...is the process by which we create, discover, learn and grow with those we cherish most.


milestone 5 - ava's matryoshka birthday party

Ava's birthday party... oh my, where to begin? Turning 5 is one thing, and celebrating this milestone birthday is another. The theme was an easy decision - while having coffee with my sister, I shared with her my worry that I didn't want a party that looked like Disney had thrown up all over it... and while sipping - I realized that another longtime passion of Ava's is matryoshka dolls!

She's been collecting these since she was 2 - and loves to nest, name, and play with every set she has. I mentioned this to Ava, and she jumped up and down with excitement. When we talked about her cake, she asked for polka dots. So my mission was clear - matryoshkas and polka dots.

Since invitations had to be sent out early in December, World Market coincidentally sold matryoshka holiday cards. The fact that they read "Happy Holidays" was timely... and that it unfolded 5 growing dolls - resembling Ava and her birthday year - had me sold.

ava 5th birthday party invitations

And you could just imagine my own sheer of excitement when I stumbled upon Lolah Pop Vintage Baby who made a polka dotted dress with its very own matryoshka doll! I ordered one right away in her size and it arrived a week before the party. 

favor table

Then more luck rained - polka dotted, matryoshka doll favor boxes by Fantastic Toys... nested in a set of 5! Problem was... between Aaron and I, it took us more than 14 hours to fold and assemble. In the end... they were worth it! It still makes me smile to know how perfectly fitting her dress and the favor boxes turned out for her party. The adult favors were cupcakes from Sprinkles - dressed up in their own brown boxes with matryoshka doll key chains from World Market.

children favors

adult favors

Since most of the activity was going to be in the family room, I set up a table of sweets. Colorful cones filled with goldfish and pretzels, candy canes, lollipops, and yummy pink and white sugar coated animal crackers...


Our favorite accessory here is the one we added right before the party - Ava's birthday gift. On Etsy, I found the very talented Amy Perrotti, a graphic designer who designs a beautiful worldly collection of matryoshkas. After exchanging a couple of emails, she designed an Afghan matryoshka doll and had it shipped to us just in time for her big day! The Afghan matryoshka is now apart of her collection.

Afghan Matryoshka Print

I hung paper lanterns that looked like polka dots floating in the air over the dining table, and a few more matryoshka ornaments on the chandelier. For lunch, we had catered Ava and Noah's all-time favorite dish, Pasta Milano, from Macaroni and Grill and added a fruit and Mediterranean tray from Central Market. I also whipped up a batch of vegan soup for a heartier (and healthier) alternative.


As friends and family arrived, the children played a few rounds of musical chairs...

musical chairs

musical chairs2

Then it was time for the cake! Thank you Mom for making it exactly the way Ava wanted it - homemade. A layer of vanilla, a layer of chocolate... and butter cream icing with polka dots!

We all sang happy birthday Ava, and I couldn't help myself. I knew I would - and I did. Inside and out, I cried... she really is 5 now... and I couldn't be more happier than this very moment.

cake time

Our Family

Right after we snapped some family photos with the birthday girl, the door bell rang... and Cinderella arrived! I know, I know - Cinderella? What was encouraging about this decision, was that she is a real person dressed up for the land of fairy tales - which is what Ava is really into these days. It's is the pages from her Disney treasury book I have issues with... So, I welcomed this energetic hour of make-believe. Giving Ava something real and tangible to relate to...

Ava was surprised, excited, and in awe of the next hour...

song and dance with cinderella

london bridge

inside the parachute

under the parachute


She swooned us with magic tricks, making a real live dove appear from her bag, and then...

Egg turns into a dove?

ava the magician

rabbit out of the bag

Noah was very excited at the party, and very much felt like it was his too.



After Cinderella left, Aaron brought out the one and only purchased Disney Princess feature - a castle pinata - to beat up on {I'm smiling}...


pinata candy

As the party started to wind down, Ava asked to play some of the games we left out for the kids... like sack races and a bean bag toss {which Aaron so thoughtfully covered the night before at 2am with sketches of matryoshka dolls}.




A few of Ava's cousins stayed after wards for a clean up party - and Noah fell asleep in my arms. Exhausted, yet filled with so much energy from the day's events - this was truly a memorable day for us all.
gathering balloons

When Ava woke up the next morning in a bed full of balloons, she said, "Mom. I'm 5 years old. I'm going to school!" and then jumped up and down...

School??? I'm just barely accepting the idea that it's 2011. And whether I'm ready or not for Ava to start school in the fall - doesn't matter. But what does is what we do together leading up to it.

Being a mom feels like I've jumped on a wild roller coaster. There are lots of turns - lots of loops - and every second takes my breath away. And with the passing of each birthday celebration, I am jolted into remembering to hang on even tighter.

Happy birthday my sweet Ava... Yes, you are a mighty-five year old now. And your Dad and I are ever so proud, and ever so amazed by the brightness you bring to us all. I am taking your lead and will hold up both of my arms up in the air to enjoy this ride with you...

{View the complete slide show of the party here}

A sincere thank you to Aunt Wagma, Uncle Dave and Aunt Corbin for taking these pictures that we will always treasure!


  1. I love it !!! Her birthday look really fun. I love this theme. I'm going to share this post in my face :)

  2. You're so funny Giozi - You mean facebook? Thanks so much. You'd think matryoshka and polka dots would be difficult to design a party around - but it couldn't have turned out more perfectly! thank goodness for Etsy!

  3. i like the party favors (thats what they are i think), very creative. and beautiful dress, i might add, too

  4. Yay Ava turning 5! The birthday party looked so FUN! Congrats, well done! I'm so glad the Afghan Matryoshka print arrived in time. Thank you again for contacting me and suggesting the Afghan Matryoshka illustration. I just noticed how the circle designs (representing mirrors) on the dress of the matryoshka illustration played into your polka dot theme. You are great with a theme! I love themes too! :)

  5. beautiful beautiful beautiful party. I cant believe my princess turned 5! Zarlacht, the work you put into the party paid off, it was very talented and creative of you. We all had a great time and i wish her many many years to come like that day. Love you all

  6. What a great party. We also love matryoshkas! And I can totally relate about the not wanting to turn the party into a Disney theme everything. I tend to shy away from that kind of theme parties as well. Instead, like you, I work around it and find something they love. Like A's 2nd birthday, she wanted a Tinkerbell fairy party. So I turned our house into an enchanted forest and the only actual Tinkerbell item she got was a huge helium balloon her grandparents got her. Hehehe (love it).

  7. Thanks so much Ana - yep, those are party favors. Filled with small toys from Party City (Rubik cube, bounce ball, flute, rings, bubbles, and fun dip! They also took a matryoshka bag home filled with pinata candy.

    Amy! Thanks for visiting our site and the comment - I can't thank you enough for the exquisite print, and you're absolutely right! The Afghan dress fit in perfectly with the party theme - I couldn't have dreamed of anything better. I'm so glad to have found you! She now looks amazing hanging in Ava's room.

    Mom! I think we're all still in shock... and I'm slowly paddling this cloud I'm on towards the idea that her party is over, and its official. I know I keep saying this - but thank you, thank you for your constant support and love in helping us raise our children. I love you Mom!

    Lisa - you are too funny! I'm glad I'm not the only Mom out there boycotting Disney party ware :) I love your idea about creating an enchanted forest for the "fairies" - we're so fortunate that we can accommodate both what are kids want, and ourselves. I think this combination makes for stunning birthday parties!

    Thanks again for all your comments!

    Much love to you all -

  8. Ava's party was absolutely beautiful and the theme was adorable! All the details, Ava's dress, the custom print, it was all just perfect! I know that it's difficult to grasp that Ava is 5, but know that you and Aaron have raised a compassionate, intelligent and precious little girl and her love for you and your love for her will only grow as the years pass. Thank you so much for including Dave & me, we had such a fun time catching up and seeing everyone. We love you all so very much!

  9. Like 99% of the time when there is something design related, Zarlacht gets to take all the credit. She did an absolutely amazing job down to every last little detail. God forbid it was up to me to attempt to plan something like this... I can't even begin to imagine how 'different' it would be.

    I think everything turned out perfect... Even starting decorating 2 full days in advance yielded 2 near all-nighters back to back leading up to the party. Thank goodness for caffeine and good company. Even though i was delirious the night we had to cut/fold/assemble all the Matryoshka dolls, it was fun.

    I am looking forward to Noah's 4th.

  10. Ha Ha Ha! I won! Ava got her princess. You forgot to mention that detail to me. Fellow Princesses must stick together. I love the decorations and your wonderful imagination to create a wonderful party. Only wish I lived near by to attend my babies' parties.

    Just because a girl believes in princess/prince story does not mean that they will go up believing that she has to rely on a man to be happy.How we teach our girls to believe in themselves, to become strong, and to reach for the stars on our own two feet is how girls become the woman of the world. As I remember, Aaron brings his "Princess" a latte everyday just because he loves you.He's your Prince in many small ways. Yet, you are one of the most strong, independent, and stubborn.... I mean.....wonderful woman I know. he he he he he he he

    Give my fellow princess Ava a big hug and kiss for me! Miss and love you all.


  11. LOL! Saralee! Thanks so much for all the love and kind words. We also wish you were close and be a part of these moments. Did I really forget to tell you about Cinderella's appearance? Oh my. Well - next year, will you dress up as one and come? lol!

    I know in my heart you're right about believing in what makes a "real princess" - I simply believe Disney on the other hand, has a different image/perspective on that. Unfortunately, their sparkly movies and Disney memorabilia all point to stories with being saved by a "hero" - which quite frankly - isn't a great lesson. I mean, c'mon. Ariel leaves home, lies to her father, disobeys him - all to pursue a human! The nerve...

    I on the other hand, am trying to instill all those values you listed - because I couldn't agree with you more. I'm just competing with the mainstream - and it ain't easy. Ava had 2 failed attempts in asking Noah to marry her. She believed she could only be a "princess" if she was married. So what I say - goes in one ear - and out the other.

    I have a feeling we'll be revisiting this over and over and over again. Or actually, praying over and over again - that this is just a phase...

    Love you!


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