November 23, 2012 by lytlejoc
My small man is shockingly turning one year old in a few days. I can hardly believe it. It seems like just yesterday that I was waddling around, lamenting my size and fearing his arrival while napping long, glorious naps. But time has a way of passing and babies have a way of growing, so I had to face reality and make the celebration of his first year the very best that I could make it. And as homemade as I could make it, of course.
When Toby was born, my sister knitted for him a mobile based on Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar, and he LOVES it. He giggles every time he looks at it. So when my friend in Vancouver told me about the caterpillar birthday party she threw for her son on his first birthday, I jumped on the idea and adopted it for myself.
There are a lot of great things about making the caterpillar your theme, but one of the best things is how hungry he is. It took all the guesswork out of what I could have for people to nibble. I served all the fruit that he eats in the book (complete with small caterpillar-esque bites taken out of a few pieces. I did that with a straw.) and I got some cheese and salami and pickles for folks who were looking for a savory option. I also had orange juice and champagne, since the party was a morning one, but of course the caterpillar doesn’t have that in the book. After all the work I put into that party, that was aaaaaall for me.
For the traditional birthday party treat bags, I made sugar cookies and decorated them to look like the lollipop that the caterpillar eats, then sandwiched them onto a wooden stir stick. This, while sounding super easy, was harder than I thought. Icing is NOT my medium. I couldn’t get the colors to be how wanted them and I originally tried to slap the cookies together on the stick and dry them standing up, but being a bit heavy, they just slid down. Shoulda seen that coming. So I had to wait until the icing dried before I could put the sticks in the middle and then dry them lying down. This meant that these babies took up an awful lot of time (which, when Toby-free, is a precious commodity around here). I bagged and tied them, then I painted a piece of styrofoam with colored dots, a la the first page of the book and stuck them in like a lollicookie forest. While my vision was not successfully transplanted to my satisfaction, they turned out ok. And they were really yummy which, in the end, is the main thing.
The cake itself was chocolate, of course, but I made chocolate zucchini so I wouldn’t feel too badly about letting Toby eat his own birthday cake. (There are vegetables in it! That’s nutritious!) The body of the caterpillar was made up of cupcakes and I baked a small round for the head. Incidentally, I ended up having to make a second batch of cupcakes because I was scared I wouldn’t have enough to go around, but I had run out of cocoa. I sent Scott to the Deck to see if they had any, and the owner sent me back just enough to finish up the project – out of her own supplies. No charge. Blandford sense of community wins again!
To decorate the cake, I enlisted the help of my sister Tracy since I had done the cookies first and discovered that me and icing are just not sympatico. She tinted the icing for me: two shades of green to cover alternating cupcakes for the body, and a bright cheerful red for his head, and she colored the fondant which we used for his feet, eyes, mouth and antenae. I let her handle the cutting of the fondant, too, since she is something of an expert with the stuff, having made a number of gorgeous cakes with it. Including my wedding cake. The end result was AWESOME. I couldn’t have been any happier with how he turned out had Eric Carle himself come and made the cake for me.
The piece de resistance, however, was my butterfly, who I hung over the table to tie the whole display together. I’m ridiculously proud of him. The wings were painted on a brown paper bag that I had salvaged from recycling, and the body was made from the same thing as Tracy’s wedding cake toppers, ie, toilet paper and glue. The legs were tricky. I wrapped beading wire in paper and swabbed a bit of my glue/water mix over them. While the end result was satisfactory, they kind of made me want to scream obscenities… but Grandma was here, so I had to bite my tongue. The butterfly is soon to be hung in Toby’s room, near the mobile that helped inspire the whole thing. Almost poetic.
And that was that. Eric Carle’s use of bright colors and whimsically lopsided shapes made this theme so much fun and not too difficult to replicate, and while Toby didn’t really notice what I had done, it made for great pictures of Toby’s first birthday party. The truth of the matter, though, is that I kind of did it more for me anyway. For him, too, but… more for me.
What birthday themes have you done? Any I can steal to try and top myself for next year??