When your 2 year old niece, your clever, adorable, impossibly charming 2 year old niece says "Oh I would love a pony party!" well, this Auntie can't help but get right on Pinterest and start planning. With Natty just having had Logan in January we set about planning Yasmin's 3rd birthday party a few months ago together and apart from the seasonal showers on Saturday, we couldn't have asked for a more lovely day.
Lovely friends, family and family in America on FaceTime, all came together for a horsey themed celebration over this weekend and made one little girl very happy.
It's no secret I love parties and I get almost as much joy preparing, sourcing bits and bobs and decorating the house and garden as I do helping host the actual 2 hour party itself! Those hours go by so quickly and I absolutely make the most of the anticipation and excitement. A very timely visit to America earlier this month (oh you are going to be bombarded with sweet pictures of my sweet nieces this week!) also meant I brought home some pony party extras for our mini guests - who doesn't love a horse shaped rubber duck?!
We raided my prop boxes, found an old straw bale that I knew would come in handy one day, and popped a few fake flowers that I bought from The Range in some of my old glass bottles. Yasmin is a girly girl, a walking princess and if she could live in a world of pink she would! Which is so alien to me having two boys, where life at the moment is about negotiating time to watch some chap called Stampy play Minecraft videos. No wait, not watch him, you watch his game, him playing the game with endless running commentary. Aaaaah!
We found some baskets from her bedroom and popped some marshmallow ice creams inside, propped up a touch with some paper, laid some chocolate horses I bought from Party Delights on the hay bale and covered two faux polystyrene cakes with pink tissue paper to act as lolly stands.
My local baker from The Small Cake Shop made the fantastic horse cake pops and themed cup cakes and I picked up 2 old Observer Guide books in my local Oxfam book shop which made perfect cake stands.
I know it may seem strange, but I always use the birthday cake as the centre piece to the dessert table. I think it's a shame to hide it away, especially as it's often one of the show stopping moments of a party, only to whizz it out for a resounding chorus of Happy Birthday and hip hip hoorays and then rush it away to be cut up. My boys love seeing their cakes and get so much extra pleasure from being able to enjoy them for the whole party and Yasmin is just the same. None of us are huge cake fans so we actually cheated a little this year and bought a basic iced sponge from the supermarket but dressed it up to the max!
I sprayed a letter three cake topper I had in my party box at home silver and sprinkled it as it was drying with glitter, used some of the fabric flowers and popped it on a painted polystyrene cake. The Talking Tables cake topper and party picks set looked wonderful and from a distance you'd have thought it was this spectacular two tiered creation. Super simple but effective is our motto!
We wanted to keep the games simple and fun as most of the mini guests were around 3 years old. So horsey rubber ducks plopped into my old tin bath became Hook-a-Horse and the children took it in turns when they fancied a go to wander over and see how many they could catch in their nets.
My sister and brother in law had painted some pound shop miniature fence panels white and taped around lengths of white plumbing tubes to create a row of garden jumps and all the children lined up and took it in turns to cross the finish line with cheers from the crowd.
I spied these amazing jockey dressing up outfits, a fabric horse built into a waistband at the Country Living Show on the My Horse stand. They couldn't have been more perfect and they have a new home in the dressing up box.
Just before all her guests of the human kind arrived we had a surprise for the birthday girl. Well for everyone really. We had hired a real miniature horse called Nutkin from The Cuddly Pony Party who happened to be very local and in fact had met my brother in law many times when they were teenagers!
It is an amazing party experience. Nutkin is incredibly docile, loves being centre of attention and is a dab hand at children' parties.
She was so friendly, posed for pictures and munched on their grass as the children groomed and then painted her and gave her pretty hair dos with bows and clips! The children got to hear all about how she likes to be brushed, what she eats and gave her lots of cuddles.
It's so clever really, all the little brushes must be like a mini massage. I chatted with Izzy about the paints and whether she's ever experienced any negative comments, which she told me she had on social media, mostly from people who haven't read about the parties properly. All the paints she uses are child and horse friendly, wash off straight away and Nutkin barely gave a second glance. She happily munched on her hay bale, had a few half carrots fed to her by the children and you could have thought you'd just spent an hour and a half with a big stuffed toy! So placid and calm around the children who were all so loving and nurturing towards her.
It's lovely that Izzy is so proud of her and after she handed out beautiful traditional equestrian rosettes to everyone, we waved her goodbye and she headed off for a good shower.
We had braved the great British April weather for as long as we could and then we all came in and played some games and the children ate their Pony party teas in their snack boxes in the warm. Andrew's mum made some delicious fillipine dishes as well as the beautiful floral horseshoes and all the grown ups dived into a huge bowl of chow mein and a drink from the bar. They made rosettes out of foam sparkly templates and lots of stickers we bought in Hobbycraft, drew a little picture or message on the fabric horse as a keepsake for Yazzy's room after her birthday and a game of pass the parcel took us almost to 4pm, with just enough time to sing to the birthday girl and then wave everyone goodbye.
We all headed back into the garden as the last guests headed home and the sun came out in spectacular style! It was like a brilliant summer's evening and we had a mammoth bouncing session on the trampoline followed by apple bobbing!
Sammy is a dunk your head right in, strip off after two goes and get soaked from head to toe kind of player where as Ollie and Yazzy delicately picked their apples up, pretty much on the first try, by biting the stork!
Darling girl it's such a pleasure to spoil you. Yasmin appreciates all the fuss, all the little things that might go unnoticed. She walked out to the sweet buffet and gasped with her hands to her mouth and said "Oh Auntie it's all so pretty! I like da cakes, I like all da cakes!"
My sister plays a rolling gallery of photos on their tv screen and my niece is a girl who is constantly reminded of all the lovely times she's had in her little life. Each one sparks a memory or a story that she's been told and remembers and I know we will all be going over her happy party for years to come.
I'll miss my sleepover buddy tonight, for the last three nights I've slept in her room on a pull out bed and she has loved waking up together! Almost in disbelief that I actually did what I promised. That when she opened her eyes I was really there on the floor! This morning when she woke up she scooted in for a cuddle, and sang at the top of her voice, happy birthday to herself!
This time is so short really, when parties are the highlight of the year, I know the time is coming for my big boy, in Year 2 there's more group trips to the cinema and individual sleepovers so I am going to treasure being able to help my sister.
We have had a glorious 3 days together, finishing with a princess breakfast this morning and Natty and I completely surprised her by dressing up in two of my old ball and bridesmaids dresses. We wore crowns, ate pancakes covered with sprinkles and blasted out the soundtrack to all the Disney films. At one point Natty and I started twirling and dancing and she couldn't get down quick enough to join us. I leaned over to my sister as we ruffled our skirts and whispered, this is what childhood memories are made of and we smiled to each other. It makes me ache thinking it's a good while until we see each other next for Sammy's birthday at the end of May. Thank goodness for FaceTime!
Now I wonder she will love next year?!