YAY! We kept a tiny human alive for a whole year! We all survived!
That is pretty much the reason we have first birthday parties for children. Also, of course, we are crazy in love with our little boy and want to celebrate his first year with friends and family and CAKE. And, with of course, a theme.
For Little Lars, the theme had to be Fantastic Mr. Fox. Mostly because: Lars is fantastic. Obviously we’re a bit biased, but like his foxy counterpart, Lars charms pretty much everyone he meets. He also happens to have lots of adorable vulpine apparel, all supplied by my family, who are big fans of the film. My dad and brothers particularly love the vulpine explitive “What the cuss!” and manage to work other lines into conversation quite often. And Roald Dahl has always been one of my favorite authors–I amassed virtually his entire works as a kid.
I was inspired by both the original book by Roald Dahl (and the scribbly illustrations of Quentin Blake) and the delightful film adaptation by Wes Anderson. I particularly appreciate the attention to detail in Wes Anderson’s films–every object, every expression, every frame, is lovingly (and quirkily) just so. It’s no surprise that his work has spawned both playful parodies (like this and this) and some impressive fan art (like these posters and so. many. costumes.), and such artistic meticulousness inspired my own crafting.
For anyone who’s interested, I plan to provide tutorials and downloads for some of the party details, but this is already going to be a super long post (I am never, ever brief), so I’ll share those in future posts.
For the invite, I borrowed the color palette of the film–mostly butter yellow and a mix of reds and oranges–and used Futura, styled like the movie poster/cover. The plaid background is loosely based on the plaid rug on the movie cover. For some of the envelopes, I used basic white A2 envelopes and inserted some patterned paper for just the inside fold; for a few others, I unfolded an envelope and used it as a template to make an entire envelope out of patterned paper.
The first decoration should be filed under “I am a crazy crafter, emphasis on the crazy.” I found an idea on Pinterest (and ye all know how I feel about Pinterest now) for a pin-the-tail-on-the-fox game, which is perfect since Mr. Fox does indeed lose his tail in the story. But the cutesy cartoon style of it wasn’t quite right; I wanted to emulate the style of the film. So basically, I found a picture of Mr. Fox on a movie poster, enlarged and printed it, then traced the different elements of the image and cut them out of cardstock. And then I pieced them together. It was laborious yet satisfying. And it served as a game, decoration, conversation piece, and photo backdrop all in one.
The other decorations were comparatively simple. My mom made sure that I took a picture of baby Lars every month (and made a sweet scrapbook of them for his 12-month mark), so I picked one from each month, mounted it on patterned paper, and displayed them on our window (where we have more open space than any of the walls).
Since my family loves quoting the movie, I wanted to work that in somehow. So I just made some simple typographic posters (set in Futura again) and added strips of the plaid background I made for the invite. Then I hung them up with some outtakes from baby’s monthly photos.
Also, I’m not sure if this quite qualifies as a decoration, but we also had fox crowns. Because why not? I saw the idea on Pinterest, and it was pretty straightforward. Also, if you wanted cake, you had to wear the crown.
I am not a talented cook, and I am particularly unskilled at cooking for crowds, so I tried to keep the food simple. The menu included chicken nuggets of the meaty and fake/vegetarian variety (since Mr. Fox steals chickens… it totally works, right?), sweet potato fries, carrots (also stolen by Mr. Fox) and dip, pretzel sticks, apple slices, apple juice, and M&M’s (because chocolate).
Although I generally think labels for food are superfluous (can we really not identify apples without the label?), I did make little notecards to scatter on the table that included quotes from the book and the film relating to food. Food plays such a central part in the story (as discussed here and here) so it seemed fitting.
I briefly considered making a batch of Mrs. Bean’s Famous Nutmeg-Ginger-Apple Snaps, an intriguing cookie referred to in the film and brought to life by both Mario Batali and the Vancouver Observer. But I didn’t feel like baking any more than I had to, so I didn’t. If you try it, let me know how they are! (I did make some Apple Lemon Muffins today using the leftover sliced apples–they were yummy!)
As for the cake, I made the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook’s traditional vanilla birthday cake.
If you have not yet welcomed this cake into your life, please do so as soon as possible. (The recipe is online here, but the cookbook is well worth checking out.) Cake has never been my favorite dessert, but this cake made me a believer.
As mentioned above, we had pin-the-tail-on-the-fox, which is always a classic.
We had the movie playing in the background to keep the kids entertained during lunch and in between organized activities.
I also had plans to let the kids decorate some apples with gold star stickers (they’re Mrs. Grossman’s stickers–I used to love those as a kid!). In the story, Mr. Bean is a turkey-and-apple farmer with “Red Remarkable” apples that make remarkably strong apple cider. Mr. Fox comments, “Even these apples look fake, but at least they’ve got stars on them.” Alas, I was distracted by the rest of the party and forgot. Oh well. At least I can share it on the Internet, right? It probably wasn’t practical anyway, since you’d have to remove the stickers to eat the apple.
Whackbat is a cricket-like sport played by the woodland animals (Mr. Fox is a champion whackbatter, of course). The film explains the rules…
Coach Skip: Basically, there’s three grabbers, three taggers, five twig runners, and a player at Whackbat. Center tagger lights a pine cone and chucks it over the basket and the whackbatter tries to hit the cedar stick off the cross rock. Then the twig runners dash back and forth until the pinecone burns out and the umpire calls hotbox. Finally, you count up however many score-downs it adds up to and divide that by nine.
Kristofferson: Got it.
… but it’s all intentionally nonsensical. But I really wanted to make it work. So I watched the whackbat scene play-by-play, made up a few rules of my own, and we managed to have a pretty fun and ridiculous round of whackbat. Fear not, this will also be covered in detail in a future post. You too can become a whackbat champion.
I did not in fact have any favors to send home with guests. But I had a ton of extra pinecones leftover from our whackbat shenanigans, and some of the kids asked if they could take one home. This is exactly why I didn’t bother with favors–who needs a cheap plastic toy when you can have a pinecone? Kids are the best.
I did find a cute design for bags shaped like foxes and other creatures, so if you want to do favors you could use those and maybe fill them with an apple or two and some gold star stickers.
Huzzah for friends and family! These folks humored me by playing whackbat, and they’re so good to us and Lars.
THE BIRTHDAY BOY
He really is fantastic, isn’t he?