My two biggest girls are very into birthday parties. Now aged 6 (only just) and 3-and-three-quarters, they begin planning their next birthday party just as the guests are leaving from the current one. Rosa’s first birthday party was a wonderful sunny afternoon in what was then our new house, bunting strung up everywhere, and a garden full of friends and family. It was a very slightly emotional affair for me as I’d wanted to have a party for her the previous year but we’d just not had enough space. Also, I was heavily pregnant, and feeling (very rationally) that her second birthday party might well be the last nice thing i would ever have time to do for her.
Since then we have always held parties at home, and have always so far been lucky with the weather. Even though every year i promise myself that this is definitely the last year, and swear faithfully to everyone in earshot that I am definitely – DEFINITELY – going to find a venue the following year, outsource absolutely everything, and just turn up with a cake.
Another battle I have on my hands is that we tend to have party themes, and I have made it my MISSION not to have a Disney princess party. I can’t quite explain this. Despite my feminist ideals and my attempts at gender-neutral parenting, the girls are obsessed with Disney princesses, and our house is full of them. Their bedroom is heaped with plastic princesses, princess dresses, and novelty items with princesses on them. So it’s not as if I am staging some kind of boycott. But for some reason I think that having a Disney princess party is just a bridge too far. So far we have had a Gruffalo party, a Tiger Who Came To Tea party, a Froggy / Hello Kitty party (the result of a last minute change of mind from the party girl).
So this year was the year of Rosa’s Rose party. The theme was genuinely her idea. But once she’d uttered it, about 9 months ago, i was so taken with the idea that I purposely reminded her of it, bought a few rose things, and managed to ignore her other party ideas (“Mummy! I want to have an Olympic party! And a cake shaped like the Olympic stadium!” “Mmmmm? … What’s that darling? Shall we watch some TV?”
Turns out that a rose theme provided the excuse I’d been looking for to hang up tissue paper pom poms everywhere. I thought if I bought pinkish ones they would look like big suspended roses. And aren’t they magnificent? As I type, the party took place about 2 weeks ago, but the pom poms are still hanging, turning lightly in every breeze, resplendently floral and celebratory, because I cannot stomach taking them down.
I had a quick google for tissue paper pom poms, swiftly abandoned the idea of making my own, and found a seller on ebay who sells a whole variety of sizes and colours. I can’t tell you how much I love them. There is scarcely a room in my house that I don’t think would be improved by hanging up some of these beauties. But in the meantime, I think I will buy a couple more in some greens and oranges, then hang up some of them over Persephone’s cot, and some in Rosa and India’s room.
I know. I know that I already have birthday bunting. I know that I had in fact already bought plain bunting. But I used this printable bunting for both the big girls’ birthdays last year, and loved it so much that even though it was just paper hastily stapled onto raffia, it was strung up in their room for nearly a year. So I thought if I printed out and laminated some saying ‘happy birthday’ then we could add it to our party box, and bring it out for every party.
By now you can see I was going a bit OTT with the rose theme. The cupcake wrappers I found in a discount bin in Hobbycraft about six months ago. The fondant icing roses on top are the result of two lucky happenstances: the first being my own misspent childhood making roses out of Fimo, the second being discovering that our wonderful summer au pair, Perrine, as well as being very helpful and charming generally, has superpowers which include tissue paper pom pom assembly, and fondant rose making.
The string of flowery fairy lights were retrieved from the girls’ bedroom. I actually bought them ten years ago (gulp0 to string along the top table at our wedding. It was a nice feeling, therefore, albeit a sentimental one, to use it for my not-so-little girl’s sixth birthday
This is the rose cake. Although I don’t do much icing of cakes, I was confident in this one…. because I’ve actually made it once before, for India’s christening. The design was an idea I found on Pinterest, where someone earnestly assured me that this fabulous effect was actually very easy. Turns out they were right. I bought loads of tubs of ready-made buttercream icing (my secret weapon. After baking cakes I can never face making icing), and firstly gently spread on a flat and thinnish ‘crumb layer’. After that I grabbed my piping bag, and star nozzle, and just squirted spirals all over it, then filled in any gaps with swooshey shapes. Ta dah!
This shows the inside. It’s a triple layer Victoria sponge, filled with fresh whipped cream, jam and fresh raspberries. The sponge was my favourite Nigella food processor recipe, from How to be a Domestic Goddess, doubled. It was really very delicious. Hard to slice up. But delicious.
And here’s the party table. Turns out that even if you think you’ve got a pretty unique party theme, someone else has still got there first. So I bought the ready-assembled Vintage Rose essential party kit from Party Pieces, which included the pink table cloth, the rose plates and napkins.
We even managed not to go overboard on the food this year, remembering that even when you’ve invited roughly twice as many children as you meant to (whoops) they are in fact normally too excited to eat very much. So just a few sandwiches and crisps, cupcakes, party rings (“They taste really horrible.” I explained to Perrine, “But they are a traditional party of any British children’s party. So we have to have them.”) a bit of watermelon, and then, after a suitable pause, the obligatory chocolate fountain and a slice of cake, and basically everyone is happy.
And Rosa loved it. I mean, she just loved it. Every time I arranged something on the table, or brought something out, she greeted it with whoops and ‘wow’s and ‘this is the best party ever’s, and ‘mummy, you’re the best’s. Which was brilliant.
Just before i go, a brief mention of our party bags. Or party pots. The first activitiy we all did was to decorate pink flower pots with stickers (party dresses and paints do not strike me as a good combo). Then we ‘planted’ or sellotaped a fake rose in each pot. These pots then doubled as party bags, and each one was filled with a ‘make your own rose’ kit, a sweetie bracelet, and a small bag of Haribo.
You can also see how my lovely friends stuck the tissue paper and straw roses we’d made into the pots. They looked really beautiful all lined up on the piano, and the children all seemed really pleased to take them home.
It was a really lovely afternoon. Happy birthday Rosa!