Although his birthday was at the end of January, last weekend we celebrated the bean's 4th birthday with a proper birthday party. There were grandparents, there were friends, there were balloons, there were candles and cake and presents. And, we all had a lovely time (phew).
Much as I aspire to lead the sort of crafterly life that leads to serene parties in which calm children play party games, participate in well chosen craft activities, and take home a hand-stitched party bag packed full of homespun craft and baking goodness, my life just isnt like that (sigh).
So, this is what we did. We opted for a bouncy castle party at a local leisure centre. The room hire/charges were modest, and gave us 2 hours of fun - an hour or so bouncing/playing in the sports hall and an hour or so in a separate room for our party food. The bouncy castle was more of a bouncy assault course than a castle, so children went in one end, and after negotiating various pillars/slopes, slid out of the other end - hopped off the mat, ran round and repeated until they were hot and bothered.
As well as that, the hall had some footballs, tennis rackets and a couple of space hoppers - and we took a basket of toys for some of our younger friends which we spread on a couple of quilts/blankets. Surprisingly some of the older children sat down to play/read after a while - and it seemed that having a variety of activities on offer worked very well.
In terms of food, we laid the table in good time, and put out bowls/platters for children (and/or their mums) to serve themselves. Everything was finger food - sandwiches, hula hoops (these seem to be very, very popular), sausages, mini cheese portions, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, cherry tomatoes, grapes and satsumas. I worked on the basis of allowing 1 or 2 pieces/portions per child - knowing that individual preferences would mean that some would eat sandwiches/cheese and some wouldn't. I also opted for foods which would be familiar to most children - so slightly more exotic things like olives, pineapple and kiwi fruit were not included. The only exception to my portion estimation was the hula hoops. I bought a multi-pack and put them all out.
We kept the cake/sweet things off the table until most of the savouries had been eaten. Then we offered home-baked cookies, blueberry muffins and of course birthday cake. I did this very deliberately, having seen what happens when chocolate biscuits are on the table next to ham sandwiches, and when one child puts 10 chocolate fingers on their plate they all do! I was also very deliberate about avoiding chocolate and commercial cakes/biscuits - nothing moral here, I just thought there would be enough sugar/sweetness on offer without them. And so it seemed. There were no complaints. Most of the food was eaten, everyone seemed to have enough to eat and there was very little left over to take home. My last (inspired) decision was to take a pack of baby wipes for wiping sticky fingers and faces. It was a good one.
As you can imagine, the party hiatus meant that there has not been much knitting in the last few days. But the deadline for the third birthday is getting a bit near, and grace is moving slowly (but gracefully?) forwards. I started with the sleeves, which I'm knitting at-the-same-time, and last night I managed to get to the final series of shapings at the top of each sleeve, so it feels like progress is being made. I'm slightly concerned about running out of yarn though, because I'm knitting with some yarn from a charity shop jumper which I unravelled a couple of years ago. It's about a DK weight, with 50% wool, and has a sparkly lurex strand to make it just a weeny bit shiny and bling - and there should be enough - it was an adult sweater and I'm knitting a child's cardigan, but you know how it is. the internal knitting curmudgeon isnt quite convinced. To counter the running out feeling, I will of course, do the thing every other knitter does in this situation - just knit faster.