Yo, ho, Mateys: A Pirate Birthday

About a year and a half ago, our then next-door-neighbor showed up on my doorstep with a huge bag in her hands.  "Could you use this?   I'm just going to throw it away if you don't want it."   A big bag of free?   Always.   "Sure," I said.   Then, I stuffed it in the closet, without looking at its contents, just knowing it was pirate stuff left over from a birthday party.   Every time it was in my way, I considered, for the briefest of moments, throwing the whole lot out.   But then I remembered it was free and I shoved it aside as I looked for the latest lost item.
Last fall, Netflix added Disney's Jake and the Neverland Pirates to their line-up and Thomas was an instant fan.   At Halloween, he wanted to be Jake, specifically.   I nudged him toward a cheaper costume so he was a pirate, generally.  
 For the next two months, he told us all about his Jake and the Neverland Pirates (you have to say the whole thing, not just Jake or just Pirate) party he was going to have for his birthday.   Since his birthday is New Year's Eve, he had our little family cake and gift day on his actual birthday and then waited another month for his big party.   Our kids have simple, family-only often, parties, but on the big years--1, 5, 10, 16--I make more effort and the theme is carried further.   According to Pinterest, what I call big effort is what some people consider average.  
And that big bag of pirate party supplies from our generous neighbor?   Awesomeness in a bag, they were!   The bag was filled with decorations, favors,complete craft kits, and unopened packages of plates and napkins.   Even better, my friend, Amber, is hosting a Jake and the Neverland Pirates party next week for her nephew, so I packed up the decorations and supplies for her to take home.   That's the way to do children's birthday parties.

I really need to keep journals of my party planning because they would make for hilarious reading, for me, anyway.   When I first begin, I have the most outrageous ideas which are always tamped down by reality.   On Pinterest, I saw a table made to look like a ship.   The table was covered in a black fabric tablecloth.   On top, fabric and dowels formed sails.   I got as far as a black plastic tablecloth.   Really, that is a purchased party tablecover, not a garbage bag.   Thomas was surprised to wake up and find everything decorated.   He woke me up and told me I had to come see what had happened as if I would be surprised, too.  


All of the food was inspired by Pinterest finds, except the coleslaw in the far left corner.   Emmeline had the idea to call it Mr. Smee's Seaweed, which I thought was pretty clever.   I am now known for my cheese balls (HEB Extreme Cheese cheese puffs).

The Pixie Dust bags were from the wedding favors section of King Dollar.   Run, don't walk, to King Dollar for your next children's party!   I filled them with star-shaped confetti, also from King Dollar.

For the centerpiece, I stacked books (French Polity, anyone?) at varying heights beneath the tablecloth.   Varied heights is what makes a pretty, or interesting, serving table.    The copper mug was just something we own (because we would), along with the sea-colored stones.   The chest, compass, and doubloons were part of the free items given to me by my neighbor.   The sword was from Thomas's Halloween costume.

The fish bait was the most popular thing on the table.   I have three of those mini tubs and I use them often, lined with wax paper for serving food.   The fruit was easy to serve on skewers and it lasted longer that way.   I made the sails from scrapbook paper (on sale!) and bamboo skewers I already had on hand.  In the background are "Cubby's Carrot Sticks."

"Make Your Own Pirate Hat, Eye Patch, and Sword" Station: totally F*R*E*E, compliments of my neighbor:)

Those balloons and banners have been hanging in my kitchen since December 31.   That's what we usually do for the kids' birthday.   We knew he'd eventually have a party.

Treasure "chest" w/party favor bags

The garland on the window is made of bandanas tied together, with foam swords between each.   The garland was left over from Clare's Jessie cowgirl party.   Some cute kids, aren't they?

I went Old School for his cake, with a yellow sheet cake, cut into simple shapes to form something that everyone recognized as a ship.   Licorice whips and Life Savers candies were the details.   Emmeline drew the map on craft paper.   That was a last-minute idea of mine.   She also made the treasure hunt (to find the piñata) for the guests.   She and her friend, Ellie, led the kids on the hunt.   How awesome are big girls?!   Pretty awesome.

Joey and I realized our kids had not eaten a boxed cake at home.   We were both craving that particular taste, so I made a boxed cake, with some doctoring.   I used buttermilk in place of the water, added an extra egg, increased the amount of oil, and added a teaspoon of vanilla.  It did cut the chemical taste.   I'm not a foodie snob.   When Emmeline was allergic to milk and eggs, boxed cakes weren't an option, so I only made cakes from scratch.   They're not difficult so I continued after she outgrew those allergies.   I will always make homemade frosting, though.   I won't budge on that one.   The chemical list on the ingredients of frosting is even worse than that on a box cake.

I love to watch how shy children become when everyone is looking at and singing to them.

Presents???!!!   This is only the  second time we've had guests for his birthday, so this was pretty exciting.

My Aunt Betty, my mother's older sister, drove in from Austin.   The kids loved being "grandmothered" and some of my friends and I took her out for a girls' night that evening.   It was a special memory to treasure.   Aunt Betty stayed up with me until 2:00 in the morning before the party and she washed every dish I used almost as soon as I set it down.

Clare does not normally have a tattoo...

Aunt Amber, my dear friend since my senior year of high school,  always comes for birthdays, making the 3- hour drive each time.   This time, she couldn't leave work early, so she drove in the day of the party.   I was so excited that she could just enjoy the party and that she didn't have to help with preparations, since she does so much for us all.

It was a great party and the best part of all was that guests stayed most of the day.   The adults milled around the kitchen, visiting and then we settled in the living room.   The kids played together beautifully, the sun was shining, and it was just a relaxing Saturday.   Thanks be to God for the blessings of family and friends!


  1. Oh Terri! I am SO glad you posted this! I noticed some cute Jake & the Neverland pirate pins on Pinterest and thought..."Terri is up to something special!" This is SUPER CUTE and creative in every way! I bet Thomas was thrilled with how it all turned out! I love the treasure map under the cake!


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