Wednesday, June 20, 2012

{Free Printables} Modern DIY Train-Themed Birthday Party

It's only been...oh...three months since I threw this party for my son's second birthday, but I am so happy to finally be sharing it in a super long post via a billion photos (and lots of cool free printables at the end).  I think this is my favorite party I've thrown to date.

My toddler loves trains.  Like loves them to the point that I've sometimes wondered when hearing "My special special is ready to go" approximately 9,753 times each day would drive me insane.  So, when it came time to decide what the theme for his second birthday would be, it was a no-brainer.

I started browsing train parties online, but nearly every party I found either featured Thomas the Tank Engine or was done in red, white, and blue.  But I have an aversion to covering children's things in pictures of cartoons, and I wasn't really digging the "traditional" train colors. So, I googled trains and railroads and steam engines and all other train-y words I could think of.

In one of my searches, I came upon a railroad crossing sign.  You know, the bright yellow one with the black X and Rs on each side?  Voila! I had my color-scheme: yellow and black; then I decided to throw in gray.  I have been obsessed with gray for the past year or so.  It's so versatile.  So neutral.  So sophisticated. When I get around to showing you some of our new house projects, you can expect a lot more gray.  I love gray.  Seriously.

And so the train birthday party was born.  I love going all out for parties.  Despite my crazy moving, long-distance, stressful life, I didn't hold anything back on this party.  It was the perfect last celebration in our first home.

The Invitation:
The invitation was the only thing that didn't match the color scheme because I just found the old-fashioned train tickets too cute to pass up. (Free customizable printable below.)

The Decor:

DIY train tracks made out of black Duck Tape led guests up the walk (and held up surprising well even though it rained on and off all day).

I made another balloon wreath (get the tutorial here), though I just went with the multicolored balloons instead of theme-specific colors.  I also added some pipe cleaners this year, which I loved.  I just wrapped them around a pencil to make them into spirals, then stuck them directly into the straw wreath in between the balloon clusters.

Here's the birthday boy just waking up from his nap, wearing the shirt I made him.  It said, "Choo Choo. I am two!" and had a train (duh) in the middle of it. 

I had decorated during his nap, so he woke up to the house transformed into his personal train station.  He quickly got over his sleepy quietness and started running around, laughing, and looking at everything in awe.  It was so cool.

No party's complete without streamers.

My DIY no-sew fabric bunting banner said, "Choo Choo Hugh is Two."  I'll post the tutorial soon.

Party favors for the kids: train conductor hats, yellow bandanas, and wooden train whistles.
I decided I didn't want to get left out of the dress-up fun, so I made myself a yellow bandana necklace and bangle.  I still wear both of these accessories on a regular basis, and I love how fun they make me feel!

The Food Car:
 "Chew chew" napkin wrappers.  Free printable below.

First, what everyone comes for...the cake! Or cupcakes as was the case at our party (free printable cupcake wrappers below).  Chocolate with buttercream frosting.  Arranged like a little train that I built out of vanilla sugar wafers, graham crackers, and Oreos.  Mmmm....

 Someone likes them.

The menu included the "food train" of finger snacks and several (homemade) gourmet Station House Sandwiches.  Free printable signs are at the end of this post.  In retrospect, I would have put something in the big blank spot of the table on the left behind the food train.  See that there?  Flowers or something.  Hindsight's 20-20, right?

We had Thai Chicken Peanut Wraps (grilled chicken, peanut curry sauce, mandarin oranges, romaine lettuce, chopped peanuts, and chopped red onion), Roast Beef and Onions (roast beef, provolone cheese, caramelized shallots, red leaf lettuce, and a basic garlic aioli), Harvest Turkey (sliced turkey breast, sharp cheddar, romaine lettuce, sliced red onions, granny smith apple slices, and a basil aioli), and PBJs for the kids.

My food train, I used loaf pans from the dollar store for the cars, which included a coal car (black olives), a hopper car (ranch dip), a produce car (celery and caroot sticks), a log car (long, old-fashioned pretzel sticks), a dairy car (cheese cubes), a grain car (chips and crackers), and caboose kebabs (pineapples, blueberries, and strawberries).  Free printable signs below.

The drinks: Diesel Fuel (iced tea) and the Water Tower. Scroll to the bottom for free printable signs.

Grand Central Station (the games):
Conductor's Corner: DIY floor play mat that matched the color theme of the party. I sorted out all the yellow blocks I could find in our house for the kids to build tunnels and buildings out of.  Then I added some wooden trains for the kiddos to drive around.  Get the tutorial and printable here!

Tricky Tunnel: My handy husband made the tunnel for us out of some leftover scraps from other projects - plywood and 2x4s.  Maybe I can piece together a tutorial one of these days.  I painted the whole thing gray, then cut faux bricks out of sheets of black foam.  I attached them with double sided tape, and the tunnel was pretty cool! I borrowed the tunnel from Hugh's discovery tent, and tied it into the tunnel frame for the kids to crawl through. 

Coal car bean bag toss: I made a couple of fabric covered boxes, put them up on 2x4s cut to the length of the box, and cut wheels out of a black foam sheet.  For the "coal" I just used black fleece to sew little squares and filled them with some ancient beans I had in the cabinet.

The Grand Finale!

I had one big surprise left for my little man.  His very own train ride!  Get the tutorial here.
What started as a boring old garden cart turned into a magical train for a very happy two-year-old.

My plan was to give the kids rides outside, but the rain squelched that idea.  So, the garage it was. They loved it anyway.

 Little man didn't want his buddies to leave at the end...

...though my hubby was clearly ready for the party to be over.

And now for the printables!

Update: In addition to the yellow and gray printables (all below), these are now available in pink and gray!  Click here to get the pink versions.

And they're available in blue and red.  I got this request a lot. I guess it makes sense...they're classic train colors.  And now they're here!  Click here to get the red and blue versions.

 (click on the picture for full size, or download the customizable .DOC version here).
To assemble: Edit to include the details of your party (or you can print blank ones and hand write them in).  Cut out the ticket around the black line, then use a hole punch to punch the month and date to make them even more train ticket-y.  ***Note that some of the text on this invitation runs vertically instead of horizontally.  I was able to "turn" the text boxes on my computer, but you may not have the same success.  Also, remember that sometimes fonts and formats do funky things in Word from computer to computer, so if it doesn't look right, you'll have to change the font type, size, etc.***

Cupcake Wrappers
(click on the picture for full size)
To assemble: Print (I used cardstock).  Cut out each wrapper.  Line up the two short straight ends, overlapping them a little to create a "cup" for your cupcake to go in.  Glue or tape the ends together.

Napkin Wrappers

(click on each picture for full size)
To assemble: print (I used regular printer paper) and cut out each wrapper.  Place your utensils diagonally across a napkin, and wrap the napkin into a cone around the utensils.  Wrap one wrapper around the utensil packet and secure the ends with glue (if you're super patient enough to hold them while they dry or tape).

Food Table and Game Signs

 (click on each picture for full size or download the .PDF or .DOC version)
To assemble: Customize and print (I used cardstock).  Cut out leaving extra white space above each sign so you can fold the sign to make a tent card.
Background Papers

(click on each picture for full size)
Use these however you want. Print on cardstock and mount pictures to them to show off the last year.  Use them as the basis for cupcake toppers.  Print them out and punch or cut out circles for people to write their names on and tie to the handles of their drink cups so they wouldn't lose them.  Be creative!
A few things to keep in mind:

-These printables are made by yours truly!  And I appreciate it if you use them for personal use only.  If you really, really want them for something else - just ask me.

-You can customize these files however you want. As long as you're moderately handy with a computer; you can use photo editing software, Word, or even Paint.  If you can't figure it out, I'm happy to help - just let me know (

-You can download the .jpeg files or the .doc files (if applicable).  The .doc files are already set up with text boxes for easy customization, but remember that sometimes fonts and formats do funky things in Word from computer to computer, so if it doesn't look right, you'll have to change the font type, size, etc.

I've had some people ask where they could find the train image that's found on the food labels and napkin wrappers.  Here is a link to the original file, free to download.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why an observer might think I'm crazy

There are some days when my whole self just shuts down...mind and body.  Days like today, my willpower for parenting is just all used up after wrangling a spilling, crumb-mongering toddler through Starbucks, "fixing it better" the same kid's train every two seconds while trying to fold six loads of laundry, chasing that two-year old through a deli and across a parking lot while trying not lose drinks and sandwiches for three, and then baking in the summer sun playing "up the hill, down the hill" with said crazy little boy. (Yes, that game is played exactly how it sounds).

And then comes naptime, sweet naptime.  When I will finally get a break if I can only get the kid to lay still for the three seconds it would take for his exhaustion to overwhelm him into sleep.

But instead, he fights. He rolls. He drops his blanket. He drops his pillow. He climbs out of bed.  He turns from wild toddler to banshee who will not go to sleep.  And all I can do is pick him up, flailing and kicking, and place him back in his bed each time he gets out.  Every 2.5 seconds.  I didn't have it in me to scold or plead or bargain.  All I could do was hum a little tune softly to myself as I set him back in bed dozens - though it felt like thousands - of times.  Humming that little tune to keep my sanity.

Or perhaps I've already lost it?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Nothing's cuter than babies in googles

Except babies with their daddies in goggles! 

We are officially "moved in" to our new house.  Though, I use the term "moved in" loosely, since 95% of our stuff is still in storage and we're camping out on just our mattresses on the dining room floor.  But it's all downhill from here, right?

It's been a whirlwind week and a half with lots of furious cleaning, spackling, texturing, priming, painting, weeding...oh the list goes on!  But we're getting close.  Errr....closer.  And I finally have two minutes to breathe today. Or to blog, you know.

So, those are my hard-working men.  I'd show you a picture of my hard-working self, but I'm all covered in dirt and sweat and globs of paint.  Soon maybe I'll get to show you pictures of things we're getting done.

But until then, happy June to all!