Gabi’s 6th Birthday Minecraft Party!

On 4th July our biggest boy and beautiful, minecraft-crazy aspie, Gabs turned a big 6 years old!!! I can’t possibly have a 6 year old! I don’t understand it at all. But I pretended I accept that he really is 6, did his bidding and threw him a full-on Minecraft Pool Party. It was the hottest week of the decade so far in London, hitting 32 degrees and one of the school mums said, “Pleeeeease can you let them have a paddling pool party this Saturday?! It’s so hot!” With 4 days to go to the party and having zero activities planned for twenty Year One children, let alone anything minecraft related, I cried, “HELL, yeah!” without accounting for the fact we didn’t actually own a paddling pool.

The invitations were downloaded for free from a now defunct graphic-designer’s blog. Feel free to grab the jpg.

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The party started at 2:30 (which I correctly guessed was precisely the earliest minute I could get the party ready if I got up really early and worked all day.)

I basically planned this party by stealing ideas from other mum’s blogs found on pinterest. I plan all my kids’ parties by making a pinterest board, couldn’t do without it:

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The main feature of the party (apart from the pool) was probably the incredible grass-block cake made by the inimitable Michelle from May The Cake Be With You.

 

IMG_4704It looked amazing just as it was, but we also put some of Gabs’ minecraft figures on top and it was perfect. Michelle has made three cakes for me now and every single one exceeds my expectations. I heartily recommend her.

For the birthday boy we got this minecraft t-shirt to wear from Argos (but cheaper, through hotdealsuk) and the torches came I think from Amazon, from his Aunties Tara and Jen.

 

As we didn’t have a paddling pool, we had to nip out to ToysRUs for one and spend all night putting it up and then returning it for another one in the morning when it, of course, turned out to have a hole in it… We got it inflated and ready only just in time – man, those things take an age to fill! 5 hours to get it to the top. I don’t want to think how many gallons of water that is. But it was totally worth it:

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I had tried to give everyone warning to bring costumes but just in case I filled a tub with the boys’ spare costumes and another with dry t-shirts and shorts, and two big tubs for wet and dry towels. I also had a creeper bean-bag throwing game set up which was really easy to make with a load of green poster paint and a black marker and some minecraft beanie-toys to throw.

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Probably my favourite feature of the party was the playlist of minecraft songs I made for Gabs on YouTube. The most-requested by the whole family was “It’s All About My Base”, which we played so many times while I set up the party it became like the official theme tune for Gabi’s 6th Birthday:

It took me a while to figure out how, because I’m not very tech-savvy (hoping Gabs will step in and teach me sometime soon now he’s six) but I managed to link my youtube account to our TV in the living room and have the playlist of minecraft parodies of loads of current/recently popular hit songs with some really great animations playing when people arrived. It came in handy once they’d got cold and tired of the paddling pool as the living room became a bit of a dance floor. 

Most of my ideas for this party came from various blogs that I found via Pinterest, on my new favourite party-planning website Catch My Party. I had really hoped to link to the individual blogs that helped me but they all seemed to have moved around since I pinned them. If you browse Catch My Party you’ll come across them all.

One of the most useful was the free printables from Printabelle where I got food labels, a Happy Birthday Banner and some other small signs.

For the other decorations including the creeper-face cups and balloons, I used a template from My Sugar Coated Life. At first I tried the black marker like she suggested but this was a disaster probably because I had ridged cups and had only used paper instead of card. Instead, I used the template and black sugar paper from a local art shop and stuck the faces on with double sided photo stickers.

Possibly my favourite craft bit of the party was making the TNT party favours (which I just used as part of the party food) and they were probably the most popular “food” item too.


The party food was kind of random. I had already downloaded the food labels and went along with the general premise of only serving foods they actually have in the world of the game. Luckily the party was between mealtimes so it didn’t quite matter and the kids loved it. We had watermelon for minecraft melon, chicken nuggets, strawberries as redstone, carrots and apples, chocolate matchsticks as “sticks” and silver-coloured plastic cutlery as “diamond tools”. We had a sign from the free printables over the table saying “Party Food, Nom, Nom, Nom!” which my four year old found hilarious and parroted all day long. I still don’t quite get it.

The kids’ drinks were different cordials poured into empty water bottles with “healing potion” labels. I left the kids to mix their own with the water as a “Mixing Station” and served my parent-friends prosecco (never, EVER throw a kids party without it!), beers, juice and coke.

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Inside, I set up a “crafting table” with printouts of minecraft pictures for colouring, glue and loads of different gems and “ores” for sticking on and a minecraft lego set. I really added it just to have something “mine-crafty” indoors to carry the theme and was pleasantly surprised to find a few of the girls actually staying there a long while and making some arty stuff.

Once everyone had gone crazy in pool (oh, the screaming!), eaten all the food and had a dance to the minecraft songs, we did the cake.

The party bags were meant to have creeper faces on but I ran out of steam! At least they were green, and aswell as cake and sweets, had some crayon blocks that looked vaguely minecrafty and some plastic toys.

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And then since the kids were all having a pretty great time and we mums were getting pretty merry on the prosecco and it was a gorgeous sunny evening, we just kept the party going for a few more hours until it started to go dark and the kids were sleepy! It was a brilliant day. A lot of work to set up, but totally worth it. Gabs absolutely loved his party and all his friends ran up to me at school on Monday to tell me what a great time they’d had, so we might do it again next year!

 

 

Alcohol-free Until February!

1st January 2014 – I Go Alcohol-free!

I’ve been planning this for a long time, but I forgot to tell anyone save a few close friends and family. For some reason it’s important for me to blog about it before I start and I just have time to sneak a quick post in before 2013 closes, so…

After X no. of months (I’d rather not say how many but it’s more than 1 year) of drinking the obligatory “my kids are nuts, God-help-me!” glass of wine pretty reliably every night… errr, plus a bit, I decided that it’s become a little bit too much of a habit, nay – a  crutch! While I wasn’t concerned that it was an uncontrollable issue – I like my wine and have thus far been happy to indulge myself, but by nature once I’ve decided to do something I can be freakishly tenacious – it struck me that one shouldn’t have to exercise tenacity in order to have a few nights without a drink. If you do, it’s clearly no little luxury, more a way of life.

To be honest, it’s been a way of life that’s worked beautifully for me until now. Two boys less than two years apart was a crazy undertaking! and sometimes that glass of red was the only thing stopping me from blowing a gasket at bed time. But there’s only so many years you can use that excuse! Plus I wake up sooooo tired every morning, it costs a fortune and it’s definitely ageing (I can’t remember the last time I was I.D.’d in Sainsbury’s 😦 ) and actually, really I just got bored of it. It’s not that my wine consumption particularly worried me. Yes, I had that fleeting moment of thinking “God, I drink a lot of wine, maybe I’m an alcoholic!”. But then I realised alcoholics don’t leave a bottle of £16 Barbera to breathe for an hour while cooking, sniffing several times before tasting and skipping around the kitchen in glee…. (No,wine-snobs do – Oh God, that’s worse!) It’s just that I’m not really a fan of routine in any sense (my boys’ erratic schedules are testament to that!) and even pleasure gets boring after a certain amount of time. You can, indeed, have too much of a good thing…

It was, appropriately enough, in Wetherspoons that the idea struck me. The day before, I’d finished up some left over Indian tonic water from Remus’ birthday party to make room in the fridge (for more wine, probably! 😉 ) and the next day I had a ‘Mummy’s day-off haircut/shopping/read-a-magazine day’ all to myself. I rounded it off with a white-wine spritzer. As I sipped it, I felt vaguely disappointed thinking, “This doesn’t taste as nice as the tonic water I had yesterday”… in other words, “Why don’t I just have the spritz and not the wine if it tastes better?!” and boom! the ‘auto’ part of my automatic drinking was blown open.

The other part of my impulse to stop was just that I’m a huge fan of taking stock of my life on a regular basis, from my routines, to my relationships, to belief systems – my own and inherited ones – in other words, leaving as little hidden in my subconscious as possible, living from a place of conscious creation rather than unconscious reaction if that doesn’t sound too “kooky” – and New Year is one of my very favourite times to do this. So an alchohol-free start to 2014 seems like a really good idea and for at least the first two months – with one, and only ONE exception of my sister’s 40th birthday party on 4th Jan – I will not imbibe, inhale or intravenously inject any alcoholic beverages into my system!

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Now, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. If it was, then I wouldn’t need this Pinterest board of nice non-alcoholic drinks ideas as inspiration, nor would I be making such a meal of it in this extended sympathy/support-garnering blog-post. I just know that I’m going to do it and it’s a great idea! It seems lots of other people think it’s a good idea too as I’ve just been introduced to the idea of Alcohol Concern’s Dry January by a friend who’s joining in and raising money for charity. I’m not joining in with this, partly because this is a mission that’s very personal to me and I don’t quite feel like making it a group  effort this time, also I’m doing it for at least two months not one (after which I’ll introduce alcohol back in on a far less than daily basis!). This for me, isn’t a New Year’s resolution, or something to do every year as a detox. For me, it’s a larger cycle body and mind reset, taking me back to my pre-parenting days when a drink was not a daily ritual but something to have at a party or on a dinner date. Also, I partly don’t feel like asking for sponsorship for this as I have some special fundraising events planned in 2014 (Gradeoneathon for Children in Crossfire and for The Lullaby Trust) and I don’t want people to get bored of me asking them for money before then. But it’s still nice to know I won’t be the only one going alcohol-free in the New Year and I wish everyone doing Dry January lots of luck!

Bring on 1st January. I’m really quite excited!

Messy play for Matilda Mae – Butterfly Sun-catchers

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I’m not sure how messy this was, but we definitely thought of Matilda Mae while making them! I like to think she’s in not only the rain but the sun shining on us and the first time I ever played the violin in her name, at a Classical Babies concert, a huge ray of sun shone through the stained-glass window of the church we were playing in, lighting up only my music stand and only for the movement that I dedicated to her, before disappearing for the rest of the concert at the last line of the piece. I felt that she was coming to say hello and I do associate her with sunshine still now. So stained-glass effect, beautiful, coloured sun-catcher butterflies just had Baby Tilda written all over them for me!

I saw this idea on pinterest yesterday and it’s not like me to actually do any of the things I pin so I feel pretty proud of myself! I’m also proud of myself because today is not going very well, parenting-wise and I need a break from my kids so bad! – just for a couple of hours – so brownie points to me for persevering with trying to turn a bad day good (if only to balance out the points I lost by shouting and drinking wine before 5pm…)

The idea itself is pretty simple but some of the steps are quite fiddly to execute, especially cutting out the holes in the template. I don’t know what I was thinking when I imagined Lucian would be joining in with this! We put Peppa Pig on for him to watch and he happily left us to it. So Gabs and I got on with it. To start I printed, onto the black card, the butterfly template from minieco.co.uk and drew around the outline in white pencil so Gabi could see well enough to cut it out himself (with his cute giraffe safety scissors which he loves!)

Apart from clipping the top off one of the wings and me doing the antennae for him I thought he did a great job. While I was cutting mine he got bored and drew around one of the other templates with the white pencil, also pretty neatly for a three year old.

 

Then he had to hand over to me to use the craft knife and the cutting board. This was the fiddly, slightly time-consuming bit. Gabs got bored and watched TV. I wasn’t amazing at this to start with (and figured it best to start with his so it merged better with his wobblier outline – it did look like a three year old did it to begin with!) but by the time I got to mine I’d got steadier.

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The most fun part, from Gabs’ point of view was putting the glue on the template and sticking the strips of coloured tissue paper on in a rainbow-pattern. Then we had to wait patiently for the glue to dry which gave him time to get sent to bed for more naughtiness, whatever it was… there have been that many things today, I can’t remember.

After dinner, probably the best bit… we cut round the butterfly outline to get rid of the excess tissue paper and voilà: beautiful butterflies!! Gabs was delighted with them, especially once we strung them up to hang and twirl at the window and catch what little light there is today. Can’t wait to see them when the sun comes out, hopefully tomorrow!

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