A Frugal Pink Birthday Party for Anneliese

 photo 20141222_134245_zps73295ec7.jpgWhen I was a teenager, if anyone had told me that one day I'd have a little girl like Anneliese, I'd be shocked. Because as a teenager I was miss tomboy, involved in all sorts of sports, sciencey stuff, and just about as un-girly as they come. My favorite color was blue and I don't think I was ever into "princessy things" in my life.
Now Anneliese... my little three year old is about as girly as they come. I don't think I've ever met any girl more obsessed with pink (and purple), glittery sparkly things, princesses, rainbows, hearts, flowers, butterflies, fairies, jewelry, etc... This super girliness definitely didn't come from me, that's for sure.
In some ways, her being obsessed with all things girly makes my life harder (she is sooo picky to dress, and changes her clothes a million times a day), and in some ways it makes it easier (it is very easy to make her happy- just make it pink!)...

But the one thing I knew- for Anneliese's birthday, I wanted to make her a party that was "all about pink".

Though I rarely buy disposables, especially not more expensive colored disposables, for my daughter's sake, since I knew she'd be thrilled with it, I splurged and bought a pink disposable tablecloth, pink napkins, and reddish/pink plates. (Everything else was cheapo white stuff.)
I knew it was worth the money when she was ooh-ing and ahh-ing as I was setting the table. As much as I'm pro being frugal, very frugal even, when you're able to spend a bit of money and end up with such a satisfied customer, it is worth it. There's not much point being super frugal if you never spend any of the money saved on things that make you or your loved ones happy. (The bulk of the money I spent on the party- $16- was on the disposables. I have a lot left, so it wasn't just for the party, so it worked out less than that on disposables for the party.)

I had been considering making the birthday party outdoors, on the dirt patch in front of my house where I've made my boys' birthday parties in the past, but I was very nervous about the weather, and if it would be good enough. I actually ended up rescheduling the party for one day earlier than originally planned, since the original date was supposed to be cold and rainy and the new date was supposed to be with better weather... but just our luck, it was freezing cold on the day of the party, so we ended up just making it indoors- buffet style, with chairs spread out around our small living room/dining room area, and we made it work. The amount of people who came to the party (4 grandparents, 2 cousins, 5 friends and their parents) was the perfect fit for our home- it was neither too squishy nor too empty, so things worked out well in that regard- had any more people been able to come that day, it would have not been doable. Worked out well that we did it indoors, because it started raining during the party.

For the party's food- I purposely chose to make the party after lunch time but before supper time, so I could just serve snacks and not a sit down meal. I stuck with serving only things bought cheaply and on sale: gluten tea biscuits (no need to serve everyone gluten free crackers they'd like less- just Ike, Rose, and I refrained), grape juice from the scratch and dent store, another fruit juice made from concentrate (my mom brought it), clementines and oranges, carrot sticks and cucumber sticks, a "pink" dipping sauce (made from homemade mayonnaise and homemade ketchup), and marshmallows and a puffed corn based snack. Nothing super fancy in terms of food, but it did the trick.

I made a birthday cake from scratch for Anneliese- I decided on a pink heart cake. I made it gluten free and egg free (used my crazy cake recipe with my all purpose gluten free flour mix), and shaped it from a square cake and a circle cake cut in half into semi circles, positioned on two adjoining sides of the square, to make a heart shape. (I actually flopped the first cake that I made, trying out a new recipe! So I ended up making a second cake, using my tried and true recipe. Does anyone have a good recipe for a gluten and egg free white cake?)
I then made some coconut oil based frosting using store bought powdered sugar (and bulk purchased coconut oil). It killed me to spend that much on powdered sugar- I spent $4.87 on powdered sugar (it would have cost me less than half that to make it from white sugar) since I know how to make it from white sugar, but since my last few attempts at frosting came out less than perfect texture-wise, I decided to see if the frosting would come out better (and not separate) if I'd use bought powdered sugar (maybe the homemade stuff isn't fine enough?). I colored it with homemade food coloring that I made out of beets... And in case you were curious, I flopped the first batch of frosting. I thinned it down too much, so then it started separating/curdling and looking gross. (Google tells me this is called a "broken buttercream". So I took out the curdled frosting out of the food processor, set it aside, and started over with new coconut oil and powdered sugar, and once I mixed that, I added a little bit of the old frosting at a time into it, until it was the perfect consistency. (If you're curious- the ingredients in my frosting were coconut oil, powdered sugar, a dash of lemon juice, and the beet juice/food coloring.)

Even before I finished the cake, when the cake pieces were just assembled into heart shape, and the frosting was being made, Anneliese saw what I was doing, and was soooo excited! "A heart cake! Thank you Mommy! So pretty! Wow, that frosting is so preeeetty! Thank you Mommy!"
With little things like that... your heart just melts, and makes you know that all the work you're putting into the party is appreciated, when you see how much their face lights up from these things...

I am not a professional cake baker. I don't have professional cake decorating equipment. I really wanted to make a rosette frosted cake, but I didn't have the proper tools- I need to get icing tips- I just borrowed a tip (the wrong kind) from a neighbor, but didn't have an icing bag, so I tried to make one from first a sandwich bag, and when that didn't work, baking paper, which worked moderately better... But I still had a really hard time controlling where the frosting piped out. So yes... my cake is far from bakery quality, maybe belongs on cakewrecks.com, but Anneliese absolutely loved it, so that's fine by me.

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We had candles already in the house (I'm not sure from what) that were light green, so we used those to top the cake- even though they weren't pink- but Anneliese didn't mind.
She was just so thrilled to have a birthday party, and a birthday cake, and pink, and all the guests to share her special day, and that the attention was all about her.

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Her excitement is written all across her face!

This actually was the first time I made her a birthday party. Last year I'd been considering it, but so many things came up with the holiday season stress that we just ended up making a small meal together with Grandma, and she was fine with that. But when I see how much she loved this party, it makes me feel guilty about not having done anything last year. Then again, in this past year, she really grew up, really came out of her shell- she might not have even enjoyed a birthday party last year, might have felt too stressed by too many people there, and too shy to participate...

After the cake, it was time for crafts... I just put a thin plastic tablecloth down and we got to work.

A few months ago I was in a bargain store and saw a set of flower shaped silicon molds. As soon as I saw them, I knew I wanted to do something with them for Anneliese's third birthday. Maybe just fill them with plaster and make hang-able flowers by adding hooks to them?
But then I decided to change it up a little bit, and instead of just making them simple flowers, I attempted to make tea light holders out of the flowers, essentially making flower shaped candlesticks.
It took some trial and error (I think I had 4 flops before I had success) but eventually I figured out how to make these homemade plaster flower candlesticks. (Blog post about how I managed to do that coming soon.)

Unfortunately, I forgot to buy more plaster of paris before the party, and the night before I realized I only had a tiny little bit left, and the hardware store was closed and no one that I thought would have plaster of paris at home actually did, so I had to make do with the small amount of plaster of paris powder that I had, and made much shallower flowers/candle holders than I'd intended to make, but oh well...
I also made a few plain circle candle holders in case any of the boys that were coming didn't want to paint a "girly" flower...

I used our gauche paints that we already have at home for crafts (that my brother got my kids as presents for the family last birthday) for this- I just mixed the primary colors so we had some "girly" colors like pink and lilac and light blue, and green, etc...
I didn't have enough paint brushes for the crowd, so I borrowed some from my mom instead of buying more.

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All the kids enjoyed painting them... and even an adult decided to join in with the painting because she thought it looked so much fun.

Here's the final result of the project-
Top view:

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Bottom view:

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And being used as intended- as tea light holders. Aren't they beautiful?

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Total layout for the party was $28.50, everything included, from food to cake to disposables to crafts, etc...

I would say all in all the party was a smashing success. Everyone enjoyed themselves, most of all, the birthday girl.

Her birthday presents from us still haven't arrived yet in the mail, but that's ok with us- we don't mind giving them to her later. We got her 2 beautiful tiaras, ballet slippers, and a tutu. All from ebay. Grand total cost of $19.24 including overseas shipping.
And I know she'll be absolutely thrilled with her presents and live in them... (My only concern is that she might love them too much and refuse to wear anything else... but time will tell.)

Happy Birthday Anneliese!

Do any of you have kids who are absolutely in love with pink, princesses, flowers, and everything girly? Does it come from you or are you not like that? How do you handle the "pink-ness"? Do you try to change it or go with it and make your daughter so excited by you enabling her pink obsession? What types of frugal parties did you make for your super girly girl?
For those of you who make birthday parties, how much would you say you generally spend on the party, all included? How much do you tend to spend on birthday presents?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Kelly K (@RNCCRN9706)December 29, 2014 at 9:11 PM

    Looks like Annaleise was ABSOLUTELY THRILLED with her frugal birthday party!! Good job Penny!!! I'm a girly girl too...love purple and pink....glad she had a great birthday!!

    1. Oh definitely she was! Thank you! I like pinks and purples too, but certainly not obsessed with them the way Anneliese is... Though I have two friends with a purple obsession. :-D

  2. I had to smile when reading this post. I too, was a completely tomboy. I too, have a daughter that at age 3 loved all things pink, princess, pretty and sparkly. And yes, we absolutely indulged her (within reason) when it worked for us. And it's good that you are enjoying this time!
    Because..... fast forward 7 years. My daughter is now 10, and now she REFUSES to wear pink (too girly-girl!), or play with anything princess-y (too babyish!). Glitter is still highly desirable - but only in her favourite colours of blue, black and dark purple. Her favourite subjects in school are Science and Math, and she loves dragons, rangers, wizards, mages, calvin & hobbs, star wars and harry potter.
    I would say, definitely go with Anneliese's "pink phase", and enjoy it while you can!!!

    1. So funny how that works out! I'm so curious to see what Anneliese will be like when she's older. (And a little concerned about how she will be as a teen, if she's already this picky about her clothes at age 3... lol.)

    2. I have a cousin who at 3 was obsessed with wearing exactly what she wanted and being clean and pretty. By about 10 she was much less like that. Now she's 25 and is an archaeologist; I haven't seen her in a while, but she MUST be okay with getting dirty now! It's hard to predict which of a child's traits will be stable and which are passing phases.

  3. Beautiful job Penny. You little one is so like my youngest daughter was at 3. As long as she is not afraid to get a little dirty once in awhile there is nothing wrong with being girly as long as she is well rounded . She played with hot wheels and even bait her own hook when fishing all wearing pink and lace. She is now almost to the end of her third trimester of her second baby girl due in Jan. And I am sure her girls will be just as well rounded as she is. Thank you for your blog . Tammy Romberg

    1. Thank you! She likes cars, will play in dirt... but is scared of some things in nature... Like she thinks sticks are snakes and will be scared of going near them, lol...
      Youre welcome.

  4. Did you add anything to the homemade powdered sugar? Commercial powdered sugar contains 3-10% cornstarch which does magical things for frosting, and for stabilizing whipped cream for instance. You might try processing your granulated sugar with a bit of cornstarch and see if that makes a difference.

    1. I've tried it with some added potato starch, not corn starch. So maybe its that. Or maybe I'm not grinding it fine enough/for long enough (I don't sift it afterward to sift out the larger grainier bits)...

  5. your daughter just has the most beautiful smile!! more happy days for you all!!

  6. Don't knock yourself, that cake is great! And so is the smile on your daughter's face. It looks like a lovely party.

  7. oh, that smile and the joy in her eyes...priceless. good job, penny!

  8. There's not much point being super frugal if you never spend any of the money saved on things that make you or your loved ones happy.

    Amen!! That reminds me of when Frank Bunker, the efficiency expert and father of the Cheaper By the Dozen family, was asked, "But what do you want to save time FOR?" and his answer was something like, "For art, for music, for beauty, for pleasure--for mumblety-peg, if that's where your heart lies." It's important not to lose sight of the idea that we are saving things for a reason, because saving for no reason is just hoarding and is very unsatisfying.

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