Posted in In The Kitchen, Out Of My Head, With The Kids

Garden Party

I only do parties for my kid’s odd numbered birthdays. It saves me from having to do 4 parties a year and it saves birthday parties from becoming a huge chore for everyone else. Even numbered years, the kids get a family outing of their choice on their birthday. (zoo, museum, botanical gardens, movie, etc.) They equally love even and odd birthdays. So this year, I only had one party to do. (Praise the Lord!) Imo decided she wanted a garden party. Not a tea party. But a digging in the dirt garden party. She asked her friends to bring plants for a “friendship garden” instead of getting her a gift. It did rain on and off, so we had to move the food indoors, but they were still able to do all their gardening activities.

GnomeFirst, we found a gnome. Gnome shopping was difficult for Imo. She liked them all. She finally decided on Bob. We had a photo shoot with Bob and used him to make our invitations. We made postcards. They are super simple and cheap. You just make a 4×5 image, then you create a postcard template, take both files to Staples and have them printed 4 per page with the image on one side and the postcard stuff on the other side of cardstock. Use their cutter to cut the paper into fourths. And ta-da! Postcards.

7 Party Mud Pie

 

Instead of cake, I made individual mud pies. I put them in 3″ terra cotta pots. (If you’re serving food in terra cotta, just make sure the terra cotta isn’t made in Mexico. I found these Germany made pots at Joann’s.) To make mud pies, you make chocolate cake (just make a sheet cake). Let it set in the cool over overnight to dry it out a bit. Cut the cake into 1″ cubes. Place the cake cubes in a bowl and pour some liquor over them. (You don’t want them soaked, just a little moist.) You can use kahlua, cointreau, irish cream, or whatever you think works with chocolate. If you want a non-liquor option, you can use espresso. I made 2 batches of cake to fill 24 terra cotta pots (and I did have some cake left over) and soaked that cake with about 1/2 cup of liquor- so it isn’t much at all. I then made chocolate mousse (2 batches) and chocolate fudge sauce (1 cup cream heated with 2 T butter and 2 T light corn syrup in a double boiler then melt in 16 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate).

Once everything is made, it is assembly time. Plug the bottom of the terra cotta pots with a mini marshmallow. Then add a couple cubes of cake, mousse, cake, and fudge sauce (in that order) into the pots. Crumble some cake on the top and add a mint leaf to garnish. Stick the in the fridge until you’re ready to party.

7 party fruit

 

7 party table

 

7 Party mini gnome

 

7 party drinks

 

7 party candlesWe had the party in the morning, which is my usual choice of party time. (You can offer a much more limited food selection, which makes planning much easier.) In addition to the mud pies, we had a fruit tray and a veggie tray. We also had snow cones before the kids left. (My friend got me an awesome snow cone maker  as a gift since I’ve been craving snow cones and slushies like crazy. I just premade 24 cups of shaved ice, then added the syrup of the kids’ choice as they asked. The kids seemed to prefer the Jelly Belly syrups I picked up at Kroger and the adults preferred the Monin syrups. If you’re buying Monin syrup- try the Lavender. It is amazing! And the Cupcake is nice, as well.) We had sweet tea, lemonade, and bottles of water to drink.

7 party sign

 

Before the party, The Pastor prepare a garden space for the garden. He also made a sign for the garden. (Tip: when you are painting something small or grabbing paint for a craft- try getting a sample of wall paint from your home improvement store. They cost a little over $2 and you’ll have more than enough paint for your project. One sample of paint is enough to cover about 5 of these signs.) He used Sharpie instead of paint for the lettering, which bled a little in the rain.

7 party planting more

 

I picked up trowels at the Dollar Tree for the kids to use. I grabbed several watering cans, as well, but they ended up not needing those thanks to the rain coming and going.

7 party girl

 

7 party emery

 

7 party bend

 

The kids had fun planting a garden. And it actually turned out really nice, despite not having “planned” every plant. Each child brought the plant of their choice, so there is quite a variety, but the garden looks really nice.

7 party boys runningI made little gardening aprons for the kids as a party favor. (Tutorial to come.) So each kid had a little apron to wear and take home. Boys and girls all seemed to like them.

7 party little pots

 

After they ate their mud pies, we washed out the terra cotta pots. The kids went back outside and each planted some seeds in their pot to take home. (They planted lavender seeds, because I had a few unused packs lying around.)

7 party outfit

 

Apparently I have set a standard in Imo’s mind. She now feels she needs an outfit made by me to match her parties. I didn’t realize I did this, but apparently I do. That is how most of our traditions around here get started. I don’t realize I do the same thing over and over until the kids tell me I do it and that they expect me to continue. Since it was a gardening party, a dress wasn’t the most appropriate choice. So we made ruffle bermuda shorts and a gardening apron. (Tutorials to come.) I didn’t get a picture of the outfit clean, but you get the idea. 7 party addison and imo

We also grabbed some extra paint stirs at Lowe’s and the kids decorated them with their names to mark their plant in the garden so Imo would remember who gave which plant.

7 party birthday girlAnd now she’s 7!

 

 

 

 

Posted in At The Sewing Table, In The Kitchen, On The Reading Chair, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

Tea Party Birthday Party

Imogene turned 5 last week. I cannot believe how quickly time has passed. On one hand, yes, it seems like she was just born. But on the other hand, it does seem like she’s been with us forever, not just 5 short years. Anyway, for her party, she wanted a tea party. I declared that the party had to be outdoors and I would be “keeping it simple.” I somehow managed to stick to the simplicity despite her constant nagging about how fancy the party should be. I think I pulled off simple and fancy. (Though, it is my version of fancy, which is very shabby chic.) She was thrilled and I didn’t go into labor with all the work, so I’m calling it a job well done!

Remember me raving about the cookbook Sweet Chic? Well, these vanilla cookies covered in colored sugar came from that cookbook. They look amazing. So pretty. (The trick to get the sugar to stay on in such quantities is to use an egg white wash on the cut cookies before baking and sprinkle the sugar on before you bake. The egg white glues the sugar onto the cookie.) They tasted amazing. I didn’t have a single cookie left over.

I got 3 pots of Mexican Heather to put on the tables. (Which will now be planted in the yard.) I just put some pink tulle around the pots to make them look fancier.

I searched high and low for cups for the party. Imogene insisted we use fancy cups and not just plastic Dixie cups. It finally occurred to me the week of the party what to do! I went to TJ Maxx and looked in their clearance section for cups. I found several boxes of random glasses for $4 and $5 a box. So, I bought 26 random glasses (some wine glasses, a few highballs) for $20. I figured if the kids broke them, they weren’t my crystal glasses or anything, so I really wouldn’t care. Turns out, not a single glass got broken. (Had I used my crystal, at least half of them would have been broken. But since I planned for the breaking, none got broken.) Kids love drinking out of wine glasses. I’m not really sure why, but even the boys thought it was great.

Also from the book Sweet Chic came these yummy little cupcakes. These are vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing. I colored the icing the yummy yellow color. I’m really not very good at cake decorating. Actually, truth be told, I am very bad at it. So, I make cupcakes. Imogene picked the pearl sprinkles and the icing color. They were also very, very yummy. Seriously, this vanilla buttercream icing is some of the most tasty icing I’ve ever had in my life. I know they aren’t beautiful, but they were super yummy. And since it was so hot, the icing was getting a bit melty sitting out. So, it is probably a good thing I didn’t try to make them beautiful.

It was a tea party, but not a hot tea party. (It is summer in Georgia, after all.) We had a sweet tea bar instead. We had blackberries, peaches, lemons, limes, and mint to mix into your sweet tea to make in fancy. It was a hit! Everyone, kids and adults, seemed to enjoy mixing their fancy sweet tea and experimenting with flavors. (Blackberry mint was a big hit. My personal favorite was lime and mint. Yum.)

The birthday girl getting ready to blow out her candles. I realized when putting up pictures, that I completely failed to get a good shot of her in her dress. Ugh. Fail on my part, since the dress was so very cute.

Here is the closest to a full shot of the dress. It is a pillowcase dress with one bigger ruffle around the bottom and 3 rows of ruffles on the top front. I didn’t use a pattern, I was just winging it. Imogene picked out her fabric (she loves picking out her own fabric) and then asked that I make a dress with “fruffles on the bottom and lots of fruffles on the top.” She was thrilled with the outcome. It did look a little busy once she put on several necklaces with the ruffles at the top.

I put pillowcases on the backs of the folding chairs, then tied pink tulle (she picked that out, too) around the chairs. I made the pillowcases with fabric from my stash. I’ve been trying to get my stash down to a normal size and use a lot of it up. This party turned into the perfect opportunity to thin my stash!

To make the pillowcases: Cut the fabric length to between 32″ and 36″. (Finished length should be between 31″ and 34″.) You’ll use the whole width of the fabric. Just fold the fabric in half, selvage to selvage, with the wrong side of the fabric together and sew the top and side. Finish the seams the way you like. (I serge mine.) Hem the bottom open end. And you’re done. Once you figure out how to make a solid one, you can experiment with piecing different fabrics together for different looks. Add piping, ribbon, bias tape, ruffles, etc. as you see fit. They really are quick and fun. (Plus, you could make them as gifts. Kids LOVE having their own special pillowcase. With all the fun novelty fabric out there, you could make a special pillowcase for every kid in your life.)

I also made the tablecloths with stash fabric. My tables were 8 foot long folding tables (borrowed from the church). I cut random pieces of fabric in random lengths. (I kept a pad of paper next to the ironing board and wrote down the lengths as I cut them.) When I got to around 9 ft. (108″) I quit cutting. I pieced all those together, lining up one side of the selvages. I sewed the cut sides together. When I had all of them sewn together, I used a yard stick to even out the selvage side that was uneven. (Some fabrics are 44″ wide, some are 45″, and some are closer to 42″. I just picked the shortest side and cut all the others to match it.) I then had a 9 ft. long (maybe a couple inches more) and about 40″ (plus an inch or two) wide piece of fabric. I knew that would cover the table, but wouldn’t give much “hang” over the sides. So, I grabbed another piece of fabric and 3 pieces 10″ long. I sewed those strips together selvage to selvage. Then, I sewed that long strip down the side (just pick one of the 9ft. sides) of the larger piece. You’ll have some leftover when you get to the end. Just grab a rule and cut it off, making sure the corner is squared. I serged all the seams on the back of the tablecloth. I then serged around all the edges. That is it. If you don’t have a serger, you’ll have to finish you edges some other way. (I’d recommend a double fold hem, even though it’d take some time.) You could tuck under your serged edges and finish them, but I just left them. I used blue and green serging thread, so the edges looked pretty neat just serged.

I also made homemade popsicles. Of course, I have no pictures of them. They were Southern Sweet Tea Popsicles from the book Pops! I bought a popsicle mold (well, 2) that I could use wooden popsicle sticks in. I made the popsicles and put them into little Wilton bags. (I think they were large sucker bags or something.) Then, everyone had a little bag with a popsicle inside. They were a big hit. Very yummy. They were super strong, super sweet tea base with peaches and mint added to them. The frozen peach slices in the popsicles were heavenly. Seriously. I’m not sure I can ever go back to buying boxes of popsicles now that I know I can make my own gourmet popsicles for half the cost that taste 10x better! Kids and adults LOVED the popsicles.

As far as activities went, I didn’t plan any. I’m not big on planning out birthday party activities. It just isn’t my thing. It stresses me out to keep things on track and I stress the kids out trying to keep them on task. We put our kid size play tables in the driveway and set a box of sidewalk chalk on them, several containers of bubbles, and a few jump ropes on them. We also had a few of the kids outdoor riding toys out (not planned, I just forgot to put them in the garage). That was plenty to keep the kids all entertained and happy for 2 hours. The adults sat sipping sweet tea and eating cupcakes and cookies while the kids ran around the yard, drew pictures in the driveway, and blew millions of bubbles. Aidan also showed everyone how he rides his inchworm down our front sidewalk. (It really isn’t something for the faint of heart. That boy is going to be into extreme sports, I just know it.) Of course, none of the other kids were really brave enough to try it. (Or their parents were really into letting them try such a feat.) But he had fun showing them how fast the inchworm could go. (And if you have a reckless boy of your own, I will say that an inchworm down a hill is much better than most of the other riding toys we own. The inchworm can only move forward, so there is no accidental rolling backward down the hill on their way up the hill. It also only goes straight. No steering wheel. That greatly reduces the turn overs on the way down. You may want to look into buying your little daredevil one.)

All in all, I think the party was a success. And it was pretty easy to pull off. (I did have to make a schedule for the food making, since I didn’t want to get stuck having to do it all the day of the party. A week before, I made the first batch of popsicles. The Monday before, I made the second batch of popsicles. The Wednesday before, I made the cookies. The day before, which was Thursday, I made the cupcakes and the icing, but didn’t put them together. The day of, I iced the cupcakes. The Pastor made the tea and the ice. Then, an hour before the party, we set up everything.)