I found my inspiration just after our visit to Zoo Atlanta while listening to a Stuff You Missed in History podcast 10 Historical Animals You Should Know. In this particular podcast Katie and Sarah detail bizarre historical collections of animals such as The London Menagerie and Pablo Escobar's hippos.
Isla loved the zoo and the idea of a vintage zoo birthday party struck me as fun and age appropriate while still lending itself to financially manageable, but fabulous, details and decor. Then when Awesome bought the new house it just happened to have a castle tree fort in the backyard that just screamed Menagerie!
The backyard is monstrous and I wanted to define an area for the finger food table. Awesome and I threaded a piece of PVC pipe thru the top seam of a flat white sheet flanked by two red sheets and suspended them from the trees for a nice little backdrop. I covered the table in a white sheet and a red fitted sheet. I wanted these to mimic the vintage tents/stages you might see at an historical zoo or carnival.
And then I topped the table with toddler friendly finger foods: PB&J, fruit, rice krispie treats, mini caramel apples, and cupcakes...what's a birthday party without cupcakes?
The mini caramel apples were the biggest hit. My mom and I used a melon baller to scoop balls of apple from granny smith apples. Then we stuck half a lollipop stick into the skin and dipped the exposed flesh of the apple ball into peanut butter that had be warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Mini cupcake wrappers made the perfect resting place. I decided to use peanut butter in place of caramel because a) it's healthier for the kids, b) it sticks to the apple better.
Awesome grilled hot dogs.
He also insisted on his own hat after he saw the hat I made for Isla. If you can't read it, it says AWESOME.
Here is Isla's hat, and before we leave the topic of "party food", the cake. With all the other prep work I had to do, I decided to go with a store bought cake. I picked this up at Wal-mart the night before the party. It matched perfectly and it was $6. The penguins I cut with my cricut and taped to toothpicks to make a fun cake topper. Behind them I strung a bunting from the two red candles. The cake stand I wanted to use was too short and a bit unimpressive on the table, flanked by the elephant and the walrus cut outs. So I turned another cake stand upside down and set the white one on top. I arranged strawberries around the stems to beef up the base and add more color and texture to the centerpiece.
I designed all of the printable hats, food labels, and pennants. I thought I was being economical while still getting exactly what I wanted. Printing them ended up costing a small fortune in ink, but I was too invested in the decor by then. Next year I will use printables more sparingly. Lesson learned.
I made up little baggies of animal crackers and finger puppets as party favors. And I even printed tiny hats for all of Isla's stuffed animals. I hauled them all outside and set the up around the yard...this is a zoo after all.
Even some of the party-goers came dressed as animals. Signs on the table reminded everyone it was OK to feed the animals.
Presley's crazy crafty mommy made her zebra outfit...out of duct tape! Yes, that is white duct tape. How clever is that? And economical too!
We had fun with our friends and played in the bubbles from a cheap little bubble machine.
And we ate cake. I didn't intend for this to be a smash cake, but Isla had other plans...
I made her skirt and sewed little rosettes on her shirt made from some left over chiffon. It wasn't terribly difficult...but for those contemplating making a petticoat tutu, it's a huge undertaking. I will go ahead and say that it's probably worth it to just buy one on Etsy. I now make Isla wear it every chance we get so I feel like I'm getting back the oodles of time I put into it.
I plan on editing the party printables to be less personalized and making them available (FREE!) to my readers in the near future...but knowing me that will probably be six months from now. For now, you can download what I have finished here.
Do you have a birthday coming up? What are you planning? Do you go WAY overboard like I do, or are you more apt to throw up a few streamers and blow up balloons? Can you attest to being buried under a mountain of chiffon? Tell me all about it!