Joel's First Birthday Party!

Wow... it's still surreal that Joel is now a year old. Even moreso after his first birthday party! It was an awesome party and I'm so thankful for all the close family and friends that came out to celebrate with us. Some folks may think a child's first birthday is really more for the parents than the child, but to me, I'm looking to create some momentos for Joel to be able to look back and appreciate when he's older.

For our little celebrant, I originally had planned on having him dressed in a Chinese outfit. After putting one on, it just looked like he was in pajamas - definitely not a proper look for his first birthday! My mom was so kind to surprise Joel with a special outfit. In Philippines, a barong is a special hand-embroidered formal top for men/boys that's used in formal occasions. Even though Joel's first birthday is far from formal, it certainly is a milestone birthday that deserves a proper outfit! My parents presented Joel with his very first barong which was custom made overseas. It fit perfectly and he was known throughout the party as the 'Lil Congressman.' (In Philippines, government officials often wear a barong lol.)

Here's Joel's Congressman pose lol...

We hosted the party  at a local Chinese restaurant to represent Joel's Chinese side from his grandpa (Louis's dad). Grandpa Ray is currently in a nursing home and was unable to join us. So to honor him, we're celebrated with Chinese cuisine & culture! I had whimsical tiger invites and signage made since Joel was born in the year of the Tiger according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar. We had approximately 40+ guests attend and it was so good to see everyone. Here are some highlights from the party...

Guest Book: Thumbprint Birthday Tree
I saw this idea initially for weddings but thought it could work just as well for birthdays. I'd love to have one for every birthday in the coming years so that we can frame each of them and start a little collection for a nice keepsake. I think next time, I'll have everyone use their pinkie finger so it won't be as messy... and have everyone add their fingerprint as they come in. A good amount of our guests left before we had a chance to tell them to "leaf" their print so for next year, we're going to get that done as they come in. The kids especially loved it!

Joel's Activity: Future Prediction Game
This is a fun activity for Joel that my friend Megan shared from a great party blog. I soon learned that this was a common 1st birthday activity in Asian cultures including China... so it was perfect! A few items were laid out in front of Joel that represent various professions. For Joel, he had the options of doctor (empty pill vial), scholar (ABC book), entertainer (toy piano) or wealth (a few coins). Whichever item he grabbed at first or seemed most interested in is what his future holds. But before Joel chose items, we had guests vote to see which item they thought he would pick. It's all in fun so it will be great to see what he grabbed for. The result? Joel went for the coins first but was definitely most interested in the pill vial... so I guess he'll be a wealthy doctor? I can only hope he becomes whatever makes him happy! :)

Edible Party Favors: White Chocolate Topped Almond Cookies
(seen above on the left)
I originally thought about doing chocolate dipped fortune cookies but realized I just didn't have the time to devote to all that's involved. So instead, I made Chinese Almond Cookies, colored some white chocolate and frosted the tops of the cookies with it. For extra sparkle, I garnished the cookies with the same color sprinkles. To finish them off, the cookies were wrapped in a clear cellophane bag and sealed with simple square seals. These were pretty popular with everyone and I'm so glad it went over well with all our guests!

Kiddie Party Favors:
Chinese Take Out Boxes & Chocolate Coin filled Money Envelopes

There were quite a crowd of kids that attended, so I sent them off with something too. I initially thought about filling take out boxes with toys but figured they will end up in the garbage, broken, lost or left behind. So instead, I filled them with something edible. II filled plain white Chinese take out boxes with Chinese candies and filled cookies. Also, each box has a balloon that automatically inflates once popped open! To finish off the boxes, I printed stickers that matched our invites. I also picked up some Chinese money envelopes and filled them with chocolate golden Chinese coins I found at Cost Plus World Market.  The kids loved them and it kept them occupied while all the adults chit chatted away.

Birthday Cake Tower: Joely Cakes!
Originally I planned on making a 'Tiger Striped' Cake. It sounded like a great idea but when it came time to make it, I knew it wasn't a practical choice. We would have a lot of food at the restaurant (the menu is ridiculously huge, which was a major focus of my mom) and our guests would barely have room for cake. Besides, with so many folks and kids, cutting and passing out cake would be quite a task. So my next thought was just to make a special small cake for Joel and have cupcakes for guests. With cupcakes on the brain, there's only one kind to make - Joely Cakes! I make these cupcakes for retail sales and they were a hit at the party. It's only fitting that I make the cupcakes of Joel's namesake for his first birthday, right? I made my signature Joely Cake flavors - langka (jackfruit), buko pandan (coconut & screwpine leaf) and ube (purple yam)... of which are all traditional Filipino dessert flavors. The cupcakes were displayed on a tiered cake tower, with Joel's personal cake on top. For Joel's cake, I made a jackfruit cake, frosted and filled it with vanilla bean buttercream, covered with with marshmallow fondant, then adorned it with sugar polka dots which were also used to top the cupcakes. To tie in the whimsical tiger theme of his invites and the signage, I also made a little marshmallow fondant tiger for his personal cake.

Joel was a big fan of his Joely Cakes. He couldn't wait to bite into one early on in the party. He especially loved how one of his 'Lolas' was willing to give him an early taste of the cupcakes...

Finally, it was time to light up the candles, sing 'Happy Birthday' and enjoy his birthday cake!...

Just as I expected, all the practicing to blow out his birthday candles himself pretty much went out the door. We ended up blowing out his candles together and he was so interested in touching his cake's candles and the tiger...

Despite how Joel got his own personal cake to enjoy, he was much more interested in the cupcakes and loved them.... obviously!

Here are pics of Joel with all his wonderful family and friends that came out to celebrate...
Opening gifts at the restaurant would have been chaotic so we decided to enjoy that moment at home. So after spending nearly 5-6 hours at the restaurant for his party, we headed back home with our family to open presents. Thank you to all our kind, generous family and friends who made Joel's first birthday so memorable! We were able to get a photo of all his wonderful gifts just in time before my camera's battery died! Here are pics of Joel's gift opening...

Overall, we couldn't be happier for Joel. 
Thank you again to everyone that attended and shared in Joel's special day!


  1. I can't believe he is a year old! I haven't ever really commented but I remember reading blog posts of yours about all of your frozen meals in preparation for the baby to come home. It looks like his birthday was a success! He is so adorable.

  2. What a fun day! Happy Birthday Joel!

  3. Happy birthday Joel! You're so lucky with your parents who has given you this awesome party! wow!

  4. What an awesome sweet day for Joel, and he looks so handsome in his barong! love!!!

  5. Happy 1st Birthday Joel! So exciting! I hope you enjoyed it! = )