Ahoy there, me hearties! A treasure hunt there be... just follow the map to Riley's place, o'er the rollicking sea!
And so began Riley's 7th birthday party bash - a pirate treasure hunt.
I loved this theme - had been wanting to do it for sooo many years and finally managed to bypass the football and sports parties and have this theme approved by Riley. So I went for it!
These were so easy. I just chose a pirate motif (scanned from some gorgeous 3D stickers) and constructed an invitation on the computer, printed it out and glued it to cardboard. I ripped the edges (I tried to burn them but the paper went up in flames - be careful!) then folded the whole thing in half.
I then punched a circle and tied with black ribbon, printed out each child's name and glued it to the outside of the invitation, and finished it off with a hunting trail and an X to mark the spot.
It was so much fun to decorate for this party. I started with a black flag banner, studded with lettering to spell out 'Captain Riley'. I love using letters for decorating - you can print them in 'outline' mode (onto any colour paper) and cut them out to form words.
For the banner, I simply cut triangles from black card and sewed them together with the sewing machine. I also did this with red, white and black circles - punched them sewn together with the machine, and hung from the ceiling.
At the $2 shop, I found craft kits featuring pirate ship cardboard cutouts, and these cutouts were hung from the ceiling and stuck to windows and walls. You could print off a ship outline and cut it out yourself. I also re-used the little red 'X's I made for Riley's gift tags, and hung them from fishing line, too.
Lastly, I made a ball and chain shackle from a black balloon and black paper chain, and black balloons with curling string were hung here and there, including outdoors. And how could I forget the Lego pirate ship centrepiece. Four long hours and dose of lumbago, and it was together. Now, that's love.
The more parties I throw, the more I want convenience and ease. Although I did make Riley's cake from scratch this year, there's nothing wrong with a packet cake mix. These cupcakes were from a box and even iced with the packet frosting (which was delicious). I then drew on bandannas and little piratey faces with writing icing.
The chocolate crackles with coconut (I used Coco Pops, not rice bubbles) were studded with chocolate coins wrapped in foil. Paper patty pans from Wheel & Barrow.
The pirate jelly shots (above) were just mango jello with a little extra liquid. I had every intention of immersing the bases of the cups in hot water to loosen them so the boys could just throw them down like sailors, but this idea was lost in the mad crazy ride of a boys' party.
The skull cookie-pops were just butter cookies cut with a circular cutter, dripped in melted chocolate (the face only) and then decorated with a white chocolate icing writer. Make sure you bake the cookies extra long so they are really firm, inserting the stick underneath each cookie and pressing down lightly before sliding into the oven.
The fruit skewers were impaled with little Asian sticks that resembled swords. The kids were served freshly popped popcorn in striped boxes and each child had their own white noodle box which were served stuffed with chips and chicken nuggets. All these items were so easy-make.
Before guests arrived, the birthday boy dressed in his modified version of a pirate costume, complete with pirate board shorts.
And when the landlubbin' guests arrived, they were whipped into seafaring shape with a few stategically-placed brow-pencil moustaches and scars, an eye patch, and a dose of sea-air-madness or two.
Things kicked off with a pirate treasure hunt, starting with the first hand-written clue and following through with a series of clues that trailed these scurvy dogs from room to room in search of treasure...
...treasure that miraculously appeared in the depths of a barnacled chest - in the form of goodie bags which were little cardboard chests stuffed with piratey goodness and sealed with a skull and crossbones sticker.
I attached faux money and chocolate coins to the chest so that when the boys opened it, they also scrabbled for the cash.
X Marks the Spot was our next game. I tore the edges of a 12" x 12" scrapbooking paper and drew on a crude map with a permanent marker (Google similar maps - you could print one off if you don't want to draw) and attached to a sheet of black card. I made little red Xs for each child, with their name on, with a spot of blu tac on the back.
Kids were blindfolded and spun before marking their spot.
I'm a bit of a sucker for traditional party games and yes - you guessed it - pass the parcel was next. I was surprised when the kids leapt about in excitement when I announced the game. At seven, I thought it would have been a bit 'lame' but they had a ball.
Next was the real winner - the piñata. Right in the middle of a particularly busy patch, I only started making all these items the day before the party, and I couldn't face the usual papier maché hoo-ha with all that mess, so I instead used a flat, soft-ish cardboard box, taped it here and there with strong tape and decorated with fringed crêpe paper and another hand-drawn treasure map.
It was a - er... hit.
Absolutely one of my fave parts of the party-driving process - the cake. I didn't want the usual skull and cross bones number, nor a ship - so I decided on a treasure island, resplendant with Polly Pocket palm trees and the moveable stickers I based the invitations around.
I started with a silver tray filled with blue jello (make this a little firmer than usual by using slightly less water). I then baked a round chocolate cake, packed with choc chips, and cut the edges down to make a quasi-island shape.
I then 'iced' the cake with melted chocolate then regular white Betty Crocker frosting. I whizzed one and a half packets of Nice biscuits until they were fine sandy crumbs and carefully pressed these onto the cake, pressing into the sides and allowing sand to fall onto the jelly 'water'. Once pressed on, scatter a little more on top so the sand looks loose.
The reason I iced the cake with a layer of melted chocolate first is so the surface becomes a little firmer - all the better to stand your palm trees firmly in.
I attached the pirate stickers to toothpicks and inserted upright into the cake, then added gold chocolate coins for the pirate's treasure island stash. Easy easy easy and so effective.
A really nice touch to any party, and a wonderful memento, is to have the kids pose in front of a backdrop (mine was wrapping paper from a large roll, IKEA) to get some crazy shots. Do this when everyone arrives so they are fully costumed.
Here is Riley's effort, complete with a wonky, loose-toothed gap. Haaaaar!
Many thanks to the composed and lovely Claudia and Ella for putting up with the boys' piratey antics. Put it this way - I've never heard a rendition of 'Happy Birthday to You' sung quite like this one! A ball had by all. (A canon ball...)