Sunday, July 22, 2012

Zebra and Neon Themed Birthday Party

Growing up, we didn’t usually have big birthday parties. Sure, we celebrated with cake and ice cream, and usually a few family members would come over, but as far as the kind of parties you see on TV – large bunches of balloons, petting zoo, clowns and magicians – no, we never had those.
However, when I turned 10, my sisters planned the coolest party I remember to date. We played games, there were cheesy prizes and I’m pretty sure I got a kiss from my boyfriend (on the cheek; does that still count?). I remember being so excited for weeks building up to the big day.
Recently, my youngest step daughter, Emilee, turned 11. She is still at the age that grown up’s are fun to hang out with and also young enough to appreciate parties. So, I decided this would probably be my last chance to throw an awesome birthday party full of all the girly frills that she will soon outgrow. Zebra and neon are in like crazy right now, so I went with that for the theme of the party.
I started with invitations. I made these with my Cricut by cutting out the balloon shape at the 5” setting. I cut one black, one colored and one white. Then, I used a Xacto knife to cut wavy stripes out of the black shape. I brushed the colored shape with glue and sprinkled with glitter to give them an extra fun sparkle and, once they dried, sewed all three together with a zig zag stitch (I used black thread because I wanted the contrast on the white side with the party details, but you could also use white if you wanted contrast on the front or of course any color you want for an even bigger “pop”). I couldn't find any envelopes to fit the balloons, so I just took a white scrapbook paper, cut it in half, folded that in half, clipped the corners, put the balloon inside and sewed (with black thread) around the edges to seal it. I also added a tuft of zebra fabric and a neon button to the bottom to keep the invitation from moving around inside the envelope.
I also wanted to create some lasting party favors, so I made each of the girls a matching purse and apron using zebra and neon fabric. I made the handle out of braided black yarn and attached them to the purse by simply sewing them to each side over the knot. I also added a contrasting yo yo and button to the front. You know, details. Emilee’s purse was special. I made it bigger and added a black and white ribbon flower as well as some thin elastic at the top.

The aprons were originally meant to be used for the cake decorating portion of the party which I later ended up scrapping. But, by that time, I’d already made all of the aprons so I gave them away anyway. I love how they turned out. The neon against the zebra print had a big impact and they were simple enough that they didn’t take too much time to put together.  The top of the apron is double sided but the apron is just single sided. The pocket is also doubled since the fabric was so thin. I added a couple of neon buttons and a zebra yo yo. This also helped me finally learn how to sew buttons using my sewing machine. Something so basic, yet I never understood it until this project. If you don’t know how to utilize this feature on your machine, LEARN. It is SO worth it.

The other items in the grab bags were fitting with the theme. I bought them from Party City online and, because I was only supplying for 6 girls, ended up being fairly inexpensive. I gave them a pack of neon headbands, some neon hair extensions, zebra and neon notepads and some neon gel pens.
Emilee likes cake, but hates frosting. This makes cake planning difficult, but I also knew I was up against Cake Boss and Cupcake Wars as she watches The Food Network as if it were Saturday morning cartoons.
I decided since she was turning 11, I would build two towers to look like two 1’s. Conceptually, I thought this would be easy as pie.  Let’s just say I have a bigger appreciation for cake artists now.

I went to the home improvement store and purchased a wooden round base for about 3 dollars and a 1” square dowel for around 2 dollars. First, I cut the dowel in half then drilled two holes in the base without going all the way through. I hammered the dowels into the holes and secured with some wood glue. After wrapping the dowels and base with aluminum foil, it was ready for cake. It took 6 boxes of cake to have enough for this tower! I used a square cake pan (the kind with straight edges, not the beveled kind you get at Wal-Mart – I special ordered mine online) and cut each cake into 4 squares. I did a thin layer of frosting between each layer and let the towers set in the fridge for a couple of hours before frosting the outside. I’ve heard this helps make the cake easier to frost with less crumb mess. I admit, it helped, but it was far from perfect. I had also heard running a butter knife dipped in hot water over the frosting after it had a chance to “dry” or “cool” could smooth out the wrinkles. Again, this helped, but it was not a smooth, fondant look. I also purchased some edible zebra paper and cut some round circles to add for decoration. I’m glad I did; it helped cover some of the blemishes I couldn’t fix with the frosting. I also didn’t get enough frosting for both of the stacks which is why one of them is the Tiffany blue and the other ended up being party chip white. When they were complete, I realized they slightly resembled the twin towers from New York which made me a little nervous – especially because I was adding candles and lighting them on fire. But, I figured the girls were too young to notice and I knew that wasn’t what they were.

I made some cheap balloon topiaries out of PVC pipe, streamers and balloons for the front yard. PVC pipe cheap! I bought 4 10’ poles for 8 dollars, cut them in half and wrapped them with black streamers. I attached the balloons by tying two balloons together, then sets of two into 4, then sets of 4 into 8. I found it easiest to attach them to the PVC by running a ribbon through the pipe, taping off the bottom end then tying the other end around the balloon bunch.  But this is important: Make sure to secure them in the ground BEFORE you try and tie the balloons to the top. Otherwise you’ll be trying to hammer through a bunch of balloons which is virtually impossible. Because I only had them in the ground a couple of inches, I decided to secure them with some black ribbon to help them stay up in case the wind decided to pick up.

I had some boxes laying around at work that I used for the game prizes. None of the prizes were as big as the boxes of course, but they had a big impact and doubled as decorations during the party. I didn’t find any zebra wrap, so I opted for black with white polka dots and some good solids.

I was picking up all the girls for the party using my van, so I used a washable paint to decorate the windows and also hung some balloons out of the back to add some excitement.

For the outdoor tent (this is where the girls ate dinner and dessert), I used a netted gazebo we already own and purchased some black and white plastic tablecloths to drape from the ceiling. I also added a balloon bunch to the center and got to work setting the table. Most of these supplies also came from Party City and were pretty inexpensive.

I hung some paper lanterns from the ceiling in the basement where the girls slept, played games and sang karaoke. I also hung lines of balloons on the wall which doubled as a photo backdrop as well as location for the truth or dare game (prior to blowing up the balloons, I stuck one truth and one dare in each balloon so they could be popped during the game).

For the drink, I prepared some clear Kool-Aid and added some food coloring, then froze it in star shaped ice cube trays ahead of time. I made sure the Sprite was very cold before adding the ice cubes so they wouldn’t melt right away and make the drink yucky colored.

We had a taco bar for dinner as tacos are Emilee’s favorite. I was able to wash the bowls in between games so I could re-use them later for the fruit pizza bar. I had most of these items prepared ahead of time to make it easier to just grab and go. I made the sugar cookies ahead of time as well as the cream cheese frosting which I stored in a zip lock bag with the tip cut for easy application.

The morning after, I prepared French toast, turkey bacon and orange juice.


For the games, we played Sidewalk Pictionary, Photo Scavenger Hunt and Streamer Fashion Show. The girls seemed to have a good time and I certainly had fun planning!