You know I love a good craft project. I love to create something pretty for display (bonus if it's functional). And, unlike many, I trawl Pinterest in my downtime. For fun.
But when it comes to my children's birthday parties, I feel so terribly inadequate. Have you looked at the party ideas on Pinterest? I mean, a lot of them are ludicrous, yes, but still, some are reasonable and still far beyond the scope of my abilities and energy. This is where I understand the Pinterest haters.
Plus, the whole birthday party planning experience is shrouded under this feeling of what the party should be like and how I should love it. And I just don't. I don't like crowds (especially of small children), I don't feel like event planning is my thing, and I don't like performance decorating. Yet, I can't help but wonder (I've watched too much SATC, clearly) if I skip the party, am I not robbing my children of an important childhood experience of attention, cake, and presents?
Fortunately, my children are born four days apart (well, two years and 361 days). That means they're getting a joint party for as long as I can get away with it. And this year, this year folks, I think I conquered the party. I managed to plan an event that was not too overwhelming, yet pleasing to the senses. I managed to perform adequately while still honoring my children's preferences. And the cake. I knocked it out of the park with the cake, guys. Just you wait and see.
1. Shopping. One long date with Amazon on a Friday night and done. Budget set, presents selected, Amazon Prime membership borrowed from my MIL, and presents in time. Boom.
2. Leo's main present actually came from Etsy. I ordered it in December (for Christmas) and it arrived in late February. Oh well, it's not like he knew any better. And it is so stinkin' cute. I've got a boy who loves balls and loves soft, cuddly toys.
seller worked with me on colors, theme, everything. She was slow, but she delivered in the end. And Leo loves it.
But on to the actual party:
3. Maggie and I went to the "balloon store" the weekend before, and I let her pick some basic decor. Balloons, streamers, tablecloth, plastic utensils, treat bag stuffers, etc. I limited categories of items we could purchase but let her have free reign within those areas. And then I worked on putting the house together. And I really think I came up with something fairly attractive. Festive even.
4. I even came up with a frickin' theme for this party: carousels (you'll see why later). I downloaded a carousel horse picture and created a craft for kids to do. No one did it, but who cares? It was there, it was free, and it worked with the theme.
5. Only two children attended; one for Maggie, one for Leo. We invited four, but two didn't show. Some might be sad about such a development, but I was overjoyed. We did our duty by inviting back, and we still didn't have to deal with crowds.
6. Leo's little friend had a ball. He was perfectly comfortable at our house and had a great time. Maggie's little friend wanted to sit her mother's lap the entire time and hardly uttered a word. Maggie didn't either. They did not have to interact, but they both got cake. Win-win!
7. When I asked Maggie what kind of party she wanted (Leo gets no say until he'll talk to us) a few weeks ago, she said she wanted to ride a carousel. Carousels are a dime-a-dozen around here, but most don't open until April. Except for the one on the National Mall. You know the one outside the Natural History Museum? Of course you do.
8. And, the guests Maggie most wanted, her cousins from NC, arrived just in time to accompany us. My nephew Charlie provided, for me, the highlight of the day. Smack dab in the center of the National Mall, surrounded by crowds, he announced he needed to pee, and while I was brainstorming bathroom locations, he dropped trou and told us he'd take care of his business right there. Fortunately, my expression of surprise must have made him tense up, and we avoided any release of fluid. Boys.
9. I get no credit for this, but the weather was amazing. Blue skies, breezy, and a high near 60. The first nice day of 2014. That meant everyone and their Aunt Lillian was on the Mall, but they'd brought their soccer balls, and the boys had such a grand time running, running, and running some more. And Maggie got a special second ride with just her daddy on the coveted
turquoise horse-sea-dragon. If you've ever ridden this carousel, you
must remember it.
10. And now for the cake. It's out of order, but I saved the best for last.
Maggie started talking about her birthday cake back in mid-January when I started discussing my own. For nearly two months, we have heard regular reminders of what kind of birthday cake she wanted: peppamint cake with tat-tat (chocolate) syrup. We were rather puzzled until we realized...i-pim (ice cream).
I am a loyal member of the "show your love by baking your family members' birthday cakes" club so I started doing some research into ice cream cakes. I came across this recipe via Google, and this is a site and chef I follow and trust. Her recipe describes how to make the ice cream, the cookies for the crust, and the hot fudge sauce. Welllllllllllllll, I bought the ice cream and the chocolate cookies. But hot fudge sauce is easily made and miles beyond what you can find in the store. I added peppermint extract and red food coloring to one carton of vanilla ice cream, and the Dude came through by forsaking happy hour and finding a springform pan (how do baking pans disappear from your cabinets?) at the last minute.
I found this cake surprisingly easy to make. It's a lengthy process because you have to soften the ice cream and then wait for each layer to freeze before adding another, but there's very little hands-on time. And the final effect is beautiful. And tasty.
It's been a week, and I am still on a high from my triumph. I kicked that birthday party's hiney! And now I have a whole year before I have to plan another.