Zoe’s Very Hungry Caterpillar 1st Birthday

Up until now I’ve only blogged about food, but my daughter recently turned one, and she has had quite the first year of her life!  So being the proud mother I am I decided to blog about her birthday party celebration.

It’s impossible to talk about her without talking about her twin brother Oscar.  They were born under very difficult circumstances.  I was only 23 weeks pregnant when I unknowingly went into labor.  I checked into the hospital because I was concerned about some symptoms I was experiencing, and imagine my surprise when the doctors informed me I was dilated 4 cm and having contractions every two minutes.  Only being able to hold off delivering the twins for four days, I had an emergency C-section and out the two came.  They both experienced a lot of problems in the beginning, but after five months in the NICU Zoe came home, and Oscar didn’t.  He passed away when they were nine months old, for reasons that would be too laborious to delve into.  And Zoe was there to experience it all.  She had her own challenging experience, and she continued to live Oscar’s experience with every visit to the hospital to visit brother. 

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And since Oscar’s passing Zoe has continued to do beautifully.  She is remarkable.  She is growing and living life for the both of them and I couldn’t be prouder of her.  So what better way to celebrate her first year of life than with a Very Hungry Caterpillar themed birthday?!  Has another metaphor been more fitting to describe someone who was transformed from her humble beginnings as a 23-week preemie into a healthy and beautiful little girl spreading her wings more and more with every passing day?

All metaphors aside, the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a great story for any child, so I used that as the theme and inspiration for her birthday party.  I hired Let Them Eat Cupcakes to make Zoe’s “birthday cake” that consisted of 66 cupcakes for the body and a small cake as the head to create a caterpillar. It took three cake sheets to hold it all:

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As for the food I served the guests, I used the foods that the caterpillar eats in the book as inspiration for the menu.  I didn’t follow the menu exactly, mainly because I was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough healthy options for my guests.  So I eliminated some of the junk food like cherry pie, and substituted it for spinach/goat cheese/strawberry/walnut salad. 

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Because Zoe has a summer birthday and we were hosting the party in our backyard in the hot neighborhood of Kaimuki, we hired a vendor to create shaved ice for our guests.  As a special treat, our vendor made “adult” shaved ice for those of drinking age.  An especially delicious combination of flavors were POG juice (passion-orange-guava) and banana with a splash of rum.

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With the help of my friends and family we decorated our backyard with lots of hungry caterpillar decorations trademarked by the author of the book Eric Carle, all of which I bought on Amazon.com.  This included caterpillar and butterfly cut-outs that I punched holes in and tied with raffia to the top of our lanai ceiling to dangle down above the lanai railings.  I also bought garlands that I used to spell out “Happy First Birthday Zoe”.  And to top it off I bought birthday and cupcake cut-outs that I hung from the ceiling and taped up on our fence and lanai railings, just to be extra festive and create an atmosphere where we’re obviously enjoying a hungry caterpillar theme, despite the fact that we’re in a regular backyard.  I thought it was important to provide the right amount of decoration to transform a backyard into a birthday party atmosphere, without being over the top.

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 As for my own personal arts and crafts decorations, I took colorful construction paper and cut holes using an exacto knife to make it look like a caterpillar ate through it.  I then taped it up against white butcher paper to create a nice background and photo op for when my daughter ate her birthday cupcake.  I also cut circles of different sizes in construction paper, punched holes in the top of each circle, and then tied raffia through the holes to string around Zoe’s high chair.  And last, some simple latex balloons tied on her high chair, as well as around our lanai, to create a festive party scene.

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And what party would be complete without party favors for the guests?  I made gift favor bags for kids, which included bubbles, hungry caterpillar stickers and snack food.  For the adults, butterfly cookies made by Honolulu Cookie Company special for Neiman Marcus (you have to go into Neiman Marcus to buy these butterfly cookies, if you’re interested), and m&m candy, presented in a nice light green organza drawstring pouch.

 So that’s a quick summary of Zoe’s first birthday party!  If you’re hosting first birthday party, or any party for that matter, I hope this post helps give you ideas for how to decorate your party and entertain your guests!

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