Friday, May 17, 2013

Emerson's party

Although I lost many hours of sleep preparing for Emerson's party—brainstorming, stressing out, feeling overwhelmed, getting excited—I have to say that it was worth it! I put time and energy into the details more as a celebration of what Alex and I had survived and accomplished, but was pleasantly surprised to see that Emerson thoroughly appreciated it, as well. I am pretty sure it was the best day of her life. I mean, she was the center of attention, there was so much entertainment, she got to climb on and rip open piles of presents, and her parents let her make an enormous mess with a cupcake. By the end of the party she was flat out screeching with delight at the top of her lungs, jumping and flapping her arms…she was totally crazy, but in a good way. And all of it made me so happy. It was incredible to watch a room full of people love her….and for her to receive it all.

I didn't get a chance to take many photos of the party details that I spent months researching, pinning, hand making and trolling Etsy for. Yes, I'd say I put just about as much effort into this party as I did for my wedding, only on a shorter timetable! Here are a few of the details….

My jumping off point was this beautiful banner that I knew I wanted to use. Originally, I was going to make one myself, but mamas don't have endless amounts of time. Enter Etsy. I bought the banner from Starlit Nest Gifts—beautiful shop, highly recommend. It made me feel good knowing that it was still handmade—even if they weren't my hands—and I can't speak highly enough of the quality.

Next I added another ever-popular party choice: stripped paper straws in mason jars. I know it seems like everyone these days is using these themes, but I happen to think vintage-y bunting banners and paper straws in mason jars are just so lovely no matter how often I see them.

In addition to framed photos placed on all the tables, I posted a mini clothesline (a combination of ideas from Pinterest with my own spin) displaying photos from each month of Emerson's life. I used baker's twine in hot pink and aqua (party theme colors) for the mini clothesline from the same Etsy shop I purchased the straws and matching cupcake liners from. By the way, I will be using Cakes and Kids Too in the future for my party needs—amazing selection of party decor items! Check them out!

I attached the photos to the "clothesline" with hot pink Washi tape (Michael's purchase)—super simple and inexpensive.

We did a brunch hors' d'oeuvres buffet with mini pancake stacks (with whipped cream and strawberry topping) and mushroom spinach quiche cups. My amazing husband made little flag toppers for the pancake stacks using bamboo skewers (cut in half) and leftover Washi tape (thanks, honey!). This is not a photo of our actual pancake stacks, but they looked just like this: 

The last bit I will share about was one of my main birthday concerns: the big (cup)cake smashing tradition. I wanted to give Emerson the chance to have fun with this, but I had two concerns. My first concern being that I didn't feel too excited about going from one extreme to another—Emerson has never had any sugar, but I'd then be giving her a huge, concentrated bomb of it. So, I wanted to make cupcakes that utilized some form of natural sweetness and no added sugar. There will be plenty of time for real sugar, after all.

My second concern was introducing new foods one at a time. Given her strong family history of food allergies, Emerson has not had any dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, or wheat/gluten yet. So, I needed a cake that was allergy-free and sugar-free. Not the easiest kind of cake to make! After trying a few recipes I found on blogs and Pinterest, I settled on a Vegan Carrot Cake (original recipe found here- but I modified it). In trying out recipes, though, I determined that the ingredient that makes allergy-free treats still TASTE GOOD is SUGAR. Yes, they taste horrible without it. Sigh. So, I resolved to allow my child to have a tiny bit of sugar by adding a thin layer of homemade maple buttercream frosting (dairy-free but can be made with real butter, too) on top of her sugar-free cupcake. Recipes below...

healthy vegan carrot cake muffins
makes 6 muffins 

  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I like Bob's Red Mill or Namaste Foods)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 cup + 1/8 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup organic carrots, grated
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar-free applesauce (I prefer to make this myself- steam, then puree the apples)

  1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  2. Line muffin trays with liners.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Fold in the grated carrot and applesauce. 
  4. Scoop the batter into baking cups and bake for about 10 minutes, or until done. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.

dairy-free maple buttercream frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter substitute (I use Earth Balance Coconut Spread-amazing!)

  1. Soften butter.
  2. Add all ingredients to a bowl or Kitchen Aid.
  3. Beat until smooth and creamy.

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