(I should warn you that this is a looooong post. If you keep travelling through
you will find ideas for activities, decorating and menu. If you are looking for general
ideas for a baby shower you may be interested in these posts here and here :)
ideas for a baby shower you may be interested in these posts here and here :)
My friend Joan recently asked me to help her with a baby shower for her daughter-in-law Gemma, who was having her first baby, a boy. After talking to Gemma I knew that she likes things to be soft and muted, loves colours, foods and materials that are 'organic', and that she loved the idea of a pretty and elegant afternoon tea. When I mentioned Peter Rabbit, Gemma said that she loved PR, so there was our theme..
Joan was keen to do all she could to make things special for Gemma, but asked for some help with the planning and the food. She took care of all the flowers, getting her lovely home ready, printing and sending the invitations, and lots of other things.. Joan's home was already perfect for the theme, with its pots of lavender, cane baskets, and other elegant but homely touches.
Joan's daughter overseas had already sent over a delightful design for the PR baby shower invitations for Joan to print out and send, so I suggest that she might also like to help with themed designs for: a Welcome sign for the front door; a book-mark for each of the guests to take home; the letters of 'It's a Boy' to hang from the table; a 'thank you' tag for the little lavender bags I had made; and a front and back cover and pages for an 'Advice for the new Mother' booklet. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to use the format of the designs that Natalie sent over, so instead spent a lot of time reproducing them to be as close to the originals as possible, which I then mostly printed out on my computer. Joan printed out and laminated the 'It's a Boy' letters at Officeworks.
For decorations, we went mostly with tissue paper pom poms and flowers. I found it hard at first to marry the idea in my head of Peter Rabbit/garden with elegant/afternoon tea/hors d'oeuvres and petit fours, but I figured that if it works for Royal Doulton, then we should be able to make it work too :)
I hadn't made paper pom poms before but there are lots of tutorials for them on the net, (such as this one here), so they weren't difficult, although I found that they took me a while to do. Fortunately, it turned out that Joan was great at doing them, so she took over when I was running out of time to get them all finished. Joan's son attached them to the ceiling with invisible nylon sewing thread and thumbtacks. (The holes are so small as to be invisible when the pins are removed.)
We strung up the letters that Joan made to a line of wide ribbon that we tied into big bows on the corners of the table. I was able to get mini pegs at Lincraft. (You can see where Joan beautifully set up the onesie-decorating station on the table in the background of this photo.)
I made a nappy cake to decorate the gifts table and was sorry that we didn't get better photos of this one as I really liked it! Gemma loves sewing, so the cake has lots of pretty silks and ribbons that she can hopefully use again one day. Along the back of the cake, (where you can't see them), are small printed PR medallions. Joan was excited to find these PR bunnies at David Jones. (You can see other examples of nappy cakes, and instructions on how to make them here.)
For the flowers, Gemma came with Joan and me to the Brisbane flower markets where we chose flowers and foliage to match our soft baby blue/soft watery green/aqua and white colour scheme, which Joan then arranged beautifully.
The piece de resistance was a lovely little surprise for everyone, (always nice to have if possible) ..
Ever since seeing the work of Julie Hill at Cakes, Cups and Pops on Amy's guest Blog post here, I've been keeping her in mind, since she lives not far from us. After deciding on our Peter Rabbit theme I contacted Julie to ask her for a quote on making thirty cake pops, mini carrot cake toppers to look like peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce and pumpkins, thirty take-home theme biscuits in cellophane, and 15-20 Peter Rabbit figurines in various poses that I could scatter on the food tables - some sitting on plates, some leaning, or running, etc. Joan loved the idea too. To show Julie what I meant I sent her a lot of pictures like these to help her with ideas..
Julie was wonderfully helpful and great to work with, (so if you need anything like this in Brisbane I highly recommend her :) I was most excited to see the PR figurines and was so happy with these fabulous little creations when she dropped them to us on the morning of the shower..
Even with fabulous decorations and food, a party can feel flat and awkward if there is not a 'story' for guests to follow from when they first enter.. So our planning went like this:
1 - 1.30pm - Arrival. Collect a glass of punch and gather in the lounge area. (We didn't make name tags for everybody because Joan said that the 30 invited guests all knew one another.)
(Having the right music playing is an important element too, (something else that Joan took care of). Music helps to set the mood, and 'fills in' the space, especially before the conversation really gets going.)
1.30 - 2.45pm - Activities. (..approximately :) It's good for a party to have great activities that the guests can either enjoy or opt out of, as it suits them. It seems to me that dragging someone away from an interesting conversation to play a game they don't like is not the making of a great party. On the other hand, having no activities on offer can feel very flat, and especially awkward for those who don't mix as easily. Perhaps the best activities for a party like this are ones that imitate the old quilting bees of times past - where you can socialize while keeping your hands busy, and have an opportunity to be creative and hopefully useful all at once. Or just mingle and chat. Our starting activities were:
'How many buttons and how many pins? Guess this right and you could win!
This idea came from a friend of my daughter's who gave her a beautiful framed letter for her daughter's birthday that looked something like this:
You can learn how to make a letter in a frame like this by clicking here. Joan and Gemma shopped for the frame and Gemma chose the buttons and pins she wanted to use. Each of the winners to guess the correct number of pins and buttons were the lucky recipients of some beautiful prizes chosen by Joan. People wrote their guesses on a paper sheet.
'Guess the Girth'
.. is a baby shower game we have used before. We had the precut and pre-labelled strings of raffia hanging near this small table above, with some scissors to cut to the guessed length of the MTB's waist measurment, again with a prize for the winning guess.
'Advice for the new mother-to-be' booklet.
This took me the longest time to make because I was trying to replicate Natalie's ideas on my computer program. The finished product was slightly different from what she had done, but as close as I could make it. The inner pages are printed with lines, front and back, to write on, with a variety of PR characters to decorate each page and Joan inked the edges after I had cut them. The pages were each pre-punched with two holes to fit together with the covers, in order to make a book at the end of the shower. Joan provided pens for people to write their messages. It took me a bit of running around to find the right-coloured card for the covers, since I wanted one that looked like home-made paper and was slightly beige. My daughter eventually found this among her supplies, so - lucky! It was a little thing, but I cut the thicker covers with a water pen, to give them an old, slightly tattered look, then Joan again finished them with scrap-booking ink.
Joan took care of all of this, with some help from Gemma. Joan organised it all so beautifully and Gemma was so happy with the results. There are many tutorials on the net where you can learn how to set up a onsie-decorating station - here and here for example.
2.45 - 3.30pm - Food!
By now the guests were nicely hungry for their afternoon tea :)
I had planned the menu around the the themes of Peter Rabbit/garden and elegant/afternoon tea, so lots of fruit and vegetables seemed appropriate. I had hoped to find tiny clay pots to hold the food labels but when I had no luck in finding them I bought some $1 egg cups instead. The food labels are taped onto toothpicks and the cups are filled with a wedge of floral oasis topped with artificial moss. The theme worked perfectly with my favourite Wedgewood Countryware dinner set since it has cabbage-leaf edges..
We never did get pictures when everything was finally out on the tables unfortunately, but these photos will give you a good idea:
Although we don't have close-up photos of them, I really liked the herbed baby boccolini and cherry tomatoes on toothpicks; the apple slices (I soaked them for a few minutes in pineapple juice to stop them from discolouring) with Brie and grapes; the turkey, lettuce, Camembert and cranberry sandwich rounds; and the egg and finely sliced lettuce on bread rounds. (You can see them all a little better if you click on the picture to enlarge it.) All very fresh and healthy and yummy! We bought a lot of the fresh produce at a farmer's market in the Valley that Joan and Gemma took me to. A little more expensive, but very nice food.
I use this egg and bacon pie recipe all the time in our family. Everybody loved the gorgeous figurines scattered across the three tables!
These crudites were vegetables that were blanched in boiling salted water for only one to three minutes. It's just enough to take away the rawness and bring out the beautiful colours. The mushrooms at the back were lightly sauteed in garlic with a touch of olive oil. We hollowed out two capsicum and a large mushroom to use as containers for the black olive tapenade, baba ganoush and basil pesto dips. (I had my wonderful husband and angel daughter Tammy to help with a lot of the food preparation.)
These are Garden Vegetable Quiche. The idea for these cute little pictures came from Abby when she used something similar here. They were easy to make and one of the guests helpfully scattered them throughout the tables for me while I was getting the food out. Isn't that little sugar rabbit cute?!
Chicken and pistachio nut open sandwiches.
Asparagus and cream-cheese roll-ups. Tammy had the job of tying on all of the chive ties, (thank you Tammy! :) And again, don't these little figurines make everything look so good? :)
These are mini pumpkin pie wedges with cream, topped with mini pumpkins that were made by Julie, as were these cake pops that look like baby rattles.
This was kind of a made-up recipe - mini cups with crushed ginger-nut biscuits moistened with melted butter, (I always associate ginger with pregnant girls), unbaked lemon rind cheesecake, layered with crushed frozen raspberries and topped with cream and a fresh raspberry - and the combination seemed to work really well.
These mini chocolate mousse had a yummy blob of dark chocolate ganache in the bottom of each. The cheesecake and mousse cups were served with mini disposable spoons.
I call these chocolate and hazelnut bisbuits 'Heaven!' :)
Citrus and caramel mini tartlets.
Our 'Strawberry Garden' was made with simple, moist mini chocolate cakes topped with fresh cream and a strawberry.
A simple cheese and cut fruit platter with plum paste to finish..
Not pictured were the mini custard tart wedges. And I ran out of time (and patience with our rented oven), to make mini scones and pikelets. But the food quantities seemed perfect on the day. I didn't think so much food would go, but it did :)
3.30 - 4pm - Present opening time, then small gifts to take home.
When the guests left, they each took with them a theme biscuit (made by Julie)...
.. A lavender bag with a 'thank you! tag attached, (I made these by tying up the lavender in a square of muslin with a pretty ribbon, and we tied on the tags with a short length of sewing cotton) ..
.. And a Peter Rabbit book-mark. Using Publisher, I aligned the printing paper so that I could print a short poem on the back of each that Abby quickly wrote for the occasion:
Gemma is glowing,
Her Autumn baby.
A tiny, wee boy,
Will join wonderful
Before very long!
And God bless you
With love and you go
On your way!
Gemma really was glowing all day! :)