The 2017 Elf Tour – Days 6 – 10

The last week has zoomed by in a flurry of jam-making, jam-labeling and panic shoe-buying – Midi is now suddenly the tallest of the minxes and her beautiful little duck feet are growing like Jack’s beanstalk. She hates her feet because we struggle to get shoes that fit her width-ways and narrow heels. I gave her a wee foot massage to quietly show her that her feet don’t disgust me in the way she seems to view them. Poor kid – she has such pretty feet that are so silky-soft and flexible. (OK, so she can do that crazy rubbing of independent toes thing that is freaky and unnatural, but apart from that!!)

What Midi had originally written on the board

On Day 7, I was inspired by Midi’s chalkboard. She’s taken to writing ‘Fun Facts’ on it that me and her Dad giggle over at night. So we rubbed out that night’s and put an Elf message up instead, and added things like “…on you, ha ha ha!” after the photo was taken. I tell you, though, it took ages for the kids to link the sight of an Elf holding a bit of chalk with anything on a chalkboard…

Day 9 was me and The Boss tidying up. I’d previously made some wrapped branch / twig things as decorations that I liked but never got around to hanging on a wall. In a hurried tidy-up, some of the twigs got snapped off and were left dangling by the yarn. So I went the whole hog and snapped it up. The Boss added the paper flames. The younger minxes were like “OMG Edbie’s destroyed some of Mummy’s work!!” while Maxi just gave us the ‘you are so cracked, you loser’ eye-roll.

The 2017 Elf Tour – First 5 Days

I’ve been a bit distracted the past couple of weeks – I got an unexpected day off work (freelance craft teaching) so instead I decided it would be a hoot to set up an additional small work-at-home business jam-making. Reading, understanding and complying with all the legislation was more than a tad time-consuming… Hooray for the ability to hyper-focus for hours on end, then! (And hooray for getting it set up and the go-ahead from Environmental Health so quickly – this week alone I’ve got an unexpected boiler repair and car electrics breakdown to fund. Meh).

Still, with Mini Minx being only 7 and totally in the Santa and Elf and all-things-magic zone, me and The Boss couldn’t really skimp on Elf antics. None of them took longer than 3 minutes to set up, though, I promise – I’m no high-achiever ūüėÄ

Heeeeeee’s Back!

It’s Dec 1, so it’s the Trout Family Tradition that the Elf comes back sometime in the afternoon. This’ll be the 6th year, now. You can read about previous elfy-antics in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016¬†if you need to catch up on the running story…

So I spent the afternoon trying to find the blasted thing: Edbie, mutant love-child of Barbie and Edward, and nephew of the psychotic Edwinn. Finally found and dusted off, I taped him to the outside of the back door, clutching his wee note from Santa, right before I had to pick up the minxes from school.

See? Takes up pretty much the whole of the window. Blots out the light. See it for miles. You’d think…

They came skittering and skidding home in a desperate rush to find any elf at all. They looked around the usual hiding places from previous years. Nothing. They circled the house (missing the taped-up elf. It’s only bright red and about 14″ tall…). They looked crestfallen and rejected. Mini and Maxi the Eternal Optimists headed off for a bit of sledging, confident that at least one elf would appear before bedtime; Midi mooched around the house with a sad face on.

Taking pity on her, I pointedly sent her to feed Killer Cat because the cat’s food bowl is kept next to the back door. I waited for an excited squeal from Midi when she spotted the elf. Nothing. She hadn’t noticed. Hmph. I got on with making dinner in the kitchen. Maxi came in. I asked her to go change Killer Cat’s water (I never ask her to do that). She did (she never complies with requests like that normally). She didn’t notice the elf. Mini came home. Ah, Mini, my most observant child! I sent her to check on Killer Cat’s kibble. Nothing. She didn’t see it. She came in and moaned about it getting dark and there being no elves. Then she asked where I’d put her schoolbag. “On top of the washing machine”, I lied. She went to the back door and looked, but still didn’t see the elf.

By this stage I was wondering if it had fallen off or gone invisible!

“Muuuuuum, where’s my water bottle?” called Mini.

“I put it right next to the boiler. Right beside the back door!” I yelled back, getting desperate now. Mini went and looked, failed to see the bloody elf one inch from her face, and came back muttering about how forgetful I was.

Clutching at straws, I got all 3 girls to go round the entire house, closing all the blinds and windows. Nope, still nothing. Obviously no red and white detection filters happening there.

I collared Midi and pretty much frog-marched her towards the back door. I distracted her with a little smoke and mirrors – “Midi, there’s something in your room I want to talk to you about”, then paused as we went past the back door, did a comedy double take, then made as if to continue walking towards her room. Of course she followed my gaze (oh, I’m good) and said, “Hang on, Mummy, what’s that on the window?”

Oh hallelujah! At last! I can cancel the emergency appointments for all 3 girls at Specsavers!

She walked right up to the window and let out a scream.

“Edbie! Oh, he’s here! Maxi, Mini, Maxi, Mini, he’s here!!!!”

They ripped off the tape, tore off his muzzle (as I knew they would), *then* read the letter from Santa.

They’ve spent the evening warning Edbie to behave while Maxi’s away at her first Scout camp. I took her into my confidence while I blew-dry her hair about why I was so desperate to get the kids to the back door this evening. We had a right chortle about how difficult it was to get someone, anyone, to spot the elf!

So: Night 1 and it’s Friday and I’m missing my Precious Firstborn and wine is about to be imbibed. How bad will Edbie’s antics be tonight, I wonder…?

Santa No More

Maxi finally asked me outright, “Is Santa real?”

The Boss and I agreed long ago, when we created our family Christmas traditions, that if one of the minxes ever asked outright about Santa that we’d not blatantly lie to them: we’d either distract them if they were very young or it was very close to Christmas (“I think I can hear sleigh bells! Shhh!”) or come clean about the Santa myth if they were old enough or very persistent.

Maxi’s 11. It’s October (this wee bombshell hit on 25 Oct 2017). Moving up to High School this summer with a belief in Santa might be even more socially disadvantaging than just being our kid. OK then…

It’s not like it was completely out of the blue, to be fair. Last year, Maxi had asked me whether Santa was real. I’d replied with my usual, “What do you think?”to play for thinking time, then instead answered her second, back-up question: “Do you make the Santa videos?” I’d admitted that one and explained that Santa was too busy to make an individual reply to every child, so yes, the parents helped. And yes, I’d made the videos. I’d waited for her to re-ask the first Big Question, and I was ready to answer honestly, but she hadn’t.

So: I shut down the laptop, took a deep breath, pulled up my Big Responsible Mum pants and went for it. I asked my usual playing for time question (What do you think?) and half-listened while I frantically thought. I walked her into the living-room, closed the door, and steeled myself to crush the innocence of my firstborn.

Melodramatic? Hahaha. Well, only a bit.

(Recall Old Info) I started by asking her why she thought her parents made the Santa videos every year. She flanneled for a bit, playing for time herself, then eventually said that it was to make her and her sisters feel special and loved and in the middle of some wonderful magic.

Oooh, I think she’s helping me out! This might go ok!

(Analogy) Then I reminded her that Jesus probably did exist a few thousand years ago, and was probably a very, very nice man indeed, and that his ideals and stories had grown eventually into Christianity today.

(Relate to New Info)¬†“In the same way”, I said, eyeballing her, “Santa probably lived once upon a time. He was probably a really lovely, giving man. He may or may not have been truly magic. And in the time ever since, the ideas and stories about him have been cherished and kept alive by parents all over the world who want to make Christmastime as special for their children as it once was in Santa’s day.”

Maxi snuggled into my arms and hid her face from me. Oh-oh…

(Re-state New Info)¬†“So although Santa isn’t a real, live man anymore, he really does have millions of Santa’s helpers, all helping to make his magic come true. Except they’re not actually little elves: they’re parents. We all love our children so very much that we make Santa’s magic happen every year. We’re one huge, big team of Santa’s helpers.”

Her little shoulders shook and she cried. This wasn’t going very well.

(Check Understanding)¬†“And now I think we have our newest recruit – you!” She sobbed. Aw, pants. This really wasn’t going well.

We hugged. I asked her how she felt. She admitted that she’d not been surprised, and that she was glad that I’d told her the truth, but she was sorry to know it.

I recalled how I’d found out about Santa when I’d asked my mum outright, on a dark, frosty 2 mile walk to the shops at night with her, aged 10. Unusually we’d been on our own so I grabbed the chance to ask – she’d probably engineered it! – and how I’d felt crushed and relieved and grown-up and trusted and shattered, all in the same moment.

I spent the next half hour bigging up parents’ role as Santa helpers. Maxi was worried that Christmas had lost its magic. I reassured her that although the innocent specialness of believing in Santa’s magic was finished for her, it wasn’t actually gone – it was just changing into a different kind of magic. I¬†nearly¬†wittered on about the Magic of Giving, but I reigned that whole crock o’ nonsense right in. I explained that she’d still wake up on Christmas morning and not know what she’d been given for Christmas. She’d still get a video from Santa that would make her feel loved. She would still feel excited on the whole run-up to the big day.

She thought for a while. “So do you do the elves?” she asked, smiling mischievously now.

“God, yeah!” I snorted, as her eyes widened. “That’s sooooo much fun! One of the best bits about Christmas”. I told her that she’d also still get to wake up every morning of December and rush out of bed to discover what they’d been up to because no, she absolutely wasn’t a helper on¬†that¬†team.

“Mum, how can you do all that to your house every night?!” she gasped in horror. Hahahahahaha! I didn’t tell her about all the alcohol involved…

We had a long talk about how she should handle her younger sisters asking her whether Santa was real or not¬† – they know I’m a Master of Distraction, and that Maxi never lies. Ever. Mini can imitate the ‘Lying Face’ her family and friends each make when they’re telling porkies, but she stated that Maxi doesn’t have one because she never lies. And she’s right!

I stressed that every parent weaves their own family Santa myth to best fit their children, to make their children’s Christmas as perfect and magical as they possibly could, but how those might vary. We discussed how, as a helper in Santa’s Grotto at the school fair next month, she could start being a Santa helper by being very sensitive to the slightly different family traditions and not give the game away.

Finally, Maxi asked who ate the mince-pie left out on Christmas Eve. She was quite crest-fallen when I told her that it wouldn’t be her; she was only a brand new Santa Helper and that this year, if she showed great promise, she might be allowed to nibble the carrot. Me and The Boss hate that part, so wahey, that’s the silver lining in this child’s milestone cloud!

And the title of this post? Well, fast-forward to minute 3:04 of the Proclaimers’ video and listen to the end. That was my earworm as I sat and told The Boss later what I’d just done, and that it was¬†his job next time!

Mini Pamper Session

Mini Minx’s eczema flared up really badly yesterday – possibly in reaction to a brilliant day out at the swimming pool, possibly because it’s just one of those things. Anyway, she certainly didn’t react well to me approaching her with the big bottle of gloopy moisturiser and corticosteroid ointment!

As I slathered and winced at her squeals, she railed about how it was so unfair that she only got huge bottles of moisturiser while her friends were allowed to wear make-up at weekends and go to beauty salons with their mothers. I took a lot of this with a bucket-load of salt (her friends are only 6 and 7 years old), but it did give me an idea for a cunning plan to disguise my intensive Sort Out The Eczema Fast regime: give her a home spa morning.

Maxi and Midi were packed off to a nearby bouldering wall with their Dad to have some fun while Mini and I prepared my bedroom for her ‘Girly Morning’: Mini fetched her CD player and chose some of her favourite music from Maxi’s music collection (shhhhh, don’t tell Maxi!), while I set up a comfy massage area.¬†I put a pillow on the end of the bed and covered that with a plastic bin liner (really important!), then 2 towels. I used another, soft towel as a cover, and had yet another on hand as a turban for Mini’s hair.

Even though I was prepared for a lot of mess, I tell you, it was apocalyptic. Mini is a delicate, gentle wee soul and I’m not heavy-handed with gunge but it still got absolutely everywhere. So if you’re going to do this with your child too, accept right now that you’re going to have to do an entire full machine washload of towels on ‘hot’ immediately afterwards. Do have a bin within reach and lots of paper towels / flannels / wipes to catch and dispose of all the goop.

The smile was a happy coincidence

First I got Mini to mix up her own hair mask. She has very coarse, dry, brittle hair so Professor Google advised whisking up the following:

  • 1 egg yolk;
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil;
  • 1 tablespoon of honey.

She undressed, then I dampened her hair. I plastered the mask all over her hair then tried to massage it into her scalp. She didn’t like that, possibly because the mix was cold and possibly because the honey made it a bit sticky. Next time I’ll just use greasy coconut oil on its own! Or maybe plain old vegetable oil. The amount listed was just right to cover her head. I then wrapped her hair with the turban, laid her back on the bed, covered her up and instructed her to chill out while I made up her face mask.

Mini complains that her face often gets ‘crispy’ bits on it: little patches of eczema. So based on the fact that she spent most of her babyhood smeared in banana with no ill effects, I mushed up a ripe banana with a tablespoon of honey then gently smeared it all over her skin. It was far, far too much and most went to waste – she only needed maybe an inch or 2 of banana. Next time she can eat the rest! I added the slices of cucumber because even at the age of 7 Mini’s bought into the perception, heightened by media pictures, that you can’t have a proper face mask without cucumber slices on your eyes. So on they went.

As she lay back and relaxed for 5 minutes, humming along to her favourite tunes, I slathered her entire body in handfuls of Epaderm cream. I’m glad her face and hair masks smelled so sweet – they covered up the sour, utilitarian smell of the moisturiser! Mini sighed with pleasure as I massaged her little fingers and hands. The look of that blissed-out little face made the whole shebang absolutely worth every second.

I didn’t want to leave the face mask on her sensitive skin for longer than 5 minutes, so wiped it off gently with a hot flannel. I then shampooed and conditioned her hair over the bath as normal. She snuggled in her favourite dressing gown while I tidied up, gasping in horror at the mess on the towels. The banana splashed *everywhere*, the egg yolk stained the turban, and the coconut oil soaked through 3 towel layers to the plastic bin liner – see? I said it was important! Mini helped tidy up by eating the cucumber slices. WeeeeeelI, why not? They’d only touched food-stuffs and her eyelids! Maybe she’d listened when I’d skeptically said that the masks would probably do her more good being eaten than plastered over the outside.

I blow-dried her hair, then helped her choose and paint on some finger- and toe-nail varnish, which is a special treat only allowed in the long school holidays.

Even an old cynic like me can see that the masks had an effect on Mini’s skin and hair, though. I think they’ll have to become a monthly Thing.

Mini’s Harry Potter Themed Birthday – Party Food

This is the last of 3 posts describing how we threw a really easy, quick and cheap Harry Potter-themed party for Mini Minx’s 7th birthday. I’ve already told you about how we prepared for the party and what activities and games we did during the party. This post describes my favourite bit – the food!

Again, to give it a bit of context: this amount of food was for 10 little girls aged around 6 years old. It was just right – there were some leftovers, but not much.

Birthday Tea – Usual Party Food.¬†We made up the usual plates of food (and I’ll detail them below in case this is the first birthday party you’ve thrown and you’re not sure about amounts!) Another ‘usual’ that we did was a Rainbow Plate.

I’m sorry this photo is so lame – the only other photo of it has 20 hungry little hands over it and identifiable faces

Rainbow Plates have been a staple at Family Trout birthdays and all parties since the very first one. I initially made one up because I thought it would look pretty and would appeal to kids who actually like fruit and veg. It’s now appeared at around 20 birthdays since, and is always the first plate of food to be finished entirely. I think that’s enough anecdata to make the case that it’s as essential to the Birthday Party Table as the Birthday Cake itself.

All that was left. I think the girls enjoyed it!

They’re really easy to make: just layer different coloured fruit and veg in their rainbow colours. Our birthdays are all in early Spring, so we don’t have that many brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables to choose from. Nevertheless, Mini’s plate this year contained strawberries and tomatoes, carrot sticks, cocktail sticks of pineapple and cheese chunks (we couldn’t find any yellow peppers or other yellow items at all!), green grapes, cucumber slices, blueberries, black grapes and raspberries.

Yes, that much fruit and veg doesn’t come cheap, but I promise you that it’ll all be eaten.

13 storyteller

Midi wearing Professor Fishface’s story-scarf (!) and regaling the younger kids with stories while we ate

So, what do I mean by ‘usual’ party food?

  • 15 cocktail sausages
  • 15 sausage rolls
  • plate of cream cheese sandwiches (made with 8 rounds of white and brown bread)
  • ham sandwiches (made with 8 rounds of white and brown bread)
  • plate of 10 satsumas
  • bowl of 4 packets of Pombear crisps
  • bowl of 4 packets of Space Invaders
  • plate of Party Ring biscuits
  • bowl each of jelly and cream

We also had a jug of water with slices of fruit bashed into it, fruit juice, and ‘special fizzy pop’…

8 drinksBirthday Tea – Special Party Food.¬†Some of the labels that I printed off for activities were huge. I decided to stick them over the labels of the fizzy pop I had for the party. They went down a wee treat! You’ll get the labels via the links in my previous post. Here’s a Word version of 3 that are big enough to stick on 750ml bottles of pop:¬†drink labels

Lots of online Harry Potter-themed parties have plates of Golden Snitches because they are soooo easy. They also kept my 3 over-excited daughters occupied for 20 minutes making them! I printed the wing shapes that were a free printable from this blog post on a sheet 7 golden snitchesof A4, then got 2 minxes to carefully cut them out whilst the 3rd minx stuck them on to the Ferrero Rocher sweets with a blob of PVA glue (removing and replacing the sticker dots was just too much of a faff when your party starts in half an hour) and stacked them on a plate.

3 candles

Mini’s Cake

Birthday Cake.¬†I’ve done the birthday cake as a separate post because I wanted to go into a lot of detail of how to do it. But I baked and constructed it entirely that morning, so don’t feel that it’s a huge deal. Though if I ever made it again, I’d do it the night before…! Sometimes cutting things fine is just a tad too stressful…

The Aftermath. ¬†So, first question: what was that cake like? Actually, even though I say so myself, it was delicious! 1 inside cake ¬†By the time the sun set that day, we’d given away or eaten the entire cake. It was such a hit that I suspect it will feature in a fair few more of my 3 book-worms’ future birthday parties.

00 pink gin

Professor Fishface out of robes and enjoying a very well-earned gin with the equally hard-working and eternally patient Prof Baldy (photographer and gin-mixer)

0 sunset

Beautiful sunset that night to top everything off

 

 

Mini’s Harry Potter Themed Birthday – the Cake

Yes, OK, strictly speaking this is the 4th of 3 posts (!) detailing a quick, easy and really fun party that we threw for Mini Minx’s 7th birthday party. Well… 3 and a half: this is the birthday cake part of the post about the party food.

I made the entire cake on the morning of the party. What with also supervising the prepping for the activities and helping with decorations, etc., I was very lucky that it all turned out ok, especially as I started making the cake without a real idea of how it would turn out. I really, really recommend that you do the cake the night before! I’ve written this tutorial in case you’d like to do the same kind of cake and would prefer knowing at the start what the finished item will look like! I hope it helps.

So, you really need to read how I put together her original birthday cake: the Hermione G ranger-themed cake because all the techniques and steps I used are described there.

  1. Follow Step 1 of the linked Hermione Granger-themed Cake post to make a big cake board. It needs to be big enough to hold a 23cm square cake and a loaf cake beside it, plus plenty of space all around.

  2. Instead of making 2 loaf cakes at Step 2, I made a big 6-egg square Madeira Cake and a plain chocolate loaf cake. I wanted cakes that had a bit of substance to them because I felt that basic sponge cakes would be too lightweight.

    Big Madeira Cake:
    Ingredients
    225g butter
    225g caster sugar
    6 eggs, beaten
    300g plain flour
    15ml / 1 Tablespoon baking powder
    grated rind of a lemonMethod:
    a. Grease and line a 23cm square tin. Set the oven to 180degC / 350degF / gas 4.
    b. Cream the butter and sugar until it’s really pale and fluffy. This takes longer than you think! About 5 mins in a mixer. Gradually add the eggs, still beating.
    c. Sift the flour and baking powder together, then fold into the creamed mix. Stir in the grated lemon rind. Spoon into the tin.
    d. Bake for about 1hr 10 or until cooked through and firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.Plain Chocolate Loaf Cake:
    Ingredients
    175g plain flour
    50g cocoa
    10ml / 2 tsp baking powder
    2.5ml / ¬Ĺ tsp bicarbonate of soda
    150g sugar (any sugar; I used light brown caster sugar because it needed using up)
    2 eggs
    75g butter, melted
    250ml milk

    Method
    a. Grease and flour a 23 x 13 x 7.5cm loaf tin. Set oven to 180degC/350degF/gas 4.
    b. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb together. Stir in the sugar.
    c. Beat the eggs into the melted butter and milk. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and stir lightly.
    d. Spoon / pour into the tin and bake for about 45 – 55 mins till cooked through. Cool on a wire rack.


  3. Make up a double batch of buttercream using 2 blocks of unsalted butter (500g), 4 cups of icing sugar, and my all-time favourite method of making Whipped Buttercream Icing.

  4. Turn the cold Madeira Cake into a single, closed book:
    a. Anchor the cake to the right-hand half of the cake board with a smear of whipped buttercream icing. Then slice it in half and spread a thick layer of apricot jam in the middle.
    b. Cover 3 sides of the cake with more whipped buttercream icing and use rolled-out white fondant icing and brushed cocoa to make ‘pages’ as per Steps 8-10 of the Hermione Cake tutorial.
    c. Cover the remaining side and top of the cake¬†with whipped buttercream icing and place rolled-out coloured fondant icing over it to form a top cover and spine. I used a mix of red and white fondant icing because I was running out… Roll out a long sausage of more coloured fondant icing and place along the bottom edge of the white ‘pages’ to look like the bottom cover of the book showing, as per Step 11.

    See the spine detail and the bound pages fanning away from the spine cover of the pink book? I bet you can do a far better job than that! I was really stressing about the time at that stage.

    d. Decorate the spine with fake gold lines and details (yellow fondant icing) if you like or just leave blank, as you’ll barely see it. I also pressed in the cake a little between the pages and spine to make it look like bound pages curving away from the spine, and ‘shaded’ it with yet more cocoa.


  5. Make the chocolate cake ‘book’:

    See how the 3 layers of the chocolate loaf are placed? I was inspired by how the chocolate loaf top puffed up and out as it baked – it looks like the shape of partly-fanned out pages for the chocolate ‘book’. ¬†(Well, it did to me).

    a. Split the plain chocolate loaf into 3 slices. Sandwich the bottom 2 layers with more apricot jam and whipped buttercream icing and put them beside the Madeira cake.
    b. Place the top layer on the Madeira Cake to look a bit like the open pages of the chocolate book – see photo for positioning. When you’re happy with the look, use a smear of buttercream to anchor the sandwiched layers beside the madeira ‘book’ and use a good thick layer of whipped buttercream to hold the top chocolate layer in place.
    c. Now follow Steps 7-11 of the original tutorial to make the chocolate loaf look like an open book. I used green and white fondant icing and a load more cocoa and whipped buttercream (now do you see why I made so much in the first place..?)


  6. Decorate both cakes! I used white chocolate writing icing and a pen with edible ‘ink’ that I bought 8 years ago from a fancy cake decorating shop. It’s still going strong, and is why all the detailed writing on my cakes is in a strange purple tone… I’d spotted a candelabra candle holder in a shop weeks ago that I knew Mini would love, so added some other bits and bobs to the board to make the candle candelabra look a bit more at home: a Golden Snitch that the minxes had made, and a fondant icing wand. Yes, they were all anchored there with the very last dregs of the whipped buttercream icing…

    ‘Hermione’ blows out her candles, watched by 2 of the other Hermiones


  7. Eat! It was a good cake for slicing up and putting in party bags, and the mix of plain and chocolate sponge looked great. It was completely gone within 24 hours (we Greedy Trouts had 2 slices each), so I’d say it was the perfect size for a party of 10 kids.

 

Mini’s Harry Potter Themed Birthday – Party Activities

This is the 2nd of 3 posts detailing a really easy, quick and cheap Harry Potter-themed party that we did for Mini’s 7th birthday. I’ve already told you about how we prepared for the party (and yeah, most of that was in the hour or 2 before the party started because I was so busy making the cake at the last minute…!). In this post I’ll tell you about the party activities and games. To give you a better idea of whether they’d suit you too, they kept 10 little girls aged about 6 years old entertained solidly for 2 hours, including half an hour of eating (edibles are in a separate post).

14d sorting

Yes, yes, even a non-HP fan like me knows that the light pink on the right should be red for Gryffindor, but I’d already used all the red icing up before I hit on the idea

Sorting Hat.¬† Mini really wanted to sort her guests into Hogwarts Houses. We’d thought about making a sorting hat, but realised it would take far too much time and mucking around with papier-mache. We questioned whether there was even a point to sorting the kids into Houses at all – eg were we going to do team games or award House Points? No. So to my adult mind there was no point. Mini really wanted it to happen, so we did. Still, I’d suggest you think about awarding House Points throughout the party so that there’s a reason to the guests being put into Houses if that’s what you want to do.

Anyway, I adapted a great idea I’d read on a few blogs and made it even simpler. You only need:

  • a packet of plain fairy cakes
  • some small coloured fondant icing circles (cut out from the leftover icings used on the birthday cake)
  • some whipped buttercream icing (also leftover from the cake)

14c sortingSimply put a coloured disk of icing on top of a fairy cake, squirt a blob of whipped buttercream icing over the top to conceal the coloured icing, then put the finished cake on a plate. I sprinkled some white chocolate stars over the top because those little decorations seem to be breeding in my baking ingredients cupboard – I can’t seem to use them up!

The idea is that each witch sits on a step (the same one as the Prisoner of Azkaban mugshot), puts the Sorting Hat on (Professor Baldy’s hat), chooses a cake and then takes a bite. The Hat magically reveals which House the witch belongs to by changing the colour of the icing inside to fit.

The girls thought this was a lot of fun and they were all very patient, waiting in line to try it. Some weren’t mad on the icing, though, and it was useful to have a bucket handy to grab discarded cake…

Pin the Glasses on the Harry Potter. The plan was then to play something quick in the hallway with Professor Baldy supervising while Professor FishFace sorted out the props for the next activity on the kitchen table. So we went for something super-easy that little kids always seem to like: pin something on something! In this case, Pin the Glasses on the Harry Potter.

Maxi had lots of fun the night before painting a brilliant representation of Harry Potter and making 10 pairs of different coloured glasses. The kids were happy being blindfolded by Mini’s new Gryffindor scarf and taking turns to stick their glasses on the picture. There was a lot of innocent sniggering at some glasses looking like hair bows on Harry, and they’d have been happy playing this for lots longer than the 15 minutes it took. The winner got a little packet of chocolate buttons.

If you fancy doing this and don’t want to freehand a picture of Harry Potter without glasses, then Google for and print an image of a young Daniel Radcliffe ūüėČ Another option would be to pin the scar on the Harry Potter – then you just need little lightning bolt shapes. Or even get the children to mark a zigzag on the picture in different coloured crayons / pens whilst blindfold – easy!

10 Potions Master

Professor Baldy channeling his inner Snape

Potions Class. The activity that me and The Boss spent longest prepping for was Potions Class. And I swear that only took 20 mins of Googling, printing, sticking, emptying cupboards and thinking. To save you the thinking and Googling, read on!

If you have WinZip, then there are some fantastic free potion bottle label printables all over the place, such as this, but I don’t have that application. In a mad panic, I printed out a load of blank food labels and just hand-wrote information all over it. I really didn’t need to – little kids aren’t all that interested in Olde Worlde handwriting on old labels; they’re all about the whizz-bang of bubbles and colours and smells!

The Boss lead the kids in a class. We gathered them around the kitchen table where I’d already laid out a jam-jar and teaspoon each as lab apparatus. The Boss had a lot of ingredients already decanted by his wonderful lab-tech assistant (me), so it was quick and easy:

  • a bottle of clear vinegar (any old kind);
  • a jug of the water that I’d previously cooked a red cabbage in*;
  • a jar of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda);
  • various baking glitters and sprinkles and the like.

11a potions ingredients*I cut our last, manky, old red cabbage from the garden, chopped it up, poured boiling water over it and boiled heck out of it for 10  minutes. I strained the liquid and chucked the cabbage.

Professor Baldy got the kids to carefully pour some of the cabbage-water into their jam-jars and smell it. Then he handed round the bicarbonate of soda (“Shredded Essence of Boy”) and they all oohed and aahed as the water turned distinctly blue! He gave them a bit of spiel about the Truth Potion (vinegar) deciding whether the potion was actually a boy or girl potion: they added it in different proportions and some turned pink again, some stayed bluey-purple. Some of the kids’ potions fizzed and bubbled with the bicarb, too. They all loved the colours and strong smells and the whole hocus-pocus of it.

11b potions ingredientsI collected the jam-jars, rinsed them out, and handed them back so that Professor Baldy could ‘test’ them on their potion-making skills: they were to make a potion of their choice. I got a tub full of 10 random potion labels I’d been able to find via Google and print and cut out. The kids chose one each, stuck their label to their jar with Pritt stick, then inspired by their chosen label, they were unleashed on the contents of my baking cupboard: a decanted carton of pineapple juice, lots of baking glitter sugars that I’d re-labelled things like ‘Wart Dust’, ‘Dried Bogeys’, etc., as well as flour, sugar, the vinegar, cabbage-water and bicarb.

The girls seemed to like these 30 minutes most of all. And I tell you, we adults chortled lots at these lovely, well-brought up girls asking each other politely to kindly pass the bogeys…

Pass the Parcel. You can’t have a birthday party without a game of Pass The Parcel. It’s virtually The Law. So we did! Each layer of wrapping contained individual jelly beans from a packet of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and the prizes in the middle were whole packets of the beans. (Tip: if you want to do this, they can be expensive. You can always pick up packets on the very cheap on eBay).

If you don’t know, these jelly beans come in a range of nice, standard flavours, and also nasty, unusual flavours, like earwax, vomit, soap, grass, etc. Mini had shared a packet the morning before with her sisters (see photos below), so we knew to keep a little plate of fudge handy beside a glass of water to help get rid of the taste of any beans that were too horrendous. And 2 wee girls definitely needed it!:

Make Your Own Wand.¬†In the end, there wasn’t time to do another ‘class’ that we’d planned: Make Your Own Wand. If you want to do it yourself, it’s really easy. Just get lots of brown paper / offcuts of wallpaper / any sturdy paper; scissors; glue and water; paintbrushes; brown and black paints; fake gems; rice; pasta shapes. Just roll up a strip of paper into a quill shape. Paint it with a mix of brown or black paint, PVA glue and water. Then stick shapes or gems to it, and paint again if wished. Let it dry, and there you go!

Next post: the Birthday Tea and Cake

Mini’s Harry Potter Themed Birthday – Party Prep

As I was telling you earlier, Mini is bonkers about Harry Potter and for her 7th birthday asked for Hogwarts robes, a wand, HP-themed birthday cake, HP-themed party, etc. The whole family got very excited about the latter, so I agreed that she could have a smallish, Harry Potter themed birthday party. We ended up having such a hoot (even me, the non-Harry Potter reader or fan) and it was actually so easy that I decided to write a series of 3 posts so that you can do your own Harry Potter theme party, should you ever feel so inclined.

Mini’s invite (personal info altered). Download your own version at the link ‘PartyInvite’ ¬†—->

Invitations.¬†Mini invited all the kids from her year at school (all 7 of them). Initially she wanted an exact replica of the Hogwarts Acceptance Letter, but I felt that it sounded too weird for anyone who didn’t know anything about Harry Potter. There are lots of free printables all over the Internet, and we based ours on my favourite site. Feel free to download my Word document (below) and change around the information as you see fit. I put 2 invites onto the Word file and printed both out on A4 paper so that I could squeeze 2 invites to a page.

PartyInvite

 

 

Platform 9 3/4.¬†16a platform 9 and a bit16b platform 9 and a bitSo what was the point of the golden ticket that the invitation told the guests to bring? I asked The Boss and Mini about that (they’d concocted the invitations) and they both scratched their heads and said, “Dunno”. Helpful. Well, it irritates me to do someone pointlessly, so I thought the guests might feel the same way. What purpose would bringing their ticket to the party serve? I was still pondering that on the morning of the party while I was furiously tidying up*. I found a big square of red fabric I’d been meaning to either cut up and use or recycle. A wee lightbulb went off in my head. I grabbed the Resident Artist and asked her how much white paint she had. Barely a dribble. Hmmmm… It could still be enough! I described how to suggest a brick wall using just a couple of shapes, gave her a piece of foam mattress that was already en-route to the bin, a plate, her paint and the bit of fabric, and she produced this almost-brick wall in about 60 seconds! She wrote a Platform 9 and 3/4 sign on an old bit of box (the rest of the box turned into cake boards to hold up the cakes and a mugshot board) and we pinned up the board and fabric at our front door.

*Tidying Up = shove all your junk and rubbish into a few laundry crates and ram them against a wall in your bedroom out of side.

Perfect! Now we had a reason to collect the Golden Tickets. I thought up a bit of a spiel about how only ticket-holders could pass through the brick wall. That gave the kids a reason to hand over the tickets they’d kept, and also helped parents escape quickly, too (they didn’t have special tickets of course). I held on to the first ticket handed over so that any child who’d forgotten theirs ‘magically’ had a ticket appear in their pocket, as would happen to any True Witch ūüėČ I’m really glad I thought of that – it put a smile back on the face of one wee girl who’d forgotten her ticket and was fretting about it, the wee soul!

The Teaching Staff.¬†Perhaps The Boss and I should have sorted out our costumes in advance, but as it was, we suddenly thought about it 15 minutes before the first guest arrived. Eek! So he dashed to his wardrobe and found¬†a black teeshirt and trousers; I only had a green teeshirt and swishy green skirt (no black – it’s sooooo ageing for us wrinkly old birds, dotcha know?!). The Boss grabbed Mini’s old dress-up witch hat and I spotted my only posh chiffon scarf. I’d noticed 2 lengths of black fabric in my fabric stash earlier, so I liberated them and we quickly put them around our shoulders. And ta da, there we were: Professors FishFace and Baldy, ready to teach a new intake of witches!¬†18 moaning myrtle

Decor.¬†Have a Google for decoration ideas for your party – some are incredible! But we just didn’t bother – too little time and money. We did do a quick print-out of an image of Moaning Myrtle and blue-tacked that to the inside of the toilet seat as a bit of fun and maybe a surprise.

Mugshots.¬†We made a mugshots board to have a bit of fun with. Midi cut out a square from that well-used cardboard box (cake boards, mugshot frame, platform sign…), printed some of the free Prisoner of Azkaban printables around the internet, and stuck them to the top and bottom of the square¬†with a bit of Pritt stick. She made the prisoner number similarly: just print and stick to another bit of card.

As each child came to the party, we welcomed them through the brick wall, then got them to perch on a step, hold up the prisoner number board, pull a funny face and have their mugshot taken. As they turned out so well, I printed each mugshot and included it with that child’s Thank You card from Mini after the party.

In hindsight, and assuming you like all your activities to kind of fit together (!), this could have been some kind of matriculation set up, eg give the witch her Witch’s Number, put the school’s name as a title at the top, and a school motto at the bottom. This would have worked better as an activity and as a memento in the Thank You cards.

Anyway! It was a lot of fun. Here are the Family Trout mugshots:

The pedant in me is driven mad by the lack of capitals in the signs, but I didn’t have the time or energy to sort it out myself. I also can’t find the different original sources of each of my Prisoner of Azkaban photo booth printables (there are so many! Google them), so below I’ve added my own. I’d be delighted to add a link to the original source instead, so let me know if you spot it and I’ll amend.

Azkaban Printables

Next post: Harry Potter-themed party activities!