Saturday, February 24, 2007

5th Birthday Party

V's 5th birthday was a great success. A month before the party, we had been (for some reason I can't recall) talking about the sphinx and pyramids in Egypt. I decided shortly after that to have V's party with an Egyptian theme. We checked out books from the library to keep her interested and found some great museum websites with ancient egyptian games she could play online. I'm not the type to fork out cash to reserve a party room or take a group of kids on an "outing" so we had it at home, and V was allowed to invite 9 people (turned out to be all girls) because we have a 10-person dining room table. One was not able to attend. This was the first real party where we welcomed gifts. Previous years we specified "no gifts please" when we were gathering at a coffee shop or for a play group to celebrate her birthday. Recently I figured that if she didn't receive gifts in a party setting, she wouldn't be able to practice being thankful and gracious. She did a fantastic job and thanked and hugged each girl before moving on to the next gift. She even handwrote her own thank-you notes. I spent most of my prep time finding the right font for the invitations that would look egyptian while still being legible by 4 and 5 year olds, and their parents. Then, for the planned treasure hunt, I needed a simple hieroglyphic font that correlated roughly to the actual heiroglyphic alphabet. I also researched online for appropriate activities that would occupy the two hours I planned for. Because the girls attending are into dressing up in costumes, I bought 10 yards of white broadcloth and made each girl a "kalasiris" or egyptian robe. Also gold rope to tie around their waist, and enough stretchy gold sequin trim to make each girl two "bracelets". I kept the robes simple, and each one took about 20 minutes to sew, even with finishing all seams except the neck hole. I made three on the larger side for the older girls, and one smaller one for the youngest petite girl. Once I made the first one and had a pattern, the rest were cake.
Speaking of cake, I had immediately eliminated the possibility of a Sphinx cake, and settled on a pyramid cake which would be much easier to architect. V wanted something with strawberries, so I found a good strawberry cake recipe and made buttercream frosting with high-quality european butter. I estimated for 5 layers, based on the sizes of pans I had available, with a 9" square bottom layer, decreasing by 1.5" each layer up to a 3" top layer. Using the scraps cut from previous layers, I only needed one 11 x 17 and two 8" square cakes. I intended the frosting to be yellow/tan/sand colored with edible glitter, but I ended up choosing "copper" as my frosting tint. I disliked the color so much (too orange) I used the entire container of coloring and various food colorings to achieve something that was more brown, with edible yellow sparkles. I placed it on a board covered with foil and frosted the foil to look like a desert, complete with blue paper Nile and sushi grass growing along the riverbank, with a bedouin leading two camels across the "sand". One activity was that the girls would color their own neck capes, which they really got into. I only had to buy two packs of highlighters at Staples. After they put those on, we took some pictures (a couple girls, as I had expected, decided they didn't want to wear the kalasiris, or put on a neck cape, or be in a picture, but I think they still had a good time).
After that, we played "Pin the Tail on the Camel" which was a game V came up with, because she really wanted to play "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" but we couldn't incorporate that into Ancient Egypt. I drew a pretty cool camel on newsprint using a grid, and V helped me color it. The morning of the party I felt he looked a tad plain, so I added the pyramids in the background and shadows, etc. He's still pinned on the wall like a piece of artwork.
After cake and presents, we did a treasure hunt for the "goody bags". This part I had a difficult time planning, although I had hidden 8 encoded notes around the house, with each one pointing to the next location. Each girl was given a hieroglyphic decoder sheet in a nice big font and we ran around the house finding them all. The main issues were that the girls that knew the alphabet well and could read were the first to decode the message and run to the next location. Eventually the slower girls felt bad because they never found one first. I tried to give everyone equal opportunity by not starting to decode until we were all in a group and everyone could see the clue. Each goody bag consisted of a sheet of egyptian stickers, authentic egyptian paper money, and an egyptian action figure (all purchased on E-bay) with a short description and a heiroglyphic alphabet key.