Word of the Week: After (and Before…)

If I was writing this post on Monday I might have been tempted to use the word ‘anti-climax’. After a few weeks of frenetic planning and organisation for EJ’s circus themed birthday party (don’t ask me why, he’s unlikely to remember any of it!), and then the party itself on Sunday, it feels like every moment of my spare time has been taken up with thoughts of timings and food choices and entertainment options. Come Monday I was left feeling a little deflated (along with about 20 shrivelled balloons!). Monday afternoon I was alone with both boys with nothing planned and the weather was a bit iffy. I felt a bit bored and fidgety. I allowed JJ to help his brother open up all the presents he’d received at his party which were a great success but left me feeling slightly worried about the knock-on toy clutter effect. I had already neglected any proper cleaning and tidying for at least a week, prioritising party stuff, and something needed to be done.

Come Tuesday I had the opportunity I needed to get to grips with the situation. With no appointments or get-togethers arranged and the children both out at our childminder’s I had the perfect opportunity to do some sorting.

It’s been a long time since I really looked through the toy boxes to sort the wheat from the chaff and as a consequence new things were building up on the floor and other surfaces as there was no room to store them. I set to work sorting it all into three piles: chuckers, keepers and charity/ebay, getting rid of a huge amount of stuff and a big bag of rubbish. Now we have room to store most of the toys that normally just lie around the house and more, because I bought these cute storage boxes from Argos to create some additional space.

animal toy storage boxes
Now I just need to block out a day to deal with the gathering pile of bags filled with toys and clothes that, whilst out of our living space, are still in our house.


Looking forward, I have begun to obsess over JJ’s upcoming pirate party (well it’s only a short five weeks away!). I have booked a hall and a bouncy castle and already know that I’ll use lunch boxes instead of doing a full spread. I know what I want to go in the boxes, what will go in the party bags, how I’m going to decorate the food table (with extras like a jar of gold coins and a cake stand full of pirate cupcakes) and what games will be best (I think I’m going to have to make time to sort a pass the parcel this time – it seems like the done thing!). I really enjoyed making the clown cake pops for EJ’s party but to be honest it is quite a lot of faff, so I’ve decided that JJ’s party will have marshmallow pops instead – that means there’ll be no cake baking, cooling, moulding and freezing involved! I’ve also discovered some handy baker’s tools to make the decoration so much easier so I’m looking forward to that!

Tomorrow we are off to Devon for a week with my family which I’m also really looking forward to! We will be staying in Torquay and hopefully have some nice days out and a few trips to the beach! It will probably be a blog-free week for me this time round as I haven’t had the chance to line up any scheduled posts and I won’t have the laptop with me. I’m going to be more chilled about it though – I think it will be great to get away from everything – even the constant stream of writing and responding, which, whilst lovely, is not a recipe for relaxing and switching off and everyone needs to power down and switch off for a bit every once in a while.

This time next week it will be my own birthday! Unfortunately no one has any great celebrations planned for me and as usual I haven’t got round to planning anything for myself. Sometimes you just lose yourself in this parenting thing don’t you?

Have a great weekend WOTWers!


Kids Party ‘Life Hack’

Birthday Cake mummy!

Does anyone else look at some of the stuff on Pinterest and feel a) stunned that other people have the time, skill and creativity to create childrens’ rooms that look like they were designed and commissioned for a Terence Conran photo shoot, or handmade toys, clothes and artefacts straight out of a glossy magazine, b) just a wee bit inadequate?

I’ll admit it, in my ideal world I would not be so rich that I could pay for a professional to do this for me, I would do it myself – brilliantly! But unfortunately I’m a bit lazy and I don’t have much free time.

I know people make their own party decorations and gifts to save money, be thrifty and frugal, but I think they primarily do it because they like to feel like Supermum for a day, show off their hidden talents and prove to the world that they are the loving, crafty, best mums in the world.

But I say screw that – if you’re a bad mum like me, get a life hack. I have to admit I only recently became aware of the life hack phenomenon – but the concept has always existed and it’s great if you don’t mind a bit of cheating and lying! Essentially it is shop bought, jazzed up to look like homemade. Or, if you want to be a bit kinder to yourself, it is ‘customisation’.

So EJ turns two at the end of July and I’ve given myself a mere three weeks to plan and organise his party (other than booking the hall and inviting a few friends – go me!). Over the weekend I began pondering on a theme (gotta love a theme!). I didn’t want a generic Disney or Cbeebies party – maybe in the past that was OK (JJ had Disney Cars for his 2nd Birthday) but since I started blogging (and signed up to Pinterest) my horizons have expanded a little and I have developed some quite specific tastes. Anything vintage to do with childhood works for me, but I also love bright, multi-colours.

I figure that with my last child at age 2 this is probably my final chance to make all the decisions – from here on I’ll have to grudgingly accept the fact that my children are developing their own tastes. I guess you can choose their room theme when they’re young and naiive adaptable, proudly plaster it all over t’internet, but how often do you see parent bloggers showcasing their teens’ murky dens? I don’t know, maybe they do but somehow I can’t see anyone being too quick to share images of dirty pants hung over the end of beds, old applecores flung carelessly on the floor and piles of unfinished homework lying forlorn on desks strewn with hair product and glitter nail polish, while black walls advertise obscure bands?  (I’m guessing).

But I digress.

My first thought on party theme was cowboys/Wild West – a theme that can be adapted and vintaged up to your heart’s content. But it is a bit samey – cowboys, horses…I suppose I could have hired one of those mechanical bucking broncos you see on hen nights as a refreshing change from a bouncy castle… What was that? Did someone mention the word ‘law-suit’? Yes, you’re probably right.

Then I hit on a stroke of pure genius – ‘A Day at the Circus’ – I love it! It’s child friendly, it’s vintage, it’s multi-coloured, it involves lions and fire-eaters (law-suit again? Oh right – better scratch that off the to-do list) and best of all, it’s hackable! OK I admit, one thing it’s not is original (just go to Pinterest and type in ‘circus party’ – this is where I’ve been all weekend).

So far I’ve bought the basics – themed cups, plates, table cloth, some red & yellow balloons, party blowers, 10 metres of bunting, a miniature big top tent (quickly checks bank balance). I’ve even got my Ringmaster’s outfit sorted – that is the kind of sh*t mum I am – got my priorities all wrong (it’s not ‘sexy ringmistress’ though, that really would be beyond the pale, even for me!).

So where’s the ‘hack’ you may ask. Well, it’s the cake that bothers me. I’ve seen some works of true genius during my little online odyssy, let me tell you. But it occurred to me that they aren’t really cakes at all. They are works of art – it would be a bloody travesty to sink a knife into one of those creations. Besides which I am not talented enough and I would end up with something that looked like it was thrown together by a small child.

circus cake - professional

I toyed with the idea of attempting one of those in yer face 6 or 7 layer rainbow sponges…

rainbow cake

and then I got real. I don’t have the time, equipment or food colourings for that. My oven can only cook a sponge through by charcoaling the bottom third, and I’m not sure that rainbow with additional black stripes would impress anyone… Keep it simple – that’s where I’m at right now. I’ll concentrate on one lovely chocolate sponge – chop the bottom third off and then plaster it in whippy white frosting. The decoration will be colourful and there will be a home-made bunting cake topper!

This is what it might look like in my imagination:

'easy' circus cake

As a little additional extra I’m also going to make my own strong man moustaches on sticks for a bit of photo-booth action! (And thereby save myself about £5).

moustache on stick

I was thinking home-made cupcakes, cupcake toppers and a ‘feed the lion’ beanbag toss but come on now, let’s not let this hacking nonsense get totally out of hand!