Cullen’s First Birthday Party.

This weekend was filled with celebration!  I’m a serious procrastinator by nature, so I think I’m still sort of in shock that I managed to plan, prepare, and execute this birthday party.  Most of the planning and prep had to be done a few weeks ahead of time, since we were traveling the week before the party.  But we did it, and we all survived, and even better – we had a blast.

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We arrived home from DC in the wee hours of Thursday morning.  I spent that day recovering from travel, doing endless loads of laundry, making a huge grocery run, and finishing up last minute crafts.  Thursday night, my mom arrived!

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I never could have pulled off this party without her.  She planned a mean birthday party back in the day, so she totally jumped right into party prep mode with me.  We spent all day Friday cooking, crafting, cleaning, and decorating.

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When I first started thinking about Cullen’s party, I found the idea of it to be sort of overwhelming.  A lot of people go really over the top with first birthday parties these days (thank you, Pinterest).  Eventually I decided to stop worrying about a complicated theme and my lack of craftiness, and to just focus on my strengths instead. 

Things I am not good at:  sewing, paper flower-making, painting, and drawing.  Things I am good at:  organizing, cooking, documenting, and visualizing. 

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I kept it really simple – a “first birthday” theme of colors, that I tried to carry throughout the party.  I also added in some festive fall elements, like the party favors for the babies – tis the season!

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One of my favorite things was the photo display behind the cake.  My mom and my mother in law both found pictures of Casey and I eating our first birthday cakes.

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Mine was a big two-layered clown cake, and it looks like I thought it was terrifying.

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Casey had a big chocolate cake all to himself, and it looks like he found it quite tasty. 

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A few weeks ago, I made several test cakes in preparation for the party.  I wanted to make sure the recipe was just right!  I had seen a similar idea on Pinterest, and after finding his first birthday t-shirt, I was inspired to bring it to life. 

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Don’t let the bright colors scare you – it tasted fabulous.  It was a pumpkin spice cake with vegan cream cheese frosting, and I’m planning to get the recipe out to you shortly!

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Saturday morning we were up early doing final party prep!  Cullen’s actual birthday was Sunday, but he shares his big day with one of his baby friends.  Since they were having their party Sunday, I offered to do mine the day before so we could all join in both celebrations.  The house was sparkling and ready to go!

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A month by month birthday banner hung, and cakes set out for display.

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I used our side counter as a “bar” for drinks – apple cider, a variety of beers, sparkling water, and San Pellegrino.  Something for everyone!

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Just before our guests arrived, we set the food out on the dining room table.  As much as I love to cook, I don’t typically do a lot of entertaining of large groups, so menu planning for this size party was challenging.  I wanted to make the food myself, and decided to just do a sampler of some of our favorite fall foods – all things I could make ahead of time, so I could relax and enjoy the party (not be in the kitchen!). 

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Roasted cauliflower tahini salad.

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Roasted sweet potatoes with miso sauce.  These were amazing, and probably the favorite dish at the party.  I’ll be posting the recipe soon – it’s so simple!

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Quinoa with roasted butternut squash and cranberries in maple dressing – a spinoff of this millet recipe

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A sauté of Field Roast veggie dogs, parsnips, and carrots.  (I realized when I set the food out on the table that almost all my dishes were the same color – oops!)

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Marinated mushroom medley – another recipe I’ll be posting soon. 

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And a mixed greens salad with walnuts, pears, and cranberries.  Something fresh and light.

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It was a lot of food and a lot of work, but like I said, food is my thing.  I was happy to make it , and had fun cooking with my mom all day on Friday.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

With the party set up and ready to go, we got the birthday boy dressed and ready for his big celebration!

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For the past few weeks his morning nap has been a bit rocky – he’s working toward dropping down to one nap, but he isn’t doing it consistently yet.  Of course, the morning of his party, he decided he wanted nothing to do with sleep.  I was really worried that he was going to be a huge grump, but luckily he was in a great mood.

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He ended up being up from 6am to 2pm with no nap, and was nothing but smiles the whole time.  Such a big boy!  Oh – for those who have asked, I ordered his first birthday shirt from Etsy.  It was the inspiration for our cake and our party colors! 

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At 11am on the nose, our guests started arriving. 

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In the days leading up to his party, I started to feel really sentimental and emotional about reaching the one year milestone.  I missed our families, and was reminded of how challenging it has been to raise Cullen so far away from our loved ones. It felt strange to be planning a big celebration knowing that family (other than my awesome mom!) wouldn’t be there.

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But I looked around the party during the room, and realized that we ended up having family there after all.  I am so lucky to have such an amazing network of friends here in Seattle, and they really have become a second family to me.  I can’t imagine what this year would have been like without them.

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I feel so incredibly blessed to have such caring and compassionate women in my life.  They have seen Cullen grow from a giant pregnant belly, to a walking, laughing little boy, and they have all been there to help me laugh and cry through the first rocky year.

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With seven babies in the house – ranging from 8 to 19 months, it was total chaos.  Despite the toys I had set out, all attention was on balloons, plastic cups, and paper straws.

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After the babies had partied and the parents had eaten, it was time for cake!  Everyone expected that Cullen would be the one to dive face first into the cake, but I wasn’t so sure.  He’s been a lot pickier about his food lately!

We lit a candle and all sang Happy Birthday…

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He loved having everyone singing and smiling at him – what a goof!

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I blew out his candle because I wasn’t sure he was quite ready for the open flame.

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He went for the icing, but seemed unsure about the sticky green stuff on his hands.  He kept waving his arms trying to shake it off.  Eventually, he thought he’d give it a taste.

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I ended up cutting off some small bites for him, so that he could get a taste of the cake itself.  Once he got to the pumpkin spice part, he seemed to really like it!  He didn’t eat all that much of it, which was fine with me.  He wanted to share with mom and dad once he was finished.

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Once his cake was gone, we cut up the rest of the cakes and dug in, while the birthday boy worked the room.

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And after a few hours of partying and playing, the babies were all looking ready for an afternoon nap.  Had to get a lineup picture before everyone headed home!

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It was a wonderful celebration of family and friends, and I think Cullen felt incredibly loved.  It was really special for me to have my mom there – can’t thank her enough for coming!

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Cullen was so pooped afterward that he passed on out on my lap in the glider.  When we moved him to the crib, he snoozed on Casey’s shoulder like a newborn.  I could have let him sleep like that all day.


Until next year!