06 July 2017

A Merry Heart Does You Good (like medicine)

"A Merry Heart Does you GOOD (like a Medicine)"

If you've been around this blog for any length of time you'll know that in our family we've always loved to celebrate for any excuse – and sometimes for no reason.

We loved having friends over, spending time with special people enjoying an occasion together. Whether it was a Light Party, a Birthday Partyan Easter dinner or one of our famous "Parties for No Reason"we sure did love to host a gathering.
We never spent loads of money, we never parted with cash for glitzy entertainers or fancy catering.
We liked our birthday cakes a bit wobbly and homemade-looking.
We got a kick out of thinking up decorations, games and food that we could adapt and make.

More than anything, we really got a thrill out of creating an atmosphere for our friends to come and enjoy.

Even the planning was part of the fun.
As the kids got older they came up with their own great ideas for games and decorating.

Celebrating each other was a way of showing appreciation and letting each family member know that they were valued and special.
So what happened when we changed to a sole-parent family on a tight budget?

We whipped up this impromptu garden party one summer in half an hour on a sunny day

Sure things slowed down a bit; there was no Bright Light/Welcome Summer BBQ or New Years Eve Bash here (hosting crowds might have been put into the too-hard basket for a bit). But essentially, when it comes to celebrating each other, we are still open for business.

For us, Parties and Celebrations are a must.
They are a highlight, a bright spot – a peak in what can sometimes feel like a long year of valleys.

"A merry heart does you good, like medicine," the Proverb says. And it really does.
When things are feeling grim and heavy, throw a party (even if it’s just you and your kids) and see if that doesn't perk you all up.

The pretty china cups and teapot plus a scones with jam n cream made this into a tea party

One of my life’s mottoes is “Don’t save the best china for a special occasion – use the best china and make today special.” I try to live by it - bringing out my pretty teacups when friends pop by and making every cuppa a bit of an occasion.

Celebrations don't have to involve crowds of people or weeks of planning. Sometimes an impromptu "party for no reason" with a friend or two can brighten up a dull or disastrous week.

Cupcakes "whipped up"

We got into the habit of impromptu parties many years ago when the kids were little. It takes half an hour to whip up a batch of Cupcakes, and set up a pretty tableWe'd raid the cupboards for fruit to chop, popcorn to pop and marshmallows to make it a bit festive. Sometimes we'd call on friends and invite them to join us; sometimes we'd party on our own. These days we turn on music and dance with the dog (or light a fire to sizzle sausages and toast marshmallows).

An impromptu party we threw for Scrag's friends at Christmas
We cheated with bought-in supermarket cupcakes, chips, chopped fruit and sausage rolls - they loved it

Impromptu parties are so enjoyable, truly.
Quite often in the school holidays I've been known to invite a couple of mum friends and their kids over, so it’s fun for all of us (kids AND mums). Each family brings food to share ("something festive"). I call it a party, and once you call it a party, it is one.

I'm really good at lighting fires now...

Sometimes on weekends we light a fire outdoors, invite our friends and/or cousins to share sausages cooked over the flames and toast marshmallows. We play games around the fire and stay up far too late.
I actually didn't realise how often over the past year I'd thrown an impromptu party or afternoon tea until I came to look for photos for this story and found evidence of random fire nights, tea parties and pancake breakfasts in my stash. (Last year was a bit of a blur!) These mini-celebrations turned ordinary/blah days into something a bit special. Those fun moments helped get us through the year.

Happy birthday to me too (a firenight with friends and food)

There's a verse somewhere that says, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (another true saying). There's something to be said for throwing a "party" and having a laugh with friends/family to give you strength for the journey, no matter how long and winding your year might be.

Back at the beginning of May, Scrag requested that we celebrate May the Fourth (Be With You) aka International Star Wars Day. It had been a while since we'd done a theme dinner, but I loved that he thought of it and said, why not?

With half a day's notice I whipped up some "Jedi Juice" printables for a couple of bottles of budget lemonade, dragged out the wigs and masks, hung up bunting from parties-past and ordered a bunch of $5 pizzas. Somewhere I found a packet of unused glow-sticks and turned them into mini light sabers with silver duct tape. I transformed the el-cheapo pizzas into themed fare by changing the logo with a vivid marker to "Pizza the Hutt".

"Pizza the Hutt"
Yoda (me) and Sophie (our French homestay)

And voila! A last minute theme dinner to brighten up our night/week/month. We all had a great night; Sophie, our French homestay, loved it (that's her with Yoda, aka moi), though Clyde the giant Rescue Puppy was not so sure about his role as Princess Leia....?

Princess Leia-dog

A birthday party need take no more work than this, really.

Forget the intimidating Pinteresty perfection you see around the interwebs - many of those parties are staged by professionals for photo shoots; they’re not parties for actual human children.

If you want to do an achievable fun DIY "themed" birthday party, look no further than my party index pageEvery party we've done through the years is there with instructions, recipes and free printablesThere's parties for boys and girls of all ages from the 1st birthday right up to the tweens and teens.

14th birthday party with a "cool factor"
Sports birthday party - the parties are no less fun than they ever were

Now that I'm a single mum on a much-more-limited party budget I make sure to plan well ahead for birthdays. I order things online cheaply from Ali Express and Wish. I trawl through the cupboards and re-use what we already have. I use my imagination and create things from scraps of fabric or in Photoshop to turn basic things into awesome ones. (I also enlist the help of my faithful party partner, KiwiCakes for help with baking supplies so I can share my party inspiration here with all of you).

Miss fab's 12th birthday cake - actually made largely by the birthday girl and her friends!

After nearly a year of birthdays, there is no perceivable difference in the quality of our birthday celebrations... they are as fun and as imaginative as ever, to suit each kid's desired theme.
Right now I'm planning Miss Fab's 13th - a Starry Night theme, where we'll be toasting marshmallows and playing games round the fire, then heading up Mt Albert to let off sky lanterns. (I'm really really good at lighting fires these days).

Friends make all the difference when hosting a party on your own

As much as I love to create an atmosphere and set a theme, the most important thing is not the decor - it's the celebration.

When it comes to birthdays, what matters is making an effort to let someone know they are a special and valued member of the family, that they are loved and appreciated. celebrated and honoured.

When it comes to the everyday humdrum of life, sometimes it does wonders for your family's spirits to take an ordinary day and turn it into something a bit special, giving everyone a boost.

Light a fire in an aluminium drinks bucket and invite friends to toast marshmallows...

If you’re having a rough week/month/year throwing a party for no reason might be the very thing you need to boost your spirits.
You'd be surprised at how easy it is.

This is why we party: it's medicine for our souls.


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