So much to tell, so little time. Do I give a ginormous report, or throw together a tossed salad of amusing anecdotes? It's very daunting to think of trying to catch up to where we are now, but for you, my loyal readers (I know there are at least two of you), it's my duty to try.
Anya turned five this month. We hosted a small party in the park, inviting a handful of schoolfriends and family. The whole affair was planned out in a week because I didn't notice the date sneaking up on me until it was almost too late. For me, the highlight was the piñata. It was really gratifying how much the kids enjoyed it, especially as Anya was the one it broke open for. We also had pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, pass the parcel, and sack races. In between games (and food) the kids flowed back and forth to the playground area. The following Monday, Anya was pleased to report, the other kids were saying, "Can I come to your next party?"
As a side note, for Anya's birthday cake, I made a yellow butter cake -- yummiest cake recipe ever, from Rose Levy Beranbaum -- a bit unusual in that the butter is not creamed with the sugar, but instead is mixed with the flour. (Apparently this coats the flour particles and minimises the gluten activation, if you're all mad scientist-y about your cake recipes...) David kindly frosted it for me... in chocolate. This almost ruined my concept of decorating the cake with a mermaid (Anya had asked for a mermaid shaped cake, but I couldn't bring myself to do it -- why cut off perfectly good pieces of cake...) After staring at it for several minutes trying to think what to do, I had a brain wave: I cut a stencil shape for the mermaid, and dusted through the stencil with icing sugar. On top of that, I squeezed decorative gel around to make the features and mark the edges. (I had originally acquired the glitter gels to decorate on top of a white frosting, but this alternative worked out pretty nicely.) The only drawback was that the icing sugar didn't look so white, as I did it the night before and it had gotten sort of moist by party time. Next time I'll know to wait until close to serving time.
That same weekend, my fellow artist and I started work on painting our design on to the traffic signal box. It was satisfying to see our small mock-up image start getting transferred to the larger box. There were a lot of pedestrians and drivers passing by, spectating and commenting positively, making it feel like a real community event. My friend even told me later that she had sore legs from painting, because when she was painting the sky (a sunset-like blend of yellow, orange and pink), she was sort of "showing off" and swaying back and forth, as she was so conscious of being watched. We had one more painting session the following weekend and there will undoubtedly be at least one or two more. I'd feared that the reality of working with the supplied paint would make the actual result less attractive than our paper mock-up, which was done with gouache, but it's turning out the other way -- looking even better than the mock-up.
It was actually a really artistic weekend: first, painting the box. Next, decorating Anya's birthday cake that night, and making the pinata. (I simply used a medium sized paper bag and glued on large flower petals.) The next morning, just before heading to the park, Anya asked whether we were doing pin the tail on the donkey. So I had to create a donkey in about ten seconds flat. Luckily, I had a bag left over from pinata making, on which I'd sketched out a horse shape (originally considering a flying horse pinata), so I quickly filled in the sketch with paint, cut up some white paper for tails, and Bob's your uncle. At the party itself, the first thing I did for each party guest was to paint their faces. All in all, quite a lot of creative effort!
This weekend we attended a party for David's cousin who was turning 50, her daughter who's turning 21, and his other cousins's son who's turning 21. Anya got to hang out with Siena (daughter of one of David's other cousins) who was born just three days before her. Meanwhile, Callum followed all the older boys around for almost the whole party, and thoroughly enjoyed all the boyishness. There was some sort of serious boys vs. girls game involving seed pod collection and hoarding -- at one stage I heard Anya and Siena leaving each other on guard, one with the stash and one out collecting more -- and surprisingly few screaming fits.
Whenever we meet up with Siena and her family it's been fun comparing how the two girls are developing. Amazingly they are equal to each other in bossiness, despite Anya being the older child in our family and Siena being the youngest in hers. Other than that, they are just about the same size (Siena is a smidgen taller) although as babies Anya was much more petite. Compared to standard growth charts, Anya is just about dead average for height, but greater than average for weight -- guess she must be extra dense, like me... Callum is in the 95th percentile for height and 99th percentile for weight at his age, so he's kind of dense too. :)