Spencer’s Army Birthday Party

This past weekend, we celebrated Spencer’s 4th birthday Army style! It was a lot of fun putting it together and creating unique Army ideas for his party. I thought I’d go ahead and share how I made each of his Army pieces.

I made Army cake pops! I’ve posted several times directions on how to make cake pops (HERE, HERE and HERE). I have to tell you, I don’t think I will ever go back to the dip, tap off the excess and stick it in a styrofoam block method. I love the simplicity of the mini cupcake liners! More importantly, it takes half the time to make them as I am not trying to create this perfect round ball with a perfectly even layer of chocolate.

I dip the cake pop and pull it straight up. I let what chocolate will drip off drip for only 1-2 seconds. Then I stick the cake pop into the mini cupcake liner. Tadah, done! I do have a few tips on how to make a perfect mini cupcake liner cake pop. First off, Use a mini cupcake pan to help keep the shape of the mini cupcake liner. Secondly, I learned the hard way that the shear weight of the cake pop pushes the chocolate out on the bottom to the point the cake itself is exposed. To combat this, I either use a spoon to drop a glob of melted chocolate into the center of mini cupcake liner or I use a squeeze bottle full of melted chocolate to create a glob. It doesn’t take much, maybe 1/2 a teaspoon-size of a glob. I wait until the glob sets (hardens) before gently pushing a dipped cake pop on top of the glob. The melted chocolate from the recently dipped cake pop will slightly melt the glob in the cupcake liner and it will form a smooth bottom of chocolate that completely covers the cake pop. Lastly, gently push the cake pop straight down to ensure the lollipop stick is perpendicular to your counter or table. Sometimes when I let go, I can see the lollipop stick is tilting. I gently straighten it the best I can and hold it for a few seconds until the chocolate begins to set. Nothing is worse than a lopsided cake pop!

I love the look of the upside down cake pops in mini cupcake liners! Cupcake liners come in so many patterns and colors! Also, I can create unique and personalized flags or lollipop stick toppers (like the #4 star in the above picture). If creating flags or toppers, remember to create a design that is double-sided. Also, there are so many different ribbons you can use! Different designs, colors, width and material! I found the camo ribbon at JoAnn’s. For his camo cake pops, I made all chocolate cake pops dipped in chocolate. Before the chocolate set, I sprinkled the cake pops with green sugar crystals. These cake pops were a huge success and were long gone way before the party ended! Cake pops are really the way to go. You don’t need to buy dessert plates or forks and you don’t need to serve ice cream with it. It’s the perfect dessert!

The camo cupcakes were really fun to make! I can’t claim credit for the original design. It was something I found on Pinterest. I did however do it differently in a way that was easier for me.

I bought chocolate and white cake mix. I mixed up each mix in separate bowls. I then got a 3rd bowl out and took about a cup of the white cake batter and put it in the bowl. Then I added about 1/3 cup of the chocolate to the white to create a tan color. For the remainder of the white cake batter, I added Wilton Green Moss gel food coloring and mixed it up into a pretty green color. I transferred the chocolate, tan and green batter into their own gallon Ziploc bags. I snipped the corner of each bag and with the help of the hubby, we squirted out small globs in random fashion into the camo cupcake liners. I had one bag and my husband had the other 2 bags (one bag in each hand). We filled the cupcake liners halfway full and baked them according to the package directions.

The camo cupcake liners were Wilton brand and I found them at Walmart. To create the camo frosting, I used one store-bought tub of chocolate and white icing. I left the chocolate icing color the same. With the white icing, I split the icing in half in different bowls. I tinted one half of the white icing with Wilton Green Moss gel food coloring to create the green color. So I ended up with brown, white and green frosting to decorate with. Check out this video below I had found on Pinterest on how to easily fill and use a pastry bag for icing cupcakes.

Instead of just using one color of icing in plastic wrap, I used the three colors in smaller portions wrapped in plastic wrap. Same concept, I rolled and twisted the three different colors and pulled them through the coupler. I snipped the plastic and then added the tip and ring. Quick and simple with very little mess!

The Army men I bought at Dollar Tree (48 men for $1) and I also found at the Dollar Tree the American flag picks.

The flags actually came with American designed cupcake liners. I kept the liners for another day and just used the flags.

They turned out really cute!

To make the tank cake, I made two cakes in 9×13 pans. I took one pan and cut the cake in half. I placed one half on top of the other. With the other cake, I cut out a smaller rectangle with curved corners for the top of the tank (yep, there was a lot of unused cake from the 2nd pan that the hubby and kids gobbled up).

For the gun, I dipped a pretzel rod in black candy melt and after the candy melt was set, I stuck it right into the cake. I used Oreos for the wheels and a Hershey candy bar broken (at the score marks) for the tire treads.

The USA and stars were made from yellow chocolate that I piped onto wax paper taped to a cookie sheet. I placed the cookie sheet in the freezer to harden up the chocolate. For the flags, I used Word and Photoshop CS5 to create a double-sided design. I then used double-sided tape to wrap the flag around shish kabob sticks.

To get the green tank color, I used Wilton green food spray paint. It turned out awesome! Clearly home-made and personalized for our son!

I love tissue balls for decoration! They are striking, simple to make, easy to customize and cheap! I am always shocked at how much folks charge for tissue balls. I bought green, dark brown, light brown and beige packages of 10 tissue papers each at Hobby Lobby for .99 cents each. I then made 16 tissue balls from that. So for less than $4.00, I had these awesome 7-8 inch tissue balls! I love using the tissue paper from Hobby Lobby. For one, they are always only $1.00! Hobby Lobby has a decent selection of colors also. More importantly, they are already perfectly square. Usually when you buy tissue paper, it is more of a rectangular shape but to create round tissue balls, the tissue paper has to be square. I separated all the sheets from the 4 different colors. I then layered the colors in a repeating pattern into equal piles of 10 sheets each (yes, some balls had extra sheets of one color…I had 4 colors that contained 10 sheets each so some piles were bound to have 1-2 more sheets of the same color). Then I took one pile and cut it into even fourths (4 squares). I repeated this with the other 3 piles. You end up with 16 different square piles of tissue paper.

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There are tons of folks who have blogged how to make these tissue balls. No sense in recreating the wheel, so I posted a pic above of how easy it is to do from Koyal Wholesale. Simple concept, again make sure your tissues (between 8-10 sheets) are perfectly square. Fold in accordion fashion. I staple the folds right in the middle. I then tie my string (about 2.5 feet in length so they can hang down from the ceiling) around the fold in the center. I staple the folds once again making sure I stapled over the string knot to keep it centered. Then round off the edges with scissors. Fluff and done! Easy peasy and very striking!

The home-made paratroopers were lots of fun to make! The hubby gathered some cardboard boxes at work. He took a 8-inch plate and outlined them onto the cardboard. He cut out his perfect circles. He then took that same plate and traced out a circle on regular copy paper. He cut out the copy paper circle. He folded the copy paper circle in half and traced the halfway line on the cardboard circle. This ensured his circles were cut perfectly in half. He then folded the semi-circle copy paper in half again. He used this guide to create the marks to cut the cardboard halves. He cut down from the top halfway on one half circle and then cut up from the bottom halfway on the other half circle. That way the pieces can be put together like a puzzle piece to create the 2D effect (see the picture below to get an idea of what I meant by all the cuts, you can see the cardboard parachutes behind Spencer).

Spencer helped me paint the cardboard half circles dark green, light green and yellow. He had a blast! After they were dry, I put them together. I bought slightly larger Army men from Family Dollar. Using leftover white crochet thread, I tied two long, even pieces of thread around the Army man. Using a needle, I threaded the crochet thread through the eye and punctured the cardboard with the needle. Tying the Army man up to the 4 corners of the 2D “parachute” created the paratrooper decoration. I also added a long piece of string to the top so that they could hang down from the ceiling. They really looked awesome hanging from the ceiling!

Instead of using tablecloths to decorate the tables, we opted for putting a functional decoration on the table. The MRE boxes were so simple! The hubby again got boxes from work. He made sure he got the same sized boxes. I bought brown postal wrapping paper at Dollar Tree to wrap each of the boxes in. Using a permanent black ink marker, I hand-wrote MRE on each of the boxes. We just filled the boxes up with microwave popcorn. Something for our guests to nibble on. Folks loved it!

The CAMP PACK, MESS HALL, COMMISSARY and HEADQUARTERS signs were simple to do. The MESS HALL sign hung above the food tables. The COMMISSARY sign hung above the table of Rations (aka goodie bags). The HEADQUARTERS sign hung above the table where all his gifts were placed. They turned out really cute! I bought poster foam board from Michaels. The hubby then cut them down. It didn’t matter how rough the edges were because I told him in advance that I would be wrapping the edges in camo duct tape I found at Meijers. Michael’s had paint on sale for .33 cents each.

I bought green and tan. Using a foam brush, I painted all the words onto the cut foam board.

We also added a path of signs leading up to the shelter. We had 6 signs on the path with each saying the following:

  • SOUND

  • OFF

  • 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • SPENCER IS 4

Folks loved the path signs and the signs made it clear they were heading to an Army-themed party!

Spencer’s RATIONS bag (aka goodie bags) were fun to put together. First off, visit  your local Army recruiting office. The fine soldiers there were kind enough to give me 50 Army bumper stickers, 50 Army square stickers and 24 Army pencils for Spencer’s Army themed party! Sure, you can find lots of Army goodie bags/boxes online. I’m a money cruncher, if I can make it cheaper, then I make it!

I found clear cellophane bags at Family Dollar. I needed a lager bag size to ensure all the stuff I put into the goodie bag would fit (specifically his 4×6 thank you cards that I printed for .05 cents each at Walgreens)! This is what went into Spencer’s RATIONS bags: 4×6 collage thank you picture, Army bumper sticker (folded in half), Army square sticker, Army bubbles, 2 Army men, one piece of Twizzler, one Smarties roll of candy and a dog tag of Spencer’s Army picture. The Army bubbles I purchased at the Dollar Tree. They came 8 in a package for only $1.00! You can find them in their wedding section. I used Word to create a table. I put in the saying I wanted to personalize his bubble bottles. I then took them to FedEx Kinkos and they printed them on adhesive paper for only $1.49 a sheet. Sure I could have printed it at home but anytime I print something with lots of color, I just hop on over to FedEx Kinkos, no sense in wasting my expensive ink! I also sized down Spencer’s Army photo to 1×2″ size and put several pics on one sheet of paper (using Word). I also had FedEx Kinko’s print this on adhesive paper. What’s also nice about FedEx Kinkos, is that they let you use their heavy-duty paper-cutter in their self-serve center. I was able to cut up Spencer’s pictures and bubble labels quickly and easily!

I wanted to stay with the Army theme so I printed the star with the #4 and RATIONS on 4×6 photo paper that I had gotten free the last time I bought ink for my printer. I put the rations card in front and Spencer’s Thank You collage photo in the back. I then put all the goodies between them. I hole-punched the baggie and tied on green and brown ribbon. The best thing about the RATIONS was the dog tag key chains I had made. I had purchased 1×2″ dog tags punched out of cardstock from HERE on Etsy. I then used Photoshop CS5 to crop my picture into a 1×2″ rectangle. I pasted several of the pic onto a Word document so that when FedEx Kinkos printed it for me on adhesive paper, they printed several on one sheet. Again, I used FedEx Kinkos’ heavy duty paper-cutter to cut his pictures into 1×2″ rectangles. I had a corner curve punch I used that lined up perfectly with the dog tags I had purchased. I then just stuck his picture onto the cardstock dog tag. To ensure the key chain was sturdy, I applied 3 coats of Mod Podge to both sides of the key chain. I also purchased the ball chain key chain from Etsy HERE. Before knotting the brown and green ribbon, I attached Spencer’s “dog tag”. Folks loved it and now our guests have a keepsake photo from when Spencer turned 4-years-old!

Last but not least, Steve and I made our yearly family shirts! We have for the past couple of years made matching shirts to wear at Spencer’s birthday party. It’s fun and makes it easy to find one of us during the party. Yes, Spencer is a bit teary-eyed in the above picture. He got nailed with a water balloon, lol! Turns out he likes throwing them but doesn’t like getting hit with one! He was fine once we took his soaked shirt off and turned him loose with a water gun. He fired away at all of his guests, lol!

Being Army themed, I had searched low and high for an affordable camo t-shirt. Turns out camo isn’t that cheap! LOL I went to Walmart and bought gray t-shirts for less than $4.00 each. I headed over to the fabric section and was going to get some Heat and Bond Adhesive. It is a double-sided adhesive that you iron down on fabric. You can then cut out your desired shape. Peel the backing off and then iron the fabric on to your desired fabric. Heat and Bond is fun to use if you don’t have a fancy embroidery machine.

I figured I would buy camo fabric and cut out my designs to place on our gray shirts. Hanging right beside the Heat and Bond were patches. The patches already had adhesive applied. They were 5×7″ in size and woah is me, they had camo patches! The package contained 2 – 5×7″ camo patches. I bought 4 of them and they were only $1.77 each!

I used one 5×7 to cute out a large # 4. How’d I make it so straight? Well, I used Word and used the feature Word Art to create a large # 4. I picked a font with very little detail so that the cutting wouldn’t be difficult. I believe I used Arial font. I printed the number and flipped it over onto the back of the camo patch. I traced around it with a  pen and cut it out. Remember to turn your number or letters backwards when you are tracing them on to the back of your patch or fabric! Otherwise, the letters will be backwards when you go to iron them down (yep, learned that the hard way…thankfully I hadn’t cut the #4 out yet). For the second patch in each package, I made the letters for the back of our shirts. I used Word again to create templates for the letters (using Word Art). I made sure the letters were roughly the same height and width for all the words. It was tedious to cut all the letters out but I just sat in front of the TV and took my time. The large #4 was ironed on (following the package directions) to the front of all of our shirts. On the back, we had different rankings! Our oldest son’s back of the shirt said PRIVATE. The hubby’s said SERGEANT. Mine said CAPTAIN.

Lastly, Spencer’s said GENERAL because let’s be honest, he is in complete control of this entire family with his captivating smile and contagious laughter! The hubby used a yard stick to ensure the letters were evenly spaced and straight before ironing them in place. The shirts turned out really cute and now we have our family’s summer shirts for 2013 that we will wear when we go to fairs, parks, etc. all for less than $7.00 a shirt!

All in all, I was able to keep the cost low for his Army party by putting in some elbow grease. I didn’t want to buy any commercial Army birthday decorations. I wanted to try to make everything. It was coming down to the wire and I still needed to make a Happy Birthday banner. While at Hobby Lobby, I found what I thought to be an awesome camo Happy Birthday banner for only $3.99 and one package of Army themed cut-outs. I decided to go ahead and get it. I had already worked so hard on making and creating everything else so I splurged and bought the banner and cut-outs. Notice anything off about the banner in the above picture? Yep, the letters were all backwards. No, it wasn’t a “turn the banner around” issue, literally, every letter was in the wrong place! It was double-sided and the backside was backwards as well, lol! I was shocked! We hung it up anyways and it was funny how many folks didn’t even notice, lol! Just goes to show, if you want something done right, sometimes you just got to do it yourself! Here’s to all the DIYers out there! You rock!

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13 thoughts on “Spencer’s Army Birthday Party

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    • Oh you will have fun putting an Army party together! Be sure to stop in your local recruitment office and let them know you have a kiddo who’s into Army and is having an Army-themed party. Hopefully they have some goodies they can donate to put in your goodie bags! There are so many fun and creative ways to make this an affordable themed party. Good Luck!

  4. So awesome! We are always trying to have a fun party but save where we can! The ideas to find stuff at the Dollar store really helps. I always forget what a great ally they can be. You really saved this mom! I’m trying these ideas out our Sons’ birthday party. We are celebrating 2 boys, a 9 year old and 3 year old and this is the theme they both enjoy! Thank You!!

    • Don’t forget to visit your local military recruit center. These fine men and women were more than happy to donate items for his birthday party! This will be one of my favorite themed parties for sure! Thanks for the kind words and best wishes on your Army party!

  5. Very impressed the amount of thought nd wrk dat has gone in to this… u surely dd sumthn very thoughtful for ur kid…. i wonder if i wud do as much planning as this 4 my son’s 1st bday haha… m still wondering what theme id go for.. care to gve me ny ideas.. m sure it would come creative 😉

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