What an emotional past week it’s been and what an amazing outpouring of love I’ve received from family and friends. Although I was hesitant to publish last week’s journal post, I’m happy that I did. It’s opened the door for conversation and has helped me begin to heal. But most importantly, it’s helped me get back to my little pumpkin, Myla. And now while my little one naps, I have this blog to occupy my mind. I have been so excited to share this last post with you… so here it goes.
In addition to the streamers, balloons, and shiny spirals hung around the house, we made a giant balloon “chandelier”. Since we have cathedral ceilings in our family room and foyer, I didn’t want helium balloons flying around as it would probably take awhile to get those things to come down. So we tied a bunch of balloons together (with a napkin ring), threw some line from the balcony railing above, over the fan and tied the balloons up in mid air. It was a great way to fill the large open space with some festive fun… and it’s something I’ll probably do again as it can work for any party theme. Although I think we could have used more balloons and maybe had a bunch of curled ribbon hanging down - but hey, this was a good start.
I also made a train themed “Happy Birthday” banner to match the invitations. I found a pack of card stock with 5 different shades of pink at Michaels. Here’s a helpful hint: If you enjoy making paper crafts, or even sewing and making your own patterns, there’s a really cool ruler that cuts down on your time measuring. It’s a “see-through dressmakers” ruler as seen below. Instead of marking a certain distance at two points and connecting the dots, you can easily line this ruler up along one of the lines (up to 2” wide) and draw a line. I have this ruler from my fashion design classes and I’ve found a million uses for it during all types of crafting. It’s definitely my go-to ruler.
For a fun little centerpiece, I created a Peppermint “Coal” Train. I bought the white mini loaf pans at Michaels and added some pink “wheels”, cut a track from the pink card stock, used a wooden train (made by Justin… more on that later), and made “coal” candy. I used the recipe from Martha Stewart which was super easy - but here you can find it with pictures I took and a few helpful hints if you've never made candy before. This “coal” would be a great Christmas treat too!
Another idea for the train would be to add a pretzel “log” car, animal (cracker) car, etc.
As I just mentioned, Justin made a bunch of wooden trains for the kids. I absolutely adore how he had to get in on the craftiness… and I’m pretty sure he one-up’ed me here - they came out amazing!!! We thought about having the kids paint them as an activity to do during the party… but the thought of 10 toddlers/kids with paint inside the house made me freak out a little bit. So we figured the kids can just play with them as is, or paint them when they get home. Instead, we opted for a coloring station with crayons and 6 different train-themed pictures to color. I had also planned on making a “Pin-the-Caboose on the Train” game and/or a “Create-a-Train” felt board as an additional activity… but alas, time got the best of me.
In addition to the handmade trains, all the little engineers received an engineer cap, bandana, and train whistle. I had planned on painting and personalizing all the train whistles and adding a little flower to the caps for the girls, but again… there just isn’t enough time in the day. Perhaps I need to hire a party planning crew next year.
Cake (& Cookies)!!!
I had this vision of re-creating the train on the invite for the cake. And in grand “Tricia-planning” style, I winged it the day before the party, crossing my fingers, hoping it would all come together. In the past, I admit, I used boxed cake mix and frosting… but this time, I wanted to make everything from scratch. While researching train cakes in general, I came across a train cake pan from Williams-Sonoma which had a recipe for both cake and frosting. I figured if it held up well to a molded pan that it would work for what I had planned. I made the recipe 2 and half times. Twice to fill up a 9 x 13 pan, to make a layered cake, and the last half recipe was to make 4 regular size cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes. The cake held up incredibly well - it didn’t rise and bubble up high in the middle and really kept it’s height after being stacked with frosting in-between. I didn’t even have to trim the tops to make it sit level. Excellent and DELICIOUS recipe!!!
After stacking the two 9 x 13 cakes, I cut around the smoke stack. Since I’m not well trained in cake making, I opted for a simpler design than the invite and left a straight smoke stack. I was worried about trying to frost it later. I had a bit of trouble frosting that area, but learned later that I should have filled a frosting bag and ran it up and down the side instead of trying to use just the frosting knife. Lesson learned! I used the 4 large cupcakes for the wheels and the mini cupcakes for the smoke. For the large cupcakes, I cut rings from the butter boxes and covered with a cupcake wrapper upside-down and placed them underneath so they ended up the same height as the train itself.
Because this cake was a unique size, I had Justin cut a piece of wood to place it on. To give the board some color, I wrapped it in pink wrapping paper and then used wide parchment paper to cover it. A hint of pink showed through the parchment to compliment the cake and cupcakes.
And finally… a few days prior to the party, my mother, Myla and I made butter cookie. It was a recipe from my Grandmother - making it a special activity for us all. We used a train cookie cutter to make over 100 cookies!!! We decorated them in pink, silver and white. And there was plenty to send everyone home with some. But have no fear if you ate some - We kept the cookies Myla made to the side as she had to sample and smash most of what she touched.