Merry Christmas!

My family, being the pragmatist as we always are, celebrate Christmas early so we avoid the crowd. This year, I put up my hand to organise the party and had a ball of a time. The major complaint from participants is – there is too much food. And my mum as usual think I’m being wasteful but hey, festivals are meant to be celebrated with abundance!

Abundant food

 

Our dining table really can’t hold much more food than that!

Christmas tree cheeseballThis christmas tree cheeseball served with crackers was a bit, including with the tiniest member of the party:

bite

 

That was a very intense expression!

HappyOf course! Sophia’s favourite person was there so she’s a happy camper as well.

guitarNot to mention getting to play with daddy’s guitar. (I don’t even know how she knows this is called a guitar)

chocolate barsCan anyone enlighten me where can I still get foil wrapped chocolate bars? Those would look perfect with these personalised wrappers.

And so with this festive post, we here are Sophiastory wish one and all a Merry Christmas and a great year in 2013!

 

 

 

 

Izzybella’s birthday

There’s Izzy, on the right with Sophia. Sophia went to her birthday party last Saturday.

Izzy and Sophia

 

Sophia got a doll present too, which she loves (thank you Puyee jie jie!)

Sophia and "Angel"

 

The baby slide was fun

Whee! Slide shorter than me

 

Poor Izzy was bullied by some guests, not that she minded it that much

Who did this to me??

 

Sophia looked on in amusement

This is what we chinese call 幸灾乐祸 (gloating at others' misfortune).

Party planning 101 – entertainment

This last instalment of the party planning series is so extremely last because this is unfortunately the part of Sophia’s party that is sorely lacking because I figured, even if I were to engage a magician and the like, She would have absolutely no idea what its about anyway. So all I did was to lay out a children’s picnic mat (the colourful sort complete with alphabets and bears) and place some toys on it. There was also a tent filled with balls from toys r us which kids from 1 to 7 years old all seem to enjoy.

Next party’s entertainment will probably be more entertaining (and expensive!)

Just like that, another (Chinese) year has gone by

For the uninitiated, the main activities associated with most chinese festivals, Chinese New Year included, are: eat, eat and eat. And in the case of Chinese New Year also visiting relatives so you can eat more there and the children can extort red packets from anyone who is married. 90% of the food associated with Chinese New Year are “heath” food i.e. food that according to traditional chinese medicinal thinking is likely to cause sore throat. I’m usually immune from this “heat” from food but this year I’m hit in the face by it. I’m nursing a bad throat and associated runny nose, lethargy etc so pardon the almost exclusively pictorial post.

As I said, CNY is all about food, starting from the eve, on which the family gathers for a feast.

Here my ever so animated cousin Michelle is preparing the quintessential dish of the Chinese New Year season in Singapore - Yu Sheng

Meeting many relatives is part and parcel of Chinese New Year but here you se Sophia still needs some getting used to re this part of the tradition. She's clearly wary of my second uncle.

Grandaunt is her favorite as usual though she did get extra sticky to mummy

Eyeing the glorious spread

A rare chance to take a photo of the nuclear family

Even baby Sophia gets a bite of the cherry (literally)

 

One of the good things about having lots of relatives over is that they can take turns to play with Sophia while we take a breather.

The other good thing is we all get to buy/use new things, like this new bag which was a birthday present from my good friends LH and S. Isn't Sophia completely looking the part of a studious little girl here?

And here?

And the best thing of all for baby is that Daddy gets to stay home and read to her

All ready to go to school errr... go visiting I mean

But for mummy the best thing of all is being able to dress up the baby in an oh-so-adorable chinese costume

Though baby seems to prefer modern technology to traditional stuff!

 

Party planning 101 – Food

I started off my food planning with looking at caterers. Then I realise that there are many in Singapore with prices varying from about $10 per pax to $30 or more per pax but they generally offer similar not-very-delicious food. Plus I had a japanese theme and it was impossible to find japanese food catered. So I looked around and planned and looked more until a stroke of genius struck. I’ll order japanese style pizza! How does teriyaki beef, unagi and country greens and wasabi seafood on pizza sounds? Mighty yummy I say. I’ll supplement these with some sashimi and sushi (takeout from some restaurant), as well as some homemade wafu salad, potato salad and soba. For drinks I’ll get bottles of mineral water, as well as water bottles from Daiso that I’ll fill with homemade green tea. Perhaps also make some pink lemonade for the children.

That was the grand plan before reality set in. To start with, it  seemed like a tremendous feat to prepare the dessert table as it is. Food will generally need to be prepared on the day itself i.e. by noon which is the time the party starts. Then my parents had to plan a trip just before the party such that I will not be able to cook/bake/prepare on a couple of days. And the last item that spoilt the entire plan was that the japanese pizza restaurant that was going to supply the pizzas was closed on the day of the party. That killed the entire food plan.

The fallback was boring but reliable old Neo Garden. I placed my order less than 36 hours before the party and they were able to deliver on time. They could also include a sushi platter with the buffet which tied it in somewhat with the japanese theme. I did also manage to supplement with potato salad, soba, wafu salad and tori karaage. My mum contributed some bbq ribs which were a hit.

On Neo Garden, the food was as usual good but not fantastic. The service was prompt but for some reason even though the same guy came for set up and removal, his attitude on the 2 occasions were opposite extremes. When setting up he was jovial and friendly. When removing the food after the party he was very much the grinch. I was very impressed they were able to accept my order at such late notice.

Party planning 101 – favours

Packing the favour packs was really fun for me. Because I didn’t go out and buy one of those party favour packs and bags, but rather put together a lot of things that I separately selected or made. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with store bought favour packs, the kids love them equally much or possibly more. I’m sorry to report that I didn’t save any money on the favour packs and possibly spent more than average but I do feel it shows more sincerity. I’m kind of sad that almost half the kids who rsvp-ed didn’t turn up so it was almost like half the time and effort I put is actually went to waste. Oh well, they had good reasons and its always better to have more than have less. Anyway, lets take a look at what went into the favour packs:

Item 1: Homemade sakura cookies – Everything from the cookies to the royal icing to the fondant used to make the sakura was homemade. Cookies from flour, eggs, sugar etc, not premix, royal icing from meringue powder (avoiding raw egg yolks because its for children) and confectioner’s sugar, and fondant from marshmallows, confectioner’s sugar, butter and water. Each cookie was then wrapped into a plastic cookie bag and sealed with a card that was designed along the same theme as the invitation, banner, etc.

Homemade cookies

Item 2: Homemade jam

Little containers of homemade jam

I made a full sized jar of blueberry and strawberry jam to go with the scones at the dessert table and at the same time made extra to divide into little baby food containers for the favour packs. These were again made from scratch by boiling the fruits with lemon juice and very little sugar.

Item 3: erasers – I was very lucky to come across these cute erasers that were so apt for the theme of the party, especially the kokeshi dolls, but they were probably too girly to be in a boy’s favour pack so the boys got the cats while the girls got the dolls.

Kokeshi doll eraser

Cat eraser

Item 4: Recipe cards – I printed out the recipes for items on the dessert table and put them into envelopes sealed with kokeshi dolls that form the theme of my party decor.

Recipe cards

Item 5: A piece of the same kokeshi doll stickers used to seal the recipe cards and the favour pack itself was also included in the favour pack. A tad girly for boys but I can’t think of a boy equivalent unless I went out to get store bought stickers.

Item 6: Snacks – Baby biscuits for those under 18 months or so and hello panda for the bigger kids. From meiji and pigeon, in accordance with japanese theme of course.

Baby biscuits

Hello Panda

Item 7: Bottled water with party theme label. I got the idea from the party pictures from other countries that I saw online. For many of the parties the dessert table also had bottles of drinks personalized with a label designed along the party theme. I thought they looked really pretty so did something similar. My husband wrned that many may not dare to drink the water but I can’t see why since people will eat kit kat personalised with party labels and bottled water with labels of various companies. The seal of the bottle was clearly unbroken so what can be wrong with drinking it?

Personalised bottled water

Item 8 – Crayons. To me this is the filler, but the children may appreciate this the most, I’m not sure. I got 3 different kinds for children of different ages. The oil pastels are for older kids who are already able to draw well, the wax crayons for slightly younger kids who probably do not yet have the coordination to deal with messy oil pastels and the pen type for the babies so they won’t dirty their hands when using the crayons. These are just $2 a piece from Daiso. Again very japanese. I’m constantly amazed how Daiso produces such quality products at such low cost.

Crayons

What do you think? A pack of rubbish or a thoughtful pack that guests appreciate?

As for the birthday girl, she was just happy to use the boxes I stored the favour packs in as climbing aid to get onto my bed:

Party planning 101 – decorations

I can’t believe I lost the post on party decor! It just completely disappeared, its not in my drafts folder and not posted on the blog either. And I spent so much time writing it. Grr… I don’t think I can reproduce it so guess this will be an abridged version.

Decor planning started with looking at what the stores had to offer but since they were generally too gaudy and cliched, I did my own:

Completed Sophia's birthday flag banner while she was sleeping

Origami butterflies were folded nightly after Sophia slept then strung together and tied to dowels:

Origami butterflies

Origami butterflies were also scattered around the dessert table. Balloons filled with helium were delivered tied up in bunches and floated around. The balloons were the most costly of all the decor items and arguably the most dispensable, at least the helium version. Normal air filled balloons would have sufficed and pleased the kids just as much. Here’s a look at how the room turned out:

Butterflies over glass door

balloons and butterflies over play area

Banner

View of the room plus guests

Hope this post gives fellow mummies some inspiration that a special party does not need to be costly. It was exhausting but fun to be DIY-ing so much for a party but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

 

Playing with water

Sophia and Eleora playing with water

 

Sophia playing with water

Sophia attended Nathan’s first birthday party yesterday and had a ball of a time playing at the pool. The pool was so baby friendly! There were plenty of shallow areas for Eleora and Sophia to walk around in and a fountain area where Sophia had fun splashing and picking out leaves and twigs. Cheeky Sophia also kicked water on Eleora who just took it in her stride. Both babies are so cute. Good thing there was a spare change of clothes in both their bags.

Party planning 101 – dessert table

Have I mentioned that I love baking? Well, I do. And so when Sophia’s first birthday came along, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to bake to my heart’s content and not have to throw away tones of leftovers like I always have to.

The plan was to bake for the 3 days before the party but my parents decided to go on a trip on 2 of those 3 days so I ended up having to bake as early as 5 days before and freeze some of the items so they don’t go bad. This does mean that the taste is greatly sacrificed. Oh well, what to do. They are still homemade from quality ingredients so I hope they still taste decent. And if not, 80 points for effort?

I’m very blessed to have very supportive in laws and hubby who went around telling anyone who would listen that I made everything on the dessert table myself so people would know its not that I catered sub-standard fare for them!

Setting up

If I’m not wrong this is the first time I’m making an appearance in this blog 🙂 Here I am taking the clingflim off the mango tart. Possibly the best tasting item on the dessert table since it was the only item cleaned out despite being the most troublesome to eat.

Shortbread

The shortbread had some strawberry puree added which was supposed to give it a pink tint and hence look more like sakuras but I guess there wasn’t enough. Don’t think I can add anymore without sacrificing the texture though. After all there isn’t supposed to be liquid added to shortbread.

Scones

These scones are served with homemade blueberry and strawberry jam. All made from scratch. I even got scalded by hot jam as it bubbled in the pot.

Gateau Breton

Gateau Breton doesn’t look all that glamourous and it sort of falls apart when cut and refuses to stay in perfect slices. But its good. The simplicity of just butter, flour, eggs and sugar really just brings out the flavor of the ingredients, which is why quality ingredients are exceptionally important.

Cupcakes

I unabashedly copied Hello Naomi (http://hello-naomi.blogspot.com/)’s designs for these cupcakes as I can’t possibly come up with anything better.

Sugar biscuits

I couldn’t resist buying the Hello Kitty cookie cutters that are responsible for these 3D Hello Kitty cookies and they look so cute surrounded by Doraemon cookies.

Pink Lamingtons

Instead of coating with chocolate I coated these with a white chocolate ganache tinted pink and covered them in desiccated coconut. Just a very slight twist to the original lamingtons. I’m sure the Aussies won’t be too offended by my innovation 🙂

Bowls of homemade salads and porky in various flavors (strawberry, chocolate and almonds, blueberry, grape and something else I can’t remember) joined these baked goods on the dessert table.

And a final look at the half eaten table:

Half eaten......

Party planning 101

Children’s birthday parties have come a long way since I was a kid. Back then parties were held at our own HDB homes with home cooked food prepared by mum and served up in aluminum trays. If we had a small catered buffet it was already a luxury and Macdonalds was the pinnacle of happiness. Now macdonalds parties are not even cool anymore. Parties are held at ultra expensive indoor gyms or condo function rooms and must be complete with catered food, balloons, a super elaborate 3D cake, and some form of entertainment for the kids such as face painting, balloon sculpting, magician performance, games, crafts or all of the above.

I had no idea what a mammoth task I was taking on when I first decided to celebrate Sophia’s first birthday with a party but now that its finally over, I guess I might as well record the planning process so fellow mummies can have a reference and Sophia can know how much mummy loves her.

Step 1 of party planning is venue. For convenience I went with my condo’s function room. Step 2 is theme. After brainstorming, I’ve decided to go with a japanese theme. Along the way lots of other ideas tried to hijack the theme but I stood firm. Though the noah’s ark theme was really tempting especially since Sophia so loves animals and animal themed party supplies are much easier to find than japanese themed ones. Turns out the japanese theme was a great idea as Daiso was a great inexpensive source of supplies.

After settling the theme, I divided up my plan into 5 areas: 1) Food, 2) decor, 3) favors 4) entertainment and the surprise element 5) a dessert table! Ok I know technically that should fall under food but food’s the boring stuff. Dessert table’s the exciting bit that I’m going to DIY (or fill with store bought sweets and biscuits if I fail).

The centerpiece of the dessert table will of course be the said elaborate cake. My cake of choice was from crumb (http://www.crummb.com/) but alas, she’s not free on 2 January. Why am I not surprised, if I had her skills I’m sure I’ll be swamped with orders too. So I went with another of the many home bakers out there which I shall name if the cake turns out the well. I toyed with the idea of baking my own cake when Pau Lin of Crummb couldn’t bake Sophia’s cake but logic prevailed and I knew I couldn’t possibly make anything decent and Sophia would end up with a bengawan solo cake. Or a cupcake with a candle.

Now that the cake is settled, its time to work on the other aspects in the 5 pronged approach. Stay tuned!