Carnival Birthday Party: Food and Tablescape

So yesterday I wrote about what I learned throwing my first kids’ party, and today I’ll get specific on some of the details.  The most important detail, of course: FOOD.

I wanted to keep things simple, and the party was held at four in the afternoon so I wasn’t exactly responsible for feeding people dinner or anything.  Keeping with the carnival theme, we served all finger foods. I didn’t even have flatware on the table!  Here was the menu we decided on for Jude’s Big Top Circus Birthday Extravaganza:

  • hot dogs (We chose kosher, all-beef since that’s kind of where we are on our “food journey.”)
  • corn dogs (So not healthy or kosher, but I bought them from our warehouse store here and they were fast and easy in the oven.)
  • sandwiches – chicken salad; sunbutter & jelly (for 2 peanut allergy kids who were there)
  • Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies(First time I tried them and they were delicious!)
  • fruit sticks (just bites of melon, grapes, and pineapple on a skewer)
  • chocolate-covered pretzels (I used store-bought chocolate candy coating.)
  • cupcakes! (more on those later)
  • various classic and colorful candies to go with the circus theme

So for the general tablescape and basic look of things, I wanted to go bright and celebratory. I was also careful to use varying heights on the table with the cupcakes, pretzels, and the lollipops.  The cupcake stand is this basic one by Wilton, and I love it!  I can reuse it again and again for any birthday parties or showers I host and just redecorate it each time.  To decorate it, I used scrapbook paper I found on clearance at Hobby Lobby and simple blue grossgrain ribbon.  I had a hard time getting the ribbon to stick at first, but when I decided to use Elmer’s traditional school glue, it worked easily and washed right off.

table details

Food labels are necessary for me, and I know that allergy mamas especially appreciate them.  I hate being at a function and not so sure about what you are putting in your mouth.  I found a circus font online and downloaded it for free, and I used it on the invitations and all of the signs and food labels at the party.  There are a ton of free simple graphics and fonts if you look for them online.

table details

For the added color and backdrop to my table scape, I used bright red wrapping paper from the dollar store  and topped it with a blue tablecloth from the dollar store as well.  We folded that tablecloth like a runner and topped all of that with $1 confetti and voila!  Three whole dollars and the table is done.

the spread

We also had a candy corner because what carnival doesn’t have sweets?  I bought all of the glass containers from (you guessed it…) the dollar store, and I racked up on candy there as well.  I chose candy that was either colorful or nostalgic or both – Mary Janes and Sugar Daddies for retro flair; gumballs, jolly ranchers, and ring pops for color.  The oversized lollipops I found at Oriental Trading Company for pretty cheap. I set out a few treat bags I had from a shower I hosted once and encouraged guests to take some home.  Luckily, almost all of it disappeared and I am only left with about 10 lollipops, but I’m thiking I can use them to adorn birthday packages this year.

table details

table details

Lastly, the cupcakes!  I went back and forth SO MANY times about what kind to make because I wanted something different and a variety.  Because we took a trip to the apple orchards a couple of weeks ago and because nothing says fall like apple cinnamon, I finally settled on apple cupcakes with cream cheese icing.  For variety, I also baked Ina Garten’s chocolate cupcakes (my old reliable favorite!) and topped them with homemade buttercream frosting.  I baked them all the night before and iced them in about 15  minutes shortly before the party.  It honestly took the same amount of time as calling to order a cake and going to pick it up.  So simple.

table details

I also found some awesome toppers on Etsy that added a special touch.  Some of them even had his name!


Did you know that even a simple grocery store cake is something like $40?  All together, I would estimate the cupcakes and toppers were something like $20, and they were cute, tasty, and personable.  At the end of the day, we fed a crowd of about 35 people on less than $100 including tableware!  An accomplishment in frugality for sure.

Tomorrow I’ll post on details and decorations – my favorite part of the party!


For other posts about this carnival birthday party, see my archives here, here, or here.

Making Progress

Big news around here.  You can see my dining room table again.  That thing that has been cluttered with craft projects for weeks? That’s a table?

I have no shame.

Yep.  Sad but true. I really didn’t want to post that photo for fear of looking like a slob, but in the effort of honesty and full disclosure, there you have it.  Jude’s Big Top Circus Carnival Birthday Extravaganza has turned into the DIY party of the decade for two reasons: 1. I love to craft and now that I am not grading papers, I have time.  Yay!  2. Now that I am not grading papers, we have quite the restricted income, and doing things yourself is almost always cheaper.

So Scott never says anything to me about the state of things round here.  With the exception of my craft room, I mean the formal dining room that is hardly ever used anyhow, I try to keep things livable.  But he left for Toronto earlier this week, and was like, Ummm.  Could you maybe, I mean if you are done, could you just maybe get around to cleaning that room.  It’s scary in there. I would have argued, but then I saw the mess, and he was right.  After that, I realized I needed to work hard to get some projects finished this week during naptimes.

So I have a little paper crafting left to do, but the sewing is all finished, and now my table looks like it should.  Ahhhhh.  Clean slate.

(This is a pretty fall leafy thing, but it totally looks like Christmas in this photo somehow.)

Anyway, my crafting conquests are close to finished and it feels good to see that the ridiculous month-long mess wasn’t for nothing.  I finished the 30 pennant flags in all sorts of colors (although I haven’t photographed them.)  I also finished the paper mustaches we are using for the photo booths if guests feel like being silly.

I designed and printed the favor labels on my scrapbooking program.

And last but not least, I made Jude’s birthday shirt.  (It’s a combination of freezer paper stenciling and applique.  Awesome tutorials here and here.  If you use the right kind of Heat n’ Bond, you can do this if you don’t even sew!)

The close up of the patch reveals that the paint got kinda smudgy because I put it on too thick.  It’s far from perfect, but I love that it looks all baby boy, rough-and-tumble with it’s patchy, bright, primary colors and casual sort of look.  I hope he forgives me one day for forcing him to match the decorations at his birthday party.

Last but not least, this great post inspired me to do a little fall decorating inside the house this year, rather than my usual protocol which is throwing a wreath on the door and digging out the pumpkin spice candle.  I usualy avoid indoor fall decor because our living room is blue and that doesn’t go too well with many earth tones, and I also hate that a-scarecrow-threw-up-on-my-doorstep style that you see so often.  When I saw this simple elegance and understated autumn look though, I decided to jump right in.  I’m happy with the cozy final result and it cost me about $25 at Hobby Lobby.  Win!  It’s simple, but it’s enough to make me crave spice cake, warm cider, and long sleeves.  I’m thinking I might do a little more next year.  Yay for online inspiration.

On that subject, it’s about 90 degrees every afternoon here in hot Atlanta, by the way, but we are pretending it’s fall.  Beer and football on the agenda here today – and maybe some reading and crafting for me.  Happy weekending!  Enjoy the time with your friends and family.

Easy Toddler Finger Food – Banana Wontons

Lately I am on a never-ending quest to find finger foods Jude can eat so that this kid gets a little variety along the way.  He’d be happy with Cheerios and diced fruit, but I’d like to get his taste buds used to more.  Generally speaking, we just chop up whatever is on our plates and share, but every now and then it’s nice for him to have his own thing.  Portable foods are especially helpful in restaurants when you need some entertainment for the long wait before food gets to the table.

Enter ready-made wonton wraps.

These are available in any grocery store, usually near the tofu for some reason. An entire pack is only about $3, and it includes something like 50 shells.  You purchase them refrigerated, but you can freeze any unused portion if you’d like.  I threw together some banana wontons yesterday, and I’m already brainstorming on what other goodness I could stuff in there.


First melt some butter in a pan.  Yes, butter for my 11 month old.  He’s young, not without taste.

(If there is one lesson I learned from my Grandmother it’s that butter makes everything better.  And a little won’t hurt anyone.)

Next chop up bananas and throw them in the pan.  Stir them up till they are all mushy and use the back of a spoon to smoosh them if needed.  Add a dash of cinnamon if you want.

Next lay the wonton shells on a parchment-lined sheet. Spoon a little banana goodness on each one.

Then you fold them over, seal with a fork. And if you’re like me, don’t stress over the mess or looks of it if some squirts out.  (If you want it to look better, brush with some water to seal and shine it.)  Throw them in a 350 oven and cook until they brown a tiny bit – maybe 25 minutes?  I’m still experimenting on this.

When they are done, they look like this and taste delicious.

I might have stolen one.  Or three.

For an older toddler, they can hold it and munch from there.  For Jude, I am still in the pinching phase, but their portability is handy nonetheless.  I’m already thinking of what else I can put in these – broccoli and cheese, turkey or chicken, sweet potatoes, crushed beans or peas……Endless possibilities!

Jude loved them and they are easy, cheap, nutritious, and handy.  Win!  What’s your favorite finger food for kids or for grown-ups?