It's been a couple of weeks now since the event. I don't know where time goes because it seems like just yesterday that it was Alexander's 1st birthday let alone his second. Every parent says the same thing; time flies. You turn around and what was once a 4lb4oz baby is now a chattering toddler. It's scary stuff! That two-year old chattering toddler started 'school' last Monday. Well, I say school but I suppose it is nursery. However, it is the first class in the school that I hope he will attend until he is seven and he is already wearing a uniform. It's very cute; maroon tracksuit with matching rucksack and coat!
So, this post has been a bit delayed due to the stresses of getting a mollycoddled, overprotected toddler feeling at ease for the first time away from home each morning. It certainly takes time and he has cried but I have a lot of trust in the amazing team and the amazing school and I know it is for the best; he needs to get out more than I need him to!
Anyway, back to the case in hand- birthdays. The second birthday is of course as important as a first birthday and actually, maybe more so. A first birthday is for the parents and the relatives. It's a time to show off your little one, be proud parents and enjoy yourself doing it! The second birthday is a time that your little ones actually know what is going on so you have to plan for them and not for you. No more selfish parents (well not much anyway, I managed to squeeze in a few 'me' things, of course), you now probably have a room full on toddlers to please. I know it is unlikely that Alexander will remember his second birthday but he actively enjoyed it and took part in the celebrations and that to me is priceless!
So, in no particular order, I give you the five key must-haves for a successful second birthday party!
Now, this is the person that you will probably need to think about before worrying about anything else because any entertainer worth their salt is booked up for weeks if not months in advance if you want a weekend birthday party. I wasn't certain that we needed an entertainer having attended a few parties where I wasn't overly impressed and there is a tendency to think that 2 year-olds do not need entertaining but our circumstances dictated that a good entertainer was our best option; we held the party at my mum's house for space, so no big supply of toys to keep kids busy. Having been to one Hartbeeps party ( Hartbeeps run weekly toddler interactive music classes) and been sufficiently impressed, we were led to Tara who runs Hartbeeps classes in West London and also her own amazing childern's party company called Showreel Events. We were lucky enough to get Tara herself on the day. She turned up dressed as a bear (you get a choice of characters). From an acting background she was beyond fantastic. From the booking process, going through the songs; each song we chose based on what Alexander knew and liked through to her professionalism on the day, arriving 45 minutes in advance with so many props that even I was excited to start. She set up the room with lighting and mats, wired up her microphone, made every child a name badge and gave the kids one hour of absolutely amazing interactive fun and singing. Each song brought a new activity and props to act out a relevant story. I have never seen Alexander so engaged. The key to is choose the song they know but of course the delivery is paramount and Tara blew all the parents away. Almost every mother asked where she was from and the kids really had fun.
Of course all parties need some form or other of party gear. Two year-olds love balloons for a start. Partyrama is the one stop shop for everything and anything party. We had a relatively easy brief with Postman Pat as the theme, a need for helium balloons, decorations party bags and everything to go inside them and tablecloths, plates and cups and champagne flutes ( more of that later!). Partyrama is probably the biggest and best stocked party shop on the internet, you wont need to order from anywhere else, delivery is fast and cheap too. One thing I highly recommend is buying the helium and balloons pack and inflating yourself. it's cheaper and it's actually easy and fun. I inflated all the balloons myself, no help from Mr PCG at all (I can do anything when I want to or nothing if I can't be bothered - a woman' s prerogative!)
An integral part of the going home bags and centrepiece on the food table, buy the best cake you can afford. Alexander isn't majorly into cartoons or character but he does know Postman Pat. I came across Robin, a professional cake designer and Cakes by Robin whilst doing my research. Now Robin and her team are so good at what they do that you can literally give her anything and I am certain that she will reproduce it with ease. This was her first Postman Pat cake!! She also made matching letter and stamp biscuits for the going home bag that were beyond delicious. Many cakes just look good but if you choose well then you will get a cake that you and your guests actually want to eat and not just look at! We were greedy and couldn't decide on just one choice so chose a layer of chocolate fudge and a layer of vanilla victoria sponge. The cake and biscuits arrived fresh the day before the party.
No party is a party without food. I am a bit of a gourmet when it comes to eating so fish finger and chips were out and gourmet but affordable catering was in. For the savory food, Paco at StandByChef is the man to go to. Having tasted his pizza and pasta at his coffee shop ( all in the name of research!) and safe in the knowledge of his credentials ( ex Mosimann, no less) we talked through a menu. Now StandByChef is a brilliant concept. They deliver ready to serve finger food and canapes, afternoon teas and buffets all beautifully presented and cleverly stored in their own delivery boxes at a price that won't break the bank. I am a firm believer in not babying children too much when it comes to food so ordered a wonderful selection of savouries for the adults and kids alike. Mini smoked salmon bagels, cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, mini vegetarian pizza, spinach quiches with quails eggs ( yummy!) and cherry tomatoes with mascarpone. As you will see they looked stunning but more importantly the taste also exceeded expectations. A gourmet mummy's dream.
For 'dessert' we went down an unusual and not very well-known ( yet) route. Now, I had come across this brand at Ocado. Traiteur De Paris has just started retailing directly in the UK through their new website. Made by chefs for chefs they provide a new service never seen before here. You buy a box of frozen desserts delivered to you at home, simply unwrap and leave for an hour and hey presto, restaurant quality food. Don't get this confused with Iceland, think Harrods. I first tried them for a dinner party and was blown away. It's no surprise that they are restaurant quality because they supply some of the top restaurants and caterers in London. Now, for a fraction of the price you can serve them at home. No mess, no fuss and no massive expenditure either. On the day we chose baby cupcakes and petit fours and macaroons, all beyond delicious.
No British party is complete without this. Yes it's a 2yr-old's birthday but spare a thought for all the parents and adults. We want a party too. Easy and acceptable at 11 am in my world is prosecco and orange juice- a good old Buck Fizz. The key is to choose a good prosecco for drinking alone too. Morrisson Signature Prosecco fitted the bill perfectly. Fermented twice for extra bubbliness it is light yet delicious and it won't break the bank it will also stop those parent party nerves and make everything just that little bit sparklier!