Monday, September 16, 2013

A Second Birthday Celebration

V and I can hardly believe this is true, but our little girl is turning TWO. Lila is growing into a little person with a very definite mind of her own. We celebrated this weekend with a simple party at home, with a few close family and friends. This year, time just got away from me, V was traveling, we were juggling too many things, and the party was put together with the minimum of time and fuss. I just wanted to get a few basic things right: (a) plenty of food, (b) a tasty cake and (c) sew some party favors.

The Menu was a light dinner and completely mismatched as you can see! I was hoping there was something for everyone. We had watermelon cubes, blueberries, red pepper hummus with pita chips, veggies with ranch dressing, Thai inspired quinoa salad, bow tie pasta tossed in a white sauce, tortilla roll-ups, matar paneer and jeera rice. No cuisine left behind, that's what I say. Next week (or sometime in the next few weeks), I'll post my recipe for the matar paneer.

I'm no fan of disposable party ware so we bought sets of reusable plates, cups, utensils earlier this year and will use them for picnics and birthday parties for years to come. I don't have a problem with washing a pile of dishes after a party at all, and it saves a ton of waste.





The Cake: On the hunt for a cute and easy to assemble cake, I found this cute fishie made with a 6 inch cake and a dozen cupcakes. So sweet and clever. And easy to serve.

I had invited several of Lila's daycare teachers, not know how many would actually be able to come, and wanted to have plenty of cake to go around. It seemed like the right occasion to try this recipe which makes a whopping 36 chocolate cupcakes. The recipe title says "far-from-disaster cake"- at first glance, this doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement. In reality the cake was an unqualified success- the exact opposite of a disaster.

All you need is a very large mixing bowl, the one I used should almost be called a basin rather than a bowl. I followed the recipe closely and my only modifications were:

1. Instead of buying a pint of buttermilk (and wondering what to do with leftover buttermilk), I added 1 tbsp. white vinegar to milk to make "clabbered milk" and used that in place of buttermilk.

2. I did not buy any fancy chocolate, instead using Trader Joe's semi-sweet chocolate, the kind that comes in 1 lb bars.

3. Because kids would be eating these cupcakes, I skipped the hot coffee and used hot water instead.

The batter came together quickly and I poured it into a 6 inch cake pan (not a very common pan size but I found one at Michael's), 30 cupcake liners and still had enough left over for a bit in a loaf pan. The oven was simply crammed with chocolate cake.

The frosting was a strawberries and cream frosting: I pureed about 10 ripe strawberries with a couple of tbsp. of jam in a blender and folded it into whipped heavy cream. Add some sugar if necessary and there you go. It makes for a light and very delicious frosting and the combination with chocolate cake is a match made in culinary heaven.

The frosting was slapped onto the cake and cupcakes and then I placed a blueberry as the fish eye and strawberry slices as the mouth. The poor fishie may look very imperfect (I've made my peace with my poor cake decorating skills) but this cake/frosting was a tasty mouthful. Definitely something I'd make again and again.

The Party Favors: Lila is an adventurous kid. Her mottos in life: Why walk when you can run? Why sit when you can climb? This results in a dozen bumps and small falls and boo-boos on any given day. Using this tutorial on Bubbles and Bobbins, I made Lila an owlie rice pack. Let me tell you, these rice packs are excellent TLC for those minor boo-boos when a child's feelings are hurt more than there being any physical injury. Now when Lila has a boo-boo, she'll start bawling and ask for owlie. Clutches the owlie, pats it on the hurt spot and there, she's all smiles again. With the success of owlie, I made a whole parliament of rice owls (that's really the collective noun; I didn't make it up) to give as party favors to her friends. I included the cute poem (also on the tutorial blog post) which explains that the owl can be used as a hot/cold pack.


We debated about whether to put a "no gifts" request in the invitations, but decided against it because gifts are a big part of the fun of childhood birthdays. Besides, I always feel disappointed when we are invited to birthday parties and asked not to get gifts, because I love picking out or making birthday gifts. So Miss Lila was showered with useful and thoughtful gifts, including a gorgeous board book, a doctor set, a giant sticker book, a metal water bottle and a Mrs. Potato Head (remember the potato head toys? I loved mine as a kid). She was also given a beautiful handmade quilt- I'll take a pic once I hang it up.

Lila ran around with her little friends and stuffed herself with cake. This is pretty much the best kind of celebration as far as I am concerned.

Did you have a fun weekend? And I would love to hear about how you like to celebrate birthdays. Have a wonderful week and I'll see you next Monday.

98 comments:

  1. Sounds like a very warm and cozy party! The 'owlie' looks beautiful
    I would like to hear more about your prep for the party. when I make home made food for the party (which I did for my little one's fourth birthday party), there were something that I had to do on the day of the party, some I could make ahead and some I could even freeze. but all the planning gets so complicated. I would love to hear how you manage.

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    1. Sangeetha- my prep can be summarized in one word- Lists!! I have a small lined notebook that I use to make grocery and other lists and it has a pen clipped on it and lives in my purse at all times. This notebook is my lifeline. I make lists and keep updating them until the event: guest list, menu list, shopping lists for grocery store/Target/Michaels/whatever. Everything has to go on a list otherwise I will forget.

      Usually, I do what you do and cook in advance a bit, but this week because of the way our schedules were, I cooked only the night before and the day of (the party was at 4 PM so I had all day, almost).

      Shopped the day before, night before I made hummus and cooked quinoa. Day of, 6 AM in the morning I started with things that can sit in the fridge until the party- cutting fruits and veg, making quinoa salad and tortilla roll ups. Then I baked, then made matar paneer and pasta only 1 hr before so they could sit out until people were ready to eat. It was a busy day but not chaotic by ANY means. And I had all of Sunday to relax and snack on leftovers ;)

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    2. I love lists too! Glad to hear you make them. Was thinking I was the only crazy one :). Thanks for the info. Must have been one wild cooking day! Lila will be so proud to have a mom like you! Happy birthday to her!

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  2. What a cute Owlie! :-) One of the most thoughtful birthday favors I've seen. The fishy cake is a really smart idea and I loved the menu. What a fun birthday celebration! Belated Happy Birthday to Lila! Could you please email me a picture of the birthday girl, I can't wait to give her my share of kisses.

    When my nephew was young and would get hurt while playing he would tell us that he's got a 'kissy-baau' which would magically heal on giving him a kiss on that spot. :-)

    We had a fun weekend which got over too soon. Your post helped me immensely to deal with the Monday blues! Thank you so much! Hugs!

    - Priti

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    1. Priti- the kiss on the boo-boo is a MUST, the owlie just adds to the healing powers :) I hope you have a wonderful week!

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  3. That is a great celebration without a lot of fuss in cooking.. you know the regular gravy and rice stuff... Love the cake and the party favors.. I love your idea of reusable cutlery!

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    1. Yes, it was nice to have lots of things that could just be pulled from the fridge and served. But I did have one gravy dish and rice because we do love Indian food.

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  4. Happy birthday to little cutie pie. That is the best kind of party Nupur. I love these no-big-fuss parties. I can imagine Lila loving those cute owls. I wish we lived closer like before, we could have met her again. I remember we spent Ishaan's second birthday at your place.

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    1. I so wish Ishaan could have been at the party!! Thanks for the birthday wishes :)

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  5. Happy Birthday to Lila! No cuisine left behind should be made a common party motto..haha. Your fish arrangement is a winner nupur. I baked cupcakes for a friend's 1 year old and boringly arranged it like a '1' :( The basket of wide eyed owies look adorable, I'm definitely going to make some for my friends kids.

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    1. Thanks for the birthday wishes! 1 (or 2 or whatever) is a sweet way to arrange cupcakes- I did not even think of that. But the person with the cupcake fish idea is pretty clever and I was happy to copy her!

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  6. "She was also given a beautiful handmade quilt- I'll take a pic once I hang it up." Please reconsider hanging it up. As a quilter I want the quilts I make to be used. I want the recipient, child or adult, to feel like they are being hugged when they are wrapped up with one of my quilts.

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    1. Oh I know exactly what you mean but the whole idea of hanging up the quilt is so it will be enjoyed. You see, my kid won't sleep under or over a quilt. She wants a thin cotton sheet under her and NOTHING over her. So the quilts sit there folded. I've been hanging them up because we enjoy looking at them. I always hang them with a dowel inserted in a sleeve so it is not a permanent thing. Any time in the future when she is ready to wrap herself in the quilt, down it comes!

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    2. I understand. My youngest so loves her quilts she will turn down the A/C down in her room to get it cool enough she can snuggle under a quilt. Of course, her father isn't to thrilled about the way the electric meter whirls. LOL

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  7. That cake is too precious and Owlie is so cute. We had very quiet birthday celebrations as a child, with it mostly being my mom making us our favourite foods. Presents were often in the form of books, which thrilled me, but annoyed my little sister, who wasn't much of a reader back then. I did think I was missing out on parties some times. As an adult living on my own, I tried parties but then found that I didn't like them much. Now I enjoy quiet birthdays with my husband the best. Though, in an opposite twist, I love throwing parties for other peoples' birthdays. I suppose I enjoy the party as long as it is not for me.

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    1. Sharmila- I'm exactly like you in that I love throwing parties for others but prefer quiet birthdays for myself. Growing up, my parents organized very fun(but simple, homemade)parties for us, inviting all the neighborhood kids. And they always gave me books as gifts which thrilled me. Did not have access to a library so these were pretty much all the books I read. My sister got barbies and stuff as gifts though :)

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  8. i really loved the owlies . You put so much of effort into the parties .Please wish happy birthday to Lila on my behalf. Could u please post the recipe for the quinoa salad ..that looks really interesting. roshni

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    1. Thanks Roshni! I used this recipe for the quinoa salad: http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/04/crunchy-cashew-thai-quinoa-salad-with-ginger-peanut-dressing/

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  9. Happy birthday to Lila!!! what a wonderful party!

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  10. Too fun and love the party favors! I am so hungry right now by the way. I love a homemade cake for bdays! So much love in there.

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    1. Me too- nothing like a homemade cake to make a birthday special, be it ever so humble and badly decorated LOL.

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  11. Happy Birthday to dear Lila. Can't believe she is 2.
    DD2 had her birthday last weekend. I debated and talked to her about 'no presents' but could not get her to agree. Yes those presents do make them happy so I let it be. We arrived at a deal though.

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    1. LOL Yeah, I can imagine that presents are the main incentive for birthdays! It does help that around here, people give simple, small gifts like books and art supplies, so it is meaningful and not extravagant.

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  12. Happy birthday to little Lila - what a lovely party you put together for here. This is my favorite type of birthday party for a child, so much better than some of the ridiculously expensive extravaganzas I have seen in Manhattan where everybody seems too stressed out to enjoy themselves. Hope Duncan had a good time as well!

    The owls are too cute!

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    1. Kamini- Thanks! it really helps that we live in a town where people are down to earth and no one is trying to outdo each other with fancy birthday parties!

      Duncan played in the backyard while we were eating but came in later. He is a big goofball and wants to play with the little ones, but he is 3 times their size and looks hurt when they scream and run away :)

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    2. LOL! That is SO funny! I can totally imagine the look on Duncan's face. Aww!

      - Priti

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  13. Happy Birthday to dear Lila and many many blessings for a happy and healthy life!

    The owls are super cute and the rice packs will be useful in winter once they are warm.
    The cake ( specially the frosting) sounds too delicious for words!

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    1. Thank you so so much, dear Manasi. This cake and frosting is a must-try, I know you make many wonderful cakes and I think you'll love these recipes.

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  14. I can't believe she is two! Sounds like a lovely party.

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    1. I know! I hope you can come visit us and meet Lila while she's this age.

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  15. First - happy birthday to the lovely b'day girl! 2 years - time does fly.
    And hats off to you, The menu looks loaded with everything and planning-managing-preparing alone - total Fida ! Would really love to know how you plan and implement stuffs especially for parties.

    Loved the fish cake, though the outcome looks complicated the process seems manageable. Nice !

    I had planned to bake new cakes every month till my boy turns One, hoping by the year end I might be able to bake a Big Cake. But till now only 3 cakes baked from last 6 months others were shop-baked and those too simple plain ones with no frosting, I'm currently in an awe of frosted cakes.

    Ours was a fun weekend too, with toddlers and kids dropping for Ganpati, and our home turned to a total baby-fun place.Tiring but Enjoying :)

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    1. Kanchan- I love looking at beautiful frosted cakes but the truth is I don't like the taste of most frosting. But this strawberry cream frosting was utterly delicious. I can just imagine the hungama in Mumbai during Ganpati time- enjoy the festive season with your little one!

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  16. Happy birthday, dear Lila! What a fabulous party you had!

    You have become quite the seamstress, Nupur - those Owlies are beautiful!

    We celebrated a ton of birthdays in the last two months and another one is coming up later this month! I think I want to have a party too.

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    1. Sewing is addictive, Anita! Just like knitting, baking... :D I'm off to read your wonderful post about your summer adventures!

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  17. Hi Nupur. I m a regular reader of your blog and love your simple writing, recipes and your crafts. Happy Birthday to Lila:). Best wishes - Priya

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    1. Priya- Thank you so much for this nice note and for your wishes!

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  18. Does that make it a parliament of party favours - sounds like a great party - love the fishie cake and the party favours - I am great at birthday cakes but not so good at party favours and for sylvia's 4th birthday I sent out E with sylvia to buy stuff and they came back with 1 year old party hats that didn't fit anyone! Balloons and bubbles are always fun and I loved the gingerbread my sister put in party favourites recently. Happy birthday to lila

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    1. It is a congress of party favors- wait, that doesn't sound right :D

      LOL at the too-small hats! I had plans to make party hats/crowns but they will have to wait for another year. I agree that balloons and bubbles are always fun.

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  19. Happy Birthday Lila! All the food looks good. Our kiddo turned 4 over the weekend, we had his party on his b'day (sunday). This is the first year he was really looking forward to his party. We did debate about no gifts.I'm happy we did not go along with that. He was super excited to open the gifts he received.

    Suganya

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    1. Happy Birthday to your little guy! Yes, that's the age when they really know what birthdays are all about! Our Lila was wide-eyed when everyone started to sing happy birthday, she enjoyed it but didn't quite know what was going on.

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  20. Happy Birthday Lila!!
    Can't believe she's 2 already. Sending wishes for her good health and happiness.
    Lovely spread for the party Nupur. Loved all the details. I love the cuisine mix and match. I've told you before, I think it's such a great idea.

    -Anu

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    1. Thanks Anu, for the sweet wishes! The cuisine mix ends up being a theme in itself and it makes sense because the US is such a melting pot of cuisines anyway.

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  21. A very happy birthday to lil Lila. Your party sounds like co much fun, just like how a party should be. Lila must be proud to have a super mum like you. Those owlies are the cutest, the kids will really love them. And I like the menu, the tortilla roll ups look interesting and that cake is a really neat idea !

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    1. Thank you Archana! No super mom here, just having some fun!

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  22. Happy Birthday Lila!!!

    Nupur, menu looks awesome! loved the owlies :)

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    1. Thanks Mints :) Now that I know how to actually use a sewing machine, these projects are fun.

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  23. Happy Happy 2nd Birthday dear Lila! I agree with you Nupur -- the best part of the celebration is watching the little ones run around and gobble up cake :) Your fish cake is adorable, and how cute are those darling owlies!?! My kids had freezer bunnies made of terrycloth for 'ouchies' but I can't say I sewed them.

    You have that special touch, Nupur -- I am sure that was one magical birthday for your little gal :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Linda! You're too sweet!

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  24. Nupur, I've been reading your blog posts for years now and love how thoughtful and environmentally conscious you are. Happy B'day to Lila!! She is lucky to have a super mom like you to look up to. My little one just turned two and I'm sure he'll love a cute little owlie to help him through his falls and bumps. Great and a cute idea.

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    1. Thanks for the sweet wishes, Mansi! I like to make eco-friendly choices with the "low- hanging fruit", so to speak. With a party at home, washing dishes is so easy so the reusable party ware was a simple choice.

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  25. Happy birthday to Lila! That sounds like the perfect party! And those owlies are beyond adorable!

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  26. Love love love this post and wish Lila a very very happy birthday. As I have told you before you are one incredible woman and amazing effort.. Lila is one lucky girl. I loved the menu.. super cute cake and absolutely adorable owls.. I wish I could sew. Thanks for sharing the much awaited post, Nupur.. hugs to Lila.

    Archana

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    1. Thank you very much for this sweet note and your wishes, Archana! Sewing is easy and fun once you get started- give it a shot if it is on your "bucket list" at all.

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  27. Happy Birthday to Lila and a big pat to her parents!
    Wonderful owlies! Loved the cake idea!

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  28. looks great! happy birthday to Lila ! just curious, when you cook for the crowd and cook something in advance, how do you re-heat the curries ? do you put it in the oven ?

    -Anjali

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    1. Anjali- I usually re-heat them in the microwave in a glass/ceramic bowl. Or rarely on the stove top on low heat,stirring often. Never in the oven.

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    2. Hey Anjali,

      Since you asked about heating food in the oven for a crowd I am sharing this very useful tip.

      I got this excellent tip from a friend to keep food (that is at room temp or warmer) covered in a pre-heated 175F a couple of hours before meal time. The food will remain warm but not cook/overcook and will be ready to serve when you are! :-) I also keep any fried appetizer in the warm oven as soon as I am done frying, say 1/2 hour before expecting guests. And the appetizer always stays crispy and crunchy when I am ready to serve them with tea as if they have just been fried. :-)

      - Priti

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  29. Lovely post.... Birthday wishes to Lila....2 things if you could share...one what does her name mean? And did u sew her birthday dress too... Given your background in sewing you must have come up with something fantastic.
    -divyam

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    1. Lila is our take on the Sanskrit name Leela. And oh no, my sewing skills are very limited, I did not sew her dress.

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  30. Belated Birthday wishes to little Lila.May God bless her always Loved everything..from the menu (I love multicuisine menus) to the fish cake to the favors! Great job as always

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    1. Thanks so much for the wishes and blessings, Madhuli!!

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  31. Belated Happy Birthday To Sweet Lila...hats off to your well organized planning...got hooked to those cute party favors :-)

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  32. Happy birthday to Lila! And it sounds like a wonderful party, filled with all the warmth and care and fun and wholesomeness a child needs.
    Oh, and I want me some of that fishie cake :)

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    1. LOL I actually have some of the fishie cake in the freezer! Come and get it.

      Have you moved to CA yet? Hope all is well!

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  33. Wish Lila a very happy belated birthday. Can't believe my little one will turn two also in January. Sometimes I want to rewind and savor some of those moments- not the nighttime feedings though ;)
    Loved your menu and favors.
    Arpita

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    1. Arpita- this age between 1 and 2 is so much fun, right? Lots of change from baby to toddlerhood. But I certainly don't miss the night time feeding either. My kid still won't sleep through the night though so we are chronically exhausted.

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    2. Sorry to hear that she is not sleeping through the night. I love my sleep and find it difficult to function on lack of it. We stuff the baby with carbs ( rice and daal) usually for dinner followed by milk. By the time she has had her oil massage and warm bath she is more than ready to drop off. I'm sure Lila will sleep better
      soon though.

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    3. I love my sleep too, this is challenging for me! Lila goes to bed happily enough but wakes a few hours later. I think it is just a matter of time and she'll be sleeping through the night.

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  34. Shubha from SydneySeptember 20, 2013 10:27 PM

    Tons of blessings and love to Lila. She is very fortunate to have you both as parents. May your family be very, very happy. Hugs from Shubha Mavshi

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    1. How kind of you to shower your blessings, Shubha- hugs to you!!!

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  35. Happy Birthday Lila! I LOVE those owlies! The best favors I've ever seen.

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  36. A very happy second birthday to dear Lila! All the food looks delicious and the owlies are just too cute - must have been a blast for all the little ones.

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    1. Yes PJ the little ones ran around madly (especially after the cupcakes LOL) and were so exhausted, to the delight of the parents :)

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  37. happy birthday to Lila! the owlies are too cute!

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  38. Sounds like a wonderful party and the owlies are too cute. Have you ever watched yoyomax's youtube channel. She has tons of easy to make great looking kids friendly cake recipies

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  39. A very happy second birthday to Lila!!!And a happy second year as mother for you :)

    Regards,
    Shruti

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    1. Thanks Shruti- I barely remember the pre-mamahood days.

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  40. Happy birthday Lila.
    Lots of best wishes,
    Rehana

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  41. A very Happy Birthday to darling Lila!! And those owlies are so adorable!! Have you ever considered opening a teeny store on easy?..:-)

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    1. Etsy is so saturated!! I might some day make small things to sell locally- to raise funds for Lila's school and stuff. Let's see :)

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  42. Oh wow.. she's 2 already? Unbelievable... wishing the little cutie a fabulous birthday and the best of everything in the years ahead. I love your party menu... and the fish cake is so sweet... am sure L and the other kids loved it.

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    1. Thank you so much for the sweet wishes!

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  43. Happy happy birthday to Lila. Time sure flies. The fish looks so good and so does the menu. Perfect for a kids party.

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  44. Hey Nupur,
    i am having a birthday party for my 2 yr old and adore your idea of owlies, as return gift. Can you give me some pointers on how to simplify the project as I have a dozen kids and wanted to give each one an owlie.

    Thanks.

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    1. Sorry- but I have no idea how to simplify the project further.

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