KIDDOS: A Ratatouille Birthday Fete

Both Lucy and Alice were born in April, not by choice, but simply based on the fact that I must be extra fertile in July. Since their birthdays are just two weeks apart, they will be forced to have a joint birthday party as long as they let me. This year we decided on a Ratatouille birthday party theme, based on the darling animated kids film of the same name. We own the movie and it quickly became one of our favorites; as a foodie and someone who longs to visit Paris one day, I am especially fond of this cute film. So, I started browsing the Internet for party ideas, certain that other parents had had the same idea, but was surprised to find little inspiration there. I did find some fun suggestions from other parents who had designed cooking themed parties, though. Mostly, I ran with the idea and used my own creative means to come up with what turned out to be a super cute French bistro party.

My sweet inlaws decided to get a few spring pots of flowers planted for my porch and I made the cute recycled plastic flower wreath for our front door (it's a little hard to see from this photo, but I'm planning another post on this soon). I cut the Bonjour letters freehand from glittery printer paper I had around the house and strung them on ribbon as a little French greeting for our guests.

The food and drinks were set up in the kitchen, and I already own a couple of red and white checked table cloths that seems appropriate for a French bistro. I used an old chalkboard to write le menu on, which included things like fromage, limonade, biere, and baguettes. I knew I kept my old English/French dictionary from high school for something! We already have a stash of white paper plates, napkins and silverware, so I didn't have to purchase those either. It was fun to pull out all our fancy crystal and white party dishes to use for the food, including a great crystal punchbowl that we recently scored for free.

I served fresh fruit, veggies, several types of cheeses, breads, crackers, beer, wine, and lemonade. It was an afternoon party, so light snacks were fine, as most people had already eaten lunch. The special treat, though, was the homemade ratatouille that Eric whipped up for the party. He used this recipe from The Joy of Cooking, and for those of you who haven't had it, it is basically a fresh vegetable stew that is too die for. I purchased the 3-D Eiffel Tower puzzle you can see in the background as a table topper at Pier 1, and it was fun for us to put together with Lucy the week before the party. Also in the background you can see some black rat silhouettes on the walls. They are something we already owned - Halloween decorations by Martha Stewart Crafts - but fit perfectly with this party theme!

I made the cake to look like a slice of Swiss cheese and found some plastic rats at our local party supply store, Zurchers, to place on top. I always try to make the cake myself (it's way cheaper and more fun) and almost always use boxed mixes for it, as they are easy, moist and yummy. I made the frosting myself with a super easy recipe from my new go-to cookbook, The Joy of Cooking.

We were lucky enough to have a sunny 70 degree day, so had the party festivities in the backyard. Once all the girls arrived, they decorated pink and blue aprons with Sharpie markers, stamps and stencils. We found these cute kids fabric aprons at Joanns Fabric for $1 a piece. I made these darling chef hats from this tutorial from Family Fun magazine out of white tissue paper and posterboard. They were super easy and fun and cost only about 60 cents total for the 2 sheets of posterboard, as I already had tons of white tissue paper. I used black eyeliner to draw whiskers and rat noses on all the girls, too, which completed their party ensemble.

I made a 'Pin le Tail on le Rat' game out of an old piece of cardboard and paint and Eric nailed it to the fence. We blindfolded the older girls but let the babies stick their tails on without.

Between games the girls played in our sandbox and with our various backyard toys. Next up was the pinata, which you can see hanging from our basketball hoop. This was my first attempt at making a pinata, and let me tell you, I fought with that paper mache like mad. It only cost my 50cents to make, and that was for the balloon I bought from the dollar store to use as my form. I hung it from my patio and used the traditional method of mixing flour and water and dipping torn pages from an old phone book to create each layer. On an especially warm day, my balloon expanded, causing my pinata to bust in half and later the whole bottom sunk in (AAHH!), but I managed to salvage it. The final layer of paper mache was pink tissue paper and Lucy decided it looked like a strawberry. It helped once I painted on the black 'seeds' and stuffed green tissue paper in the top as a stem. It did turn out cute and was pretty easy, once I learned a few tricks. I highly recommend giving it a try, and there are numerous how-to sites on the Web to help you out. It's WAY cheaper than purchasing one of those pre-made pinatas and a lot more personal. We filled ours with all sorts of dollar store goodies, including candy, bubbles, jewelry, whistles, and plastic coins. These treats, along with the aprons and chef hats, acted as the party favors.

Here are the girls getting ready for a relay game where I filled one large mixing bowl/pot with water and set an empty one some distance away. I divided the girls into two teams and gave them each a ladle or measuring cup. They had to take turns taking water from the bowl and filling up the other, and the first team to empty the bowl won. The babies kind of caused mass chaos, as they, too, wanted to play, dump water on the ground, and run between teams. This, luckily, caused hilarity and the big girls didn't seem to mind the lapse in order.

I set up our patio to resemble a little French bistro for the girls. I covered our kids' tables with white 'linen' tablecloths that I made from cutting up a white bedsheet I got at a garage sale. I placed our numerous crystal candleholders and vases of roses around and put up a lovely poster of the Eiffel Tower. You can't really see them in this photo, but I spray painted an old sign (now announcing Le Ratatouille bistro) and an old chandelier gold and hung them as well. My mom bought the girls the Ratatouille movie soundtrack and we played this outdoors, adding to the French bistro air. The kids sat out here to eat their snacks, cake and ice cream.

It was a cute, easy party to put together and only cost me around $100, which was spent on food (which we got at Winco the morning of) and drinks (which also came from Winco, with the exception of the growlers of beer from our local brewery, Tablerock), and is a great deal for a party for 25-30 people. I made most of the decorations myself from things I already had around the house or picked them up super cheap at thrift stores. It was really fun being creative with what we already had and it turned out to be a lovely, low-key party perfect for ma petite chouchou.