Friday, October 4, 2013

Fairytale: A Quest

We love books.
Which inspired this party.

But not any particular book, which might have resulted in a character party. And not books as a theme, which might have resulted in a party all about books and paper tablets and library cards and a book cake.

Which we obviously didn't have (in fact, we didn't even have cake - we had gelato pie).

Emily and I planned this party while sunbathing on our loungey chairs by the pool early this summer. It started as an intense desire for a "really fun game" because, as Emily noted, most parties she'd attended involved semi-interesting crafts and dreadfully boring games. That included her own parties, she said frankly. "We always do treasure hunts, Mom!"

Now, that is true. In my defence, I dislike organized party games that require me to direct traffic and yell directions through a loudspeaker and make people follow rules. And I particularly dislike games that require waiting in line for one's turn (e.g. pinata bashing and pinning things on pictures of other things), not because they're inappropriate in any way, but because my personality is not congruent with bossing kids around. 

So, because I am so set in my ways, I convinced Emily that we should do a quest. A quest is a glorified treasure hunt, right? Then, over many poolside brainstorming sessions, she and I devised the plot, the cast and the props. Here follows the version that passed through the fire of The Mother's Feasibility Screening with all the dross burnt away. Come along for the tour - and enjoy the treat of looking through the eyes of a nine-year-old as she weaves her tale.
Let's start with the fussy decorations. Instead of traditional birthday banners and bunting, we have birthday posters at our parties. Posters are fun. The night before our parties, I pull out my stinky art markers and draw them. 

This is the fairy dress in the poster, except I had to improvise on the color.

In addition to posters, we also have driveway chalk announcements. It's tradition. Translation= "it keeps kids busy on the morning of the party 

while the adults are setting up everything else".

You can probably tell from the photos the amount of fuss in which we indulged at this party. All three girls were put to work behind the scenes in the weeks leading up to the Day Itself. They shopped with me, and did almost all the decoration and embellishment (more photoevidence thoughout this post). We've done our parties this way for years and all the girls love being involved, regardless of whose party it is. We have so much fun with the preparation that it almost makes the actual party a non-event by comparison. 

The friends, though, are what makes it a real party. We like to include a meal just so there's enough time for the guests to visit with each other before the manic running-around begins. Especially since some of those guests are Emily's preschool ex-classmates whom she adores but doesn't see other times during the year. 

After the food came the gift-opening and hugs and thankyouverymuchs.
Then we cleared everything away and did three crafts concurrently at different stations.

into containers.

with these.

Craft #3: Decorate wooden swords.

Twelve children busily making a sword, a flask of potion and a vial of pixie dust - all essentials for a journey into the unknown-

along with a satchel(sorta),

-made of kraft paper-

and a sword belt.

The kids were given their mission: find the missing maiden in the story in their invitation cards. They were handed a map 

and their first clue, and sent on their merry way.

Their first stop was a garden

of magical flowers

concealing trinkets -

that held their second clue.

My awesome and sporting mother-in-law dressed up for us, 

and wandered around in the wilderness with her tray of treats

that she bartered away in exchange for the rings the kids found earlier.

She also handed them their third clue

which led them to the gateway to the underground (actually underdeck) Enchanted Lake, 

where they had to battle and vanquish The Guardian (my very cool friend who said she had loads of fun wielding her sword against the kids and saying, "You shall not pass!" in her best Gandalf imitation) in order to gain entrance to the Lake

and earn their next clue.

Into the Lake went the brave questers, chomping on their blue cookies so as to breathe underwater. Some forgot, and we declared them drowned. Their faces -until they realized we were joking - were priceless. 

Amidst the rays of sunlight filtering down into the depths, they discovered their lost maidens, inexplicably turned into mermaids (remember: this is Emily's tale) and trapped in vicious snarls of seaweed. 

Oh, those dolls! I loved making them and my girls were instantly besotted with them. Here are some shots of them pre-incarceration:

Back to the story now. See those keys stuffed into the waistbands of their tails?

It's there in the final clue -

The kids had to venture into the daaaaaaark forest,

unearth the mermaids' secret hoard of treasure chests .

and claim the one that matched their key.

Inside were treasure, token candy and a pretty dress for the now-tail-less mermaid, 

newly restored to legness.

One kid, after pulling off the tail and mermaid-bra, whispered in shock that her doll had nothing on underneath, and immediately blushed. Hilarious! She was very relieved to find an alternative outfit in her treasure chest. 

Self-indulgent shot of the bevy of rescued maidens with their luscious locks. Eeeeeee!

The birthday girl at the end of her quest

being celebrated with confectionery befitting a victor. 

What a day.
So much excitement.
Totally epic.

This is a pictorial summary drawn by Jenna a few days before the party, because she was so excited to be helping. It was sort of her to-do list, as indicated by the green check marks (the cookies weren't baked yet).

Making-wise, this has got to be my favorite party so far because of the wide variety of materials we used - wood, paper, fabric, metal, beads, dough, webbing, water and sand, not the mention the zany verses. My only regret is that there was no cardboard - just couldn't fit it in. Sad :(

Incidentally, we did finish the story-in-the-invites as promised. But you'll have to wait for the epilogue to find out more. In the meantime, stay tuned for the tutorials coming up! 


  1. Amazingly creative. I usually can't even pull together cake and ice cream for birthdays.

  2. What a great looking party! You have given me some ideas for my own daughters "under the sea" party, with the lake and mermaids. I am helping a friend with her daughters party and we were going to do a "hunting" type party, those SWORDS are an awesome idea, what did you make them out of? Thanks so much for blogging :) Have a great day
    From Crystal

  3. I must say, Emily certainly has a wonderful imagination! And she is so blessed to have a mom who not only agrees to go with her ideas but brings them all to life (and a grandma who helps)! What an amazing party! The girls' friends must be thrilled every time there's another birthday coming around at your house. :)

  4. That is SPECTACULAR! Amazing job!

  5. Totally amazing. It's incredible what can be created with the wild ideas of your girls and your unbelievable creativity. So cool. I really hope you are going to do a mermaid/maiden tutorial.

  6. So neat! I love how you involve your girls in the planning and preparations. An invite to one of your parties must be the hottest ticket in town for the under 10 set.

  7. Totally amazing!!! Your girls are so lucky to have you as their mother!!! Will you adopt me???? :)

  8. What an amazing party! I really hope there's a tutorial coming for the doll, though I know better than to ask you to write one if you haven't already.

  9. I love this party it was great, she is a very creative kid.

  10. As always so well done and perfectly thought out...

  11. Oh wow ! I don't know what I love more, the dolls, chests, swords... everything. This party looks like it was great ! You are the best !

  12. EPIC! This party is so fun - I want to be at this party!

  13. Are you kidding me??!! What does one have to do to be your friend??? This was totally and incredibly awesome. Kudos to all of you! And happy birthday to Emily :)

  14. Love your thinking on the dolls dress. I never would of thought to use knit ribbing for waistbands!

  15. beautiful ! such creativity ! awesome !!
    bravo !!
    sylvie, from france

  16. Fantastic! What wonderful memories for your family.

  17. Soooo amazing!!! You are giving your children such a gift by fostering their creativity and you are brilliantly creative yourself.

  18. Unbelievable!! What a dream-come-true party!

  19. What a dream-come-true party!! A labor of love to be sure.

  20. This is your best party yet, in my biased opinion! I LOVE that Emily is a year (and a bit) older than Emma and seems to have similar interest, so I can draw on your parties for inspiration. And we now live in California, where we can have outdoor parties all year round! But we lost our yard. And driveway. We now live in a complex that has exactly two other children - one 8yo and one high school student! Must search out outdoor party space, and get to know the kids from school ASAP. I am loving letting the kids craft OUTSIDE every day, though!

    The dolls are fantastic!

  21. That is the best party EVER! You and your girls did an amazing job!

  22. That looks like an awesome party!...lots of work, but awesome.

  23. I bow to the birthday party planner QUEEN!

  24. enchanting, Thrilling and simply wonderful, Loved it! thanks for sharing this wonderful party with us, Looking forward to more!

  25. The mermaids are so cute! Amazing!

  26. This is amazing!!! I would love to join the quest, and save the mermaid!! Happy birthday Emily!

  27. WOW, best party ever!! I love all your parties but this one is so special!! You are really a genius!!!!

  28. Why can't I be your neighbor??

  29. My favorite party, too. I have a Pinterest board called Quests and this belongs there. Epic, indeed!


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