16 March 2017

The Bug's Patio Birthday Party

Yesterday was The Bug's birthday and the weather was so nice that in the late afternoon I decided to have part of our family celebrations outside and invite our dear neighbors over for presents, cake and ice cream. Children's birthdays always feel a little bit overwhelming as parents, covering all the necessary details even if it's just a family party. There are the gifts, a meal, decorations, cards, wrapping presents, and so many little details that start to feel a little overwhelming. It's amazing how exhausted you can feel at the end of a child's birthday. I almost feel like a big birthday last year was about the same amount of work as a family party...maybe less since we ordered pizza in for 15 girls!

Around four o'clock, as I was coming home from grabbing a few last minute groceries and a beautiful cake, I thought it would be more fun if we invited the neighbors, so I sent kiddo over to invite them. Then I started thinking about how nice it would be if we did all that outside. So I started zipping around the house looking for furniture we could take outside to use on the front patio.

I was rummaging around the house and then headed out to the garage where I found a nice fold-up rectangle table I forgot we had. Grabbed that, a bunch of chairs from the dining room table since we were using our more formal dining table seating area for dinner. Then I found a pretty tablecloth that I actually bought for a different purpose all together and threw that over the table. Started grabbing candles, flowers, cake candles, matches and took that and all the presents outside. I found a few little flower garlands to hang out there in my stash from last year's party.

This also gave me a chance to use one of my purchases from last summer, a covered tray to protect food outside. I gathered all the plates, cups, napkins, cutlery, ice cream scoop, cake knife and server there and took that all out to our table and we were ready for a starlight birthday celebration.

Then it was back inside to make dinner. The Bug requested steak, so we did steaks with marinated mushrooms and grilled onions. Earlier in the day I threw some baking potatoes into the slow cooker and I was so glad that got done early, took absolutely no time and didn't require turning on the oven for over an hour. Then I made Crack Broccoli which we are still eating almost weekly. We're on a big push for more leafy greens and so this is a great addition to our regular menu of kale/spinach smoothies and spinach salad.

Dinner was relaxing and delicious and by the time we got done eating we had about 15 minutes before our neighbors would arrive. We gathered the cake and ice cream, went out and turned on the lights and lit candles. It was fully dark by 7:45 when we saw our friends coming through the trees from their yard across the driveway with a flashlight. So fun. Our neighbor Cathy said the patio looked so romantic, which her husband thought sounded odd, but I know just what she meant and was so glad to know that we'd achieved "magical" and "inviting" with the scene.

We opened presents first. Our neighbors were so sweet to bring her a little ornament from their travels. A woodcut with a bear and fish. Her dad and I gave her some piano books, a book on drawing animals - which is a great talent of hers - and then she opened a few bike accessories which was the beginning of a little trick we played on her.

We told her that since she'd been enjoying riding her bike a lot the past few weeks that we thought she would enjoy a few bike accessories. That included a water bottle & cage for it, bike headlight, taillight and lights for spokes, etc. When she had opened them all, her dad said he thought he might have forgotten one of the accessories and he disappeared to go get it. She was fully engrossed in looking at her new books and was not paying attention to where her dad went or what he was doing.

When he walked up next to her chair with a shiny new bike, she still wasn't looking up. As her dad was walking up to her the neighbors were "Oooh"-ing and she looked up and her jaw dropped. She was speechless. She jumped up and threw her arms around her dad and kept saying thank you. She said thank you didn't seem like enough to really say what she felt. It was a little too dark for an initial ride and we need to adjust the handlebars and seat for her but she walked it around, inspected it, threw her leg over and and got a feel for it for a few minutes.

Her old bike was a little too small for her and we've known for a while that she needed a new bike. She was also very tired of pink bikes, three in a row and had made it very clear that she wanted a
mountain bike that didn't have girl colors. So she got the very boyish Gauntlet bike in camo and orange - and loved it. No more girly bikes with tassles around here!

We capped the night off with a beautiful cake from Whole Foods. I was going to make a cake and was looking forward to trying out the "make a box cake taste like homemade" and "make a box cake taste like a bakery cake" tips from Pinterest, but when The Man suggested I just go to Whole Foods and get a cake I thought that sounded pretty good. Once I got there though it was hard to choose. I love their Chantilly Cake and it is a perfect spring/summer cake with white cake and berries inside and out. But that  is my favorite cake and so associated with my birthday now that I thought I wanted to do something else for The Bug.

Chocolate cakes sounded so heavy, carrot cake sounded wintery. So I settled on a cake we hadn't tried before Strawberry Boston Cream Pie Cake. I knew it was flavors that everyone in our family would enjoy and it felt spring-like and not too rich, dense or heavy. When I told everyone at the table what kind of cake it was everyone reacted with oohs and ahhs so I was glad it seemed like the right choice for all five of us. It was delicious and light and creamy, just as I hoped and it paired so well with french vanilla ice cream too. Even after it was served and eaten The Man had another piece and then cut off another small corner and Kiddo was picking at it. We'll definitely enjoy the rest over the next couple of days.

I am so glad we took a few minutes to throw together something a little extra special to enjoy our front patio, which we've never done, and party under the dark, beautiful, star-filled New Mexico skies. It turned out to be a delightful evening and a good reminder that spur of the moment ideas when implemented can make a night one to remember.

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