I had two fairly simple goals: 1) I wanted it to be charming, and 2) I wanted it to be fun for Espen and his guests. After a bit of thinking, I found the charm factor in Radiator Springs, the little town where the first "Cars" movie is set. It has a 1950's Americana feel that I have always thought was cute, so I decided to go from there. As for the fun part, I knew I would have room full of toddlers and pre-schoolers, so if we played our cards right, the fun would almost take care of itself.
As in earlier years, I started out with the invitation. I like doing it that way to set the tone for the rest of the party. My good friend Kristen runs Sage Digital Designs, and was good enough to put together a pretty awesome custom invitation for Espen's "Cars" party. I've used her for several other occasions, including Espen's train party invitation last year, and can't recommend her highly enough. She's also (in my opinion) severely underpriced, so you are getting a steal for something custom.
I found a few images I liked, and told Kristen I wanted a retro-vibe for the invitation with a Radiator Springs skyline. Here is what she came up with:
|Pretty great, right? Cheesy wording by me.|
Once the invitation was sent out, I sat down to a serious Pinterest session and pulled together some ideas for the party itself. Then I conferred with Nick and scaled back about 2/3 of my ideas to something reasonable for a 2-hour party for a gang of mostly 3 year-olds. You can see my "Cars" Pinboard here, and find the origins for several of these ideas.
To let the guests know what to expect, we welcomed them with a Piston Cup "crest" and some racing flags on the front door. We found the Piston cup logo online and printed it on card stock, and found the cheapy racing flags at a party store. Everything is held together and attached to the door with tape, cleverly hidden by the logo. Super quick and easy, but quite impactful, I think.
|I especially love the vintage feel to the Piston Cup logo.|
Once inside, we had two main features in the living room that doubled as both decoration and entertainment. First, we made a road on the floor by cutting a black disposable table cloth in half and taping it down with white masking tape. Then we put 12" strips of tape down the middle to separate into two lanes for "driving"/general mayhem. Definitely a hit with the kids, and very simple to do! It is similar to the train tracks we made last year, but much, much faster to set up and take down.
|When I say "we", I mean Nick. This was all him.|
|Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell take a spin.|
As far as other decorations went, I tried to keep things really simple this year:
|Hanging these up (and rehanging them when they fell down) was almost the death of me. Proceed with caution.|
|He is definitely worth all the hoopla.|
|The photo's a bit dark, but you get the idea.|
Speaking of compromise, as much as I didn't want a "Cars in a bag" style birthday, I knew that Espen would love to be part of planning and preparing for his party, so I took him party shopping with just the two of us and let him pick a few things, including the checkered flags and streamers I mentioned earlier. He very much wanted "Cars" themed party plates, so I conceded, and paired them with checkered napkins and red cups which I then let him decorate with "Cars" stickers. We also bought some "Cars" cupcake liners that we didn't end up using for the party, but we are sure to use them another day. And you can't really see it in the photos, but we also bought "Cars" confetti that we scattered on the kitchen table.
And as has become traditional for our kid parties, we had balloons doubling as decorations and party favors. They look really festive, don't cost much, are fun to play with and don't have to kept forever after. And due to some miracle, none of the kids wanted the same color and everyone was happy.
As far as party food went, we really reigned things in this year because we always go overboard. Still, we has as follows:
|And I got to use my tiered plate!|
|A lot of checkers.|
|Guido and the Tower of Tires.|
And finally, the birthday cake! We found a pretty genius tutorial for how to make a 3-shaped birthday cake using two bunt pans here, but be warned that it gives you a lot of cake. So much cake. We went with a checkered theme again, but you could also do a really cute road cake like this one here. I just couldn't face getting cute with fondant and frosting and wanted to keep things simple.
|Espen and his pint-sized guests.|