noon (which was the beginning of the party) but I snapped this picture around ten minutes before and it was still misting and overcast. Boo.

Pssst- Notice a privacy fence going on? Let’s just say John’s been busy. Details as soon as he catches his breath…

Thankfully, all that mattered to us was keeping Clara smiley, which didn’t hinge on the weather at all. We actually had to wake her up from her nap to attend her own party after a few guests showed up right on time. But she didn’t mind. Look at that happy girl. And isn’t her dress cute? It’s from Target.

Burger was possibly the best sport of the day to wear these ridiculous curly pink ribbons that I tied around his collar. I figured he’d immediately attack them until he got them off, but he didn’t seem to mind them at all. So he ended up wearing them the entire time. What a good big brother.

As for the food and drink set-up, we decided the kitchen was just waaaay too ugly to work as the main party backdrop (oy, that paneling) so we moved the kitchen table into the sunroom to create a little food and drink buffet. We even improvised and used a cute toy bucket of Clara’s for ice. Oh and here you can see the fabric runner that I made for the table using some of Clara’s weekly photo backdrop fabrics (I’ll have to share the steps for making that guy soon – it was really simple). And in the top right corner of the photo you can also see Clara’s special fabric that we designed on Spoonflower which we intended to use as a photo backdrop for everyone at the party.

Intended was the key word. We did manage to grab photos of a few guests in front of it (holding blank pieces of paper that we planned to later photoshop with their names so we could make an album for Clara to learn to recognize everyone). But the day was just such a blur that we didn’t get a chance to capture everyone. Maybe we’ll just have to make her an album with photos that we already have of everyone without that cute backdrop (which I plan to make into a beanbag someday).

As for the spread, we landed on a few simple crowd pleasing foods that work for babies and adults alike… and also had special meaning to us. We even made little cards to explain why we chose certain eats (just printed out on card stock on our own computer). For example, the pizza card said “Many of John & Sherry’s casual dates in New York City were enjoyed over a slice of New York pizza.” It was really nice to order five pies and call it a day (instead of slaving away making the food like we did for our backyard wedding – we must have been crazy back then).

We also had some of the most delicious chips and salsa in Richmond on hand – which also happened to have special meaning for us when it comes to our favorite girl. The card explained it all: “John was eating these Cafe Olé chips on his last day of work when Sherry called to announce that she was in labor.”

We also figured the other kids and parents would appreciate an easy little snack (one of Clara’s favorites). In fact when we held up a few things (Cheerios, Goldfish, these) she picked these (by pointing at them and saying “dis” – which isn’t a dis, but actually means “this”). And so the card read: “Clara loves munching on these veggie sticks and specifically requested them at her party.”

And although we would serve cupcakes along with Clara’s smash cake later in the party, we set out some cinnamon cookies with the food just to fill up the table with one more crowd pleasing treat (they’re also known as “labor cookies” because it’s an old wives tale that the spices somehow can start labor when you’re ready to pop – but it didn’t work when John whipped up a batch for me). So the card on these guys read: “John baked these ‘Labor Cookies’ when the doc said Clara was ready. They didn’t work – but they were good!”

Everyone ate their little hearts out and had a merry old time. Our party guest total ended up being 25 of our closest friends and family members, which was just about perfect. Here’s Clara taking time off from pizza eating to flirt with the camera man (our brother-in-law Todd very graciously snapped a lot of photos while we “hosted” and soaked up the day since he’s a pro photographer – and we’re oh so grateful).

And by this time it started to get nice and sunny out, so while most people were venturing outside onto the new patio (miracle of all miracles!), some people ate inside as well.

And Clara’s cousin John checked out our hallway frame wall with his new balloon friend. Btw, the giant colorful balloons were a huuuge hit with the kids. And two of them did pop, but they did so nice and loudly – which was helpful because one of the eighteen adults could quickly grab all the pieces (since deflated balloons can be choking hazards- safety first!).

We also mentioned that we wanted to create a birthday time capsule for people to contribute to at the party (we talked about it back in this post, which also has sources for a lot of our party supplies). What we ended up doing was grabbing a basket for people to drop notes and “artifacts” from 2011 into, which we would then transfer into a tin box for Clara to open on her 18th birthday. Oh and the note to direct people to contribute said: “Add something to Clara’s Time Capsule! We’re making a time capsule for Clara to be opened on her 18th birthday. So please write a note to be slipped in. (Something about her, about 2011, or even about yourself. Whatever!)” She ended up with lots of well wishes, a newspaper from that day, a party hat, and some stat cards full of gas prices and top recording artists and TV shows today. It should all be really fun to look back on when she’s eighteen.

See those little striped pens? Those were from the sentiment cards that people filled out for our wedding. I was so glad to spot them in the drawer when I went digging around for some fun little pens. And as for the note cards, they were just pieces of 8 x 10 card stock that I cut into quarters and drew a little heart at the top with pink, blue, and green markers. So the whole time capsule project was f-r-e-e.

And speaking of cheap thrills, these bubble containers shaped like ice cream cones were less than fifty cents a pop at Target (they sell them four per pack in the party aisle) and I used a silver sharpie to write each child’s name on them to create cute little favors. Once again, we printed out a little card stock sign to explain the whole shebang: Thank you for coming to my party! If you’re a young bubble enthusiast like myself, please take the party favor with your name on it. (This means you Laney, Elsa, John, Emanuel, Hayes, and Edison!) xoxo, Clara

Happily, they were a hit. Especially since everyone was gravitating outside to the patio (with rain clouds nowhere to be seen).

The balloon garlands were also pretty fun for the kiddos to look at, poke, smile at, and talk to (kids are kind of weird, but very cute). Look at my sweet momma and my sweet baby girl, living it up underneath them.

People even started spilling out into the carport, which is where some crowd rallying dancing took place. Here’s Clara’s cousin John getting the party started with some Macarena-ish moves.

We took the carport fun as a sign that it was time for my homemade piñata. That’s right the ugly goiter-esque creation that I shared on Friday actually worked out! I used a blow dryer to eliminate the moisture issue, popped the balloon, and then covered it with tissue paper “scales” for a fun girly effect inspired by this one I pinned on Pinterest a while back. I’ll be back with a detailed tutorial to share all the steps (I tweaked it to create a “pull string” piñata so the wee ones didn’t need a bat to get to the goodies inside, they each just yanked a bunch of strings to pop open the bottom and get to their treates – which were individually wrapped packets of Teddy Grahams and Goldfish). Long story short: it was lots o’ fun.

And because some of the party-goers stuck around in the carport for more bubble adventures (while others made their way back to the patio or the sunroom for more snacks/drinks/time capsule fun), we decided that it was time for some smash cake for the bean…

For those unfamiliar with a smash cake (my own Italian momma had never heard of it) it’s a tradition where you bake a tiny kid-sized cake for your one year old…

… and encourage them to dig in and make a big ol’ mess while snapping lots of photos and giggling uncontrollably. Clara was not shy.

It might have been the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

And she even generously shared some with us, so I ended up with a little icing in the hair situation and John got a cake goatee. Best time ever.

Here’s the cake carnage. Not a bad job for a dainty little girl, eh?

Then we pulled out three dozen cupcakes from our favorite bakery (Ukrops) and announced that everyone else should dig in too, since Clara set a great example. And did they ever. Oh and since all the other food got a label, of course the cupcakes earned one too: “These are the same cupcakes that John & Sherry enjoyed at their wedding, which Clara was unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.”

And in some miracle of bulk cupcake ordering magic, three dozen of these pink, green, and blue babies came out to under $14. Yes, that’s less than 38 cents a cupcake. And I didn’t have to make them. I’m actually not sure I could have made and iced three dozen cupcakes for under $14, so it was definitely money well spent. And it freed me up to make Clara’s smash cake, which was lots of fun.

Here’s where everyone was outside and we realized that we hadn’t taken a wide shot of the sunroom with the kitchen table all set up with food (well, cupcakes and cookies at this point) so we snapped one (that table in the corner is where the bubble favors and time capsule stuff was set out for everyone).

And here’s a shot of everyone hanging out on the rain-free patio (there was even some ball playing in the backyard). We felt so lucky to end up with a nice day to celebrate the bean.

And we capped off the event with a little year-in-review video that John made for Clara on the computer using iMovie (and then burned to a DVD so we could share it with everyone on the TV in the living room). Look how many people we can fit on good ol’ Karl the Sectional.

It’s fun to scroll back up to the first pic in this post after staring at the one above for a second. I love that it’s the same angle, but the first photo is the calm before the storm (and the later one is full of our amazing family and friends). And yes, of course I cried while watching the video. We’re the luckiest parents in the world. You can check it out below or watch it here (it’s amazing how much has happened in one short year!):

Oh and as for the bean’s presents, you guys know I made her this quilt (which she very cutely pawed and smiled at when I gave it to her) and we also got her this fun little stacking game where you make sandwiches from one of our favorite eco companies. She loves it! And John will be building her a sandbox any day now to complete the gift trifecta. She also got lots of books and some great “activity presents” like a membership to the Children’s Museum and a series of toddler nature classes from the family. And her boyfriend Will Bower got her a super fun bathtime bubble blower and an über stimulating book called First 100 Words and this gorgeous dress that she’ll wear to woo him the next time she sees him.

So there you have it. Our precious baby girl’s first birthday party full of food, family, friends, fun, bubbles, balloons, cupcakes, chaos, and laughing til we cried. And the cycle of babies continues! John’s sister Katie recently announced that she’s expecting again (you can see her cute baby bump in the photo above our Clara video). Congrats to Katie and Martin! I’m sure we’ll blink our eyes and find ourselves at that baby’s first birthday party before we know it.


  1. says

    Hi John and Sherry, its Latoya from thescottscrib. (You have probably seen a few of my comments and wondered who is this lady, lol). Wow, that was a great birthday bash and I enjoyed seeing everything. Glad you all had fun. 1st birthday parties are so much fun! My daughter turned 1 in February and its such a special day to remember. Oh and that dress that her boyfriend;) got her is too cute. I may just have to get Boom Boom one.

  2. says

    Looks like it was a great party! All the colors are so much fun. I love Clara’s headband (I was basically bald for my first year, but that didn’t stop my mom from trying to clip bows in my hair… which didn’t work out).

    Congrats on Clara turning one!

  3. Jessica says

    Looks like you all enjoyed a very special birthday for Clara! I will have to admit, I will miss checking her weekly portrait every week, just as I’m sure you will miss taking them :)


    • says

      We’re still going to take monthly ones (we just can’t stop cold turkey) but we’ll take them with a twist since she won’t lay down anymore. So stay tuned for more on that sometime this week!


    • bridget b. says

      how did you guys get her to lay still for this long? i did monthly pictures with my daughter sitting in our living room armchair until she turned 1 in march.towards the end it was SOOO hard to get her to sit still long enough to snap the picture. i have a ton of outtakes with my husband’s arm reaching in to keep her from jumping off the chair.

    • says

      She’s super wiggly now so we know we can’t get her to lay down anymore so we’ll have to adapt. But to get her to stay down for the pics up to this point it usually took one of us holding a toy over her head and tickling her and trying to get her to look up at us instead of being bored enough to want to roll over and crawl away. There was lots of singing and crazy faces and toy jiggling. Hope it helps!


  4. Michele says

    Wow, I’m the first to comment! Been thinking of you guys all weekend. I live in Smithfield, about 1 1/2 hours away and it didn’t rain here so I had my fingers crossed for you, too! But it doesn’t look like the rain put a dent in your special day. The smash cake picture is so cute and I love her party dress! Happy Birthday, Clara!

  5. says

    What a fun day… so glad it didn’t rain! I have to say it’s cool to see pics of your house being “used” with people in it! (And way to go, Karl on fitting the whole party in there!) Your home looks so warm and inviting and fun.

  6. says

    The party looks like it turned out great!!! Glad the weather held out. OK- I am just having my first caffine of the morning but do I see a fence in the background of the new patio? Wow- you all move quick to get stuff done!

  7. says

    Sherry & John- SO happy for you guys. We were down here (in Newport News) and I looked at my roommate (also an avid YHL reader) and said, “It’s not raining for Clara’s party today!” So, we were glad for you guys and the party looks adorable/Gorgeous! Can’t wait for the pinata tutorial…might make one for my kids’ last day of school! Nothing says fun like teachers with pinatas and cleaning desks with shaving cream! :)

  8. SarahMF says

    I have been lurking for a really long time now, but I decided to finally say hi!

    I loved your birthday party for Clara, it turned out great. (I have been waiting for it to show up) I loved her personalized fabric (checked that along time ago on spoonflower) and weekly photos (suuuuch a good idea). And I really like the poms you made, I was thinking of making the same ones for my wedding.

    Clara looks really happy and I know she will appreciate all the little tidbits you guys did when she is older.

  9. Beverley says

    Happy Belated Birthday Miss Clara! You two did a fantastic job :) I loved how everything turned out – especially how Burger was dressed for the occasion! ha ha

  10. bridget b. says

    glad you guys had a great and dry time! that first picture of Clara throwing down on that smash cake is the cutest!

  11. Andrea C says

    woohoo Happy Birthday Clara – from us here in Warrnambool, (South Eastern Australia)!!! Cake carnage…heh heh…

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