Three's A'loud

Market party

Let’s face it. Kids’ birthday parties are a little bit controversial these days. Some argue that it is absolutely ridiculous to have pony rides and live entertainment for a one year old baby that will squash the crazy expensive cake in his face and then fall asleep for the rest of the day. I however, made my peace with the naysayers a long time ago. Of course it’s not necessary or even rational to spend so much time and money on one day but for many parents it’s a way of showing their kids how much they mean to us. Of course we do it in many other ways as well, but for me personally it’s an annual celebration of another year survived in spite of about 362 sleepless nights, 363 temper tantrums (not even counting baby’s…) and at least 2 556 dirty diapers.

However, even the most dedicated party-parents like me, who often start dreaming up the next birthday party months in advance sometimes hits a little speedbump. I will be honest – for my little boy’s first birthday we had a huge party. It was a Farmer’s Market party complete with comfort food, grown-up coffee and hay bales on my lounge carpet. Everyone in the world was there and it was wonderful. Right up there with my all time favourite parties hosted. But in the run up to his second birthday I just couldn’t get creative. I was exhausted. The aforementioned sleepless nights, temper tantrums and avalanche of dirty nappies combined with a new business and winter gnawing at my bones completely killed my kiddy-party-vibe. “Let’s just do last year’s theme again.” I sighed when the awesome grandmas started asking me what is happening. I was hoping someone else would offer to plan/host/pay for the whole thing and/or we would win an all expenses paid trip to Mauritius instead. Well, that didn’t happen but the idea sounded less and less crazy as the days wore on. Granted, it can’t really be done with just any theme, but in this case it worked like a charm. In fact, I love this theme so much that I have a sneaky feeling that there will be at least two or three or if I can push it, four more to come. So here is a little sneak peak into the first two years of little Gerhard’s annual Farmer’s Market:

Don't……spend too much time or money on decor. In my mind a market is all about simplicity: fresh flowers, brown paper bags, fresh fruit and veg. I was lucky to still have some arts and extras left from the first year to use again the second time around. I used wooden crates as side-tables both times and most importantly, lit a big fire in the fireplace to keep the house full of people warm and toasty.

Light the fires and have an indoor party.

I made cold drink bottles with vintage labels and red straws for market version 1.1… perfect to use again when version 1.2 came along

Fresh flowers and vegetables in interesting containers

Brown paper bag sweety-packets

Fresh flowers, wooden pallets and beautiful girls

Do……have wonderful food. A market party is the easiest party EVER to cater for. Have food stations with take-away containers, plastic cutlery where needed and serviettes all over the house and guests can make their way around to their favourite things, mingling and eating throughout. Some ideas for market food:

  • SOUP: Each time I made a big pot of vegetable soup, served with fresh loaves of cheesy bread, butter and jams.
  • PANCAKES: The first year we tried baking pancakes to order, but we fell too far behind and abandoned that idea. The 2nd year I baked about 70 pancakes the day before. It was the most work of the entire party and I must say the jury is still out on whether it’s worth it or not. They were delicious but seriously…it took me forever and they disappeared in about 2 heartbeats.
  • VETKOEK: Delicious vetkoek with savoury mince are easy to make the day before and then warm up just before serving. They were super popular with adults and kids alike both times.
  • MELKKOS: Another typically South-African staple. I made the perfect pot the first year and then burned it when I heated it up just before the party. I didn’t repeat that performance the second year, there was enough food already, but I still think it’s a idea worth revisiting in years to come.
  • CRUDITÉS: For the more healthy-inclined among us a plate of fresh baby veg and dip is the perfect snack. It fits right in with the theme and the kids also love things like baby-corn, peas and carrots.
  • BRAAIBROODJIES: Spoiler alert!! Haven’t done before but for next year’s “market” we are braaiing cheese-and-tomato sandwiches on the fire the night before to serve the next morning. Think we should test that idea tonight already just to make sure it will work ;)

Don't……forget to hydrate. So just because it’s a morning-event doesn’t mean you can’t have a few adult-beverages for your guests. Oh, did I mention that we started these parties reaaally early. When you think about it this is the perfect solution with little kids. They wake up in the morning refreshed and ready for the day. Have them play their little hearts out and then they can take a nice long afternoon nap when all the guests go home. I have to add the first year we were really brave and started at 7AM. The second year we gave our guests a bit more time and started at 9AM. I have to say that was a bit more practical but didn’t beat the bleary-eyed enthusiasm we had the first year.

So anyway, for the kids we had juice and flavoured milk and for the adults we did sherry and (my favourite thing about the 2nd party)… the “pimp-my-coffee” station. We had a big urn with boiling water and simply put take-away paper cups, all sorts of teas and coffees as well as cinnamon, flavoured syrups and most importantly, liquors to pimp your own coffee. The whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles also didn’t last very long.

Heart warming sherry

Pimp my coffee!!

Flavoured milk for the kids

Do……have your cake and eat it too. With this theme you can do so many different cakes. The first year we went all natural with a vanilla cake and the second year straight to the farm with a chocolate cake. My two-year-old loved the little sheep and tractor and mommy loved the chocolate.

1st birthday party Farmer’s Market Cake

2nd birthday party Farmer’s Market Cake

Don't……forget to take lots and lots of pictures. I have to confess that to my embarrassment I didn’t take as many pictures the second year as I did the first. I think I was hesitant to compare the two parties because a) People on Facebook will judge me for doing the same theme and b) I felt I didn’t do enough to warrant the same level of record-keeping the second time around. HOWEVER remember that haters will hate no matter what you do. You are not taking pictures for them. You are taking pictures to see how your little angel has grown a year from now, to remember family and friends that wouldn’t/couldn’t be there the next year and to someday show your little one how cute they were when they were still too young to argue with mommy about the theme for their birthday party.

Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday to you

1 year old with Grandpa

2 years old with Dad

Do……give something back to others. A market party is the best possible theme for giving something to charity. We asked our guests to bring a bag/box/packet of fruit or veg which looked beautiful as décor at the party and was then donated to a local children’s home afterwards. It added up to enough fresh produce for 10 families to have a few healthy cooked meals in the weeks following little Gerhard’s birthday.

Bags and boxes of fruit and veg on the right

Sorting the donations into different lots for less-fortunate families

Looking back at two market parties I have to say it remains one of my favourite themes. Little Gerhard’s birthday is in the middle of winter so it’s much more comfortable to have everyone cosied up inside the house. The different food “stations” ensures people are continuously moving around and mingling. The first year we had a jumping castle right outside the front door for the kids to let off some steam but the second year that wasn’t even necessary as the kiddies in attendance were all still quite small. They had tons of fun building a fort in the kids’ room and throwing every toy we ever owned out of the toy-chest. The parents were safe in the knowledge that their little ones were kept out of the cold at a time of year when those of us with babies get a bit paranoid about sick children. Best of all…by noon everyone was home enjoying a long leisurely afternoon nap courtesy of the slightly-alcoholic coffee. Cheers to that.

Mom and Dad

Birthday boy


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