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My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

story time: caroline’s second birthday party

Somehow it seems time has gone and played its tricks again, and our precious baby girl is no longer a baby at all.  Suddenly, she’s a big girl.  A big two year old(!) with a very big personality.  It took some time for me to settle on a fitting theme for her party, but eventually I tried to just think about what she likes best.  Of course as a two year old, she doesn’t have a great many favorite things yet but undoubtedly one of her absolute favorite things to do is to read.  Mostly to have us read to her, but sometimes to sit with books we have read so many times she knows them by heart, and then she “reads” them to herself.  She has a hilarious habit of backing up to any grown up’s lap with book in hand whether you’re ready or not.  But depending on your posture, it’s not always a lap she lands on.  We’ve both had our heads sat on on multiple occasions while lying on the playroom floor followed by, “I read book!”  So, I went with the idea of story time plus her favorite color purple, and came up with this simple celebration for our sweet girl.  (By the way, the photo above is completely unstaged – she just really likes berries.)

The invitations (by TomKat Studio) were precious, and I popped them into envelopes that I lined with old book pages to introduce the book theme.  The envelopes are from Paper Source (color is beet.)

Story time is a pretty subtle theme to work with, and I didn’t want to waste time or money collecting certain books or fancy vintage editions to decorate.  I did my best to make do with things we already had on hand.  We used this bookshelf that is normally in a different room to display photos of Caroline throughout the past year as well as some of her favorite books (the Baby Lit series I’ve mentioned before.)  I reused the picture frames from her party last year and just painted over the yellow ones with purple to coordinate.  Easy peasy.

I used pages from old, fallen apart books to make a few small paper flowers to decorate the birthday banner and I thought they were a cute touch.

A lot of beautiful spring flowers just happen to be purple, so that worked well bring the color scheme through the various details.  Irises were my mom’s favorite flower so they have a special meaning in our family, and it was nice to have some displayed on the main table.  She also really loved hyacinths so this arrangement just made me feel happy.

I have to give a special shout out to Molly of The TomKat Studio for the amazing party printables.  I always love their work and how the printables help pull a party together, but I especially loved this set.  The party circles and favor tags with the script background actually include some quotes from our favorite books.  Definitely love love loved that detail!

The party was in the middle of the afternoon so not during prime meal time and as a result, I kept the menu on the small side.  It was as follows:

Cucumber Bites
Deviled Eggs
Spring Veggie Goat Cheese Dip
Fruit Tartlets
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
Blackberry Pie Bars
Lemon Cupcakes with Whipped Vanilla Frosting

The tartlets are actually just a mini version of this fresh fruit tart.  I made a 1.5 batch of dough to yield about 20 tartlet shells.  I used a cookie cutter (about 3½-inch diameter) to cut out rounds of tart dough, pressed them into my nonstick cupcake pan, lined them with foil and filled with baking beads/dried beans, and baked at 375˚ F until golden and set.  I made a single batch of pastry cream and topped with fresh fruit.

I never pass up an opportunity to make the ever popular soft frosted sugar cookies, but this time I frosted them with a vaguely floral design.  I used the same frosting recipe but simply made it slightly stiffer (i.e. used less liquid) than the original version, and then piped it onto the cookies with a large closed star tip starting from the center and swirling outward.

We made a little collection of some of our family’s favorite storybooks for other kids to look at if they wanted.  The crate was actually just the box left over from one of the birthday gifts I had given Caroline a few days before the party.  And of course, I couldn’t resist cookie favors.  I made my favorite macaron recipe and filled them with dark chocolate ganache.

The weather on the day of the party was absolutely gorgeous, so we spent the majority of the day outside playing.  But eventually, we came inside to settle down and have story time before cupcakes.  We have quite a few educators in our families, so I tapped them as a resource for reading duties.  First my brother Steve, a fourth grade teacher, read one of our childhood favorites, Miss Nelson is Missing.  Man, I love that book.

Then Ben, a first grade teacher, followed it up with one of his childhood favorites (and what has become one of our absolute favorite stories for the kids at bedtime), Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo.

Happy birthday, sweet Caroline!  We couldn’t have dreamed up a more wonderful girl if we tried.

  • tammi

    Happy Birthday to Caroline. She’s adorable and you have again just proven your blog’s worth. I love your simpleness about doing things coupled with perfect results. Everything looks beautiful and the book’s theme is great too. Well done lady.

  • annieseats

    Thank you so much :)

  • http://www.kerrycooks.wordpress.com/ Kerry

    Happy Birthday Caroline! She is just so lovely. I am in awe at how much attention to detail you put into everything and the lovely touches like the flowers and book flowers, not to mention all the amazing food! Those rose swirled frosted cookies look SO GORGEOUS – did you swirl it at an angle as you reached the edges?

  • Kristin

    What a lovely party. So sweet! Also, where did you get that cute white honeycomb vase?

  • Julie @ Table for Two

    What a lovely and very well-thought out theme!! I love all your parties and they’re all such an inspiration. Reminds me that I need to start thinking of themes in advance for my future kiddo’s parties. I hope I can put together something as great as yours. Happy birthday to your sweet Caroline! I can’t believe she’s already 2. I’m sure it’s hard for you to believe too :) by the way, do you mind sharing where you got the beautiful glass pitcher? Thank you! xo

  • Jen

    Happy birthday Caroline! My 2 year old does the same thing… backing up with a book to read to anyone and everyone – it’s too cute! Love the party!

  • Angel Shadoff

    Wow – I can’t believe she is 2! Seems like just yesterday you were announcing your pregnancy. Happy birthday Caroline! Here is to another 100 or so awesome birthdays!

  • http://twitter.com/HBHarvest HalfBakedHarvest

    What a fun looking party! Caroline is so sweet looking! Everything looks perfect and beautiful!!

  • http://www.onepreppycookie.blogspot.com/ Amy_OPC

    What a sincere, thoughtful party, I LOVE IT! And “Miss Nelson” is Missing is one of my all-time favorites too. :)

  • Cristina Agurcia

    my gosh Annie- you are one talented baker but more than that, you are one talented and special mommy! love the details in everything. the love you have for your kids is written everywhere: when you write about them, when you plan their parties… everything looked yummy and perfect. Happy birthday Caroline!

  • Gail

    I loved Miss Nelson is missing too!

  • evabakes

    Happy birthday, sweet Caroline!

  • http://www.simplysweetjustice.com/ Simply Sweet Justice

    What a sweet party! :) Yay to multitasking–that is a great idea to use a cookie cutter and a cupcake pan to make the tarts, in lieu of a tart pan. ;)

  • Elizabeth Piasecki

    Happy birthday to the sweet little lady! My little guy is about to turn 2 as well. Your party looks fantastic and I was so taken back to childhood with Miss Nelson is Missing!!

  • http://twitter.com/ellysaysopa elly @ elly says opa

    Happy birthday to sweet Caroline! I love the theme and everything turned out so great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurackarpf Laura Munsterteiger Karpf

    How do you get everything so perfect? You’re amazing. If my creations were half as good as yours, I’d be happy. You’re a talented woman – photography, baking, crafts – is there anything you can’t do??? Hats off to you!

  • http://www.cooklikeachampionblog.com/ Courtney

    Everything is beautiful, Annie! One day, Clara and Caroline must celebrate together. Love you guys!

  • annieseats

    It’s from west elm.

  • annieseats

    Not really, maybe a little. I honestly didn’t pay much attention to my technique, it was just a quick swirl :)

  • annieseats

    It’s from west elm.

  • annieseats

    Thanks babe! For sure, we have to do that!

  • http://typingsunflowers.blogspot.com/ Brenda Steffen

    Such beautiful simplicity! You throw great parties — I especially loved the book theme on this one. Happy Birthday to your sweet girl — and kudos to you for the effort you put into the parties. Your children will treasure the memories and photos in the years to come.

  • Jackie Lee

    I love all your children’s parties! So beautiful! My question to you is: Since you make all the sweet treats and food yourself, do you make everything the day before and save the last minute touches for the day of? I find it hard to get the timing right for my parties.

  • Angie

    Happy Birthday, Caroline! This party is absolutely wonderful. I love the simplicity of it, but that simplicity is what makes it so special! I definitely just sent this to my best friend, who’s little girl will be two this summer, and also loves books (as does her lit loving mom!) And, it doesn’t hurt that her name is Caroline as well,

  • http://www.facebook.com/rena.hauer Rena N Barry Hauer

    beautiful!!!

  • Caroline L.

    She looks so much like you! This is the sweetest birthday ever for such a sweet little girl! Love all of the little details :)

  • Tiffani T.

    what a beautiful party spread :) happy birthday Caroline!! :)

  • Lisa Stough

    Happy birthday, Caroline. As always, everything is absolutely so simple and pretty, great job, Annie!

  • Kendra Scott

    What a lovely party! Happy Birthday, sweet Caroline! :)

  • Liz N.

    Hi Annie! The time spent on the loving details of the party are simply amazing! Lining the envelopes with pages from old books! Showcasing Caroline’s favorite books on the bookshelf! The macaron favors! Please tell me how you printed your Instagram photos in that open frame behind the couch? Who did you use for printing them? I LOVE that open frame so that you can easily swap out pics and update regularly. BRILLIANT!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chelsea.henderson Chelsea Wagenaar

    what a beautiful party, annie! what recipe did you use for the blackberry pie bars? they sound delicious.

  • annieseats

    It will be posted tomorrow.

  • annieseats

    I start early in the week and do a little bit every evening. Since I work full time, it’s the only feasible option for me. Try searching the archives, I’ve done a few posts about party planning before that might be useful to you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=423025 Katie Panek Klotzbach

    My daughter, Karalyn, will be 2 in July and I’m pretty sure this post was written about her! Happy Birthday to your sweet girl! Thanks for a lovely blog to follow.

  • Guest

    ooh, can’t wait!

  • http://twitter.com/MarilynYocum Marilyn Yocum

    Beautiful color, but I really like the book recommendations!

  • Jackie Lee

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I work full time too. I love your blog, and my husband gets very excited when I make an “Annie recipe.” They are always a hit in our house. Thanks again!!

  • yanksgurl613

    adorable! happy bday to your daughter shes adorable and the food looks amazing of course! xx. gigi.

  • annieseats

    I use the company Prinstagram. I may do an actual post about this decorating idea because it was so easy and we love it so much!

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.joachim.5 Anne Joachim

    I am an elementary teacher and my father was an elementary teacher. I became a teacher because I was inspired by my dad. I was so thrilled to learn that your brother and your husband are teachers. As a mother of a daughter and a son, my children only had one male teacher in elementary school. I wish more men worked with young children because they set such a great standard for what it means to nurture children in a society that doesn’t see men in that light. Your brother and husband should start a blog!!! I would totally read it!!! :-)

  • Liz N.

    Please share this crafty idea in a post! I’ll be looking forward to it!

  • Liz N.

    By the way, were these the mini or large squares that you printed?

  • ElisabethTurner

    just beautiful!! Gives me such inspiration my my almost 2 year olds birthday! And I just LOVE Miss Nelson is Missing! how fun!

  • Anna Maria Levine

    I love all your recipe posts, but the party ones are my favorite. Happy Birthday to Caroline and lovely job on the party :) I love the book theme!

  • Virginia Spencer

    I was just about to comment on how much I love that photo collage (and everything else)! Your creativity and energy amaze and inspire me!

  • Tobie Blanchard

    I know! Out of all the wonderful food and decorations in this post what really struck me was the fact the fact that your husband and brother are elementary school teachers. How awesome! My husband is a teacher too, but he teaches high school.

  • Melanie G

    Caroline is adorable, Annie! Just adorable. Isn’t it unreal how fast time goes with kids? And I love the pretty simplicity of her party. You could/should definitely add party planner to your resume!

  • annieseats

    I think I did the large size.

  • Hannah

    So simple and well done!
    Loving the envelope liner as well!
    Mini-you is precious!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelsey.morgan.756 Kelsey Morgan

    Annie, everything about this warms my heart. Every detail is perfect–most of all, the birthday girl!

  • http://twitter.com/OliviaFrescura Olivia Frescura

    It feels like just a few months ago you had announced her birth- oh how time flies! She’s gorgeous- and this is a darling little party!

  • katy

    ditto! I wanted to pin that picture just for the adorable framed pictures but it wouldn’t let me, assuming it was because there were kids in the picture.

  • http://www.spoonfulofflavor.com/ Ashley

    Love all the purple and the honeycomb vase. Happy Birthday Caroline!

  • http://www.facebook.com/valerie.k.whitman Valerie Kuney Whitman

    Do you have the book Jamberry by Bruce Degen? Adorable book and so appropriate for your berry loving girl!! Lovely party!!

  • annieseats

    No, but I’m totally going to look for it now. Thanks for the rec!

  • Beth F.

    Hi Annie! Love this party idea, and love your daughter’s name!! My Caroline is turning 2 in August and I had wanted to do a book party, so you’re going to be my inspiration for it. Could you tell me or link me to the invitations you used from TomKat Studio? I’ve been searching for them, but I can’t find them at all. Your blog is fabulous, by the way!

  • annieseats

    You can contact them directly to inquire about any specific products/party printables. Have fun with your party!

  • Emma Jakku

    Hi Annie, thanks so much for sharing all your amazing recipes and tips and especially for sharing these special moments like your kid’s birthday parties. I’m new to your blog, but there is so much inspiration there! My little girl is turning three soon, so I’ve been looking for ideas for what to make for her birthday party – I’ll certainly be making some of those amazing looking sugar cookies :)