Gracen’s {2nd} Backyard Birthday Bash

Over this past long weekend, we celebrated Gracen’s 2nd birthday with a backyard party in the sunshine. The afternoon went amazingly well… The sun was shining as hoped. There was just the slightest breeze.  The decorations were handcrafted and colourful. The snacks were made of local ingredients and individually portioned for easy toddler chasing. The wee ones played until they were soaking wet and filthy.  The sweets were plentiful. And Miss G had the time of her life… An afternoon filled with “yittle fwends”, tons of play,  2.5 “cupcakes”, Davison Orchard’s fresh-pressed apple juice, an endless supply of crackers and treats, and a generous sprinkling of hugs – for her, it just doesn’t get much better than that.

Since the party, she’s wanted to talk about it constantly.  “Mama talk (about) Grae Grae’s birf-day party?” is a request I now hear more times a day than I have fingers.  We discuss all of the details of the day, and inevitably end the conversation with a “More play yittle fwends, Mama?”  Yes, Babygirl… We’ll have your little friends over to play again sometime very soon.

Here is Miss G’s special afternoon in photos… (Be prepared. This may be the most photo heavy post of. all. time.  But I’m sure you already expected that, right?)

The Invitations:

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These simple little invites {along with almost all of the decorations} were made while we were in the Okanagan on vacation.  Using this free printable as a starting point, I sketched out what I wanted the invitations to look like and Bradley designed them using Photoshop.  Once they were designed, we printed them on Grandpa Dave’s colour laser printer, cut them out by hand, created homemade pouches for them, and punched out some pretty confetti to tuck into the pouches.

The Decor:

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This last minute little chalkboard greeted guests on our front porch and asked that they make their way around the side of the house.

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I crafted a few of these ribbon chandeliers out of embroidery hoops and wide grosgrain ribbon, and hung them up around the yard to dance in the breeze.

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Timeline Tree

Last year, I did a more traditional timeline of Gracen through the months, and although I loved how it turned out, this year I wanted something a little bit different…  I ended up deciding on a ‘timeline tree’.  We chose 2 photos for each month {from 13 to 24}, added the text using Photoshop, printed them, and hung them back to back using jute and curtain clips from IKEA that we already had on hand. And voila. Our plum tree instantly became a tree filled with memories of the past year.

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Across the way, in our fig tree, I hung the felt poms we had made for last year’s party, giving it just a touch of colour.  The beauty in not really having a colour scheme, is that everything goes. ☺

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On the main food table, we displayed the letters T-W-O I crafted with cardboard letters, tissue paper dots and Mod Podge.

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I also strung up one of the many fabric buntings I sewed for the occasion between two vintage apple crates that Grandma Charlotte’s family has had since she was a little girl. In the middle, I framed a copy of the birthday interview I did with Miss G on her real birthday so that guests could take a read.

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For an added touch, we picked a couple of the beautiful dahlias growing in our front garden and popped them into vintage mason jars that used to belong to Gracen’s Great Grandma Amy.

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Our photo booth backdrop consisted of a plain sheet {not very glamourously duct} taped up to the wall of our house, and a handmade fabric bunting strung across it.

The Snacks:

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Here’s a peek at the food table…  Since the party was from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., we stuck with snacks only and tried to keep them as portable as possible so that parents could munch and chase after their wee ones at the same time.  Also, although we had a separate table to baby/toddler friendly treats, I wanted to make sure that everything we served was Gracen friendly (save the desserts)…  Nothing more insulting than not being able to eat the food served at your own party!

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On top, a layer of hummus topped with fresh veggies, many from Grandma Charlotte’s garden.  On the bottom, individual layered bean dip cups {with homemade pita chips on the side}.

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Fresh berry cups.

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Okanagan cherry cups.

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Plums picked straight off our tree the night before.

Besides these snacks, we had individual fruit salsa cups with homemade maple cinnamon crisps, as well as brown paper bags of stove-top popcorn.

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For the adults, we served chilled lemonade and citrus iced tea in mason jar cups.

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We also had an ice water station, which the kids quickly discovered and had a blast playing with.

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At the toddler table, we served toddler trays (which included a variety of healthy bite-sized snacks), as well as fresh-pressed apples only apple juice from our favourite place in Vernon – Davison Orchard.

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And for the wee babes – purée pouches in a variety of flavours.

The Sweets:

Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of the desserts on the day of the party…  Not sure how I managed that one, but I’ll blame it on being busy I guess.  Fortunately, I took a is a couple of crumby photos the night before while I was baking into the wee hours of the morning.

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For the adults, I decided to try out these mini mason jar cheesecakes and I’m so glad I did. They were easy to make, easy to hand out, and out of the 20 I made, we were only left with 2 at the end {at a party with a total of 12 adult guests}.

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For the munchkins, I used Pioneer Woman’s vanilla cupcake recipe (I made them using 1/2 wholewheat flour), baked them in flat-bottomed ice cream cones (a trick I learned early in my Kindergarten teaching days – no wrappers to mess with and much easier for little ones to hold), and topped them with this {ridiculously rich} buttercream frosting, candy sprinkles, and fresh raspberries.  I also baked some regularly (sans the cone for adults that preferred cupcakes to cheese cake).

For Miss G, I whipped up this sugar-free banana muffin recipe (and added an extra banana, skipped the salt, and replaced the melted butter with grapeseed oil), baked some in a flat bottomed cone so it would look like the ones many of her friends were eating, and topped it with fresh whipped cream (made without added sugar – just a touch of vanilla) and a fresh raspberry on top.  I baked up the rest of the batch as regular muffins, and topped several of them with whipped cream and fresh raspberries for the other babes who don’t do sugar yet.

The Play Stations:

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Since first birthdays are often more about the adults than the wee ones, I wanted to make sure that this year’s party was all about play.  Messy, fun, noisy, old-fashioned play, just the way Miss G likes it.  I set the stations up all around the yard, making sure there was plenty of space and a little something for all different tastes.

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A big bucket of sidewalk chalk sat at the beginning of the path.

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A construction bin filled with pea gravel , tower building supplies, scoops, tractors, and a hardhat for the little builders.

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A cloud dough sensory bin for the wee ones who don’t mind getting messy.

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A gardening bin for the aspiring green thumbs.

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An ocean-themed bin for the little water lovers.

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And a coloured spaghetti sensory bin for the mini sous chefs.

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On the top of the grass knoll, there was a music making station that incorporated Gracen’s purchased music instruments, as well as several instruments that we’ve made together.

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Up on the cement pad, we set up a sidewalk chalk painting station using homemade paints.

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And on the other side of the yard, we used a hot water heater drip pan and this homemade bubble solution to create a ‘baby in a bubble’ station.

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We also had Grae’s pool blown up and filled with water and toys, as well as the sandbox filled with all sorts of moulds, buckets, scoops, and plastic dinosaur bones.

The Birthday Girl:

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After having a good hour and a half of quiet time in her room, we decided that the birthday girl was probably too excited to nap.  We got her up, lathered her with sunscreen, and she picked out a party dress and decided how she wanted her hair done.  Then it was time to head out into the backyard and get started on playing while we waited for her friends to arrive.

The Action:

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Gracen was beyond thrilled when her guests started to arrive.  Hugs and playmates = one very happy little girl in our house.

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Girls  Bubbles

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Although the whole ‘baby in a bubble’ thing was really hard to do in the beginning, the solution did make great big bubbles using regular wands, so I was glad I had picked them up the night before.

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All of the sensory bins, with the exception of the gardening one (which I don’t think even got touched), were a pretty big hit.

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The kiddos enjoyed digging for dinos in the sandbox.

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And the birthday girl made her rounds all afternoon.

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This little corner was put together with our littlest guest and Grae’s beloved friend, “Baby Tate”, in mind… Away from the action, in the shade, and filled with all of Grae’s favourite toys from when she was a baby.

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Before long, it was time to bust out the bikini and make a splash in the pool.

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Judging by our now beautifully decorated cement pad, the sidewalk  chalk paint was one of the favourites.

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The snacks, hugs, and company weren’t bad either…

Time for Cake:

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As you can see by Grae’s face, she wasn’t so sure about her ‘2’ sparkler…  Luckily she had her little friend Jaiden nearby.  I think her excitement and lack of worry made everything alright.  What did go over very well with Miss G, however, were the “cupcakes”.  Yes, cupcakeS.  She ate every single last bite of the one I’d baked in the cone for her, then demolished a second one, and made her way through half of another.  Two and a half muffins?!  Hey, when it’s your party, you’re allowed.

Better with Time:

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Jaiden in a Bubble

As the party went on and the bubble solution got handled more and more, the better the bubbles got (just like Jackie from Happy Hooligans said it would).  Our resident bubble expert, Jordan, was not only able to put both Gracen and Jaiden in bubbles, but he was also able to make bubbles that were seriously HUGE.

The Photo Booth:

Before leaving, we asked each of our guests to have their photos taken in our makeshift photo booth using the felt props I’d created for last year’s party.  Here they are…

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Ava and Jordan (somehow their parents made it without being in the photo… sneakers!)

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Auntie Brandie, Jackson, and Kevin.

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Auntie Silke and Ainsley.

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Grandma Charlotte and Uncle Brett.

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Tracy and Keagan.

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Auntie Steffie and Baby Tate.

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Jaiden and Cheri.

The Goodie Buckets:

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This was probably the part of the party Gracen looked forward to the most… Handing out her goodie buckets to her friends.  We’d collected little items for them for a long while and Grae was so excited about them that I’d made sure to really prep her about the fact that we’d be giving them away.  Thankfully, it worked like a charm and she was very happy {and proud} to hand them out at the end of the party.

To go with our backyard theme, the buckets were filled with a watering can and sidewalk chalk (all bought at Michael’s), as well as a big beach ball (purchased at Superstore), a mason jar of Bouncing Bubbles, and a bubble wand (purchased at our local teacher’s store).  The best part? (And I totally blame me being excited about this on the Ogasawaras, because before them I never really got that excited about a good deal…) At regular price, each of the 8 buckets would have cost well over 16 dollars, but because we started collecting early and found some great deals, each only cost around $4! (Crazy, right?)

And that was our afternoon.  Miss G loved it and we did too. It was the perfect way to celebrate our little girl turning two.

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26 thoughts on “Gracen’s {2nd} Backyard Birthday Bash

  1. This is possibly the most fabulous birthday ever! It looks like so much fun, no matter if you’re 2 or 62. And I’m borrowing your ribbon chandelier idea for the bay window in Amelia’s room, if that’s okay with you. It’s amazingly cute.

    1. Oh, why thank you! The oldest little guest, who just started Grade One this year, came up to me at the end and said, “This is the CRAZIEST party I’ve ever been too”. Not sure what he meant by it, but I took it as a compliment. 🙂

      And yes, it is MORE than okay with me if you use the ribbon chandelier idea. I actually remember seeing it online somewhere before… I’ll check my pins and see if I can come up with a link.

      1. Great! It’ll be a good September project, and I’ll take a picture when I’m all done. It might be worth posting on your shop – I bet others would love it, too.

        The kids are still commenting on how happy they are with the buntings – even my six year old son who decorates everything with lego. 🙂

  2. What an awesome party, Jen! I LOVE your “photo-heavy post”! From the cute little chalkboard sign on the front steps to the bunting-strung “photo booth”, you thought of EVERYTHING! Just beautiful! (and I’m glad you stuck with it and “worked in” those bubbles!)

    1. Aw, thanks, Jackie! It truly was a great afternoon! And thanks so much for mentioning that the bubbles get better with time on your post. As gross as it may be, I’ve saved the sand-filled “worked in” bubbles in milk jugs so we don’t have to start fresh with the working in bit for the remainder of the summer. 🙂

  3. Full of lovely ideas!! Luckily we’re a couple of months behind (my son is almost 1,5), so we have lots of time to think about implementing some of these ideas!

  4. Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What web host are you using?
    Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my
    site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  5. Hi I love these ideas. Could you tell me if you have any template that is printable to make some of the photo booth props as well as the envelope for the invitation?

  6. Wow this ja the best 2nd birthday party post i have read!!! Thank you so much for sharing! I am not as crafty as you but many of the ideas seem like something i can try and do. I absolutely love the blue stool with the lemon water statin where did you find that stool? And did you paint it yourself?

    Thanks again!

  7. That’s wonderful…is exactly What I was looking. Thanks to share grace birthday, my cló 2 birthday is in November, and I will start prepare now!

  8. Love this party! My daughter will be two this week and we are doing a similar outdoor event – was just looking for activities when I came across your lovely party ideas. I will be copying! Thanks!

  9. this is the most awesome idea ever. What a brilliant idea. This is truely a way a two year old can have fun. My daughter turns two in June for sure going to get started now. Thanks for the inspiration I was not planning on having a birthday till she was older and ask for one.

  10. Simply amazing!!! This party looks like so much fun! It was really motivating for me to view this and start to plan my sons birthday party. Thank you so much for sharing:)

  11. I’ve been looking for party ideas for my soon to be 2yr old. What a fantastic idea…. Love love love this! Will definitely be using a lot of your ideas. Thanks for sharing!.

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