(P.S. I made cupcakes for probably only the 3rd time ever and I am stupid proud of them... so be sure you stick with the article long enough to see them.  They were even filled with pineapple awesomeness! The recipe can be found on the Pinterest board.)

The Story

Recently, a little Miss Somebody turned two at our house.  She is my youngest and as much as I love her, I do find myself sometimes fighting that "been there done that" feeling and maybe being a little too practical.  Like last year when I did not give her a 1st birthday party at all.  I mean, I have been around the block enough to KNOW that not only will she NOT remember it, but at age one... she could care less.  Not to mention, the month of June is the last month of school here and super busy and I just did not need anything else on my plate.  

Well... I instantly regretted it big time.  I needed to celebrate surviving that first year. I felt awful about it. I even broke down and bought her stacks of birthday gifts four months after she turned one and vowed to give her a real party when she turned two!  I am happy to say that when the time came, this "old mother" did find a good balance between CELEBRATING and being practical and she had a lovely 2nd birthday party. 

Tips from an 'Old Mom'

1.  THROW the party.  It might be my sixth "2nd Birthday" party to throw, but it is her first... and her only.  She may not remember it, but she WILL see the pictures (granted not in a scrapbook like her older siblings).  Further more, it is that one time all year when you really pause to celebrate in a very visible way the treasure that individual is to you.  It is important... not just for the child, but for who you are as a parent and as a family.

2. PLAN (time does not grow on trees and so a good plan is essential).  Enter PINTEREST... truly a fantastic time saver for party planning.  My eight year old daughter and I created a board called "Miss June's Party" (click to view it) and being a "modern" child, we let the toddler sit on our laps and point (she thinks every picture is an 'APP' anyway).  The hilarious thing is that she was SUPER opinionated.  She knew exactly what she wanted and in the end an interesting "theme" emerged... STRAWS.  
Not kidding.  So funny.  It makes me smile every time I think about it.

3.  Looking at her board, we made a "to-do" LIST, and gave ourselves one week to EXECUTE.  How did I ever manage without an 8-year old girl in the house?  She made almost all of the giant tissue paper flowers.

4.  We kept the actual event super, super SIMPLE
decorated only 1 room (3 banners, 12 giant tissue flowers)

invited only 2 guests + their families
party for 1 hour
yes, you read that right, 1 hour
4 very brief activities...

colored on paper taped to the table
blew bubbles
danced to one song
ate a cupcake with strawberry lemonade

goodie bags: crayons and bubbles


The best part was the little miss sang "Happy" to herself for the rest of the night.  She still beams from ear to ear when you ask her about her party.  She does not need to know that I spent a full month preparing for her oldest brother's 2nd birthday party and that it was a full on production.  I liked her's way better anyway!

(throw - plan/pinterest - execute the list - simple)
My husband must say a thousand times a month... "it's all in the details."  Quite frankly, I get tired of hearing about it.  There are people in the world who think I am very detail oriented, but I am most certainly NOT detail oriented the way he is or wishes I was.  In my defense, I think we just focus on different details.  Usually when he is making his 'detail comment', I just try not to roll my eyes or throw something.  However, last fall I found myself whole heartedly agreeing with him.  My sister in-law is a graphic design artist and showed up to my daughter's baptism weekend with several "details" in hand.  I could not help, but think... "Wow!  What a difference something so little makes!  It really is all in the details."  Now, the likely hood that this revelation is going to transfer over into my day to day life in a way that impresses my significant other is... well, not likely at all, but that does not mean that I cannot stand in awe at someone else's gifts.  Thanks Darilyn... for the little flags.  They really did elevate the entire menu!  

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies from Brownie Points (my daughter's favorite)


Apple Cider Donuts from Wightman's Farm in Morristown, New Jersey 

(simply the best of all the local farms)

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese 
by Jamie Giles

(simply delicious, serves 12) 

8 Tbsp butter
6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 oz)
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 oz) or 1 1/4 cups grated
Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 oz)
1 pound elbow macaroni

Heat oven to 375. Grease a 3 qt casserole dish, set aside. Place cubed
bread in medium bowl and add 2 Tbsp melted butter. Toss and set aside.

Cook macaroni 2-3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until
the outside of the pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. Rinse
under cold water and drain well.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6
Tbsp butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter
bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking 1 minute

While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking
constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove pan from heat. Add spices, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2
cups Gruyere or 1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese. Stir macaroni into
cheese sauce.

Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar
cheese and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese on top.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Bake until browned on top, about 30

My daughter enjoying her favorite treat!

Just in case you were wondering... we did have many other things on the menu to make a more balanced meal, but my point today is that as we are all planning our summer parties... remember that a single detail or two (like a little flag) can go a long way to elevate the entire event into the special zone.  Good luck with all your entertaining!