At the time, Everett was really into Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I wasn't too inspired by the idea of pirates, but when I started thinking about Peter Pan and Neverland, my creativity was sparked. There's so much to work with in that world: pirates, fairies, lost boys, mermaids, etc. It's very whimsical and magical and fun!
We encouraged kids and parents to dress as a Neverland inhabitant of their choice, and we had a great turn-out of little pirates, fairies, a combination Michael/Tigerlily, and even an octopus!
Yes, we actually built a pirate ship! With a "working" cannon and a ships wheel! Very cool. But more about that later.
First I want to talk about the food. I was obsessed with the food.
Before the party, I searched the internet for pirate parties, and the food shown was always candy and "kid food"--adorably labeled and modern. Not at all what actual pirates would have eaten! So I brainstormed and researched what an old timey pirate might have stuffed in his face. Maybe they were at port and they used their spoils for a feast!?!
I didn't worry about being historically accurate, but I got food I know people have been noshing on for a super long time: bread, cheese, spreads, cured meat, eggs, olives, pickles, and lots of fruit! The hard boiled eggs were surprisingly popular!
We spent a decent amount of money on the feast, but no more than we regularly spend on food for a party. I'd guess less, amazingly. And the leftovers were awesome!
I didn't get a picture, but the utensils and plates were silver, from Oriental Trading Company. I was pleasantly surprised how nice the utensils looked. I got clear plastic tumblers with facets and white napkins with shell embossment from the supermarket. The kids party version of feast tableware!
Cake was pineapple upside down cake, Joy of Cooking recipe. SO YUMMY! Such a crowd pleaser. Pineapple upside down cake is a family tradition. My maternal grandmother liked to make it. My mom usually makes it for my birthday, and she started using dried cranberries because I hate maraschino cherries. I thought they'd look good in this situation too, even though Everett loves maraschino cherries. Selfish mom!
Since we're inside, I'll continue talking about the interior decorations.
In my dreams, I moved the piano into "Hook's Grotto" along with all the dark and red furniture, draped the windows in red velvet and other dark and luscious fabrics, and filled every surface with tarnished candle holders with drippy flickering candles. Violin and harpsichord music accompanied the scene.
Oh wait, this is a kid's party?!? Please excuse my fantasies.
The other side of the living room was "Pixie Hollow." We (my husband--Brian) strung Christmas lights across the ceiling and covered them with sheets of muslin for a "fairy light" look.
We used the large, tissue paper flowers from Lydia's shower to add to the natural whimsy of "Pixie Hollow."
The above picture shows Everett wearing his "Jake" headband for the one and only time. I never once got him in his full costume.
The one "game" was a treasure hunt!
I drew up a little treasure map. Pretty cheesy, but I promised myself I would keep it simple and not put much time into it.
The map is based on our property, plus a little inspiration from the maps of Neverland. The main island is our house plus some of the side yard, and the small islands and locations are other spots in our yard.
Treasure clues in bottles! The bottles were Modelo Especial beer bottles. I watered down white glue and Mod Podge (a mix of whatever I had on hand) and added some white paint, poured a bit into the bottle, and turned it around to cover the inside. As they dried, I'd set them down and come back and move them to a different side to avoid clumps and pools.
I had my dad sand the outside of the bottles to weather them even more. I'm sure he'd like me to mention: anyone trying this should be really careful, use eye protection, and make sure there are no kids around. Working with glass is serious business.
Before the treasure hunt, Brian and another parent hid the clues. The clues were numbered, and placed at the "x" locations on the map in order.
One of these clues was in each bottle:
a shinning treasure waits for you.
Run and seek and search and toil,
to find a box nestled in rich soil.
To keep the wealth from bandits and thieves,
I found it a home beneath bark, branches, and leaves.
Due South by the compass rose,
Don't venture as far as a croc creek flows.
Tramp down the hill and finally behold,
A shimmering tree with boughs of gold.
And by the end, the kids figured out where the treasure was!
A friend opening his treasure! Behind him you can see egg carton pieces painted and strung so the kids knew our dying (orange) conifer was definitely the "Golden Tree" from the map.
Here's an example of what was in the treasure bags: chocolate coins from World Market, beads from Oriental Trading Company, and jewels from the flower arranging (?) section of Dollar Tree.
Along with treasure bags and all the doubloons the kids could collect, the little pirates also got spyglasses! Painted with brown acrylic paint and adorned with strips of gold paper. Hot glued on, of course.
One of the stops during the treasure hunt was "Tigerlily's Village." My mom volunteered to make this awesome teepee!
Taking some artsy shots.
This isn't a tutorial, but it may inspire someone else's creativity.
I had this crazy idea to build the bow of a pirate ship in front of our garden so the garden would suggest the back of the ship. And it turned out even better than I imagined!
I assume that if a person is crazy enough to consider a project like this, they'll understand the basic concept of what we did from a few pictures.
The cannon is a 4 inch ABS tube we had left over from a toilet install, bolted on. It moves side to side.
We actually had old crib parts hanging around outside, getting all weathered and disgusting, perfect for the ship railings.
Thanks to the internet, I learned you can age wood by soaking steel wool in vinegar, then just rubbing the mixture on! For this to work, we had to sand the parts that were previously finished. You also need to test the mixture on a place that won't show. I had to dilute (with water) my mixture a ton to get the color I wanted. But it turned out so great and was fast, cheap, and easy (all things I really appreciated as the party approached).
Brian had an ingenious idea to make the cannon fire. He glued a conditioner bottle to a piece of PVC, drilled a hole in the PVC, and ran stretching tubing stuff from bolt through holes to bolt. The kids had to load the balls from the front. But that lead to some fun teamwork.
I bought smooth styrofoam balls and wiffle balls to shoot. They both flew well. I painted them with black acrylic paint, and the styrofoam took the paint much better. The paint was chipping off the wiffle balls during the party, while the styrofoam balls just are black now.
We broke down and bought a 24" ships wheel from Amazon. We couldn't find a good DIY example, and the more we brainstormed, the clearer it was that it would be worth the expense. It's attached to a post, which goes through a hole in the deck and into the ground.
The mast and crows nest. Besides maybe Everett's costume, this the the element most inspired by the Jake and the Neverland Pirates television show. If I was going to build a mast, it may as well look like Bucky's (Jake's ship).
The frame is all PVC. The crows nest is a small bucket attached with rope and hot glue above and below the hole cut in the bottom of the bucket. I mixed an acrylic color close to the brown/grey of the ship. The end caps are gold, also acrylic.
The sails are heavy blue fabric, white stripes were spray-painted (using painters tape and any left over white and primer cans I could find). The medallion is gold acrylic paint. Sail was attached with natural twine. Rope was added to complete the "Bucky" look.
In the picture bellow, you can see we decorated the front of the ship with "driftwood." It was the roots of a massive rosemary plant we ripped out.
So there it is! Our amazing, spectacular Neverland Pirate party! It was a production and a blast! Looking back, I feel so grateful that I had the time, energy, and creative inspiration to pull something like this off. It really was a luxury. As our family grows and our lives become busier and more scheduled, I may never be able to plan a party like this again. And that's ok. That's actually really exciting.