The Random Writings of Rachel: 2017

Hosting a Virtual Bridal Shower

This weekend, we held a bridal shower for my soon-to-be-wed sister Lizzy--however, since Lizzy lives in the USA, and we live in Malaysia, this bridal shower was made possible by the power of technology!

Hosting a Virtual Bridal Shower

In our part of the globe, we invited many of Lizzy's friends and the ladies who had watched her grow up to come to spend an evening celebrating her and chatting with her about her love story and plans for marriage. MaryGrace was the primary baker--spending most of Friday making three kinds of cookies and biscuits and all sorts of yummy treats. As usual, I prepped games, decor, and favors. On Saturday, the day of the party, we spent the whole day at a charity fundraising event, only returning home an hour before the party was due to begin. Thankfully, Mom had been at home during the day and had time to prepare the last-minute fruit and veggie snacks.

Lizzy and Anna called in promptly at 7--which was 7 in the morning, their time!


As guests arrived, they were instructed first to guess how many chocolate kisses were in this silver box (they were allowed to shake the box, but not to open it!), then they had to take a little toy ring to wear, and were told that if they said wedding or bride, anyone could ask them to give up their ring.

 

By strange coincidence, one lady guessed the exact number of kisses in the box, and she was the one who didn't know that you were allowed to lift the box or shake it, she'd just guessed, and happened to guess "77"! She certainly earned the prize of taking the whole box of kisses home! Also funny, we asked Anna and Lizzy to guess the number of kisses based on looking at the box, which must have looked really small in the video, because they guessed "25" and "18." Most of the guests here who shook the box were in the 80-100 range.


After guessing the number of kisses, we asked our guests to grab a plate of food--we always have a lot of food at our parties! And then they could sit down and chat with Lizzy for a bit. She told her entire love story--how they met, how he pursued her, how he proposed, and all those sorts of moments, which was really nice because, given the distance, not all of the women in her community here have been able to hear many of the details of their relationship.





Of course, we had to show all of the lovely food to the bride, who was eating soup for breakfast, and didn't get to share in tasting our yummy treats!




We had bought presents online, and also given Maid-of-Honor Anna some errands to run so that Lizzy had gifts to open during the party, but we also really enjoyed playing games. Because bridal showers are not particularly common in this culture, this was the very first bridal shower some of the guests had ever gone to--and they mentioned that they particularly enjoyed the games!


 One game we played was a version of "Mustaches and Tiaras," which involved asking the bride and groom to answer a list of questions ahead of time, then reading out the questions along with just one of the answers. Guests had to guess who gave that answer, the bride or the groom, and vote by raising either the mustache or the tiara--or BOTH, if they thought that the bride and groom might have had the exact same answer.



Another game we played was "Who Has the Groom?" I printed off a free version of the game and put cards into envelopes. The version I printed off had a variety of celebrity faces pasted onto cartoon tuxes, with a blank tux where I could add a photo of the real groom's face. I added a little bit of interest by writing famous movie quotes related to love on the outside of the envelopes, so everyone could read out the quote from their envelope before opening it, and they could try to identify the quote. After each envelope was opened that contained a celebrity (Brad Pitt or Justin Bieber, etc) our whole room would burst out laughing, but Lizzy wouldn't know exactly what we were laughing about, so each time we'd hold up the card with the "groom" on it and ask if this was the guy--some of her NO!s were especially vehement. I will admit I was starting to get nervous and was actually wondering whether I'd remembered to put the card with Joseph's face on it in an envelope when we made it to the very last guest before the real groom actually appeared. I was relieved when he showed up. :P

We took some time to all share our favorite relationship advice--even the youngest guests, including Sarah. I think MaryGrace's advice was one of my favorites: "Remember the importance of surprising someone...like giving them cupcakes!"


Cupcakes are good.

Have you been to a bridal shower lately? We enjoyed ourselves, and it was a great way for Malaysia to get to have its own role in celebrating her upcoming wedding! There's always a bright side to technology!

Playing a Prank on Our Children

First of all, for those of you who saw the announcement post about my BOOK, The Cactus Who Craved a Hamburger, and offered your congratulations and for those of you now waiting for the book to show up in your mailbox---you are AMAZING. Thank you, thank you so much for all of the encouragement and good cheer. This blog is such a happy place for me and I'm in awe of this amazing blog community. You rock.

The tiny cactus and I thank you.

If, however, you haven't yet heard all about the book yet, these are the steps you should take:

1) Read all about this quirky story in my announcement blog post
2) Next, you probably should consider buying the book on Amazon. When I shop, I always think, "Will I regret it if I don't buy this thing?" If the answer is "Yes, I'll regret it. I'll remember its name and face days from now and wish I had purchased it."...then I buy the thing. This book is one of those things.

...............................................................

Now, on to the real topic for today!

In our family, plans can change and decisions can be made at the speed of light.

To take one example, my parents have been saying for quite some time that they and my youngest sisters wouldn't be going back to the USA for my sister's wedding this coming June. It has nothing to do with anything about not supporting the wedding--it's just for reasons of practicality. We believe a marriage is a lot bigger than a wedding day, after all. And my family only visits America typically once every 4 years, and this wedding will be about 3 years since the latest time they'd been back, plus, at this season, they can't get enough time off of work for the longer trip that they would normally make (traveling to the USA is so difficult and so costly that when they do return after four years, they take a couple months in order to fit in as much as possible).

And then...suddenly...one morning, they bought a ticket for Dad to fly to America. So now, for sure, he'd be able to walk a daughter down the aisle for the very first time. And later that afternoon...they bought tickets for the 3 remaining family members to go back to the USA, too.

And then, we promptly lied about it and videotaped the baby sisters' reactions. That's what any normal person would do, right?



My favorite parts of the video are that Mom correctly predicts Sarah's reaction (a brave, stiff-upper-lipped "It's okay.") and the fact that when a trip for ice cream is announced, no one knows if they can trust Dad anymore.

So...this is kinda crazy, and not what anyone was expecting...but now there will be a whole-family reunion in America and we'll be able to get whole-family photos for the first time since being together in Cambodia a couple years ago! Everyone is so thrilled--most of all, my three siblings in the USA and the rest of our extended family who haven't seen any of us in a few years!

Do you take a long time to make big decisions, so is it a quick process for you? Have you ever played a prank on a preteen?

Introducing my Book: The Cactus Who Craved a Hamburger

*drumroll please* 

Ahem.

I present before you today: 


The Cactus Who Craved a Hamburger

Available for sale on Amazon and CreateSpace.

That's him. That rotund succulent is Ty, a cactus with big dreams and a single-minded devotion to burgers. In the words of the Amazon book description (which I wrote, so obviously it's the perfect description):

"All Ty wants is a hamburger...and lots of adventure to go with it! Join Ty as he learns to navigate the world he lives in: a world of monkeys, ants, rats, cockroaches, and even a cicak or two. For some, this world might seem a little scary, but not for Ty. His optimism and zest for life is unstoppable...just like his burger craving. These stories are meant to be read aloud to children of kindergarten-elementary age. Voracious young readers might want to read the stories for themselves. Each story is set in a little apartment in tropical Malaysia, an apartment that exists in real life. Does Ty exist in real life? I'll let you decide that for yourself."

If you enjoy my creative writing style--a unique mashup of bizarrely optimistic hopefulness paired with slightly cynical observations of the real world, you will like this book, regardless of age. It is designed as a children's book, but not as a baby or toddler book--unless your toddler likes stories with lots of words, even startlingly large words on occasion. The Cactus Who stories are entirely set in Malaysia, and all of the characters are creatures (or plants) that we see inside and around our home and apartment complex on a regular basis. I learned pretty early on in the illustration process that choosing to write stories in which geckos, cockroaches, starlings, and rats played key roles was perhaps not the best choice if I wanted "cute" or "pretty" characters...because it's basically impossible to make a cockroach look cute.  However, one of the first comments I received from an early reader was "I love the cockroaches!" That was a surprise. 

These are the real characters I stumble across in my life here--while the stories themselves are imaginary, all are based on what I imagine might really be happening right under our noses. I mean, are any of you up-to-date on all the cockroach gossip going on in your home?

The book is listed for sale at $12.49. This book contains 3 individual stories involving the same characters, which makes the book significantly longer than you might imagine the typical children's picture book to be. 

So, there it is. Lifelong dream achieved: I wrote and illustrated a book for children, and even better, it's a book giving a glimpse at life in tropical Malaysia. I'll be honest and say I'm pretty good and excited about it. Thanks to all of those who have cheered me on since I first tentatively announced this project! If you'd like, you can purchase The Cactus Who Craved a Hamburger online--and if possible, I encourage you to leave reviews after you've read it, because I'd love to know what you think! The book also has a hashtag: #WhereIsTyTheCactus . Look at me, pretending like I'm social media savvy and cool enough to make hashtags. It's all a facade.

You guys are the real all-stars!

Life Lately...

Eating: Breakfast. Cereal. But I wish I was eating yesterday's breakfast, which was an orange with part of a dark chocolate Hershey's bar.
Reading: Still reading Introducing Major Theologians by Michael Reeves. It's very fascinating, but as you might imagine, it's not the quickest read, plus I just haven't had a whole lot of time for reading lately, so I'm not flying through this book as I do with most books. So far my favorite theologian he's talked about is Athanasius. John Calvin is coming up later, who I know won't be my favorite, but he reminds me of Calvin College, so I'll always have a soft spot for that guy.
Creating: A video filled with every picture of (my little sister) Rebekah ever to be shown at her graduation and goodbye party later this month. It's gonna be pretty funny, as this kid has a lot of personality and it shows through in her photos:

Watching… I haven't really watched any tv lately. I did watch Beauty and the Beast. Twice. After it actually came out a few weeks late over here. General consensus is that we like the "Beast's Song" best in this family, my sisters are always singing it these days--is it called "Evermore"?

Looking Forward To: Seeing so many family members I haven't seen in years in the USA. My book being released (hopefully next week!). Getting actual professional photos taken with Angel this weekend. This will be the first time since our wedding in 2010. I don't think there's such a need for professional photos in this age where normal digital cameras work pretty well for even clueless people like me and Angel...but at the same time I know I won't regret splurging on some fancy photos once in a while (a while in this case being 6.5 years). Actually, the idea was all Angel's--he wanted photos of us to give to the relatives we're going to see in California, since he hasn't been back in about ten years. I just hope the photographer tells us how to stand and how to smile--when I'm by myself, I have my go-to "fashion blogger" pose, but when it's the two of us, there are no guarantees. I mean, look at this: 

Planning: Our trip to the USA. Turns out that trips involving visiting many, many people and separate stays in three states, and sleeping in about 6 homes within those three states...require a bit of coordination. I'm also wondering how to convince myself to love flying because it's not my favorite but if I could find some strategy to convince myself it'll be really fun, that would be ideal. Maybe I'll use the standby "mom" trick of buying special snacks and activities that kids can only eat and play on the plane...except this time it's for myself, not for a child. 11 hours in one seat...
Hoping: That our apartment will be fixed soon. I love our home! And we have the best landlady of all time. We've been having minor leaking in our apartment due to a problematic water tank on the roof of the apt. complex since last July, which has gradually escalated in severity. What's awesome is that the building management is now doing something about it. What's not as awesome is that there's two buckets in my kitchen catching regular drips from the ceiling. And nothing can be stored inside my storage room because the damage is quite severe and the room never dries out. But honestly...Angel and I are pretty laid back, so I think we're the perfect people to be living here during this ongoing leaking issue. Also, I'm grateful the leaking is only in three rooms and hasn't affected the bedroom or living room. I am looking forward to not having buckets in my kitchen anymore, but considering that buckets catching drips from a leaky roof is something I've only previously seen in movies, it's very interesting to experience it in real life!
Are you pretty comfortable in front of the camera? Have you ever had to use buckets to catch drips from the ceiling in your home? What are you reading?

15 Things to Eat and Drink in Malaysia

This list is missing a number of better-known Malaysian dishes, because it's limited to the foods I actually eat and enjoy. There are some Malaysian favorites, such as durian or laksa or bak kut teh, which I've never really gotten the hang of.






1. Roti Canai - flatbread, dipped in dhal or curry. There are many variations of fillings in addition to plain old roti canai--my absolute favorite is roti telur bawang--an egg and onion filling. Heavenly!

2. Starfruit Juice - Fresh squeezed fruit juices are a common find at Malaysian night markets. If you want to get away from the predictably-delicious apple, orange, and pineapple juices, try starfruit. I really enjoy it, I think it has a slight 'green banana' sort of flavor to it.

3. Pancakes - There are a variety of Malaysian pancakes--apom is the usual word that designates 'pancake' on a street stall sign. Some are thick and soft and gooey, others are thin and crispy. Typically the pancakes are cooked on just one side and folded in half around the filling, which might consist of sugar and peanut crumbles, cooked egg, sweet corn, banana, etc.

4. Murtabak - pan-fried bread stuffed with fillings, most commonly a minced chicken, vegetable, and egg mixture. There are beef and vegetarian versions as well. They can be a little hit or miss--I've had many that happened to have fragments of bone mixed in with the chicken which makes for a semi-dangerous eating experience. But they are very yummy!

5. Char Koay Teow - Stir-fried Koay Teow noodles, usually with prawns and plenty of bean sprouts. Best eaten in Penang. Kuala Lumpur Char Koay Teow usually disappoints.

6. Dragonfruit Juice - The main perk of this juice is its intense hot pink flavor. It's simply fun to drink ultra-pink juice. The flavor is very light.

7. Mangosteen - A purple fruit with a very thick skin. The inside meat is whitish and the flavor vaguely reminds me of the flavor of rhubarb, but has a very soft and slimy texture.

8. Roti Tissue - Usually served as a tall, crispy cone, with sugary syrup dripping down the sides.

9. Chicken/Mutton/Fish Curry - Usually eaten with rice or bread. I'll be honest, I'm not much of a meat fan, but there's usually plenty of potatoes in these curries and I gobble those up! My friends know when Rachel's coming over, better add extra potatoes to the curry.

10. Veggie Dishes - Too many to list them all specifically, but if typical midwest veggie dishes like boiled green beans and marshmallow-topped carrots don't excite you, you have to try this. Sayur-sayuran literally means "vegetables," but will usually get you a dish of cabbage stir-fried with turmeric and mustard seeds. Also try kacang panjang (long green beans), and garlic baby bok choy, or other green leafy veggie dishes.

11. Teh Ais - Literally "Iced Tea", this is actually iced teh tarik, which is tea mixed with a copious amount of condensed milk through the "pulling" process, which involves the mixture being poured from one cup into another cup and stretched. It's hard to describe, but look up a teh tarik video on youtube and you'll understand this magic.

12. Curry Puffs - Little pastry pies, filled with either chicken curry or a potato curry--spicy and utterly heavenly.

13. Kebab Chicken - Everybody knows about tandoori chicken, but for those who prefer boneless chicken, kebab is a great alternative that's just as flavorful. Usually sold at the same shops that sell naan and tandoori, you can buy kebabs of chicken from slightly different marinades. My favorites are Chicken Tikka (red) and Malai Kebab (white).

14. Puri - A deep-fried bread that bubbles up into a sort of puff-ball, and then deflates as it cools. Usually eaten with a potato curry. One of my favorite shops sells puri 'sandwiches' of sorts--two pieces of puri wrapped around a generous dollop of potato curry, wrapped up in brown paper. Best. Breakfast. Ever.

15. Rambutan - These should be eaten simply for the sake of their ultra-cool looks. I mean, this "hairy" fruit looks like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. They have a pretty mild, sweet flavor.

Have you been to Malaysia? What food on this list would you like to try the most? Roti canai is what I crave most often when I'm away.

10k Race Recap (What Did He Win This Time?)

On Sunday Angel ran his 2nd 10k of the year. I reverted to my normal role of observer for this race.

Angel was pretty excited about this race--you can tell from how much he's talking in the video. Usually he's more on the quiet side when in front of the camera. :P




One little story from the race is that I walked past the finish line before any of the runners came back in, one of the race's organizers called out, "Hey, you're not running?"

I laughed and said, "No, running isn't really my thing."

He said, "I think I know your husband--he won the bike last year, right?"

Yes, yes he did.

Another one of the organizers complimented me on my hair. Pro tip: Don't color your hair purple if you don't like hair compliments. My hair is the natural messy wavy curls I've always had...but because it's purple, I get a lot of comments on it!





We did stay for the lucky draw, but this time, he didn't win a bike. He didn't win anything! But there was a great sense of camaraderie among all of the runners waiting to see if they might win a lucky draw prize. We were all holding our breaths as they read out the numbers one by one and all groaned together when we weren't picked. It was quite a fun race morning. The race organizer who remembered Angel from last year made extra-sure that Angel picked up a coffee and a chocolate bun from the post-race refreshment tables.

With a time of 41:14, it wasn't the fastest race he's run in the past year, but snagging 10th place in the Men's Open (about 16th place overall, because a few Veterans can in ahead of him) in a race with one thousand participants is no small feat! We had a fun morning at the park! Although...we've started to get a bit spoiled, and we tend to think Angel ought to win a trophy AND a lucky draw prize at every race. That might be asking too much, huh? ;)

Anyone else get some exercise in the past week? I'm feeling like a few rounds of "Just Dance" would be a fun way to get my heart rate up...but not too high up. Not 10k up.

Trying Something New

When was the last time you tried something new?

It doesn't have to be something big or dramatic, but it could be. It could be smaller--a brand-new restaurant or trying out a different way to exercise.

This past week, I mentioned on Instagram that Angel and I were playing "Mom and Dad" for my two youngest sisters while my parents were in Korea with Rebekah. They were having all sorts of new experiences--neither Mom nor Rebekah had visited Korea before, so everything was new to them!

{Mom and Rebekah at Changdeokgung Palace}

We decided to fit a few new experiences into our week at home! Who ever said you had to leave town to try something you've never tried before?

First of all: We took a batik class!



I love and admire the batik artists of Malaysia--batik designs are created in a multi-step process in which designs are applied to the fabric with wax, which blocks dyes from affecting parts of the fabric, and then the fabric is dyed or painted, and the wax is removed from the fabric, and then the process is often repeated to layer different designs and different shades. I've worn batik fabrics and I've watched them being made, but this was my first time attempting to paint one on my own. Check out instagram to see what my pattern looked like when it was nearly finished...because apparently I haven't snapped a photo of the finished product yet.




The second thing we tried that was totally new-to-me was making homemade donuts! MaryGrace got a donut cookbook for her birthday a few weeks ago.

We decided to attempt real, legit cinnamon-sugar coated cake donuts. Deep-fried and everything.



I was surprised to discover a ruler in the kitchen, a ruler they used to make sure that the donuts were 1 cm in thickness--because the recipe book said they should be 1 cm in thickness. As someone who isn't normally very careful with recipes herself, I was impressed.

And the ruler worked! Or something did! Our oil was just the right temperature. The cake donuts ended up with that nice crunchy outside but were fluffy and fully-cooked inside.



Once coated in cinnamon sugar, they looked like real donuts! Really, really, real!


I mean, sure, it's slightly more oval than circular, but you cannot tell me that that donut isn't legit. They sure tasted legit, too.

What's New With You

So, what's the last completely new thing that you've done? I'd love to hear...it might give me some new ideas!

10 Things that Shouldn't be Difficult, But Are


{Hot air balloon pictures are appropriate for any and all blog posts. So let it be written, so let it be done. Just go with it}

10 Things that Shouldn't be Difficult, But Are: 

Getting dressed by yourself when there's a zipper on the back of your dress

Taking a vitamin every single day

Remembering what day of the week it is

Rolling up the yoga mat after a workout

Remembering what year it is

Using up all of the food in your kitchen before it expires

Actually taking the grocery list that you wrote to the store

Effectively spreading out a paycheck equally over a month of expenses

Putting the bookmark back in my book before closing it

Locating my prescription eyeglasses (every. day.)


I'm not sure what exactly it is about these daily activities which makes them far more difficult than they ought to be, but at least, in life, there's always balance, and that's why there are other activities which are far easier than they ought to be:

Eating just one more...or five more...or ten more chips (with dip, of course!)

Thinking up a plausible reason to procrastinate on a necessary chore

Reading "just one more chapter" until an entire hour has passed

......................................................

What could you add to the list of things which are surprisingly difficult or startlingly easy?

Unpopular Opinions on DIY Tutorials + a Beginner Sewing Tutorial (ha!)

How do you feel about tutorials?

I don't really have a very tutorial-based learning style. I'm more the sort of person who looks at recipes on Pinterest, doesn't bother to actually look up the recipe, but just looks at the photos of finished meals, decides, "Yes, I want my soup to look like that!" and then makes my own invented soup that looks like that while never clicking through to the recipe.

When I want to make a craft, I may get an idea for a project based off a photo, but rarely will I actually watch a video or read a post on how to create it. I just figure out how to make it my own way. I'm not sure why. Laziness? Or tutorials just don't really fit my learning style? I've shown off a number of DIYs on this blog while never making any sort of tutorial for them.

It's more my style to say: look, I painted my shoes! Or look, I painted a window and stuck photos to it! Or, I have no idea how to quilt properly but I made a tiny dollhouse quilt anyways!

I pretty much assume that if you are at all interested in painting your own shoes you can do it without needing a tutorial to tell you how. Also...I also assume that most people would not want to paint their shoes in the first place.

For more complex tasks like learning how to insert an invisible zipper for the first time, I might actually look at a tutorial, but other than that, they're just not really the way I learn how to do things. I wonder if this is the result of being homeschooled and being more accustomed to teaching myself how to do things rather than learning from a teacher. Yeah, let's blame this on homeschool. The rest of the world wants to blame my awkwardness and lack of athletic skills on being homeschooled, so what's one more thing?

After reading this, you will be really wondering why in the world I decided to make a sewing tutorial for beginners and put in on our Youtube channel.

I'm still wondering that, myself, really.

I think a few factors contributed to my decision:

1) We hadn't made a video for a few weeks, so it felt like we ought to make a video about something

2) I sometimes get asked where the bows that I wear all to often came from.

3) I also get asked how I tie my bows to get them to turn out just right.



MaryGrace had asked for her own bow belt for her birthday, so I grabbed Sarah one free morning so I could accomplish the triple purpose of making the birthday present, teaching her a little bit of basic sewing skills, and create the video at the same time.

I think my favorite part of the video is that I never know what Sarah might say while on camera. Somehow, pizza and sharks and who knows what else work their way into the conversation about sewing. At the very end of the video, I show just how I tie the bow perfectly (and yes, that took a 2nd take since the first time, I forgot how I tie the bow. Something I do automatically probably once a week or so. awkward....).

So, even if you're not interested in sewing at all, you should at least watch a little bit of the beginning to see how cute biggest sister and littlest sister are together, to hear Sarah's random comments, and if you're just interested in my bow tying technique, just watch the last minute of the video.


What are your feelings on DIY tutorials?

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Birthday Party

This past weekend, we celebrated the 15th birthday of my sister, MaryGrace!

She requested a birthday party themed to Wonka's Chocolate Factory, and I was glad to oblige.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Birthday Party

Life is a little busy right now, which means that we didn't prepare in advance as much as I normally do for a party...nearly everything was prepped and decorated on the day of the party itself, which added a nice sense of urgency to the preparations. ;) Nothing like procrastination to motivate you...



The most important piece of decor was the gigantic candy tree on the wall. Mom and Dad have had some sort of tree on their wall for months--first a Christmas tree, then a Chinese New Year-inspired tree, and now we re-used some parts of those trees, added new ones, and created a tree that looks good enough to eat!


Balloons hanging from every conceivable shelf or light fixture added the touch of whimsy and the "edible room" look we were going for.


"Whipped cream isn't whipped cream unless it's been whipped with whips, just as a poached egg isn't a poached egg unless it's been stolen from the woods in the middle of the night."

Best quote ever.



The food is, of course, the most important part of any party, and obviously we opted for a 3-course meal, in homage to Wonka's memorable gum! However, our entire family agrees that tomato soup is not delicious, so we made a hybridized "Wonka & Bucket" meal and had cabbage soup as the first course, since that is the only meal the Bucket family can eat on their tight budget. I happen to love cabbage soup, so to me that was a great choice!


In addition to the 3 "courses", we had a variety of other sweet available, including rice krispies, because rice krispies are awesome.


Pretzels were among the dippers for fondue, but, personally, I tend to think that anyone who ops for a dipper other than a strawberry when it's fondue time is a bit crazy...


MaryGrace wanted to give little gift bags of candy to her guests, so she did, and inside each gift bag she put a handlettered bookmark that she made herself and laminated. I mean, sure, gift bags are more natural for birthday parties for 5-year-olds, but when is it not cool to give someone a bag of treats? I sure wouldn't say no!


The infamous fizzy lifting drink! There are a number of versions of the chocolate factory, as you know. We borrowed from the book as well as both movies, but our party was most strongly influenced by the 1970s film. In fact, one of the party activities was watching that film, because MaryGrace, and most of the other guests, had never seen it. This was nearly inconceivable to me. When I was growing up, whenever my parents would go on a date, we would stay at my grandparents' house. My grandparents had only one movie for kids--a VHS tape of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", which they had recorded off the television. The 90s, you know. :) I would watch that same movie every time we stayed at their house.


We started off the party with a game of "How well do you know your chocolate?" Guests were instructed to close their eyes and hold out their hands--I would give them a tiny piece of a chocolate bar, and they were instructed to eat the chocolate and then write down on their paper what brand they thought chocolate #1 was, and so on.


This is me telling them that they can trust me not to give them anything nasty to eat. I think it says a lot for my honest reputation that everyone was willing to eat whatever I handed to them without looking at it. If it had been Angel handing them something to eat blindfolded...I think we would have had a revolt on our hands...

Also, my dress choice for the evening was inspired by the Everlasting Gobstopper.


I taped all of the different candy bar labels to one sheet of paper so that guests would know which candy bars they might possibly be eating. Also, this had the added benefit of being a spelling reference sheet for the younger guests. :)



The birthday girl contemplates her answers seriously. Four people ended up guessing each candy bar correctly. The vast majority got about 3-4 correct. The lowest score was 1. It was very fun to watch people stress over which answer to write down after tasting their chocolates!

Our second game, played a little later in the evening, was a Candy Trivia Game, where two teams were pitted against each other to answer questions like: "What was the career of the man who invented cotton candy? a) a Hershey Executive b) a Doctor c) a Dentist d) a Mechanical Engineer"

My trivia questions were rather challenging, which made for a very intense games, with lots of questions where the opposing team would end up with a chance to "steal" the question after the first team guessed incorrectly.

We watched the film while we ate, with lots of commentary and laughter. As someone who's seen the movie countless times, my favorite part is all of Wonka's side remarks and deadpan "Stop. Don't. Come back." requests. For the kids who were seeing the movie for the first time, the spooky tunnel that the boat goes into was deemed the favorite scene.


MaryGrace loves art and coloring, and wanted to have a coloring sheet to give her guests. She couldn't find any she liked on the web, so, obviously, she drew her own coloring sheet and printed out copies on the printer. That's the sort of thing my family does. We believe that as long as we have pens, paper, and a working printer, we can take over the world. At the end of the evening, all the teens and kids sat around one big table with a bunch of colored pencils, coloring the edible room scene and telling stories--trying to figure out who had the best story of pulling a prank or getting in trouble. The adults washed dishes in the kitchen and we all agreed, another wonderful party completed.


MaryGrace feels that this was pretty much her best birthday ever, because besides the fantastic party, and her presents, when we went out for lunch on Sunday, we happened to be at the same restaurant with another family from our church. We were about finished with our meal and getting ready to leave when a waiter walked up to the table carrying a plate with four slices of cake and a lit candle. We were all confused and were saying, "Umm, I think you have the wrong table...this isn't for us..." Until he said, "This is for MaryGrace's birthday." The odds of there being two people named MaryGrace in the same small restaurant in Malaysia are not high, so then we accepted that the cake was for us. The waiter told us that it was from our friend, but when we turned to look for the other family we'd seen earlier, they were already gone! MaryGrace was glowing with happiness!! She felt so special. The restaurant, it turns out, didn't even serve cake, so the family we knew had gone to the nearby Starbucks, picked up a few slices of cake and a candle, had come back to the restaurant, and arranged with the waiter to serve the cake to MG and the rest of us. How sweet and thoughtful is that?

Did you watch the Willy Wonka film when you were a kid? What would be your ideal birthday party theme?