The big fifth pirate party!

Pirate party spread

So it’s finally happened  – the event that I dreamt up and began planning months ago is over – and my little boy is suddenly a big five-year-old schoolboy!

This is the fourth party I’ve thrown since having children (JJ had a second birthday party and EJ has had a 1st and a second) and with each experience I am learning how to be better and make it more impressive and at the same time stress-free. I spoke about the idea of a ‘kids party life hack‘ when I was preparing for EJ’s big circus party back in July, but even then I hadn’t got it quite right, giving myself the most massive headache of preparing 23 clown cake pops (and me, a complete cake pop virgin!). This time round I opted for marshmallow pops – just as impressive to look at but soooo much easier to make (assuming you have the right tools for the job)! Here’s a shot of my little army:

Pirate pops

I also bought a fair bit of party ware and the Pirate theme is awesome because there are so many different places that carry pirate party wares and you can shop around. I got some of mine from the online party site Party Pieces, some more cheaply from Amazon and even some from the 99p shop!

The one thing JJ had specified as a non-negotiable was a bouncy castle with a slide. I managed to source one with a pirate theme!

I also chose to bake a cake from scratch this time round and found an easy chocolate cake recipe (it really is very easy – I’ve made three of them!) but opted for some ready made chocolate fudge icing to cut down on the faff of one more little job. I really dislike fondant icing; although it looks absolutely amazing when people sculpt and design it into amazing pieces of artwork, I’m all about the fact that it’s a cake for goodness sake and should look and taste like a yummy cake in my opinion! I decorated it by creating a homemade pirate bunting topper (the skull and crossbones got a bit washed out by the glue unfortunately) an X marks the spot in Smarties and a pack of five pirate themed candles which was perfect as it was his fifth birthday! It had been my intention to buy a cake stand of some sort but in the end I covered a small tin in red paper and created some more pirate bunting to go round it, then sat the cake on top. It would have been nicer if the platter it sat on hadn’t just been the plastic tupperware lid of the cake box but that’s where my imagination ran out I’m afraid!

I had felt that things had fallen a little flat at EJ’s party to begin with because of the fact that I hadn’t really planned any organised games, so this time I chose to package up a pass the parcel. I had planned for there being up to 22 children involved, all needing at least one turn at the ripping (and subsequent Haribo mini prize). In the event there were probably about 16, what with the toddler drop outs and a few no-shows and I’d also completely forgotten to bring any music so attempted to run the game using music on my iPhone (not nearly as loud as I’d hoped!!). It all got a bit tedious as I’d suspected it might, and I was constantly distracted by this and that no one could say that it was the most organised game ever invented! Still, at least now I know for future reference that it’s not worth the bother when there’s that many children!

Other than that and an attempt to get some parachute games going, I basically left them to it. When there’s a massive bouncy castle outside a big hall, balloons bouncing around and a constant flow of tea coming out to all the mums and dads, you don’t really need structure – everyone seemed to be having a lovely time!

After the faff at EJ’s party with the food I opted for simple individual lunch boxes for the party tea this time, filling each one with either a ham or cheese sandwich, a bag of grapes, a bag with a few cocktail sausages, a packet of Hula Hoops and an individual jelly pot. Then they were offered a very lovely looking cupcake thanks to Mr Sainsbury (which I’d jazzed up with some pirate flags!).

The lovely thing about this party was that so many of JJ’s friends could make it and even his cousins travelled up from 60 miles away to join in and this was the first time that they’d all been together for a party so we made the most of the opportunity for a little portrait opp!

Pirate party cousins portrait

Another slight fiasco of the ‘herding cats’ variety (two two-year-olds – what can I say?!) but at least we got them all together if not smiling and facing the camera!

Despite my mum advising me not to give myself a headache with too much planning and prep and asked whether everyone goes to this much trouble, I actually enjoyed putting it all together and enjoyed the experience of throwing this amazing party for my little boy. I hope it will be a lasting memory for him.

By strange coincidence one of JJ’s friends (who’s just a couple of days older than him) was having his own party the day after this and not only that but another pirate party! It was an eye-opening experience to see how my friend interpreted essentially the same brief. She is super creative and she’d built a massive pirate ship out of cardboard:

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I was suitably gob- smacked! The party was the anti-thesis of mine – run like clockwork, like a military operation with games from musical squares (which was really good fun for the kids!) to the ubiquitous pass the parcel (with real music!) and a big ‘dig for pirate treasure’ in the sandpit.

Lovely ideas but I felt it wasn’t my style to be so structured and that’s not just an excuse, I really think that the structure and organisation side of it would be the biggest headache for me and I just wanted to make sure that our guests were fed and watered and given the tools to entertain themselves essentially!

I think if I were to throw another children’s party in the future I would consider hiring an entertainer (although this is an expensive option) as the children do enjoy the games but at the same time it frees you up to socialise with the parents and relax a bit. Having said that maybe future parties will be ones where the parents don’t hang around!! :-/ now there’s a scary thought!!

When all is said and done, this is what makes it all worthwhile:

Pirate party birthday boy

One happy little Birthday Boy!

 

Word of the week: Arrrrrgghhhh!

(Said in a Pirate stylee!). Or the word of the week could equally be ‘big’ or ‘school’ or transition as Wednesday was JJ’s first day of Reception class at his new infant school and he loved it!

First day at school!

This has also been a week of ramped up preparations for his *fifth birthday* party which is all happening tomorrow! He asked for a pirate party but his strongest and most insistent desire was that there be a bouncy castle with a slide! I’ve managed to source one with a pirate theme so that should make one little ‘big’ boy very happy!

In the meantime I have:

  • Baked a test chocolate cake (I’m not a very seasoned baker so I wanted to give it a go and it turned out to be the first cake I haven’t incinerated from the bottom third down!). It was then devoured by my work colleagues…Test cake
  • Here’s the topper I made for it:

Pirate cake bunting

 

  • And I tried my hand at some Pirate marshmallow pops (soooooooo much easier than cake pops!!) (but still not easy to do perfectly!)

Pirate marshmallow pops

I have also created a few jazzed up decorative touches to some other bits and bobs – there will be pirate gold, eye patches and ‘pirate punch’ for all!

I’ve put a lot of effort in but I appreciate that it all looks a bit home-made! Oh well, as long as my little boy enjoys himself that’s all that matters.

What word best sums up your week?

 

The Reading Residence

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!