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  • Writer's pictureArpie Mikaelian

Our Party and the Pandemic (Part 2 of 3)

Last week, I spoke about the TGIF approach to party planning: Theme, Guest List + Venue, Inspiration, and Feasibility. In this week’s post, I wanted to discuss how I used TGIF for my son Vaughn’s 2nd Birthday Party.



Vaughn loves trains, so the choice was clear to us – we knew we wanted to go with a “Two-Two Train” motif that’s become quite popular recently.

Guest List + Venue

We initially wanted to only invite Vaughn’s pals from daycare and a few of our friends with kids, making the number of guests no more than 50. But, we have a huge family, and the guest list suddenly blossomed to 120 (I know…that’s a huge number).

Being in Los Angeles, we had the perfect venue in mind: Travel Town (it’s an amazing place that you can check out by clicking here). The publicly run park is versatile: you can keep it small by renting out only one of the old trains, or expand it by renting out adjacent open areas and picnic tables.


I soon turned to Pinterest for inspiration and found an array of train themed birthday cakes, decorations and party favors. I even found pins from the exact same venue! So, here’s what I envisioned:

  • COLORS: The cable car we rented was blue with red trim, so we decided to stick to a blue, red, black and white theme.

  • CAKE & DESSERT TABLE: I wanted a cake similar to this and planned to set up a dessert table around it.

  • ACTIVITIES: Because Travel Town offered a variety of activities AND we had rented out the picnic table area, we had an empty canvass to work with. We even started looking into lawn games and live music options. Basically, the sky was the limit!


Despite my lofty plans, here was the reality:

  • BALANCE: Not only do we have a two year old, but we also have an 8-month old. Do we have the time and ability to pull this off?

  • BUDGET: With a guest list that big, we easily saw the costs of everything booming. Is spending a considerable amount of money on a 2nd Birthday party appropriate? Does this set an unhealthy precedent we need to follow every year?

  • LOGISTICS: The venue only gave us 30 minutes to set up. How in the world would we be able to pull everything together? It required a much bigger team than only me and my husband.


After much deliberation, we finalized our plan. Here are some of the highlights:

  • FOOD: To control costs and prevent additional set up time, we decided to go with pizza and some light salads.

  • DESSERTS: This is where the heavy lifting was to be done – I decided to bake macarons, cake pops, and cookies (all of which I’ll cover in my next post).

  • ACTIVITIES: My husband took charge of this area, and we settled on three activities: (1) coloring; (2) corn hole toss; and (3) giant connect four.


Sometimes, the most creative features of a party end up being the most inexpensive.

When I decided to set up a coloring station for the kids (a place where we’d have lots of crayons and train-themed coloring sheets), we decided to jazz things up by personalizing the illustrations.

Here’s what we did:

  • We’ve used Fiverr several times in the past to hire an artist that can convert a photo to a cartoon. We decided to hire the very talented Denikasapovic and use one of Vaughn’s photos from a recent holiday shoot. The artist charged $24 for the gig with a 5 day turnaround time (he can do it for as cheap as $5 – we purchased a version with bells and whistles, so it raised the price).

  • We love to use Photoshop and Illustrator, so, once the illustration of Vaughn was complete, we created some cool compositions using additional graphics we found from Shutterstock and Vecteezy (we highly recommend Vecteezy because it has a ton of great free options for personal use).

So, for approximately $35 (including printing fees) you can add a truly unique and memorable element to your party. And, although the pandemic canceled our plans and no one got to enjoy the coloring sheets, I’m hopeful you might be able to implement this project at your next party. Even if it’s not in person, it would be a nice way to unite the kids and make it personalized and special!

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