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Category Archives: parties

Pancakes, fries, and cupcakes

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Tea’s 4K class welcomed their families to join them for a “feast of favorites” this morning.  Each child brought in whatever they wanted to share.  There was a lot of awesome sugar in that room.

At Tea’s request, we brought sticky rice with bananas in coconut sauce.  The adults polished off a triple batch.  The kids?  Well, lets just say the fries and pancakes were a big hit.

I feel like I now need to gnaw on some lettuce and brocolli.  I’m twitching.

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A running party for the new 6-year-old

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Pia turned 6 forever ago. Well, really only 3 weeks ago but I feel like several decades have passed since then. Alas, I figured I should write about her 6th birthday before she turns 7. All the photos here were taken by the lovely Robin. She kindly agreed to take pictures for me on the day of the party so I could focus on more mundane things like not losing other people’s children. Also, I may have broken Jim’s camera so I am afraid to ever take pictures again. (To clarify, the camera was broken, I’m not sure who is to blame but it is most likely me. Now that it has a new lens and works again I am afraid to touch it.) Anyway, here it is, a little replay of the day:

1. I made Pia a shirt with a ‘6’ on it to find on the morning of her birthday. This was, of course, made with metallic foil because I adore it. I’m not entirely sure how Pia feels about these homespun clothes. When I went to school to bring in her birthday treat I found her still wearing her coat… despite having been at school for 6 hours. She lets me know her opinion on everything else, would she really not tell me she didn’t like the homemade clothes just to spare my feelings? Hmmm.

2. For some reason I thought tie-dying shoelaces inside with a gaggle of children would be a good idea. My premise was that the dye in question was made with kool-aid, so how bad could it be?

3. When Pia told me she wanted a running party for her birthday I thought easy! until I realized we couldn’t just have the kids run laps for an hour, eat cake, and then send them home. After I realized I had to beef up the itinerary I decided to have them do an obstacle course. I had intended to have the obstacle course outside, but the weather was crazy windy that day so it had to be in our house. As luck would have it, the floor in our kitchen hadn’t been installed yet, so as one of the obstacles I drew letter lily pads on the kitchen floor and had them jump from circle to circle.

4. Jim led the kids in some relay baton exercises, some warm-up stretches and then it was time for the big race, the Pia 6K (really just a big lap around the soccer field at school). Amazingly no one was hurt in the rush to get off the starting line. Jim had leftover race numbers from the school 5K in the spring, so the kids got to wear ‘real’ race numbers.

5. After the race was done I gave each of the kids a medal with m&ms inside, just like these from light blue grey. (If you don’t read her blog, you should, she makes beautiful things.) Since the race took all of 2 minutes we had lots of extra time on our hands so the kids got to play at the playground for a while. Which made me realize that I didn’t need to plan a party at all. Just bring ’em to the playground and they are all smiles. They made up some complicated alien game where people were safe if they were on the blue igloo or something like that. All I know is there was lots of happy squealing and chasing each other about.

6. After a pizza dinner we ended with the traditional birthday cake in our house: Zebra Cake.

birthday invites for the soon-to-be 6-year-old

Pia turns 6 in three weeks which means I have been having a ball planning her birthday party. As everyone knows, the planning is the best part and usually pales in comparison to the actual party. Following Robin’s strategy with Tea I gave Pia three options for a party theme: obstacle course, hula hooping, or biking. So naturally she said she wanted a running party. At which point Jim and I looked at each other and said ‘awesome!’, because how much fun would planning a running party be? Let me tell you: loads of fun.

Since Pia will be turning 6 we decided to make the party a 6K, where instead of kilometers the K stands for “kindergarten laps”. The course for said 6K has yet to be laid out, but it will end up being about 400 meters, a reasonable distance for little kids to run. I think. We will also have some other running-inspired games, like learning how to pass a baton for a relay race and running-inspired crafts like tie-dying shoelaces. I will reveal the more on the party after the event, but in the mean time here is a peek at the invites:

I ooooh and aaaaah over all the beautiful invites out there in internet-land (read the blog Oh So Beautiful Paper and you will see what I mean) and always think I can make something similar. And I always fall short. I think it is because a) I am not a graphic designer and b) I do not own a letterpress machine. Jim, can we get a letterpress machine? And a button maker as long as we are at it? Alas, until we have letterpress capability our trusty HP printer will have to do.

Now here is a query for you all. How much say should a parent have in who is invited to a kids party? Until this year I have always composed the guest list myself, because her friends have always been the kids of my friends. But this year I let her choose who to invite, telling her that she could invite 6 kids because she was turning 6. And I was quite surprised by who she chose, like 2 boys from school who she has never had a playdate with but who, apparently, chase her and her friends around the playground at recess. And who she didn’t choose, like some neighborhood friends who I thought should be invited. What would you do? Would you make your kid invite the kids you think she should invite, or just figure its no big deal who gets invited, after all it is just a kids birthday party and not their wedding? Ah, birthday party etiquette. So complicated.

I’ve had the song “Run, run, run” by the Velvet Underground in my head while composing this post and had to look up the lyrics. Turns out that song is not appropriate for a post involving something as cheery as a kid birthday party. Who knew? Lou Reed wrote songs about drugs? Scandalous. 

my sneaky birthday party

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Last year, in a moment of self-absorbtion, I decided that from my 33rd on I would host a party on my birthday. Actually, I don’t know that I would call it self-absorbtion. I think it is more like the girl finally getting wise and not waiting for prince charming to make her dreams come true and instead making her own dreams come true. Or in this case, surrounding myself with friends, plants, and cocktails on my birthday. These are the dreams I have in my thirties. But, instead of simply having a birthday party, I decided I would host an annual plant swap… with cocktails. So this weekend I hosted the 2nd Annual (sneaky birthday party) Plant Swap.

The rules of the swap are simple. Dig up/divide 5 perennials from your yard, bring ’em to the swap, and bring home 5 new-to-you perennials. I made plant markers for each of the attendees. One side says “2011 Plant Swap” and the other side has the person’s name and space to write the name of the perennial they are giving. My thought was that as my friends stroll through their gardens years from now they can gaze upon their plants and think fondly of the person the plant came from.

As friends arrived with their plants they arranged them by light need: sun, part sun, shade. Pia and her cousins helped with the lovely chalk drawings and words.

The swapping is intense. Look at the seriousness on these faces as choices are made. As each person gets just 5 plants they have to think hard about which ones will go best in their gardens. Here I am describing to Laurie just how tall Joe Pye Weed will get. Luckily we each had a pomegranate and blueberry champagne cocktail to lighten the mood.

I came away from the swap with some serious scores. An oriental poppy. A yellow hosta. A fern. Lily of the Valley. And not one, not two, but three peonies, courtesy of Robin. I spent the whole next day neglecting my family and happily gardening. Ah, birthday self-absorbtion. Such fun.

Tea’s Unparty

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Last year, I enjoyed planning an airplane party for Tea.  He didn’t care about the details that I spent hours on, but it was fun for me.  This year, I didn’t feel any creative sparks in the party planning arena, so I didn’t plan anything at all.  Tea still wanted a party, and we conventiently had playgroup at our house on his birthday, so we blew up a few balloons, his Nana made him a cake, and we threw firefighter hats on the kids’ heads.  Instant party.

Tea’s single request, apart from cake, was to play hide and seek.  Now, I love my kid and I adore his friends, but wow they are some seriously challenged hide and seek players.  There was a dreadful amount of peeking, hiding in the same spot repeatedly, and I was stranded more than once when I hid and no one bothered to find me.  There was also a whole lot of giggling.  They had a ball.

I’m glad Tea had a great birthday.  He didn’t need a fancy party.  All you really need is friends.

Afterwards, Tea assured us that he did NOT need a nap.  Since it was his birthday, we let him chose to stay downstairs.  He spent the rest of the afternoon “snuggling” with his dad.

You must be mistaken - this child is *not* asleep

What 4-year-olds eat

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Firetruck cake, of course!

Don't ask how much red food coloring is in that frosting

Tea's first glimpse of the cake on Birthday Morning

The cake was made by Nana, with questionable moral support from me.  She used this recipe if you want to make your own.  It was chocolate inside, at Tea’s request.

Happy 4th birthday, Tea.

clementine game and musings on handmade gifts

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A little school friend of Pia’s had a birthday party today. It is a boy who I don’t know very well and I don’t know his parents very well either. I try to give homemade gifts whenever I can, and figured just because I don’t know them that well doesn’t mean I should chicken out and go the store-bought route, right? Why do I still have the handmade stigma hanging over my head, even after years of giving handmade gifts? Does anyone else feel this way? Is there an unwritten code of conduct about when and where handmade gifts are okay? Is there any occasion when a handmade gift is not appropriate? Oh, the twists and turns in my poor brain. Trying to figure out how other people will perceive things is exhausting.

Anyway. We went the homemade route. I first made one set for Pia as an after-school surprise (that topic will have to be a post of its own soon as it has become quite the issue around here) to see if the idea would be a hit. When it captured her attention for more than 10 minutes I figured I was on to something.

The idea began with the ubiquitous wooden clementine crate. Intended to be throw-away packaging, I suppose, but they are made of wood so they seem too good to throw away (and that last bit, my friends, sums up why my house is such a pit). So, naturally, I hang on to the crates thinking they will be good for something. And it turns out they are good for many things, but in this particular instance they are the basis for a fun little bean bag game: The Great Clementine Bean Bag Toss.  Yes, it is just as noble and fun as it sounds.

I stitched up 15 bean bags about the size of clementines out of textured fabric that I had in my stash and filled them with dried popcorn and lentils. Jim designed a little rule book complete with scorecards. The rules are simple. Divide the clementines evenly amongst the players. Set down the crate. Take three giant steps back. See how many clementines you can get in the crate. It is simple. But bean bag games are fun. I think. And when they aren’t being used as bean bags they can be used in a play kitchen. Or to throw at people.

Now I just have to hope that I haven’t forever stigmatized Pia as the ‘girl who gives handmade gifts, ew’. And when she is 16 and yelling at me she will say “Mom! The reason I have no friends/Johnny dumped me/I didn’t get invited to the cool kid party/I don’t have a date for Homecoming is because you just had to make me give homemade gifts to my friends when I was five. Do you know how uncool that was? You ruined my life!” Or something like that. Alas.