***Sorry for the late birthday post, we’ve been plagued with pneumonia pretty much since our return from Hawaii. Just starting to feel normal again now.
D and I struggled with settling on a location for the first birthday party, but finally selected the San Clemente Aquatics Center. E’s jubilant admiration of fountains and pools was what made for the final decision. Two of the top location contenders were:
1. Pines Park, Dana Point
This is an adorable park about 10 minutes from our house. It had just what I was looking for… trees and an ocean view. Complete with playground, picnic tables and barbecue, this place is situated off Camino Capistrano on the cliff edge overlooking the Pacific ocean. We ended up scratching this place off the list when we discovered there are no public bathrooms. Guess that’s one way for the neighbors to keep people from using their park. Probably worked out for the best though, I always get the feeling that the ground is going to give way whenever I stand perched atop a southern California cliff anyway.
2. Santa Ana Zoo
The Santa Ana Zoo feels more to me like a monkey sanctuary. Their lack of… well… just about anything other than monkeys is what gives me that feeling. I mean, you will see the odd parrot and aardvark, but the vast array of primates really is the majority of what you’ll be snapping pictures of. I liked this location because one of their many designated party areas is a petting zoo. The little farm-house, chicken coups and carousel seem perfect for a kid party. E loves animals so he would have had a great time here. In the end it was just too far of a drive and we figured a good portion of the guests would feel the same way. I do plan on having a party for him here when he’s bigger though if we stay in southern California.
So, planning for the party was extremely perplexing for me since I am the most indecisive person I know. I ended up going with a luau theme because a first birthday luau is traditional for us Hawaiians (well, for us haole islanders too). I was rather surprised to find that most luau themed party decor involved some kind of monkey wearing sunglasses and hibiscus print surf shorts. Didn’t these decoration designers take the lack of resident Hawaiian monkeys into consideration when creating the decorations? A little strange. I found some cute things nonetheless and yes, some monkeys found their way into the mix somehow too.
I was slightly obsessed with getting E a really cool birthday hat. I had come across the most amazing hat at Villa Cucina in San Clemente back in November 2011. It was a beach themed cone hat with sand, seashells and I think a sailboat on a dark blue shimmery background. It was the cutest thing I had ever seen and of course I just ass-umbed they would be orderable when his b-day got a little closer. I was inevitably wrong and not only was it a one of a kind item, but the person who makes them is no longer making them. This information catapulted me into an ongoing internet search for a similar type of hat. Sadly, I never found anything that came even remotely close, but I did find a website called Silver Spoon Scraps. Owner and designer Sita Riddle makes the most fabulous little vintage style birthday hats and decor. At first I was afraid the frilly paper might be a little too feminine, but ended up asking her to do something special for E… she ended up creating two adorable keepsake hats. One birthday boy hat, one guest/extra hat, a scepter and an “I Am One” high chair banner all perfectly coordinated. Sita’s hand-made creations are so sweet and thoughtfully made, I was so glad to have found something to take the place of that illusive hat from Villa Cucina. I liked Sita’s stuff so much that I also bought some of her hand-made bunting for E’s nautical themed bedroom.
As a result of being the primary camera wielder in the family, I have very few pictures of E and I together. Because of this I decided to hire a photographer. After receiving over thirty quotes on sites like Thumbtack, Guru, and some personal web research, I chose the best guy to do the job, Edward Hannigan. Ed had the best party photos I’ve seen to date. He is amazingly able to capture memorable moments without the images coming off at all posey or planned. All of the party images on this post are his. Thanks Ed!
As far as our venue (San Clemente Aquatics Center) is concerned, we were satisfied overall with the experience. Our party was from noon till 2pm (pool not opening to the public till 1pm). In the hour we had to ourselves they include two lifeguards who play pool games with the kids. After the party it was brought to my attention that they hadn’t done any of the games that had been advertised in the party package. I would imagine that it was because not enough kids had arrived at noon. A good portion of the guests had traffic issues and didn’t arrive till around 1 or 1:30pm. One other mishap was that the Aquatics Center staff had agreed to have 4 large tables for us, however, when we arrived, they only had two on hand. It just would have been nice for them to have notified us so we could have brought our own.
All in all E had a great time playing in the water and smearing organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, dye-free cupcake frosting all over his face and hair. Yes, only the best, purest and healthiest first cake for my boy. Cupcake courtesy of Cloud 9 Bakers in San Juan Capistrano. Lola at Cloud 9 is able to make pastries, cupcakes, breads etc. to your dietary specifications (such as gluten-free, corn free, dairy free…) if quantity is large enough. Their bread is the best gluten-free bread I’ve ever tasted. Their gf cupcakes are better than any regular cupcake we’ve ever tried too.
We decided to accept book donations instead of gifts at the party as a part of the Milk and Bookies program. We’re happy to have collected more than 200 (and counting) books and toys for our local women’s shelter here in San Clemente. E is too little to remember birthday presents anyway!
I delighted in watching E toddle around in his aloha shirt and coordinating shorts, somewhat reminiscent of a Hawaii resort valet guy. All he needed was a set of keys and a ticket in his breast pocket. Happy birthday sweet baby/toddler. You’ve provided me with the absolute best year of my life. No tropical vacation, African safari, culture filled Euro trip, hike to the king’s chamber in the Great pyramid, snowboarding down mount Ruapehu in New Zealand etc. etc. could ever outshine even the least eventful day spent with you.