Category Archives: party

Some birthdays are better than others

I don’t know whether I’ve documented every one of Dash’s birthday parties here, but I know I’ve done a lot of them. Last year, the big One-Oh, seemed like the culmination. Dash had been planning it since before he turned nine, all the kids I thought wouldn’t be able to come showed up, and it was a giant, crazy, over-the-top ball of mayhem.

“No more!” we said, spent, forgetting that Dash would continue to have birthdays every year. This April rolled around and we realised that we would not get out of hosting some sort of party, because he is the polar opposite of his sister who really only wants a trip to Build-a-Bear with one or two friends. I tried to convince him to do a destination event – the really cool climbing wall place, perhaps, that he’s wanted to go back to for ages – but no. It had to be a party at home.
“I’ve always had a party at home, except that one year when we went to Pump It Up and I didn’t like that. It has to be at home.” He was not for turning.
“But Daddy and I are exhausted. We can’t come up with more party games. Your friends don’t want to play lame party games made up by you and your parents. It’s chaos. It’s anarchy. And it’ll probably rain. We can’t do it,” we said. Impasse.

Then, salvation arrived in the shape someone who mentioned that they’d had a laser-tag birthday party at their house. A guy had come along with a van full of laser guns, showed the kids how to use them, and then run the games for two hours. All I’d have to do was feed ’em. (I can do that. Though I always underestimate how much other people’s boys can eat.)

I was sold. I got the contact details and booked it. We capped the invitees at a smaller number than last year. Everyone was happy. I forgot to obsessively monitor the weather forecast because I was busy being busy with other things, and we just threw a party two weeks ago (for B’s birthday). Suddenly, the day before the day was upon us, and I had to plan the party food, shop for the party food, make the party food, clean the house (a very little bit), and make sure the sun was going to shine.

The weather forecast was not good. In fact, there was a 65 to 85% chance of rain during the time of the party. Dash and I went to the supermarket on Friday after dinner and bought everything we could possibly need – except butter and chocolate chips, which I had to send B out for as soon as we got back – and I made the cake.

On the morning of the party my luck was in and Mabel’s soccer game was cancelled because of all the rain on Friday. Dash went to baseball practice and I sandwiched the three layers of chocolate cake (as requested) together with lovely chocolate buttercream, and dredged some icing sugar on top. As, I thought, requested. Then Dash got home (practice cut short due to rain) and announced that it was meant to be vanilla icing, and it was supposed to be on top as well. It was ruined. I was the worst party mom ever, he said sadly. I always get something wrong, he told me, neglecting to remember all the things I got right that he didn’t even notice. I felt somewhat under-appreciated, though it was true that he’d said vanilla and I’d forgotten.

Three-layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing in between

Cake: first incarnation

We both retreated for a little while to lick our wounds, and then I suggested we could make some vanilla icing and put it on the top, since the icing sugar that was there already wouldn’t hinder that. He agreed it would be better than nothing. (I thought it would be just that bit more cloying, but it wasn’t my cake.) He helped, and did all the spreading. (Exhibit B, below.) Then he helped make lemon scones too, since there was still plenty of time. He’s a man of tradition, and if a party doesn’t have chocolate cornflake buns and lemon scones and pigs in blankets, it’s not a party. (Actually, he just likes plain blankets, with no pigs.)

Triple-layer cake with white icing on top and some smeared messily down the sides

Cake: second incarnation. I didn’t know he was planning to put the vanilla on the sides as well, but then he did, and here we are.

The rain had been coming and going all morning, but mostly coming. I thought it might let up in time for the party. The guests were a little late and the laser-tag guy was late too, because the Beltway was chockablock of people driving to or from or to avoid the March for Science in DC. It didn’t matter. He got them all fitted out with their guns and they ran around playing various games of team-based laser tag for an hour and a half, mostly in the pouring rain. I looked out the window and was mildly concerned, hoped their mothers wouldn’t hold the weather against me, and went to find a pile of towels.

Four boys with laser tag guns in front of houses

Trying out the guns. Once they started playing there was a lot more running and hiding. Also more rain.

Eventually they all came in, shedding muddy shoes and towelling off their wet hair at the door, and descended on the table like the proverbial locusts. Dash got to light his candles – at least the first few – and blew them out in one go. Parents arrived and removed their damp progeny, leaving behind nothing but tumbleweeds of tossed-aside wrapping paper, the tracks of wet socks, and tortilla-chip crumbs on the floor, and everyone said they’d had a good time.

Dash blowing out his candles

Eleven candles.

I would have liked some wine at that point, but first I had to take Dash down to the urgent care, because he’d managed to bump his chin off the laser-tag gun right at the start and give himself an oddly deep cut. It needed three stitches, which was a first for both of us, but there was no wait and the tetanus shot was much better than he was anticipating. The doctor asked me about my brogue, which is never a good word to use to a suburban Dubliner, but she didn’t know any better. I distracted us all with stories of Dash’s birth in Texas eleven years ago tomorrow, and if he does have a scar it’ll be a handsome one that makes him look like Kirk Douglas (if you like that sort of thing; my mother would frown and say “Oh, he was never my cup of tea”).

The doctor said he can’t do gym or sports and has to stay away from situations where balls might fly at his face (yes, she actually said that, but I didn’t point out that she was quoting Clueless). He’s very miffed that he’ll miss baseball all week, including his team’s first two games – but on the bright side, all the rain also caused them to postpone today’s season opening day ceremonies, and the big game between the winning and runner-up teams from last year, until next week, so he’ll be able to play in that.

I got my wine when I got home, but it wasn’t very nice and it gave me a headache this morning anyway. Tomorrow he turns eleven. It wasn’t the best birthday celebration day ever, probably; but the big day is still to come. There’s a giant Nerf gun and some Lego Technic waiting for him, which I think he’ll like even if it isn’t a Playstation. We’re not the greatest birthday parents, but we try, every year.

Deconstructed Quidditch for a Harry Potter Party

This is going to be one of those “Do as I say, not as I do” posts, because I will now tell you about how I envisaged Dash’s party games, not how they actually went. There were reasons why things didn’t go exactly as planned, mostly (a) too many kids, and (b) SOMEONE insisted on getting pool noodles so everyone could decorate foam swords, so of course they spent the whole party whacking each other over the head with them instead of playing elaborate themed games, and (c) way too many kids; but let’s not go into that just now. Dash had a good time and if your worth is measured by the percentage of invitees who show up at your birthday party, his stock is high.

But I had this idea, which was really all my own (unlike the wands, which I totally copied from that guy on Instructables), so I’m going to tell you about it in case you have a more modestly attended event, without pool noodles, in which case I really think this would work pretty well.

Deconstructed Quidditch

So you know that Quidditch is a flying game of three balls: the quaffle, the bludgers, and the snitch. The players, on broomsticks, try to score goals with the quaffle, the bludgers try to knock them off their brooms, and at some point the snitch magically appears and must be caught by a team’s Seeker to end the game. Not entirely practical for real life, though I know people do, somehow, play it now. I decided that for a kids’ party it would be better broken down into its component parts. This also stretches the whole event out nicely so that time passes before you get to the cake.

Part 1: Quaffling

Prop up two (or four) hula hoops as goals at each end of your playing area. You might need to stake these on either side to be secure, and they might have to be based at ground level so that nobody breaks a window. Divide your players into teams (five a side sounds good, though if you’ve a big playing field you could do more) and either have them stand still, spread out on the area, and throw a ball or a foam lawn dart or a frisbee from one to the other and finally through the goal, trying to intercept the other team, or let them take it at a run if you’ve lots of space. Something like ultimate frisbee might work well here.

Part 2: Bludging

I initially thought we’d use something like hard round paddles or bats for this, and maybe balloons, which could work (indoors, not on grass), but then we found a couple of sturdy foam cricket bats in Five Below, so we made it a bowling and hitting game. We used a foam ball that was larger than a cricket ball but smaller than a soccer ball, so it was pretty easy to hit with the bat, and the aim could just be to hit it as far as you can, or to defend a wicket if you have a wicket, or whatever seems right for your participants’ skill level. A parent could bowl/pitch or the kids could take turns at it. We had a cricketer and a few baseball players, so they were happy to pitch.

Part 3: Seeking

We have two snitches in our house: one nice metal one that’s actually a pocket watch, and one larger plastic one that came as part of a HP costume. But even if you had no official snitch you could use a small bright ball like a golf ball for this. As this part is a seeking game, you could hide it and let everyone search, or you could blindfold each player in turn and give them hot/cold directions to it. Alternatively, you could go for the catching aspect of getting the snitch and have it be a throwing/catching game. (Be careful if you’re throwing a golf ball around, though.)

Then you go and eat cake and congratulate yourselves on a party well themed.

Dash in Harry Potter costume

Old photo, but the Harriest I have.

Percy Jackson party

Dash nearly demanded yet another Star Wars party this year, but I put my foot down and tried to interest him in other types of parties we could maybe half-ass our way through activities for. He jumped at the idea of a Percy Jackson party as he has LOVED the five Olympians books that his dad has read him over the past year. (Actually, his dad and I loved them too, and his sister was quite partial as well.)

There are some great and creative ideas for Percy Jackson parties on Pinterest, should you want to look there. But if you read on, I can tell you what you might consider doing and what we did.

1. Invitations

Always the best way to start off a themed party. Print up a personalised invitation and you’re halfway there. I went to Canva and made something that looked like this, except with a name and address where I have so expertly blurred them out. You can too.Percy Jackson party - invitation

2. Decorating shields (and swords)

First you need a nice crafty activity to do while people arrive. I ordered pizza pans on Amazon for about 1.50 each, at the last possible minute. I got B to put holes through and attach duct-tape handles with nuts and bolts.

Percy Jackson party - shield

I didn’t pay attention to the size I ordered and ended up with personal-pizza-sized shields rather than bigger ones, but the kids didn’t seem to mind too much. We put some symbols around the deck with names of gods/houses in case they needed inspiration, but mostly they went with their own inclinations. We used acrylic paint, but be warned – it doesn’t wash off clothes easily. Also some washi tape and electrical tape, which was a quick way to make one that didn’t have to wait to dry.

Percy Jackson party - decorating shields

We also had swords, because my experience of past parties is that while girls might be content to paint stuff, boys really just want to whack each other with foam objects. Pool noodles make better light sabres than swords, but they don’t care. They painted and taped the halved noodles too.

3. Archery

I bought two bow-and-arrow sets in the party store for 1.99 each (score!). We set up two targets and had the kids compete in teams. Most of the PInterest ideas tell you to assign or get the kids to pick houses to belong to, but Dash wanted to make it a battle of Olympians versus Titans, even though we tried to persuade him that nobody wants to be on the baddies’ side if they’re going to lose. So we had the kids pick “Titan” or “Olympian” out of a hat and none of the Titans seemed to care about being the bad guys. Percy Jackson party - archery

4. Fighting Medusa

You could get, or make, a pinata for Medusa’s head, but I didn’t really want to provide a whole lot more crappy sugary stuff, so I used a punch balloon (the ones with elastic attached that are made of slightly stronger rubber). Dash drew a scary face on it and we stuck on some multicoloured leis that I’d found in the dollar store as snakes for hair.Percy Jackson party - MedusaNot exactly scary, but fun – especially if you make a big deal of covering her up and telling them all to shield their eyes because she’ll turn them to stone if they look at her as you do the big reveal. The idea was for the kids to take turns looking in a mirror and hitting it behind their backs, but they all just set upon it. It was good for a few minutes anyway, until some young entrepreneur found a pointy object and made Medusa go pop.Percy Jackson party - Medusa 2Then we had food (not themed, but you could easily do a blue-food thing if you wanted to), and then a complicated maze thing that had been Dash’s big plan but didn’t really work out very well so we’ll gloss over that. We didn’t get around to “Pin the Eye on the Cyclops”, though we had vaguely intended to do that. And then they just all happily whacked each other with foam swords, or got in some extra archery practice, which was mostly why they’d come.

Percy Jackson party - swordfights

Finally, they all got to take home their swords and shields and I printed out some certificates at the last minute, because what’s demi-god training without a certificate? And that was it. Birthday number nine, in the bag.

How to totally half-ass your way to a successful children’s party

You may remember last year, when I made a Yoda cake. Or the year before, when I made a light-saber cake. Or both years when I made an actual effort and had plans and lovingly hand crafted pool-noodle lightsabers for Dash’s birthday party.

This year, I totally half-assed it. I tried to plan, I really did, but we had no cohesive theme (he wanted Star Wars again; I put my foot down) and somehow my vague searchings on the Internet weren’t bearing any fruit. And yet, things came together. Here’s how you can duplicate this amazing feat of lassitude:

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Forget to buy fruit. Have some clementines at home. Decide they’re nice and colourful and some kids might even eat them. Be vindicated as you see at least two boys (lovely, wonderful, fruit-eating boys) happily helping themselves.

Fail to consider the need for party favours or goodie bags until, while vaguely wandering in Target, you spy some foam cutlasses. Buy just enough, without having any sort of pirate theme in mind. (Mabel exclaimed dramatically, “A foam cutlass of my very own! I’ve never had one before!” I had thought that with all the swords floating around our house at least one must have been hers, but apparently not.)

Make cupcakes three days earlier and freeze them, so you only have to pull them out and ice them on the morning of the party. (This is a bonafide actual helpful tip.) (“Bonafide” always makes me think of George Clooney in Oh Brother Where Art Thou.)

Fail to buy “pigs” to go in the “blankets”. Make the blankets (crescent rolls from a tin, half sized) anyway. The kids prefer them this way.

Party table with food

Before the deluge. Cake not included. Note the clementines. And salsa! Salsa is totally vegetables.

Invite too many children. Be miffed when half of them aren’t coming. Be even less motivated to plan anything in particular. Invite a spare sibling to make up numbers. End up with just the right amount, enjoying themselves perfectly well.

Be really lucky with the weather so the kids can run around outside.

Make a round cake, not any sort of fancy shaped one with icing that requires food colouring. Put chocolate icing on it. Hear no complaints whatsoever because they are perfectly happy with it and anyway it’s delicious. (Nigella’s sour cream chocolate cake, if you want to do it yourself.)

Tell your husband his job is to set up an obstacle course of some sort. The kids will spend most of the time watching/”helping” him faff around the garden. The course, when it is finally completed, will be a roaring success and manage to bring in the totally off-the-cuff pirate theme when he orders them all to do the whole thing with their foam cutlasses in their teeth.

Like the Pied Piper, leading them through their paces.

Like the Pied Piper, leading them through their paces.

Make sure a few convivial parents stay to drink wine with you while you all watch your husband caper in the garden from the safety of the pleasantly removed kitchen.

Enjoy a self-congratulatory cup of tea/more wine after everyone goes home, safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to do this again for a year, and that once you’ve cleaned up your house will be marginally cleaner than it was this morning.

Dash blowing out his candles

Round cake, chocolate icing. Done and done.

Other children

Last night I stood at the top of the stairs and identified with nobody so much as Mrs Doyle on the windowsill, because it seemed for a moment that the best way to get down would probably be just to launch myself skywards and hope for the best. Which is to say that my thighs are only slightly less painful today and I’ve given myself a rest day from exercise.

(Skip to 0.11 if you don’t see how this is relevant. I couldn’t find a shorter clip.)

I’m quite pathetic. You’d think I’d run a marathon at the weekend instead of done the teensiest bit of exercise. And of course my lovely husband who had actually run a 10K race on Saturday was being very kind and not taking the piss out of my situation at all. But lunges really are evil.

I am out of inspiration for writing other places so I’ve come back here to blather more personally for a while. Thank you for being the people who let me blather. It’s nice to have my own blathering space.

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I find other people’s seven-into-eight-year-old boys quite terrifying. They’re bigger than mine, they’re more sophisticated than mine, they know about Minecraft and pop music and a lot more swear words than mine does, and they seem inclined to do all sorts of dangerous things. (I know you’re thinking mine knows the swear words and just isn’t telling me, but I’m pretty certain he doesn’t. We’ve talked about it.) In comparison, I tend to think that mine is really remarkably sensible and at least listens when I tell him something’s dangerous.

Maybe other people’s children are always unnerving when you’re used to your own. It’s nice, really, because it makes you appreciate what you’ve got when they go home. I can think, “Well, he won’t eat dinner, but at least he likes my cookies.” Or whatever.

It being now just about April, it’s time to think about his birthday party. He wants to go to laser tag, which he’s done just once before. I think rather than a whole (expensive) birthday party at the laser tag place, we’re going to let him take two friends to laser tag and then have a party separately at home, so he can invite whoever all his best friends are and I don’t have to worry about numbers and no-shows and RSVPs and transporting cakes and children and … and all I have to worry about is feeding and entertaining an unknown number of scary eight-year-old boys in my own home… how hard can it be?

Dash posing

Don’t answer that.

My Little Pony birthday party

Excuse me while I go vaguely Pinteresty on you now for a few minutes. (But not very high-class Pinteresty. More underachiever Pinteresty.)

When I was thinking about Mabel’s upcoming fifth birthday party a few weeks ago, it struck me that My Little Pony would be an excellent theme, but when I searched for some help online there wasn’t much out there. So I figured I’d fill the gap in the market with a couple of half-assed suggestions. (That’s a pun. Ass/donkey/pony. See? You’re welcome.)

It was only very loosely MLP-themed, as parties go, but five-year-olds – or three or seven or whatever you’ve got – they don’t need every little thing to match. Even if most of them didn’t twig that there was a theme, as such, it doesn’t matter, really. The birthday girl knew what was going on, and everyone had fun. It just gave us something to pull things together with.

I bought a cheap MLP colouring book at Target and ripped pages out so that everyone could do some colouring as they arrived. It’s nice to have something non-interactive to help the children warm up to each other and their surroundings, especially if they don’t all know each other already (mine did, as it happened). Alternatively, you could probably print some colouring pages from the internet.

Colouring pages and markers

The main event (mane! hah!) was what we I liked to call Thunderbolts Academy, which, as any good MLP viewer knows, was where Rainbow Dash went to learn to be a super-fast flyer – a sort of Top Gun for ponies. I modeled this activity on the Jedi Training Course we’d done for Dash’s Star Wars parties: a simple obstacle course where the kids had a couple of things to jump over and walk along and crawl under in order to receive their prize: wings! Because now they’re pegasus ponies!

Obstacle course

I ordered fairy wings in various colours (but mostly pink, to be honest) from HaloHeaven. At $2 each, they’re great value, and made a much nicer take-home gift than a goodie bag full of crap. (Because you all know how I feel about goodie bags.) I urge you to do this: there are few things cuter than a roomful of four- and five-year-olds unselfconsciously wearing wings.

Pink and purple fairy wings

One they’d got their wings, they played for a while before we had food and cake, and then we let them all outside to leap (like ponies) in a big pile of leaves that we’d raked up for just this purpose. (Obviously, good weather and an autumn birthday are vital to this step. We’ve been lucky in past years and usually manage to let everyone work off their sugar rush this way.) I didn’t take any photos of the leaping in the leaves because I was viewing from inside, with a beer, and the other parents, most of whom elected to stay even though we’d said they could go. I take this as a compliment, though whether it’s because they like the company, or the cake, or the beer, is not clear.

If you want some more structure, pin the tail on the pony would be an obvious game to play. Pony-shaped piñata, maybe? Or maybe whacking a pony with a stick is contrary to the theme; a dragon might be better.

My food was not pony-themed, because I bake what I like to bake for parties, and attempting a horse-shaped cake is way beyond me. Nobody complained about the rectangular chocolate cake (that didn’t even have icing on the top), or the brown-butter Swiss meringue buttercream-frosted strawberry cupcakes, or my signature pigs in blankets – even if ponies don’t eat pigs and they might be more thematically suited to a Peppa Pig party.

Blowing out candles on a chocolate cake
That’s the lot. Send your little ponies home with their wings and a smile on their faces before the cake has quite worn off, close the door, and put the kettle on for a nice self-congratulatory cup of tea. You’re done for another year.

The party of the first part

We, hereafter also known as “the host,” hereby acknowledge that we will take your child (“the guest”) for two hours (or three if you’re lucky) on a weekend afternoon. You may leave the premises and we will not call CPS and denounce you for abandonment (unless they are particularly badly behaved).

In return, you must provide, along with your child, a present, lovingly/hastily wrapped, decorated with a handmade rosette/curly ribbon/animal stamps/nothing, of a certain value that will be deemed appropriate by your parental peers but will never be mentioned and cannot be inquired about.

Your child may choose to (or you may choose that they) dress up in their “party best” for this occassion. We accept no responsibility for mud, grass, ice-cream, purple frosting, blood, snot, tears, pizza sauce, juice, or ketchup that may stain their clothes during the time they spend with us. Likewise, if you choose not to dress them up, or they choose to rebel against such dressing, we retain the right to assume that you didn’t feel we were worth making an effort for. Any such offence may, but will not always, be taken with no redress on your part. (Oops, that was a pun.)

We agree to keep your child fed and watered during the time that they attend our party. If your child is returned to you hopped up on sugar/red 40/soda bubbles, you will just have to put up with it. We hope you spent those two hours we gave you barricading your valuables and putting foam rubber on all the sharp surfaces in your house. Extra padding under the sofa springs is also advisable.

We will attempt to entertain your child in a manner that is not life-threatening or potentially mentally scarring. If these attempts backfire and your child decides to spend the duration of the party a) having a meltdown, b) playing alone with our child’s toys, or c) demanding to know when the cake will come, we reserve the right to deal with this as we deem appropriate. If things are really bad we’ll call you, but I’m sure you would rather this was our final option.

We have hopes that your child will behave somewhat reasonably, though these hopes are modified according to the age of the child in question and the number of children of that same age present. Please do not abandon us with your child if you think those hopes are completely out of the ballpark.

If your child demands to take home again the present they brought, or any other present, they will be denied. We hope this does not cause offense, because it’s non-negotiable.

The host may provide goodie-bags, but this is neither promised nor stipulated in the contract. Any children demanding a goodie bag will be unceremoniously kicked out, unless a parent is heard to be shushing them on the spot. We can provide no guarantees in re the contents of said goodie bag, except for the fact that they will probably include items of exactly choking-hazard size that your other children will immediately fight over, and some more Red 40 for good measure.

Please sign here. Have a lovely time.

Yoda cake, or overachieving for dummies

At some point yesterday I had an existential crisis. “I don’t even know who I am any more,” I found myself thinking. “Where has the old me gone?”

The old me, who swore she only made round birthday cakes with icing in the middle and on top, and possibly a shake of sprinkles. The me who didn’t do fancy themed parties. The me who scorned such things.

And yet, here I was carving out Yoda ears from a layer of sponge cake and writing names on Jedi training certificates and carefully placing sprinkles with a tweezers. I hang my head. Not only that, I was doing it all for the second year running. So I can’t call last year a fluke any more. Apparently this is the person I have become. I’m sorry, everyone.

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Dash will turn seven on Wednesday, and we had his party yesterday, because when you have a midweek birthday you get to choose which weekend you want, and any child worth his salt will obviously choose the prior one. He asked for another Star Wars party, just like last year, and in a fit of enthusiasm, I suppose because that meant I had everything else all figured out already, I said, “I can make a Yoda cake.”

Right then. One Yoda cake. It turned out to be much less stressful than last year’s light saber cake, mostly because I didn’t bother looking for the organic food colouring and because pale green is much easier to pull off in buttercream than bright red. And just in case you want to make a home-baked, non-professional- style Yoda cake for your own six- or seven- or thirty-seven-year-old, this is what I did.

First I baked a regular birthday sponge in two 9-inch pans. The amount in my recipe would have been better in 8-inch ones, really, but 9-inch is what I have. I knew the kids would be more interested in the look than the taste, and with nine children at the table, there was plenty here. (I did this part the day before.)

Cake batter in bans
Not quite enough batter

I used Nigella’s birthday buttermilk sponge recipe (not online, but from How to be a Domestic Goddess), as I did last year, but you can use any one you like, or a box mix, or make it chocolate if you prefer.

 Cakes cooling on racks

Then I looked at some cartoon-y Yoda images online (like this one) and cut myself two circles of paper the size of my pans, to figure out how long I could make the ears out of one circle. (The first circle was going to be the head, obvs.) I used the paper ears as a template to cut the sponge, once it had cooled completely. I made a couple of moons/asteroids/distant DeathStars out of some of the rest.

Circular cake cut into Yoda ears and two moons
Making ears

Then I realised I had no plate the right shape for this creation, and just like last year, I Blue-Peter-ed a used cereal box and some tinfoil into a nice long shiny platter. Here are the head and the ears in place.

Yoda head and ears in place on "platter"
Naked cake

I mixed up some buttercream icing – not quite enough, because of course I had stocked up on butter but forgotten to make sure we had plenty of confectioners’ (icing) sugar – and used a tiny spoon to make sure I didn’t drip too much food colouring in at one time. I think two drops was enough, and I still have a green fingernail this morning.

Then I plastered the buttercream all over the head and ears, covering up the joins and evening out the slight height differences.

Yoda head with green icing
Green cake

(I ran to the supermarket for more sugar and made up another little batch for the moons. It turned out I had no other working food colouring so I just kept them white.)

At this point I was quite pleased, but of course I still had the “artistic” part to go.

I used the tip of a butter knife to draw eyes, the indentations in Yoda’s ears and the lines around his mouth and on his forehead. Then I dipped the knife tip in hot water and found that made a much cleaner line, so I went over the eyes and wrinkles again that way.

 Yoda head with eyes and mouth marked

I used green sugar (find it in the cake decorating section of the baking aisle, with the sprinkles) for the ears and put chocolate sprinkles carefully – yes, with my tweezers – in the lines to make the eyes and mouth. (Laugh if you will, but I had an empty house and was blasting Pandora on the Duran Duran station. I know how to live it up.) I used a little bit of the uncoloured buttercream for the whites of his eyes and a chocolate chip for each pupil.

Decorated Yoda cake

And I decided to leave it at that before I messed it up completely.

Candles lit
Mabel is eyeing up the moon she wants to eat

I put the candles in the moons, so they were good for something after all.

The bad wife

I’m a terrible, awful, no-good wife.

It’s my husband’s birthday. Not just any birthday, but one of those ones with a zero on the end. I have no present to give him, no card, and there’s no bread in the house for him to make toast with. (He likes toast.) “Here, I made you two beautiful children!” isn’t going to quite cut it.

In my defence, we did have a big party yesterday. There were bellinis and beer and juice boxes and Indonesian ginger chicken wings and tabouli and quesadillas and salsa and pigs-in-blankets and two sorts of cake. There were kids running riot and grownups talking about physics and of course Mabel fell off the back of the sofa straight onto her head, but she was giggling a few minutes later and there’s no bump to be seen this morning.

Tomorrow morning, I thought as I fell asleep last night, I’ll go to the shops and find something, some sort of token present at least, something that I can give him on the day itself, something to provide a tiny indication of how wonderful he is and how happy I am to be here, to be us, to have done what we did and arrived at this point, which I hope is only the midpoint of everything, if that. Surely I can find some sort of something.

And then we woke up to four inches of snow this morning, and the schools are on a two-hour delay, which means that Dash starts at eleven but Mabel at ten, so you bring one child to school and then you bring the other child to school and by then it’s pretty much time to turn around and pick up the first child and your morning is done. And there were wet socks and wet jeans and missing gloves and wet inside-of-snowboots and all the things that happen when they’ve spent an hour sledding before school to deal with, and now I’m here typing like the wind instead of out buying the perfect meaningful and symbolic token of appreciation.

Here, I got you a blog post. And a snowy vista. Love you.

March 25, 2013

Incidentally, is it bad parenting if I find myself saying, “Okay, if you must eat the snow, just don’t eat snow that’s grey or brown or yellow. Make sure it’s nice and white.”? I think that’s just accepting the inevitable and working with it.

A very parenthetical list

So I thought if I put my to-do list here maybe it would shame me into getting something done. Something other than drinking cups of coffee and convincing myself that pie is a perfectly valid mid-morning snack. (It was apple pie. That’s fruit.)

(We have an apple pie because I went to a bloggers’ meetup last night and I felt so guilty about leaving B to get Mabel to sleep while simultaneously getting Dash to shut up and stay in his room and go to sleep that I made him a pie. Also because I’d intended to make it on Sunday but then I went shopping instead and bought lots of tops for me on clearance, and didn’t even look at children’s clothes, which is a thing of which I am very proud.)

(I have to give a shoutout to all the lovely DCMoms bloggers I met last night at the Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan where Jennifer and I went to break out of our comfort zones and meet new people and put not so much faces to names as heads on bodies. When you know people as a series of square headshots, it’s always surprising to find that they’re not all on the same level in real life – they’re tall and short and narrow and wide and simultaneously older looking and younger looking and more gorgeous and more approachable and more real in real life than you could possibly imagine from photos. I met Sandie and Allison and Rebecca and Jessica and Jean and Aimee and Elaine and Michelle and Robin and other people too, who I am not managing to remember just now, sorry.  And we ate delicious pizza and the people at the restaurant were really nice to us because they’re lovely people and you should check it out if you’re downtown.)

So without further ado here is my to-do list:

  • Make D’s dentist appointment
  • Fill in application to vote
  • Make appointment at post office for passport application
  • Make shopping list for the weekend’s baking extravaganza*
  • Clean house (but not too soon) (only downstairs)
  • Get B a birthday present of some sort
  • Bake something and freeze it to get a jump on the aforementioned baking extravaganza? 
  • Make pumpkin bread or black-bean brownies for school-lunch desserts
  • Bake bread for my insatiable carb-loving family
  • Sort out that big pile of papers over there
Messy pile of paper

*I have to explain about the baking extravaganza, and for that matter, why I only need to clean downstairs. It’s not that upstairs stays magically sparkly all by itself, but more that nobody will be seeing it so it doesn’t matter right now. We somehow have managed to schedule all our social events for the spring into this weekend – on Friday there’s a block party potluck thingy, for which I have to make something (it’ll be my old faithful kale and quinoa salad, because it’s yummy, vegetarian (even vegan), and can be eaten at any temperature). Then on Saturday there’s a house-party fundraiser for the nursery school, to which I said I’d bring a dessert – as yet undecided; what goes with delicious white sangria made by a real Spaniard? Something fruity . . . jello shots, maybe? And then on Sunday we’re having a party here, hence the house-cleaning part.

Not a kids’ party either. An honest-to-goodness real grown-up party, although it will essentially end up being like all the kids’ parties with grownups that we’ve thrown in the past. But my my adored and much-put-upon husband is turning a significant multiple of ten (hint: more than 30, less than 50) on the 25th, and since I have no idea what to give him, I’m baking him a Guinness cake and making other things he likes and inviting over some of his friends and their children and hoping everyone will have a pretty nice time.

So I have to get plenty of sleep and not have any hangovers and be on top of my game for all that. Yup, that’ll happen. Tell you what, you bribe Mabel to stay asleep all night, and I’ll bake a cake for you as well.