Mermaid Party

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You know how it is with second children—they seem to get a little less than their first born siblings. Less photos, more handmedowns, etc. With Viola we had birthday parties every year. In hindsight, I wasn’t sure that that was time, money, or effort well spent as those early parties she didn’t really enjoy or even remember. With Eva I decided that we would only do “big” parties from age 5-9 (10 and beyond I figured both girls would be wanting to do slumber parties instead of the themed extravaganza’s we’d been having). The early parties with Eva were simple family affairs. We got our cute photos of her eating cake or smashing an ice cream sundae and that was that. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

All was going well until a few months before Eva’s 4th birthday when she started planning her party—herself! She began telling anyone who would listen (grandmas, nanny, preschool teachers) all about the birthday party she was going to have when she turned 4, and they relayed the information to me much to my surprise. She was very particular: it would be an Ariel birthday party, with fish balloons, and a “tall, tall, tall” fish cake, and Ariel and Prince Eric would be there, too. Suffice to say, this was all news to me. But she was so adamant about it and so adorably particular that I just couldn’t help but break my own rule. And so we had an Under-the-Sea themed birthday party!

(For more ideas, you can check out my Pinterest Inspiration board here).


Room Decorations

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Room Wraps – I am a big fan of room wraps because they’re an inexpensive way to really transform a space. We like to cover our bookshelves in our party room with a room wrap to keep the kids from touching the knick-knacks on them. For the Under-the-sea party we found ocean themed room wraps which we added a coral reef overlay to.

Seaweed – I used twisted green crete paper to create seaweed around the room, too.

Fish, Fish everywhere – I bought several types of paper and inflatable fish which we strung from the helium balloons overhead, and attached to the walls. We found helium balloons in various fish shape, including sea turtles and dolphins, which we let loose in our high-ceiling’d room. I attached green streamers to the strings to look like seaweek and enhance that “under the sea” feel. Small clear and blue balloons (half inflated) served as bubbles.

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Sunken pirate ship – We reused the pirate ship from our pirate & princess party as well, and pretended it was a “sunken ship”.

Ariel’s Grotto - We covered the fireplace in fishnet and re-used some of the pirate treasure from our Pirate&Princess party to create Ariel’s “grotto”, complete with inexpensive candelabra full of silverware of course!

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Table settings – We reused the spindle tables (honestly, those things have gotten so much use!), with Ariel-themed tablecloths and more fishnet. I also found fish confetti which we sprinkled about. We re-used the stacked clear dishes as centerpieces that we had from our Frozen party, which I filled with seashells, and the shabby chic teacups/teapots from our Pirate/Princess party as well.

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BUBBLE MACHINE – no under the sea party would be complete without a BUBBLE MACHINE. I personally hate bubbles (gasp!) but when I commit to a theme I commit 100%!


Treats / Food

Buffet - The buffet included starfish sandwiches (PP&J cut with a star shaped cookie cutter), “SeaFoam” (blue cotton candy), candy sushi, seaweed grape kebobs, goldfish served with a fishnet, clam cookies, seaweed salad, a watermelon sharp, blue jello cups with happy banana dolphins, and more! I found cute sea creature kabob sticks which I liberally stuck into all the food!

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Cake - The bakery where we usually get our birthday cakes had gone out of business a few months before our Ariel party. Our friend Becky offered to make the cake and WOW! did she outdo herself! I bought ready-made blue icing and a variety of sugar fish; because Ariel is Eva’s favorite character, we already had on hand lot so Ariel decorations from her doll set that we were able to use for the cake. Becky used crushed nilla wafers to make the sandy sea floor bootom and green sour straws for seaweed. BEST.CAKE.EVER!

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FUN & GAMES

Facepainting - Eva remembered the facepainter we had had for her sister’s party, and this was one of the details she’d ‘planned’. She wanted everyone to have mermaid scales facepaint. Unfortunately, since we were planning this party super last minute Cindy was unavailable, but with the help of the internet and a little experimentation I figured out how to get the mermaid scale effect using fishnet stockings and blue/green face paint!

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Storytime – Prince Eric and Ariel came for storytime and to visit with the kids and to take photos. The kids LOVED chatting with them and singing along to some of their favorite songs. 

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Games – The kids played a variety of games to fill their goody bags with prizes. We had octopus ring-toss, magnetic fishing, and ducks floating in water like at the carnival (does that game have a name?), as well as crab sandbox that the kids could dig through and keep the treasure that they found (reused from our pirate party). Once again: sand throughout my house for weeks, but SO WORTH IT!

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GOODIE BAGS / PRIZES

Each girl received a sandbucket to collect the goodies she won in the carnival-style games (every one was a winner!), which included seashells with fish and seashell shaped soaps/bath fizzies (fishing station), mermaid-themed rubber duckies (duckie station), seashell necklaces (ring toss station), pirate treasure (sand station), and fish-themed candy from the buffet.

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 Re-use is a big theme in our house and part of how we are able to have such “big” decorated parties is by creatively reusing and recombining elements from other parties. The Mermaid party was two months before our Luau party, so a lot of the same decorations were re-used for that party, which helped me justify the cost knowing that they’d be used at least twice. At the time of writing this post they’ve gone on to be used 3 more times… for Eva’s Moana party, Viola’s Jungle Cruise party, and as set decorations for a community theater play the girls were in!

I’m so glad I “gave in” and let Eva have a party a year early. She still talks about her Mermaid party. I learned lots from this party – how to facepaint, and how to bake tiered cakes! – and have so many great memories! 

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Photography by: Natalie Gelman Photography

Prince Eric / Princess Ariel: Magical Memories Entertaiment

Ruffle Dresses from: HotTotsCoolKids on Etsy (and reused on many Disney trips!)

Decorations & prizes were purchased from OrientalTrading, PartyCheap and Amazon.

Birthday Parties

The first birthday party we threw for my daughter was at a local "Princess Tea Party" place and we quickly realized that partying "out" was not for us. We preferred to celebrate at home, with a small number of close friends. But my girls also like big, elaborate, themed events (they're Disney spoiled, and so am I!) so our parties tend to get a little over-complicated.

I made a deal with each girl that they could have exactly 5 of these over-the-top shin digs each --- from the ages of 5-9. Before 5 and it's more work than it's worth, and by 10, I figure they'll be into slumber parties: I'll order a pizza and rent a movie and they'll have to take it from there themselves. In the meantime, I'm enjoying playing hostess and party decorator. I do try to keep them as thrifty as possible, though I'll admit that it's hard sometimes with all the enticing ideas on PINTEREST! It's my achilles heel!!

Now that I have two girls in the 5-9 bracket, which means 2 parties per year, it's a bit more overwhelming, but again it's just a small sliver in time so I'm happy to give them each 5 parties that they'll always, always remember!

Below is a list of the themed parties we have thrown! Enjoy!


2012 - Tea Party Castle (away from home - coming soon!)


2013 - Pirates & Princess Party (coming soon!)


2014 - Frozen-themed Party, feat. Elsa and Anna! (details here!)


2015 - Luau feat. Polynesian Dancers! (details here!)


2015 - Mermaid Party feat. Ariel and Prince Eric! (coming soon!)


2016 - American Girl Grace-themed Paris/Cupcake Party (coming soon!)


#throwbackthursday: Best of Facepainting

Yesterday I wrote about our trip to the Michigan Renaissance Festival. Late in the afternoon the girls chose to spend the remainder of their souvenir money on face painting - surprise! Both girls have a thing for getting their faces painted (I guess most kids do)--- the bigger, and more colorful the better! At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old person: they call that facepainting? In my day they plopped a heart on your cheek and sent you on your way!

Ever since the great facepainting fiasco of 2011, I've made sure to get a picture while the facepaint is fresh, to comfort them when it inevitably gets smudged/wiped/cleaned/showered away. For #tbt I dug out some pictures our favorite past facepaintings! Enjoy!


2014: Michigan Renaissance Festival 


2013: Princess and Pirate Birthday Party

For Viola's 5th birthday we toyed around with the idea of hiring a singing princess for her party but decided instead to hire a local facepainter. It was more affordable and something that all the kids enjoyed, boys and girls! The artist we hired did a great job of matching the colors to the girls' princess dresses and making surly pirate faces for the boys, and even had time to decorate a few of the parents! It was a lot of fun and I would definitely do it again!  (Photos by our good friend, Adam at BreakfastWithAdam and facepainting by the very talented Cindy at Curlie's Face Art.)



2011: Animal Kingdom, Disney World

On our very first trip to Disney World, Viola was given $10 in Disney dollars (you know, the ones with Mickey on them instead of a president?) to spend any way she wanted. About 1/2 way through the trip she decided to spent the entire amount to get her face painted while we waited for the parade. This in and of itself was fine, it was a good way to keep her occupied while we waited. Unfortunately, on that trip, Viola developed an absolute terror of the public restrooms with the "magic potties". When it was time for her to go, she cried and cried... and cried all the facepaint off, then cried some more over the ruined facepaint. All-in-all, it was the absolute worst day of our trip. It was ironic, therefor, that when we returned home and saw these pictures for the first time... they are some of my favorites from that trip! The facepainting was absolutely beautiful, even if it only lasted ten minutes!

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Anna & Elsa make an appearance

Disney World has skewed my daughter's expectations for quality. It's a fact. And it's the reason why I've held off on hiring performers for our birthday parties even though it's tempting. We pretty much treat Disney Face Characters the same way we do Santa Clause: so long as the girls believe they are real we try to craft their experiences in such a way as to maintain that illusion for as long as possible.

We were just in Disney World in October for Halloween, and missed the debut of Anna & Elsa in EPCOT Norway by TWO HOURS! TWO HOURS people! After days of carrying the girls' FROZEN costumes with us just in case... it's cool, whatever, I'm not bitter. Viola wasn't too terribly disappointed--- after all, we saw Cinderella, Rapunzel, had tea with Aurora.... but once the movie came out in November it was all she could talk about. By December she was begging to go back to Disney for just one day so she could meet Elsa... 

I decided to look into the options for hiring performers in our area. Because she wouldn't have anything to compare them to, having not met the official theme park actresses, I figured it was safe-ish. So, I googled. Risky, I know.

I found The Enchanted Princess Party and started emailing with the owner. They had a Snow Queen costume and had been considering adding a Sister Princess option to their repertoire. I like to think I gave them the impetus for that. I could tell the owner had a high standard for quality and attention to detail and so I took a chance--- Not to spoil the ending or anything, but that leap of faith was rewarded many times over with an awesome, amazing, spectacular, memorable experience! 

But first, I wanted to share a few details of how we went about 'setting the stage' before the party, because I think that that was part of the magic for the girls. After we scheduled for Elsa and Anna to join our party, I worked with the princesses on how the party would run. I had a few ideas and they had some great suggestions and together we put together an itinerary I was really happy with (you can read more about that here)!

Casually, I started talking to Viola about the sisters---- not unlike talking about Santa's Elves and the Naughty-and-Nice list at Christmas. I waited until the next time she mentioned not having been able to met them on our Halloween trip and opportunely suggested that she write a letter. She dictated her letter to me, then rewrote it in her own handwriting. She drew Anna's castle and Elsa's castle, addressed the envelope to Disney World and put it in the mailbox.

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Did you know that you can actually send letters to the Disney Princesses and your child will get a card back? It's pretty cool! But that wasn't our intention with this exercise. I snatched the envelope out of the mailbox when she was asleep and re-addressed it to our friends over at The Enchanted Princess Party. They brought the mailed letter with them to the house the day of the party, claiming to have received it and flown all the way to Michigan for the party! Proof!

Viola has since met other Frozen princess performers at classmate's parties, but always gives me the sly wink-wink that those aren't the real princesses, and that she knows the difference because the real princesses came from Disney World. (Possibly, I've passed on my gullible genes!)

So how did the actual party go down? 

I had told Viola it was unlikely that the princesses could come even though she'd written a letter because they were all the way down at Disney World and very busy. On the day of the party I gathered all the girls together in the 'ballroom' and began reading them the FROZEN storybook. We were just nearing the end when our storytime was interrupted by none other than the characters themselves! 

Really good listeners... 

Really good listeners... 

Our special guests arrive!

Our special guests arrive!

That face! Right there! :-)

That face! Right there! :-)

The sisters sat at the head table and led the girls through a proper tea party / proper princess lesson that included curtsying and table manners after which the kids all gathered around and sang the two songs from the movie: 'For the First Time in Forever' and 'Let it Go'. This was where I was utterly blown away. Turns out, the princesses could sing. I mean, really really sing! You don't expect any product or service that you find through a random Google search to be better than advertised, but that was the case here! Keep in mind that I have very high standards and am almost impossible to impress... most people I've shared the video with think they are lip syncing but I promise you that that is all them! They were AMAZING!  And then, to top it all off, as the finale to 'Let it Go' Elsa made it snow! In our house! Check it out!!!

I don't know what we'll do next year that could possibly be as wonderful as this party was. As I was tucking Viola in to bed that night she said, "Mom, I'm glad Anna and Elsa could come to my party. It didn't start out so good, but then it got better."  I asked her what she meant that it didn't start out so good, and she had these sage words to share: "They interrupted your story! That was very rude. A princess should never, ever be rude. But we can forgive them because they were very nice and didn't mean to be rude to you."  

Princess manners, folks! Best of all, it bought me a brief reprieve on requests for another trip to Disney World for the moment!

Lots of people have asked about the performers from our party and I'm happy to recommend them without reservation. They are available for Michigan and New York City. If you are lucky enough to be able to book them for your event I'm sure they will make it a memorable day for your child as well. 

A Very FROZEN Birthday Party

For her 5th birthday, Viola had an really fun Princess & Pirates party. But for her 6th she had informed me she didn't want to do princesses again (because QUOTE "we did that LAST year.") and wanted to have a Luau theme instead. 

I was pretty excited about a Luau party. There are some pretty cool sandcastle cake designs on Pinterest and I'd started looking for someone who could teach the girls how to Hula dance. There would be tropical flowers and coconut cups and surfboard decorations and.... we could probably re-use the seashells and raft from last year's pirate decorations...

....and then FROZEN hit theaters.

I knew the movie would be big in our house as soon as I saw the previews: TWO princesses, an older one blond and a younger one brunette?  It was as if Disney designed the movie specifically to strip the money out of my pockets.  

Suffice to say, the Luau party plans were tossed aside in Viola's mind the minute she stepped out of the theater and princesses were BACK ON! Fortunate for me, this was in November. I was able to take advantage of the post-holiday clearance sales and picked up a ton of snowflake and winter-themed decorations at rock bottom prices. It was a little strange to decorate the house with snow in April, when we were all so desperately ready for spring, but the party was beautiful and the kids had a great time "bringing back summer!" (which was the theme of our games). 

If you'd like a little more backstory on our party preparations, please read the separate posts:

Tiny Tables

Making Kristoff's Costume

Decorations & Foodstuffs (coming soon)

Itinerary: Games & Gifts (coming soon)

Special Guests

So, now that you know how we got here, you probably want to know how the party went?  Well, in short, it was AWESOME! I'll just let the images speak for themselves!