When my little guy turned 4, we’d been informally planning his party for months because I knew we would be remodeling our kitchen and resources would be tight – time and money – as his birthday approached.
My little guy has been train obsessed for at least the last year, but we’ve been building his train supplies since he was 18 months old. It all started with a simple Ikea train set.
We could have gone specific – i.e. Thomas and friends – but I didn’t because he started his love of train shows with Dinosaur Train, then moved on to Thomas, and most recently has become a huge fan of Chuggington (truth be told, I like Chuggington a lot better too).
Invitations: “The Train to Timbuctoo” by Margaret Wise Brown
I searched the internet for train invitation ideas and there are a great number of them made by people with way more digital skills than myself. I tried, I really did, in my measly Publisher program. But I was quickly disappointed. We used to have better software before we had to upgrade our Windows operating systems, but I digress.
Then I found this beautiful invitation made from “The Train to Timbuctoo” by Margaret Wise Brown, one of my favorite vintage authors. I love the simplicity of the design, the crispness of the trains, and the lack of commercialism. I started with the free download from Making it Lovely and did my own polishing in Publisher. I put a white box over the text in the middle and then made my own version.
For the back side where I wanted to list a few more details, I scoured the internet for more pictures from the book and found this one with German text over the blue and yellow portions, which I used the clone tool to cover and the made my own text box.
I was super happy with these invitations.
This was the hardest part for me. With no commercial train theme, and unsure of the state of our kitchen or the weather, I wasn’t sure what to do.
“The Train to Timbuctoo” didn’t make it easier to decide; it has all the possible colors in it. It was my mom that saved the day. She helped me simplify the color theme by offering to let me use her red table cloths and we just made the simple decision to use yellow plates, white napkins, and black forks – inspired by railroad crossing signs. Simple, classic train colors. I added a white sheet of paper with black railroad tracks down the center of the table. Precious.
Nothing says trains than classic railroad signs! So we mocked up a big yellow R/R crossing sign that we hung outside the house.
I fell in love with these train buntings made from old books, so I ordered a couple extra copies of “The Train to Tumbuctoo” and used a larger print version to make my own lovely train bunting to decorate the food area along with a Green Toys train with a dinosaur in back as a nod to “Steam Train, Dream Train.”
Other simple touches were train curly straws that I picked up at Fred Meyer for drink cups as well as a fork and napkin wrapped and “tied” with a white piece of paper and a yellow R/R crossing sign sticker.
For games we had a chug wash using blue pool noodles hanging from our umbrella clothesline in the backyard (if it had been warm enough, we were going to add sprinklers), pin the smoke on the train (crafted with poster board), throw the coal in the smoke stack (using bean bags and an old car seat box), musical train (follow-the-leader), and chug chug choo (duck duck goose).
The cake is where this theme all started. We were looking at possible birthday cake ideas when we came across this Betty Crocker recipe. Again, my mom to the rescue! In the middle of a kitchen remodel, we had no stove at all, so she baked the cake and brought it up with her. We mixed the frosting here and I picked up candies and fruit to decorate it. If it were up to me it would have been a frosting failure, but my mom rocked the frosting party – thanks Mom!! The engine fell a little flat, but I’m super happy with the train cars of fruit – golden raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, red raspberries, and blackberries – to counter balance the York peppermint patties and chocolate and strawberry Twizzlers. The cake board was an extra piece of wood from the kitchen remodel covered in craft paper and parchment. Reduce, reuse, recycle!