Monday, April 23, 2012

Boy's Pirate Party!

I know, I know, it's been forever. I'm so sorry! Life kind of ran away with me over the last couple of weeks. But it's, almost, back to normal now, so I should be able to post more frequently again. This past weekend we held our son Gabriel's 3rd Birthday Party - and it was a pirate party! This was the first party we had thrown for Gabe where we actually invited kids his age and had games, etc. and I must say, it was a success! All last week I had prepped for the party by decorating, shopping for piratey things and baking. I opted to keep the menu fairly simple: crackers, cheese strings, jello, brownies, veggies, cookies and marshmallow pops for the treat bag. But, of course, calling goldfish crackers by their name just didn't seem very piratey, so they were labelled as "Pirate Sushi". The cheese strings were cut and pulled to look like Baby Squid, the juice was called "POG Grog", the brownies were Brownie Boats, the crackers were under the inflatable parrot and were labelled "Polly's Crackers", the veggie dip had a pepper octopus coming out of it and the cookies were shaped like sand dollars!
Oh Yes, and the jello was blue, with candy fish suspended in it, and whipped cream sea foam on top! The kids loved that. The pirate marshmallow pops were very nearly the reason I decided to have a pirate party. I had seen them done on Pinterest and decided to give it a try. Turns out, they were quite easy to do, although I did have a few hiccups with mine. For starters, I opted to buy edible-ink markers to draw the pirate faces on instead of piping icing. This would have been a great idea except that I also decided to coat the marshmallows in white melting chocolate instead of leaving them bare. Turns out that edible markers won't work on such a waxy surface. After trying about three times I put the markers away for another day and made a super-thick, dark grey icing (basically just icing sugar and dye) and piped it on. FYI, if you try to do these, coating them with a higher end white chocolate will help keep the waxiness down and should let the edible markers work on them. But, piping the icing worked out fine - just make sure your icing is thick enough that it doesn't run. I also had to work quite strategically to figure out when to dip the top of the marshmallows in red sugar. I tried too early for a couple so the chocolate drooped, I tried too late for others, so the chocolate wouldn't hold the sugar, but for the most part I nailed it. These were definitely a hit with the kids!
As I alluded to above, the food was a breeze. I made the cookies in advance and froze them (if you follow the link to the recipe, no, I did not make that actual recipe - but it wasn't for lack of trying. Every grocery store I visited either didn't have tapioca starch or was out of it), the brownies and marshmallow pops I made the day before (and the brownies take 20 minutes from start to finish), the veggie tray and dip my mother provided and the jello was a quick task the night before, and 2 minutes to whip the cream and drop in the fish right before we served it. There was one last treat that I had very little to do with. My dear brother decided to carve a couple mini watermelons for the kids!
He made a shark and a boat, both of which the kids, and Gabe in particular, thought were amazing! Besides food at this party, we also had decorations. I took a hint from some other party-throwing moms on Pinterest and used plastic tablecloths as swag on my ceiling.
Matt had a cardboard roll from a job he had finished last week, which we used to make a mast, and we tapped into my shell collection to fill up my designated decor shelves on our bookcase. I also made a paper banner with some piratey patterns that we hung on one wall, and I used some dollar store finds, like gold coins, eye patches and fish net to round out the pirateyness. Oh yes, and I should mention, twine is an invaluable asset when holding a pirate party. I had that stuff all over the place! I used vanilla to dye some paper, one for a treasure map and the other as a sign for the front door that read, "All ye who enter BEWARE!" - funny story, some girl guides were coming around during the party, they got to the front door, saw the sign and ran off! Whoops!
Of course, as the hosts for the event, we needed to dress up like pirates! Value Village is an endless source of unintentional pirate costumes. From tunic tops with puffy sleeves to bandanas and belts, you may have to look to find it, but there's always something there!
With all of the prep done, it was on to the actual party! We had 11 kids - 6 toddlers, 4 babies, and 1 older sibling. There were also parents (Moms and Dads), aunts and uncles, and grandparents thrown into the mix! While we waited for people to show up, the kids played with Pirate Pets - Gabe's stuffed toys like turtles, monkeys, rats, etc, and the jellyfish in a bottle I had made last month. Once most-everyone was there we started with a simple game: Walk the Plank! With a bunch of three year olds, we used a wide plank right on the ground and just let them walk across. They thought it was great! We broke out a narrow plank for the older kid, and any toddlers who wanted to try it. From there we went into the kitchen for a craft while we turned on Pirates of the Caribbean downstairs for anyone who didn't want to observe. The kids made jellyfish out of styrofoam bowls. They colored the bowls and then we glued googly-eyes and streamers on!
After the craft we had a cannonball fight with paper balls. At first the kids weren't very clear on the instructions, but once there were about 50 paper balls in front of them, it was a natural instinct to throw them! We stopped for a snack before we went outside to have our treasure hunt! I had drawn a map in advance with such labels as "Here Be Dragons!" (on the road) and "Quicksand!" (on the driveway). The kids went from the "Safe House", past the "Boat House", through "The Trenches", around "The Forest", over "The Impassable Wall" and through the "Wild Brambles" to find the treasure chest that was loaded up with chocolate coins and the pirate marshmallow pops. The kids all had lots of fun! The parents had lots of food, Gabe got to see lots of his little friends, and at the end of the party, it only took me an hour to get my house almost completely back to normal (there's still a mast in my dining room, but I'll work on that). Hope you like the pictures and the ideas! Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

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