Choosing a theme for my daughter’s birthday was a pretty simple process this go-around. There is little in this world that a 3 year old girl loves more than ponies. My daughter didn’t love the cartoony ponies though; she wanted the real thing. We had played a game each morning on the way to school where my daughter and son looked out the window in the car and counted how many of “their” animals they could find. Living in a fairly rural area, they had plenty of opportunities for cow, goat, and pony sitings and my daughter always claimed the ponies (whether they were on her side of the road or not…..).
I followed my normal party planning path and started with scouring typical internet sources for party ideas. Pinterest never disappoints, but I always have to filter posts by my skill level to determine what I can realistically re-create. I also always include a trip to JoAnne’s craft store. My main find is always fabric to use for a table cloth. I used this idea for one of my son’s earlier birthdays and, not only is it a cheap alternative to custom-made / themed table clothes, but I have this grand idea of making something out of it when they turn 18. JoAnne held up her side of the bargain again this year and delivered this beauty with cowgirls and all!
I usually already have a color-theme in mind when I start planning, but in this case, I let the fabric-find drive the color wheel. I went with brown, red, and blue and started brainstorming food and decorations to match my theme.
For the food, Pinterest was my best friend. My search of “cowgirl party” and “pony party” landed me with the following menu for an afternoon party:
- Pony Pull-Apart Cupcake Cake
- Caramel Apples : Seem decidingly western, ponies loves apples, and fit the color theme
- Rice Crispy Treats : Labeled “Hay Bales” for the party
- Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing : Cowboy boots, horse shoes, horse head, and cactus cookie cutters with icing dyed red, brown, and blue
- Popcorn : Cute little western fringe bags
- Cowboy Caviar : Chips and Dip for the adults
- Lemonade and Water : Complete with Cowboy Boot Mugs and Cowprint straws
I’m also a little crazy about making everything myself. I like to make from scratch whenever possible, so once I had my menu, I started researching the best recipes. The lady who always saves my life is Jamie from www.mybakingaddiction.com. I found her site several years ago, and her recipes have never failed me. Her vanilla bean cupcakes are a family favorite and would be part of the pony cake. The other part would be her Chocolate Chocolate cupcakes. I needed 24 cupcakes to make my pony design, and it actually turned out pretty well (and delicious!). I bought a piping kit several years ago from Bakeitpretty.com and it was one of the best investments I’ve made. After arranging the cupcakes, I used the open star tip to ice the cupcakes and fill in the gaps. Vanilla icing was used for the feet, tail, and mane. I took some vanilla icing and added Wilton Gel Dye to make the black for the eye and mouth.
The Caramel Apple Recipe was also a party favorite. I used Candy Melts to add stripes and decorations to the apples after they were cool.
The rice crispy treats and sugar cookies were pretty standard recipes, and the best icing recipe for the cookies was dyed with Wilton Dye to get the right red, blue, and brown. The icing had a great flavor from the almond extract, and I bought the cookie cutters off eBay and added them to my ever-expanding collection.
By far the biggest hit of the party with the kids was the popcorn. I’ve yet to find a three year old that didn’t love popcorn, and I loved the little brown, fringe western bags. I made a stencil for a star and a horseshoe by printing off a picture and tracing onto silver sparkle scrapbook paper. I bought cheap paper lunch bags at the grocery store and cut the tops into strips. Open the bag, bend down the fringe and glue a star or horseshoe on the front.
For the adults (and adventurous kids!), we made Cowboy Caviar. Drinks were lemonade and water served in Cowboy Boot Mugs with Cow print straws. Both were great finds on Orientaltrading.com.
For decorations, I stuck with a banner, decorative flowers and a DIY letter. Another grand idea of mine is to display all of my kids banners at their 18th birthday. This year, I used a roll of burlap and cut out letters using scrap book paper. I added embellishments of stars, cowboy boots and horse-shoes. A trick I’ve used for my letters for a long time is to find a font I like, and change the format to have no-fill and a light grey outline. This makes the very easy to cut-out. To keep them from flying away, we tied them to some sticks with twine and were pretty happy with the result.
The floral decorations were simple mason jars with sunflowers and baby’s breathe. The flowers were part of a 3 for $12 at Publix and turned out looking pretty great!
The last arrangement was the actual ponies. Doing research, I found that miniature donkeys were actually much cheaper to book! We found an amazing lady, Ms Jeni, who brought her adorable miniature donkeys and our little Cowgirl couldn’t have been happier. She had a solid hour of riding around our yard, and Ms. Jeni taught all of the kids how to groom and lead the donkeys around.
My daughter asked me for the next two weekends if it was time for her party again, so I took that as a sign that the Cowgirl party had been a huge success!