September 27, 2011

Real Parties: My Babies' Big Top Circus Birthday Party!!

As you probably know, my kiddies were born on the same day (two years apart) and as such, their birthdays are always somewhat a challenging affair...Moms of twins with be nodding in agreement at this point ;)

But I'm soooo happy (and relieved) that this year, we all collectively decided on a  "Big Top Circus" birthday party theme - What's not to like?! It's a really classic, fun and colorful theme, plus it's totally suited for any age group...

BUT I think what reeeeally "sealed the deal" for my kids, was the promise of a few carnival games as party activities! ;)

This is how it all turned out...

Design and Inspiration: 

I designed the party printables to emulate the traditional circus colors red, white and blue, but added different pattern (polka dots, harlequin, stripes) to keep things fun and eclectic. This is one of those party themes that allows for bold use of pattern and colors, so I really went to town!

For the party invites I wanted  a "circus is in town poster" kind of look, and included confetti and printable carnival tickets in the envelopes. The printable tickets were personalized with my kids' names on, and had the details of the party too.

Inspired by "The Glitta Queen"! ;)

The Party Scene - Props and Decorations: 

I always love using printable cut-out or party icons to embellish my dessert tables, and wanted to re-create a "3D" mini-circus as my main desserts table.

Using my kid's garden gazebo frame and a piece of MDF from my local hardware store for the table top, I created a bespoke mini circus tent to house the dessertsA yellow oil cloth fabric I had at home was perfect for the roof of the tent, which I pegged in place with double-sided tape and some plastic pegs at the bag (where it wouldn't be seen).

The gazebo frame is a simple system of pipes, and could be re-created using PVC piping similar to this example.

The 3-D cut out clown, seal, ring master and elephant from the printable collection were also glittered to help bring extra color and interest to the table - Glittering small space is NOT easy, but if you use small paintbrushes and apply just enough glue (too much will wrinkle your paper..) you should be ok! ;)

Getting them to stand on the tables was quite simple: After glittering (and drying), I glued a piece of bamboo skewer to the back of each printable cut-out to make them sturdier,  then secured them to food cans wrapped in scrapbook paper (with double-sided tape or hot glue). These printable party cut outs really helped to bring the whole circus theme to life, and gave the table a "3-D" dimension.

Little party hats from the printable collection were embellished with accordion paper rosettes made from yellow paper, and colored beads. These were used as much for decorations as they were for entertaining the kids and as photo props!

Colorful helium ballons, printable bunting and yellow paper rosettes adorned the "circus tent" desserts table, as well as the circus entrance, and all the carnival booths!

Food, Drinks and Candy: 

Circus or carnival food is fairly simple, so I relished the opportunity to make it part of the décor too! 

The monkey nuts were displayed in cute paper cones , which I made using the scrapbook paper from the printable collection, and embellished with beads.

The popcorn was displayed in the printable popcorn boxes from the "Big Top Circus" collection. The handmade sugar lollipops from a local artisan, were decorated with printable tags and displayed in a round gift box filled with candy balls.

The fabulous, decorated cookies from Sweet Dough tied in beautifully with the rest of the décor! They were also given out as favors.

Cupcakes were home-made vanilla sponge with vanilla buttercream, edible colorful sprinkles from Sweet Estelle and white fondant. Some were decorated with little clown cupcake toppers and a mini paper rosette. The other cupcakes were simply adorned with round cupcake toppers. 

The centerpiece of the desserts table was the fabulous cake! I emailed my friend Livy from La Lettre Gourmande about what I had in mind, and she matched it to perfection! It really was the star of the table, and I decorated the top with another paper rosette and a large party tag.

The cupcake/cake stand was a DIY job, created with a simple cake board, which sat on top of a large food can, wrapped in more scrapbook paper! A tutorial can be found here.

Different flavor squashes were served in cute little soda bottles, but I kept the yellow ones for the table, which were wrapped with printable bottle wrappers. The cute stripped straws from Sweet Estelle finished them off beautifully!

Old-fashioned candy jars (from local "dollar" store) were filed with gum balls, jelly candies and "flying saucer" sweets from my local supermarket.

Activities - Carnival-Style Booths:

In-keeping with the theme, I created some carnival-style game booths in the garden. Well, thank goodness for Martha Stewart where I got most of my inspiration for these games from! The fun thing about these is that the kids helped me set it all up and we loved trying out each game before the party too! ;)

I designed the printable carnival signage for the booths, which I hung with string and wooden pegs to yellow garden posts. Tying them on top and bottom helped to keep the paper from flying in the wind.

Printable carnival-style, vintage tickets were given to each child before they started playing so everyone could trade in their tickets at the end in exchange for prizes! The carnival tickets were personalized with the names and ages (4c and 6c) of my kids and the birthday date on them.

For booth that required some sort of table like the "tin can alley", I simply wrapped black tables (from my office) in red paper around the rim, and decorated the tops with punched out colored circles. I used different diameter punches, and punched out several circles from colored cardstock and scrapbook paper from the collection. You can stick them down with double-sided tape or glue dots too. 

1) Clown Academy Booth: This booth had juggling games, face-painting, wigs, masks, the printable photo props, balloon making kits, as well as fun hats so the kids got disguised as they wished. This booth was very conveniently placed right next to the photo booth ;)

2) Photo Booth: I used frame prop to emulate the table styling. I used a large wooden photo frame without the glass (from local thrifty store), and hot glued a piece of red fabric to the back to make the curtains. Then I decorated with a mini printable bunting and some more of those paper rosettes. I attached it to the metal garden poles and set 2 toadstool stools behind for the kiddies to sit on! These stool were on sale and each  was about $7 from my local home-ware store (Casa). My camera and tripod sat in front of the booth so I could capture all the  little clowns! :)

3) Ring Toss Booth: Tossing the rings to earn points, depending on which peg they land. Easy and effective! I got this game from my local thrifty store too, and was inspired by a similar one I saw on the Martha Stewart's site.

4) Bouncy Ball Booth: I found his idea on Martha also - Little metal pails were decorated with party tags, and a color circle on the bottom to indicate the values of each pail. The idea here is to drop the ping pong balls from a height, and get them to land inside the pails. Sounds easier than it actually is! ;)

5) Tin Can Alley: Empty food cans wrapped in scrapbook paper. The objective of the game is to try and knock down all the cans with only 3 balls. The soft balls were also from local thrifty store.

6) Duck Pond Booth: My "invention" and fave game of all! The plastic ducks were from my local "dollar" store. I wrapped a bamboo rod with green and yellow electrical tape (you could also use ribbon) and tied a piece of string to the end. I then hot glue a very strong magnet (from craft stores) to the tip of the string. I pushed metal pins into the head of each duck to make them "magnetic" Filled an old wine barrel with water, attached the printable signage  to the barrel and set to play - Very happy to say that fun was had by adults and kids alike! :D

Party Frocks and Favors:

Each child got to take home a hand-made circus T-shirt - I simply printed the clown designs from the collection onto heat-transfer paper (from Amazon) and ironed them to white T-shirts. Both my children were actually wearing one each for the party, and my little girl was also wearing one of her gorgeous tutus by Cole Baby Tutus!

Before each child left, they redeemed their tickets for prizes at the "Prizes" booth. In fact, every child got to take home the same, because of the difference in age groups it wouldn't be fair otherwise, but they loved the idea of "choosing" their prizes! And just a like any carnival, they had plush toys to choose from, which I sat onto a fabulous polka dot cupcake stand from Green Party Goods!

The polka dot green gable boxes were also from Green Party Goods, and it included: 

* Homemade circus lollipops (using Wilton molds and candy melts), 
* Homemade circus crayons (also using Wilton molds) - Using a craft knife, slice and cut the paper off your crayons. Put all pieces into an empty food can and melt in a  low oven. 
Pour into molds (do not use molds for edible lollipops!) and cool it in the fridge until set. Pop them into a clear bag and staple a party bag label on.
* Big Top Coloring Book: These were assembled from the printable coloring sheets from the collection. I hole-punched each sheets and tied with colored ribbons
Circus Tent Favor Boxes: These were the boxes featured on the desserts table and filled with candy. I purchased papier maché boxes from my craft store (about 40 cents each) and painted the outside with acrylic paint. Then I cut a circle int he center of the spiral scrapbook paper from the collection to make the roof, and hot glued it to the lid of the little boxes along with a yellow pom pom (from craft stores)

Keeping it real: 

Yes, real parties all have "unseen footage" like kids who don't like cake (???), or pick their noses at the photo booth (sigh...), mom who gets stressed at the last minute for not being able to find candy floss, and a certain degree of mad prepping beforehand (printing, cutting, assembling, glittering, printing, gluing, baking, frosting, cutting etc, etc, etc), but what matters is that my kids were extremely happy and we all had a blast, so I say it was all worth it in the end!! :)

Hummmm.......I wonder what party theme we shall do next year?!! ;D

Vendors Credits:

Party Printables, Styling and Photography: Bird's Party
Decorated Cookies: Sweet Dough
Paper Straws: Bird's Party
Cupcake and Gable Boxes: Bird's Party
Drink Bottles: Bird's Party
Mini Candy Jars: Bird's Party

The complete "Big Top Circus" Collection has over 30 printable templates, and  is now available in our shoppe here!

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