Tag Archives: Cluedo

2021: Yet Another Lockdown Holiday – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 48

I don’t know about you, but a definite sense of COVID and lockdown fatigue has hit our household and G and M were more than ready for their February half-tern break this week. For M, spending close to 6 hours daily in live online lessons has been surprisingly tiring and the loss of his walks to, from and around school have definitely impacted on his sleep patterns as he is mentally, but not always physically exhausted by the end of the day.

As Mike and I have both been working from home this week as normal, G and M have had their days to themselves. Before the week even began, I suggested that keeping up with some schoolwork would be a good idea and so each morning has been filled with homework, tutor sessions and, in G’s case, making sure that all her A-level notes are legible and neatly written up from her occasionally messy notes. They’ve been out for daily walks, had great fun making their recordings for their end-of-term virtual Stagecoach performance and even took over the kitchen on Shrove Tuesday to whip up a batch of delicious M-friendly pancakes for us all to enjoy.

However, our evenings this week have been dedicated to family time and what better way to spend that time than in some friendly rivalry around a board game. To avoid squabbles as much as possible, G and M have taken it in turns to pick the evening’s game and we’ve had a real mix so far this week. From honing our art talents in “Telestrations” – we soon discovered who the weak links in the family are – to developing our deduction skills in “Cluedo“, all via a musical interlude on the kazoo in “Play that Tune”, there have been a lot of giggles to be heard. We’ve revisited some long-standing family favourites as well as playing those bought at Christmas, although the Reindeer Hoopla has yet to make an out-of-season reappearance!

Like so much of the last 48 weeks, this half-term might not have been quite as we would have liked or planned, but we’ve had a lot of fun together, perhaps even more so now that the children are older and can be challenged a bit more in our games. I’d be hard pressed to pick a personal favourite from our table filled to the brim, but would highly recommend “Telestrations”, a game we can’t wait to play with my Mum once we’re able to visit her once again. The topic of which game is picked for that evening’s entertainment has been a key part of our dinner table conversation and it’s been fascinating to see which games each child chooses.

What’s your recommendation? Any family favourites that are always picked, or something new to you that you think we might also like to try to?

A Wild 10th birthday!

This week I’m planning to take a break from any suggestion of a complicated bake – after 3 sets of birthday “cakes” last week and croissants the week before, I really think I deserve it. IMG_1731I have to confess to keeping it simple on the big day itself as M had huge ambitions for the day of his party and so a cake-stand full of rice krispie treats seemed to fit the bill. I did jazz them up a little by splitting the batch in two and adding chopped apple to one half and crystallised ginger to the other. The birthday boy seemed delighted with my choices and with that success firmly under my belt, I moved on to the next phase of my baking challenges for the week: the party cake!

M has been fascinated by the natural world for as long as I can remember, hence the arrival of Leo in our household just after Christmas. He loves watching wildlife programs on television, reading nature-themed books, be they novels or factual, and appears to absorb the facts he hears in a sponge-like fashion, ready to share at any given opportunity. So when Mike suggested a wildlife party for his birthday, M leapt at the chance and immediately asked if I could make a bearded dragon cake for it. I tentatively agreed, with my usual proviso that I couldn’t guarantee anything before the day itself and he would just have to accept it, no matter the end result. I researched and found a company who would bring a selection of reptiles and insects to our party location and would teach the children about each one as well as allowing them to touch and hold them if they wanted. It wasn’t my idea of a perfect birthday treat, but M was hugely enthusiastic and so I booked the party session, having somewhat madly decided to hold it at our house to make life a little easier.

12670399_10153297404071123_3934501200587725837_nParty booked and themed party favours ordered, next came the matter of the cake. For once I decided to learn from previous experiences and didn’t leave decorating the cake to the last moment as I usually do. The prospect of a 2am finish really didn’t appeal, especially if I was battling with creating the perfect bearded dragon cake topper and so planned to start a week earlier, with the hope of finishing at a much more reasonable time the night before. I found some images on-line and, with “Les Miserables” blaring in the background, carefully copied the individual body parts before attempting to put them together. Given Leo’s rather vivid orange skin tones, I chose to make a bright orange dragon and whilst it might not have been the most realistic coloured one, I was thrilled with my crafted copy. I carefully covered and stored it away from peeking eyes, determined that M would be left guessing until the last possible moment.

Fast forward a week and Saturday afternoon found me whipping up a batch of stone grey coconut oil icing to recreate a rock, having already baked a M-friendly pear and apple cake, which was now sitting on a bed of brown sugar “sand”. With icing, dragon and cake now all ready and waiting to be assembled, I turned to the matter of some un-birthday birthday cupcakes for G. As you may remember, for the second year in a row M was in hospital over G’s birthday and we were unable to celebrate the day with her. Last year we held a joint party for them both and had a lot of fun at their Cluedo-themed extravaganza, but I wanted to do something separate for G this year. Taking advantage of our tradition that each child has a friend at the other’s party, 12790894_10153315764351123_4961913402772457111_nwe decided to hold a small event on Sunday afternoon for G and invited her 2 friends to M’s party in the morning as well as 1 of his to hers in the afternoon. Given it was a very much belated birthday celebration, of course we needed more cake and I decided a batch of cupcakes would hit the mark and decorated them with some rather glamorous silver icing and snowflake patterns for my December baby.

10441207_10153315937021123_5876452706470659349_nSunday dawned with the most glorious weather and an anxious countdown to the party starting by M. The 8 boys and 3 girls spent their time racing around our back garden, bouncing on the trampoline and admiring the varied animals that arrived to entertain. M, of course, held all that he was allowed and G beat her fears to hold the tarantula, despite shaking hands and the occasional tear. The cakes were greatly received and M declared my bearded dragon the “best cake ever!

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Just one more dress-up challenge!

20150301_144602These past 2 weeks have been filled with one dress-up day after another for our household. Of course, it all started with the Cluedo party we held to celebrate G and M’s birthdays, where we invited guests to come in optional fancy-dress to match their character if they wanted.  The key word was “optional” as I was well aware that not all of M’s friends are as big a fan of fancy-dress as M is, but we were impressed with the range of costumes that arrived on that Sunday afternoon.  We had “Reverend Green” sporting a dog collar and a striking pair of bottle-green jeans; “Earl Grey” in pinstriped waistcoat, bowler hat and monocle and “Admiral Azure” had a home-made pair of epaulettes that would cause envy in the heart of any member of the armed forces.  Not to be outdone by the costumes of the boys, many of G’s friends joined in, wearing dresses to reflect the glamour of “Mrs Peacock”, “Mrs White” and “Lady Lilac”.  Dress-up challenge #1 – done.

20150305_083738Just a few days later came the first of our dress-up days at school, World Book Day.  Refusing to give in to M’s demands for a custom-made costume this year, I instead insisted he wore the army captain’s costume that we had bought for his representation as “Captain Emerald” at their birthday party and suggested he went as “Captain Nicholls” from Warhorse by Michael Morpugo.  We have recently enjoyed the stage production of Warhorse whilst it was on tour around the UK and M had bought himself the book for his admission to GOSH before Christmas, so he leapt at this chance, though in typical M style, he chose to be the lesser-known “Major Stewart” because he “got to ride Topthorn and not Joey, Mummy.”  G also wore a costume she had in her wardrobe and despite dicing with the idea of being “Dorothy” (Wizard of Oz) for the 3rd year in a row, ended up going as the “Princess” from Aladdin, wearing the Disney outfit from our Florida holiday last year.  Dress-up challenge #2 – tick.

20150306_154905The day after World Book Day, M had his Roman “Wow” day at school, requiring, naturally, a Roman costume.  He had originally toyed with the idea of going as a Celtic slave, but when the morning dawned, he had a change of heart and out came my trusty needle and thread, one of Mike’s white t-shirts, G’s plaited belt, M’s old white karate trousers and one of my red pashminas.  Less than 30 minutes later, our very own Roman-esque citizen made his way up to school – not bad for a quick Google search and 15 minutes of hurried sewing!  Dress-up challenge #3 – survived by the skin of our teeth!


20150311_210916I had a quick breather over the weekend, which was time enough to celebrate M’s 9th birthday itself and to gather the necessary base materials and trimmings for the next fancy dress requirement – a Greek toga each for the end-of-term Stagecoach performance.  Fortunately we were provided with a set of instructions on how to make a simple toga and G had acted as a model during Stagecoach a couple of weeks ago, so I had already had a sneak preview of how to put the costume together.  The togas themselves were simple enough to make, but then came the lengthy task of adding trim to suit the needs of my demanding duo and the trickier job of making the togas fit.  It might have taken a (very) late night, but the end result was fantastic and I can’t wait to see them perform on stage at the end of March wearing these masterpieces.  Dress-up challenge #4 – future success.

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And so it’s on to just one more dress-up challenge as tomorrow is Comic Relief and the challenge to “Make your face funny for money”.  The costume is the easiest part of the day as they just need to wear their own clothes to school, but the challenge will come early tomorrow morning, when we need to be up at the crack of dawn to give me time to face paint them both.  G wants a tiger and lion on her cheeks, so we’re going to cheat slightly by using M’s tiger feeding friend stickers on one cheek.  I’ve promised her a lion’s face on the other side as long as she’s happy with a cartoon style decoration.  If we have time, I’ll also do her hair in a funky style and, fingers crossed, both will last her throughout the school day and tomorrow evening’s Stagecoach session.

Courtesy of blog.partydelights.co.uk

Courtesy of blog.partydelights.co.uk

M’s face will take a little more work, but I wanted to do something a little different to his tube for the day.  The plan is to cover his tube with both the tegaderm dressing and then a layer of safe micropore before I get to work with the face-paints.  We’ve agreed on a snake design, which will hopefully see me camouflaging his tube as the snake’s tail as it winds around the back of his head, with the snake’s head, complete with sticking-out tongue, appears on the opposite side.  Whether it will work or not, we will just have to wait and see, but I promise a photo if all goes well!  Dress-up challenge #5 – still to be decided.

Piece of cake

20150225_231442 sr_162935_largeThese photos are of the supplies I needed to create this year’s  birthday cake masterpiece for Master M as, after all, this had to be a birthday cake like no other I’ve ever baked before.  In the same way that I had discussed my plans for the food we would serve at their Cluedo party with M, we sat together to talk about the various options for his birthday cake.  I could bake a “normal” cake for him to give to his friends, I could use polystyrene dummy cakes to create an authentic-looking, but totally M-friendly cake or we could try something completely different.  A friend had suggested using small bottles of 7-up to create a tiered cake and then giving every party guest a bottle to take home, which I thought an inspired idea as it’s one of the few things M has been able to enjoy since his NG-tube was passed, but M disagreed.  He preferred the idea of the polystyrene “fake” cakes and we headed off to the shops over half-term to source the cakes, decide how many tiers he wanted and get all the art supplies I might need.

20150225_200407Every year I try to create birthday cakes that either echo the themes of the parties themselves, be that mini-golf, magic or minions; or that are innovative and something the children have never seen before, such as last year’s pinata cake for G.  This year’s Cluedo theme offered me a wealth of ideas and I just needed to decide how to put them into action. I settled on a black base layer and ever-grateful to avoid the nightmare of icing a free-from cake, attacked our 3 tiers with a sturdy brush and bottle of black paint.  “Cakes” fully covered, I liberally sprinkled some silver glitter over them all before the paint dried, positioned the silver 9 on the top and added an emerald green ribbon trim for that touch of old-fashioned glamour and to fit with M’s role as party host, “Captain Emerald”.  I stuck the tiers together using PVA glue and then inserted some wooden skewers, just to make sure there was no chance the cake would fall apart before the day itself.

20150225_210001Next came the fun part of adding the decorations.  I had previously printed out silhouettes to use for the characters and images for each of the murder weapons and had a number of them left-over after I had prepared the cards for the party itself. Choosing carefully, I glued the weapons to the bottom layer and a selection of characters to the middle layer, making sure I included the image of G’s character, “Countess Pearl”.  My final step was to stick Captain Emerald’s silhouette to a piece of black card that I had already covered generously with more silver glitter and added this, leaning against the top-tier of the cake, before leaving it all to dry.

20150227_132323M’s cake sorted, I moved on to the preparation of a cake for G.  Much as I had enjoyed exploring the “crafts” side of my personality, this was the moment I’d been waiting for since Christmas.  Not so much the baking of a cake, though I love decorating birthday cakes to wow my children, but more because I finally got to use the best Christmas present I had received and one that was completely unexpected.  I’ve been drooling over the KitchenAid food mixers for years, imagining one gracing my kitchen counters and last year started saving towards buying one of my own.  To my delight, and absolute surprise, my wonderful Mum invested in a Ice-blue model as my Christmas/birthday present and it’s been sitting in the kitchen, taunting me daily with its absolute beauty, whilst I’ve waited for a chance to take it for a test-run.  All I can say is thank goodness I needed to whip up 24 G-friendly cupcakes as well as the birthday cake itself as I flew through the first task and loved every moment spent doing it!

20150227_141709My birthday cake challenge was easier this year as although G has allergies of her own, I was able to use eggs, an ingredient I haven’t baked with in over 3 years.  I used a simple gluten- and dairy-free recipe and then split the mixture between 5 bowls.  Inspired by both the colourful characters in the Cluedo game and a recent episode of Great British Comic Relief Bake-Off, I added 5 different food colourings – 1 to each bowl – and then marbled the cake mix in the baking tins.  20150228_114150As I waited for the cakes to bake, I turned to my trusty laptop to search out some ideas for how to decorate G’s Cluedo cake and settled on recreating the board itself out of icing.  Working late into the early hours of Sunday morning to finish this final part of the party preparations and when I finally fell into my bed at around 3am, I was delighted with the end results.

The big reveal of my “showstopper” cakes was a huge success.  Both G and M were thrilled with their cakes and liked the fact that even though they were completely different, they both fit our Cluedo theme perfectly.  The cakes had pride of place at the centre of our Dessert buffet table and were a real talking point for children and parents alike.  A job well done, though I’m not rushing to make 2 cakes for the same occasion again any time soon – my nerves just can’t take it!

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A Whodunnit birthday!

In the past 3 months, we’ve conquered Christmas, survived the return to school, managed the mysteries of the NG-tube and, most recently, started to tackle the tricky business of food re-introductions,  Now it was time for my biggest challenge yet:  M’s birthday party.

20150301_143337As G turned 11 back in December when M and I were in GOSH and we didn’t get to mark it in any great way,  I wanted to make sure she could celebrate her day with her friends albeit belatedly.  By the time Christmas had passed, the new year was in and we got round to making plans, half-term was fast approaching with M’s birthday hot on its heels.  I tentatively suggested we threw a joint party, not at all sure what response I might get and was delighted when they leapt at the chance.  Next came the trickier job of agreeing what to do and even though many ideas were bandied around, we struggled to come to a compromise that suited them both. With M keen to do LaserQuest or rock-climbing and G hankering after bowling, a final decision seemed impossible to reach until, in a rare moment of like-mindedness, they put their heads together and came up with the idea of a Cluedo-themed birthday party.

20150210_225626The first step was to set the scene for the murder of Mr Black by choosing enough character names, crime scenes and potential murder weapons to accommodate 16 children.  We started with the original lists of the game itself and added to them, ending up with 10 weapons, 10 rooms and 16 characters, which G and M allocated to each of their friends in turn.  I designed and then created the invitations to be handed out at school, inviting the children to join in the birthday celebrations for Captain M Emerald and Countess G Pearl.

Naturally, the finer details of exactly how the party would be run were left to me, but I loved the idea of a murder-mystery style party based on this classic board-game and have spent much of the last 4 weeks planning, preparing and perfecting each element of the day.  The children had lots of ideas about what they wanted to do and we ended up with a series of games, activities and refreshments that would prove to keep the most picky of 11 year-old girls and most active of 9 year-old boys happy for 2 hours.  Each game was attributed to one of our 16 characters, so the guests had the opportunity to test their skills with a Nerf gun at Colonel Mustard’s Shooting range or joined in the pottery painting classes run by Mrs Peacock and Lady Lilac.  We wanted the children to still experience the original aim of the game and work out the who, where and how of the murder, so every activity they did gave them the opportunity to reveal more cards to eliminate suspects from their lists.  This could be as simple as decorating a cupcake for Reverend Green’s church fundraiser to see 2 cards, or as revolting as delving deep into Mrs White’s giant trifle to pull out another one. Everybody had a chance to try their luck at each of the games and they all had a whale of a time.

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As M is still very limited with the foods he is currently able to eat, I decided to avoid a traditional party tea and instead served a dessert buffet, which included pineapple and Foxes glacier mints, both of which are safe for him.  He was also involved heavily in the decision-making about which cakes, biscuits and sweets would be on offer to his friends, which meant he was aware of what his friends would be eating and was happy to sit with them and chat as they all helped themselves to the selection of treats.  20150301_155523The final party game was “Pass the revolver”, which saw the children completing forfeits to see the final 2 Cluedo cards before they had to reach their conclusions and share the results of their investigations.  Nobody successfully worked out all 3 murder cards, though there was a small cohort who managed to work out 2 of the 3 elements correctly.  We finished with the traditional rousing renditions of “Happy Birthday” and then sent our guests on their way.  Both G and M loved every moment of their Cluedo birthday party and the text messages I’ve since received have assured me that their friends had a great time too.  In the words of one of M’s friends, it was “the best birthday party EVER!