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!

 

 

 

 

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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.