With relief and a touch of hostility, I just closed my browser tab for “fresh strawberry cupcakes” at the Sally’s Baking Addiction. Same with sand dollar cinnamon cookies at Mama Miss and the “Mermaid party” search tab on Pinterest.
I’m so embarrassed. I fell for the social media illusion that a DIY Under the Sea Mermaid Birthday Party would be a piece of perfectly-iced cake. If adorable images have you thinking something similar, stop it right now.
Throw money at your party or get VERY organized. Follow instructions and allow approximately two weeks longer than you think is necessary to prepare. In my case that would have been two weeks and two days, which would have been just about right.
So you will understand what doing it yourself is really like, I give you my evolution from DIY newbie to wizened crafter with so many feelings:
3pm – 7pm
Hit Michaels, Dollar Tree and Safeway for supplies. Feel anger towards Michael’s for having an aisle #74. Feel proud for shopping two full days in advance of party. Drink a glass of rosé and go to bed early.
2pm – 3pm
Make dough for sand dollar cinnamon sugar cookies, which must be refrigerated overnight. Feel accomplished, take nap.
5:30pm – 6:45pm
Make fresh strawberry cupcakes. Must double recipe—always a problem. Can’t resolve batter lumps mixing by hand. Give up because SWEATING (recipe said electric mixer unnecessary: lies). Taste test results: lumps taste like aspirin.
7pm – 7:20pm
Accidentally make butter while beating cream for icing. Set timer for round two; promise to pace self on rosé.
Notice that Safeway croissants are not crescent shape necessary to create crab illusion. Ignore this because they were $5 for 15. Task husband with gluing plastic eyeballs to toothpicks. Proud feelings about delegation.
8pm – 9:30pm
Blissful feelings after two glasses of rosé. Offer to make husband’s cake icing (he is an overachiever and made cake yesterday). It turns out fine! Eat three to 10 spoonfuls.
Tired, full of batter, icing and rosé. Set alarm for 6:30am. Plenty of time for crafting tomorrow (party day).
Sunday (party day)
Wake up headachy, startled. So many crafts! Also must bake sand dollar cookies.
8:00am – 10:30am
But not just bake: roll out, cut into circles, paint with egg whites, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, place five almond slivers on each (digging for intact almond slivers –> MANY F-WORDS), bake for three minutes, remove from oven, press each almond sliver into each cookie (that’s four dozen cookies = 240 almond slices!!! And why did I have to press them? So they were nestled in, not just sitting on top of cookies like some kind of jerk-off almond slivers, obviously), sprinkle each cookie with more cinnamon sugar (to create a uniform color among all 48 COOKIES), bake for 10 more minutes until done, forget about and burn second batch.
Pastry chefs: RESPECT.
Ask husband to spread sunbutter and jam on croissants, insert eyes glued to toothpicks, cut each in half. He says OK except for cutting. Say FINE I’LL DO IT. Bluff works. Mental fist pump.
Observe kitchen strewn with cupcakes and craft projects. Wonder how pack up and transport to park will be possible. Stare out window.
Print out mermaid for cake topper cutout. Present it, along with shimmery mermaid-esque paper from Dollar Tree and scissors, to husband for cutting. Chalk up one more delegation victory.
Observe husband’s handiwork. Placement of pattern on mermaid’s backside (see above—also note that cake protector AKA upside down bowl caused icing problem) creates Kardashian Mermaid effect. Wonder if this was intentional.
10:47am – 11:10
Cut out mermaid tails myself.
11:15am – 11:30
Glue mermaid tails to toothpicks for later insertion into tips of ice cream cones (to be placed upside-down on cupcakes for full mermaid tail effect).
Husband declares he will go for a jog?! Feel furious feelings. Use as leverage for trip to Dollar Tree for balloons.
House is quiet. Realize there’s no time to make sand dollar magic wand party favors. Taste-test cookies, cupcakes. Stare out window.
12:00pm (2 hours until party)
Husband returns from Dollar Tree with five balloons. Resist urge to mention zebra stripes are not mermaid colors?!?!?!
Delegate icing cupcakes to husband. He agrees, no argument. Happy feelings. Powerful feelings.
Imagine sad children’s faces with no party favors. Stare out window.
Grab glitter, glue stick, ribbons, starfish, dowels, glue gun. Bound down stairs, plug in glue gun, set up starfish wand workstation.
Forgot scissors. Run back upstairs.
Grabbed infuriatingly dull scissors. Run back upstairs.
Wand-making is going well! Frida even helps by handing me supplies and dipping starfish in glitter.
25 wands are drying! Feel three seconds of delight. Realize I haven’t showered. Scream to husband to pack up everything and load car. WE NEED TO LEAVE BY 1:15!!!!! Shower off nerve-sweat and glitter; don’t wash hair.
Attempt to pack mermaid tails glued to toothpicks; they fall apart. Glue is NOT DRY. Run downstairs for glue gun. Husband yells: Abandon tails! NO! THERE WILL BE MERMAID TAILS.
Two cars loaded with party stuff. Two cars out of gas.
While pumping gas remember fleeting thought of bringing folding table. Pray for available picnic table at park.
Arrive at park, table available!! Sun peeking through fog!
Pot-smoke and F-words emanate from neighbor table. Wonder if that’s why table was available. Mumble judgements under breath while unpacking mermaid paraphernalia.
Stare at piles of mermaid things. Feel sad. Wind picks up. Feel angry.
Unpack cupcakes. Notice many are not iced. Inquire with husband. “Must have missed some.” Marked lack of concern is clear, infuriating. Demand he goes back to the house for icing; he agrees. “I’ll go right now,” he says. Feel surprised, pleased.
Place upside-down cones on cupcakes. Attempt to poke mermaid tail toothpicks (secured in record time by glue gun!) through tips of cones. ENDS SEALED SHUT. Break off tips of (VERY HARD) cones while cussing into wind. Embarrassed by struggle; hope reveling neighbors don’t notice.
Husband returns. “That was quick!” Notice incredulous, amused expression. Realize agreeing to drive home for icing was sarcasm. Watch Frida run away.
Feel thankful no one is on time. Finish arranging table. Attempt to capture Perfect Instagram Photos. Fail THANKS TO WIND.
First guest arrives and asks where birthday girl is. Realize you do not know. Spot her on opposite side of park and officially end mermaid preparations. Open rosé.
Maybe you’re really good at planning ahead. Maybe you love glue-gunning starfish to sticks. Maybe your cupcakes always turn out pink and perfect. Congratulations, DIY is in your DNA! If like me you have a learning curve and you’re thinking of Doing It Yourself, know that following instructions is important. Allow extra, extra, extra time for preparations. Pat yourself on the back conservatively. And hide the rosé.
P.S. I regret nothing (except not starting preparations earlier). I saved around $500, and gosh darn it I made those GD starfish wands.