Sunday, August 29, 2010

Greek Party, Part 5: Games

Parties need games, and lots of them.  A Greek Myth theme fits nicely with the format of a Quest, so we based all of our games on the need to fulfill a Quest.

Quest:  Earn three Drachma in order to play the Game of the Gods
[I found that it was cheaper to use pennies or nickels than it was to purchase fake gold coins. The Game of the Gods is what I called Left-Right-Center.  It is a great party game for this age group --fifth grade.  I got the idea of using LRC from Small Hours and Little Wonders.]

Boys had to win Drachma in a series of challenges given to us by characters in Greek Myths.

Dionysus Challenge #1:
A cookie is placed on each player's forehead.  Holding his hands behind his back, the player needs to try to eat the cookie.  If it drops, the player may pick it up and start over.
[Our winner got his cookie by very slowly and carefully raising his eyebrows and twitching his cheeks until the cookie was on his lips.]

Medusa Challenge:
In teams, the boys had to transfer rubber snakes from one bucket to another, while blindfolded and using only chopsticks (you can't look at or touch Medusa's snakes!).

The Sphinx Challenge:
Using the book What a Beast, by Sophia Kelly, my son read humorous descriptions of mythical beasts.  The winner was the guest who correctly guessed the most beasts.

Arachne's Challenge:
The boys sat in a circle.  One boy wrapped yarn from a ball around his ankle (loosely), and then tossed the ball to the boy who followed him alphabetically. The winner was the first boy who could not wrap the yarn because the ball ran out.  What a tangled web! (See their togas in the picture below...they did such a great job with their costumes. You can even spy Eros's wings.)

Dionysus Challenge #2:
We split up into two groups.  I gave each group a brief myth for them to act out.  Three judges (my two young party-helpers and myself) voted on the best skit to win.  I wasn't sure how the boys would like doing an activity that involved reading, but they loved putting on the skits.  For this challenge, I chose the stories of Daedalus's wings and Theseus vs the Minotaur. Both stories related to the labyrinth, and I wanted the guests to be familiar with the story so they'd better appreciate the labyrinth challenge which comes later in the quest.  Kid-friendly versions of the myths can be found online.

Zeus Challenge:
Toilet paper togas!  Need I say more?
Teams worked within a time limit to dress one team member in a toga that would stay on by itself.

Hercules Challenge:
We hid symbols of each of Hercules 12 Labors in the yard and teams competed to find the most.
I got the idea for using the 12 Labors from this site.
Our gang had to find a lion, a hydra, a stag, a boar, a sponge and dustpan (to represent cleaning the stables), birds (we hid ten), a bull, mares (we hid 17), a belt, cattle (we hid nine cows), an apple, and Cerberus, the three-headed dog.  Most of what we hid were toys we had (we have toys of Cerberus and the hydra, believe it or not), but pictures would work, too.  The apples had to be picked from our trees (took the boys a while to figure that out).  A list of Hercules' labors can be found online or in the book Oh My Gods, by Megan Bryant.

Dionysus Challenge #3:
My helpers (my daughter and niece) hid a cookie in a plate of whipped cream for each boy.  Hands behind the back, the first boy to find the cookie with his mouth was the winner.  The boys quickly realized that the 'real' winner was anyone with a face full of whipped cream!

Theseus Challenge:
Find the toy minotaur hidden in the labyrinth!

After the challenges, all of the boys had enough coins to play Left-Right-Center.  It was lots of fun. We followed the game with cake and presents.  The boys then played outside in the labyrinth until pick-up time.

Greek Party, Part 4: Creating the Scene

To transform our home into Ancient Greece, we started at the front door.  A while ago, I went a little crazy with chalkboard paint, so I have many of these framed surfaces from the dollar store.  Earlier this month, we happened to go on a lucky yard sale expedition with my four or five of the yard sales we hit that day, my kids found Happy Meal toys from "Hercules".  Those toys came in handy for the party!
We put a few more yard sale characters around the Temple of Party Favors.

For lunch, we served olives (my kids love putting black pitted olives on their fingers before eating them), ambrosia (marshmallows, pineapple, pear, Cool Whip, cinnamon and nutmeg---gross, but delicious!), fruit, pita bread sandwiches (make-your-own, with lunch meat, hummus, mayo, cheese, etc.), and junk food (of course!).  We made up labels for the food, such as "Poseidon's Goldfish" and "Hydra Necks".
The Nectar was a sherbet punch made with rainbow sherbet, ginger ale, and pineapple juice.  The cake was a trident (my son dressed as Poseidon).

Perhaps the most exciting part of the decorating was creating a labyrinth in our back yard.  While researching for this party, I learned that what the ancient Greeks called a labyrinth is actually what we now refer to as a maze (who knew there was a difference??), so I used a simple 7 X 7 grid to create a maze.  I found that any size smaller than 7 X 7 created a maze that was just too simple to solve. Each of our panels were about 30 inches, and we made many of the panels 'double length' to use less bamboo stakes.

Using a 300ft plastic table cover roll, I cut panels to secure onto bamboo garden stakes, which can be purchased at a garden supply store at very low cost.  I punched holes on the sides of each panel and fed the bamboo stakes through the holes. We used tape to make a small flag under the top hole so that the panels would not slide down the poles.
My husband and son put paneled stakes into the ground, following the maze plan I drew on graph paper.

We had two problems with the labyrinth.
One is that our cat would not leave it alone.  She needed to be kept inside during the set-up and party.  Some panels needed to be taped where her little claws made their mark!
The other problem was the wind.  It wasn't strong enough to knock down the bamboo, but we had to tell the boys that if they were in the labyrinth when the wind blew, they should just stand still and wait for it to stop (as opposed to pushing against it and possibly tearing it).
  They did a great job following that advice.  It was kind of funny to see them all 'freeze' when the wind started up.
The labyrinth was a big hit, both during the party and afterwards.  The boys used it for a game during the party, but after the party, kids used it to play house, to play hide-and-seek, and even to try to navigate once it got dark.  Even the adults were having a great time with it.

Greek Party, Part 3: Costumes and Cake


Using a headband and some sparkly leaves, it is easy to make a laurel wreath for a costume. (The blue and green sparkly sticks are seaweed for Poseidon.)
I used clear tape to wrap the leaf stems around the headband.  If this was something I wanted to keep for a long time, I'd use floral tape, but I was aiming to just use this wreath for the party and perhaps reuse the materials afterwards.
Poseidon's crown had the wavy blue and green sticks (which I removed from the stems) to give the illusion of ocean waves.  With a green toga on top of his light colored shirt, it looked great.  (There are lots of web sites describing how to don a toga, so I won't post that here.)
For his trident, I cut sparkly foam (it came with a sticky backing) for the front and back, and stuck the front and back together on a wooden dowel.  Couldn't be easier!
I added more of the wavy sticks to the base, once again to give the idea of water.


My son wanted a spice cake trident for the party.  Normally, we like to bake from scratch, but I have found that to shape a cake, using a box mix is best.  Cakes from a mix tend to be quite sturdy.
I baked this cake in a 9 X 13 glass dish.  The top part of the trident was cut from the rectangle; from the discarded pieces, I shaped the bottom 'stick' of the trident.
Using a serrated knife, I sliced off the edges and top to make the two parts match.
For the icing, once again I find that store-bought icing is sturdier than home-made.  First, I added a crumb layer.  Then I added a top layer of icing and decorated the cake with colored sugar, green for the top and brown for the stick.  I sprinkled blue all over the cake and the tray.  To add details, I used sparkly gold gel.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Greek Party, Part 2: invitations and sources

Our Greek Myth party invitations were extremely simple. 
Not being able to find good clip art for Greek Myths, I stuck with simple columns to frame the page. 
The columns help conjure images of Greek temples. I used the font Castellar, but I'm sure there are more ancient- Greek-looking fonts out there on the web.
The invitations read:

Come Celebrate _____'s Birthday With Us
on ______(date)
We're going to party like it's 500 B.C.
If you can come 'in character', please do.
Consult the Oracle (enclosed) to learn your destiny.

Included in each envelope was a smaller envelope, marked "THE ORACLE".
Inside each Oracle envelope was a brief description and picture of a Greek god. 

We assigned each guest a different Greek god.  My son, of course, wanted to be Poseidon (who figures prominently in the Percy Jackson books).

So far, the invitations have been a hit and most guests have replied that they will come in costume!

There are a few other blogs on the web that describe Greek Mythology parties (or Percy Jackson parties).
Here are some that I used for inspiration:
Small Hours and Little Wonders for a detailed Percy Jackson party with lots of game ideas
Bright Hub for generic Percy Jackson ideas
eHow for generic ideas for a Greek Myth party
Make It Do for a detailed description of a Percy Jackson party (great cake picture!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Greek Party, Part 1: Goody Bags

My son loves Greek Mythology and has been asking for years to use it as a theme for a birthday party.  I distracted him with other themes (what kind of seven year old has a toga party?), but now that Percy Jackson has made mythology popular again, the time has come.

I searched the web for ideas and found very few that were appropriate for the pre-frat-party crowd.  Over the next week or so, I'll share what I've found online as well as my original ideas for throwing a Greek Mythology party for kids. 

Let's start with GOODY BAGS!
You will need toilet paper tubes (or any tubes cut to that size), white paper, a marker, scissors, glue, Styrofoam pieces for the base and ceiling, and straight pins.
Using Martha Stewart's advice for egg dying, I have foam boards full of pins.  For this project, I'll remove the pins and flip the foam over so that no one can see those splotches of dye.
(It will get put back with the Easter decorations after this party.)
Cut the paper to fit the size of the tube; then glue the paper to each tube.

Draw lines on each tube.  Cut paper circles to tape on each end (but only tape one end right now).

Fill each tube with goodies.  I included a variety of candy, including a candy eye-ball to represent the eye of the Fates, a snake to represent Medusa, and a labyrinth I downloaded from the Percy Jackson web site.

To secure the pillars, I inserted pins diagonally up through the foam and into the bottom of each.

I also added one pin through the top of each pillar. This temple of goody bags will be moved several times between now and the party, so it needs to be somewhat stable.

Finally, I pinned a triangular sheet of paper on the front and back of the temple to complete the look. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Harvest Shot

Spent some time outside with the boys picking blackberries this afternoon. I suspect that this basket would be full if the boys weren't sneaking so many into their mouths!
Now our fingers are pink as a fun reminder of the harvest.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Harvest Shot

Things are starting to get busy around here! We've pulled in several pumpkins and countless tomatoes.  Here are some more, stacked with potatoes in some very handy Clementine crates:
When the dining room table and most of our kitchen counters are covered in produce, it is time to start canning.
So far, all we've had time to do is can one batch of tomatoes.  We were up to our ears in blueberries and blackberries last month, but we froze them.
I'm not sure what we'll do with our eggplants...especially the one that has two little growths for arms.  How could we resist adding eyes?
He's our new pet.
I'm sure this will provide a nice excuse for why the kids won't eat eggplant now.