Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arrgh! A pirate party, matey!

Noah was so excited to plan his pirate birthday party for this year that I had to set the rule that “we aren’t talking about it until after Christmas” (a deadline he could kind of comprehend). So, once the holidays passed, we delved right into party planning. First thing on the list – invitations. We talked about and looked at lots of invites, but Noah was most excited about the idea of a message in a bottle. We looked at a couple of kits, but they were expensive and not exactly what we wanted…so we put our own together. (And when I say we, I really do mean Noah & I…he was thrilled to spend copious amounts of time planning out specific details for all aspects of the party. Of course I loved that.) So, I found plastic corked bottles, sand, miniature shells, and we made our own “old” paper. I let Noah invite everyone in his preschool classes this year, but was upfront with him that we won’t do that again. Next year he’ll have to pick a few close friends to invite. So, that meant that for this year we had to put together two dozen messages in a bottle! They looked so cute all finished. It was fun to put one in each of the kids’ cubby boxes at school, and Noah hand delivered Ron & Diane’s to them in his Captain Hook costume.

As for how we made the “old paper”.,,I was a little bit nervous about how smoothly this would go, but I think it turned out great! I used regular old computer paper and typed up the invitation using the Blackadder font found in Word, and I just came up with pirate-speak to word the invitation. I was able to fit two invites on each sheet of paper. Then I took tea bags (generic black tea), moistened them, and swabbed them all over the printed invites. I worried that the ink would smear, but I didn’t have a problem with that at all. After the papers were sufficiently “antiqued” I put them on cookie sheets and left them outside in the sun to dry. Once they were dry I crinkled them up and then passed them off to Mark who burned the edges of each invite with a lighter (he did a great job, I must add)! Lastly, I rolled up the invitation, tied it with a length of jute, and put it into the bottles that Noah helped us prep with sand (regular old sandbox sand) and miniature shells. I left a little bit of jute hanging out of the bottle before putting in the cork so people could grab onto that and pull out the invitation more easily. And viola! Cute little message in a bottle invitations! Not too expensive. A bit time consuming, but actually quite fun to put together.

Now for the party itself. We reserved a ramada at a local park and we were thrilled to have weather in the low 80’s (in mid-March? Wahoo!)…this was great for everything except the cake, so we had that arrive toward the end of the party. Here are some pictures of some of the decorations. Here is the cake-table with “pirate treasure” to adorn it before the cake showed up:

Some finger foods to snack on…Swedish fish in “fish bowls” (found in the candle section of the dollar store), grapes on sword spears, carrot stick swords, pirate themed butter mints in mason jars, goldfish crackers in a bowl that I thought looked shaped like a ship (so I added a pirate flag for a “mast”), and cute little red/white striped straws for the bottled waters. I stuck a couple of bowls (from home) under the burlap table runner to give some different heights to things, threw the black fishing net over the burlap, and sprinkled various sized shells and starfish around the table. It was simple, but I loved the way things came together.

Mark brought the skeleton foot and skull home from work for me to use in the table display…
I got the idea for these cute carrot swords at a pirate party we attended a couple of years ago…
I was going to make water bottle labels for the party, but went with the simpler (and cheaper) idea of throwing on some skull & crossbones stickers and ribbon that I already had.
I lined the pathway leading to the ramada with these little pirate flags:
I planned to tie a helium balloon to a golf tee and put one in the ground between each flag too…but it was so windy and we couldn’t the balloons untangled! Arrrgh (said in pirate voice)!
Here is Mark’s aunt Diane and one of the pirates trying diligently to untangle one of the masses of balloons. We ended up having a couple of bunches of weighted balloons next to the tables (the wind caused havoc if they were on the tables)…and the rest of the balloons just hung out on the ceiling inside the covered ramada. I was disappointed with this, but there’s always something with party decorations that doesn’t go as you picture (at least for me)…

I loved the generous length on the pirate pennant that I ordered from OTC, and the big pirate flag I found on Amazon (although I hated using masking tape to hang it up…the ramada wasn’t wood, so we couldn’t use the staple gun). As party guests arrived they put their gift on the table in the foreground of this picture and then proceeded to get a tattoo or face painting done by a pirate (which was off to the right in this photo).

Noah chose to have a mustache (which I think looked awesome) painted on and then I got a picture of Noah with the 3 pirates. I meant to get a photo like this of each of the kids to give to them after the party, but totally forgot. Arrrgh again.

I have to briefly tell a bit about our experience hiring a pirate…we hired a pirate actor to show up in character and run the party. He ended up having a conflict with being in the Renaissance Festival every weekend in March, so the company got us a different pirate. That one ended up finding out he had to be out of state the weekend of the party, so a week before the party we were assigned yet another pirate. All the details were solidified (order of events during the party, supplies he was to bring, etc)…and just after MIDNIGHT the night before the party I got a text saying that an emergency came up and this third pirate wouldn’t be able to do the party. I was so stressed out after that, I couldn’t sleep well. In the morning I spent a couple of hours (that I was supposed to be using to finish party preparations that I had) on the phone back and forth with the owner of the company that we’d hired the pirate from. She was very apologetic, but the best she could offer us was the possibility of some high school kids dressed as pirates. Their costumes weren’t as intricate and they wouldn’t run the party or talk/act in character (like a pirate)…but they could come dressed up and do the face painting, balloons, and help run games. That’s what we ended up doing, and I was grateful that she was able to pull that together last minute, but was frustrated to have to settle (and have that last minute stress) after having booked things 2 months in advance – and with what we were paying them. So, because I can’t give a heartfelt recommendation for this company (yet I also don’t want to smear them after she scrambled to help us last minute either)…I’m not including the company’s name in this post. The 16 year old pirates were nice boys. Their costumes looked great, and they were well mannered & helpful…but they were very quiet and soft spoken and obviously required direction. We also had to often step in to repeat (louder) what they were saying so the kids could hear. Quite a change from my expectation of having a “real” pirate show up and take charge of the party (with his loud pirate voice) after all the effort I’d gone to with communicating details about the party so that we wouldn’t have to direct things during the party. The kids still had a good time though, so I tried not to let it bother me.

Now! On to the other fun festivities of the party!...but first check out a couple pictures of our adorable little pirate (although I’m sure he’d prefer it if I said what a scary pirate he looked like, instead of “cute”):

More face painting. Here’s Ella getting a star on her cheek:
Lincoln requested a scar on his arm:
Julian got a skull & crossbones on his cheek:
Smeena got a pirate working on each arm (smart girl):
I so wish that I knew which one of the twins this is...

As more kids arrived we had them alternate between the treasure dig and beanbag toss while they waited for their turn to get painted by the pirates. First let me show the treasure dig!

We emptied the sand from our sandbox (which is a ship!) into buckets and brought the sandbox and sand to the park. We refilled the sandbox with sand as well as treasures for the kids to dig for…and each child was given a bag and this handout that I made showing how many of each item to dig for:

I ordered the coins, various rings, and necklaces all from OTC. The jewels were more difficult to find. I ordered them here, and they were perfect. The kids had a really great time digging for their treasures and filling up their little bag!

Here is Noah showing off some of his rings from the dig (he loved them).
I have to point out something about this cute picture of Noah’s hand…I wanted to cut Noah’s nails for a couple of days before the party, but Noah insisted that he wanted to leave them long and scraggly “like a real pirate” for the party. Since it was important to him, I relented (and cut them right afterward)…but I just had to share that funny detail.

Here are some of the kids doing the beanbag toss. Once they got a beanbag in, they were presented with a little pirate stamper to put in their bag.

Once the kids had each gotten painted and done the dig and beanbag toss, we moved on to organized games! First up…sack races! The kids lined up and raced two by two. It was so cute. And once everyone had a turn, each child got a pirate bandanna.

Lincoln surprised me by not being interested in playing the organized games with the other kids. He preferred to sit and dig for extra treasures in the sandbox…

Next was a cute flag game that the pirates did a good job leading. Here are the kids getting all set up for the game…

The kids seemed to get into this game and have a great time. And afterward…all participants got an eye patch!

Lincoln just hung out by his grandpa’s leg.
Next was the plank! Mark put it together from some wood that we had on hand. The kids faced off two by two to see who could get past the other person (or stay on the longest). They seemed to have a lot of fun with this. And each child got a little retractable telescope!

Here’s a quick shot of some of the eye patches and telescopes…
And then it was time for the treasure hunt! I put together simple clues that led the kids to a few places around the park.

Here’s a quick clip of the kids running to find one of the clues (hidden near the treasure dig):
The kids all cheered and ran when the last clue said to look near the cake (which was delivered and set up during their treasure hunt). At this point I’m not sure if they were more excited about the cake or finding the treasure…

These little treasure boxes filled with candy pearls were the treasure at the end of the hunt:
Next the pirates began making balloons for the kids.
They made some pirate swords balloons, but lots of the girls requested things like flowers or hearts…

Next we took a quick group picture since a couple of the kids had to leave. We lined Noah’s friends up on a bench…

And here’s the group picture. Lincoln wasn’t very cooperative, you can’t see Julian behind the heart balloon, and Brody left before we took the picture. Since Noah S needed to leave a bit early we cut him a piece of cake (before singing) and stuck him in the picture really quickly before they had to go. Left to right the kids are (I'll have to list Sierra & Malayna as "twin" since unfortunately I don't know which is which): Twin, Noah S, Emma, Bailey, Ella, Noah, Caitlyn, Twin, Smeena (and Julian & Lincoln in the back).

I love this picture of Noah (so does he).
Now, the cake! I love how the cake turned out. After looking at lots of pictures of cakes online with Noah, I wrote down the elements that we were looking for and drew out a sketch of the design we were looking for. I submitted it to 7 local bakeries that do custom cakes and was blown away at the quotes I got back. Things were way out of our budget, so I had reluctantly begun to resign myself to making cupcakes with pirate toppers…then I found out about Linda. She went to culinary school and makes desserts at a nice local restaurant – she does cakes on the side out of her home. I talked to her and she not only sounded like she’d do an awesome job, but gave me a very reasonable quote! I was psyched and couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out. She did a really great job! Just for fun…here’s the sketch I submitted showing what I wanted:

And here’s how the cake turned out:

I love how realistic the sand turned out…and what a great job she did making the banner and masts (on the ship) look old! I was also excited that she was able to throw a hook in there (next to the ship) as a nod to Noah’s particular obsession with Captain Hook.
If you live in the Phoenix area and want to contact Linda about a cake, email her at or contact me for her phone number.

These photos don’t do justice to how awesome the detail on the wood was (for both the ship and treasure chest). Loved it!

Linda came up with the idea of making the banner out of marzipan since it could be burned to look old…

Noah thinks this picture is super cool, so I have to include it:
Thanks again, Linda, for doing such a great job on the cake. It was just what I pictured, and our “mean” little pirate here loved it.
I talked him into a nice smile too…

We added five cute little molded candles around the cake (pirate hat, skull, sword, etc) for Noah to blow out after we sang to him:

Blowing out the candles…

Noah checking out the cake one more time after blowing out his candles. Again – the piece of cake in the back was cut out earlier to send home with a friend that needed to leave early.

Noah holding up the banner from the cake (before taking a bite out of it).

After munching on the banner, Noah went to town on the hook…

I’m including this photo of the ship & treasure chest (that is Noah’s sword that he set across the plate) because in the background you can see some of the top tier of the cake…lemon cake with raspberry mousse filling. I wish I’d taken better pictures showing the cake after it was cut, but trust me - it was both pretty and mmmm…yummy.

You can see the inside of the bottom tier of the cake behind Linc here…at Noah’s request it was chocolate cake with chocolate filling (as well as a thin layer of raspberry).

Next was present opening. I love the expression on Noah’s face while opening the gift from my parents…and he was so animated as he exclaimed, “It’s just what I’ve always wanted!!” (Pirate ship with pirate figures)

He was also really excited about these playmobile pirates from Julian, who is next to him in the picture. I have to mention that Julian is afraid of loud noises and unfortunately due to the wind balloons were blowing around and popping on things randomly throughout the party, so Julian was keeping his ears plugged to stay on the safe side…

Noah and Bailey. So many thoughtful gifts…thank you, everyone!
Noah & Lincoln.

Noah with his grandparents (my parents) who drove down from Utah.

Mark and I with Noah, who wanted to do an angry pirate pose. Note that his finger is shaped like a hook.
We love you, Noah. And we’re so glad that you had fun at your pirate party. Happy 5th birthday!