If you've met Miles and he's talked to you at all, you probably already know what kind of party he had this year. He's been talking about his SpacePartyForMyFourthBirthday since the day after his 3rd birthday last year. He's also been planning future party themes all year, assigning them to different ages, and letting us know what he's planning until he is 12 years old. (I'm completely serious.) Miles loves dreaming up parties as much as I do, so it was fun and extra special to really collaborate on his party together!
I use WHCC for a lot of my printing and I've been wanting to try out their foil-stamped designs for awhile. They have different templates that are blank except for the foil-stamped part, so I chose this geometric design in silver and designed this using a photo from the Project Apollo Archives (which I'm completely fascinated with.) I was really happy with how they turned out and we used the Views of our Planets stamps from USPS to mail them.
Miles has loved outer space, astronauts, rockets and the like since before he could talk. Brad and I are equally enchanted by space travel, so we knew eventually we wanted to do something space-themed be it a video, photoshoot, or -perhaps - a party. This past February, we happened across a Makedo cardboard space pod for 70% off at Target (we only paid about $24 total!) We knew it'd be perfect for a future party, so we bought it, put it in the storage room in our workshop and planned on saving it for whenever that would be. Miles saw it and was totally fine with waiting to open it up for his party, but he immediately decided the party had to be this year.
We had thrown Matilda's 1st birthday party in the studio, and loved how much easier it was to not have it at our house. More space for kids to run around, we could setup and decorate ahead of time, no cleaning our house--the benefits seemed endless. And with a space theme in particular, we could get really creative by turning the infinity wall and surrounding studio space into outer space!
We put the space pod together the week of Thanksgiving and were all SO excited putting it together. The words "this is so cool!" were said over and over as it came together. It came in a deceptively small box, because this thing is HUGE. I'm not quite sure how it would really fit in a normal-sized house, and we are planning to bring it home, but it's so large, it will probably take up most of the space on the floor of the playroom. One major benefit: it's big enough for grownups to play in, too!
We found a star projector on Amazon that added a ton of magic! It was more expensive than we would have liked, but we decided to let the projector be his birthday gift so he could use it as a nightlight after the party. Lately Miles has wanted to sleep with tons of lights on in his room, and it's been a struggle to convince him to turn off his lamp and sleep with just a nightlight, so we thought this might help. It totally worked and now he loves falling asleep under the stars each night.
It actually has two separate lighting elements you can choose between or combine. There is a green laser that creates "stars" which slowly move around, and there's also a cloud option where you can project animated blue clouds. The clouds are on a dimmer so you can adjust the brightness. Underneath the base of the projector, there are screw holes so you can mount it on a wall to hang and project, so that worked great for using it at the party. We have a double-sided theater flat with the Kid President cardboard backdrop on one side, so we pushed it to the corner of the curtains that surround the studio area and hung the projector on the backside of it. This allowed the projector to shine straight down onto the infinity wall (and kept it safe from kids running around) and the effect was pretty amazing.
For favors, I really wanted to make the DIY recycled jetpacks that kept popping up when I searched "space party" on Pinterest. (You can see all of the things I pinned in prep for his party here on Pinterest.) I used empty two-liter soda bottles (huge thank you to everyone that saved some for us and even dropped them by our house!), metallic silver duct tape, colored duct tape, and scrap cardboard to form the main part of the jetpack. I basically followed most of this tutorial but I loved the "smoke" idea from this post, so I used polyester batting inside the bottles. I ordered 1 inch polypropylene webbing, slider buckles, and these buckles to create straps and a chest harness so they wouldn't fall off the kids as they were playing.
I sewed the buckles to the straps so they'd be more durable, and everything held up really well, even through the kids playing rough! The flames were created out of yellow, orange and red felt and hot glued to the bottle's mouth. I created silver cones around the flames out of two pieces of metallic duct tape (sticky sides together) and taped it around the bottle opening with more duct tape. I made a few tiny ones for the smallest kids at the party with 20 ounce soda bottles and they were adorable!
A few years ago, we found a Meri Meri Space Cadet centerpiece at TJ Maxx on clearance (I think for $7) and we bought it, but never got around to actually using it for anything. Then, a few months ago, we found a second brand-new one at a consignment sale for $3! We set up three tables, and since I only had two of the rocket centerpieces, for the third table I made a quick sculpture inspired by the design on his invitations out of string and silver drinking straws cut in half.
I hung a huge piece of black backdrop paper on our wood wall, added letters cut out of silver paper and drew random stars and dots on it with a silver sharpie to create a photo backdrop.
We also gathered up all of the different space toys and costumes we had at home--a few years ago I found two pairs of space boots, two helmets and two jetpacks made by Cranium at a rummage sale for maybe $5 total. We also have a rocketship costume that was originally sold at Target, but we got it a few years ago for $1 at Dirt Cheap.
My parents have two Radio Flyer Spin 'N Saucers that they found years ago at Goodwill for only a few dollars each, and they brought those for the kids to play with. They LOVED scooting all over the workshop, but also used them as seats in the spaceship, and they worked perfectly with it. We also had Miles' Joybay Swing car there for kids to play with, and all of those worked great on the smooth concrete floors of the studio!
A package of water beads, soaked in water overnight and put out in a plastic bin for kids to play in turned out to be a major hit with the little ones. They were a bit messy (but not a huge hassle to clean up). Worth it for the smiles.
I decided to just go easy and simple with food and include kid-friendly stuff that wasn't all sugary and included lots of Miles' favorites. Grapes, Cuties mandarin oranges, cheese cubes, carrots and ranch dip, Go-gurt, GoGo Applesauce, pretzels, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into stars with a cookie cutter. Hawaiian rolls, different sandwich meats and cheeses were also available so that everyone could make their own sandwich, too.
I decided to make a moon cake since it seemed easy enough, and would be on theme. (Miles actually suggested an earth cake, but I knew that'd be way more work decoration-wise, so I told him if we did a moon, I could put a little astronaut and flag on top and that sold him on the moon idea.) I bought a dome cake pan and actually tested it out twice before the party to make sure I wouldn't screw up his birthday cake, which ended up being a good idea--it was so much harder to bake than I anticipated. The one I got is huge--and it came with NO instructions. The company that made it has some suggestions on their website, but they didn't list baking times for this particular size. I think in the final cake I ended up using 2.5 cake mixes, and I'm glad I tested it out first because it had to cook at 300 degrees for about an hour and a half to cook all the way through. I also had to buy a heating core to make sure the center of it cooked all of the way, but it still turned out a bit fudge-y on the inside (which actually made it taste really moist and really good!) Overall it held its shape and was very strong.
I made a Swiss chocolate cake with homemade vanilla buttercream icing, and mixed in some black food coloring to turn it gray. (I use Americolor gel food coloring because it's super concentrated and a few drops go a long way! This is the set I have.) I tried to create a moon texture by mixing in a bunch of different things into the icing--crushed Oreo's and silver and gray sprinkles that look more like rocks and it ended up giving the frosting a crunchy texture. I did a crumb layer and then a thicker layer of frosting and tried to create some crater-ish areas to make it more moon-like. I stuck an astronaut toy on top and made a little flag out of a toothpick and construction paper and cut out a little paper 4. We used sparkler candles, so I took off the flag for singing because I was scared it might ignite!
I've always enjoyed making paper maché piñatas, so I made a moon one to double as a decoration and an activity for the party. I had some leftover 36" balloons from Matilda's party, so I blew one up most of the way, and covered it with layers of newspaper. I have a huge roll of unprinted newsprint paper that I got from our local paper for free years ago, so I just tore strips and used wallpaper paste I had left over from papering our bathroom at the studio. Miles even helped with part of the paper maché process. I did about 4-5 layers, 1 layer at a time, over the course of about 2 weeks.
By cutting out strips of thin cardboard and joining them into a circle, I was able to create fa crater effect. I put paper strips over them until they were completely covered, and just put some around the moon until I was happy with the placement.
I had planned on just painting it various shades of gray and using a sponge to create texture when painting, but then came across a set of paints on clearance at JoAnn fabrics. It's a kit by Folk Art called Painted Finishes in Concrete, and it's two small bottles of paint in two shades of gray (lighter and darker) and each of them has a concrete texture to them (it kinda feels like sand was mixed into the paint.) They were marked down to $3.97 each, and I bought two sets (and used almost all of it.)
With the concrete paint kit, you paint one color on first, then use a wet brush technique with the second color to blend it in and add dimension. It was SO easy to do--absolutely no artistic ability needed--and the effect was totally worth it. So cool. The sandy texture covered the edges of the paper strips really well helping to make the whole thing look way more like the moon.
Using gaffer's tape, I attached strings to the inside of the hole at the top and then hung it from our curtain track. I kept it raised up until we were ready to use it and then lowered it to the kids' level.
It ended up being super strong--every kid got to whack at it at least twice before my younger brother Robby broke it wide open!
As an added and very vital part of the day, we hired a wonderful young photographer, Ellis Osburn, to help document the day. This allowed both Brad and I to focus on being with Miles - right there, in the moment, fully present the entire day. Having a birthday so close to Christmas, we've said from the beginning that we never want his birthday or Christmas to be focused on gifts, but for Christmas to be focused on family and spending time together, and for his birthday to really celebrate him and what he means to our family. Whether that's just spending a quiet dinner with just our family or having a party with all of his friends, it doesn't really matter as long as he feels loved and special on his birthday. The added bonus this year was he got to be so involved with me in the entire process. Seeing him light up with ideas and dreams made every second of the planning a joy.
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