Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wild About Books

Earlier in 2011 we found out we were going to be grandparents.  Of course I had to plan a baby shower for the mom-to-be, and of course it had to be book-themed.  One of my cousins had given my younger sister a book shower when Jan was pregnant, and it was the best, most fun baby shower I've ever been to.

I love books, love to read, have an extensive children's book collection myself started when I was a child and continued to this day, and reading to our own children was one of my favorite activities to do with the kids.  I've spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours reading to our children and have always looked forward to the day when I would read to a grandchild.

Our mom-to-be, Justine, had decided to decorate the baby's room in a safari theme, so I felt that would be a great theme for the shower.  There just happens to be a children's book called Wild About Books, and a theme was born!

Safari stuff was in all the stores last year, so I slowly gathered things to use as decor at the shower, knowing that afterwards I could send it all  home with Justine for the baby's nursery.  Over the course of the year, I found myself in California, Oregon, and throughout Washington, and believe me when I say no baby store went unexplored for safari-themed items!

I had a blast doing the invites.  Invitations are one of my favorite parts of party planning.  It's usually early enough in the process that you have lots of time to think about what you want to do, look for papers and embellishments, etc., without feeling frazzled and out of time!

It was also my first time using Zazzle for custom-made stamps, and the few dollars extra it cost me was well worth it in terms of how delighted I was with the results!  I'm sure there were people who didn't even notice them, but I thought they were the most fun ever.

Of course I had my menu going early on and tweaked it as time went by.  For this party I was guided by the book theme.  I wanted each food item to correspond to a children's book.  It was surprisingly easy to find books to go with the foods I wanted.  Once I decided to serve olives, I just googled "children's book about olives," and voila, there it was!

Although I ended up not using it when I ran out of time the day of the party, I even found a book about beets - Edgar, Allen, and Poe and the Tell-Tale Beets.  I didn't buy the book, but it looks like it's actually quite entertaining, and I plan to get it one of these days.

I downloaded photos of all the books that went with my menu, photocopied two copies of each book, glued them onto skewers of varying heights, and stuck them into pieces of See's Candy.  After the party, I saved the little signs and got to eat the See's.  Decorations you can eat after the party - does it get any better than that?

Here is the final menu, along with the corresponding children's book: 

In the kitchen I served Blueberry Lemonade (Blueberries for Sal).

On the dining room buffet table:

Applesauce meatballs - Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Crudite platter - The Vegetable Alphabet Book
Turkey wraps (purchased at Costco) - The Tortilla Factory
Hot artichoke dip served with sliced baguettes - Monsieur Saguette and His Baguette
Rosemary nuts and Thyme nuts - Nuts to You
Egg salad tea sandwiches - Sheep Out to Eat
Fancy grilled cheese sandwiches (made with peaches, fig jam, and La Tur Cheese - these were the surprise hit of the party foodwise) - Grilled Cheese, Please!
Assorted cheese platter - Heidi
ABT dip with Scoop Corn Chips - Don't Forget the Bacon
Peanuts in their shells - Peanut
Plum pork with plum dipping sauce - The Three Little Pigs 
Marinated olives - I Have an Olive Tree 

And in honor of my son, Jesse, the baby's father and a big pizza lover: 
Pizza breads (from Sanitary Bakery in California, frozen, and driven home to Washington on dry ice) - Pete's a Pizza


On the dessert buffet: 
Chocolate chip cookies and frosted brownies - If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
See's Candy - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Strawberries with Kaluha dip - The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear
Raspberries and blackberries over goat cheese and honey - Jamberry


See's typically will give you "It's a Boy" or "It's a Girl" stickers when you buy chocolate cigars or their suckers to hand out.  I asked for a roll of the "It's a Boy" stickers when I bought the candy.  I removed the candy from their paper wrappers, stuck a sticker onto each wrapper, and replaced the candy.  So when a guest picked up a candy to eat, the sticker was revealed.  A very small gesture, but one which thrilled the guests - they love the little touches!

Of course one does not take on a party of this magnitude without a little bit of help.  I was fortunate to have two very good friends pitch in to help out with much of the last-minute detail.  My friend Barb flew in from Montana for the shower, and my friend Shelley whom I can always count on to help with anything I do came over early the day of the shower.  And the first few guests who arrived got put right to work as well!
The very talented and creative Eve placing orchids onto food platters.

 Shelley and Barb slaving in the kitchen.

I wish I could take the credit for arranging this amazing crudite platter, but I have to confess: Barb did it.  The colorful carrots are from a local farm; so are the baby boiled potatoes.  The cherry tomatoes were from Pike Market in Seattle and stuffed with mayo, bacon, and green onions, a recipe from the Palo Alto Junior League Cookbook, one of my most favorite cookbooks ever.

                                                       The food was yummy...

...the company divine.

We lined the gravel roads leading up to our house with fun balloons...

...and this little guy welcomed guests at our front gate.
The nice things about baby showers is that you have nine months to plan!  I decided to learn how to make tissue paper flowers.  Of course I didn't want them to be just one color.  I experimented with shades of blue, other colors I was using in the party decor, and some fun animal print tissue paper I found.  Some of it worked better than others, but I used them all.  We have bay windows in the dining room and the living room, and I hung the flowers in the push-outs of those windows.

We have a little pine tree that I leave up year round and decorate seasonally and for parties.  I got photos of Justine and Jesse and hung them on the tree.  I asked Justine for photos of her as a child.  For each photo she gave me, I was amazed to be able to find one of Jesse at the same age in almost the exact pose.

For one of the party favors for guests to take home, I made up bookmarks that I tied with ribbon and hung onto some lighted branches I have.  There were six designs, each design with a different picture and a different quote, and guests got to choose which to take home.  Justine got one of each, plus all the left-overs.  Hayden is set with bookmarks for life!

I also had bookplates made up with Hayden's name.  I asked the guests to fill them out and place them in the books they brought for Hayden.  I contemplated sending them out with the invitations but felt that if they were adhered to the book, then Justine wouldn't be able to return any duplicate books she received.  She did end up receiving a couple duplicates and one triplicate, so it worked out well to save them and have them filled out at the shower.

 I LOVE party favors.  In addition to the bookmarks, each guest got a favor bag that contained a box of animal cookies, a sleeve of book darts, a votive decorated with animal print ribbon, and a See's sucker.

The mantle was decorated with stuffed animals - elephant, giraffe, lion, and a monkey - and silk flowers as well as fresh flowers.  This photo was taken before I added in the fresh lowers at the last minute.

Of course no shower is complete without at least one game.  We played "Alternative Titles."  Guests were given 30 "alternative titles" and had to figure out the correct name of the children's book.  Such as The Distributing Topiary (The Giving Tree), Excessively Wondering Jorge (Curious George), and Sweet Dreams, Lunar Orb (Goodnight Moon).  One of Justine's friends, Savannah, won - with nearly 100% correct!  This girl knows her books - very impressive!

I asked each guest to bring their favorite children's book as their gift to Justine and Hayden.  As part of my gift, I also got her an antique rocking chair, an adorable safari-themed children's bookshelf, and a cute little safari lamp she had registered for.  As guests arrived, we put their gifts on and around the bookshelf.

Justine actually sat on the opposite side of the room as she opened gifts and they got passed around for guests to oooh and aaaah over before being arranged by party-helper extraordinaire, Barb, on the bookshelf.

 I think someone needs her own book shower!

As Justine opened the gifts, the giver told us why they had chosen the book or books she brought.  It was so much fun to hear everyone's stories.  Justine was really touched to receive Wynken, Blynken and Nod from my mom (who was not there).  I told Justine that Eugene Fields is one of my mom's favorite poets.  Unbeknownst to my mom, and to me, Justine loves this poem and even sang the lullaby as part of her high school senior class project.  My mom often gives this book as a baby gift.  It's a fairly unusual book and quite hard to find.  So how odd that this is the book Justine got in triplicate!!!

Justine's mom Shari, Hayden's other grandma, got her own little book, Grandma's Brag Book for baby photos.

So many fun books and adorable baby gifts awaiting Hayden's arrival...
 ...and is she not the sweetest, most beautiful Baby Mama ever?!?!

 Post Script - On October 6, 2011, Hayden Alexander was born.

He's just the most precious, most scrumptious grandson ever, and Gigi (Grandma Gwen) has already started reading to him.