Thursday, May 5, 2011

Strawberry Picnic First Birthday

My youngest daughter, Niamh (say NEEV, it's Irish), is almost two years old!  I'm in the last minute throes of party planning for her bash this Saturday, and realized that I wasn't yet blogging when she had her first birthday last year.  So to build the anticipation for the coming event, I present Niamh's First Birthday--A Strawberry Picnic.

At that age, it's all about the parents, so we viewed the birthday as an excuse to have our friends over and decorate with a cute theme.  I'd decorated Niamh's nursery in a Strawberry Picnic theme, so already had a number of good props to use, like the letters spelling out her name.

I built a wood-fired pizza oven in our backyard (while I was pregnant with Niamh, in fact), so we already had a number of red-checked tablecloths for when we entertain in Italian style.  They were perfect for the picnic theme.

I was especially proud of the cake, and was very happy with how it turned out.

You can hardly even tell that it fell flat on its side while I was trying to take photographs earlier that morning!  

This was actually the second time I've made this cake.  The first time was about six years ago.  I had never decorated a cake before, but my husband was on a business trip, and I saw the most gorgeous calico-fabric-inspired cake on the cover of Martha Stewart Weddings.  I fell in love, and impulsively decided that I was going to make it.  I went to the craft store, bought some tools, and started baking.  

I was so proud of that first cake!  I thought it looked amazing!  And looking back at the pictures now, I cringe.  It was awful.  Really, really awful.  

See?  I told you!  So getting to do this cake design, which I've always loved so much, over again felt like a chance at redemption.  (Photography has obviously also improved over the past few years!)

Favors were homemade strawberry jam (made by me under the guidance of my jam-making friend Liz) and macarons (graciously made by my pastry-chef mother).

I made strawberry bunting out of felt, and tried my hand at floral arranging for the first time.  I used strawberry baskets I bought off eBay for both the favors and the flowers.  They were the perfect touch!

I also made a strawberry-shaped pinata for the kids.  Thankfully, strawberries are pretty much balloon shaped.  A little paint, glitter, and green crepe paper, and we had the perfect pinata.  I should add glitter to all pinatas.  It looked seriously awesome hanging there in the sun.

The weather here in Phoenix can be either gorgeous or wickedly hot in May.  Of course, the weather crested 100 degrees for the party.  I called all our guests, told them to bring bathing suits for the kids, and set up kiddie pools, sprinklers, and water balloons.  

The adults got to sit in the shade with a misting fan--very effective!

Of course we made pizza in our WFO--that's what we always do when we feed a crowd.  The pizzas cook in 90 seconds in that 900 degree oven!

And it wouldn't be a first birthday without a baby covered in cake.

The celebration continued long into the night, well after the birthday girl had been put to bed.  

I can hardly believe she's already turning two!  My entire dining room and kitchen are completely taken over with party prep for this celebration, and I cannot wait to share it with all of you.  


  1. You sure know how to throw a party! Wonderful details and the cake was gorgeous - practice makes perfect! Props to the pizza chef in that heat too.

  2. Wow, that's adorable! The cake is amazing-even the first one ;) and the pinata is awesome!

  3. This is a VERY cute party and that cake is a work of art!

  4. This post has me excited about Brooke's first birthday party which is in a couple weeks! I love that you included the first cake picture; it's always fun to see how far we have come in our talents and endeavors. Hope Niamh has a great day.

  5. Your first cake is amazing first attempt. My cake decorating teacher always said take pictures of all your will then look back on them and see how far you have come. Great job on the cake - it is stunning!

  6. can u make a tutorial on the cards?? it just too cute !

  7. You said you built your own wood fired oven?! That's incredible. We also want one after staying at cooking school in Italy that had one. I'd love to read a post on your building experience. Have you written one?

  8. No blog post, but I chronicled my build on the Forno Bravo forums (where I got the free plans and tons of advice for building the oven, can't recommend them enough). Here's the thread, if you want to read it:

  9. so sweet! I love all your amazing decorations and details for this special birthday celebration.

    Blessings & Aloha!
    oh! Did you say that you actually built that amazing wood fire pizza oven??
    (My sister-in-law is of Irish descent...and their little girl is named Brecken (Irish for freckle) :o)

  10. Hi! I luv the invitations! Can you tell me how you made them? My daughter is turning 1 next month and I want to make those for her party. We are on a VERY TIGHT budget so we are making a lot of things homemade. I appreciate whatever tip or advise you can give. thanks!!!