A couple of weeks ago I go a call from my neighbor on a Wednesday night. She was wondering if I had any ideas for her daughter’s birthday party THAT SATURDAY! She had sent out an evite weeks before, but hadn’t gotten around to any party planning yet. Of course, I had ideas–it’s My Insanity–I can’t help but have ideas! But did she really want to open that can of worms (I’ve helped her with parties before (karaoke, disco roller skate)…so she knew what she was getting into)? At this stage of the game? Before we got off the phone that night, I suggested a mermaid theme, since she wanted to do something with water outside (because what else do you do with kids in the summer in Phoenix?) and because she said the birthday girl loves princesses. So why not mermaid princesses? Over the next day I firmed up my ideas and presented them all to her Thursday night. I gave her a lengthy, detailed shopping list for Friday and enlisted the birthday girl’s big sister and friend to come over and begin crafting some of the DIY projects through out the day on Friday. Was it chaotic and crazy? Yes! Was it a big hit with all of the party guests? Absolutely!
When guests first arrived, they had to transform themselves into sea creatures before entering our Under the Sea Kingdom. This is what awaited the girls. Aside from they sand bucket favors, each girl received her own mermaid tail and seashell crown. I had seen on Parents.com where someone had made mermaid tails for guests out of beach towels, but we didn’t have the funds to purchase that many towels, and besides, most of our guests were of the pint-sized variety and would not have been able to manage a beach-towel-sized tail. We started looking at kitchen towels and decided that they might work. I was excited when my neighbor found these blue and green kitchen towels at Target for a good price. The colors and pattern were great and the towels were a lot like beach towels in texture. To turn them into mermaid tails, you simply take two hair ties (or rubber bands) and wrap them around each of the bottom corners of the towel, pushing them upward until they meet and fasten them tightly. No-sew, non permanent, easy and fast! Then, so that the girls could wear them, I simply hot glued a length of green ribbon around the topside of the towel so they could be tied around the waist. If you aren’t in a rush, sewing the ribbon on would probably be a better idea, since the glue can come apart after a while, but it worked well for the party.
Their seashell crowns were just dollar store plastic dress up crowns adorned with hot-glued seashells. Dollar Tree used to carry packages of seashells, but I couldn’t find any this time. Luckily I had enough on hand to make the crowns. I made a special one with lots of shells for the birthday girl. My daughter has worn her mermaid princess crown nearly daily since this party, so I’d say they were a hit!
But what about the boys? We couldn’t quite see them getting as excited about mermaid tails and crowns as the girls, but didn’t want them to be left out, either. BSB and I designed and constructed these shark party hats for them. Originally I wanted to make fins for their backs and just have the party hat be the head of the shark. BSB talked me out of it–partly in the interest of time, and partly because with the swimming and water fun (and shirtlessness), it was going to be difficult to attach them to their backs. I think these came out pretty darn cute and it was so fun to see the little boys running around gnashing their shark teeth. Basically we just used dollar store party hats, glued on fins cut out of chipboard (cereal boxes), spray painted them gray and added googly eyes and shark teeth that had been cut out of labels so they would stick easily on the hat.
Inside the buckets were sand toys and bubbles (The mermaid was originally on the cake). We weren’t exactly sure which guests were going to be able to come, and so I waited until the guests were all there to write names on the buckets with a gold sharpie marker (a hand-drawn starfish makes them look fancier). They also each made their own jelly fish to take home. It was made of paper bowls with ribbon, curling ribbon, and cut up bubble wrap for the tendrils. The painted their bowls, added eyes and glued the ribbon between two bowls. We added holes at the top so they could be strung up with fishing wire. (For more details on this craft, check out this post on Scrapbooks etc.).
Speaking of jellyfish, we had some lovely colorful ones guarding the food table. My little party minions (that is what I call my underaged helpers that do my biding during party prep time) made these, following these directions from Party City. Ruffling the tablecloths took a while, but they turned out so pretty. The only difference is that our lanterns didn’t stay as open as the ones on the Party City site, but I think they look really awesome, anyway! Great job,
For other decorations, we hung fishing nets from the ceiling and draped them over the table. We hung lots of streamers and clear balloons to look like bubbles. The number 3 was actually originally part of the number 30 from this special Anniversary Party. I just wrapped it up in some rough twine and added it to our table. When I couldn’t find any napkins I liked, I grabbed a stamp set from the dollar store and stamped my own. I let my little kids get involved in this, so some of them were a little messy, but they added nicely to the atmosphere.
And here is my crowning glory of this party: My sandcastle cake! Because time was so short, I had my neighbor buy plain, base-coat frosted cakes from the grocery store bakery–one half sheet cake and the other a quarter sheet cake. I was a little surprised that they layers turned out as short as they did, but that helped me decide on the design. I knew my turrets were going to have to add the desired height. And would be the focus of the cake. The middle turret is made of two cake ice cream cones stacked together with a sugar cone on top. I cheated on this one (it was BSB’s idea/fault) and hot glued the cake cones together for stability. We just made sure no one ate that one. The others are held together with skewers, all the way into the cake board for stability. I had to cut off a bit of the tip of the sugar cones to get the skewer through, but it also worked as a great place to add some washi tape flags. Note: It is easiest to add the “sand” to the cones before adding the turrets to the cake, though you will likely have to touch-ups later. I watched some videos to get ideas about how to do this. I liked how this one used different colors of crackers to create realistic looking sand. We did that too, adding some sanding sugars in pink and a little bit of black to the graham cracker/cookie mixture. Adding the sand was more time consuming and messier than I had anticipated, but it was exciting to watch it all come together. I used un-blended graham crackers to form the doors and add some battlements at the front of the castle. We made starfish out of rolled-out Air-head candy and a star-shaped cookie cutter. I added little back edible beads for eyes. (One guy was melting…What can I say? I live in Phoenix.) Add a toy mermaid on top and scatter seashells and rocks around and you have the talk of the party!
But our assortment of Under the Sea cookies may have been the next biggest hit. They are cute, right? We made star-shaped sugar cookies and my neighbor obediently frosted them with pink frosting and added the edible pearls to create the pattern. The little sand dollars were fun and easy! The are just vanilla Oreos with one side removed (and blended up to make sandcastle sand). I added a little flower shape with white frosting and made some indentations around the edges. But I think the favorites were our oyster cookies! Or are they clams? They look like clams but have little pearls inside. We used madeline cookies cut in half, frosted the insides with pink frosting, added a yogurt-covered raisin as the pearl and a couple of those black beads for eyes. Doesn’t he look like he’s trying to talk to you? Of course each cookie was served on a bed of “sand”. Inspiration for the cookies found here (starfish), here (clams), and (sand dollars) here.
But kids can’t live on cookies alone (though they try), so we served some other under-the-sea fare.
1. Sushi sandwiches: No seafood here, just bread, veggies, cream cheese, and lunchmeat rolled up to look like sushi. They make a great finger food for the kids and were tasty. (Inspiration: Living Locurto)
2. Starfish crackers
3. Seaweed salad: My neighbor makes a delicious pasta salad and I thought it looked either like a bunch of coral or twisted seaweed.
4. Ocean jello: It is kind of dark here to tell, but there are gummy sharks and fish in each cup of jello.
Not pictured: Ocean water. We mimicked the favorite Sonic drink with blue gatorade and coconut soda.
We served up our goodies on sea glass plates (alright they were just clear plastic, but you can use your imagination, right?)
But wait! There’s more! Mermaids have to get wet periodically, right? We set up a backyard beach on the patio, enclosing the area with tons of streamers and decorations. The blue pool is the ocean, and the pink pool is the beach. That $10 wading pool filled with inexpensive playground sand from the home improvement store, entertained the kids for a long time, and they could always hop in the “ocean ” to cool down when they needed to. What you don’t see here, are the little bubbles blowing from the bubble machine to help them feel like they are underwater. Party City has a couple of models of bubble machines for under $20.
And this is what makes is all worthwhile. These happy kids! The birthday girl modeling her new sunglasses. My daughter enjoying her “Sea-food” (Don’t ask me to explain that face.) My son loving his “Ocean Water” and the bubble machine. It was a really fun party and I was especially pleased that we were able to pull it off with such short notice. It took me a while to recover and it will take me a while to recover from writing this post.
Look for more summer fun parties soon! I am posting a small playdate pool party on Skip to My Lou on Monday! And we’ll see if I can get to posting the rest of my summery posts in the middle of Back to School season. In the meantime…
…Just keep swimming!