October 2, 2015

Royal Puppy Party

Theme:  Royal Puppy Party

For my daughter's second birthday, I merged her two favorite things:  puppies and princesses.  I originally planned on a puppy party because my daughter loves puppies (and because I had a ton of dog bowls left from my son's Paw Patrol Party).  Then, right before her second birthday, my daughter discovered princess dresses and dress up.  She had so much fun dressing up and covering herself in pretend jewels.

For a two year old birthday, I try to pick a theme that has to do with a toy or activity the child enjoys. My thought is that most two year olds don't really understand that it is their birthday party, so my goal is just for the birthday kid to have a blast.  For my son's second birthday, I did a train theme because he loved to play with trains.  So for my daughter - I needed to figure out how I was going to merge puppies and princesses/dress-up.  I saw a lot of cute ideas for Palace Pets parties, but my daughter didn't really know what they were.

I ended up going with a Royal Puppy Party.  I imagined the party as a puppy party at a princess's house, where all her royal friends come to play with puppies and have fun.  Maybe it was a bit of a stretch for a theme - but my daughter had a blast!

You can check out my pinspiration here.

Guest List and Birthday Rotations

I love to throw parties, but I hate making a guest list.  I am a big believer of the more the merrier.  However, as much as I love opening my doors to everyone who is important to me, it can be exhausting and expensive to throw a large party for over 100 people for every birthday, especially now that I have two kids.

Then someone mentioned a great idea - the birthday rotation.  Each year, one kid gets a big party, and the other gets a smaller party (a family party or a class party) or special vacation or day trip.  Both kids are celebrated, but there is only one big party a year.  For the big party, I invite my kid's friends and mine.  For the smaller party, I invite just family and/or my kid's friends from school.  It seemed like a good idea (and it was really nice to throw a small party - so much easier to throw and so much easier to enjoy and talk to everyone), but I have to admit, I really wished that I had invited some of our closest friends too.  I was too caught up in not wanting to hurt feelings that I figured it was better not to set clear lines and not invite just some of our friends.  Next time I do a small party, I will include our closest friends.  It really wasn't the same without them.


I used Paperless Post for the invite.  I am a fan of the paper invite, but no one RSVPs to them anymore, and they are expensive.  I like Paperless Post because it is a little fancier than evite.  They have great designs, or you can just pick one of their photo layouts, and you can upload a digital image of your own (or a purchased one from etsy) to serve as the invite.  You can do a free invite, or you can play a small fee to have something a little more special.  I also like the digital invite, because I digital scrapbook, and I can easily add the digital image of the invite to my kids' scrapbooks.

The invite said "Princess [name] requests your presence at a Royal Puppy Party in honor of her Second Year of Reign"

I also asked guests to "Dress in their royal best."  My daughter's friends wore adorable princess dresses and the boys dressed fancy like princes.  I found this special princess dress for my daughter.  It looked so beautiful on her, and while it was more than I would normally spend on a dress-up dress, it was still more reasonable then the Disney dresses.  She still enjoys wearing it for dress-up.


I wanted a generic princess party, and I did not want to focus on a particular Disney princess (especially because I figure that with my daughter, there is a chance I will be throwing a different variation of a princess party for the next 5-7 years).  When I was looking online for inspiration for princess parties, the Princess Sofia colors stuck out to me the most.  I though the colors looked so pretty together, so I decided on a purple and pink color scheme.

I always like to do decorate our front door somehow.  It is the first impression of the party and it sets the theme.  I was tempted to go overboard and create a grand entrance - like a drawbridge, but I had to remind myself, this was the "small" party.  I toned it down and went with a simple royal crest with my daughter's first initial on it (which is now hanging in my daughter's room).

I wanted the decor to be fancy and "royal."  I planned to make elegant centerpieces from purple and pink roses and white hydrangeas with tiaras on each centerpiece.  I planned to line up tables with lavender linens and the centerpieces in my yard to follow the pink and purple theme.  Unfortunately, it rained, so we had to move the party indoors (did I mention how lucky I was that it was a very small party).  With the party indoors, I did not have enough room for all the tables I planned to use.  Since I already had the flowers (and no tables to put them on), I made a couple centerpieces for the kitchen table and to place around our living room, and I made some arrangements for the food tables.

To add some sparkle to the party, I stuck rhinestones to the base of the forks, knives, and spoons:  

Sparkle Station - Favor

The "centerpiece" of the party was the Sparkle Station.  I love the idea of allowing kids to dress up at a party to get into the theme.  We have been to a lot of parties where the hostess graciously provide the guests with costumes, but I could not figure out an affordable way to give out princess dresses.  I decided to ask the guests to come dressed in their royal best, and I provided accessories.

Pure joy is watching my daughter's face while she covers herself in toy necklaces and bracelets.  I figured the other kids might enjoy it as much as my daughter.

I had tiaras and crowns for our guests (I had more than enough for al the adults too):

I got a variety of necklaces (mostly from Party City, but also from here).  I placed them on a necklace holder I already had.  I put the necklace holder on a lazy Susan (which was covered by tablecloths and napkins), so that the guests could spin them around to pick which ones they wanted:

I also made pendants with my kids using mod podge shapes, glitter mod podge, and jumbo jewels, and ribbon (from Michaels).  I hung them on a towel rack we had from one of our bathrooms.  

I was going for a Princess Sofia-like amulet look.  (Click here to see where I got the idea, and for full instructions on how to make them).  They were a little hard for my 2 year old to help with, but my almost-5 year old loved making these with me.

I also had an assortment of bracelets.  I went with jelly bracelets and slap bracelets.  I also found some fun sequin bracelets.  I tried to stay away from any beaded jewelry because I was worried if any of it broke there would be choking hazard beads all over the party.  The slap bracelets took me back to my youth.  I used a hand towel rack from a bathroom to display the slap bracelets.  I purchased a bracelet display holder from Michaels for the jelly bracelets.

Finally, I had an assortment of rings.  I got bling rings, but also got light up rings (which by the way, are my favorite thing to bring with us to trips to Disneyland!).   The white boxes holding the rings may look familiar - they are from my son's train party (I used them to make the snack train).  

You can find the flashlight rings here, the gummy light rings here, and the bling rings here.

My favorite thing about these favors is that they were an activity at the party, but the guests got to also take them home and they can keep playing with them.  We also had a ton left because - shoker - I bought too much - and my daughter has a full drawer in the playroom with dress-up jewels that she still plays with.

The hardest part about the sparkle station was hiding it from my kids until the party started.  I tried to arrange it the day before so I wouldn't have to stress the day of, but my kids kept attacking it.  I guess that was a good thing (they had lots of fun), but I kept having to put it back together.  Finally, I wised up and covered the whole table with a sheet.  I uncovered it right before the party started.

Food & Drinks

I am a firm believer that food and drinks are very important at a party.  It is hard for guests to have a good time if they are hungry or thirsty.  I try to have something for everyone (and always make sure my guests with food restrictions have options).

Because I had such a small guest list, I decided to do all the cooking myself.  I like to have a lot of snacks for kids and adults as well as a more substantive meal.  I used my corner tiles (from Home Depot) for the food signs.

For dinner, I made:

1.  A Deconstructed Chinese Chicken Salad.  I separated the ingredients (butter lettuce, shredded carrots, mandarin oranges, won tons, chicken, sliced almonds, and candied pecans) so guests could assemble their own salads, adding what they liked.  I used the Far East Chinese Chicken Salad dressing from Costco, which is amazing!  I had vegetarian guests and I also had guests with nut allergies, so this made it easy for those guests to work around their food restrictions.

2.  Pasta Three Ways (pasta with marinara (vegan), pasta with butter and parmesan cheese, and tortellini in an alfredo sauce).  Pasta is easy to make, very inexpensive, and widely loved by kids.  Although I know it may not be the healthiest option, it can be difficult to get kids to eat at a party, so I like to make it easy on the parents by having foods that kids will eat.

It took me a long time (and lots of dinner play dates) to learn that there are a lot of kids who will eat pasta with butter and Parmesan Cheese and nothing else.  I also had a guests who are vegan or have dairy allergies, so I made another pasta with marina that was vegan.  I really liked the tortellini with alfredo sauce.  A lot of guests raved about it, but it was not as popular as the other two pastas.

3.  Dragon Nuggets (frozen dinosaur chicken tenders from Costco) with ketchup, ranch and BBQ for dipping.  Another popular dish for picky eaters are chicken tenders.  These were so east to make.  I bought them frozen from Costco, warmed them in the oven, and then popped them in a chaffing dish to stay warm for the party.

 4.  Roasted Green Beans 

I wanted to add a vegetable, so I made roasted green beans with parmesan cheese (Just preheat an oven to 435 degrees, spread green beens (or heir coverts) on a baking dish, toss them with oil, then sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and pop them in the oven for 19-23 minutes.  These are a hit with adults and kids, so I thought it would be an easy way to get the kids to eat some veggies.

5.  Edamame.  I also defrosted some edmame (another favorite of kids and adults alike), so guests could add them to their pasta or add another veggie to their plate.  

6.  Breadsticks and Marinara Sauce.  I got the breadsticks from a local restaurant that makes amazing breadsticks, and I kept the marinara warm in a small crockpot

For the snack table, I had a variety of snacks geared at kids and adults:

 1.  Toddler Snacks.  I had an assortment of my daughter's favorite snacks:  Freeze Dried Mango (Trader Joes), Inner Peas (Trader Joes), Yogurt Stars (Trader Joes), Veggie Sticks (Costco), Pirate Booty (Costco), and Veggie Pouches (Costco).

2.  Bruchetta Lentil Dip.  This is one of my favorite dishes to make for a party - so easy and so good.  You just mix pre-made steamed lentils with the pre-made bruschetta (both from Trader Joes) and voila - amazing dip!  My kids can't get enough of this one (and neither can the adults).  I serve it with pita crackers (also from Trader Joes).

3.  Artichoke Spinach Dip.  I have to admit, I prefer easy snacks that don't need to be heated, but when I came across the idea of a carriage filled with dip (here), I could not resist.  This was the centerpiece of the snack table.  I think every guest said something to me about it at some point.  It was so easy to make!  I just cut the top off a loaf of sourdough bread and pulled out the bread in the middle of the loaf.  Then I made a couple pieces of toast and cut them with a round cookie cutter.  I stuck toothpicks through the round toasts and added them as wheels to the carriage.  I found toy horses at Michaels (which my daughter now plays with), and I tied string around their necks to connect them to the carriage.  I had meant to add lettuce to the plate (to look like grass), but I ran out of time.  

 4.  Fruit.  I also did three fruit plates:  apples, cantaloupe mixed with raspberries, and honeydew mixed with blueberries and pomegranate seeds.

For drinks, I had water and an assortment of soda, iced tea, juices, and sparkling lemonade.  I also had beer and wine.  I tried to get wine bottles with screw on tops to avoid guests needing corkscrews.

In order to avoid guests loosing their cups, I put out stickers for the guests to put their name or initials on their cups.  When there are no kids at a party, I leave out a sharpie or chalk pen so guests can write their names on cups.  Sharpies are a problem at kids parties.  Then, when I was a party I saw the perfect solution - a brilliant friend put out stickers to mark the cups.  I loved the idea!  I wanted to make sure that guests understood what the stickers were for, and my sister-in-law came up with a great idea to explain it (short and sweet) on one of the cups:  "Put name on cup."  I will be doing this again!

I also had a coffee and tea station in the kitchen (out of reach of small children).  Because it was a cold and rainy day, I had a small hot chocolate station too with different kinds of marshmallows.


A great way to save a big part of your budget is to make your own cupcakes.  Cakes can be very expensive.  Cupcakes can cost less than $5.  The best part about the cupcakes is that I make them with my kids.  My go-to cupcake recipe is an amazing doctored cupcake recipe here and homemade frosting recipe here.  I used the same recipes for my son's 3rd birthday, but I just picked different colors.  Everyone raved about the cupcakes.

I also got little princess fondant decorations made by Wilton (from Michaels) and I got little candy pearls.  I decorated my cupcake stand with a pretty pink ribbon I found at Michaels and I topped the cupcake tower with a tiara from Party City that said Happy Birthday.  I made mostly mini cupcakes (they are a big hit with the kids and the parents who are health-conscious), and I made a small batch of the bigger ones as well (mostly so that I would have cupcakes large enough to hold up the tiara and the candles).


1.  Puppies.  It was a Royal Puppy Party, so I hired a company that brings 10 puppies to your home (the same company I used for my son's Paw Patrol Party).  They were amazing!  They were at the party for an hour, an I don't think my daughter left the puppies for one second.  She was in heaven! The other kids enjoyed it as well.  I know some kids are a little scared of dogs, so I had them off to the side so that they could be avoided if need be.

2.  Princess.  I planned to have a small castle bounce house to keep the kids busy, but it rained.  I was trying to figure out how I was going to keep the kids entertained.  I decided to entertain them myself and made a playlist of songs we could dance to (Hold Still, etc.), but I was not sure how it would go over.  Then, a good friend saved the day.  A friend of hers had won a raffle for a free visit with a princess.  Her friend could not use it, so she asked my friend if she wanted it.  My friend said that she was going to a party and could not use it either, but that the party was a princess party.  My friend asked if the princess would mind coming to the party instead of to her home.  The princess graciously agreed, and viola, my daughter had Ariel (for free!) at her party.  If the stars were not aligned already - my daughter's first birthday theme was Little Mermaid, so it was a fun cross-over from the other party.  Ariel was a big hit!  She played with the kids and sang with them.  My daughter can be shy with princesses, but she warmed up to Ariel and even sat in her lap.

3.  Coloring & Toys.  I had a bunch of toys out for the kids to play with, and I also set up a coloring table with crayons and print outs of empty royal crests, so the kids could color in their family crests. I find there are always a couple kids who prefer to color during a party.  For some reason coloring is more well received than fancy crafts.  I think it's because the kids do it all themselves, and they can come and go as they please.

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