Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Birthday Without Treasure

Youngest always has a strawberry birthday cake
This is the first year since our son turned four that there has not been a single birthday treasure hunt. Eleven years of treasure hunts. No clues to think up, no story to invent around a unicorn, a pirate or a fairy princess. No suitable treasure to find and package, no chocolate gold coins to ransack Woolies for.

I don’t know whether to be relieved or regretful. Relieved because treasure hunts involve a lot of last minute winging it and running around in circles, regretful because my kids are growing up so quickly.

Youngest turned eleven a couple of weeks ago. What she wanted for her birthday was to go riding with her friends in the morning and come home for an afternoon of play and then a sleepover. I thought I’d have very little to do. Just sort out with their riding teacher to move their Thursday lesson to Saturday, so that there were only two extra lessons to pay for, lay on some food and that’s that.

Of course having six girls for a whole day requires just as much cooking, if not more, than having twenty little kids for a tea party, so it turned out to be a procession of cooking: from soup and fresh bread for lunch, when they came back starving from their ride, to a strawberry cake for tea, and home-made pizza for supper... and then pancakes for breakfast next morning. I was kept just as busy as of old.

Youngest was rather dismayed to wake up to wind and rain on the morning of her birthday. The forecast was for drizzle and clearing up in the afternoon, but the ride was at 11... and this was way more than drizzle. We drove through a downpour to collect her friends, but used willpower and positive thinking in spades and by the time we reached the stables the clouds were lifting and the rain had stopped. Phew!

They had a lovely ride – what could be better than all your favourite friends and all your favourite ponies gathered together however windy and un-springlike the day?!

Then it was an afternoon of the next best thing to real ponies – endless games with Schleich ponies, and luckily the older girls haven’t yet become too grown-up to play too.

Our strawberries have been so late this season with the long late winter, that we only just had enough berries for Youngest’s traditional strawberry cake, but there were plenty of mulberries and the girls just ate those straight from the tree.

The birthday finished off with pizza and the movie I’ll be There, with that classic scene of Craig Ferguson riding a motorbike through the upstairs window of a beautiful old country house into a pond. One of the lovely things about the kids being older is that they enjoy many of our favourite movies.

And even without the treasure hunt, there was a wealth of treasure in memories and wonderful birthday experiences - I think it was one of her best birthdays yet!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Our Spring Festival and A Rainbow

Every year at our spring festival one of the things we are thankful for is the winter rain, filling up our reservoirs, re-stocking the ground water and giving all our trees a chance to grow. This year there was an awful lot of rain to be thankful for, as it had hardly stopped raining between my rather rose-tinted winter in South Africa post back in August and the festival itself on the 21st September. It had rained solidly for several days before and sharp showers continued through the day. The long dirt road to reach our farm was waterlogged and pot-holed: passable, but I was already thinking about starting work building a boat of some sorts, even if not an ark just yet.

Once again I left all the cooking to the last minute, not even getting my meringues done the night before for the pavlova and having to do the shopping in the morning too, probably the least prepared I’ve ever been. But of course it all came together in the end, quiches and potato salad, joined by roast chickens, other salads and potato bakes brought by friends, and the meringue cooled down just in time for the cream and berries to go on top. There weren’t any elaborate water sculptures this year, most people arrived towards the end of the afternoon, so there was just time to make flower crowns,

decorate the archway,

for the younger boys (and dogs) to attempt an elaborate construction for the toboggan to go down.

and to create a river of light from candles in brown paper bags.

And with true serendipity there was a beautiful rainbow to bless the occasion.

Every festival has its own rhythm and I’ve gradually  learned to go with the flow, not stressing about timing and details – it always works out perfectly in its own way.

Our flower crowns have changed and evolved over the years. When the kids were little we used to make tissue and crepe paper flowers fixed on to card crowns. Then we plaited raffia and now most of the children's crowns are made with real flowers, plaited into the raffia, which is a painstaking and very individual process.

Then there is the arch to decorate with flowers - pincushion proteas, bougainvillea and cable ties.

Because the theme is water, we have water bowls filled with flowers both in the circle and at the south end of the sand-pit. Amy thinks this is very convenient.

By the time we are all ready to carry our jugs of water and flower garlands into the circle the sun has set and it is dusk, but there is a glow in the sky still and a wonderful smell of fresh flowers and growing things in the air.

Blessings on the coming of spring!

More flowery spring festival posts for a little bit of nostalgia and seeing our kids growing up over all the years. 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, and our blessing from 2006.