Yet another birthday party!

"Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear U... and F....., Happy Birthday to you!"

Last Friday we hosted a combined birthday party for both our boys though their real birthdays were in the last week of March. Born 4 years and 2 days apart, we have always given a joint party for the two of them ever since my younger son turned one. I would have preferred to have the party on their real birthday, makes it so much more meaningful, but then we had to postpone it since most of their friends were on a holiday, it being a long Easter break in school.

A little more than a month before the party, I sent out tentative dates to check on availability before confirming the actual party date. Once I started receiving the responses, I firmed up the date and time and then focussed on finalising the venue. I did not want to have my party in an external catered place because first they have an unreasonable charge and secondly with all their time and other restrictions it doesn't feel like your own party any more. Besides I was brimming with ideas about the party, all set for the hard work ahead! So we booked the multi-purpose room in our own building at the podium level which extends into an open green space with an outdoor playground and a pool. We have had barbecues there earlier and they have all worked out perfectly well. There is also an indoor playground just in case of bad weather. So convenience, affordability and facilities were all given a thumbs up! Since my elder son wanted a football party and the venue did not offer that convenience, the next task was to book the public football ground down the road. The facility is for free but needed pre-booking where I got lucky and secured the time slot that I wanted! That done, my son's own football coach agreed to be the Head coach for his football party which was a blessing as he is brilliant in his field. Of course having 10 boys to manage, my husband became a willing sub-coach. For my younger one, I thought of just doing some traditional party games by myself specially since I knew all his school kids so well, but as the days drew close I fretted about everything  and then wondered if I would be able to handle everything myself. I mean its always easier to outsource and then enjoy the party yourself. So I started calling up bouncy castle companies, balloon makers, entertainers only to learn that each one cost a bomb for just one hour of fun! I reverted back to my original idea and started thinking of games I could make them play bouncing off the ideas with my little one. "I don't like passing the parcel, or 4 corners, or musical statues, I don't want a party." The last one was because his best friend at school was on an extended holiday and hence couldn't come for the party. I gave up and just bought some extra gifts as prizes in case he changed his mind about the games.

That done I focussed my attention to the party details specially the cake that I was going to bake! I had been given anorder for a Gangnam style cake from both my sons. "Shall we just order a cake from outside?" I tested them, promptly I got the reply that I wanted to hear "No Mummy, you make it!" While I was glad that my sons had full confidence in my abilities I wasn't too excited about making Psy, I mean he or his song are not really my favourites and I started bouncing off other ideas to my kids. "Maybe a Pirate cake?" "No!" "Maybe a car!" "No!" again. A few days later we went for a short one night stay to Macau where we took both of them to the Titanic exhibition. It was meant more for my elder son, but somehow the iceberg and the eventual sinking of the ship caught the younger one's attention and after he came back he did not need any coaxing into changing his cake design to The Titanic! Now that got my full attention and interest and I started getting myself acquainted with the cake design using Google and you tube videos. Meanwhile I also started thinking about the menu, listed down names and calculated expected numbers.

Now while all this planning was going on the weather kept deteriorating day after day. Starting in the end of March it started getting quite windy, cloudy with no sun in sight for days together and we witnessed thunderstorms after thunderstorms. I tried not to worry too much since our party was still a good two weeks away and I continued working on it.

I sent out another detailed email to all the mums giving the location, explaining logistics. We had got a good number by then 25 kids plus siblings and 20 adults! It was definitely worth waiting for school to begin, I thought. I also went shopping for the cake decorations - boards, boxes, icing colours, tubes, candles, anything that could be bought and stored. This is when I also learnt that you could do something called a 'photosheet' which is basically print your desired image on edible sugar paper. Our man Psy - Gangnam style was quickly taken care of with the photosheet option! So now I only had the Titanic to think about.

2 weeks to go

Shopping for the Titanic. I went around super markets trying to find biscuits, candies, crackers in shape of lifeboats, railings, people, windows and whatever I could see in photographs of the ship of dreams. We also got a big book about the Titanic from the library. I also started getting organised with other non-perishables - cutlery, foil dishes, paper napkins, return gifts. My limited storage space at home was already narrowing down and I had to alert my very sweet, considerate and extremely helpful neighbour that I might have to use her fridge and kitchen space before the party! I also finalised the menu and listed down the ingredients that I would need.

1 week to go

It was still raining....hard...without a moment's respite! I downloaded the HK observatory app on my phone and put it on an hourly update. 'Rain is coming your way' it would say letting out 2 beeps. Those beeps would make my heart palpitate as the days drew closer. Forecast for the day of the party showed 'Cloudy with a one or two rain patches'. Wish they would have given the time for the rain patches too! I continued my shopping trips and now started buying most the food stuff like sausages, carrots, chicken, etc. The hard part was deciding on the quantity. This is one thing that I haven't mastered yet even after all the parties we have hosted over the years. I am quite regulated with everyday shopping and cooking making sure nothing goes back into the fridge but for a party my mind goes into the reserve mode, that everything should have a few extras, just in case my guests are really hungry, as if they are never going to get food after that! Thankfully a dear friend helped me out on this one by giving me quantities vs the number of people calculation that she used in her parties. Now that's what I call super organising and her numbers helped me cut down on so many things! That and also my husband's inputs who would try to halve the numbers of everything that I wanted to buy or make.

3 days before

I bought the rest of the stuff including the juices, wine, cheese, bread and fruits. We also pre-ordered the pizzas and the Mc Donald nuggets and fries. I made lists, after lists, after lists of everything - my attempt at getting organised.

2 days before

I was all excited. The construction had to begin. I had decided to bake the Gangnam style cake myself at home, while I used ready-made cakes for the Titanic. I had already identified a rectangular sponge cake at the super market and bought 11 of them the day before. You tube video on, printed photo in front of me and an ordinary toy boat by my side, I started carving the base pieces for the ship. When I put them together I realised that the cake board I had made at home was not going to be enough for the large ship. So I left everything the way it was and literally ran to my local stationery shop for more cardboard. They had bigger sheets but not too thick to withstand the Titanic so I kept hunting in the shop till I found a board which was actually a carton but flat packed. It was the perfect size too. Having no other choice I just went ahead and bought it. It was a steal at $10! I hurried back home and started work again. I had promised myself not to keep nibbling on the cake in-between but 2 hours into it and with all the nice baking aroma, I couldn't resist tucking in a few pieces. 

I continued working right through my lunch which was tinned mushroom soup from Marks and Spencer. It was already one when I started with the icing, mixing colours, fluffing it up again. I did not realise that the most difficult colour to make would be black. It took up almost the whole bottle of black icing colour to make it look like black and not grey. A lesson to be learned is to start the icing process on the top and with lighter colours first. Icing done the most exciting part began when all my decorations had to be used. Candies became lifeboats, spiral biscuit straws became the smokestacks, while pretzels became railings and chocolate buttons sent by my aunt from London became the most decorative part - the windows! I took a minute's break and stepped back to view it, yes it did look like a ship and if I was kind to myself then a bit like The Titanic too! I finished off with writing the Happy Birthday with blue icing and used chocolate Pretz for the mast, the letter F and also to write the TITANIC. All done, time to pick up my son from school. Thank God he had an extended day today.

1 day before

I started fretting again and the cause was the weather. The weather forecast stayed almost the same for the next day. Thankfully I had a whole lot of work ahead which helped me not to think of the bad weather too much. I cut the fruits and made the fruit sticks, same for the carrot sticks. I also marinated the chicken and then carried some foodstuff to my neighbour's place to be refrigerated as my fridge was already packed! Thankfully my dear husband got some take-away dinner for us this night which saved me from any further work.

The day!

I woke up early wanting to go for my run but when I looked outside it was pouring! That completely deflated my elation about the big day today. I grabbed my phone and looked at the forecast for the day. It had changed slightly to 'Mainly cloudy with a few occasional morning showers,' the key word being morning! I was hoping it would pass out soon and I started with my work but it was hard to stay focussed as the rain continued outside. My husband tried to keep my spirits high saying that there was nothing we could do but also being very positive saying that it would all turn out fine, while a friend advised me to think positive and nothing but that! I was trying my best to listen to their advice keeping myself busy with work. Slowly and  steadily the rain did slow down to a drizzle and eventually stopped. The sky began to clear out too, the dark clouds giving way to lighter ones and with that my spirits rose! With renewed energy I stir-fried the chicken and the sausages and then sat along with my hubby to blow up the balloons. 

We also filled up two balloons with candies after which I went to the party room and decorated the room all by myself. I loved doing that and suddenly the sun came out, if only for 5 minutes, as if to let me know that all was well and that I need not worry anymore! Thank you God, I sent out a silent prayer.

It was 3 o'clock and my husband left to pick up my elder son from his school bus and along with him some of his friends who were coming straight from school. I marvel at mums who do parties at external venues like parks and playgrounds as just carrying all the stuff down three floors in a lift was so tiring, thankfully most of it was done by my husband!

4 o'clock: All set, I was ready for the party to begin! Slowly things started falling in place, the football coach arrived bang on time with the football gear, the boys were all ready to leave for the ground, some were coming directly directly to the pitch. 

"Look at that Mehroo!" said one the guests pointing to the sky, "How lucky can you get?" Almost everyone had something to say about the weather and I think all their prayers and good wishes had worked for me. 

After sometime I decided to try my luck in making the kids play some games. starting with the easiest party game - passing the parcel. They did reluctantly sit down in a circle, and over my shouts and cries the game began. But somehow the kids were not ecsatic about playing it. It was my favourite game as a kid and couldn't fathom their reluctance! I-pads would have got a very different reaction I am sure! After 15 long minutes of passing the parcel both the kids and I were happy that it was over! They ran away even before I could think of another game. I just left it at that. It was good that I did not book any entertainer or balloon artist, what a waste of effort and money that would have been! So now I just relaxed and had fun with my lady friends.

With them gone I could focus more on my mommy guests, while the little ones were happy playing by themselves. I finally took my first bite of chicken tikka and then gobbled down a few more before I reached for the sandwiches and then the fruit sticks...amazing how hunger pangs come through once the body is released of tension. 

5.45 The bigger boys were back from their match, my son holding up his arm to show me his injury. Thankfully nothing big and I noticed that the children had already surrounded the cake making their next activity quite clear! The pizzas and nuggets had been delivered too by then. I positioned by boys near their respective cakes, keeping my younger son in control as he was very hungry and was itching to lick the iceberg! "Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear U... and F...., Happy Birthday to you!"

Cake cut, 32 hungry boys and girls descended on the food. No prompting or coaxing required for that. All my friends helped out and since I had nothing better to do I had my first glass of wine! Now I could really relax while the party was put on auto-mode. The food which I had earlier thought was going to be wasted slowly started disappearing. The cake too! The bigger boys were quite loyal to Gangnam style while the younger ones wanted bits and pieces of the Titanic. Slowly the railings, the lifeboats, the windows were all tucked into hungry little tummies.

7.00 The party had settled down into smaller circles but I was glad that nobody was in a rush to leave. The best part I enjoy as a host is the last bit of my party, when all is done and I can finally sit back and chat! That's when I saw my little boy approach his iceberg which was still untouched and he did lick it this time. A friend took the whole piece out and served him on a plate. I did not intervene letting him enjoy it to his heart's content!

7.30 The first few guests started to leave and as I looked for the return gifts I spotted the candy-filled balloons which had been missed out all this while. I handed it over to my son who very willingly stamped on it to the shouts and cries of the kids who scrambled to the floor for the candies. Wish I had my camera then! In fact I wish I had taken a few more photos of the kids specially the older boys who were now dispersed everywhere. With the help of some friends we started clearing out stuff, leaving a few nibbles and wine which was enjoyed by the late-goers.

8.00 Party over. The tired but happy faces of all the children, the food and drinks all almost over, the relaxed faces and the compliments received from all the mums told me of a job well done, of a party well worth the effort! 

I think this is my third post about birthday parties, not intentional though! My other posts include:

My elder son's 1st birthday party
A bit about my own birthday parties all those years ago

This post is a part of ABC Wednesdays started by the wonderful Mrs. Nesbitt. P is for Parties.

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