My daughter had her first birthday party over the weekend and we celebrated with a circus theme. It was a low-key affair with fifty plus guests and a mixed crowd of kiddos. With two kids in the mix, family in town, and a house in the middle of multiple projects,what I originally planned and what transpired was a more muted affair, but the kids had fun, people left satisfied and we survived- what more can you ask?
I grilled ahead of time and then put hot dogs, beer brats, and pulled pork in slow cookers. It was nice not manning the grill in the heat of the afternoon while entertaining the guests. Sides included bacon barbecue beans, my mom’s potato salad, and a summer salad of peaches and blackberries with a sherry vinaigrette. I made Pizza Palmiers (they’re called elephant ears because of their rolled shape. Perfect for a circus, no?), but I decided last minute that I didn’t want to turn the oven on with the heat of summer and instead served them days later at a wine tasting party. Best tips for entertaining: keep it simple, plan a menu that can be made ahead of time and reheated if necessary, and be flexible, especially with children in tow. The last thing you want is to miss out on the fun because you’re slaving away in the kitchen or to be frustrated because what you’ve cooked last minute didn’t work out. Been there, done that.
I like homemade lemonade or as natural as I can get it ready-made but with fifty plus guests I opted instead to make lemonade punch. I used two cans of frozen lemonade, a can of frozen limeade, and carbonated lemon-lime soda. Easy peasy! You can add strawberries, lemon wheels, raspberry puree, or ginger ale, depending on how fancy you want to make it.
The dessert cart was loaded with jars full of candy and lemon cupcakes with raspberry fluff. To make lemon cupcakes: add lemon zest to homemade sponge cupcakes or your favorite white cake mix (I use the zest of one large lemon per cake, which gives the batter a mild lemon taste, just be sure not to zest the white bitter part of the lemon and to wash any waxy coating off the lemons before zesting). I stuck a fresh raspberry in each cupcake before baking (a great kid helper activity) and then topped the cupcakes with raspberry fluff.
To entertain the kiddos and come away with some memorable photos of the event, I had a circus photo booth with a basket of fun dress-up items and sideshow props that I had saved from my sister’s baby shower. But I also turned the photo booth into a fun kid activity with face-painting and mask decorating. Check it out here.