Friday, May 08, 2009

Friends, Romans, Countrymen...

V's 7th birthday earlier this year was a real Roman feast! Following up the Ancient Egypt 5th birthday 2 years ago, the 7th birthday was an Ancient Roman Goddess party. The idea arose when I showed V how to translate the inscription on the Statue of Liberty's tablet from roman numerals, and also somewhat from our trip to Italy last year. I ran with the idea. V, who didn't have a 6th birthday party, was suitably excited, but did take the opportunity to ask why her parties have themes. (And by that she wasn't referring to plates and cups with Spongebob on them. She meant why is there library research involved, and why do I make costumes and plan thematic games.) I asked her, "How many of your friends' birthday parties do you return from with a complete costume, and having learned something about history?" I think she understood. Our library research included a kid's version of "Julius Caesar", books about Ancient Rome and the Coliseum, and Roman myths. V's birthday (mid-February) is nicely timed so after the Christmas and New Years activity, we can pick a theme in early January and have time to buy related items on E-Bay. This year it was Roman God/Goddess bookmarks for the girls to color while guests arrived, Roman Numeral dice for the goody bags, a Roman Numeral placemat, Roman Numeral candles, and crown supplies. More on the crowns later. For costumes, I made 10 little togas out of white sheets from Goodwill and estate sales. I ended up having enough sheets for my own toga, and for my husband and dad to fashion their own costumes. The togas were trimmed with gold ribbon. The party was on the Friday of a week-long company shutdown, so I had plenty of time to spend on the sewing machine.

I envisioned gold and silver leafy crowns, but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for in my price range, so I bought gold and silver leaves (like the ones used for corsages) with wired stems, and made my own by twisting them around metallic pipe-cleaners.

The cake was an endeavor in itself. I knew it would be a Coliseum cake, and borrowed a tube pan from a neighbor to get the desired shape. I found a recipe for Lemon Grove cake (like a pound cake) in my California Heritage Continues cookbook. At Michael's craft store, I bought a package of fondant containing 4 colors (light flesh tone, tan, dark brown and black), and brown frosting tint. I made buttercream frosting and tinted it brown. The fondant was very easy to work with and by mixing the colors, I had enough to cover the outside of the cake plus extra. I cut out sections with a knife and vegetable peeler to make the windows, and applied it to the buttercream, then added details.

Games were "Roman Numeral Bingo" and "Pin the Rome on the Italy". For Bingo, we used regular cards but I printed the numbers 1-75 in roman numerals on slips of paper. When I drew one out, I wrote the numerals on a big pad of paper and the girls had to help me decipher the number before they could mark it on their card. The winner got a Roman Numeral placemat. "Pin the Rome on the Italy" used a wall map of Europe, a blindfold, and labels with the girls names. Spin them around 3 times and let them at it. Food was an appetizer platter of grapes and cheese cubes (smokey cheddar and havarti), followed by Chicken Caesar salad. The best part was the salad dressing, which I special ordered from our local organic grocer. They don't normally sell it, but they make it for their Chicken Caesar wraps and it is out of this world. Goody bags included a Roman Numeral dice and scrapbook stickers of Italian landmarks. In the thank-you notes, we included a picture of the girls in their costumes as a memento. All in all a terrific party...and we all learned something!