Candyland birthday

Candyland birthday

We moved into our new house just a few weeks before Ruby’s birthday.  While we are really happy in our new place, we desperately miss our balcony.  It was as close to a yard as you can get in Beirut and the kids could spend hours outside playing after school.  It also was the one thing that made having our kids’ birthday parties at home possible.  Our house now is much too small for more than a friend or two, and that makes me really sad.

I love planning the kids’ parties – from the theme to the decorations to the food to the games, but it’s nearly impossible to find a venue in Beirut that will let you plan your own party.  Most places come with food, animation, loud music and of course an insanely high price tag.

Ruby had been planning the theme for months and her one birthday wish was to have all her friends come to her party, so I was scrambling for options.  Caleb and ABTS to the rescue!  We were able to rent the court and even take advantage of the new catering department to help out with the food.

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I thought since we had such a big space, why not throw caution to the wind and invite Ruby’s whole class to her Candyland party.  We were happily surprised when most of the kids from her class came, even though it’s a bit of a drive to get there.

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Ruby and I came up with lots of fun candy-themed games.  Who can eat a long piece of licorice the fastest, running a race while holding a spoon with a marshmallow in your mouth, four corners, some parachute games, and a cake walk style dancing game.  I thought that after a year of school, the kids would be more into the organized games.  I was so wrong.  It was total chaos.  A small group participated, but for the most part it was like herding cats.

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So I moved quickly to the food thinking we could eat, have cake and then the kids could have some time for free play on the playground.

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But as soon as the cupcakes were eaten, almost everyone packed up and left!  It sent me into a tailspin of doubt… was it boring?  Were we not hospitable enough?  Were the kids not having fun?  Was it not fancy enough?  Did I miss some cultural cues or rules or….?  Or maybe it was just a long drive and people needed to head home.  I honestly don’t know, but it was quite the let down.

Thankfully Ruby didn’t feel any of that, she was just thrilled to have all her friends at her party and so excited to be 4 years old!

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Monster birthday

Monster birthday

We kept Luka’s first birthday pretty low key.  I’ve always said that the first birthday is more for the family to celebrate making it through a year than anything else, so we decided to have a small family party for Luka.  We invited the closest people we have to family here in Lebanon for a little monster party to celebrate our little man.

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The theme was so easy and so cute that I might actually use it again next year.  The girls and I had a great time making the decorations and turning a simple dinner into monster food.

Luka is a pretty chill, laid back baby, so I was really surprised at how excited he was about his party.  Obviously he has no idea what it meant that it was his birthday, but he knew something special and fun was going on.

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We made a little ball pit, had a monster craft, but mostly hung out.  It was fun and laid back, just like our little man!

I tried a fondant cake for the first time and it turned out really cute! I hate the flavor of fondant, so I put plenty of buttercream underneath so that the cake would still taste good, haha!  Confession, it wasn’t my 1 year old’s first time having cake, so he knew exactly what to do with it.  Baby number 3, what can I say?

I cant believe he is one!  Happy birthday Luka-bazooka!

Art party

Art party

Isla starts planning her birthday parties pretty much from the day after her previous birthday.  The planning kicks into gear around Ruby’s birthday, so for the past six months she has been coming up with projects, food and the guest list for her art party.

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We had so much fun at Ruby’s party earlier in the year with stations instead of organized games, and an art party was the perfect theme to do the same.  We set up stations all around the house and on the balcony with different projects the kids could work on

We had a creation station filled with all sorts of markers, stickers, and paper scraps for the kids to decorate a big folder to keep their projects in, a bubble painting station, sidewalk chalk, playdough, and a canvas painting station.  The kids all started at the creation station and then were free to wander about and create wherever and whatever they wanted.  We did do one group game because I just can’t help myself!

I  kept the food simple, but tried to make it really colorful like an artist’s palette.  I really wanted to do a rainbow cake, but didn’t want it to taste like chemicals, so I juiced different fruits and veggies and made a natural rainbow cake!  Some of the colors turned out better than others, and I was surprised at the depth of flavor each layer had.  It was really really good.

 

Caleb made the mistake of admitting that frosting a cake is a lot like laying cement, which he is really good at.  He had all these knives and tools and cold water and who knows what else to help him frost it.  I will not be frosting a cake ever again.

The kids had fun, I think the moms did too, and Isla felt special and loved.  Happy 6th birthday to our amazing girl!

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Ruby’s Boxtown

Ruby’s Boxtown

Ruby very randomly decided that she wanted a “girl-cow” birthday party this year.  I knew it could be a challenge finding things for a Western-themed birthday here in the Middle East, but was happy to be planning a non-princess party for a change!

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I decided to ditch the organized games this party.  As much as I love them, with three year olds, trying to get them to stand in a line and take turns, or really follow directions at all is like herding cats, so instead I decided to create different stations of activities where they could play.

We were at a friend’s house a few months ago and they had built a house out of a big cardboard box.  Ruby begged for a house like Taha’s, so this was the perfect opportunity.  But instead of a house, we created a whole Western boxtown!

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The girls were in heaven.  I actually had to not let them play in them too much because I was afraid they’d be destroyed before the party even started!

In addition to the boxtown, which is where I anticipated the kids would spend most of their time playing, we also had a few other games.

Ring toss..

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… a little art project…

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… and a “digging for gold” station.  Ruby got a fun water table for her birthday from her Grandpa and Grandma, so we filled it with rice and dried chickpeas that we had painted yellow for the kids to search for.

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It took the kids a while to warm up to the whole idea of free play – I think partially because many of them didn’t know each other.  But by the end of the party, there was rice everywhere and lots of bad guys chased and caught and put into jail.  They had a blast.

We also had a pinata that my friend made.

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See Ruby’s boots?  Those were her Daddy’s cowboy boots when he was a little boy.

And no party would be complete without the cake… I hesitate to show you my cupcake horse because it could easily belong on a Pinterest fail website… I don’t think anyone even knew it was supposed to be a horse…. but the cupcakes tasted great!  I found recipes for flavored buttercream here, so we had lemon and berry flavored frosting.

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I kept the other food simple: zaatar and cheese rolls, chicken nuggets, cucumbers, tomatoes, apples and haystacks (Rice Krispie treats.  But Ruby and Isla think they are actually called haystacks, haha!)

My little birthday girl was thrilled with her party… and in a panic when her friends were leaving trying to figure out if she was “still three???”

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Yes, princess.  You are still three.  :)

Happy Birthday Ruby!

Happy Birthday Ruby!

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Ruby has been looking forward to being three for quite a while now so that she can get earrings, go to school and chew gum.  Her current favorite things are her sister, cold oatmeal, dresses that spin, babies and zert (dessert).  When Ruby grows up she wants to wipe herself when she poops and be a fairy.  Big dreams, this one.  She is full of drama and goofiness.  Can’t imagine our family without sweet Ruby!  Happy birthday big girl!!

Isla’s Frozen party

Isla’s Frozen party

I kind of have this rule about birthday parties… I learned pretty quickly that small kids could care less about how well the food matches the theme of a party and it’s just not worth the effort to be creative with party food for a 4 or 5 year old’s birthday.

But as I was planning Isla’s Frozen party for her 5th birthday, there were just too many snack ideas that fit so perfectly, that I decided to break my rule and do a lot of food that fit the Frozen theme.

So we had carrots in the snow for Sven…

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… melted Olaf (mohalabieh pudding with pretzel arms and an orange candy nose)…

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… plus marshmallow snowdrops, Anna & Hans’ sandwiches, a plate full of Olaf’s arms (pretzels) and chips and salsa for the grown ups.

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I was quite proud of the food, but of course the only things the kids ate were the pretzels and the cake.  We were eating leftover sandwiches, carrots and mohalabieh for days.  Lesson learned.  We’re back to ordering mana2ish and putting out a bowl of pretzels and a bowl of fruit for party food from now on!  :)

Speaking of the cake, I decided to try my hand at one of those princess doll cakes.  I was really nervous it would be a flop, literally, so I made a bunch of cupcakes too, just in case.  But it was actually much easier than I was expecting.  I used a bundt cake on top of a small pie shaped cake.  Didn’t really carve it, just stuck Elsa in the middle and used frosting to shape the dress.

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Isla doesn’t like games where anyone loses or anything that puts her on the spot (pin the anything on anything, for example… she can’t handle everyone watching her and cries every time).  So we decided to do more activities instead of games.  We had play snow, ice painting, a frozen dancing game and a scavenger hunt using song lyrics from the movie.

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We also played Frozen Bingo, which was a huge bust – the kids got bored really quickly.  But my girls have played it nearly every day since then, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

Party food and games aside, my big five year old was most excited about having all her friends come over and celebrate… Isla was so happy and had a great day, which is really all that matters in the end!

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Happy birthday, Little Lu!

Our fancy 4 year old

Our fancy 4 year old

Our silly, smart, talkative, bossy Isla Marie turned 4 last week.

She chose Fancy Nancy as the theme for her party this year.  For those of you with little girls who haven’t discovered Fancy Nancy books yet, I’d highly recommend them.  She’s a cute character who doesn’t have a stinky attitude (ahem, ahem Pinkalicious) and the books are fun and quick to read.  We’re big fans in this house.

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Anyways, I’ve learned that kids Isla’s age really only care about a few things at birthday parties – the cake and having fun.  So as much as I enjoy decorating and preparing food all revolving around a theme, I went simple with food and decorations this year.  We had a birthday banner for Isla, which has become a bit of a tradition, and kept the food quick and easy with ma3janeet (meat, spinach, zaatar pastries and mini pizzas), a veggie tray and juice boxes.

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One of Isla’s favorite books is Fancy Nancy and the Delectable Cupcakes.  So we started off the party by reading the story and then played a few games.  Isla is not a fan of games where she is put on the spot with everyone watching her, so she and I came up with some group games that she thought she’d like to play.  :)  I hid little paper cupcakes all over the house and had the kids try to find them, we played a version of musical chairs but with pictures of cupcakes to stand on, and I printed out some “plain” coloring pages of little girls and boys for the kids to color and fancy up with stickers and jewels.  I think they all had lots of fun playing!

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Instead of cake, we decided to make cupcakes and let the kids decorate them with frosting, sprinkles and candies, just like in the story.  Huge mess, but lots of fun.

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I was shocked at how much Isla enjoyed being the center of attention – usually it’s not her thing at all.  She was so excited about this party.  We talked about it for weeks, and the morning of she was bouncing off the walls, running laps around the apartment (and ended up taking a 2 hour nap!), she was so excited!

Oh yeah, it wouldn’t be a Fancy Nancy party if the birthday girl didn’t get all fancied up.  She’s been wearing this tutu non-stop since we gave it to her on her birthday last week.  She pretty much spends all day twirling and spinning.  :)

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(Tutu and shirt were made by my friend Rola… check out her cute stuff at Funky Bee Bowtique!)

We gave each of the kids a Fancy Nancy book as a going away gift… spreading the love of our favorite character all over Beirut, haha!

 

Happy happy birthday, Fancy Isla!!  We love you!