A party in the woods (Butterflies and Bears)

IMG_3127I’m usually strictly a ‘home party’ person. I do like the control of knowing my venue and having as much time as I need, plus not relying in transporting everything on the day. This year however, Storm Doris took it upon herself to destroy 60% of our fence and the prospect of keeping lively three year olds indoors or risk them escaping our open plan exterior to run up and down the street was not one I fancied. Instead we opted for a mix of a trip to the woods followed by a party tea back at home. We’d planned the party in for the date after getting back from a week away as well, so knowing time was short, the aim was to keep this one simple.

The plan: I set off to find our spot in the woods just before the party was due to start in order to set up a tipi, hide some teddy bears, and hang decorations in the trees while the rest of the family waited at home. The children arrived and selected an ‘adventure headband’ I’d made using elastic and a few feathers then walked down at 3 year old pace to find us in a little clearing. I’d picked a spot by the water, checking that parents felt ok about that first, and and warned them to bring wellies. They happily spent the first few minutes playing with sticks and running around. It was great to have an arty friend come along to help so I assigned Hannah to face-painting and set up a little blanket by the tipi for the children to sit one by one and be painted as butterflies (or rhinos, unicorns or batman… of course) We kept the activities simple.  I had cut out butterfly shapes on white card and attached pipe cleaners and a thread to hang them from the trees. I took small pots of paints and brushes along and the children could pick one at a time to paint one side and splodge over to print onto the other wing then leave them drying on their spot in the trees until it was time to head home.

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We took a little bluetooth speaker and used it to play pass the parcel. After games I told the children that there were some little bear friends lost in the woods and that they were hoping to be found by a new family. I’d bought a set of these beautiful bears from a wholesaler on eBay and I tied each one a different colour ribbon around it’s neck so that there would be no arguments about who’s was who’s when we got back to the house. We’d hidden them around the spot we were using, up trees, behind rocks, in the grass and all the children went to find one to keep.

While they were looking for bears with their parents I headed off first to set out the party tea, leaving Holly (my 12 year old) who had hidden the bears behind incase anyone was really stuck, and once the children arrived back and de-muddified their hands we sat up to tuck into pizzas, Pom Bears, crunchy veggies and bread sticks. For pudding I did small pots of natural yogurt with chopped fruit to add in and some pretty rice-crispy squares with edible glitter for a bit of sparkly fun.

I arranged the bits and pieces for party bags onto the shelves in our kitchen. Having it out on display is an easy way to include another themed decoration and helps me to keep the things I’m going to add in on the classy rather than tacky side. We popped in their bear hunt bear, a Butterbear bath bomb from Lush, some cake, and a bag of trail mix. Trail mix is a great way to keep party bags low sugar but still containing a bit of chocolate. I added in some chocolate buttons, chocolate pieces and mini marshmallows along with monkey nuts and alphabet cereal and tied these in a little bag just with handwritten labels.

For the cake I did a 3 layer chocolate cake and used this big Meri Meri no. 3 candle and some of our fave Shleich bears. After considering crafting some little trees I saw this fab idea of using rosemary on @buttercreamanddreams Instagram and, well, we have a forest of rosemary taking over the back garden.

Thankfully the day ended with some tired happy kids and a content newly three year old. This is despite the breakdown the day before. Even though she had decided 6 months ago it was a butterflies and bears party she wanted, talking about it constantly from November through to April, With less than 24 hours to go she decided she’d actually like to change it to a bouncy balls and Peppa Pig party. Fabulous. And no.

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Advent Series Day 13: Gingerbread House

  IMG_0297Every year I feel obliged to make one of these and every year its flipping annoying!! I would like to tell you the ‘snow’ is a big mess because I let the kids do it. It wasn’t… It was me…and yet again I reached the point of shouting for Joel to HELP!! while covered in royal icing and a falling down house and telling (read ‘yelling at’) the kids to keep back and stop asking me why its falling apart.

Anyway… Holly made the gingerbread from scratch so it was worth persevering with and it is now, finally, held together. We stuck to a fairly tame colour scheme this year. Little flowers around the front of the house. Marshmallow on the snowy roof (they limited it to the white ones only) and bright smartie ‘fairy lights’. Now this sits on the table for a week or two before we break it apart and stuff it into January’s packed lunches.

Not the very best activity to have scheduled in for an afternoon of girls extra dancing, followed by the boys drama school performance in Frozen, followed by their grandad’s carol concert… such activities that need you to calmly hold onto biscuit without moving for 45 mins are better saved for days when you have far less to do perhaps?!

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Snowflake Fairy Cakes

IMG_0278The children have their class parties coming up next week. On their tables they organise the list of foods and decorations they need. I remember doing this at primary school too – I’d go a bit crazy bringing in table cloths and fake trees and candles to put all over the tables… just to eat a couple of traingle sandwiches and a custard cream while listening to jingle bells for half an hour in the afternoon. So today he came home with his form. We have been chosen to provide cupcakes. Elijah said they’d decided I was the best at baking. I think he may have swung it so that he might get some cupcake leftovers instead of cherry tomatoes.

So I’d seen a friends facebook saying these little cutters were the just a bit fab from ebay for £1.42. They really are! 3 sizes of snowflakes, push them into your rolled out icing, push thee errr… pusher and out they pop. They’re all over ebay and all about £1.50 delivered from China. Took a week or two but I ordered in good time to use them for our decorating the Christmas Cake day and, it seems, in good time to respond to an emergency cupcake request.

IMG_0289Well in honour of a few of Elijah’s class doing a performance of Frozen this weekend I thought I’d go a bit blue and purple and I quite like these. I only had green polka dot cases and once I’d decorated them Elsa-ish I couldn’t bare the green with it so I took them out the cases. I know they’re only for a school party but aesthetic nightmare… I could not …’let it go’. 🙂

I’d really not planned baby no 3 to have a Frozen theme in the next 10 year party plan but ooh with these and all my Christmas paper snowflakes I do have a fair bit of the set up already. It’s a bit too mainstream for my liking but maybe in 8/9 years it might be retro enough to revisit?!

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Advent Series Day 10: The Christmas Party

IMG_0145IMG_0105Ahh one of my fave days! The little Christmas tea party. I’d invited 2 of our best friends families over from school – all a surprise. We’d done this last year so they all arrived ready for games in exactly the right spirit. Simple format, classic games, healthy tea, a small pressie under the tree. Super

Games:

  • I did a Christmas Story wordsearch on an online generator.
  • Giant Christmas Carol wordsearch on the black board. Again, I did it on a generator then copied the grid onto the wall and they took it in turns to fill in the answers. I sang a line of a well known carol or song and they had to fill in the missing word.
  • Cracker games. This box of crackers I picked up in John Lewis sale for £2.50 was full of a game. This one was really god. They all got a character card. There was a dice, a series of challenges; pictionary, lists and talk on a topic and a score card. If I’d not planned anything else at all I’m sure this would have kept us entertained.
  • I made headbands using card, a bit of wrapping paper and some bulldog clips. (I’ll keep these for next year – they are so simple but they just love this game.) I just wrote characters or people on bits of paper – either famous people they all would know, people we all know in real life or film or story book characters and each person who can’t see their own character on their head asks questions to the group to try to work out who they are. Its ALWAYS funny to have someone as their headteacher. My fave bit of this game is when they all squeal with laughter when I clip them on everyone.
  • Christmas Bingo. We made a little Christmas picture bingo last year and this came out again.
  • Charades. We didn’t get around to playing it this time but I intorduced them all to it last year and I think all the parents were fed up with having to play it eery night from then on!

Food: The party tea for health conscious mums.

  • I did sneak a very mini pizza in, chopped into tiny bits.
  • Pasta salad (wholeweat pasta with a tiny bit of melted butter through, sweetcorn, tuna, cucumber, carrot)
  • Lots of veggie bits (I call them crunchies)
  • Bread sticks
  • A corn on the cob
  • Lots of fruit to choose from
  • Plain snowman shaped biscuits. I made these with 50% of the sugar the recipe states.

I didn’t do sweets, I didn’t spend long on puddings. They just don’t even care… too many games to play. I filled a big drinks dispenser with water and gave them each a milk bottle with a straw. Some drank more than a human needs just because they liked using the dispenser!

The pressies… these are families we have ‘no gift’ agreements with. Doing a little party bag- esque pressie means I’m not breaking the rule and means I can just find small and Christmassy items. My kids LOVE weaing Christmas jumpers, t shirts, santa hats in December… but if you save something like that to open on Christmas day you’ve kind of missed the boat. I loved these little socks (last pictures) and having 6 kids for the party meant I could take advantage of the 3 for 2 offers. Elijah has just sneaked out the door wearing his Santa socks for the second day in a row. He told me they went down really well at school… I told him I didn’t think they’d go down so well if everyone noticed them today as they’d also all know he’d worn them for a second day. He’s taking that risk. He said he might pretend he’d got a whole set. I’m glad he loves his socks…. and he only really has another 15 days to make the most of them.

Lovely time had by all in their Christmas jumpers and elf outfits 🙂

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Lego Party

Phew… its taken a while to get this post on. The challenge of turning the house from a floral vintage tea party to a lego zone in 3 weeks with a 3 month old was a whole heap of busy. Not much I could recycle from one to the other.

 So with the Lego Movie out for release on his birthday-eve we couldnt really resist a Lego Movie link. This was our photo opportunity wall. The boys piled in together for pictures amonst the giant lego storage which the boy got for his birthday (and got to open a bit early), more lego bricks made from cardboard boxes and crepe paper and this painted wallpaper. I did the circles by drawing round the bowl of the weighing scales and shading in the bottom corner. Needless to say I now have sharpie all over the bowl… oops. Boy was in charge of choosing the font and printing out the Everything Is Awesome. Of course, this song was playing on repeat through the whole party.

 GAMES: We split into teams for activities. It is easier to entertain 4 boys at once than all of them. I’ve learnt that over these years. We started out with a nerf gun shoot out in the back garden which involved a choice of different types of nerf gun in various positions and Lego StarWars Darth Vader’s printed onto card for targets. They all played this together before splitting into groups.

Buildionary: So simple. A big tray full of all kinds of bricks and some easy categories printed out and cut into strips. Each member of the groups takes a turn to go out and read the strip and then has to make their word from the lego and without speaking. Like pictionary. Like charades. Like rapidough. Yes, simple.

 The Animation Mix-Up (the boy was in charge of the names and the signs… there is not really any mix-up about this game- sorry) This was a little more tricky and required an iPad and an animation app. Joel did this with them outside and they made little mini lego movies where characters walked about and boys T shirts kept appearing in the background for one off pictures as the concept of staying out of shot was a little beyond some excited 8 year olds. The idea was that they would choose a pack of props, a cast pack and a vehicle which were all bagged up in the tub. This meant they all had different things to work with for their movies.

 Guess Who: This was by far the most fun game to make. It involved a trip to the Lego Store and to the mini figure station. We have only ever dreamed of this before now but this game gave us the excuse we needed. We dug out all the boys mini figures and selected the ones with most ‘character’ and then the Lego Store trip provided us with 9 more. We photographed each one and sent them off to be printed a week or so before the party. So each board has 15 characters and those 15 character’s photos need to go to the other board. Each team selects a photo and they take turns to ask questions such as ‘Do they have something in their hands? and ‘Do they have an angry face?’ They LOVED this game. Once they had eliminated a character (eg ‘Do they have a hat?’ ‘No’… so all the characters with a hat can be eliminated) they bend them over to show that they are out! My favorite thing about this game is the randomness of the characters. We have a hippy guy with an ice lolly, Santa, Gandalf, a chef holding a croissant and Millhouse from the Simpsons. We play this game a lot now.

 PARTY BAGS: As I was sending off for the photos for the ‘Guess Who’ game I edited one of the stressed space man and we used these for the party bags. I stuck to a pretty simple theme of bright things inside clear packets so these were the same. Clear gift bags with these photos inserted in and ready to fill. The boy wanted our expedit shelves to be set out like a store so each square had a different item in, either for the party table or for the party bags. The gifts for the bags were a lego soap, a brick shaped lolly, a bag of mixed sweets and a small pack of lego bricks.

 These soaps were dead easy to make. I ordered some lego sillicone molds as I knew they would come in handy for lots of things and we used the left over melthing soap from the girls party. I made multi coloured soaps with the molds and then once these had set I places them randomly inside the rectangle molds and mixed up a new batch of clear soap with a little green edible glitter (left over from last years OZ party) I poured that in so that it would set around the coloured bricks and the results were quite fun.

 Ideally I wanted to make these pops with hard boiled sweets – it wasnt the right kind of mold. I tried and I melted it 😦 I had to stress about using candy melts instead. I don’t get on well with Candy Melts. They dont pay any attention to be whatsoever.

 Little packs of assorted bricks.

FOOD and DECORATIONS:

 I did enjoy making this cake. This was a 5 layer sponge… I didn’t go mad on colours as I thought the outside took care of that… but each layer was a different flavour (chocolate, caramel. banana, vanilla x2). The top layer was cut smaller – which turned out a bit handy as I forgot about one of the layers and cooked it burnt around the edges… so that one was the best for the job. I mushed up the fondant icing with yellow colouring paste and once that was even rolled it out and covered the 2 sections. The bricks are a mixture of candy melt ones I made and some I bought ready done from amazon.

 Again we stuck to a simple theme for the party table. These geometric style plates were a bargain from ikea. We did rectangle slices of pizza and the veggies looked great with their bright colours stuffed into lego store pick’n’mix pots.

 

Vintage Tea Party

Ahhh it is done. We managed to pull off a ‘very important because I am in double figures’ party with just 3 grown ups with a teething newborn to juggle between us! Hurray! And we have one happy 10 year old.

Holly wanted a vintage tea party. I was grateful for this theme. Elijah would like Lego… in 3 weeks time.

Activities:

Inspired by the posh ladies in Pippi Longstocking Holly and I wore big hats. Mine is less frilly and i can hopefully wear it again during our ‘scorching hot summer’. Holly’s was from an ebay shop. We had a game on arrival called the Posh Ladies Name game. Each girl had to pick up a book, close their eyes, select and page and a word at random and then pick an appropriate ending from the list on the instructions. They did the same again (because double barrel names have an air of extra poshness) So you select the words ‘what’ and ‘sock’ and you become Mrs Whatingham-Sockley don’t-you-know. I framed up these little mini frames I found in hobbycraft with their real initials in the corner (which we used to label their activities, party bags etc) and wrote their posh lady name on their badge for the day.

We always run out of time for games but we do love a good treasure hunt. I downloaded a font called zooland from dafont.com and used it just as it was in capitals to write out a message. So I typed out my message in ‘english’ and then selected and changed the font to a load of woodland animals. I printed out another copy and Holly printed the alphabet on small bits of card which we stuck the corresponding animal to the back of and I hid these around the house. The girls had a few minutes to run and find the letters and then set to breaking the code which led them to find the treasure. The treasure was a voucher for some dried flowers and poppy seeds from the ‘gift shop’ (for an activity later) and blott rubbers and rainbow looms in little packs (and the code included the disclaimer that it wasn’t a very vintage prize!)

 There were 10 girls so we split into 2 groups to do some craft. The girls made ‘vintage head bands’ in the lounge and soaps in the garden under the gazebo.

For the headbands we provided them with a few sizes of paper flowers, some buttons in ivory and a few pastel shades, scraps of pastel and ivory ribbon, a few gems and gave each of them hair band. I got all these bits and pieces from hobbycraft or ebay and the hair bands were already covered in an ivory ribbon and I bought as a set of 12. Some of the flowers had twisty stems so they could wind them to secure them and some bits needed gluing on so Beth was on duty with a glue gun.

 Soap making is one of my favorite kids activities as it is so incredibly easy. Having had so many disasters with candy melts, sweets and foody items, even in silicone, I was scared when I first tried this but its super easy. I’ll do a separate post about what we did as we’ve even been busy with a couple of other soapy projects since the party. The girls used their dried flowers and poppy seed vouchers to choose the bits of texture to add in and I had a range of colours and essential oils from BeeBeautiful for them to choose from. These little baking molds are from Lakeland and are the perfect size. The best bit is that they are all separate so I didn’t have to have all the girls crowding round one mold. The soaps set in about 20 mins (even quicker if you are sitting under a gazebo in the rain) so I had some little cellophane bags ready to pop them into to go into party bags and I get to keep hold of all the molds.

I made these giant flowers last year for the Oz party as huge poppies. They are a faff and they fall down when you try to make a field of poppies outside… but inside, where they stay upright, they are fun. We keep them in the loft so I ripped the red poppy heads off and replaced them with these big white tissue paper pom poms which I had dipped the edges into a big bowl full of watery pink paint and left to dry on lots of layers of newspaper.  We had fun doing a silly photoshoot here and I’m getting these printed off quick-smart for thank you cards so that each of the girls can have a copy of theirs.

Food: This was a good theme for me. I normally go overboard on food and make 3 sandwiches per person as well as 3 other savory options incase they don’t like anything and 2 of each bun, incase someone takes 2 of one kind and someone else doesn’t get one. I have leared my lesson from 10 years of having 17 plates of leftovers. The food theme was simple so I stuck with 4 types of sandwiches (white bread with the crusts cut off which my children couldn’t believe) salad veggies, mini bread sticks, a bag of skips and some mini pork pies and scotch eggs. For puddings we made classic iced buns with a cherry on top, scones with jam and cream and some fondant fancies (no, Mary Berry, I did not make these – just these were Mr Kipling) Drinks were lemonade and pink lemonade in party bottles with paper straws and hot chocolates served by my 7 year old handsome waiter from tea pots.

The cake always has to be a surprise from Holly  – she never wants to see it before the party which is incredibly awkward – cakes are big things to hide! She saw it the night before covered in plain frosting and thought that was it and was a little underwhelmed but by the morning it was covered in its ruffles and she got to cut into it at the party table to find out what colour I’d managed to make the cakes go inside – which was also news to me as I really had no way of knowing it the colurs had worked!

Decoraions:

Well we obviously needed peonies. Our peonies haven’t grown this year. Really sad face. Still, we had fun decorating with the theme ‘pretty’.

Party Bags:

The girls were given ‘gift vouchers’ by their plates to use at the  ‘gift shop’ which was the good old ikea expedit shelves with different items spread through the different sections. I printed of what I expect is a fairly unrealistic vintage price-list. I have no idea if a shilling would buy you a bag of sweets or 100 acres of land… but I’m sure non of the girls did either. Most of the gift bags were homemade. I bought the bon bons and the pencils from Sainsburys and the bags from amazon but I got my children involved in creating the things to go inside. We make hair slides with cobochons and supplies from etsy, bath bombs, which I will post about another day and coconut mice with coconut, condensed milk and icing sugar.

 

Ahhh…and finally the invitations… which were actually first, not finally, or we would have had no guests… These were made with paper and glue for the background image which I photographed, printed and added printed dates to. I stuck this onto a backing piece of card and cut a slit into the top of the tea cup. The names were printed with stamps on tags with the detail written on the back which were then tucked into the tea cup.

Ahhh…talking of a cup of tea…

  • Thanks for reading, and well done if you’ve actually made it to the end of a crazy long post!

Funfair Party

Here’s my boys funfair stye party. We had lots of fun with bright colours and fairground games.

 I used striped fabrics, garden cane painted white and signs to make stalls and painted cardboard boxes.

 I used these pop corn tubs for party bags. Inside I put some retro stickers, a party popper and balloon, a stripey paper candy bag of pick ‘n’ mix, a rainbow swirly lolly and a goldfish in a bag (a plastic goldfish set in a bag of clear soap.

Circus cake! This was fun to make. I used a foam ball for the top bit as we just didn’t need to create

so much edible stuff.