Today is the official sixth birthday of my son. After 18 hours in labor, six of which were stalled, my sweetie boy was born, with three undrugged pushes, sunny side up. And it’s been true love ever since.
His birthday, which annually falls right around Thanksgiving (and on the same day as my in-law’s wedding anniversary) requires a bit of forethought for booking the party date. This year, we chose the Sunday before his birthday, to avoid Thanksgiving weekend and a Vaisnava fast day from grains and beans. Mmmwah Grandma flew in for the event, which took a week of planning to pull off. The crowd was huge; I definitely could have started earlier, despite getting started a full seven days beforehand.
Venumadhava chose the menu, which included barbecue gluten kabobs (the kids ate a ridiculous amount of these the week before the party), vegetable barley soup (which my son requested I add beans to the night before), tossed salad (my choice) and homemade bread, which was supposed to be croissants but the guest list got out of control and I knew I would not be able to pull that off. For dessert there was pound cake, way strong herbal coffee cheesecake, decorate your own cupcakes and very berry shrikand.
As a tot, Vm would eat lots and lots of shrikand, because when we were just a family of three, I made lots and lots of shrikand. But try keeping a family of four in shrikand! It ain’t easy. When I asked the boy if he would like some at his party, he told me he didn’t know what it was. Oh, the foodie offspring horror. I assured him he would like it, put 7 gallons of milk up to boil and went in search of persimmon. Tis the season, after all.
Well, somehow I missed persimmon this year, not tasting a single fresh local fruit. Rather embarrassing, I know. Thankfully, I have my persimmon jam, which I happily have been gifting around town at kiddie birthday parties to very little appreciation and modest looks of parental confusion. No worries. I will continue to proselytize using my small jam gospel and not be attached to the results. I am not looking for converts. I just want people’s tongues to be touched by the taste of divinity.
So, a day late and a dollar short for persimmon, I headed to the local food store for my shrikand standby–frozen berries. Blue, straw and black, to be precise. One and a half cups of sugar per gallon mixed with extremely well hung yogurt and voila, shrikand perfection.
I love the look of berry shrikand in jadeite bowls.
Cookie bags were the parting gifts for our beloved guests and the children, many of whom did not take a break to eat during the party, save for the chance to decorate their own cupcake with mocha or blueberry frosting and a range of brightly colored, completely artificial crunchies and candies, were very happy to receive their bag of sugar face, chocolate chippie, jam print and ginger cookies. I made, all in all, approximately 350 cookies, which was, unsurprisingly, way too much. Thankfully, cookies freeze well and my family will be enjoying the effort of my baking well into the spring.
The same goes for the kabobs, although I definitely didn’t make 350. More like 115. A four step cooking process, the kabob making is a lot of work. Worth it though, since it brought great happiness to my kiddies, who dirtied their face with sweet and salty barbecue sauce two days in a row before school. If you are my kid and want to make me happy, eat my cooking.
The guest list was big, reflecting our local Alachua compadres as well as all Vm’s new friends from his new school. A variety of ages were represented, but the majority of kids were in the 4-6 year old range. Because of the youngness of the crowd, I encouraged parents to please stay and attend the party. Thankfully, most adults stuck around. This definitely helped with the crowd control.
Knowing lots of kids would make my son happy but could also make things out of control, I put a lot of planning into the party. We had a wonderful teenage magician perform for the kids at the start of the party, which helped get everyone focused. I bought a 30 ft. parachute online and tried to recreated the fun of gym class with Mr. Lewis at Harry S. Truman School. Like I said earlier, we had a variety of ages represented amongst the kids so it made things a challenge, but the parachute was great fun and now we have it for future parties.
The party started with rain and a craft. Unfortunately I left the raw materials for the craft–pine cones–out overnite so they were soaked, making the pine cone avian a real challenge. Surprisingly, though, it was a great success with the older kids (8-12). We also played Steal the Beanbag (Steal the Bacon, but with a vegetarian name), but the kids had a difficult time remembering their number. They were into it though. Homemade pinata was a big success. It didn’t take too long to smash.
It took me less than five minutes the nite before the party to create the craft sample. After the pine cones were left out in the rain, the craft became all but impossible for a select few kids and the mommies patient enough to see it through. Even after I tried drying out the pine cones in the microwave the morning of.
My son was happy, guests were happy (note to self: need to put that we don’t wear our shoes in the house on Evite next time) and the day was a success. We didn’t get to play pass the orange, pin the tulasi leaf on Krsna’s foot or freeze dance during the main event, but me and a small group of hanger ons did during the after party. Pass the orange was way fun and I was shocked how much those kids were into dancing.
I don’t think everyone liked the eats, but I was okay with that. Maybe a bit sad, considering all the work, but I was expecting the non-vegetarians in the crowd to be a bit unfamiliar with our flavors.
Venumadhava wanted a terrarium for his birthday but all he got was this lousy vinaigrette (shown pre-blender whoooosh).
One of my favorite parts of the meal was the dinnerware. Paper plates NO MORE…I WON’T PARTICIPATE! From soup to salad, we used stoneware purchased from R.W. Beaty, the local restaurant supply shop in Gainesville. Really good prices on the stuff and lord knows we will continue to use it. I only wish we bought the stoneware 8 years ago. But then again, we would have had to pack it up and move it four times.
The party was a lot of work. The theme was “fun” and trying to create as little waste as possible. I managed to do go balloonless for the party, another feather in my imaginary cap (we did put two balloons on the mailbox to mark our house but that was it). Disposables were really at a minimum. Guests were requested to not spend more than five bucks on a gift and to keep it simple–legos, paperback books, bootleg cd’s, markers and colored pencils, etc.
Reusable stoneware dinnerware making it's way back to the cupboard. Clean up dragged on a bit because of the dishes but from an economic and environmental perspective, the minor inconvenience was worth it. Plus, real plates makes the dining experience more pleasurable. No weird taste transfer from the plates/bowls to the food.
I know spending a week on getting your kid’s birthday party together is not how most people envision celebrating turning six, but for me, a stay at home mom with two kids in school, what else am I going to do with my time? I see my job as giving my children the best childhood I can wrangle up, according to my abilities and our family values.
The party was so wonderful because we were able to share with our friends our love of simple pleasures in our life: home cooked food and home spun fun. Of course, doing things simply often involves more work, but the smiles on everyone’s faces is worth it.
The bread was very popular. Twenty-five cups of organic flour and still we ran out.
I didn't take many pics at the party because I was super busy blowing my whistle and directing the action. But here are a few pics of the start of the parachute. The kids went wild over it. In a good way.
birthday boy arriving on the scene
...showing off her climbing skills...
Part of the steal the bean bag posse.
Self decorated cupcake.
Plenty of parking.