Happy Birthday/Mutlu Yillar Vera!

Last week in Istanbul, we celebrated a big milestone: my baby Vera’s first birthday. Since she’s such a jetsetter, we wanted a travel theme for her birthday party, with a nod to her Turkish birthplace. We braved the steamy temperatures and high-season crowds of tourists, and headed to the back streets of Eminönü, where you can find everything and anything for a party. If you are throwing a baby shower or a welcome baby party, this is your mecca: it’s a hot mess of tulle, plastic babies, and crepe centerpieces.

Turks are not known for minimalism

In addition to the requisite “1st birthday” paper plates, napkins, and party hats, we picked up nazar (evil eye) toothpicks, Maşallah balloons (which turned out to also have inscriptions for a boy’s circumcision ceremony, oops!), and a lady bug outfit for the birthday girl. While first birthdays are really more for the adults, we had a few small guests in attendance. Their goody bags contained wooden maracas, rubber ball globes, and Turkish-themed stickers. It definitely paid off to comparison shop: we found maracas near the Spice Market for 5 TL each, while further away they were just 2.5 TL. A box of party decorations we first priced at 18 TL, but found a slightly more basic set of streamers and tinsel for 4 TL!

Nazar cupcakes by My Turkish Joys

The highlight of her party were the incredible nazar cupcakes made for us by my friend Joy, who blogs about her delicious creations and travels at My Turkish Joys. We wanted to avoid chocolate and nuts, as they can be highly allergic for babies, and highlight the best ingredients in Turkey, so she went with a peaches and kaymak (clotted cream) filling, buttercream frosting, topped with fondant evil eyes. To keep somewhat of a travel them, I had wanted to find a small cardboard suitcase to display the cupcakes (see this travel-themed wedding post for a pic), but the closest I found was a small set of “suitcases” at the oddly-named English Home store. They did have a cupcake pattern at least!

All in all, it was a fabulous first birthday!