My girls’ friend Braydon had a fun and beautiful Polar Express birthday party on Saturday and I couldn’t resist taking pictures and sharing it with you. (Please excuse the photography that does not do the party justice!)

Braydon’s mom Tricia turned her whole first floor — including garage and backyard — into a winter wonderland that all the kids loved. (And can I just say there were 25 kids in attendance and they all had a great time!) Are you ready to be impressed? Not including food, Tricia created this entire party on a $95 budget! We love thrifty, crafty moms!
Polar Express Party featured on The Party Teacher
So let’s start with Tricia’s homemade invitation — a train ticket: perfect.

Tricia used clipart that she found online to create the invitations and then she personlized it using PowerPoint. She also offers this great tip: “If you are doing a Polar Express birthday theme, there is a great website, The website has printable games, coloring pages, name tags, and other ideas to use.”

The party started at 6 p.m. and so our first order of business was pizza for the kids and hot hors d’oeuvres for the adults. From Tricia’s dining room table chandelier, she hung snowflakes to set the mood.

In fact, Tricia’s entire home was charmingly decorated for the holidays, and I thought she was so smart to choose a party theme that took advantage of the Christmas decor she already had displayed. She did an amazing job of incorporating natural elements, like magnolia leaves and walnuts — I would never have thought of walnuts! And I love her colors: green and bronze. So how great is this grouping of one mirror and two old frames?

After pizza, the kids went to the garage to decorate gingerbread houses. So once again, hats off to Tricia, because it would not have occurred to me to use my garage when in need of extra space! But with two long card tables and a space heater, this was the perfect setting. Tricia pre-made all the gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and then provided every kind of candy imaginable and zip top baggies of royal icing for the kids to work with. (She averaged 5 houses for 1 box of graham crackers.)

I love that Braydon and his younger brother helped Tricia make the royal icing and put the gingerbread houses together. Tricia even shared her great royal icing recipe with us! 4 cups of confectioners sugar and 3 tablespoons of meringue powder sifted together (meringe powder found in baking section of Walmart, Michael’s or JoAnn’s). Add 6 tablespoons of water and mix with electric mixer 5-7 minutes. It took 6 batches to put together 30 houses and to make 30 individual frosting bags.

The boys enjoyed this activity every bit as much as the girls, although I saw two differences between the groups that made me chuckle. One – they divided themselves into a boy table and a girl table — no intermixing. Two – the boys finished this activity much more quickly than the girls, who created more detailed houses. The boys did their decorating and then ran for Braydon’s plastic swords and Nerf guns!

Here’s the birthday boy.

Once the girls finished their houses, they went to the backyard to play. Tricia borrowed some lights and inflatables from her mother (love using what you have!) to create the backyard wonderland (which also was warmed with space heaters and a fire pit). When the boys realized all the girls were outside, they went on the attack. To the girls’ credit, they bravely guarded the nutcracker gate and did not let the boys pass without correctly guessing the password!

We rounded the kids back up for present opening and “cake” — Braydon prefers brownies and Rice Krispy bars, so they stood in for a cake — smart mamma! During all this, the door bell rang and Braydon received a surprise guest: Santa!

Then it was back outside for marshmallow roasting.

At the end of the night, each child took home a goody bag that Tricia decorated with a tag from The Polar Express and a felt reindeer that she made. Inside each goody bag was a necklace that Tricia made. The boys and girls loved these and  you can see Braydon wearing his in the photo above. A local elementary school student created the idea for these necklaces; you can find them under the brand name  Zanzy Bands. But since Tricia had 25 goody bags to make, she created her own from pony tail holders and  “O” rings found in the make-your-own jewelry section at Walmart, Michael’s or JoAnn’s. The goody bags also included candy (always a hit) and — of course — a bell, proof of Santa for all those who believe.

Many thanks to Tricia for letting me share Braydon’s party!

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