Leading up to my daughter's 4th birthday I became obsessed with strawberries.
She likes 'Strawberry Shortcake', and I thought that would be a good theme. There are, after all, limited birthdays for which fun parties will be required. Soon enough she'll just want me to take her and her best friend to concert (bring back Take That, I say), or have 'the girls' over for greasy pizza, a horror film and a sleepover. God forbid.
I scoured the internet for the right 'Strawberry Shortcake' themed party ware at a reasonable price, and plunged into every '$2' shop I passed to see what fruity goodies may lurk there.
What games to play? Treasure hunt, buns-on-strings, musical chairs, pass-the-parcel, pin the hat on Strawberry Shortcake. How many games should there be? What the prizes? And what the food? Oh, the organisation....
A week before The Day we went to the 4th birthday party of one of our daughter's small friends. The house was decorated with unusual streamers, brought over from Europe. The party table was adorned with party poppers, small gifts, all sorts of party naughties to eat and featured a stylish red cupcake stand. The guests were all lovely - even the children! Pieces de resistance were the handmade necklaces the hostess had done for all the little girl guests - being the mother of a boy she had relished this foray into girliness.
It was a lovely party and the children - girls and boys nicely balanced, I thought, had a whale of a time.
Now, I thought I was verging on appearing like a competitive party mum with all my strawberriness. For by now pink strawberry shaped biscuits, strawberry shaped shortbread and strawberry shortcakes (a bit like scones but sweeter) lurked in my freezer in readiness, with homemade 'cheesymite' sticks and vanilla cupcakes each waiting to be iced and topped with a berry-shaped sweetie. A box in the cupboard was full of hand-made strawberry shaped chocolate lollipops I'd made, and a jar stuffed with every strawberry shaped sweet I'd come across over the past two months. My Mum, bless her doting grandmotherliness, had even sent from the UK some wonderful ice lolly moulds in the shape of strawberrries, where the handles were the wee green stick part of the fruit. Ingenious.
Or perhaps overkill?
Anyway, after this other party, which we attended as a family, my dear husband looked at me and in sincere consternation said "What hand made things have we got at our party? Is it going to be as good?"
I laughed, then looked hard at him and realised he was deadly serious. "It's not about being the best," I reminded him, "It's about Daisy having a good time on her birthday."
That night we sat and cut out strawberry shapes from concertina'd tissue paper, and strung them on strings for streamers. He seemed happy. Then went into the kitchen to hand make some marshmallow, just in case...
Finally we got to bed and fell into a fitful sleep. In the early hours I woke from a terrible nightmare. It's the day of our daughter's party. As requested, James (the husb) is helping me out and not just standing drinking beer with the other dads. "Pass the parcel time," he calls, corralling myriad children and sitting them in a circle. My heart leaps. I haven't prepared the parcel. Small gifts are lying unwrapped in a drawer somewhere while wrapping paper is gathering dust on the top of the wardrobe. Anyone who has ever made a pass-the-parcel knows that these dastardly things take three times longer than you think to put together. There is no way I can do it in time. DISASTER.
Next morning, as we laughed about my nightmare, I realised it was time to stop obsessing over strawberries, after all I had more strawberry themed party gifts, prizes and what not than twenty children ought to require - and I certainly hadn't invited twenty. Thank goodness I had maintained a little sense at least.
Trouble was, I hadn't quite designed the birthday cake yet. I had this Strawberry Shortcake doll I was thinking of putting into the middle of a bowl-shaped cake to make one of those 'doll with a big flouncy skirt' type of cakes. But everything just seemed so overwhelmingly, well, pinky.
I had another doll I'd scored for $1 from an auction site. Strawberry Shortcake on a skateboard... That night, James and I sat and worked out how to cut a large marble cake into the right shapes to make a skate park. Then I dyed my my home-made moulding icing just the right shade of pinky grey for the concrete, rolled and stuck it onto the cake while James graffiti'd 'Happy Birthday' with food colouring, and tagged it with the names of all the children who were coming. Rock on.
The moral of my tale? Well, there isn't one. The party was gorgeous, if the children didn't totally appreciate it, all the adults certainly did. They wondered at all the strawberry-themed home made food, the pretty cupcakes (adorning the same red cupcake stand I'd got my friend to bring along!), the red, white and pink balloons and strawberry shaped streamers. When I brought out the strawberry ice lollies I felt parents hearts sink. Dads at the barbeque marvelled at James' home made burger patties. I think the birthday cake (which the children loved because, well, it was cake) was the absolute killer though. It was for me. Especially since for some reason I failed to take a really good picture of it.
Ah well, there's always next year.