Gracen’s {2nd} Backyard Birthday Bash

Over this past long weekend, we celebrated Gracen’s 2nd birthday with a backyard party in the sunshine. The afternoon went amazingly well… The sun was shining as hoped. There was just the slightest breeze.  The decorations were handcrafted and colourful. The snacks were made of local ingredients and individually portioned for easy toddler chasing. The wee ones played until they were soaking wet and filthy.  The sweets were plentiful. And Miss G had the time of her life… An afternoon filled with “yittle fwends”, tons of play,  2.5 “cupcakes”, Davison Orchard’s fresh-pressed apple juice, an endless supply of crackers and treats, and a generous sprinkling of hugs – for her, it just doesn’t get much better than that.

Since the party, she’s wanted to talk about it constantly.  “Mama talk (about) Grae Grae’s birf-day party?” is a request I now hear more times a day than I have fingers.  We discuss all of the details of the day, and inevitably end the conversation with a “More play yittle fwends, Mama?”  Yes, Babygirl… We’ll have your little friends over to play again sometime very soon.

Here is Miss G’s special afternoon in photos… (Be prepared. This may be the most photo heavy post of. all. time.  But I’m sure you already expected that, right?)

The Invitations:

IMG 7334IMG 7336These simple little invites {along with almost all of the decorations} were made while we were in the Okanagan on vacation.  Using this free printable as a starting point, I sketched out what I wanted the invitations to look like and Bradley designed them using Photoshop.  Once they were designed, we printed them on Grandpa Dave’s colour laser printer, cut them out by hand, created homemade pouches for them, and punched out some pretty confetti to tuck into the pouches.

The Decor:

IMG 9119This last minute little chalkboard greeted guests on our front porch and asked that they make their way around the side of the house.

IMG 9070I crafted a few of these ribbon chandeliers out of embroidery hoops and grosgrain, and hung them up around the yard to dance in the breeze.

IMG 9079Timeline TreeLast year, I did a more traditional timeline of Gracen through the months, and although I loved the idea, this year I wanted something a little bit different…  I ended up deciding on a ‘timeline tree’.  We chose 2 photos for each month {from 13 to 24}, added the text using Photoshop, printed them, and hung them back to back using jute and curtain clips from IKEA that we already had on hand. And voila. Our plum tree instantly became a tree filled with memories of the past year.

IMG 9093
IMG 9104Across the way, in our fig tree, I hung the felt poms we had made for last year’s party, giving it just a touch of colour.  The beauty in not really having a colour scheme, is that everything goes. ☺

IMG 9096On the main food table, we displayed the letters T-W-O I crafted with cardboard letters, tissue paper dots and modge podge.

IMG 9098I also strung up one of the many fabric buntings I sewed for the occasion between two vintage apple crates that Grandma Charlotte’s family has had since she was a little girl. In the middle, I framed a copy of the birthday interview I did with Miss G on her real birthday so that guests could take a read.

IMG 9318For an added touch, we picked a couple of the beautiful dahlias growing in our front garden and popped them into vintage mason jars that used to belong to Gracen’s Great Grandma Amy.

IMG 9106Our photo booth backdrop consisted of a plain sheet {not very glamourously duct} taped up to the wall of our house, and a handmade fabric bunting strung across it.

The Snacks:

IMG 9125Here’s a peek at the food table…  Since the party was from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., we stuck with snacks only and tried to keep them as portable as possible so that parents could munch and chase after their wee ones at the same time.  Also, although we had a separate table to baby/toddler friendly treats, I wanted to make sure that everything we served was Gracen friendly (save the desserts)…  Nothing more insulting than not being able to eat the food served at your own party!

IMG 9126On top, a layer of hummus topped with fresh veggies, many from Grandma Charlotte’s garden.  On the bottom, individual layered bean dip cups {with homemade pita chips on the side}.

IMG 9128Fresh berry cups.

IMG 9129Okanagan cherry cups.

IMG 9100Plums picked straight off our tree the night before.

Besides these snacks, we had individual fruit salsa cups with homemade maple cinnamon crisps, as well as brown paper bags of stove-top popcorn.

IMG 9127For the adults, we served chilled lemonade and citrus iced tea in mason jar cups.

IMG 9130We also had an ice water station, which the kids quickly discovered and had a blast playing with.

IMG 9321At the toddler table, we served toddler trays (which included a variety of healthy bite-sized snacks), as well as fresh-pressed apples only apple juice from our favourite place in Vernon – Davison Orchard.

IMG 9323And for the wee babes – purée pouches in a variety of flavours.

The Sweets:

Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of the desserts on the day of the party…  Not sure how I managed that one, but I’ll blame it on being busy I guess.  Fortunately, I took a is a couple of crumby photos the night before while I was baking into the wee hours of the morning.   

IMG 9068For the adults, I decided to try out these mini mason jar cheesecakes and I’m so glad I did. They were easy to make, easy to hand out, and out of the 20 I made, we were only left with 2 at the end {at a party with a total of 12 adult guests}.

IMG 9069For the munchkins, I used Pioneer Woman’s vanilla cupcake recipe (I made them using 1/2 wholewheat flour), baked them in flat-bottomed ice cream cones (a trick I learned early in my Kindergarten teaching days – no wrappers to mess with and much easier for little ones to hold), and topped them with this {ridiculously rich} buttercream frosting, candy sprinkles, and fresh raspberries.  I also baked some regularly (sans the cone for adults that preferred cupcakes to cheese cake).

For Miss G, I whipped up this sugar-free banana muffin recipe (and added an extra banana, skipped the salt, and replaced the melted butter with grapeseed oil), baked some in a flat bottomed cone so it would look like the ones many of her friends were eating, and topped it with fresh whipped cream (made without added sugar – just a touch of vanilla) and a fresh raspberry on top.  I baked up the rest of the batch as regular muffins, and topped several of them with whipped cream and fresh raspberries for the other babes who don’t do sugar yet.

The Play Stations:

IMG 9116Since first birthdays are often more about the adults than the wee ones, I wanted to make sure that this year’s party was all about play.  Messy, fun, noisy, old-fashioned play, just the way Miss G likes it.  I set the stations up all around the yard, making sure there was plenty of space and a little something for all different tastes.

IMG 9073A big bucket of sidewalk chalk sat at the beginning of the path.

IMG 9074A construction bin filled with pea gravel , tower building supplies, scoops, tractors, and a hardhat for the little builders.

IMG 9075A cloud dough sensory bin for the wee ones who don’t mind getting messy.

IMG 9076A gardening bin for the aspiring green thumbs.

IMG 9077An ocean-themed bin for the little water lovers.

IMG 9078And a coloured spaghetti sensory bin for the mini sous chefs.

IMG 9088On the top of the grass knoll, there was a music making station that incorporated Gracen’s purchased music instruments, as well as several instruments that we’ve made together.

IMG 9095Up on the cement pad, we set up a sidewalk chalk painting station using homemade paints.

IMG 9089And on the other side of the yard, we used a hot water heater drip pan and this homemade bubble solution to create a ‘baby in a bubble’ station.

IMG 9112We also had Grae’s pool blown up and filled with water and toys, as well as the sandbox filled with all sorts of moulds, buckets, scoops, and plastic dinosaur bones.

The Birthday Girl:

IMG 9122After having a good hour and a half of quiet time in her room, we decided that the birthday girl was probably too excited to nap.  We got her up, lathered her with sunscreen, and she picked out a party dress and decided how she wanted her hair done.  Then it was time to head out into the backyard and get started on playing while we waited for her friends to arrive.

The Action:

IMG 9143Gracen was beyond thrilled when her guests started to arrive.  Hugs and playmates = one very happy little girl in our house.

IMG 9131Girls  Bubbles

IMG 9193IMG 9144Although the whole ‘baby in a bubble’ thing was really hard to do in the beginning, the solution did make great big bubbles using regular wands, so I was glad I had picked them up the night before.

IMG 9142IMG 9245IMG 9132IMG 9146All of the sensory bins, with the exception of the gardening one (which I don’t think even got touched), were a pretty big hit.

IMG 9141The kiddos enjoyed digging for dinos in the sandbox.

IMG 9139And the birthday girl made her rounds all afternoon.

IMG 9149This little corner was put together with our littlest guest and Grae’s beloved friend, “Baby Tate”, in mind… Away from the action, in the shade, and filled with all of Grae’s favourite toys from when she was a baby.

IMG 9154Before long, it was time to bust out the bikini and make a splash in the pool.

IMG 9157IMG 9138Judging by our now beautifully decorated cement pad, the sidewalk  chalk paint was one of the favourites.

IMG 9158IMG 9180IMG 9195IMG 9242The snacks, hugs, and company weren’t bad either…

Time for Cake:

IMG 9168IMG 9173IMG 9176IMG 9181IMG 9184IMG 9187IMG 9210As you can see by Grae’s face, she wasn’t so sure about her ‘2’ sparkler…  Luckily she had her little friend Jaiden nearby.  I think her excitement and lack of worry made everything alright.  What did go over very well with Miss G, however, were the “cupcakes”.  Yes, cupcakeS.  She ate every single last bite of the one I’d baked in the cone for her, then demolished a second one, and made her way through half of another.  Two and a half muffins?!  Hey, when it’s your party, you’re allowed.

Better with Time:

Grae in a  BubbleIMG 9238Jaiden in a BubbleAs the party went on and the bubble solution got handled more and more, the better the bubbles got (just like Jackie from Happy Hooligans said it would).  Our resident bubble expert, Jordan, was not only able to put both Gracen and Jaiden in bubbles, but he was also able to make bubbles that were seriously HUGE.

The Photo Booth:

Before leaving, we asked each of our guests to have their photos taken in our makeshift photo booth using the felt props I’d created for last year’s party.  Here they are…

IMG 9196Ava and Jordan (somehow their parents made it without being in the photo… sneakers!)

IMG 9202Auntie Brandie, Jackson, and Kevin.

IMG 9205Auntie Silke and Ainsley.

IMG 9208Grandma Charlotte and Uncle Brett.

IMG 9216Tracy and Keagan.

IMG 9225Auntie Steffie and Baby Tate.

IMG 9231Jaiden and Cheri.

The Goodie Buckets:

IMG 9025This was probably the part of the party Gracen looked forward to the most… Handing out her goodie buckets to her friends.  We’d collected little items for them for a long while and Grae was so excited about them that I’d made sure to really prep her about the fact that we’d be giving them away.  Thankfully, it worked like a charm and she was very happy {and proud} to hand them out at the end of the party.  

To go with our backyard theme, the buckets were filled with a watering can and sidewalk chalk (all bought at Michael’s), as well as a big beach ball (purchased at Superstore), a mason jar of Bouncing Bubbles, and a bubble wand (purchased at our local teacher’s store).  The best part? (And I totally blame me being excited about this on the Ogasawaras, because before them I never really got that excited about a good deal…) At regular price, each of the 8 buckets would have cost well over 16 dollars, but because we started collecting early and found some great deals, each only cost around $4! (Crazy, right?)

And that was our afternoon.  Miss G loved it and we did too. It was the perfect way to celebrate our little girl turning two.


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16 thoughts on “Gracen’s {2nd} Backyard Birthday Bash

  1. Naomi says:

    This is possibly the most fabulous birthday ever! It looks like so much fun, no matter if you’re 2 or 62. And I’m borrowing your ribbon chandelier idea for the bay window in Amelia’s room, if that’s okay with you. It’s amazingly cute.

    • jkossowan says:

      Oh, why thank you! The oldest little guest, who just started Grade One this year, came up to me at the end and said, “This is the CRAZIEST party I’ve ever been too”. Not sure what he meant by it, but I took it as a compliment. 🙂

      And yes, it is MORE than okay with me if you use the ribbon chandelier idea. I actually remember seeing it online somewhere before… I’ll check my pins and see if I can come up with a link.

      • jkossowan says:

        Found it! I knew I’d gotten it from somewhere… I should really add the link above. Here’s the original post – Be sure to check out their method… I think I took the easy way out and skimped on ribbon while I was at it. 🙂

      • Naomi says:

        Great! It’ll be a good September project, and I’ll take a picture when I’m all done. It might be worth posting on your shop – I bet others would love it, too.

        The kids are still commenting on how happy they are with the buntings – even my six year old son who decorates everything with lego. 🙂

  2. happyhooligans says:

    What an awesome party, Jen! I LOVE your “photo-heavy post”! From the cute little chalkboard sign on the front steps to the bunting-strung “photo booth”, you thought of EVERYTHING! Just beautiful! (and I’m glad you stuck with it and “worked in” those bubbles!)

    • jkossowan says:

      Aw, thanks, Jackie! It truly was a great afternoon! And thanks so much for mentioning that the bubbles get better with time on your post. As gross as it may be, I’ve saved the sand-filled “worked in” bubbles in milk jugs so we don’t have to start fresh with the working in bit for the remainder of the summer. 🙂

  3. happyhooligans says:

    Oh! I meant to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Gracen!

  4. strawberrytimes says:

    Full of lovely ideas!! Luckily we’re a couple of months behind (my son is almost 1,5), so we have lots of time to think about implementing some of these ideas!

  5. WOW what an amazing party. Well done!

  6. officialreillyshine says:

    Looks like fun. I hope Grasen had a wonderful birthday!

  7. Kristina says:

    AMAZING!!! My parties are going to look like nothing compared to yours! Lucky Grae!! 🙂

  8. Earle says:

    Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What web host are you using?
    Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my
    site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

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