A Brilliant Bricks 6th Birthday Party for my Brilliant Boy

Oscar doesn’t do a whole lot at the weekends. Football, Rugby, Swimming, Dance, Performing Arts; the local provision for extra curricular activities just does not work for my autistic son. So when Oscar became old enough to try our local  Haslemere Lego club, Brilliant Bricks, we were cautious. The first time we took him along, we sat in awe, as the children were firstly inspired by the leader, Sarah, and then started to build with gusto. But a really calm gusto! It was magical. And Oscar could join in. He could join in without having to compromise on what he could cope with or stand out because he needed to do things differently to the others. What a treat.

And when we realised Sarah also ran Birthday parties? Well it was a no brainer to book one for Oscar’s 6th birthday. Held in a local village hall, it couldn’t have been any better. It was just like having a Lego Club to ourselves, but with cake and food! And the odd glass of fizz for mama (I always have prosecco for the adults at my children’s parties – why the devil not!)

It really wasn’t too crazy to organise either. The biggest issue I had with the whole party was trying to get RSVPs back, but in my experience that’s often the worst bit about orgainsing any event.

Food

Last year’s party was good, but by far the best idea I had was how to serve the food. What I have found at other people’s parties we’ve attended is that a long line of tables can be intimidating for Oscar (he often ends up sitting on the end) and will only eat from the bowls/plates in front of him. So last year and subsequently this year I put together a picnic bag for each child. These were given out and allowed the children to sit where they felt most comfortable and eat the food in whatever order made most sense to them.

The bags this year had a bag of Wotsits, a Frube yogurt, a snack pack of Oreos and a YoYo Bear Fruit Roller. I was able to put the bags together the bag before and simply hand them out on the day.

Picnics in brown paper bags. The kids loved the autonomy they were given over their food.

I then made sandwiches and handed them out alongside the bags. Oscar insisted he wanted Nutella sandwiches and who am I to argue with the birthday boy? I did convince him to let me do cheese ones as well, just to show willing!!

While the rest of the food was in no way themed (and rather was what I knew Oscar would eat!) I decided on a nod toward the Lego theme with the sandwiches. I borrowed a Lego Head Cutter, bought an Edible Marker. And the result was even better than I hoped!

How cute are these Lego Head sandwiches?

The kids seemed to really like fun sandwiches. Although to be fair they seemed more excited to see I’d used Nutella (sigh!).

Favours

I really don’t like party bags. Don’t get me wrong it’s lovely that people want to give children a little parting gift, but too often (for me) they just contain landfill fodder. Or worse they contain things that should be binned, but Oscar insists on keeping them! So I’ve never done the traditional kind of bag. And this year was no different. In keeping with the Lego theme I decided to make a bag of Lego chocolates for each child.

They were the easiest thing to make. Just get some Lego Brick and Figure silicon moulds (I borrowed mine). Melt some white chocolate, slowly mix in some food colouring (I use the extra strong Wilton Gel Colours), pour it in the moulds, tap to get rid of any air bubbles, scrape the top to remove excess chocolate and pop them in the fridge. Leave them for an hour and Bob’s your Uncle!

The kids loved them! I got a message after the party telling me one little boy loved them so much he wanted to display them on his shelf rather than eat them! How cute is that?!

Cake

So many people asked if I was planning to make Oscar’s cake and I happily told them absolutely not. I can make a decent enough cake, but decorating it is not my forte, especially when Oscar has such specific ideas of what he wants. This year he asked for a cake in the image of the Thomas and Friends Chinese Dragon we got him for Christmas. So I happily handed over the toy to my friend and Haslemere cake maker extraordinaire Sarah of Sarah Bakes Cakes. And boy did she do us proud!!

Just look at that detail! I adore this cake!

Oscar was absolutely thrilled with his cake. When Sarah bought it round the day before the party, he actually squealed in delight and ran up and down the stairs he was so excited. It was the cutest thing! He also loved tucking into the delicious chocolate cake and probably ended up eating up more of the cake than any one!

The Party

Watching thirteen (we invited eighteen but not all could make it and some didn’t show up on the day) 6 year olds quietly and calmly build Lego creations completely from their imagination was a pure joy. The concentration, from those not always known for their ability to concentrate, was quite amazing. Thanks to the support of Sarah and Brilliant Bricks, I was much more confident to let the parents leave their children with me, but those adults who stayed or came to help couldn’t get over how calm the party was. The children moved from box to box sharing the tonnes of bricks Sarah had bought with her, but not being expected to collaborate. This allowed everyone to join in no matter what their capacity or their personality.

Working together and apart

Such concentration!

Sarah bought her ramps with her for the children to race their creations down!

The party was so much more of what Oscar needed than last year and I like to think that reflects how much more I understand him and how to work to get the best out of him. This happy face and amazing Slimer (who is holding a “pizza in one hand and a chicken with a bone in the other”) will, I hope, testify to that.

I don’t think I’ll be holding a party for him next year. I’ve got a feeling he’ll be over them by then and prefer to do something more based around his interests, without having to worry about other children. So this might be the last party I ever host for my little guy.

And if it is, what a high to end on.

 

 

 

Thank you so much to everyone who came to the party or supported me throwing it, in one way or another!

I have included my supplier links as a personal recommendation only. I paid for everything myself. 

The 70’s catered my child’s party!

I’ve never thrown Oscar a party at home. Mostly because our house is just too small to comfortably accommodate many people and so Oscar’s previous birthday parties have been hosted, and catered, by other venues. This year we decided to have a family party for him at our favourite holiday apartment in Plymouth. And as we were hosting it also meant I could go to town on the catering. I don’t know what it is, but I love making (and eating) party food. It must have something to do with all the happy party memories from my childhood. And thanks to the advent of Pinterest, I got plenty of inspiration to add to my own memories.

I decided, as his party was being held on Easter Sunday, to go with a loose Easter theme. Think bunnies and eggs and you get the picture. I really enjoyed preparing the food and wanted to say a huge thank you to Ben for keeping the boy occupied while I did. It meant I could whack on a party play list, sing out and get creating. What I didn’t realise until I started making it, was how inspired by the 70’s my party food would be! But do you know, everyone loved it, whether it was nostalgic love or not. I was extremely proud of how the food turned out so have decided to devote a whole post to my favourite bits!

Cheese and Pineapple

My first creation was less ‘made’ and more ‘put together’, the perennial party favourite Cheese and Pineapple. Now I’ll let you in on a secret, I don’t actually like Cheese and Pineapple. I mean I like the ingredients separately, but I just don’t get them together (and before you ask, no I don’t like Hawaiian Pizza either)! Many years ago, we were going to a ‘Bad Taste’ fancy dress party and in keeping with the theme I made one of these to take along. You know, as a joke. Only everyone went nuts for it! So I’ve made one for every party I’ve had since and it’s always been devoured!

There’s no real recipe as such, only I would recommend using Mild Cheddar (Mature is too crumbly and wont stay on the stick) and tinned Pineapple chunks in juice. For the true Fanny Craddock vibe, I always use a grapefruit covered in foil to hold the sticks. It wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t 🙂

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Who doesn’t love cheese and pineapple (well me, but I’m a minority!)

Devilled Eggs

Staying firmly with the 70’s vibe, I chose Devilled Eggs, as they fitted the theme and are delicious. I did think about dying the eggs pretty pastel colours as my friend Shannon over at Shannonagains suggested, but I decided to go au naturel in the end, using the same recipe as I did for my Halloween Spider eggs. I boiled 5 eggs for 8 minutes, then plunged them into cold water. Once peeled, I then cut them in half and removed the yellows to a bowl, which I mixed with a couple of tbsps of light Mayonnaise, a tsp of mustard powder and salt and pepper to taste. I then spooned the mixture back into the whites (if I’d been really fancy I could have piped them, but I don’t actually own a piping bag or nozzle!) and placed them on a plate covered in round lettuce.

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Devilishly delicious Devilled Eggs

Sandwiches

One of the challenges when catering for both children and adults is finding food that’s accessible for all. Sandwiches are usually a safe bet and although I thought about making some interesting fillings, I knew in my heart this would be a good place to provide something a more familiar for those who were a little anxious in their tastes (fussy eaters sound so negative!) Anyway I chose plain ham and plain cheese and kept them on theme by investing in some bunny cookie cutters. How cute are they? And I love the contrast between the white and brown bread. I’d apologise for the ‘cress as grass garnish’, but I’m not going to – I love it!

These sandwiches were all made with standard bread as Oscar isn’t the biggest sandwich fan. I made him his own Gluten Free peanut butter bunny sandwiches, which went uneaten! Sigh!

FYI, I didn’t make these Hot Cross Buns, who do you think I am, Mary Berry!

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Bunny Sandwiches. I will not apologise for the cress as grass garnish!

Mozzarella Onion Pull Apart Bread

This was a variation on a recipe I found on Pinterest. It sounded decadent and yet simple to do. And I was right. The original recipe called for Monterey Jack cheese, but I decided to use mozzarella instead. To be honest, while mozzarella provided the requisite meltyness (what? that’s a word right?) I personally thought it could have done with a bit more flavour, so would maybe consider using something like Havarti or Emmental next time.

  • 1 400g unsliced Bloomer
  • 1 large mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 200g butter, melted
  • A bunch of finely sliced spring onions
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180c, Gas Mark 5. Cut the bread length ways and width ways without cutting through the bottom crust. Place on a large sheet of foil. Insert cheese between cuts. Combine melted butter, onion, poppy seeds and seasoning. Drizzle over bread. Wrap the foil up and over bread until covered. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 180c for 15 minutes. Unwrap the bread and bake for 10 more minutes. Serve whole and let everyone help themselves!

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Mozzarella Onion Pull Apart Bread. So good to share

Dip Bunny

This really was my piece de resistance. Another Pinterest recipe I found and fell in love with. It was actually incredibly easy (and my version was even easier than the original – and better looking if you ask me 😉 ). The bread came from The Royal William Bakery, next door to the apartment. It was so fresh out of the oven, I had to leave it for a couple for hours just to cool down! And boy did it smell good. Obviously you don’t need to use such amazing bread (although of course if you can, do!). The original recipe also gave instructions to make the dip, but I was doing so much else I chose to buy one. I have no problem with that. If you have time and inclination to make the dip then more power to you.

  • 1 medium Sourdough Loaf (I got a whole grain one, but white would work as well)
  • 2 part baked baguettes
  • Raisins
  • Cocktail sticks
  • 2 pots of your favourite dip
  • Your favourite dipping vegetables. I used, pepper, carrot and celery

Bake the part baked baguettes as per the instructions and let cool. Place the sourdough on the tray you want to present it on. Carve a hollow out of the sourdough at a slight angle, keeping the bread you remove for the bunny’s face. Place the ‘face’ above the body of the sourdough and make three small indents in it for the eyes and nose. Press a raisin into each hollow. Use cocktail sticks pushed in either side of the ‘face’ as whiskers. Cut one of the baguettes in half and use each half as an ear, securing to the head with a cocktail stick. Use a round of the other baguette as a tail, placed at the base of the sour dough. Cut up the vegetables and surround the bunny (I also used left over round lettuce as grass!) and when ready to serve tip the dip into the bunny’s body.

He went down a blooming treat! We had friends over after the party too and no a scrap of him was left. That’s what I like, no waste and no washing up!

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My beautiful Dip Bunny. I was so proud of him!

Cake

And of course no birthday party would be complete without cake. I didn’t make this myself, but it couldn’t not be included here. Oscar’s Grandma really stepped up to the plate, making him a delicious, gluten free rainbow cake. A rainbow, you know, like a spectrum 😉 . It was beautiful! Thank you so much to Catherine for making such an amazing cake. And then making a second chocolate one, just in case! They were both divine!

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Grandma’s superb Rainbow Cake

We all had a wonderful day. Oscar played with his cousins brilliantly (involving collaborative art, roaring competitions and chasing each other round the apartment) and the adults got to relax and catch up. Oh and drink prosecco. Seriously it was what every children’s party should be. With a side order of 70’s style bunny themed party food. What’s not to love?

Happy Birthday Oscar!

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Happy Birthday Oscar!

 

Mixing it up….

In just a few short weeks time, my bouncing little ball of energy, also known as Oscar, will be turning four. FOUR! Man alive, how on earth did that ever happen? A year. Over. Done. Never to be repeated. When you look at the passage of time through the ageing of a child it makes everything feel so much more transient, so here today gone tomorrow. Literally. Ahh my sweet sweet boy. Every day you change, every day you grow.

So aside from getting maudlin, and feeling all kinds of old ? we’ve been thinking about how to mark our little guy’s fourth birthday. Last year, you may recall, we threw him a wonderful party with the help of our friends at The Hen House, Haslemere. It’s was awesome! So awesome in fact that we weren’t sure what we could do to top it this year (not that it’s a year on year competition, but you know what I mean!) We ummed and ahhed and looked around locally, but couldn’t find anything suitable. Then we started talking about how much fun we had over Christmas and how it would be lovely if Oscar could share his birthday with his extended family.

So that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re going down to Plymouth for Easter. We’re staying in the same apartment as at Christmas, and we plan to celebrate his birthday, with his extended family, a week early, on Easter Sunday. I’ve been pinteresting like mad already for some Easter themed party food and while I won’t be going mad, a centrepiece always goes down well I find. My favourite at the moment is this one. Isn’t it too cute?

A dip filled bunny, surrounded by veggies? What's not to love?

A dip filled bunny, surrounded by veggies? What’s not to love?

Any other Easter themed party food ideas gratefully received. Seriously, if you’ve got any ideas, or blog posts to share, I’d love to see them!

So that’s the party sorted, but then there’s what to get him for a gift. For the last few years we’ve concentrated on large garden toys for his April birthday, setting him up for the coming summer. And that’s been great, but this year we haven’t really got anything in mind. Maybe a bigger slide? But where would it go? Hmmm. It’s a conundrum that’s for sure. And in terms of play toys, there’s nothing he desperately wants and nothing much he needs, to be honest. He’s got more Thomas toys than you can shake a stick at and Duplo coming out of his ears! He has no interest in any of the movie tie ins and flits between favourite cartoons most days (last week it was 1940s Tom and Jerry, this week it’s been 1990s Rugrats – all hail TV streaming services!) He has just started to pick up things (straws, sticks, the Hoover!) and use them as guns, but this upsets me no end and I have no wish to encourage it. So we’re back to the question; what do we get him? What is he in to?

There is one idea I had. It may sound crazy and you may think this is more for me than him, but hear me out. The boy loves to bake. This has been a thing now for over a year. But recently he’s decided he doesn’t like using my Kitchen Aid and instead wants to ‘mix’ everything himself in a ‘giant bowl’ (his words). For this you need a good sturdy bowl, and I just don’t have one. We tend to use my mixer bowl, which is light and topples off its tiny base regularly. He needs something better. I’ve always loved Mason Cash bowls. My mum had one, my Nanna had one. I used to think owning one was almost a prerequisite for being a mum. I always wanted a beige one, just like my mums, but recently Mason Cash released their Varsity range, in cream and Navy Blue. So I started thinking, actually, of all the things we could get him, how about his own ‘giant mixing bowl’? And if we’re going to do that, why not get him the grande dame of bowls?

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The Mason Cash Varsity Mixing Bowl in blue. The perfect gift?

Surely that’s what every four year old would want for their birthday. Right?

Come back in a few weeks, I’ll let you know what we decide!

Its all in the planning

I can’t believe the end of March is fast rolling round. I’m finally starting to get everything in place for Oscar’s birthday, which is lucky, as its on 2nd April. It might not have been, had the induction worked when it started three days earlier, and I still swear he hung on in there for fear of being born an April Fool, but there you go.

His actual birthday is on the Thursday and Ben has taken the day off work. We like to do something just the three of us on his birthday, only I was struggling to think what to do this year. His birthday falls in the first week of the Easter hols and I knew everywhere, even those places he would enjoy and could probably cope with, would be heaving. So we’re taking a leap and going on our first outing to a SEN play facility, the Thames Valley Adventure Playground. I read about it on someone else’s blog and even though it’s an hour away, I knew immediately that I wanted to take him. I’ll write more about our visit when we’ve been, but I’m super excited for him and it’s an adventure for us as a newly diagnosed SEN family. Fingers crossed!

We booked his party for the following Saturday a while ago now and while he doesn’t really understand what’s going to happen yet, we are so excited that we have the exclusive use of our local soft play cafe The Hen House in Haslemere. My plan is to move as many tables and chairs to the side as possible, giving the children as much floor space to charge around in as I can. Other than that, the wonderful team at The Hen House have the entertainment, the food and the drink covered. Which has kind of left me to enjoy planning the little details. Such as what he’s going to wear. As it’s a soft play party there’s little point him getting dressed up too smartly on the day. However I have bought him this Boden t-shirt, a nod to the farm animal theme. I love it.

15BSPR_21770_GRYOther than that, the guests have been invited and most but not all can make it. But then that’s what happens when you book a party both on Easter weekend AND on the day of another boy’s birthday! I completely forgot about it being Rudy’s birthday until the moment I went to tell his mum about the party. Honestly, how could I forget? We were in beds opposite each other in the hospital! Ahh well it was going to happen sooner or later I guess and hopefully we’ll get to celebrate with them another day.

The invites themselves were something of a mission. Once I decided on a farm theme, I saw some beautiful barn invites on Pinterest and was convinced, for weeks, that I was going to make some just like it. Make. Including cutting stuff out and sticking stuff on. It was a lovely thought and all that but seriously? I barely have the time to blow my nose most days! So not wanting to be defeated entirely, I ordered some personalised printables from Etsy (several invitees told me how much they loved them and I think I could have passed them off as my own creation, but I just cant lie that well!) I also bought card to print them out on, wanting ever so much to have physical printed invites. What a palaver! The card wouldn’t go through the printer and when it did the colour wasn’t as I’d hoped. In the end I emailed the invite round and do you know what? I have no idea why I didn’t just do that in the first place. Physical invites are great for a child to take into school and hand out, but really, when it’s going straight the parent, email invites are the way ahead.

invite

As the party’s taking place in the highly decorated Hen House, decorations weren’t really the necessity they might be if I’d been hosting at home. However, in keeping with the theme, and because I have yet to find a child who doesn’t adore them, I have ordered helium filled balloons, in a black and white cow print. My plan is to have them float around the place with strings long enough to reach up and grab. At the end of the party there’ll be a balloon for every child, and hopefully a few for Oscar to take home too!

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Then there’s the party bags. I’ve had a bit of a downer on party bags in the past, primarily because they always seem to be filled with sugar and plastic. Now I’m not saying the boy doesn’t love sugar and plastic, but I wanted to see if I couldn’t pull together a favour bag that carried on the theme, but also had fun and interest for the children. I think I’m getting there, having managed to source plain brown paper lunch style bags from pipii.co.uk. Everything going in it has a nod to the farming and farm theme. There is some sugar, but also some fun and I hope some interest. I just need to figure out if I’m going to decorate the bags somehow. I want to. I really want to! But chances are I won’t and I’ll call it minimalist instead. Ahh well!

Which just about covers everything a three year old could want for their birthday.

What?

A present?

Ahh jeez!

You are invited…..

So as of tomorrow it will be only three weeks til my beautiful baby boy turns 2 and officially becomes a toddler. I don’t want to think I’m wishing his life away, but I can’t wait! He’s so much more fun the older he gets. I’m not saying his babyhood was boring, and god knows it was great when he couldn’t run away at the drop of the hat, but it just wasn’t this much fun. He never looked sideways at me, shrugged, smiled and started doing the hokey cokey when he was baby now did he?

Anyway this isn’t a post about that. About whether the baby phase is better than the toddler phase or vice versa. As I said my son is about to turn 2. And children’s birthdays bring with them that potentially stress inducing ritual – the children’s party!

I’m sure parents of older children, who have been through this and come out the other side are either laughing wryly or shuddering. And despite being new to this game, I think I can see why. But I”ll come back to that.

So OK, my experience of throwing parties, before I had Oscar, involved providing large amounts of booze, a couple of pizzas, some chips and dips and always a big bowl of M&Ms. OK we sometimes threw in rude word scrabble (any word could be used as long as you could justify why it was rude – ‘THOSE’ anyone?) and the chocolate mini roll challenge (how many can you fit in your mouth at once?), but basically if you provided enough booze and combined it with the right people that was enough.

I know this isn’t going to cut the mustard with children (although I think my son may already be in training for the mini roll challenge). And that’s fine. But what is?

How many??

How many??

So last year when all Oscar and all his little friends turned one, we bucked the trend of a quiet family only affair and had a party for him. But it wasn’t a local party with his little friends. Nope this was totally a party for us as a family. We went to Plymouth (our home town), hired a church hall for 30 and invited everyone we knew. Family, friends, children, the lot. We invited more people to that party than we did to our wedding. And just like our wedding, we had pasties and cake. A gorgeous cake made by my friend Michelle.

Isn't it gorgeous?

Isn’t it gorgeous?

We filled the hall with children’s toys (leant to us by the church hall for free) and basically turned it into a Toddler Group for the afternoon. Rather than party bags we gave each child a helium balloon (that had also had served the purpose of decorating the hall) to take away with them, and a piece of cake. And everyone seemed to have an awesome time. I got to see and talk to my friends I don’t see very often and Oscar got to run around like a loon. What more could we ask for?

Yup it was grand. But it was big! And organising something like that from 300 miles away wasn’t the easiest deal, so a while ago we decided not to have a party this year. We are instead going to have a family day out on his actual birthday and then take Oscar and his bessie mate Isabelle and her parents out for tea the weekend after. It still celebrates him turning 2 and the passing of another year, just in a slightly less public way. And I was fine with that. Its just all his little friends (who didn’t have parties last year) are now having parties. And we’re getting invited here there and everywhere. And that’s lovely. But I started to question whether I wasn’t a bit mean not to reciprocate. But then that begs the question, who would I be throwing the party for? Would crowds of 2 year olds start gathering in toddler groups around the area, dissing my name? Would they buggery. They couldn’t care less. As long as someone, somewhere is making with the cheddars and occasional chocolate pirate biscuit, every day’s a party day to them. So I realised I was worrying more about what the adults thought than the children.

And that made me think – is that how it is? Do we invest in hiring ‘exciting’ venues, themeing, various entertainment and spending a fortune on party bags for our children? Or is it, and this may be a controversial question, but is it for other parents? God I hope not. Maybe Pintrest has just too much to answer for, but I hate the idea that a child’s birthday could be used for point scoring among the local parent community. And that’s before you’ve even started to talk about presents! So far this year we have bought Oscar four presents. Three of them are second hand. It wont bother him whether it comes out of a box or not. I’m sure there will come a time when he will dictate that this is no longer acceptable, but until then, I’m buggered if I’m going to be dictated to by some sort of internal mummy bitch!

So after giving myself something of a talking to I decided my initial plan was and still is a blinder and one I’m really happy with. Maybe next year I’ll throw him and his mates a party. And if I do it’ll be one he’ll enjoy (whatever that is when he turns three!) Maybe I’ll do a proper retro one. With pass the parcel. And I wont be putting a prize in every layer that I can tell you. Where did that even come from? Are our children so delicate they can’t learn that not every one wins all the time? Or maybe I’m missing the point and it’s to keep them sitting long enough to finish the game? I don’t know. One thing I plan (and I’ll probably eat my words here) but I plan to forgo party bags completely. The balloon/cake combo went down so well I might give that another go. Maybe his balloon/cake combo will become like my big bowl of M&Ms, not his party without them!

Balloons!

Balloons!

Come back in a year and I’ll let you know how it goes.