Archive for the ‘We Like To Party’ Category

Evan is 5! A Pirate Birthday Party

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Evan choose a pirate birthday party for the big FIVE and it was super fun.

My dad pointed out (several times) that a pirate birthday party might not be the MOST appropriate theme for a bunch of 5 year olds. Murdering, robbing, raping and pillaging don’t really seem like good party games for kids, but based on the internet pirate is still a really popular theme.

“Popular theme” can mean two things – easy to find supplies is the good part. TOO MANY IDEAS is the bad part. I could have used an extra 6 months to plan the perfect pirate party but I’m sort of glad I didn’t give myself that time. This might actually have been my lowest-stress party to date (although it also might have been one of the most expensive – SO MUCH pirate stuff on the internet!)

OK, now for pictures because you’ve probably already skimmed this whole intro. Blah blah blah my kid is 5 blah blah so big blah blah blah some people came over. I’ll source stuff at the end, if I miss anything let me know and I can add it.

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I drew that chalkboard map with chalk pens. It is not impressive but I am very proud.

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She ate so much her belt didn’t fit anymore.

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Also, apparently tiny ginger pirates have pet lizards instead of parrots.

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Once again my parents and my in-laws came for the party, so I had a ton of help prepping food. There actually wasn’t TOO much to do this time, besides cutting  fruit/veggies and making sandwiches. I made the cookies and cake and jello ahead of time and counted on my cute names to make boring food more exciting.

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The empty spot on the bottom right is “Catch of the day”, which was fish sticks (a bigger hit than I expected – they were all gone at the end!)

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E carved that watermelon with my instructions being “I dunno, like a ship”. It’s even better than the one on Pinterest.

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Really excited with how blue these came out – just blue jello!

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GONE at the end of the party

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Turkey, cheese and hummus in a spinach wrap

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One part weird blue raspberry sugar water that came in jugs at Walmart, one part Sprite Zero

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Bottle of pineapple soda, bottle of Sprite Zero, half a bottle of orange soda, bottle of orange/peach/mango juice from BJs

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Second try cake! I still hate frosting them myself but it looks adorable and was very, very tasty (I made lemon curd for the filling)

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All the kids got to hit the pinata and LOVED it.

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Eventually E hit it – first he broke the bat, then he smashed it open with a hockey stick.

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The stomp-rockets were the first gifts Evan opened and E wore all the kids out playing with them in the yard

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My Pinterest Inspiration Board – lots of the food ideas came from here
Plates, napkins, round banners, table cloth, straw, chocolate gold coins, pirate shower curtain (backdrop) – Target
Hats, swords, 5  balloon, pirate balloons, pirate flag, torn sail netting, pirate mugs, popcorn boxes, fake coins, treasure maps, pirate tattoos – Oriental Trading Co
Sword toothpicks, flag toothpicks, pirate pennant banners, pinata, gummy sharks, pirate masks, skull shaped cookie cutter– Amazon
Pinata favor bags, buried treasure, candles – Walmart
Evan’s costume & Caroline’s tights – Costume Express
Caroline’s costume – made by my awesome friend Leah
Signs and watermelon ship sails – designed by my awesome friend Becca
Plank (board & cinder blocks), galvanized tub, sand, twine – Home Depot
Lots of fabric – JoAnn’s
Recipe for sand dollar cookies – Delicious Inspiration

Ta-da!! That really was a great time. SO glad the weather (mostly) cooperated (it wasn’t actually warm enough for Evan to be barefoot) and the kids all got to play outside. We had friends stay all afternoon and when they left my kids COLLAPSED into bed. I love parties.

I’ve got a BUNCH of hats left over, so if anyone is throwing a pirate party I’ll give you a great deal. Plus also masks, toothpicks, fabric, banners…yeah. Lots of stuff. Someone please have a pirate party.

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Yo Ho Ho And A Pirate Treasure Map Cake

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Ok, for real, officially, this is the LAST YEAR of the Epic Birthday Party for Evan. I think 5 years of big fancy at-home parties is enough. He’s at an age now where he’d probably rather go somewhere fun like the bowling alley anyway. Plus this year I had to make an all-or-nothing decision on inviting school friends. I went with ALL (13 kids) and have gotten three RSVPs so far. Fingers crossed the five kids who didn’t RSVP and still show up don’t bring a dozen siblings. Fingers also crossed it’s warm enough for the dig-for-treasure station to be outside so all that sand doesn’t end up on my living room floor. In preparation for the party, I had a very deep discussion with Evan regarding cakes.

Me: Evan, what kind of cake do you want for your birthday?
Evan: A pirate cake!
Me: Right, OK, I figured that. But what KIND of pirate cake?
Evan: A BIG pirate cake!

Our trusty local grocery store didn’t have a pirate cake in their book so I begrudgingly decided to make one. My previous attempts at fancy cakes have not gone well and 10 minutes on Pinterest made it clear most pirate cakes are FAR, FAR outside my ability. Luckily there are easier pirate cake ideas than a 3 masted tall ship complete with fondant pirates.

Like a pirate treasure map cake!

pirate treasure map cake

  This weekend the kids and I picked up some candy and frosting and made a “practice” cake. Although, is there really such a thing as a practice cake? It’s cake. It’s ALWAYS time for cake. But I’m glad I did it because I learned a few valuable things:
1. The correct order for frosting is white frosting, “sand”, blue frosting. The sand is actually graham cracker crumbs and it was impossible to keep it off the “water”.
2. Candy is bigger than it looks. It’s hard to draw delicate lines with big chunky candy. For the next cake I might do more in frosting.
3. Sticking stuff on the cake is harder than it looks. My pirate kept falling over until I put some frosting on his feet. I’m glad I didn’t try to add the palm trees I had imagined.
4. K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid! It’s a cake for a birthday party – as long as it involves frosting the kids are going to be THRILLED.

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Materials: Cake (from a box!), graham cracker crumbs, icing, gold sprinkles, frosting (I whipped one container with blue food coloring in my mixer), yellow M&Ms, root beer barrels, Twizzler bites, and Captain Hook and Tick Tock Croc stolen from the toy box. The root beer barrels crack me up because I think “But why is the rum gone?!” every time.

pirate treasure map cake

pirate treasure map cake

I added the pirate flag and sword from my extensive collection of pirate stuff I’ve purchased for the party next weekend.

pirate treasure map cake

Both kids’ mouths might be stained blue for the next month, but it’s worth it for my little pirates!

pirate treasure map cake


From the world of Peter Pan, check out the all-new Tinkerbell movie, Disney’s The Pirate Fairy. Available on Blu-ray and Digital HD on April 1. And you can learn more about the Disney Fairies on their Facebook page.

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Caroline’s 3rd Birthday – Princess Party!

Monday, December 16th, 2013

This is not the most amazing party I’ve ever thrown. I think Caroline’s woodland fairies from last year was a lot more creative. I decorated more, I made more food, I had more crafts and activities. But both kids are now at an age where they have An Opinion on what kind of party they want and as much as I like throwing fancy parties I really just want them to be happy – which means this year Princess Caroline got her Princess Party. She had an absolutely amazing time and will probably talk about it every day for the next year, and that’s really what matters.

Food and decorations first: The giant 3 balloon is from Oriental Trading and I will be buying one for every birthday from now on. I bought one of those disposable helium tanks since none of the local stores would blow up a balloon I bought somewhere else and it’s still floating 2 days later. The printables all came from an Etsy shop called Mama Moonlights, who customized the colors and name for free. Almost all the other decorations were from previous parties (one of the advantages of so many parties is I have a TON of stuff!).

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I am not a chalkboard writing expert yet, but give me a couple years.

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That frame has been in the basement since a yard sale last summer. I bought three for $2.

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The tulle covered lights were from Caroline’s first birthday.

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Christmas lights are the best part of December birthdays

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A reading/relaxing/seating corner

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Seriously LOVE this balloon

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Dress up selection – I bought the adjustable rack for $20 from Amazon


Lousy iPhone photo of the Royal Tents – also from Amazon and extremely well made by Pockos. They’re around $30 right now but I paid about $20 each.

For our food and drink, my theme was Pink and Fancy. It was a 2 pm party, so I went with mostly light food and desserts instead of a full lunch. Of course I had a ton of stuff left over, so please come to my house and eat some fudge and candy. I bought a bunch of pink candy from Amazon and Oriental Trading to make the table extra pink.

Food table

Food table

Crown cookies, decorated by my mom and the kids

Crown cookies, decorated by my mom and the kids

Tomato & cheese tea sandwiches

Tomato & cheese tea sandwiches

Recipe found here

Munchkin fruit skewers (these were totally gone)

Munchkin fruit skewers (these were totally gone)

Jello cups with pomegranate seeds (so sparkly!)

Jello cups with pomegranate seeds (so sparkly!)

Sugar cookie cups with mint buttercream (the crowns are Wilton, I bought them at Michael's)

Sugar cookie cups with mint buttercream (the crowns are Wilton, I bought them at Michael’s)

Recipe found here (way prettier than mine, but mine were gone post party so they must have tasted OK)

Thumbprint cookies

Thumbprint cookies

Radish dip

Radish dip

Fruit "crowns"

Fruit “crowns”

Tex mex tortilla wraps - these were also ALL gone

Tex mex tortilla wraps – these were also ALL gone

Adapted from the recipe found here

Cake from Big Y. I highly recommend their bakery for your ridiculous cake needs.

Cake from Big Y. I highly recommend their bakery for your ridiculous cake needs.

Hot chocolate bar with grown-up options

Hot chocolate bar with grown-up options

Pink punch - strawberry soda, strawberry guava juice and raspberry sherbet

Pink punch – strawberry soda, strawberry guava juice and raspberry sherbet

Enjoying her punch from fancy cups

Enjoying her punch from fancy cups

Strawberry milk in "milk bottles" (frappuchino bottles)

Strawberry milk in “milk bottles” (frappuchino bottles)

Kids love straws

Kids love straws

Fancy pink goblets to drink sparkling cider (from Oriental Trading Co)

Fancy pink goblets to drink sparkling cider (from Oriental Trading Co)

Also a hit

Also a hit

For activities, I was counting heavily on the kids enjoying dress up and using their imaginations to entertain themselves. It actually went pretty well! I also had the printable coloring sheets that came with my Etsy set but didn’t get a picture. They’re really cute.

I started buying accessories for the Princess Makeover station a long time ago. Walmart and Target both have cute party sections where you can find costume jewelry and tattoos and crowns and things, and they often go on clearance to make room for new stuff. The temporary tattoos and the clip-in hair braids were two of the most popular items (I left out some sponge pieces and a small cup of water so grown ups could help with the tattoos).

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Crowns, tiny hair clip crowns, hair extensions, rings, necklaces, bracelets, eye patches, foam swords and wands

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Browsing her options

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That chalkboard was the train schedule sign for Evan’s train birthday

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One of his many tats

I also collected all the princess dress up I could find. Some hand-me-downs, some consignment store finds, some gifts, and some purchased over the last year meant we had a ton of wardrobe choices for our guests. The pink dress Caroline is wearing and the knight costume Evan is wearing were both awesome deals, purchased for $5 after Halloween. We now have an extremely complete collection of size 3-5T princess dresses.

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We even dressed up our baby friends as princesses

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Caroline was happy to share her dresses, although at first she kept saying “You have the same dress as me!”

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Friend hugs

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So blurry, but so happy (That’s my dad)

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We are a no judgement princess zone. There were only 3 boys in attendance so they got into the spirit too.

Caroline has been talking for WEEKS about how everyone was going to sing Happy Birthday to her and how excited she was for that part, so please excuse the ridiculous number of photos.

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Her brother helped her blow them out.

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The cake topper opens into a purse/castle toy and Caroline has been playing with it ever since. Pretty good deal if you ask me.

Well, that was over 1000 words about a pretty simple princess birthday, so I’ll wrap it up by saying thank you to my parents and E’s parents who both came to help basically just for the party. I could never have gotten all the food made and the house in decent shape without them. It means a ton to me that our family understands and supports my birthday party addiction. And thank you to all our friends who braved the snowstorm to come celebrate with Princess Caroline – she had a truly magical birthday and it wouldn’t have been special without all of you!

One more of the birthday girl:

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 p.s. Caroline’s actual birthday isn’t until Thursday, so I’m going to be totally fine until then. But expect a SERIOUS meltdown on Friday about my baby turning THREE.


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Evan’s Vintage Train 4th Birthday Party

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Vintage Train Party

Sometimes when you ask your almost-four year old what kind of birthday party he wants, he says “Goats!” and you panic. And sometimes when you ask again he says “Choo choo trains!” and you’re super happy about it because you can DO trains. Trains are awesome. You also happen to have a massive collection of electric trains in your basement from both your childhood and your husband’s childhood, so a theme is born. BOOM. Vintage train birthday party it is!

I will do this mostly in pictures, since that’s the best part. HUGE post, apologies, feel free to skip if you hate parties, etc etc etc. I’m going to put a truly insane number of photos on Facebook and Flikr too.


vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

I printed banners and food labels on brown cardstock and cut pennants out of scrapbook paper (some new, some leftover from previous party supplies). The vintage stuff lying around (suitcases, globes, lanterns, etc) is from my own supply of junk collectibles or borrowed from my parents. All the train and sign clip art I made using a free fonts from – Eisenbahn is the vintage train; old seals tfb and PostageStamps are on the water bottle labels; wmroadsigns, wmthe50s and wmtransport1 are the rest (for the record, the old fashiondy font on almost everything is CM Old Western Shadow, also from

My dad made the railroad crossing sign out of scrap wood in my basement and I painted the letters using a stencil I bought at A.C. Moore. Dad also built the wood table to set up the electric trains. Evan and E painted the Melissa & Doug wooden train on the food table together. The tablecloths are a collection of sheets/fabric I keep in a box just for occasions like this.

I made the Arrivals/Departures board out of just a piece of composite board painted with chalkboard paint. I made up trains and times based on family names and dates.


vintage train birthday party food

vintage train birthday party food vintage train birthday party food vintage train birthday party food vintage train birthday party food

vintage train birthday party food train party drinks fueling station chugga chugga water bottles vintage train birthday party food vintage train birthday party food vintage train birthday party food vintage train birthday party food

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I made train cars with disposable aluminum trays and black cardstock to serve the food, including a coal car, veggie car, and a berry boxcar. I served lemonade in glass “milk” jars (actually Target frappuchino bottles I used for Caroline’s last two birthdays) with fancy straws, old fashioned root beer in bottles, “Chugga Chugga” water bottles and juice in Take’n’Toss cups for the kids.

Here’s my train inspired menu –

Steam Puffs – coconut macaroons
Coal – Krispie treats make with Cocoa Puffs
Train shaped cookies
Train shaped cucumber sandwiches
Rails – black licorice (courtesy of the American Licorice Company! Happy National Licorice Day!)
Railroad ties – vanilla sandwich wafers
Soft pretzels
Switch Cheese Sandwiches – grilled ham and swiss on wheat bread
Cheddar-nooga Choo Choo Sandwiches – grilled cheddar cheese on pumpernickel-rye swirl bread
Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Southwest Dip – Heluva Good black bean queso dip (REALLY delicious)
Berry Boxcar – Fruit
Conductor Cubes – cheese cubes
Stoplight Kabobs – watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon
Short Line Shortcake – mini cups of pound cake, strawberries and whipped topping
Golden Spike(d) Lemonade – I left the spiking up to my guests so no one accidentally got their kid drunk

And the cake is a good old-fashioned super sweet grocery store cake from Big Y. It was a Thomas cake until I took Thomas and Percy off and put a little Amtrak train on it. Boom! Custom vintage train cake.


vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

I made the child-sized trains out of cardboard boxes I’ve been collecting for a few weeks. I covered the boxes in plain paper (the kind you buy at Ikea to go on their art easel) and cut out construction paper shapes to make them look sort of like trains. The tracks all over my house are electrical tape purchased at Home Depot. We used approximated 8 60-foot rolls (they come in packs of 10) and E free-handed all the tracks.

As a craft, I bought cheap paint, brushes and wooden cars at the craft store and let the kids decorate their own wooden trains.

My dad worked really hard to set up both model train sets so the kids could run them. That was all stuff we/he already owned but the Tyco HO gauge electric trains are really inexpensive on Ebay. The kids also played with the Thomas/Ikea/Brio wooden tracks and trains.

The kids took home their painted trains, conductor hats and train whistles as favors.

vintage train birthday party

vintage train birthday party

Sources & Supplies (if I missed something you’re looking for just ask!)

Vintage travel posters (plus a calendar I dismantled) –
Train whistles – Oriental Trading Co.
Conductor hats – Oriental Trading Co.
Wood trains for painting – A.C. Moore
Train lollipops – Oriental Trading Co.
Train car serving dishes – ShopRite
Train shaped cookie cutter – A.C. Moore
Train shaped sandwich cutter – gift, available on Amazon
Sisal twine – Home Depot
Tiny clothes pins –
Photo book & prints –
Brown burlap – Home Depot
Orange burlap & fabric – Joann’s

Whew! That was exhausting but super fun. Now please come over and eat all this leftover cake before I do.

So so many thanks to my parents for their help and to Kim for letting me borrow some of her photos!

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In Defense Of Birthday Parties

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

I read a post on BlogHer last week about a mom who has no interest in throwing her kid a Pinterest-style birthday party. I’m not going to link to it directly since I’m not trying to criticize or start a fight with the author. You can easily find it if you want to read the original but the gist was this: “We do low-key parties. I sent some email invites and invited 2 friends and my kid had a super good time…” The part that came after those ellipses was unspoken by the author but was obvious in the comment section. It ranged from “…so planning a big, extravagant party is stupid” to “…so your way is a waste of time” to “…which makes me a better mom because I spent more time with my kid than you did because you were on Pinterest looking for ways to make cupcakes in a mason jar.”

WHOA WHOA WHOA. While I can agree with the premise of the original post (You don’t NEED matching place settings to have a nice birthday! Kids don’t really care!) I would like to register my extreme disagreement with the idea that throwing a Pinterest-inspired kid’s birthday party makes me anything except for someone who likes throwing parties.

I am not a better mom. I am not a worse mom. I am not a busier mom. I am not a slacker mom. I am not a more involved mom. I am not a mom who never plays on the floor with her kids. I am not interested in comparing my kid’s birthday party to your kid’s birthday party. YOU DO YOU. I am just doing something that makes me and my kid happy.

What’s that you say? This sounds just like everything else about parenting? Why yes, I believe you’re correct! Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, make your own baby food, baby-led weaning, cloth diapers, disposable diapers, organic sawdust filled diapers, daycare, preschool, homeschool, unschool, upside-down school, WHATEVER. The effort/non-effort you are willing to put into any of those things doesn’t have anything to do with me. Stop making it a comparison. If you hate it, don’t do it!

I swear to you – double-dog, pinkie-swear, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-stick-a-thumbtack-in-my-eye swear – that when I bring my kid to your kid’s birthday party at Chuck E Cheese the ONLY thing I am thinking is “Hmmm…Will anyone notice if I eat 4 pieces of pizza?” I am grateful we were invited because it means my kid isn’t a total jerk. I am glad to be out of the house. I am EXTRA glad if there is store-bought cake, since we all know that’s really the best kind. I’ve been to birthdays ranging from 3 kids just hanging out to 30 kids and a bounce house and my kid had fun at all of them.

When I started this big, fancy birthday party thing for Evan’s 1st there WAS no Pinterest. It was the Stone Ages of party planning, where I had to rely on Google Image Search and my own brain. I didn’t even know about paper straws. But I started the planning ball rolling and it just…kept going. I liked it. It was fun, it kept me busy, it was a creative outlet I had been missing during that first hectic new-baby year. Evan REALLY enjoyed his birthday and I enjoyed the compliments. Now it’s become my Thing – birthdays, baby showers, Halloween, whatever – and I’m going to keep doing it as long as the kids are still excited about it. Although one day I’m sure we’ll do Chuck E Cheese – and this year we’re doing a store-bought cake too.

Whew. That was 400 words more than I was planning on writing and probably 600 words more than I actually needed.

TL:DR version – Parties are cool, do whatever you want.

If what you want is a vintage train themed party with an orange and blue color scheme, here’s what I’m planning for Evan’s 4th. I’ve bought about 75% of this already and I’m making/hunting down/crowd-sourcing the rest.

Vintage Train Birthday Party

Vintage Train Birthday Party by bebehblog on Polyvore

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