My sweet Marina just turned 10 years old. I can barely believe it. They grow up so fast (sniff). But I adore the young lady she's become, so sweet and loving. She has always loved animals. She was never a Barbie or a dolly girl. So when she asked for a panda party, I thought it was perfect for her. She has loved pandas for years and I knew we could have a lot of fun with it.
It started with this invite that Marina (my editor) helped me design. She is my favorite and most difficult costumer by far. I love keeping her involved in the party planning process and many times that means it will take days to create something that I probably could have done in a few hours on my own. However I love having her involved and wouldn't have it any other way.
Initially we were going to do a "Panda Baking Party," but when Marina decided she wanted her panda in a tea cup, we changed it to a "Panda Tea Party." It fit so well with the panda theme. My main inspiration was of course panda's, but I wanted to include green tea, cherry blossoms and bamboo in the party as well.
We filled the ceiling with green paper lanterns and paper flower chains. Then I created a backdrop with green crepe paper and the same paper flower and butterfly chains.
Each place setting had a set of fuzzy panda ears, a Bento box (more on that later) and a cup filled with "Hello Panda" cookies. I sewed fuzzy hair clip panda ears for all the guests. I found a great tutorial on Gleeful Things for "Animal Ear Hair Clips." I'm not an expert by any means and thankfully I was able follow her directions. It did take me awhile to complete all 24 ears and there was black panda fur everywhere for days, but it was worth it in the end. I'm still not sure how the fur got into the cereal box?!?
These Hello Panda cookies fit the theme perfectly and they just happen to be one of Marina's favorites. We used strawberry filled because it's her favorite, but they come in many other flavors. These were a hit and the girls adored the cute black and white polka dot cups - from the Pretty Party Shoppe.
When Marina said panda party, I knew I wanted to do a Bento box. If you've never heard of a Bento box, it's a Japanese single portion box with compartments or cups to section off the food. It also can have cute themed foods with adorable food picks in them. I've always wanted to do one and since this was my first try, I kept it very simple. I designed the paper box to match our party theme and then filled it with panda rice balls, chicken nuggets, cherry tomatoes with provolone leaves, little carrot flowers and cucumber clouds. I ordered the panda rice mold, veggie cutters, divider cups and panda themed food picks from Bento USA. The little panda arms and legs are actually pieces of nori cut with the nori cutter that came with the panda rice ball kit. It's something I know we'll use again because it's was so much fun to eat.
After the girls ate their Bento lunch, they took turns at the cupcake decorating station.
My sweet friend Keisha from Cupcake Wishes and Birthday Dreams created this adorable pom garland. It was so soft and fluffy that it was hard to keep my girls from playing with it. I love that she designed it to match our party colors perfectly.
I set up the station so they could just grab a cupcake, add their sprinkles and then plop it in a box to take home. Streamlining the process made it easier and quicker. The paper cups from The Pretty Party Shoppe were perfect for storing the sprinkles in for little fingers.
I included single cupcake boxes that I found at Joann's so they could take home their cupcake as a favor. I also included a tag on the front so they could write their name on the box. It was easier to keep track this way, especially when they were hurrying out the door after the party. They could just grab and go.
After the cupcake decorating we finally got to have dessert.
On the table we had Black Velvet birthday cake, Green Tea almond cupcakes and vanilla cupcakes with adorable panda fondant toppers.
I made the green tea cupcakes by adding a few teaspoons of Matcha powder to the cake batter and the frosting. I loved the color and the flavor of it. You really could taste a subtle green tea flavor and it went so well with the almond.
These adorable panda fondant toppers were made by Kima's Konfection's. The girls loved them so much that they were almost afraid to eat the cupcakes, (almost).
Along with the desserts on the table I had a corner buffet set up, with plenty of beary panda sweets. Get ready for a panda overload!
Marina loves macarons. That was the first thing she asked me to make for her party. I have a love-hate relationship with macarons. I've been trying for two years to make them and sometimes they are wonderful and sometimes not so much. If I wanted macarons guaranteed to be delicious and perfect, I knew I would have to go to a professional. Fresh Bakes is local here in the DC area. I tasted her cake at an Operation Shower event in March and my friend Keisha recommended her as well. I was actually really excited when she said she would make these cute as a button panda macarons.
These looked cuter than cute, but they tasted amazing. They were perfectly crunchy, chewy and light. Most of the girls didn't know what a macaron was so it was fun to see what they thought of these sweet confections. These were Marina's favorite. She even asked for one at breakfast the next day and who am I to say "no" to a birthday girl?
If you look very closely here, you can see the panda macaron's cute little backside and tail on the right. Fresh gave each one a front face with ears and a back with a cute little tail. Love her attention to detail.
My sweet and amazingly talented friend Autumn from Autumn Lynn's Chocolate Sins, created these too cute panda cake pops on bamboo straws. The bamboo straws were hard to find, but thankfully Party On Designs had them in stock. The girls squealed over these and had so much fun eating the ears off (which is a little strange now that I think about it).
Of course I had to throw in a stuffed panda to add to Marina's collection. I love decorating with presents. It's like killing two birds with one stone.
I made some chocolate covered pretzel bamboo sticks. Some people realized they resembled bamboo, but not everybody. Now that I see them in my photographs, my pretzel sticks look a bit sad next to Kima's beautiful Oreo's.
We also had chocolate- dipped-Strawberry Marshmallows (Strawbeary panda ears), Whoopee pie's, and chocolate-dipped Fortune Cookies (Chocolate panda ears) .
Sadly, the only picture I got of the paper lanterns and the table together was on my phone after the party. But I really loved the whole set up and almost left it up an extra day or two just to enjoy it a bit longer.
Hope you have a Beary sweet day!
Party Printables and styling: Sunny by Design
Photography: Sunny Duran
Pom Garland: Cupcake Wishes and Birthday Dreams
Panda Fondant toppers/ Cherry blossom Chocolate Covered Oreos: Kima's Konfections
Panda Cake Pops: Autumn Lynn's Chocolate Sins
Panda Macarons: Fresh Bakes
Black and white polka dot paper straws and cups: The Pretty Party Shoppe
Bamboo paper straws: Party On Designs
Bento box supplies: Bento USA
Black and white polka dot cupcake boxes: Joann's
Green Paper Lanterns: Luna Bazaar
Fuzzy animal ears tutorial: Gleeful Things