Tag Archives: birthday party

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party… Friday Fictioneers.

What a day to be Acting Police Commissioner! An entire children’s birthday party had vanished…mum, dad, ten kids, and all the food. Forensics couldn’t even find a crumb. No footprints. Nothing. Whoever abducted this lot, came in from the air. Vacuumed them up. A man of science and hard logic, alien abduction had even crossed his mind. What was he going to tell the families?

Meanwhile, the party goers watched on in horror. “Alice, where’s the antidote? Please tell us, you packed the antidote!!”

The cloak of invisibility had worked too well. They couldn’t get back from Wonderland.

99 words.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. Every week, we have the opportunity to write up to 100 words to a photo prompt. This week’s photo prompt kindly came from © Fatima Fakier Deria

My daughter had a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for her 5th Birthday. What a cake!

 

When Your Baby Turns 12…

“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.”

William Barclay

So what if it’s my daughter’s birthday? That’s hardly newsworthy. After all, she’s not Princess Charlotte, and the only paparazzi hanging around when she blew out her candles, was her Mum.

Yet, that doesn’t mean that her birthday didn’t mean anything beyond our four walls and her beaming grandparents.

Amelia Geoff Ro

Our daughter turned 12 yesterday. While she’s still not officially a teenager, she’s in her first year of high school. So, this birthday marked a definite transition from childhood into something else. Entré into a zone where it can be difficult for parents to find their way. Are we wanted, or unwanted? In the way, or ignoring them and giving them too much space? Are we expecting them to be kids and adults all in the same breath and setting all sorts of unrealistic expectations? Or, are we feeling like little more than a taxi driver? An ATM only good for more money?  I’ve heard a lot of parents lament that their teens only grunt, and shut them out. Lock themselves away in their rooms. There’s also the great electronics challenge. How do we tear our kids and teens away from Minecraft long enough to even look us in the eye and say “hello”?

Amelia baby

These are challenging times. After all, the teenage years come with the same kind of flashing neon signs as the terrible twos. Having been through that, I’m no idiot. I know it’s virtually impossible to come out unscathed, but I also feel empowered. I make things  better or worse.

However, none of that was at the forefront of my mind yesterday. That all came afterwards, as I reflected on how well everything went and how I’ve built connections with my daughter, her friends and their parents. Also, I’m pleased to say we passed muster. So, I’m feeling really stoked…content.

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Miss in Saphora Sporting Blue Lipstick.

The big birthday, began with a morning of dance rehearsals and classes for Miss, and I set about trying to find the carpet in her bedroom. Even though the girls would be sleeping in the tent in our backyard under the watchful eye of the dogs, kids always end up in the bedroom and hers needed major reconstruction. I’m still fighting off the sinus infection too so wasn’t 100%. Meanwhile, Geoff was salvaging the backyard from the pups. There isn’t a blade of grass out there, and there was all sorts of chewed up detritus. With only hours to go, we had a lot of work ahead. Fortunately, I did my baking on Friday, making Mars Bar Slice, Pavlova, cup cakes. Dinner would be pizzas.

However, before the party began, Miss wanted to go to makeup Mecca, Saphora, with her friend, so she could go crazy with her birthday money from her Godmother and earn double points and a birthday gift. We also spent awhile in Lush.

Saphora really is a kind of fantasyland and they let you play around with a kaleidoscope of eye shadows, lipsticks and highlighers so you can even glitter and sparkle in the dark. It was so much fun. After all, how often do we have the opportunity to colour ourselves in using the brightest of brights without any limitations and get away with it? At Saphora, our face is a blank canvas only limited by our imaginations and our arms are our palettes. Indeed, there’s even a word to describe trying out this multitude of product…”swatching”.“

Not unsurprisingly,  I don’t keep up with make up or fashion trends. I was chaperone. My daughter’s friend’s Mum likes the girls to be accompanied, and that makes the decision easy for me. I’m a slow walker. So, they’re always a metre or two in front and I probably look more like a stalker. However, this means they have their own space, can do their own thing and have an old head with them if required. You just don’t know what those unpredictables can be, and they’re not quite at the stage where they have the life experience to deal with all of that on their own. Also, my daughter is tiny and younger than many of her friends and I’m quite conscious that a stranger could pick her up and cart her off without any effort at all, aside from her resistance. In Australia, we had a young man called Daniel Morcombe who was abducted from a bus stop, violated and murdered. He was 12 years old. That puts things into perspective for me. While a 12 year old might be sensible, trustworthy and intelligent, they are still a child and need a backstop.

I don’t know how parenting a teen will look down the track. Her big brother turns 14 in a few weeks and hasn’t brought us the usual problems of teenagers yet. We tend to be late bloomers in the puberty stakes, so perhaps all of that is just around the corner. You sort of hope it is as a parent, as much as you want to keep pushing it off into the future. After all, they really can’t have a relationship with their electronics. Or, at least not one that’s going to produce any grandchildren (not that I’m wanting them any time soon).

Anyway, my modus operandi for parenting teens at the moment, is to get to know my kids’ friends and their parents. Keep those lines of communication going. After all, what I’m finding so far, is that they’re all quite chatty and we’re all getting on really well and they trust me. This might not matter much at the moment, but it might down the track.

So, I’m now positioning myself as my kids’ parent and their friend. Trying to make the hard decisions and enforce boundaries and deadlines, while also being involved enough that they feel I know them,that they know I have their back and can see their point of view, even if I don’t agree with it. It can be very tempting to think that now our kids are growing older, that we can get more “me time”. Work more. Pull back. I’m not too sure.When they were younger, they could go to daycare or before & after school care but once at high school, they’re home alone…or not. Unfortunately, that doesn’t address the family finances or the need for both parents to work, sole parent families and the complexities of life. My complication is my disability and chronic health, which has ruled out paid work for the last 5 years, although I am now starting to set the wheels in motion. I’m currently looking into freelance writing opportunities.

I’ll write more about how the birthday went in my next post. In the meantime, I was wondering what your view are about parenting teens. What are your hot tips for parenting teens? What helped you? I have definitely found that we often have our best chats in the car or around the family dinner table. I’ve also been playing quite a lot of board and card games with our son lately at his request. That’s usually when the wifi gets turned off, but it’s him seeking me out, not vice versa. These games might be old-fashioned, but we’ve had a lot of laughs, the competition is fairly intense, and I can feel the bonds knitting together on the spot.

On that note, I’m off for slice of pavlova. Birthday party leftovers are the best.

xx Rowena

 

Paper Planes: Having A Happy Birthday Party at the Movies.

On Sunday, we had a truly fabulous day celebrating our son’s 11th birthday and we even managed to pull off a party!! Given the amount of effort that went into making the cake and the thought that went into the presents, it’s a miracle that I had any energy left for the party.I must have had a second wind because on reflection, I should have needed CPR.

However, that’s where having a party at the movies was fabulous. We just had to turn up and indeed, they would have done the cake too if I hadn’t  been so set in my ways.

With his birthday being on Sunday, I thought we should have his party on the actual day but time was rapidly running away from me and I’d planned nothing. Nothing at all. I usually like to give about a month’s notice for a party but with less than a week to go I found out the Australian Movie, Paper Planes, was showing and then I was madly emailing the cinema and we had a party, guest. and then it was all lights, camera, action!

Phew!

Paper Planes

Paper Planes  was a great movie and the kids loved it. The plot was very loosely based on a 2009 episode of Australian Story called “Fly With Me” which tells the story of paper plane enthusiasts, Dylan Parker and James Norton. Here’s a link through to “Fly With Me”: http://www.abccommercial.com/librarysales/program/australian-story-fly-me-dylan-parker

In the movie, Dylan, a  young boy living in a small, West Australian country town, dreams of attending the Australian Paper Plane Throwing Championships in Sydney. In the process, his interest becomes an all-consuming, passionate obsession as he methodically reworks his designs to make them fly further and further…especially as he goes on to attend the world championships in Japan.

“This is a film that celebrates the idea that one sheet of A4 paper, and your imagination, can be a great source of entertainment.”

Robert Connolly, Director

This quest forms the backbone of the movie but the tragic death of Dylan’s mother in a car accident five months beforehand and his father’s inability to come to terms with it and function at even a very basic level, weaves its way throughout the movie.

Paper Planes not only looks at the hurdles you need to overcome to reach success on the world stage, it also looks at relationships under strain and in particular the relationship between father and son. On one hand, there’s Dylan’s relationship with his dad, which is awkward and strained as his father succumbs to grief and depression and is unable to father his son. On the other hand, there’s the strained relationship between his competitor, Jason,  and his pro-golfer Dad, Patrick.  In this instance, the father is incredibly supportive but the son, Jason, distances himself from his father and persistently calls him by his first name, despite his father’s repeated requests to call him “Dad”.

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I live with an ongoing life-threatening auto-immune disease and we have had numerous very close calls and it has been a very real possibility that our kids would lose their Mum and this would be an issue with the movie.

Therefore, it was quite a shock to realise that we’d taken our 11 year old son to see a movie where the main character was a boy about his age who has lost his mum…especially for his birthday party. Not only that but the Dad was understandably not coping and they were surviving on tinned spaghetti. As if that wasn’t hard enough, there was even a heartbreaking song. I was naturally quite upset by all of this although Mister said he loved the movie and this darker sub-plot seemed to pass him by. Thank goodness!

Of course, I didn’t miss it.

Nothing about the death of the mother was mentioned in the movie trailers or the press and I do think that’s a bit remiss. For me, there were some pretty heart-wrenching moments which I could have done without, especially at our son’s birthday party which was supposed to be all about fun and happiness, not revisiting shadows I’ve been trying to put behind me.

But as I said, those darker aspects of the movie didn’t seem to impact Jonathon. He was as proud as punch sitting in the cinema eating popcorn with his family and friends.

Happy Birthday Mister!

Happy Birthday Mister!

Then, it was off to the courtyard outside to have everyone sing him “Happy Birthday” and two of his friends even gave a speech. Then the kids were bowing bubbles, running around and just having fun.

He said it was the best birthday he had ever had and all the trials and tribulations making and patching up sloshy birthday cakes, stressing out over presents and organising a birthday party at the last minute were well and truly worth it.

However, the birthday wasn’t over yet.

There’s now cupcakes for school tomorrow but this time from the shop!

xx Rowena

Sources

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-15/paper-plane-makers-unexpected-foray-into-film/6017176

Laugh or Cry: Overcoming Birthday Caketastrophes!

Tomorrow, is our son’s 11th Birthday and of course, it’s going to be bigger than Ben Hur.

Surprise! Surprise! I decided to bake a Chocolate Cake and I’m jazzing it up with a caramel and whipped cream filling and smothering the lot with lashings of Milk Chocolate Ganache and a sprinkling of M & Ms. I know that sounds really indulgent,even decadent, but you only have a birthday once a year!

Chocolate cake…You can’t go wrong with chocolate cake.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy's bowl.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy’s bowl.

However, you obviously haven’t heard about my luck with making birthday cakes. It’s so bad that I’ve dubbed it: “The Great Birthday Cake Curse”!! For some strange reason, every single birthday cake I’ve ever made has been cursed, doomed, even double-doomed, as all sorts of dreadful complications set in.

Yet, with the precision of a surgeon, I painstakingly restore the cake and save the day.

Hey, who am I kidding?

There’s nothing precise about me in the kitchen. Rather, I’m very “slap dash”, whacking on the icing to camouflage near-fatal, structural craters, which are so deep that you could hide a semi-trailer inside…even an entire road train!!

Yet, despite these devastating catastrophes, I overcame the hurdles and had that cake out on the plate, candles alight with everybody singing “Happy Birthday”.

My husband’s uncle, who was a builder, always used to say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is being able to cover up their mistakes. Looking at how I’ve patched up my cakes, I can’t help wondering how many houses down in NE Tasmania are being held together by lumps of icing? It’s one of the world’s greatest gap fillers!!

Despite my birthday caketastrophes, I’m renowned for my scrumptious pavlovas and choc-chip cookies. Indeed,  when I took my choc chip cookies to scouts recently, I was quite the pied piper attracting throngs of little admirers. Indeed, after seeing the cookies in action, I decided to throw out my copy of How To Win Friends & Influence People and simply hand out cookies instead.

This only compounds my confusion. What’s the deal with the birthday cakes? Why do I have so much trouble? Who knows? It remains one of life’s great mysteries!

No doubt being more practical than yours truly, I can hear you wondering why I don’t just buy a cake instead? Why do I keep torturing myself birthday cake after agonising birthday cake? Talk about a masochist!

Well, if you have ever made a birthday cake for someone you love, you’ll know precisely why I have to make these @#$% birthday cakes myself. That’s right. I add that magic ingredient…my love. You can’t buy, manufacture or even fake that and it’s not something you can buy off the supermarket shelf!

So here I am the night before Mister’s big 11th birthday expecting a tribe of friends at his party. The cakes have been baked without incident.  Everything is proceeding exceptionally well.

That was until it came to whipping the cream . A relatively simple task but that’s what turned the tide. Actually, make that whipping the low-fat lactose-free cream. Mister and other family members are lactose intolerant. I was concerned that being low-fat might be a problem but I’m ever the optimist.

I’d been beating the absolute crap out of the cream and it was still sploshing around like milk in the bowl when it should have been resembling butter, if not cheese. It had also splattered  absolutely all over the bench, anything parked on it and all down my shirt. That was when I dug out my magnifying glass and had a closer look at the label. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be.  Oh my goodness! There it was. “Not suitable for whipping”. The cake was doomed. The party was doomed.Disaster!!!

It was 11.00PM. The shops were shut and I had two cakes which desperately needed to be sandwiched together. In my desperation, I thought the caramel might just be enough. Being my usual Einstein self, I thought that if I scooped the thicker layer of cream off the “milk” and mixed it with the caramel, to put it good old colloquial Australian lingo: “she’ll be right, mate”.

However…

Instead of bulking up the caramel, the cream almost turned it liquid.  My only hope was that it would fill up the bubbles in the cake before it ran off the edge and onto the plate. Taking a chance, I hoisted up the second layer of cake and prayed it would stay put, despite slipping and sliding around on roller skates. My only hope now was that the chocolate ganache would hold the cake together against all odds.

Not to be deterred by my humble prayers, catastrophe followed catastrophe and if I hadn’t developed resilience from all my previous birthday cake disasters, there would have been tears, loud wailing and unceasing sobs  as I cried and cried and cried….the world’s biggest loser of a Mum!

It might not be my party, but I’ll cry if I want to!! You would cry too if this had happened to you!

I'm not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

I’m not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

It’s My Party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCPqaG8sVDE

 

Then and I guess you can see it coming, the @#$% cream stuffed up the ganache, which was sploshing like a chocolate milkshake. Desperate, I added cup after cup of icing sugar, trying to thicken it up. I’d poured in half the bag and it was still looking sloppy but at least, it was holding some shape. I poured the “ganache” over the cake and I looking like a human pretzel, I crossed everything I had to boost my luck.

But no! The ganache flowed over the top of the cake and kept going creating a moat around the poor, drowning cake. The river was so deep, you could literally kayak through it. Definitely not the look I was looking for so I started bailing the ganache out with a ladle and not unsurprisingly, it sploshed all over the bench and that’s when I found the dog not unsurprisingly underfoot.

This is where the birthday cake curse worked in my favour. Not being my first salvage operation, I had a few  tricks up my sleeve. In this instance, the answer had to be M & Ms. They cover up a multitude of sin. Although thanks to that wretched low fat lactose free “cream”, even they mucked up and were sliding down the cake. @#$%!!!

However, just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s salvation.

All's well that ends well.

All’s well that ends well.

I could have hugged one of my son’s friends. As he takes his first mouthful, he speaks up like a true Masterchef:

“I know what this is. It’s chocolate mouse!”

I’ve never been so thrilled. The chocolate ganache monster had a name and it was good.

Guess, it goes to show that you can’t go wrong with a chocolate cake after all!

By the way, here’s a past post about Birthday Cakes: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5947&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

Do you have any funny birthday stories to share? I’d love to hear them!!

xx Rowena

Birthday Cakes: Baking Your Own!

Rules are made to be broken but some rules are sacred.  Etched in stone. Set in concrete. Nonnegotiable. Beyond change.

For our family, that means baking our own birthday cakes.

That hasn’t changed but there has been what you might call “a deviation”.

The updated birthday cake book.

The updated birthday cake book.

As a little girl, Mum used to make cupcakes out of the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook along with a special cake out of the Australian Women’s Weekly Kids’ Party Cakes book.

I loved our old Sunbeam Mixmaster too and licking the beaters, scraping out the mixing bowl and stealing spoonfuls of mixture were also part of our cake baking ritual. That mixture was irresistible! As much as I thought cooking all that mixture was a crime, I used to love waking up on my birthday and seeing my cake. The cake was just as important as the presents…well, almost!

Miss licking the beaters  aged 2.

Miss licking the beaters aged 2.

I have always made my kid’s birthday cakes. It started out with a dreadful number 1 cake where the blue food colouring clashed with the melted white chocolate and the icing came out a revolting army green colour, instead of baby blue. More successfully, there was Humpty Dumpty (a chocolate Easter egg) sitting on a wall made out of chocolate sticks. There has also been an Alice in Wonderland cake. The most memorable cake of all probably had to be the Thomas the Tank Engine Cake where Geoff sculpted the cake with the electric carving knife and it was really tricky pulling that one off. Making these cakes has been fun, stressful and agonising but they were made by me with a bit of help from the kids and sometimes a lot of help from Geoff. They also had one very special, magic ingredient…Mummy’s love pouring straight from my heart. That’s what really made the cakes extra special…at least to me!

The Thomas Cake. I think I used sprinkles to cover up the cake crumbs in the icing.

The Thomas Cake. I think I used sprinkles to cover up the cake crumbs in the icing.

Well, this year I had to break with tradition. I ordered Mister a cake for his birthday party with my family on the weekend. When I first placed the order, I felt pretty dreadful about it although to be honest, I also felt a deep sense of relief. It was all taken care of and I didn’t need to get stressed, worry…nothing.

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I had met Cathy at one of my business networking meetings. I took her card never expecting to use it myself. After all, as I said before, I am the Cake Queen. I always make my own cakes and I never perceived a need. That said, I thought I’d probably pass her card on. I had seen one of her works of art and it was beautiful. As Mister’s birthday approached and I was busy and not feeling the best, that business card started to whisper in my ear. Mum and I started looking through Cathy’s web site and found a Lego Ninjaro Man Cake and showed it to Mister. He was beaming. He absolutely loved it! He really wanted that cake. It was special. He felt special and he felt loved. It didn’t bother him who made it. He was so happy that I became happy…even excited…looking forward to the grand arrival of our cake… a bit like the arrival of the Queen of Sheba!

At the same time, I still felt like a bit of a bad mother. I couldn’t even make a birthday cake for my boy. Shame! Shame ! Shame!

Mister aged 4 with an irresistible  chocolate smile.

Mister aged 4 with an irresistible chocolate smile.

But does my performance as a mother really depend on whether I actually bake the cake myself or is buying a cake really good enough or possibly even an improvement?

Moreover, when it comes to being a mum, should I really be talking about performance anyway? What do I have to do to prove my love for my son…or my daughter? Be some kind of performing seal? No, I’m human and a flawed human at that. We are all flawed but just like an opal, these supposed flaws are part of our intrinsic inner beauty and what makes us who we are…whether we like it or not. It’s how we we’ve been made. The way God intended us to be for some strange reason. I don’t know or understand why he didn’t make us all perfect so we didn’t have to battle these frustrating elements of imperfection. That’s just the way it is. The way we are. Perhaps, it’s to keep us humble. I don’t know.

You are possibly reading this and thinking back to my last post and my frustration with trying to get my pantry sorted out and how I had finally reached a state of acceptance. Although I was at least somewhat accepting of acceptance back then, I am now coming to appreciate that acceptance is more of a process. It’s like building up muscle. It takes time. You can’t just click your fingers and magically accept the way things are and stop fighting. It takes time for the warrior within to put down their spear and let go.

The Lego Ninja Man Cake made by Cathy.

The Lego Ninja Man Cake made by Cathy.

Cathy dropped the cake off at our place. The Lego Ninja Man was just fantastic and Cathy was beaming. She seemed really excited to meet the kids and be a part of our celebration. She also encouraged us to actually cut and eat the cake. The chocolate mud cake inside was beautifully moist and scrumptious and as she said, it was too good to waste. I should also mention that the cake was served up on a mirror tray, which created some fun effects for the photos.

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The birthday boy and his cake

The birthday boy and his cake

Everyone was really happy except the poor Lego man who was heard shouting: “My legs! My legs I can’t feel my legs!”

Perhaps, I should take a leaf out of Edith Piaf’s book: “No regrets”!

However…

As it turned out, I did actually manage to make the kids a joint birthday cake to take to Church on Friday night. Our kids’ birthdays are ten days apart and they ended up having a Happy 79th Birthday with their number 7 and 9 on the cake. This was a chocolate cake covered in lashings of chocolate butter icing and smothered in Smarties. It was a real success and was demolished very quickly. However, I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to make this cake when we ordered the birthday cake so I did go through a lot of mental hoops this week.

Happy Birthday Kids. The cake made by Mum.

Happy Birthday Kids. The cake made by Mum.

Some rules are just too hard to break!

A friend made this birthday cake for Mister's 2nd Birthday when Miss was only 10 days old.

A friend made this birthday cake for Mister’s 2nd Birthday when Miss was only 10 days old.

It was interesting going through my photos looking for images for this post because I found that despite my protests, this wasn’t the first birthday cake I’ve bought. Interesting how memory can spin a bit of fiction… A friend very kindly made this cake for Mister’s second birthday when we were juggling the new baby.

I’d love to hear your stories.

xx Rowena