Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

To(k)night's Topic - A Castle Party

This is for Courtney - and anyone else with a knight-obsessed child.

We did a "knights" party for Connor's sixth birthday - well, actually, it was an "adventurer" (knight/pirate/Viking) party, because "I JUST CAN'T DECIDE, MOM." Including pirates helped, because it was fairly easy to find pirate-related junk (as is typical with my kids, we were a year ahead of the big pirate party explosion, but I found a great Web site called and got a lot of decor and treat bag items from them). Since then, I have seen more knight stuff in the stores, and - also as is typical - Family Fun did a feature on knight parties some time AFTER I had to pull stuff out of thin air.

What we did: when the kids arrived, we gave them oversized cardboard shields and markers, and they created their "crests" while we waited on our other guests. Then the kids chose additional accessories for their adventurer costumes out of a big pile on our back porch (knight and Viking helmets, pirate eye patches and head scarves, etc.). Next, we divided everyone into teams and handed out treasure maps. Prior to the party, Connor and I turned an appliance box into a Viking ship, using cardboard tubes for masts and stapling yellow paper plates to the sides for portholes. We cut a figurehead out of another box (I believe it was a sea serpent - or sea serpent-ish) and attached it to the front of the boat. So the maps instructed our guests to start by boarding the Viking ship, plundering it for treasure (gold coins located inside the ship). Next challenge was to loot the castle (Little Tikes play castle that we already had in the backyard), and then they were to proceed to the Egyptian desert, AKA our sandbox, decked out with Connor's Fisher-Price Egyptian pyramid and his Egyptian temple playset, and dig for treasure there. (Yes, once upon a time Fisher-Price made an Egyptian pyramid, and we totally scored one - and the temple playset, oddly enough, came from an Albertson's grocery store in Aledo, Texas.)

I'm a little fuzzy about how the whole odyssey thing played out - we counted out their coins, and they redeemed them for things? Parnell handled all of that - I distinctly remember him sitting on the floor in our dining room, with the kids around him in a circle, sorting gold plastic pirate coins into piles. (Meanwhile, 13 month-old Parker was in the backyard with his paternal grandparents, who were feeding him ice cream . . . which he was not supposed to eat, because he was on a no-dairy eczema diet, but which, of course, he totally loved. That's was my father-in-law's response when I told him that the child wasn't supposed to have ice cream: "Why not? He REALLY likes it." We later found out that dairy wasn't an eczema trigger for him at all. My father-in-law passed away very unexpectedly four months after Connor's birthday party, and I think I heard a very faint "TOLD you so" filter down from heaven when, a year or so after that, the allergist told us that we could have been giving PJ dairy all along. The kid loves ice cream to this day - his brother can't stand the stuff - so we always make a point of reminding PJ that he got his love of ice cream from his granddaddy. It's a way of keeping him connected with Parnell's dad, since realistically he has no real memories of him.)

While coins were being sorted and contraband ice cream was being consumed, I got the cakes ready to serve. Yes, cakes, plural. The main cake was a castle, but not a girly princess castle. It practically took an act of Congress to get someone to bake me a non-girly, non-princess castle. I went to a well-known local bakery first and requested a simple round, two-layer cake, iced in gray icing, with cupcakes (also iced in gray) placed upside down around the perimeter to make turrets. That's it - I just wanted someone to do the cake, because I had a small child underfoot (literally - PJ was walking and into everything) and felt I owed it to myself to outsource the cake. I didn't want to deal with a crumb coat, or crumbling layers, or any of that nonsense. I wanted a gray castle-shaped cake to use as a blank canvas, and I would take over after that. (Ultimately, that is what happened, thanks to Luz at the Montgomery Plaza Super Target - dear, wonderful Luz, she of the giant chocolate sock monkey head cake and accompanying banana-shaped pull-apart cupcake cake that we served for PJ's second, and the alarmingly PURPLE, but totally cool, rocket ship cupcake cake that graced the table on Connor's seventh. Luz made me a generic castle exactly to spec, and I studded it with earth-toned Jelly Bellys to resemble cobblestones, added a drawbridge made from Kit Kats, and put toothpick-and-paper flags on the turrets. And then I thought about taking the cake around the corner and smashing it in the face of the snotty woman at the well-known local bakery who seemed somehow horrified that I was asking for a gray cake and kept showing me pictures of VERY PINK, VERY TALL girly castles, complete with turrets and unicorns. "Um, okay, no. See, that's a girl's cake. Pink plus upside-down sugar cone turrets equals 'girl.' Gray plus upside-down cupcakes equals 'boy.' Really, you should give it a try." "Well, we have the same cake in turquoise, with a silver-glittered unicorn instead of a gold one . . . ." "Okay, I'm talking about a boy here. A BOY. With, you know, all of the boy parts, and a boy brain, and - he's just a BOY, right? He's not that big into unicorns. He isn't actually into them, like, at all.")

Flanking the (apparently very high-concept) castle cake were two pirate ships that Mom constructed out of those frozen Sara Lee chocolate tortes (you know, the ones with all of the thin layers?) that I carved into ship shapes. Took the sails and other ship parts off of two play pirate ships that Connor owned and used those as "cake kits," inserting the pieces into the appropriate locations on the cakes, and also pirated (bad pun, I know, but I couldn't resist) the cannons and pirate people off of said play ships. I think malted milk balls were involved as cannonballs?

So that was our party . . . . As noted above, since then I've picked up some other hot "knight party" tips. LOVE these "sword in the bubble" bottles from Oriental Trading ($6.99 for a case of 24! Patronize them, because they are in the middle of a bankruptcy reorganization, and a world without Oriental Trading is not a world that I care to live in). I got the cardboard shields for our party at OT as well, and they still have them (see picture on left) for $9.99 per dozen.

The "cocktail sword in a styrofoam stone" idea at the beginning of this post came from Family Fun. Idea is to carve a stone out of a styrofoam block, paint it gray and insert cocktail swords that have been premarked with a Sharpie marker (one with one black stripe, another with two and so on). Family Fun suggests creating silly "lord and lady" names (Sir [Blank] of [Blank]) and deciding ahead of time which marked sword gets the first name on the list, which gets the second name, and so on. So the kids pull out swords to determine their names for the day.

Images below are also from Family Fun. The goblets are super-easy if you use plastic "crystals" with adhesive backing. Tubes on the left are Sonotubes, which you can buy at Home Depot or Lowe's for about $9 each. Contractors use them to pour concrete columns, but why not paint them gray, with a brick pattern, and use them in the cute obstacle course game described below? Jousting sticks are pool noodles wrapped with electrical tape. (Love pool noodles. Love electrical tape. Love, love, LOVE pool noodles with electrical tape.)

So here's how Family Fun's party activity plays out:

Events are Joust the Target, Storm the Castle, Rescue a Fair Damsel or Gent and Jump the Moat.

Prior to the party, you create two obstacle courses, one for each team, by setting up challenges as follows:

Joust the Target: Use string to tie the balloons from tree branches at knight-shoulder height.
Storm the Castle: Place a plastic ball next to each Sonotube tower.
Rescue a Fair Damsel or Gent: Place dolls and action figures (one for each player) under an overturned laundry basket, then place a toy dragon on top.
Jump the Moat: Fill buckets with water.

At the party:

1. Divide the knights into two teams. The first player on each team should mount a stick horse and grasp a (pool noodle) lance.
2. At "Go," each contestant gallops toward his balloon, strikes it with his lance, and gallops on to the castle tower.
3. The knight then dismounts and storms the fortress by grabbing the ball and throwing it into the tower.
4. Once back on his trusty steed, the knight must rescue a fair damsel or prince, after first knocking the dragon from atop the dungeon with the lance.
5. Finally, the brave knight must jump over the moat before racing home to hand off the lance and horse to the next knight on the team. The first team to finish reigns victorious. (Grown-ups will need to quickly retrieve the ball from the tower and return the dragon to his post after each knight meets his challenge.)

If your child is a purist and wants a "knights only" party - or if you just aren't that keen about building a Viking ship of your very own - the Family Fun concept may be just the ticket.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

WOW! Thank you so much for sharing your amazing party ideas!! You continue to amaze me! How do you do it all...??!! :)