Tag Archives: party

Last night of the Welsh Proms

There might still be a little time to wait until this year’s Last night of the Proms, but a couple of weekends ago, we were lucky to be able to make the road trip to Cardiff to celebrate the Last night of the Welsh Proms – and what a fantastic evening we enjoyed. Mike and I have been before with the Welsh side of my family, but this was the first time that G and M came too and it turned into a family affair with my Mum and Aunt both joining our gang. As you might expect from the great British tradition of the Proms, the night was filled with a selection of well-known classical pieces played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra ably led by the hugely talented Owain Arwel Hughes, who is South Wales born and bred.

One of the highlights of the evening was, without a doubt, the world premiere of Mealor’s Concerto for Euphonium, which demonstrated the incredible talents of musician David Childs and kept the audience spellbound throughout its duration. Both children enjoyed the first half, though M was more than a little restless throughout, not fully expecting to have to sit still and listen whilst the music played. G has been more enamoured since discovering that her great-great-grandfather played the euphonium in his local band.

The second half of the concert, however, was when their enthusiasm really came into its own, even considering the slight handicap of them only knowing a few words in Welsh. My Mum had spent the week teaching them one of the Welsh songs and both children had a good attempt to recall the words, no matter how fast the music was playing. Flags were waved, songs sung and the entire audience stood up and sat down as the whim of the conductor dictated. The concert finished with a rousing rendition of the Welsh national anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers) sung only as the proud voices of the Welsh valleys could do so. It was a lovely evening with some fantastic music and I can’t wait to take the children along again.


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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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!