01 May 2012

A Strawberry-Themed Picnic

When it came time to plan Bleu's 4th birthday she didn't want a blow-out bash with her whole class. We offered to host it at the horse museum or the local music studio, but in the end she said 'no thanks' and asked for a play date at the park with just Ella and Ava. Bleu is quite definitive like that. She doesn't like crowds or being the center of attention.

I told her she could invite anyone she wanted, and that's when she approved siblings Siena/Madison and Charles/Jack. But no classmates. No ma'am. Not even sweet little Serafina who I know she adores.

Other birthday requests included strawberry muffins for the school and a strawberry shortcake for the park. The muffins were awesome, so I'll post that recipe soon.

So the play date was this past Sunday, and it definitely had some strawberry overtones. There were 8 adults and 9 children {counting all of ours plus Buby's friend Jonas who we were so glad could join us last minute!}.

I kept the menu very simple and park-appropriate, but it still took some planning. For the main dish I decided to create a granola bar -- granola being one of Bleu's favorite foods. Think ice cream sundae bar, but homemade granola instead.

Bleu and I made three full batches of our favorite recipe. By the way, I love being in the kitchen with Bleu. She's definitely at her best when there's a specific task to complete and she feels needed. She gets that trait from my dad.

I toasted raw almonds and pecans separately {to keep the main bucket nut-free} and then filled 16 mini Bell jars with all-natural toppings. The tastings included: dried cranberries and pineapple, Newman's Own raisins, Deglet Noor chopped dates, baked mini pretzels, organic cold-milled flax seeds, unsweetened coconut, pumpkin seed kernels, Ghiradelli mini chips, almonds, pecans, and mini marshmallows. At home the mini chips and marshmallows are sort of forbidden, so of course they were the first jars devoured.

Oh, and have you ever dried fruit at home without a dehydrator? I tried it this weekend when I decided I wanted a third fruit to jar. {With the exception of organic raisins and cranberries I never buy prepackaged
dried fruits from the store because of the sulphur dioxide added to them as a preservative.} So I chopped up a pineapple and Googled how to oven dry. It took almost 8 HOURS at 170 degrees {the lowest temp my oven allows}. I told the littles to eat up and enjoy, because I won't be doing that again.

In addition to the granola, I set out a tub of Stonyfield low-fat plain yogurt {which nobody wanted -- they were happy to eat the granola dry}, a platter of crust-less pb+J on wheat, and two big trays of grapes, strawberries, cheese, crackers, tomatoes, carrots, celery, green peppers with a yogurt-based ranch dip. Also, I filled my centerpiece vase with 9 Bosc pears and 9 Jazz apples and those went pretty fast. Pears are in high demand!

I found these bug catchers at the dollar store, and they fit our red/green color scheme so nicely.
I love the built-in magnifying glass and convenient carrying strap. I think every child wore theirs like a necklace and filled it with ants, foliage, beetles and {toward the end of the day} water and snails from the big pond.

For dessert Bleu had set her sights on a strawberry shortcake from the indoor farm market. I placed a phone order two days before, and it was baked fresh for us on Sunday morning. White cake, strawberries and real whipped cream -- yum! I'm so glad I didn't make it myself. It fit perfectly inside the cooler with a bag of ice, the yogurt, the veggie dip, two bottles of chilled Pellegrino, and a pitcher of homemade strawberry lemonade.

I try to have red punch balloons at every party. Always. It's just a thing.
The picnic basket was my mom's for years before she handed it down to me, and I LOVE IT. Inside was a stack of spiral-bound notepads with vintage strawberry illustrations on the front. I used them as favors and attached mini coloring pencils to the back. Also in the basket was a dozen red bubble bottles {leftover from Buby's Red Balloon party}, which I totally forgot about until it was almost time to leave.

I'm not a big fan of lemonade for kids, but since it was a special occasion and I made it myself... I wanted them to feel "fancy" drinking it, so I re-purposed a bunch of Starbucks Frappuccino glasses and inserted red and white straws. I don't like the frapps, but luckily my mo-in-law does so I rescued her bottles from our recycle bin during her last few visits. {Note: It took several scrubs and two washer cycles to get the label goo off.}

The lemonade was delicious. I'll definitely make it again but maybe tinker with the recipe next time. Or simply add a quart of sliced strawberries to a pitcher of iced water. That sounds just as refreshing without the sugar.

Buby worked and worked and worked to get this purple-ish rock out of the ground. He gave it to Bleu for her birthday :-)

Bear and his balloons. This baby of mine is such a sweetheart.

Buby and his friend Jonas built a "secret fort hide-out" when they weren't playing catch or digging for treasure.

And these two clung to each other and their baby dolls {both named Bella} all afternoon.

1 comment:

Grandma DJ said...

what a wonderful party!! glad my frap addiction came in handy!! love you forever