Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We Celebrated! We Painted! We Ate!

The little mister turned two on Sunday.

Two. Let's just take a moment to let that sink in.

We threw a party. Not an insane party for the family who has a not-even-six-week-old baby in the house, but a party to celebrate the little boy that brought us back to life. Back in October, I was researching Halloween costumes that were simple and unique. I came across a cute idea to write on a mustache, throw on a French beret, apron or t-shirt and hand the kid a paint palette. Voila. French artist.

I loved the idea so much that I just envisioned our neighborhood friends coming over and all walking around with cute little French mustaches and painting while wearing cute berets. Let's not confuse this whole daydream with me actually liking all things French. While France was nice, I had other European favorites. But little tiny mustached artists with cute hats? Sign me up!

Then I got a reality check. Is my kid actually going to let me draw on a mustache and wear a beret? Unlikely (spoiler alert: he DID!). But I had already bought the paint supplies and French berets because I was smitten with the theme. Most kids want to choose their theme, but he's still too young to articulate or really understand the whole hoopla over birthday parties and themes and such. So this one was my freebie. Lord knows if he was able to tell me, we'd have tigers and trolleys and a theme I didn't really want to embrace. I'm already swimming in all things DT. I sing those songs in my (little) sleep.
All the kids at the party... missing the two that couldn't make it and dreaming of their little mustached faces!
The party went off without a hitch. Aside from a few friends not being able to make it, we still had sixteen people in our house. Considering the 40+ from last year, this one was a breeze! The only thing that was not a breeze? Prepping for the party with a toddler and newborn. The toddler is about 4 inches behind me taking down all the party decor and the newborn needs to be fed what seems like every 18 minutes. Okay, not really... but you know. Feels like that. Friday night was a little hectic and the toddler was given two DT episodes to keep him in the living room while I ran around blowing up balloons and setting up a paint table for the kids.
Party decor, paint table with berets hanging on chairs, paper people and wooden cars to paint & random mashed potatoes in the KitchenAid! My friend recommended it and what a breeze!
Yes, this was all happening at exactly the same time! Unheard of for children this age!
Benjamin received a balance bike for his birthday. We live in Chicago. It's currently being used in the house. Wuh, Wuh.
The food was fun and relatively easy. Most of the it was store bought, but I really like to put an added personal twist to things, so I added Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes to the mix along with a Fresh Express Salad Bar. The salad was provided, as I am part of Green Moms Meet and try out fun, healthy and green products with my friends at playdates and parties. It fit so well with the party and theme and the salad bar was a hit by our friends! Fun little tidbit about Fresh Express salads: when Elliot and I were first starting to chat some eight years ago, he brought two bags of Fresh Express salad to a party we were both attending. I still remember what they were, and I'm not kidding-- the Asian and Southwest mixes. I've bought both many times ever since.

I purchased the pre-washed Fresh Express lettuce mixes at the store and consulted their free Salad Swap phone app that has recipes and food indulgences you like that can be used to swap out for a delicious salad instead-- but not just boring salads--salads with a kick. For example, if you're into grilled cheese sandwiches but want to cut the calories, they recommend (with recipe and calorie information) a spring mix and grilled cheese crouton salad. You're getting a hint of that indulgence food and adding in some greens to your diet to make it more balanced and healthy. There is a website dedicated to the 30-day salad swap challenge as well.
I opted for a salad bar with a number of their mixes. We used the Fresh Express Baby Spinach, Baby Kale Mix and Sweet & Crunchy mixes. I threw them in my big wooden bowl and offered a variety of full and low fat dressing options along with five toppings to make up a salad bar: honey ham, crushed butter crackers, sliced pepperoncini, raisins and Parmesan cheese. Tasty combinations were made and the salad mixes and options were an extra nice added touch that definitely lightened the heaviness of the rest.
To make up the rest of the (heavy) food, I wanted to feature a food my 2-year old scarfs down when we're shopping-- Ikea meatballs, gravy, mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce. I bought a few bags of the meatballs, oven baked them & stuck them in a crock pot. I made PW's mashed potatoes (incredible), whipped up the gravy and opened up a can of that lingonberry sauce. Surprisingly, among the group of 16 people, including six children ages 5 and under, it was all a huge hit!

We finished things off with a Costco sheetcake, ice cream, and some incredible mustache-themed cookies made by a friend we met at storytime who lives just blocks away. She's a super fantastic baker and kind of a big deal. She's a freelance writer for the Boston Globe even! Told you she was a big deal. She may have scoffed at the Costco sheetcake purchase when I told her, but the damage was already done. However, her cookies were nothing to scoff at. They were every bit gourmet and totally expert status like everything she creates. You should see the tea party she threw for her daughter's 2nd birthday last month. She's also suffered many struggles to grow her family as well and that has connected us in many ways. She's dealt with PCOS and infertility and is hoping to add another child to their family. She's been writing candidly about that and ways to improve fertility through diet as well, since she's knee deep in the process and has quite the expertise in all things food.
Family photo attempt (Andrew is behind us but that wasn't planned well) & the amazing mustache cookies made by my baker friend, Karoline!
Food pictures: sheetcake (tons of leftovers I may or may not be eating at every meal), ice cream, meatball plates, salad bar. Drinks: easy with milk boxes for kids & water bottles for adults
As for the rules and a schedule...we had none. I kindly requested no gifts because my child really does have everything under the sun and he has not been a very thoughtful recipient lately. So instead, people ate as they wanted, played with toys and balloons we had blown up and thrown around the place and all of the kids painted. It was like a little zen moment (that lasted at least 10 minutes!) where the kids all hopped up on chairs and embraced the theme. Every one of them painted the little people and some of them painted the wooden cars. It. was. awesome. They were quiet, concentrated, and totally into it. To say that we were all shocked because the majority of kids were two years old was an understatement.

Not too stressful and a house full of friends and cute little mustached kids. It doesn't get much cooler than that.

You can like Fresh Express on Facebook or follow them on Pinterest. There's even a a coupon available at if you'd like to try out the Fresh Express 30 Day Salad Swap for yourself and "indulge" in some of their delicious recipes and cut the calories at the same time.

Disclaimer: I received this product (Fresh Express Salads) free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC. or the manufacturer of this product.


Melissa R said... [Reply to comment]

The party looks amazing - what a fun idea. I made those mashed potatoes for Christmas and they are tasty!! I am looking forward to checking out your friend's blog. The cookies she made look fabulous.

Happy Birthday to Benjamin!!!

Melissa R said... [Reply to comment]

I also forgot to say... as much as I love to bake... Costco makes a pretty damn cook sheet cake!! Maddie used to request them when we lived near a Costco!!

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Wow! It looks like a wonderful time. And so put together! How did you do that, Brandy? When Lillian was 6 weeks old I was lucky to be showered. And house work? ha! Nice joke. What a memorable and happy day. Can I say, I love the theme. Sweet, adorable, original and just so Benjamin.

Brooke said... [Reply to comment]

Love the party theme! I am all about capitalizing on the years they are too young to care and making the party as cute as you want to make it! Benjamin looks adorable as a French artist.

Solange, Nik, Caitlin and Oliver said... [Reply to comment]

I LOVE this theme. SO cute. Happy 2 B!!! Amazing.

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

Your non baker friend Caroline is super impressed with baker friend Karoline. But mostly I'm impressed you befriended someone at story time and are actual legit friends now! Atta girl!

Benjamin could not be more adorable in that hat and mustache. His facial expression have always been the best, but this just may be my favorite yet. Love that boy.

Tiffany said... [Reply to comment]

Happy Birthday B!!!! What a handsome two year old you are!
Love the pics! I may have to borrow this idea for the babies! They love painting and OMG the mustaches are killing me!!

Nicole said... [Reply to comment]

I live the party theme! Looks like it was a hit!

Could Benjamin have been any cuter with his little hat and mustache?! Ahhh!!

Nicole said... [Reply to comment]

I live the party theme! Looks like it was a hit!

Could Benjamin have been any cuter with his little hat and mustache?! Ahhh!!

Ben and Katie said... [Reply to comment]

You throw the best parties!! Love it!!

Laura Jane said... [Reply to comment]

What a great party! I'm sooooo late in posting comments so I'm playing catch-up, but what an adorable artiste Mr. Benjamin is!

Love the family photo, very cute. So glad little sister was there for the party, wishing big brother was too. <3