Monday, September 11, 2017

A birthday party at the ice skating rink

If you follow Craving Fresh on Facebook, you might have heard my interview on Radio Rhema a couple of weeks ago where I talked about frugal gift ideas. If you missed it, you can listen to the interview here. September is a busy month for our family, with three birthdays and Fathers' Day all within a couple of weeks of each other, so I'm always looking for ways to celebrate without breaking the bank.

Yesterday we celebrated my eldest daughter's birthday at the ice skating rink. She loves skating and is pretty good at it since she's been roller blading for a couple of years now, so this was a perfect party location for her.

I actually looked into hosting a birthday party there for her last year, but decided against it because of the cost of hiring a party room. Earlier this year, however, my daughter's best friend hosted a party at the ice skating rink and didn't hire a room, just set up on one of the bleachers. It worked really well and kept the cost down, so I decided to copy her party idea.

One of the downsides of having the cake on the bleachers instead of in a party room is that it's cold, but we decided to work with that and have an ice cream cake, since my daughter doesn't really like cake cake. Into a chilly bin I packed a square tub of vanilla ice cream and a round tub of peppermint chocolate chip ice cream. My amazing cake-maker sister-in-law, Mandy, assembled the cake and decorated it with mini Flakes and MnMs I had also brought, just before it was time to eat.

I wasn't sure how well the ice cream would come out of its cartons, so I brought a thermos of boiling water and a bread knife in case the ice cream needed to be reshaped. Mandy put them to good use and somehow sculpted the cake look like a real, iced cake.

I knew from the previous party that about halfway through the ice skating session, everyone would get called off the ice so that it could be smoothed out. I tried to time our cake and present-giving time for then. Because it was cold on the bleachers, I brought blankets and cushions for everyone to sit on and that helped take some of the chill off. The blankets were easy to throw in the wash when I got home.

Party favours.

I wanted the food to be simple, since I needed to bring it all in from the car and we were just serving it on the bleachers, so I pre-made little food parcels for everyone in ziploc bags with a few treats - popcorn, skittles and a chocolate Freddo. My daughter made a card for all her guests, telling them what she appreciated about them, and popped them into each bag of treats. I'll tell you where we got the beautiful hand-painted cards from in a minute.

I also served plain bottled water and red sausages. I cooked the sausages just before we drove to the party and put them in a Thermoserver to keep warm.

Although I remember packing spoons to eat our ice cream cake with, somehow they didn't make it to the party. I still have no idea where they went. When I realised they were missing, I rushed over to the cafe to buy some of their plastic spoons, but they didn't have any. They offered to lend me their silverware, but they only had four spoons and I needed to serve cake to nine children. In desperation I looked around the cafe and spotted lollipops for sale. "We'll use those," I pointed.

So we did. And they were great. The kids managed to make the lollipops work as spoons and thought it was so much fun. I also borrowed the four silver spoons from the cafe so the adults at the party could have some cake too.

Mandy served the cake into bowls I had bought from Kmart. We already had a few of these bowls at home and my kids use them all the time, so I bought ten more to use for the party and at home afterwards. Wherever possible, I like using reusable items rather than disposable, to try and slow the flow of waste going to landfill.

It was a wonderful party and my daughter was delighted with the entire thing.

We had already celebrated her birthday as a family earlier in the week by opening her birthday presents first thing in the morning. I spent a lot of time planning her gifts, so I could get a mix of homemade, second-hand and new.

The gifts I made were a photo book of the last few years and some dolls furniture and bedding. She LOVED it all.

The second hand gifts I got her were books from the library's for sale rack. These only cost 3 for $1 dollar and I found some great reads in there for her.

Just two days before my daughter's birthday I popped into my church op shop and there I spotted the birthday gift to end all birthday gifts. Choruses of angels sang above my head when I realised exactly what I was looking at.
It was a Groovy Girls horse. The very one my daughter had previously asked me to buy, but which I hadn't got because of cost. It was in all the colours she loves - pink purple and aqua - it still made a neighing sound when you squeezed its belly, and I knew she would love it. She does! My daughter has been collecting Groovy Girls dolls since she was a toddler. She sleeps with them at night and loves them like they're real friends. So to be able to give her a horse for her precious dolls to ride and play with was so satisfying.

Oh, and it only cost a couple of dollars. Winning!

For brand-new gifts, my husband bought a Lego Elves set, and I bought an LOL doll (my kids all love them for some reason I can't quite work out). I also bought Annual - a fun collection of New Zealand stories for kids (gotta support our New Zealand authors!) and some socks and a swimming top.

I was hoping to wrap all her presents in my son's Kindy artwork, but he didn't have enough and wasn't keen to use it for wrapping paper anyway.
Then I remembered that unnamed artwork gets thrown out, so I checked the recycling bin on my way out of Kindy and, sure enough, found a stack load of beautiful paintings in there. There were just enough to wrap all the presents, and they looked gorgeous and unique.

In the midst of all the larger paintings, I found a stack of smaller paintings, and that's what my daughter used to make the party favour notes I told you about earlier. We glued a plain piece of paper to the back of each little painting card and my daughter wrote her note on it. They looked amazing and I was glad to be able to use something so delightful that was just getting thrown out. Zero waste and frugal too.

So that's how we celebrated my eldest daughter's birthday this year. She was definitely feeling the love, which is good, because we love her so.

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