THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOR A FABULOUS CHILDREN’S BIRTHDAY PARTY

I have been to, and seen pictures of, kids birthday parties where tables are laid out with everything colour co-ordinated …even the food! I have seen amazing cakes in the shape of Peppa Pig, Thomas the Tank Engine or a fairy-tale princess. Whilst I totally appreciate the effort someone has gone to in order to achieve this, it’s not something I’m too obsessed with myself. To be honest there are too many other things for my little head to worry about:

  • What should we do?
  • Where should we have it?
  • Who should we invite?
  • What food should we provide?
  • How much food should we provide?
  • How healthy should the food be?
  • How much sweet stuff should we have on offer? Will the parents leave hating us for sending the kids loopy on too much sugar?
  • Should we have alcohol?
  • Should we provide entertainment?
  • Should we provide party bags?
  • What should we include in the party bags?
  • What cake should I do?
  • What if the cake looks awful? Worse – what if the cake tastes awful?
  • What if we’ve ordered too much food?  Worse -What if we don’t have enough food?
  • What decorations should we have?
  • Should we have a theme?
  • Do we have a backup plan in case it rains?
  • The biggest fear by far – WHAT IF NO-ONE COMES?

When my first child turned one we invited every single person we knew, bought way too much food and booze, heaps of party decorations and cups, plates and napkins all in the same colour. We held the party in our back yard which is sea facing and on that day it was gale force conditions. After spending the best part of an hour fighting with banners and balloons and pink pompoms whilst simultaneously trying to stop the matching pink plastic table cloth blowing away – I admitted defeat. Most of the banners ripped within 30 seconds and all except one balloon popped before anyone arrived.

For her second party I still hadn’t learnt my lesson and did exactly the same – same location, same issues.

My second child’s first birthday party was cancelled as we were all sick.

When my eldest turned three we opted for a joint (5 months late) 1st and 3rd birthday party for both. On this occasion I wasn’t taking any chances with wind so the location was a nearby park. Entertainment was sorted thanks to the playground and cycle track. I still battled with balloons and banners. It wasn’t so windy but several balloons popped as they blew against the tree branches. At this party I was late arriving (my husband had gone ahead of me). A friend and my mother-in-law kindly helped set up however they had to contend with mine and her children demolishing everything and trying to ‘help’. I didn’t care. As long as the food was enjoyed, I was grateful for the help.

My three-year-old had requested a dinosaur cake. I messaged my friend who makes amazing cakes. She suggested I make a chocolate mud cake with green buttercream icing and then knock together some fondant dinosaurs. Easy! She even sent me a picture of fondant dinosaurs to copy. It was the peak of summer and a particularly hot few days leading up to the party. I bought green, pink and blue fondant and enthusiastically set out to make these cute dinosaurs. Did I mention it was nearly 40 degrees? My friend did inform me afterwards that even she doesn’t attempt to make fondant decorations in the summer months. The first one wasn’t too bad. It bore absolutely zero resemblance to the picture however it did look semi-dinosaur like. I then made a couple more but my creative flare must have been a fluke as quite frankly my children could have done a better job than my other attempts. After several hours spent sweating in the kitchen I showed them to my daughter. IMG_5604She smiled and agreed when I told her they were dinosaurs. We said good night to them, popped them into a Tupperware container and I poured myself a huge glass of wine. The next day when I opened the Tupperware my little dinosaur trio were all sick. They were cracked, one had fallen apart entirely and one had lost all of his spikes. As there was no Dr for fondant dinosaurs nearby, I took a trip to Kmart and grabbed a heap of plastic dinosaurs. In the end the cake was a mixture of my sad looking fondant dinosaurs and their better looking plastic counterparts. The good thing was the cake tasted good (apparently) so all was not lost.

I’m writing this now the day after my youngest child’s 2nd birthday party. This was technically her first proper birthday party. I found myself in a new predicament – who do I invite? Should I invite all of my 3-year-olds’ friends too? My 2-year-old doesn’t really have any friends. She is still at the age where she plays independently of most other children except her sister. After a great deal of procrastinating I decided to open it up to most of the people who know the youngest too.

This was the first party I had done that wasn’t in the peak of the summer. As it is now spring I was hopeful the weather would be perfect. Not too hot that we need shade, if we have it down at the beach, not too windy and fingers crossed no rain. The day before was the worst rain we have had in weeks. I was a little concerned given I didn’t have a plan B. At least I’d ordered an online shop to be delivered with all the party food. On this particular day our delivery driver decided to go AWOL. The store couldn’t track down the driver so after waiting nearly 2 hours for the delivery to turn up, lots of swearing and tears by me and my 2 girls who were climbing the walls to go out,  I took the girls to our friends house for the play date we had planned. Not long after arriving there I received a phone call to say that the driver was at our house.  I drove home to see what state the shopping was in after being left outside in the rain. Luckily it survived.

On the day of the party the weather cleared. It was so hot we moved the location to a different part of the beach in search of shade. I spent 30 minutes fighting the wind with banners and balloons and after nearly decking it off the wheelie bin – to which my 3 year old had already said “mummy you really shouldn’t be climbing on there” I gave up. She then fell off the bench she was perched on. Meanwhile her younger sister who had climbed on top of the picnic table, was pulling all of the plastic cups out and laughing hysterically as she watched them blow away.

This party was different. The serviettes, plates, cups balloons and banners were more of an eclectic collection of the remnants of previous parties so there was no specific theme or colour scheme as such. The cake was baked by my friend’s mum. All I had to do was decorate it (easier said than done for someone who is severely lacking in the artistic department). I opted for pink buttercream and sprinkles in the shape of a number two. The wind prevented a candle blow out but all in all it was a good party and my husband and I only had one row the morning of the party.Roseanna's 2nd birthday

Whilst the parties I have done may not look exactly look good enough to share on Pinterest or Instagram, they have always turned out ok in the end. I have come to the conclusion that as long as there is a cake of some description and that a few children turn up….it’s a success!

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For The Love Of Shortbread

As a shortbread lover I couldn’t help but notice the Bonniebix van arrive in our street a few months ago. One day I started chatting to owner and warmed to her immediately. Cara is bubbly, friendly and honest. She explained how the market stall she was meant to be attending had fallen through and she had rather a lot of cookies that needed shifting.  She offered to give me some to review on my blog and distribute as I wished. I was attending Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea with a few mummy bloggers and some friends a few days later so we arranged for me to take some along for them to sample. Some people donated money in exchange for the cookies which meant a little more money in the charity pot thanks to the cookies.

I suddenly felt concerned. What if they look good but taste grim (as is so often the case with novelty confectionary and cakes)? Many times I’ve attended functions or birthday parties and been impressed with the look of the cake for example only to be disappointed that the contents are dry and tasteless. I’m probably in the middle when it comes to how healthy my children are, I certainly don’t encourage them to eat too many sugary cakes and cookies however for  parties and occasional treats I’m ok with it.

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From Butterflies To Batman, Frozen To Flowers – Anna Banana Is Not Phased

Recently I’ve been thinking about the avenues my blog could potentially go down and one area that interests me is reviews. I’m a stickler when it comes to good customer service. It astounds me daily how many businesses out there operate appallingly, without a care in the world for the customer/consumer experience. I believe when you pay for anything you deserve to, at the very least- get what you paid for. If it’s done well you walk away happy, sometimes delighted. It sounds so obvious to say ‘and if you are happy you will return and refer’ – yet so many businesses just don’t get this.

This week I happened to see a request for a local blogger to do a review on one of the Mums Facebook pages I’m a member of. I immediately held my hand up.

The business is called Face Painting With Anna Banana and is run by a lady (not surprisingly) called Anna Brown.

Anna asked me to write a review for her, offering to paint my children’s and a few of their friends faces in return.

With two girls myself (19 months and 3 years old), I’m aware that the usual picnic at the playground with a bunch of my mates, ‘aint gonna’ cut it for their birthday parties much longer. As they grow, so too will their expectations. I will need to arrange activities and entertainment. Therefore, I was personally interested in the service Anna provided and if it would be something I’d consider for my girls in the future.

I’ve been to a couple of parties where face painting has been available. Unfortunately my 3 year old has always been too shy to let them anywhere near her. I explained this to Anna, challenging her to succeed where others have failed – she didn’t seem phased.

We chatted on the Tuesday and had arranged the gathering for that Friday morning.

Our correspondence was via email and I found her quick to respond, friendly and efficient. It was easy.

When she arrived, laden with a table and various cases, it started to rain. She took this in her stride, happy to set up her table and paints outside, prepared to move them if the rain persisted. Eventually the rain stopped.

Whilst Anna is chatty and friendly and fitted in very well with my friends, she didn’t get distracted from what she was doing. She understood the importance of ensuring that every child that wanted their face painted had it done. She understands how to interact with children. Her relaxed and calm approach seemed to work as all the children took their turn to get their face painted into their chosen picture. I couldn’t believe it when my daughter requested to go second.

As someone who can’t draw for toffee, I’m always in awe of artists. Watching how easily and beautifully she fulfilled each child’s individual request was incredible.

A unicorn, a rainbow, batman, a butterfly, a flower, Frozen….it didn’t matter what they threw at her she delivered.

My youngest daughter (19 months old) demanded to have her face done too. Unfortunately she kept rubbing it off with her hand whilst Anna was doing it. Anna laughed, grabbed a wipe and started again…..not phased!

At the end we rounded the kids up to try to get a group photo. You can imagine how tricky this was with a group of 8 children under the age of 3.

Anna casually started to sing and act some songs out which got the children’s attention and even some of them joining in. She did this naturally and wasn’t in their faces or over the top. With Anna’s help we managed to get them sitting down for a few minutes to take the picture.

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To Sum Anna Up I would Say

‘Anna is talented, professional, friendly, relaxed and DOESN’T GET PHASED! (I wonder what it would take to get her stressed?) The fact that she has many years’ experience working with children, as well as being a mum herself, shines through by the way she interacts with them in an approachable and non-patronising manner.  I would have no hesitation recommending her and her services to anyone’

A Bit About Anna

AnnaAnna Banana originally hails from Wales but is now a fully-fledged Aussie having lived here in Sydney for 14 years. Her experience ranges from being a dancer on television and stage, a dance teacher for children and adults and a children’s entertainer. She has over 20 years’ experience working with children, which includes children who have learning, behavioural and physical disabilities.

During her time teaching young children dance for Bubstep (her dance company), she picked up her brushes and began face painting to help promote the dance classes. The obsession began. Anna has now found a new passion that combines her love of working with children and expressing her artistic creativity.

She also offers pregnant belly painting and has hopes of becoming an FX make-up artist one day.

All products she uses are non-toxic professional paints.

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Rates:

1 hour $100

1.5 hours $150

2 hours $200

2.5 hours $250

3 hours $300

(On average Anna paints 10-12 faces an hour, dependent on the design requests. 20 children requires a minimum of 2.5 hours to ensure everyone gets their design choice)

To Contact Anna:

Facebook

Mobile: 0405585290

*I am not connected to Anna in any way and until this day had never met her.