Holidays My Life Parenting

Eleanor’s Third Birthday Party

My little conductor train engineer turned three at the end of April.

The big conductor train engineer turned 34, two days later.

The party invitations promised train whistles and caps for all, and we delivered. Bandanas, too.

My idea for the table was to create a forest in the center with train tracks all around, and little bits of scenery. The cats destroyed my maiden hair fern centerpiece almost immediately though, so I went to a big box store for more plants and found the selection lacking. I ended up with a rubber tree plant, and I used the moss I had leftover from making my terrarium to fill in as shrubbery.

We had the usual party decorations up too, and pretty packages all wrapped up for giving.

The Marimekko tablecloth on the table was the one I’d written about last year. I didn’t buy it at the time, but I thought of it when I was trying to find something that would suggest a landscape for the table, and I was able to find one on eBay. We had a birthday cupcake train, led by Thomas. The cupcakes were from a bakery, and Eleanor and I made the flatcars out of graham crackers, mini Oreos, frosting (from a tube, used like glue), and wafer cookies (as axels, for stability).

It was a good day, with no confusion or delay.

Happy birthday(s), my loves.

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  • Kathryn Humphreys
    May 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Goodness, that’s sweet. Nice work. (also, I’ve been really tempted have the small one figure out some way to electrify my nice plants. Why do the cats only go for the really nice ones?)

  • Giulia
    May 7, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    This is so lovely! I really like that tablecloth – will you be able to use it this summer outdoors?

  • Kelly @ A Swell Place to Dwell
    May 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    What a cute party! I am totally in love with the cupcake train and the mini oreo wheels. What a lucky girl!

  • Ashley {GirlyObsessions}
    May 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Adorable! And now I want a conductor hat! So cute!

  • Christina W.
    May 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Everything is so cute! The cupcake train was a stroke of genius. I am kind of in love with the planter that the rubber tree is in, mind sharing the source? :D

  • Allison
    May 7, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    What a creative party; the train is amazing! And I also love the planter! I would love to know where you got it.

  • Making it Lovely
    May 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    The planter was from Home Depot. I picked it up there when I bought the rubber tree.

  • NicoleD
    May 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I just love it all! The colors in the cupcake train make it a treat for the eyes and your purple dress is so pretty.

  • Jacklyn (Ohbygolly)
    May 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I have been waiting to see pictures of the whole thing pulled together. SO very cute! I have to say I love that you never go over-the-top girly for Eleanor’s parties–It seems to always celebrate creativity and what she’s into at the time. Veddy nice!

  • Jen @ RamblingRenovators
    May 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    What a fun party! Hope the little conductor and big conductor were pleased. The graham cracker box cars are too cute.

  • Molly the Waffler
    May 7, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    LOVE the cupcake train. Also smitten with the black and white striped pillow behind Eleanor — a local find??

  • annie
    May 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    The cupcake train is so great! I’m going to remember that one. Love the tablecloth, too…

  • Sandra
    May 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Glad that your train goes all the way to Paris – always nice to have a bit of French flavour too in the party…

  • Crystal
    May 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    are you preggers?

    • Making it Lovely
      May 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      No. Gee, is the picture that unflattering?

      • Deb
        May 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm

        Honestly, who would ask that! You look beautiful in that picture!

    • Sarah S
      May 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      Good lord. How have people not learned to never ask that to a woman? I remember breaking down in tears and having to leave work one time when someone asked me that. For the record, you look great Nicole.

      • Erin
        May 7, 2012 at 5:39 pm

        Seriously, that pic does not suggest pregnancy to me in the slightest. You look great!

    • Christina W.
      May 8, 2012 at 12:11 am

      oh my

  • mai
    May 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Just a comment, and I swear it’s not intended to be bitchy or nit-picky. My husband actually IS a train conductor, and the adorable outfits you guys are wearing are actually for engineers. No one really knows what conductors do, so people think they “drive” the train, when that’s actually the single job of the engineer. Conductors actually do everything else, at least according to my guy :)

  • kathy
    May 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Hi Nicole,
    I find these comments today rather entertaining. Preggers? I’ve been following this blog for years, and you have never looked better!
    You look very thin, if anything………

    Actually, I was going to ask you about your weight-loss secret.

    Also, I loved the party decorations especially the cupcake train.
    Nice job!

    • Megan
      May 14, 2013 at 9:43 am

      Here, here! I haven’t read MIL in a while and stubbled upon in just now while looking for ideas for my son’s train themed birthday party. My first thought when I saw your picture was “Wow, she looks fantastic!” Some people… blerg.

  • Jamie Tinaglia Lee
    May 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    So stinkin’ cute! Lovin’ the cupcake train!!

  • julia @ life on churchill
    May 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    SO, so cute. And I like that you didn’t do a princess theme. Our daughter turns 3 this summer and I plan to avoid it. The invitations are adorable!

  • Kim
    May 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Super cute! I love the vintage approach and that cupcake train is genius!

  • Elizabeth
    May 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Adorable!! I remember buying a Brio train set for my daughter when she was two, and she loved it.

    Love Eleanor’s invites too.

  • Christina
    May 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    You all looked lovely! Also, M&M cupcakes…!!

  • Chelsea C.
    May 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Ahh! Everyone looks so happy! Love all of this — the party, the photos, and mostly the cupcake train. ;)

  • jbhat
    May 7, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    You look so beautiful. Your husband has a serious Jude Law vibe going. Handsome! Your children are amazing and you throw a fine party–the cupcake train is inspired. Happy birthday to father and daughter! Here’s to a very happy year.


  • Christina W.
    May 8, 2012 at 12:14 am

    I will have to look at the planters the next time I’m in Home Depot! I always just figure they’ll be blah so I usually don’t even look and pick mine up from IKEA and other more design minded stores. But that one is some serious cute.

  • Ina Longmore
    May 8, 2012 at 1:19 am

    I see my daughter’s next birthday party forming in my head right now!

  • Ilaria
    May 8, 2012 at 2:25 am

    What a wonderful yet simple party! Happy birthday!

  • Ariane
    May 8, 2012 at 2:48 am

    Very sweet ! I loooove the cupcakes train for a birthday cake … I think I might just bake one for myself in August …

  • Isabel Alvarez
    May 8, 2012 at 5:46 am

    Greeeeaat party! I love all the details, the hats, the cupcake train (I want one of them now!) Your creativity is inspiring :)

  • Rose
    May 8, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Love it! My almost 3 year old daughter also LOVES Thomas. I may be stealing some ideas from your party. :)

  • Susana
    May 8, 2012 at 8:09 am

    You look great and I’m so happy you posted this…my little train-obsessed guy turns 3 in July and I am planning to borrow all of your ideas. Could you please share your source for the hats/bandanas/whistles? Also, your dress = perfection with this theme. :)

  • spark
    May 8, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Really love the thought and care that you put into your celebrations. Like a previous poster said, it really comes through that it isn’t over the top, just celebrating where your kiddo is at this point of their life, just beautiful! Would love to know where you got the hats etc…not because I want to re-create but find it very inspiring when something looks so beautifully put together can come out of ingenious ideas. (like the moss!)

  • laurin
    May 8, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Cute party! What’s your secret for keeping kids parties so low key without sacrificing on all the cute details? I find I can’t resist the temptation to go overboard.

  • Natalie
    May 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    LOVE the train you made! Consider it pinned:


  • Norah
    May 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    LOVE that you have avoided mega princessness so far! That’s my goal with my two year old as well.
    Where did you get that dress? I want!

  • Amanda
    May 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Your family is adorable!

  • Erin
    May 10, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Looks like a wonderful party! And I echo the comments about your dress — love it. Where is it from?

  • First Barbecue of the Summer | Making it Lovely
    May 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    […] peonies are in bloom.A patterned tablecloth probably helps too. This is the same one I used for Eleanor’s birthday party, but I think I like it outside even better.My family always used paper plates and plastic cups and […]

  • Khristen Newswander
    August 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    I am doing a train theme for my son’s 2nd birthday. Where did you get the train whistles & the conductor hats? Such a cute party, love all the ideas!

    • Making it Lovely
      August 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      Oriental Trading Co. sells them by the dozen.

  • Joanna
    December 20, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Where did you find the thomas tshirts? I cant seem to find any I like.

    • Making it Lovely
      December 20, 2012 at 10:14 am

      I think they were from Target and Old Navy.

  • Joanna
    August 23, 2013 at 8:19 am

    What kind of frosting did you use and did you make all those different flavors of cake or just use white cake mix?

  • Julie
    November 16, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Adorable! How did you assemble each “car?” is it just a graham cracker, the cupcakes, and the oreo wheels? How do they stay up? My daughter is obsessed w/ trains–I want to try to recreate this!

  • Julie
    November 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    How do the “cars” stand up? What is below the graham crackers (other than the oreo wheels)? ADORABLE!