I don’t know what you did last weekend, but my son…
If you’ve been on the internet long, you know that it is a thing for moms to get on Facebook and bemoan the passing of another year of their child’s life and to say cliche things like “Where did the time go??” and “Time flies!!” but, do you know why this is so?
BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.
My baby was…a baby!…just yesterday and then I did ring-around-the-rosies with him three times and when I stood up from “we all fall down” and shook my head around a little bit (I dizzy very easily), he was EIGHT.
I can’t make sense of it, and so I do the only thing I can to help me process the phenomenon, and I throw a ridiculous party.
Birthday parties help my mind to stop for a week or two and memorialize what is passing by me so very quickly; in the blur of moments and days, I thrust my hand forward and I grab my child by the shirt collar and I plop them down at a party table with pictures and candles and all the love my heart can manage to serve up in one measly day.
My kids love their parties, but someday they are going to realize that these parties were actually for ME!
And although this year’s theme wasn’t my first choice, it turned out to be really special and left me full of all kinds of warm and happy feelings.
You see, Gid has wanted a “knight” party for a couple of years now, and after my husband gave me a little bit of guidance on the subject (I was pulling for a different theme and Gideon was obviously trying to make me happy), I decided to go for it, regardless of the fact that the medieval wasn’t really calling to me.
But that’s okay, because moms are in the business of dying-to-themselves, and I eventually found GREAT JOY in giving Gid this party of his dreams.
Of course, it really helped that he and his cousin, Anna (who will turn 8 on April 2) requested to have this party together, adding a fun “princess” factor to the affair, and more importantly, ensuring that the most important element to ANY party would be by my side, and I speak, of course, of my sister-in-law, Amy.
In one of our many back-and-forth e-mails about this shared celebration, I declared to her that “I am never doing a party without you again” and I’m going to do my best to stand by that statement. Amy did her thing an hour away, I did mine and, as usual, it all merged together at my mom’s house in perfect unison.
And since my “thing” was to brainstorm, make the Pinterest board, and gather up decorations and food, I stopped in at Reasor’s the day before the party and let the grocery store tell me what I needed to buy.
“Speak to me, grocery store,” I said. “Present to me the medieval…”
This was a bad idea, because as we all know, grocery stores just want to make money – they don’t really care about you! – and spend money I did. Not a ton of money, mind you, but enough to make me start sweating just a little.
My list grew bigger and bigger as I shopped, but the GOOD thing about this is that, by the time I left Reasor’s, the majority of our party’s food AND decor had been procured, and it had only taken me about thirty minutes.
When you stick with the rustic side of party-throwing and stay away from birthday party companies where paper products and decorations abound, your party finds a way to come to life through the beauty of simple and timeless components.
Like pewter and radishes.
(Radishes were not initially on my list, but they sort of MADE the party. You’ll see for yourself soon).
Anyhow, I might have gotten a little carried away in the produce aisle, but HOW PRETTY are these colors?
Our plan was to have our medieval celebration down at the pavilion by the creek where we have most of our parties. It’s in the woods, it’s beautiful, it makes the perfect backdrop to just about everything, and we all love it there.
But I have VERY BAD BREAKING NEWS.
It was pouring down rain from morning till night on the day of our party.
And it was chilly.
And here’s yet another reason I love Amy: rather than encouraging me to move the party indoors as common sense would dictate, she supported me in my determination to squeeze our big outdoor party onto the only outdoor space that wasn’t wet, which was my parent’s tiny front porch.
“There’s stone and rock in the background,” I told her over the phone, “and more importantly…”
“…good lighting,” Amy finished for me.
Good lighting is everything, especially if you are like us and like to “go” to your own parties well after you’ve hosted them, when children are tucked into bed and your captured memories are waiting to be viewed and edited on your computer.
So here’s the new party site, and you’ll laugh when you see how we had to squish our 9 children into this area. Our five-year-olds, wedged between the table and the rock wall, barely had room to exhale.
Thankfully, they think we’re normal, so they just play right along, even if rain is pouring just past the edge of the porch that shelters them. Rain is quite medieval, you know. Children would have been wet and cold in a real medieval village. We’re just being accurate.
bippety boppety boo…
after a couple of movies in Grandmother’s bedroom…
the next time they came outside…
For the main course of our meal, our plan was to have a giant, roasted turkey. My brother, Jerry, is a master at smoking foods on his Big Green Egg, and he agreed to contribute the bird.
On the morning of the party, his smoker BROKE.
BEFORE he could cook the turkey.
We didn’t know what to do, but Jerry had the genius idea to pick up some rotisserie chickens at Wal-Mart. I would never have thought of that, and even though it pains me, I have to thank my brother for saving the party.
Even though his smoker was the one that almost ruined it.
Now that I think of it, this might have been his plan all along. We boiled some little golden potatoes for this dish (some pricey little boogers that called to me at Reasor’s) and, after laying down a bed of radish greens next to the chicken, we surrounded the chicken with potatoes and (raw) radishes, not because this is actually a recipe and not because we actually ate all of it together, but because it looked AWESOME.
If you ever throw a medieval party, please, do yourself a favor and let this be your main course. Too easy! Did I say that I got carried away in the produce aisle at Reasor’s? Because I also got carried away in the bakery, coming home with two round loaves of pumpernickle, two round loaves of sourdough, a loaf of cranberry walnut bread and twelve, giant wheat rolls. And pears! Glorious pears!
No one ate the brown pears, but…sigh…don’t they look so medieval? Love. I also got carried away in the cheese section of the grocery store, but that’s okay, because it all tasted so very Gouda. Grapes. Lots and lots of grapes. We STILL have grapes. This was just 1/4 of the grapes I bought. Now, another reason our parties come together easily and for little cost is because my mom has some surprisingly random things on hand, like the red goblets and the silver serving pieces and, I don’t know, six little pewter bowls, perfect for holding grapes!!!
Do you have little, pewter bowls hidden away in some forgotten cabinet?
Mom does. And this is an idea I got off of Pinterest, Pepperidge Farm’s Chessmen cookies. Brilliant! For the flowers, I spent a goodly amount of time amongst the selection at Reasor’s, finding a mix of bouquets that would draw all of our colors together. Hot pink, red, lavender and purple did just the trick, and made Anna’s seat of honor especially lovely and fit for a queen. This next idea was also gathered from Pinterest. If I’m the grocery store part of the party, Amy is the craft part, and she whipped these awesome chair-backers up from felt she already had at her house. She also made the portcullis you see here, fashioned out of duct tape.
I present to you the highlight of our party, the pièce de résistance, the “sword in the stone” birthday cake that our friend, Tammy, made IN HER HOME KITCHEN.
Tammy graduated high school with me and lives right down the street in a normal house that does not, as far as I know, have a magical kitchen, and so I can’t fathom how she can do this when I can barely get the icing on a cupcake. She amazes me. Check out this cake!!! Aside from a couple of bottles of sparkling grape juice (with the labels torn off) and a pewter pitcher of water, this was it!
Possibly cost-effective (if you don’t buy enough fruit for a vegetarian army and enough cheese for a ship full of mice).
Now let’s send in the clowns! We let Gideon and Anna come outside first. I’ll share more on their costumes later, but right now I just need you to understand that, to get these pictures, Amy and I had to be in the yard, in the rain, sloshing through mud from one side of the porch to the other. I couldn’t stop laughing about the ridiculousness of the entire situation.
But the kids LOVED it and they couldn’t believe the new and improved porch. It was like stepping back in time! Now. We couldn’t let Gid and Anna dress up in costumes and have the rest of us in jeans and sneakers, amiright?
There was a time a couple of weeks before the party when I was dreaming big and searching at Amazon for medieval costumes for all of us, but when it came down to it, everything we wore to this party was something we already owned or something the kids decided to buy with their own money.
I was especially proud of the wizard costume my husband came up with when he was at his office on the day of the party. He borrowed a baptism robe from the baptistry, he made a staff out of a big stick and a creepy animal skull that Gid’s Granddaddy gave him one day, he painted streaks on his face with shoe black, and he wore jewels on every finger that he bought himself at Dollar General.
until, that is, Gideon requested that I dress as a witch.
Done. If you remember, I happened to have a Darth Vader robe in the attic, and my hair is very bushy, especially in the rain. I took a special spooky picture just for Gid. My niece, Abigail, used her own money to buy this super-cute wizard costume. When the party was over, we sneaked outside for a more “organic” wizard picture. This girl is growing up so fast. We’re nearing preteen years, so it thrills me that she still likes our kiddy parties. My daughter, Rebekah, completely balked on the costume I dug out of dress-up our box for her, the “Brave” Merida costume she got two Christmases ago and a snowy, white cape.
She wanted to wear her very favorite “pink dress”, the one that she has worn to almost every party and holiday since 2013, but I stood firm, and when she saw the pictures, she gasped and said “I DO look like a true princess!”
“And what can you learn from that?” I asked her.
“What?” she asked, confused.
“You need to ALWAYS TRUST MOMMY with your wardrobe” I said.
I can’t even.
She wore her “Frozen” Anna-inspired dress from Little Adventures, plus a velvet cloak that was given to us by a friend, and topped it with my own metal flower headband from Anthropologie.
All the girls felt especially beautiful because their Grandmother gave them LIPSTICK. Oh the glamour! We failed to get a good picture of my niece, Kate, outside in her princess costume (she spent most of the party squished against a wall), but here’s one from before the party. I’m jealous because I ALWAYS wanted a hat like that when I was a little girl.
Young Abel made the cutest little knight, donning a tunic that his mommy made out of a pillowcase! He is also wearing a fun dragon cloak that captured the fancy of everyone at the party.
And then there was the squishiest, cutest dragon in all the kingdom, Little Shep. His costume belonged to Gideon many moons ago, from the after-Halloween sale at Pottery Barn Kids. Now, let the party begin! You don’t expect me to caption all of the following photos, do you? Good. I knew I liked you.
After everyone had received their drink, my husband came outside to bless the meal. There were some theatrics involved… but what I especially loved was noticing the little princesses to the right with their hands clasped in prayer.
Mayhap they are praying for the conversion of all of the wizards and witches at the party, which most assuredly happened. ‘Twas the beginning of a great revival. Moving on, would you like to know a little trick I have?
At some point in every party, I tell the kids to laugh so we can take a happy picture. It’s not a FAKE picture, because there HAS been laughter all throughout the party. I’m just making sure that we can prove it! The next hour or so was dedicated to a leisurely supper outside, pretending to be medieval.
If she had tipped back her weight at all, she would have fallen completely off the porch. But the lighting was good, so, there’s that. Here’s the birthday girl, glowing with girlhood and joy. Methinks she takes my breath away. Wanna hear something funny?
The day after the party, when I asked Gideon what his favorite thing about the day was, he said, “the radishes”.
I had lost count of how many he ate, but when he burped in my face, I realized that it was exactly twelve.
Kings can be so boorish. My nephew, Abel, liked the pears. (I like Abel). At some point, I got a scary picture of Gid holding his Papa’s weird staff. He thought it was awesome, and I guess I can see his point. If you’re a boy. Here’s something else funny. Amy told me to peek into the kitchen to see how my daddy was eating. Poor guy.
We took his table.
His peace and quiet.
we took a few more staged pictures before moving into the warm house. Here is Gid with the magical cake… And Anna and the cake… And finally, the entire merry group. When the house was fast asleep later that night and I was able to take the time to look at each face in the photo, my throbbing feet did a little happy dance…
I can’t imagine now why I ever had a problem with the idea of hosting a medieval party. Because they’re obviously the BEST.
Happy birthday, Anna and Gideon! I wish you both a future filled with joy and fellowship and feasting.
And lots and lots of radishes.
Stay tuned for Part Two, a blog post completely dedicated to the products and costumes featured in this party!