After all the nonsense of moving in, the bathroom water problems we’ve been having, and oh yeah… Taking care of 3 little ones, I completely lost track of time and before I knew it, Little Miss Penelope’s first birthday was fast approaching. Early February, I realized that I only had 2 weeks to make it work. On the bright side, because of the move, we decided we would have her party down in Gunsan, my parents’ hometown. Almost all of my close relatives live there, and it just made more sense that way since I could leave the food and location choices to my parents. I think…
Anyway, my parents found a nice place that was within our budget for food, so I didn’t have to worry about that, but with 2 weeks left, I had to work on decorations, favors, desserts, and pretty much everything else.
I had to make do with crafting supplies that I already had on hand as the craft department at the store on post leaves much to be desired, and although I’ve heard of this magical craft marketplace in Namdaemun, I didn’t have the time and energy to drag 3 little ones to the crazy Korean marketplace during the coldest winter in 50 years.
I did a bit of searching on Pinterest for some ideas, but I already had a pretty decent idea of what I’d like to do. Mostly because 4 years ago, I planned a dol for Charlie and Lincoln and filed away ideas for if/when I had a little girl. 😉
I stuck with pinks and brown because well… I love the color combination, and because I really wanted to have both chocolate cupcakes and red velvet cupcakes. Haha!
The most time consuming part of the party prep was all the baking. I’m pretty sure that my decision to bake 4 dozen cupcakes and a 3 layer 8-inch round cake and flower-shaped sugar cookies was made during a fit of insanity. And of course, when I started all this nonsense, I didn’t give much thought to the fact that my oven here in Korea is literally HALF the size of an American oven or that I would have to transport all these items to my parents’ house 3 hours away.
The only clever decision I made about the cupcakes was to keep the icing simple and to make little cupcake “tags” to decorate them. As I’ve learned, paper crafts are much easier to do with kids running around the house than anything that involves the oven or set times. I can easily walk away from paper and scissors without worrying if things are going to burn or dry out if unattended for a period of time. Cutting out the pieces, punching out butterflies and gluing onto toothpicks was significantly easier than baking.
In addition to the cupcakes, I decided to make a 3 layer cake–chocolate, red velvet and butter–with cream cheese icing. I didn’t do much to decorate the cake either. Although I had these grand ideas of butterflies and flowers, realizing my time limits… I gave up on that and did a simple swirl design using the back of a spoon. I was planning to use a slice of the cake as Penelope’s smash cake as well, and I think the cake turned out pretty nicely–simple on the outside, fun on the inside!
The favor boxes were also relatively easy. I used a single sheet of 8.5in x 11in cardstock for each box and decorated with the leftover scrap paper from the 12in x 12in scrapbook paper I used to make the Happy Birthday Penelope flag banner. I didn’t want to waste all those triangles of paper, and this worked out wonderfully. The boxes were a perfect fit for the Lindt chocolate truffles we gave as party favors. They weren’t quite the jars of homemade butterscotch that we gave at the boys’ first birthday party, but then again, we also didn’t have a keg at Penny’s. 😉
My baking/decorating delirium didn’t end with the 3 layer cake and cupcakes. I also baked flower shaped sugar cookies with chocolate and cream cheese icing. I loved the way the bigger cookies turned out, but the smaller ones looked like fat stars more than flowers… So when I put them out on the dolsang (the birthday table), I stacked them into little cookie towers, which helped. And the best treat for last… I made chocolate dipped pretzel sticks that were delicious. I know this for a fact because I ate a lot of them. A lot.
Traditionally, the dolsang is supposed to be very colorful, but I was adamant that the colors all work with each other because well… I’ve seen a lot of traditional dol photos and all the colors are just too much. However, it came down to a test of wills between my mother and me. I let her put some fruit on the table, mostly because she wouldn’t back down on that one… And some of the Korean rice cakes were banished to the back edge of the table where hopefully, they wouldn’t show up in too many of the photos. 😉
All in all, I am very pleased with how it all turned out. The backdrop was another headache…but it all worked out. My original plan was to have the butterfly and flower strands all along the back of the backdrop, but I ran out of time. It wasn’t difficult to string the pieces together (thanks to double sided tape!), but it was extremely time consuming, so at the last minute, I put the Happy First Birthday in Korean up. I was actually a bit nervous about how it would look in photos, but I think it came out very nicely.
As for the leading lady of this extravaganza, Miss Penelope was an absolute doll–she looks so dignified! Haha!
And despite relinquishing my control freak tendencies on the selection of her hanbok (traditional Korean dress), my mom did a great job of picking out a beautiful dress. 🙂
Little Penny had a great time playing with her smash cake.