Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Avery's 1st Birthday Party

Someone's turning one!
After weeks of planning, preparing, and crafting my heart, out we celebrated Avery's 1st birthday this weekend. It was a small event with mostly family that we held at our house. As with the title of my blog, you can imagine that I also tried to make it as "green" as possible by making things myself, and decorating with resusable decor. If you are curious how I made some of these items, you can check out my follow up post to this one titled, "Behind the Scenes of Avery's First Birthday." In that post you will see me "get my craft on" as I guide you through all the steps I took when making the crafts that were displayed at the party.

Moving on to the fun stuff... let's see how it all went down on party day at our house!

It began with these photo-montage invitations I made in Photoshop, where I merged together all of her monthly photos into one document and then had them printed as 5x7s through Shutterfly.

The party invite

The outfit for the birthday girl was a "Custom First Birthday Onesie" ($15) from twinspirations shop on Etsy. I fell in love with colors of this onesie and the pattern on the "number one" and I used it as inspiration for the colors and theme of the party, so you will probably see lots of teal, dark pink, and orange in this post! There are many other onesie colors and pattern choices on this Etsy listing if you are interested as well. 
The birthday girl in her birthday outfit.


Onto the decor. The food was set up in our dinning room which was adorned with pom poms (my favorite thing to decorate with), a fabric bunting hanging from the mirror, and wrapping paper as a runner on our table.



All the food was gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan. We had:
  • sliced fruit with a vegan cream cheese dip (1 cup Better Than Cream Cheese Vegan Spread + 1/2 cup xylitol, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, whipped together and then chilled)
  • "Melty Pizza Hummus" with chips and vegetables (Wishing I would have made some type of vegan ranch dip to go more with the veggies, but maybe next time. Anyone know a good vegan recipe for that?)
  • my mother-in-law's famous salsa with chips
  • Blue Sky Natural Soda in "Dr.Becker" and "Root Beer" flavor
  • and of course cupcakes!




I worked tirelessly for months to find the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe as well as frosting that was gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan. It was one tough challenge. I dubbed it, "The Cupcake Project".

I tried all kinds of recipes for vanilla cupcakes.
Going gluten-free didn't seem to be too big of a problem, but it was when I took the sugar out that really started to alter the flavor of the cupcake. Being vegan didn't help a whole lot either. Now I do eat small amounts of sugar in my day-to-day life, so it's not that I'm completely anti-sugar, it's just that I try to find alternatives to sugar. The reaction my body has to sugar is not so fun. Usually I get a headache and a jittery feeling all over, probably because I never have straight sugar. This has led me to use alternatives like agave nectar, coconut sugar, and xylitol.

I tried a variety of different icings...this one is actually
"Chocolate Avocado Pudding" from Oh She Glows.


One of the many batches of cupcakes I made.

Some of the cupcakes didn't rise, other tasted like cornbread. Some tasted like muffins, and some crumbled when I went to take a bite. Some of my frustrations came from the fact that I don't do a lot of baking. Instead, I do a lot of cooking, with dinners, pastas, and casseroles. So when it comes to baked sweets with recipes that have to be followed to the last 1/8 of a teaspoon, I struggle a bit. I love to just throw a dash of this, a dash of that into the dish and call it good. Apparently you can't do that with baking, huh?

Now I've learned and after many different recipes, endless tasting sessions (Avery included)...

Avery even tried a cupcake or two.

I finally found the perfect recipe! I knew it was "the one" because after tasting it, I ended up eating two right then and there. "I found the ONE!" I told Brandon as he got home from work that day.

I polished off two whole cupcakes when I finally found the
right recipe!

The recipe came from the book, BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna. These cupcakes were moist, fluffy and full of deliciously sweet flavor that didn't make me jittery afterwards because they are sweetened with agave nectar.
Here is the recipe if you are interested!

Vanilla Cupcakes
Online recipe source here.
  • 2 cups garbanzo–fava bean flour  
  • 1 cup potato starch  
  • ½ cup arrowroot  
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda  
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum  
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil (in liquid form)
  • 1 1/3 cups agave nectar
  • ¾ cup homemade applesauce or store‑bought unsweetened applesauce  
  • 3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • grated zest of 1 lemon (I used 1 tsp. lemon juice)
  • 1 cup hot water

 Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, vanilla, and lemon zest to the dry ingredients and combine. Stir in the hot water and mix until the batter is smooth.

Pour 1/3 cup batter into each prepared cup, almost filling it. Bake the cupcakes on the center rack for 22 minutes, rotating the tins 180 degrees after 15 minutes. The finished cupcakes will be golden brown and will bounce back when pressure is applied gently to the center.

Let the cupcakes stand in the tins for 20 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely. Using a frosting knife, gently spread 1 tablespoon vanilla frosting over each cupcake. Store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Now after I got the cupcake recipe down, it was time to move onto the frosting. I thought it was hard to find a sugar-free cupcake...try a frosting! Nearly every recipe I found called for "4 cups of powdered sugar" or "3 cups of white sugar"! Ahhh! Are you serious! I was determined...there had to be some type of alternative out there.

I figured I'd check with the Babycakes cookbook I had so much luck with before, but I couldn't get it to be the right consistency...I think it was because of the coconut oil? I don't know. All I know is my first attempt came out looking something like mini-cottage cheese. Not quite the look I was going for. Perhaps I just made it wrong? Anyone else ever make this and have it turn out "normal"?

Vegan frosting with coconut oil=fail for me.

 Then after trying a few other recipes, I came across one that used agave nectar and shortening. Although shortening isn't exactly my favorite ingredient in the world (I can never get it cleaned off my hands!), it was a better alternative to me since I couldn't have regular sugar or butter.

The recipe I found was "Sugar-Free Vegan Frosting" from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. Here's how it looked the first time I made it...ahh, that's what frosting is supposed to look like!




Here's the recipe, as listed on the Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen's blog:

Sugar-Free, Vegan Frosting
  • 2 cups organic palm shortening (Spectrum)
  • 1 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons non-alcoholic vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons almond flavoring (non-alcoholic)
  • 2 to 4 teaspoons beet juice (optional)
Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and whip up with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. This can be made a day ahead of time, stored at room temp. Just re-whip before frosting the cake.

To make it pink for the party, I used beet juice, as instructed by The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, and it worked great. All I needed was 1 tsp. of the juice and it didn't alter the flavor at all. It just gave me a nice pink icing for one special little birthday girl!

I juiced a beet in my juicer and used 1 tsp. of the juice
for an all-natural way to color my frosting.

The end result: gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan cupcakes with some rockin' naturally colored, sugar-free, vegan frosting! Mission Accomplished!

The result of my cupcake project.


Okay, okay, so I totally got wrapped up in "foodie talk" there. This is supposed to be the "party" post not the "details" post, but what can I say, I like to talk about food.

Speaking of food, Avery likes to eat it too. She munched on different fruits and veggies throughout the party as well.



Onto the decor...pom poms anyone? (  : I love pom poms because they are also "green". The pink and blue ones are from Avery's gender reveal party, the orange ones are from Halloween, and I just made a ton of white ones for my sister-in-law's baby shower. To me, it's fun to have built a stash of these poms because any occasion that arises, I can check what color pom poms I have, and then all I have to do is hang them. In the next post, I will show you how I make them myself.



Here's a fun wreath I had on my front door for the party. I wish I could say I made it, but I tried my hand at yarn wreaths back around Christmas and although I got mine done, it was quite a challenge. This time around I left it to a pro over at Etsy, Katie from the shop "Heartfelt Yarn Wreaths". I saw this awesome "Happy Birhtday Yarn Wreath" ($50) online and knew it would be perfect for the party. I love how it can go along with my "green theme" in how it can be used year after year just by changing out the numbers. It's of great quality and I look forward to using it for all of our birthdays from now on. She has a variety of other colors and styles available for this wreath if you are interested.

Avery's birthday wreath from Etsy.

Another fun decor/activity we had was for our party-goers to vote for who they thought Avery looked more like, Brandon or myself.




Unfortunately, I think the pictures may have been a little biased because my picture is much more close up than Brandon's and I have a messy face just like Avery does in her picture. Or maybe she does just look more like her mama? Truly I think she's a good mix of the two of us. My eyes, and Brandon's mouth and chin.
Brandon wasn't feeling the results of the voting.

In the end, I had 8, Brandon had 1, and there was 1 undecided


 In the living room, I hung a monthly photo banner, displaying all of her monthly photos from month 1 to 11.






Avery's great-grandma Sue, and grandma Karen.

 I also created a fabric-covered "1" out of scraps from my fabric bunting you saw earlier in the kitchen.



Now enough about the decor and the food, someone was ready to get the party started and open some presents!
"Can we open some presents finally?"
My mom made her a dog card, and what's the first thing she
said? "Dog!"
She also got a fun chef hat.
And a "Gma's Lil' Helper" apron.
Avery sure loves to help cook.
I'll let you guess who this present came from!

Avery loves playing on Brandon's
skateboards, so she was beyond
thrilled to finally get one of her own.

She likes to sit on it and go for rides around the house.

 Then it was cupcake time!


 We took the party out onto our porch, where we sang "Happy Birthday" and watched Avery eat her birthday cupcake.

I think the cupcakes and frosting were a hit with Avery.


"Yeah! I'm one!"


She then had fun pulling off the fabric bunting I had Velcroed onto her highchair. That's when I knew she was done eating. (  :



 After the cupcake fun we headed over to her main present, a new swing set. A lot of friends and family chipped in to help us get this swing set for Avery (thank you all!). Avery loves being outside (with her dogs especially) and she's been able to use the swings at those locations, and we've seen just how happy they make her. This got us thinking that a swing set, with a slide and a little fort would be the perfect 1st birthday present. Unfortunately, we came up with this idea a week before her party, but luckily we found an online store that had this swing set for a great price and it shipped fast. It arrived 2 days before the party, and with the help of my brother, Andrew, we were able to get it put together and swing-ready with plenty of time to spare.

Avery's birthday swing set.
Avery trying out the swing set, with
her Uncle Andrew who built it.

The swing set came in handy at the party because it was a fun place for Avery and her cousins to play while us adults talked and ate.

We added this "Little Tikes High Back Toddler Swing"
just for Avery because it allows her to move a little in the
swing, yet stay safe.



Before the party ended, we headed inside to watch a video I made that re-caped her first year...


All in all it was one fun and memorable party. Thanks to everyone who came out and those who couldn't make it but contributed to the "swing set fund"...it was greatly appreciated. Avery sure seemed to have a great time and it will give us great memories for years to come.

Happy Birthday Avery!


Just showing a little leg on her birthday (  :

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Love your blog! Where did you find the swing set for Avery? I've been looking all over for one that size for my daughter.

    ReplyDelete

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