If I could have conveniently timed my babies I would not have had one at the end of November (too close to Christmas) and end of March (bad timing in terms of school start resulting in him repeating 3 year old kindergarten). But of course you can't plan these things. At least I couldn't. And for me the Christmas season can't really start until we get my daughter's birthday done and dusted. I thought it would be pretty straightforward to do her 8th birthday party at home this year.
I didn't count on having the flu at the same time. Which made everything take 10 times longer to organise. And whilst I usually forget something critical (like the date on the invitations or buying lemonade) this year it went off without a hitch.
A tip if you are planning a party at home: don't. Seriously, this is what I have learned over years of these events. You can read and then make an informed decision!
(I am getting good use out of my pink tablecloth.
This is the one I used for my Family Argument Lunch a few weeks back.)
First off, the games.
Rule no 1: a game you spend ages preparing for takes 5 minutes to happen. Blink and it is over. Even if you stretch out the pass the parcel to Lady Gaga for as long as you can, it still only takes 7 minutes. Simple arithmetic tells you that if you have an hour to fill in, that is a LOT of party games (although technically musical statues and musical bobs are two different games, aren't they?) This means that you need some activity which takes up lots of time. See Rule no 5 below.
Rule no 2: every one's a winner. So in pass the parcel, which in my youth was fiercely competitive because there was only one prize, is now a bit of yawn because there is a gift in every layer.
Rule no 3: 8 is a hard age. They are not little girls and not into fairies and glitter. But they are too young still for many types of parties. Still, a couple of the guests turned down the offer of a balloon on departure. Too childish, I guess.
Rule no 4: treasure hunts take 3 minutes and consist of Lord of the Flies style carnivorous screeching around the house looking for the little hidden packages. See rule 1 above. I think my treasure maps took maybe 20 times longer to make than the game took...
Rule no 5: everyone loves a game which involves bashing something half to death with a stick. In this case, a flower shaped pinata. These girls must have some stress going on in their lives, because the pleasure they took in beating this thing to a pulp was a sight to see. Even when all the lollies inside had spilled out, they kept hitting and hitting until it was in tiny pieces.
(I strung up leaves and lamps from the maple trees. This is also where the pinata massacre occurred)
Now to the all important food.
Rule no 1: the food you have proudly taken ages to prepare will be of least interest to the party goers. This year my meringues went weird (I blame the humidity) so I crushed them, mixed with strawberries and cream and made mini Eton Messes in shot glasses. They were amazing. And no one ate them.
Rule no 2: simple and sugary is best. Caramel popcorn (see above image) is universally loved. And at the other end of the spectrum, chopped up watermelon is always gobbled up.
Rule no 3: don't bother with the elaborate cake. In my time I have made a Miffy, a giant cupcake, an echidna, an Ariel mermaid on a sea bed and a dinosaur. This year I went round and simple (from Feast by Nigella Lawson).
Rule no 4: there is always one girl who complains there is not enough food and another one who eats nothing at all.
Rule no 5: serve frankfurters. I know that these are barely food but how they love them.
Finally.... have the party in the late afternoon so you can pass out conveniently when it finishes without having to get through the rest of the day.....