back foot forward…

1 02 2010

Just a little behind in my plan to post at least every 2 days – but, I am here now so away we go!

A busy weekend for us with my cousin’s wedding up north on Saturday and Zuzu’s birthday party on Sunday.  On top of that, it was Anniversary weekend, so the island was packed with holiday makers. Friday and Saturday were excruciatingly hot (although better hot for the wedding than raining I suppose) and Sunday dawned with a grey/mauve sky and misty sprinkles. My heart sank when I saw the sky – although it was still only 6am and the day was yet unformed. I jumped out of bed with an agenda and set about creating lists. I  refused to consider cancelling the party at this stage, feeling determined that the kindness of the Universe would prevail and Zuzu’s party would be a success.

List 1: Party games and general timing schedule.

I had brainstormed some ideas with Zuzu a few days earlier so I was relatively ready. I figured a party that started at 1pm and ended at 3:30pm could afford at least an hour and a half of games. Twelve year olds are at that in-between stage where they are very keen for independence but have enough of that kid energy to appreciate a bit of healthy competition and challenge. I kept the games quite simple for my own sake, knowing that I would be the MC and Zuzu and I had come up with a novel way to handle prizes. Instead of a token for the winner, we decided to take advantage of the sea and subject the winner to a pie in the face, delivered by the birthday girl.  Yes, I know, it sounds odd but 20 boys and girls in their tweens  absolutely crave something different. The pie was actually a paper plate filled with whipped cream.

So, the games were:

  • egg and spoon relays
  • 3-legged races
  • fashion relay (the runner must dress in one outfit, make their way to the end goal where they must disrobe and re-dress in a second outfit, they run back to the start line and take off that outfit and tag the next runner)
  • timed sand hole digging (5 mins to dig the deepest hole which is measured with a long ruler)
  • timed sand tower building
  • sand ice race – a few bags of ice are dumped unceremoniously in the sand and the contestants are given a container or a zip-lock baggy. They race to the ice and are allowed to extract one piece only from the pile and run back to their container and place it in. The winner has the most ice or water ( a discretionary decision)  when the timer runs out or all the ice is gone
  • water balloon toss in pairs (taking one step back at each successful catch an the winning team is left with an intact balloon when all the others have broken).

List 2: Food to be prepared and containers needed.

I decided to keep the menu really simple. I had to shop on Friday because of the wedding and I was so relieved not to have to brave the only market on the island during a long weekend.

The afternoon tea I planned included:

  • nuts, candy, chips, cookies (party staples)
  • assorted crackers and hummus
  • crudités with dip (red and yellow peppers, carrots and celery)
  • caramelized onion tarts (some with tomato and some with pesto)
  • pizza rounds (small round pizzas with assorted vegetarian toppings)
  • frittata slices (potato, onion, zucchini, red pepper)
  • chicken niblets (not vegetarian but most of the invitees weren’t either. I have made these a few times and have always had rave reviews yet I have never tasted them.
  • assorted vegetarian sausages.
  • orange punch (orange juice with soda water and orange slices)

There wasn’t much cooking, really.

– I started on the chicken and had the niblets chilling in the marinade while I caramelized the onions – the vegetables  for the crudités were sliced while the onion was doing it’s thing.

– I cut approximately 100 pizza circles from pre-made pizza bases and then moved on to 100 flaky puff pastry circles.

– It was just a matter of construction, after that, layering pizza sauce, onion, cheese, pineapple and pesto in various configurations. The tarts were easy – onion and tomatoes on half, onion and pesto on the rest and baking as I went.

– The frittata is always a quick and easy option and I took as many shortcuts as possible on this one – it still came out tasty. Ten eggs beaten with a little milk – add s&p, herbs and spices that seem tasty at the time, dice 4 or 5 potatoes and steam briefly in the microwave, slice onion and zucchini and pepper and toss all the vegetables into a pan with a little olive oil spray. When onions are soft, add them all to the eggs (with cheese if you are a fan) and pour into greased dish. Bake 30 mins or until golden. Never fails.

Throughout the morning the phone rang off the hook – “is it on?”, “you’re not having it in the rain, right?”, “what is the rain-date?”.  The party line was: ” As long as it is not bucketing down, it’s all on”. The weather hadn’t worsened but as the party got closer people seemed to realise that it was lightly drizzling and who in their right mind would host a party in the rain.  I was resolute!!!

Once everything was cooked and containers were found – we loaded the car with a gazebo, fold-up table, games paraphernalia (including 25 hard boiled eggs) and of course, food. There was very little room for bodies in the car but we set off to Palm Beach with high hopes. At the bottom of the driveway, the clouds split and the rain burst in sheets. It was still very hot and actually looked quite lovely. Zuzu sat in the back singing “sunshiny day” and what do you know? The rain spluttered, choked and stopped altogether. We were suspiciously optimistic as we set up the gazebo and the table and dragged bags from the car to work on the details.

Within 15 minutes there were kids everywhere and suddenly the games were on. From that point, I was on auto pilot and felt myself slip into ‘teacher mode’ as I rallied 20 boys and girls through the game challenges, the whipped cream covered faces (which they couldn’t get enough of), the wild wave swimming and the tasty food.

I had also provided a small notebook in which each person was asked to write a poem or a note or a riddle or a story or something personal to Zuzu.

The party was a great success and Zuzu told me on the way home that she had loved every minute of it.  What more could a mumma wish for?

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