Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We're all mad here.

I've had Alice in Wonderland on the brain, of late.  I'm working on some Alice skits with my theater kids, and singing Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" in the upcoming "rock-n-roll show" (as Milo likes to call it)(and here's hoping I don't get the two confused and start freaking the kids out with my Grace Slick impersonation).  So I thought it would be a fun time to revisit Max's second birthday.

If you know Max, you may be surprised to learn that there was, in fact, a time when he wasn't quite so Max-y.  By age 2, his unique set of character traits had only just started to emerge.  He was just coming into the costume craze that is still going strong today, he was not really aware of Disney or characters or movies or any of that (although by his second birthday, he had made his first trip to WDW, the trip that marks the beginning of our traveling-to-Disney-mania).  He loved two things: music and flowers.  He could walk you all around the backyard, naming every flower and plant he could spot.  Hibiscus, gardenia, salvia.  Hyacinth, coneflowers, acuba, lantana.  It got to the point where *I* was asking *him* what stuff was, and he was regularly wowing/amusing/boring-to-tears visitors to our backyard with his incredibly comprehensive backyard tours.  Yeah, it was kinda weird. But very endearing.

Anyway...where was I going with this?  Right. The second birthday party.  Max's birthday is in late April, so we knew we would do an outdoor event, and I was trying to think of a way to include his love of flowers without it being too....odd. I wonder now why I even cared, but, well, I was a lot younger then, too.  Several months earlier, my sister had introduced us to a band called (at the time) the Mad Tea Party, which Max and I both just loved, so I guess the idea for the party grew from several sources of inspiration, none of which were actually Disney OR Lewis Carroll related.

Yes, I am actually telling you that I am describing a party called Max's Mad Tea Party, and there are not going to be any White Rabbits or girls in blue pinafores.  I'm a little shocked, myself.  (Although I could, and probably will, tell you about another party I helped throw, called Allison's Wonderland.  That's when I began my short-lived obsession with hummus landscapes.  Now I KNOW you're intrigued, right?)

So one sunny day, a couple of weeks before the party, we set out to make the invitations:

Pre-Pinterest Pinterest-fail.

Here's a great example of real-life vs. the internet, right?  What I was going for vs. what I was able to achieve.  I made the lettering too big, maybe, or my kid just wasn't cooperating the way the kids that live in the internet do, or I had the completely wrong camera or I don't know, but somehow I couldn't get the right angle AND get all the writing in AND get my kid in the photo and actually be LOOKING at me, and never mind the awkward bit of garage in the background....I finally just went with the least-worst of about forty photos I took that afternoon, and called it a day.  I really just need a professional photographer to follow me around at all times, it would make my life so much easier.

I like outdoor parties in the spring, because 1) it always motivates us to do a lot of yard word and get everything looking really spiffy, and 2) when everything looks really spiffy out there in the yard, I don't have to do a whole lot of other decorating.  Our yard is a lot more whimsical these days than it was back then, with more yard art and mature plants, but no matter, it still looked pretty sweet in that late April 2007.  I just added some of Max's favorite "daisy flowers" and tied some helium balloons to the fence.

Squee!! Baby Max.

Back then, we didn't really know too many other people who had kids the same age as Max, so most of the little guests were a bit older than he was.  So maybe some of the activities I had set up for the party were a little old for the guest of honor, but I felt it necessary to at least try to entertain the older kids.

We have a small fenced in area in the yard, so that was set up with big buckets of bubble solution, a play tent, rubber balls, ribbon sticks, percussion instruments, basically anything I could think of that was fun and whimsical and engaging.

Spiderman gets a lesson in ribbon-twirling.

I had buckets of sidewalk chalk all over the driveway (we have a VERY long driveway) which interested both big and little guests.  I also had a painting station, with some butterflies to paint with water colors:

Water-colored butterfly.
 Max's birthday gift that year was the transformation of a large, leftover-from-the-previous-owner-and-unused-by-us planting bed into a sandbox, which we filled with all manner of sand toys:

and all of that stuff really kept the kids occupied, without any organized games.  Well, occupied until the older kids threw someone's shoes in the lake, anyway.

Where I had the most fun with this party was far and away the FOOD.  As always, am I right?  In keeping with the *mad* theme, I prepared a backwards lunch.  We had cake first, then pizza.

Don't YOU decorate cakes with peas and carrots?

The cake was meatloaf, frosted with mashed potatoes.  I KNOW. In the background, you can also spy a few variety was turkey meatloaf, and one was a walnut/mushroom/swiss cheesey loaf kinda thing I put together based on a couple of different recipes.  I want to say the main cake was four layers, but maybe it was three.  I used silicone baking pans and cups to prepare all of the cakes, which made it very easy to get them OUT of the pans without them breaking apart.  And, in the interest of full-disclosure, I used *shudder**gasp* instant mashed potatoes for the frosting, for its superior smoothness and glue-like tendencies.

Looks gourmet, no?

The pizzas were cookies.  One was sugar, one was chocolate chip, and yes, I used refrigerated dough.  This is where I remind you that it was 2007.  I rolled and smushed and otherwise coerced the dough into a pizza shape on top of my favorite baking stones, and baked halfway, before removing them from the oven and slathering them with jam (I think one was raspberry and one was strawberry). Or preserves, maybe?  Whichever one has less water, I didn't want the cookies to get soggy.  Finished baking, and then added the big slices of fresh mozzarella.  Which was really very very soft cream cheese frosting, that required very delicate application to make it even slightly look like slices of cheese.  Sprinkled a bit of chopped fresh mint over the top, and popped them both into pizza boxes that we got from our friend at the local pizza shop.

All kinds of characters attended this party, many in costumes or other silly outfits, which added to the fun:

Aunt Bertrisha and Cousin Allis can always be counted
on to get into the spirit of things.

The ever-enthusiastic Adrian, he'll do anything for his kids,
that's for sure.
All in all, it was a relaxed, colorful and yes, slightly mad celebration of my little two year old free spirit.  The kids departed with Unbirthday presents of their own, colorfully wrapped packages containing ribbon sticks and a cd mix we made of Max's favorite songs du jour.  

When we were cleaning up, I came across Max's easel, a gift from his aunt and uncle, with a parting message from some young guest written on it.  I didn't erase it for days, and even now, I remind myself of this photo every time I feel like throwing a party is too much hassle.

Kids say the darndest things :)


  1. So clever! I LOVE all the cute details, especially the adorable meatloaf cake. So glad I stumbled on your blog (on BlogHer) you have a great fresh take on things.

    1. Thank you! I finally decided to stop having Pinterest-envy and just be proud of what *I* can do :)


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