Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birthday Girl

On Saturday we had a birthday party to celebrate Gigi's first year! Her actual birthday isn't until April, but because we had two weeks in March with Marcos' parents visiting, we decided to hold the festivities early so that they could celebrate with us. In Brazil, first birthdays are a huge deal, and in Hawaii they are an even bigger deal. So, to maintain Gigi's cultural legacy, we decided to throw a party.

A few months ago when I started planning and doing research for the party, I had the idea of renting the pavilion at one of our local parks. "It's the end of March in North Carolina", I thought, "the weather will totally be fine". Well, we have had a lot of really hot days this month, but Saturday wasn't one of them. As the days grew closer, the weather predictions were awful: 49 degrees and a 55% chance of rain for the weekend! So, on Saturday morning, we made the executive decision to bring the party indoors to our friend Jill's house, who graciously volunteered that very morning to host the bash. We are still brainstorming on how to repay Jill and her family for their extreme kindness. What can you do to say thanks for a deed like that?

And did I mention that 82 people showed up?

Fortunately the transition to indoors was smooth, because we had very little time to adjust. I grieved initially when I thought about the change, because I had made some very specific plans for the outdoor space. I had gone and measured the pavilion's picnic tables, sewed a tablecloth to fit the exact dimensions, found the perfect tree for hanging big paper poms above Gigi's highchair for her cake eating moment, and purchased the bubbles and water bottles we would need for a sunny, hot day. But lo and behold, the tablecloth fit Jill's table, the jars of daisies transitioned nicely to her space, and the the rest of the things I had so carefully planned for quickly fell off of the "important" list.

"Gigi goes to Stanford" is our savings account for Gigi's college fund. We requested that our friends not bring gifts, but that if it didn't feel like a party without an exchange, they could donate no more than $5 per family to a piggy bank we would put out for Gigi's college fund (don't birthday parties feel cost prohibitive sometimes?). I found the piggy bank at a store, but it came covered with the words "Divas Only", and sporting crossbones and skulls. Um, no. Luckily I had paint left over from the dresser I refinished a while back, and so I slapped on a few layers and it transformed into something cute. Whew! Extreme weirdness averted.

From the original hatchings of the birthday party plan, and after I gave up the idea of being able to afford an entire meal for our guests, I started to formulate the idea of a bundt cake party. These photos were taken before the party when calm and peace still prevailed, and so not all of the cakes were set out yet, but I think that the effect came out just like I had envisioned it. With bundt cakes from four of my talented friends and one that I baked, there was just enough so that everyone could sample the cakes that sang to them: Becca made a hot milk bundt cake with strawberries and fresh whipped cream, Emily made a chocolate orange chunk cake slathered with a rich chocolate ganache, Angela made a banana cake with cream cheese frosting and walnuts, Ali made an applesauce cinnamon cake with vanilla frosting, and I baked a chocolate zucchini cake with a chocolate glaze. During the party I was too busy to stop and eat, but my in-laws were thoughtful enough to make me a sampler plate. After the party when I had a chance to sit down, it was a bit of Heaven on earth to enjoy the cakes that my friends had brought. They were so. good.

When our friends arrived, we kicked off the party with a welcome, some introductions, Gigi trivia game and the birthday song. Gigi was the center of a room full of people, and she wildly flailed her arms, kicked her legs and clapped to the song. When we gave her a piece of cake, she picked at it and sampled the chocolate. It was her first time with free reign to a piece of cake.

She didn't exactly face plant into the cake, but the rest of us sure wanted to.

The night before the party I had an idea to cut out party hats for the kiddos to decorate. Marcos' family owns a locksmith shop in their hometown in Brazil, and they make rubber stamps at the shop. We designed a stamp for the party favor tags that read "Hooray, hooray, it's Gigi's birthday", we sent the design to Brazil, and Marcos' mom brought the beautiful finished product from Brazil for us. So, I used the stamp to give the hats a theme as well. Not knowing before hand that we would have to move the party inside, I was grateful that I had made an "indoor activity" for some of the younger kiddos, since we ended up not doing some of the outdoor games I had planned.

Along with having bundt cakes, Marcos' mom and sister made brigadeiros for the party, which are little fudgey balls, and another of our Brazilian friends brought beijinhos, which are similar to brigadeiros but have a coconut flavor instead of chocolate. Divine!

Another bonus of having Gigi's party at Jill and Co.'s was the amenities. Initially I was just grateful to have a space indoors for our friends and family to gather, but there were so many other lovely perks. One was the wide table in the corner that was filled with playmobil toy sets. At one point Gigi joined her boyfriends at the table to play with the vikings.

And then... there were mustaches.

...and more mustaches.

Marcos' dad sporting a party hat. I am absolutely grateful times a million that Marcos parents and sister were able to celebrate Gigi's birthday with us. They were so helpful with all of the food preparations and execution, and so lovely to help me work out a schedule so that the event would be enjoyable and not stressful. The final two days before the party would have been a lot less pleasant without their willingness to lend and hand and pick up some of the pieces that I could no longer manage. ♥ times a million.

Another fabulous Jill and Co. amenity.

And finally, the favors: Organic juice box. Tiny bubbles. Home crafted crayons I melted into dinosaurs and Eiffel Towers. And a few of my favorite Brazilian candies.

In the evening, after returning Jill and Co.'s house to reasonable calm and cleanliness, we brought the friends and family who had traveled from all over the state for Gigi's party over for dinner at our place. It felt sort of like the "after party" with 25 people in our 800 square foot apartment. Marcos' mom and sister had made baião de dois - an amazing beans and rice dish - which we ate with a big salad and Susan's homemade bread, and Gigi had a chance to open the 7 or 8 gifts that our rebellious friends had brought for her. It was a great way to end what had become a most amazing day with our friends and family. This girl is so loved.

(So, whew!, thank you for reading to the very end. I mainly needed to write this out in detail because I have a memory like a steel sieve and there are some things that I don't ever want to forget. We felt like the party was a big hit, but after this first hoorah, we are quite certain that we are the type of family to do parties every other year. Or maybe every ten years...)


Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

Beautiful party. I love all the little details. I flat out asked people for money for swim lessons. He got 2 presents to open and the rest was money. I was happy, he was happy, and now he learns how to swim and we didn't accumulate plastic junk = success.

Kim said...

I love all the details and the thought you put into this! You are such a great example and you have so many cute do it yourself things! You are my inspiration :)

Angela said...

Wonderful party, hostess with the most-ess!

sienna said...

looks like so much fun. we did the big ONE year old party thing too and then thought "this was so fun, but can't do this every year." and we only had 50 people, not 80+. the cakes look delicious and all the decorations are fabulous. great job! and more importantly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIGI (in April)!

Chris said...

This post blew me away at least five times.
First (and middle, and last) I thought, "Wow that is overkill for a birthday party." It sounds fabulous. More elaborate and exciting than many wedding receptions I've been to.

Between those thoughts I wondered how I could possibly have missed knowing that Marcos' family owned a locksmith shop! How has that never come up before?

I also thought, "Metta is superwoman." Sewing tablecloths, baking wonders in the kitchen, painting banks and finishing dressers. No wonder seven dozen people came to the party to see what she'd pulled off this time!

Unknown said...

Happy birthday to Gigi! Such a good job on hosting such a big crowd! I need to learn how to host a party like that. Awesome! I love the piggy bank idea. I should start that for Addie too!

Lauren said...

Oh I wish I could have been there! That party looked like a major success. And I love the mustaches! Would also love that beans and rice recipe sometime in my mouth is watering!

Happy Birthday Gigi!

Heather said...

Ooh, wish we'd been there! Sorry to miss such a fabulous party! Happy birthday Gigi!

Unknown said...

honey, you throw the best parties! That looks like a lot of fun.