Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Indoor Camping

My middle two boys share a room and last weekend we gave the walls a much needed coat of paint.  This meant that they had to sleep in the lounge room for the night and so, to avoid any worries or complaints, we decided to make an evening of it and go Indoor Camping!

There are so many wonderful ideas for camping indoors online but, considering the effort already going into the redecorating process, we kept it simple.

We built a tent with our Crazy Forts and a sheet.  Torches are essential.
  
We had a super quick and easy dinner.  Hubby cooked some sausages on the barbeque while I tossed a quick coleslaw together.  Dinner had to be eaten by lantern light.  Mr 7 insisted on turning off every other light in the house.
We even put a few plastic insects on the table to add authenticity...  
After dinner we had to have our main reason for ever going camping- S'mores.  We like to make ours with choc chip cookies - the really good kind with lots of quality chocolate.  

To make them indoors we just popped them under the grill until golden and soft then put another cookie on top to squish 'em together.
Then with very full bellies we all cuddled up on the boys' beds on the floor in front of the TV and watched the only movie I could think of with camping in it - The Parent Trap.  The boys thought it was a bit too girly but that it had some redeeming features like a fencing scene and some very funny pranks.

Aside from the quality family time, the best part was they fell asleep almost instantly and I got to sleep in my beautiful, big, comfy bed!

Tell me, have you been indoor camping?  Know any good camping movies that aren't too girly?

Monday, 29 April 2013

Date Night Strategy

Hubby and I went on a date last week.  These are rare events and usually only happen under the cover of darkness when every one - except our babysitter - is asleep and no one can notice us leaving. 

So, we've always gone out for a late dinner or caught a late session of the film we want to see.  Sadly, though, we're getting way too just a bit too old tired and busy for late dates on a school night!

Part of the reason for our covert ops is because Mr 4 is having real issues with me going anywhere without him.  He gets very distressed and I have a hard time enjoying myself when all I can think of is that hysterically sobbing face begging me not to leave him.

Until now!  I found this fantastic idea from The Dating Divas via Pinterest.  A special activity that can only occur once Mum and Dad have left for their date packaged in an envelope.

For the entire afternoon, this envelope was sitting on the kitchen bench holding promises of fun and excitement.  When it was time for us to go I braced myself for the onslaught of tears.  Instead I got, "Bye, Mum!  Bye, Dad! Can we open it now?"  Success!

When we came home (Iron Man 3 was awesome, by the way), our babysitter was able to report that it the kids absolutely loved it!  This may be because I broke our 'No Sugar' rule for them to play this game.  So, what was it?
A game called "Don't Eat Pete!" The game board is printed straight from The Dating Divas site and all of the instructions are on the board.  I just had to print it, pop it in the envelope with a packet of M&Ms and make the front of the envelope look exciting!

Basically, you take turns being "it".  The other players choose one square to be "Pete" and put an M&M on each square.  "It" gets to start eating the M&Ms until they try to eat "Pete" when the other players shout "Don't eat Pete!"

My boys raved about it all the next day.  They even saved a few M&Ms so they could play it with us that night!  I'm definitely going to be checking out their Kit Kat game for next time...

Friday, 26 April 2013

A Fourth Birthday Knight Party

My (now) four year old has been crazy about knights for quite a while. 

I think it may have started with me showing him the film "Bedknobs and Broomsticks". If you've seen this marvelous old classic, you'll remember the final scene where all the suits of armour come to life to fight off the bad guys.  Hamish was so taken with this that it's now the only part of the movie he wants to watch, and he'll watch it three or four times in a row if I let him.

There is a camping supply store here in Darwin that, for some reason, has a suit of armour in it. Full sized, with a helmet with a visor that lifts up and a big axe. He's called the "big axe guy", apparently, and we have to visit him (and open and close his visor) every time we go to the shops. As I said- He's crazy about them!

So it was no surprise that he asked for a knight party. We started by sending our knights and princesses a royal invitation to join the celebrations. 


Hamish really wanted to have his party at a park, so we chose one of our favourite local parks and crossed our fingers for fine weather.

I kept the decorations simple with balloons to help our guests find us... 

Some cute bunting (that I didn't get really a photo of.  You can sort of see it tied to the tree in the pic below) and the birthday boy's new mini suit of armor (Thank you, Grandma!) as table decoration...

Costumes added a real sense of authenticity. As per the invitation, Hubby and I were King and Queen of the realm...


and our beautiful boys were all brave knights...


The red costumes are store bought. The purple tunics I made by cutting the fabric to fit and cutting a hole for the head. This particular fabric didn't require hemming (win!) so I then stenciled the lion by first printing the shape onto photo paper and cutting it out. I used gold fabric paint and a stiff paint brush.

We had a few spare costume supplies on hand too... 



Hamish was very excited to have his friends- three gorgeous princesses and a dashing knight- join us in the fun...


One of the best things about having a party at a park with a playground (or two) is that most of the entertainment is done for you.

 
 The kids had a lot of fun just running around, climbing and sliding...


Having a large area to play in meant we could set up a couple of knightly quests too.



We made a jousting field with rope and plastic stakes and used a helium-filled balloon as a target.


The horses and lances were made with pool noodles. You can see the horse tutorial here and the image I copied for the lances here.

Knights and princesses were challenged with riding their horse and hitting the target with their lance while trying to be faster than their opponent.

We also set up a tent in which our guests could shelter from the sun, do a knightly puzzle or simply relax and view the jousting.  The tent is just a camping table, with a point made from our Crazy Forts.  Cover the whole thing in an old sheet, add bunting and a flag and you've got a medieval-style tent.

After all that jousting and playing we needed nourishment. 

The only thing I know about medieval food is from a Heston Bloomenthal special where he served prehistoric Lamprey and made a fruit platter that was actually made of meat (yikes!) so I played it safe and served... (I missed taking a pic of the) mini sausages and...

 Chicken drumsticks 

Corn on the cob 

Flaming arrows
(These marshmallows dipped in white chocolate and coated in red sprinkles proved very popular)

 
Shield cookies
(Transporting food is the worse part of holding your party at another venue. These got a little bashed up.  To make the shields I softened some choc buds and stamped them with a metal wax seal then pressed them onto shortbread cookies.)
Knight pops
(Note to self: some icing pens don't set hard and will get mushed during transportation.  Also, cake pops and hot weather don't mix.  I should have learnt this lesson after Rohan's first birthday party, but these knight pops were just too darn cue to resist.)


With everything we try our hardest to plan, there always has to be something that goes wrong! For this party, it was the cake... a Lamington Castle.

I was so afraid of the Lamingtons going stale that I left the cake until the morning of the party to assemble. Which, in hindsight, was silly. I should have assembled it and refrigerated it to let the buttercream frosting set hard. Needless to say the whole thing collapsed in the car on the way to the park and another three times during the party. 

By the time we sang Happy Birthday the whole structure was held together with copious numbers of wooden skewers!

But, the kids thought it was amazing and it was a nice way to finish our medieval luncheon. 

To finish, because it was rather warm by this stage- especially in a velvet frock!- we had a castle verse castle siege using water balloons. My boys had been to a party last year where the water balloon fight was their absolutely highlight, so we decided to do one... Knight-style.

Hubby cut and assembled two castles out of large, cardboard boxes. 

I painted some brickwork on them and the kids helped me make two different shields for identification. The lion one was to match the logo used on the invitation and the boys' costumes.  Liam designed and painted the shield for his castle.


Once at the park, the castles were hammered into the ground with tent pegs.  My eldest son spent the morning filling water balloons, so we divided the kids (& grown ups!) into two teams and then had an enormous amount of fun trying to drench one another.

If you plan in doing this yourself please be aware that you will need lots of balloons. Seriously fill two 120 packets. It's a tedious job but you will need want to use them all. Especially if, like me, your Hubby is immune to water balloons!  Seriously, I could not get even one to burst on him!


At the conclusion of the festivities, our guests took home a little treat bag. The knights bags had stickers, bouncy balls, bubbles, blowers and sweets, while the princesses had stickers, jewels, bubbles, blowers and sweets.



An amazing, fun day!  Happy Birthday, my gorgeous brave knight xx

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A Secret Agent Seventh Birthday Party

We had so much fun throwing a Secret Agent Party for our gorgeous (now) seven year old and I'm crazy excited to share all the awesome details.  This may be a long one so, if you like kids' parties as much as me, grab a cuppa and enjoy!

First we sent out cool invitations asking our friends to attend a training session at the International Spy Academy.  They also had to crack a code to give the secret password when they arrived.

We had asked our secret agent trainees to wear black attire, so we got in on the act too. (Yes, my husband blinks in nearly every photos he's in and, sadly, we are missing a kid in this photo too- Agent Nappy Rash was still asleep when we took this one)...  


I like having the party atmosphere evident as soon as the guests arrive.  Helium balloons are a great way to do this.  Also, balloons on the mail box help identify the party venue...


As our guests arrived we wanted to have the house set up like the Headquarters of the International Spy Academy.  We made a sign...


 Decorated the chalkboard...
The world map, flags and time zone clocks we have in the playroom really added to the atmosphere.  We added a strategic planning whiteboard and some wanted posters for the Evil Dr. Chaos and his henchmen...


Extra maps and our globe, plus Restricted Access signs to keep our trainee agents out of the bedrooms...


An Agents Only sign even adorned the bathroom...


When our trainees arrived they were photographed and asked to choose an ID badge.  On the back of each badge was a different secret agent code name which became their new identity.

We were planning to have each guest choice their own names by drawing a super cool adjective and noun out of different hats, but by creating them ourselves we were able to personalise the party gifts.  My favourite code name was Blue Phoenix.  Neon Lightning was pretty awesome too.

While the birthday boy ripped into gratefully unwrapped his gifts, I printed out each photo, glued them to the ID badges and added a lanyard.
I thought it was fun making IDs for all of us.  Agent Nappy Rash was not overly impressed...

With their security checks cleared and their secret identities established it was time to start secret agent training.  Our Trainers (aka my hubby and eldest son) took the trainees to our local park where they underwent a vigorous obstacle course...


Including the g-force simulator...
And rock climbing drills...


I also made a personalised, Spy Academy water-bottle for each trainee to keep them hydrated.  [Note to self: Boys love obstacle courses and being timed to see how fast they can do things!  Figure out how to apply this to housework...?]

Upon their return to HQ, the trainees had to complete the lazer course...



This is such a winner!  The boys and I had tried this one school holidays, so I was able to improve upon our earlier string and masking tape version.  For this one I used red wool (the bit of stretch helps prevent it being ripped off the wall too easily) and command picture hangers (I cut the velco-type ones in half.  They are great wall adhesives and the texture of the tiny clips kept the wool in place between them really well). 
        
I downloaded some spy music to play during the party.  Listening to the Mission: Impossible theme while weaving your way through the lasers was super cool!  We increased the difficulty a couple of times by adding more lasers after each trainee had tried the course twice.

After all that training it was time to hit the HQ dining room and refuel.  


We munched on...





Mystery Bars were simply a mix of fun sized chocolate bars that I unwrapped to make their selection more 'mysterious'.

Then we did the birthday cake...

The bomb looked really great with the number 7 sparkler in it.  You can tell that that's supposed to be a magnifying glass too, can't you?

Happy Birthday, Baby Bear...
 
As it was nearing the end of the party, I told the trainees I would go and get their lolly bags... then came back to them with the news that they were missing!  Stolen by the evil Dr Chaos!  Our nemesis had absconded with our treat bags but did, however, leave a series of clues to see how smart our trainees were.  Each child was given a different cypher or device and they had to identify which one could be used to solve which clue.  This also meant that every one got a turn solving a clue.


Each clue led to various places all over the house and garden...
 

I was so impressed by their code breaking skills and team work...



 Every clue used a different code or device to crack it...


 The level of excitement and enthusiasm was so rewarding to watch...


This long ribbon of paper was hidden in the mail box and needed to be wrapped around a tube in order to be read...

(Yes, that's food colouring from decorating the cake staining my finger nails!)


The final clue led them to the lolly bags hidden on top of the washing machine!

They were filled with lots of awesome loot...


Liam attended a party last year that had a Zac Power reader in the treat bags and I just loved the idea!  A special two mission Zac book fit in with our theme perfectly.  There was also a notebook and mini pen, a maze trainer, a laser finger light, (the left-over) Mystery Bars and Mentos (the official spy candy as seen in the film Agent Cody Banks 2).

This party is definitely one of my favourites... and I've thrown a lot of kids parties!  The biggest thrill of the day was seeing just how much fun my birthday boy and his friends had.  So much so that he was unable to pick just one thing as his favourite part of the day and that makes my mission: complete!