March 31, 2013

A Mickey Mouse Birthday for a little guy with a great mom

You may or may not have heard me mention my friend Dana before.  Dana is that mother you see and think seriously?  How does she do it?  She cloth diapers, she home cooks every single meal (organic, healthy and well balanced mind you) she does natural childbirth, she sews her daughter’s doll clothes instead of buying them.  Oh and did I mention she also runs a daycare? So on top of that she takes care of other people’s children and feeds them organic home cooked meals too.

Little girls eating cake at birthday party

Really, the meanie in me wants to hate her for the bazillion ways she is a better mother than me, but I can’t because she truly is an amazing person who does all of these things not so she can say she does with an air of superiority, but simply because it’s what she wants for her family.  I feel very lucky to call her my friend.

Dana and I met 3 years ago when I entrusted her with the care of one year old Kayla who would not leave me along during the day while I tried to work from home.  The thought of sending my child elsewhere was terrifying but Dana was the only person I felt comfortable leaving Kayla with and our families quickly became friends and stayed friends long after Kayla started preschool.

Kayla's homemade super hero cape for girls

She still manages to blow my mind as a friend and a mother – case in point, the handmade super hero cape she made for Kayla’s 4th birthday.  Oh, just something she came up with and sewed freestyle, no pattern or anything.  And her daughter Gracie made Kayla a personalized mason jar drinking glass with pictures of the two of them all over it that she drew lovingly.

And now, Dana’s son Samuel is turning 2.  So I really wanted to find a way to do something special for him that wasn’t just buying him a big gift, but something that both Dana and Samuel would appreciate.  When my friends from Collective Bias asked me to check out some party supply options, the timing could not have been more perfect.  The little man is in love with Mickey Mouse so I set out to find and make some cute Mickey Mouse decor which led me to Birthday Express.

Birthday Express homepage and free shipping coupon image #cbias

I’ve shopped at Birthday Express before because a couple years ago I received a free ShopRunner subscription from American Express, which enabled me to get free 2 day shipping on most of the items in their online store.  As a self declared lover because of the fast shipping options through their Prime shipping this totally appealed to me since Amazon is lacking in lots of the little things you need for parties or themed events and I feel like that’s where Birthday Express’s niche is. 

I easily found a few very cute things that would appeal to Samuel, like this gigantic Mickey Mouse Airwalker balloon, which to a two year old is probably as good as seeing the mouse himself at Disneyland.  Homemade, No?  Hours of entertainment? Yes!

Mickey Mouse Air Walker Balloon from Birthday Express #cbias
Because of the easy search capabilities I was also able to find an adorable Mickey Mouse pull string piñata in seconds.  A while back I wrote about why I think pull string piñatas are the way to go these days and the insanely cute piñata from that post happened to come from the same site.  

Mickey Mouse Pull String Pinata from Birthday Express #cbias
My budget was extended when I noticed the coupon code that had been staring me in the face right on the home page offering 15% off my entire order, so I decided to grab a couple sets of these little mouse ears just in case for some crazy reason Samuel didn’t have a homemade pair coming his way.  He probably does and Kayla will wind up sporting these to his party next weekend, but either way I know they’ll get used and loved.

Mickey Mouse Ears from Birthday Express with DIY crepe paper bow #cbias

Since paper straws are becoming more mainstream and because I think they tick the boxes of Dana’s plastic-free world I figured I’d search and see if Birthday Express carried them.  I was excited to find a variety of colors and picked up a pack of 25 cherry red and white striped ones for $4.00 which seemed pretty reasonable.

Paper straws from Birthday Express #cbias

My plan was to make my own black mouse head cutouts to put on the straws so they would go perfectly with the theme and then I remembered just how much fun Kayla had with the DIY crepe paper pom poms I had made a couple weeks ago and decided to use the straws to make mouse head pom poms for the all the kids at the party.

Mommy Testers DIY crepe paper Mickey Mouse Pom Poms #cbias

Lastly, I shopped for some crepe paper, which I had been looking for an excuse to buy since I’m having a crepe paper obsession.  With the 15% discount the crepe paper on Birthday Express was about the same as what I would pay in Walmart, but they had a much better selection of colors so I ordered red and black for Samuel’s party and a bunch of other colors for me to keep in my little art closet knowing that it won’t be long till I think of another craft that calls for it.

crepe paper from Birthday Express #cbias

One thing that I didn’t find enough of at Birthday Express was little toys to use for piñata filler so I turned to Oriental Trading, which I feel like everyone is familiar with.  Growing up, my aunt put together big events for New York City schools and I’d frequently sleep over at her house and spend hours perusing the pages of their catalogs often wishing I was old enough to order things through the mail and that they sold more of their stuff individually as well as by the dozen. 

In my mind Birthday Express rules the roost when it comes to coordinated materials for licensed character birthday parties.  They have everything you could imagine from Justin Bieber to Ugly Dolls to Disney Princesses and even harder to find characters like Olivia. 

Oriental Trading crafts for kids

Oriental Trading seems to specialize more in things like prizes for carnivals and piñatas, holiday themed merchandise and bulk materials for teachers.  I know that Kayla’s preschool teachers shop there regularly to buy supplies for the kids to make gifts for their parents when the winter holidays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day roll around.  

Mother's Day crafts from Oriental Trading

I checked to see if they had any different Mickey Mouse gear that Birthday Express might not have had but the selection was very small and there wasn’t really anything that spoke to me so I moved on to the little toys and prizes.

Pinata filler toys from Oriental Trading #cbias

I found a few things like finger puppets, little sensory balls and some silly squishy monsters.  My overall feeling was that Oriental Trading hasn't changed much since I was a kid.  They're still a great resource if you need a ton of items for an event at a very cheap price but as someone who would prefer to pay a little more for quality items I struggled to find a variety of toys that I would feel confident giving to other people's children.

I did however see a few very neat things that I would not have expected to find, like this super cute parachute.  Anyone who has been to a few toddler gym classes or remembers elementary school gym class will probably recall the allure of the giant parachute you all sit inside of and have a little pow wow until it collapses.

circus parachute from Oriental Trading #cbias

All in all it seemed that Birthday Express is a lot easier to search and is a better resource for parents putting together parties for their kids and for celebrations like baby showers.  Oriental Trading seems more geared toward teachers and larger groups, like a community organization putting on a carnival.

So now I'm eagerly awaiting Samuel's birthday party so we can celebrate the little guy, spend some time with his awesome parents and let two little girls run around and just be little girls. I'm hoping Samuel will like the Mickey Mouse decor and I'm hoping the kids will enjoy their little mouse head pom poms. Next on my list?  The perfect gift for a super sweet two year old boy...I've got a few ideas and I'll be sure to let you know what makes the cut!

Just so you know, I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® #CBias #SocialFabric everything you see here is my personal and picky opinion.

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