zebra-themed first birthday party

zebra birthday table

Why did I have my heart set on throwing a zebra-themed first birthday party for our little Ian? I’m not exactly sure: I do think zebras are magical and beautiful creatures. Zebras do populate many of his books. And we do wear a lot of stripes around here…But mostly I was thinking that the black and white would make a stark statement and a nice counterpoint to Christmas (something I wanted since his birthday is only three days later.)

As far as decorations, we started with this plush zebra from Lambs & Ivy. He got lots of love before he served as the centerpiece:

Lambs & Ivy Zebra

We rounded up some little zebra finger puppet books as party favors:

Zebra party favors

We ordered a palette of wheatgrass from The Little Flower Shop of Nyack – thank you to the very cool and accommodating Leslie for helping us with this:


These little pots brought a fresh element to the table on this wintery day. I found the cloud fabric for the runner on etsy from the Land of Oh.

We tried to not go too crazy with the stripes, figuring that a few touches would suffice (okay, that’s not entirely true – what you don’t see here are the striped plates, striped balloons, and striped napkins…):

bistro table all set up

We focused much of our energy on the “zebra cake.” I got the idea from Carisa’s Cakes. Hats off to Rob who baked the cupcakes and “sculpted” them into place:

zebra cake no stripes yet

I brought the stripes:

zebra cake

Not sure it was the wisest idea to display this cake on our low surfer table at one year-old party (lesson learned), but thanks to the diligence of the adults in attendance it stayed intact:

zebra cake and favors

I couldn’t resist placing some books in the window sill:

zebra books

I hung this uber-dorky fact sheet on the wall nearby because, you know, it’s good to learn stuff:

zebra trivia

As guests arrived, Ian greeted them holding a toy bottle of whipped cream given to him by his friend Annabel:


We gently requested/suggested that guests wear stripes or black and white and to our delight, most people did! All the kids seemed to enjoy the musical entertainment, provided by Catherine Moon of Moon River Mother and Child. Not only did Ian rock out to the music, he had a good jam session with his cousins Brodi and Bria and also discovered that “drum sticks” can be quite tasty:


Speaking of tasty…


The first “processed sugar” was intriguing indeed…


Gotta mention that the quiche(s) my in-laws, Sandy and Bob made (all six of them) were also delicious and I am pleased to now have the recipe.

One of the greatest moments of the event was when our friend and neighbor, Katie Elevitch, singer-songwriter extraordinaire, surprised us all by performing an original song about Ian. AND she was only a few short days away from welcoming her own bundle into the world. The chorus went: Ian, Ian!/One year old today! /But there’s a million reasons/ To love you every day! Our favorite verse: Ian Ian/ Your name is hard to rhyme /I don’t think mom and dad/ Thought of that at the time! Then she threw out a few possible rhymes: Carribean? Canadian? Oxygen? Utopian? Plebian? Tazmanian? ha!

Though he didn’t have much interest in wearing a hat during the party, these shiny cones provided entertainment for many days to come:


Thank you to all of our friends and family who helped us celebrate Ian’s first year of life and our first year as parents.


On a more somber note, this post is dedicated to my mother Barbara, a.k.a. Granny, who passed away later that night at a hospital in Delaware. Her passing was sudden, shocking, and also not-so-sudden, as the last few years were very difficult for her, mentally and physically. She was an amazing woman who brought so much creativity, love and fun to our lives. These elements were in full effect for birthday parties she threw for my brother and I.

The day ended up containing both light and darkness – lots of joy and then heartache. In retrospect, these opposing emotions are represented perfectly by the stripes of a zebra.

May you rest in peace my wonderful mother. xmas skiing 036

24 replies

    • Thank you, we certainly had fun putting the party together. And and enjoyed seeing you guys in your black and white.

      And thanks, that pic was taken a few years ago, looks like we were photo bombed by a turkey.

    • Thanks Ann-Marie – you KNOW she would have loved that party – at least she got to hear about all the plans and details.

      I think she made a bunny cake for my first birthday. Surely there’s a pic around here somewhere….

  1. What a great post, Joc, and a great Zebra party for Ian. Love the zebra cake! How creative of you and Rob!!! Nice tribute to your Mom, too, who loved to do creative birthday parties!

    • Thank you Margaret. As much fun as we had at the party, we had just as much fun planning it and getting it all ready. Obviously, Mom passed her enjoyment of this kind of thing on…

  2. 1. i cannot believe little ian is already one. that almost feels impossible!
    2. he is so incredibly cute. look at that hair!
    3. i am so sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. what a full day that must have been…and continues to be. my heart’s with you and your family.

  3. What a fun party! And way to go opting for the non-Christmas route for his birthday. My daughter’s first birthday was on Easter so the theme was….Easter. And rabbits :/

    So sorry to hear about your mom. She sounds like a wonderful person.

  4. What a beautiful party. You have taken over for your mom. She would have loved it. I remember your many birthday parties growing up . It was always special being a part of them.

  5. Beautiful Joc! What a fab celebration for Ian! I’m so sorry about your mom. Sending lots of love, (I’m happy to report from sunny florida!) Jill

    Jill Vegas 212-627-9402 jillvegas.com

  6. Absolutely perfect Joc! This is a tremendous post about life and beauty — exemplified by three generations! Love Annette

  7. This was filled with tears of all kinds. Loved seeing your sweet little boy having so much ZEBRA-TASTIC fun on his birthday. The one year birthdays always kill me because every party I’ve ever attended the birthday boy or girl usually cried through it all. NOT IAN! And that look on his face while tasting the cupcakes is priceless. Oh wait.. maybe it’s Rob’s face that is priceless. They both say so much! Way to celebrate in style. Very cute theme done so tastefully and creatively.

    And then the other tears. I’m so sorry about your mom, Jocelyn. What a beautiful lady she was. I don’t think I’ve seen a picture of her but have read about her in previous posts. That’s a punch that I don’t think anyone is ever ready to take. The loss of a parent is so great. I’m keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers.

    “these opposing emotions are represented perfectly by the stripes of a zebra” (only you could be so eloquent, Jocelyn!) Love that. xo

    • Thank you so much Stacey. I did wonder how little dude would do with all those people here at the house and all the noise – he seemed to enjoy it. And bonus: that day he learned how to say “balloon” and “thank you” (both with ‘creative’ pronunciations).

      I do see my mother’s passing on that day as a final gift – the day she died will always also be a day to celebrate life. I appreciate your kind words.

  8. Your son is impossibly cute. I love stripes, and black & white, so I heartily approve of a zebra-themed party!

    I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. What a beautiful woman. We miss our Mum/Grandma every day. I’m sure you will keep her memory alive for Ian through pictures and stories.

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