We set the table like pros. We attached our four ikea kid tables (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/80267566/) to make one large table by duct taping the four interior legs together. Then I spread a table cloth atop, set with sparkly plates, pink napkins found in storage, plastic forks and tea cups at each spot. Before the party I wrote each kids name on the cups using sharpies and my best fancy-handwriting. The kids loved finding their spots and then decorating their tea cups with stickers.
The menu for the party was pretty straightforward. It was a tea party so we served sandwiches, tea, fruit and cake. Little Girl’s favorite sandwich is egg-salad (which is also quite traditional for afternoon tea) so I made those, cream cheese and jam and cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches. I took a risk and displayed them on a fine china tiered dish, for tea we served Earl Grey (decaf), a fruit tea and a sparkling juice punch made from various drinks we had on hand. The kids delighted at having me come around the table to serve them their sandwiches and pour tea from fancy china tea pots.
The cake was homemade. This is the only cake I make but it is delicious. I use a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook; the addition of corn starch makes the cake crumb smooth and lovely, the use of buttermilk adds flour. (Deb Perelman is a genius!) This recipe is similar and I’m sure delicious even though it’s a little different from the one in the book http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/07/best-birthday-cake/
For Little Girl’s class party on Friday I doubled the recipe to make 48 amazing cupcakes. For the Tea Party I used a single recipe to make two 9’ round cakes and added strawberry jam in between the two cakes. I frosted both with a basic buttercream frosting (organic butter, organic heavy cream, abundant confectioner’s sugar added to the stand mixer until everything is covered in a layer of sugar dust and the frosting is thick and delicious… obviously you might want to find a real recipe for this 😉 ). I used pink food coloring to reach that exact shade of 4 year old fairy party pink! We added edible candy flowers (donated to the cause by my mother-in-law and right in time for the party!) to add a little visual interest. Then we sprinkled the whole thing in “fairy dust” (colored sugar).
I consider the fact that there were no leftovers a good sign!
So as for the financial reckoning… I’m afraid I went a bit over budget. It turned out that we needed to buy flour, baking powder and cornstarch in addition to tons of butter, buttermilk, eggs, and items for sandwiches. If I calculated based on just the percentage used then I’m right on target though…
Total Spent: $118.94
- Food: $52.00
- Plates and cups: $20.60
- Decorations, & Invitations: $10.98
- Craft Supplies: $27.98
Emotional reckoning: I’m really proud of how fun, attractive and interesting the whole party turned out to be. I love throwing parties but it is so easy to spend a ton to make them happen. I’m proud that I avoided that trap this time. I also found it really fun to try and find creative and cheap/free solutions to the various parts of the party.
That said, this was seriously labor intensive. Those flowers and crowns took a whole weekend and we trashed the house making them! But, it wouldn’t have been quick the old way either; I would have spent hours upon hours scouring the web to find exactly the product I wanted to make the event have the exact look I imagined. Given the choice, I would MUCH rather be painting, cutting, sewing and even ironing than staring at my computer!
I have to say that even though this budget was arbitrarily set, I’m really bummed to have gone over. The big costs were food (which as I said was a little bit just luck and a little bit because I’m counting the school cupcakes in this total too) and the tea cups. We still have 20 tea cups leftover. I wonder if I could have bought a smaller package somewhere? I’m glad we used the hard plastic ones though; my husband ran into one of the dads the other day and he said his kid has used the cup every day this week, at meals and for pretend. That feedback made my day!