A new baby is a spectacular excuse for a party
A well-done baby shower lays out an exciting welcome mat for the new arrival. It also offers Mom support, friendship and traditions new and old – three things that can be especially meaningful for mothers who are living far away from their support networks. Here’s a step-by-step guide to throwing a stylish shower with minimum fuss and maximum fun. We promise an end result that Mom will never forget.
First, decide on a venue. You might choose your house or a friend’s; alternatively, talk to your favorite bar or cafe to see if they’ll let you take over during off-hours. Next, speak to the guest of honor about who she’d like you to invite. Find out if she has a wish list of presents – if she’s willing, you can include this with the invitations or keep it on hand to refer to if guests ask for gift ideas.
An adorable diaper card is so easy. Make a triangle with both sides measuring 20cm (7.5 inches). Fold each end in towards the middle, then hand-write the party details in the space created in the middle, or print them onto paper and glue inside. Push a small safety pin through the front of the card, then secure the card with a dot of double-sided tape.
Alternatively, make a paper doll invitation. Score and concertina-fold a 15 x 30cm (6 x 12 inch) piece of cardstock into three panels. Draw and cut a simple doll shape from the cardstock, then decorate the front with clothes cut from patterned wrapping paper or a simple bow. Unfold the invitation to write details inside.
• Color. A well-chosen color is often all it takes to tie everything together. If Mom is willing to spill the beans on the gender of her little bean, pink or blue always works. For something a bit different, consider spring green or crisp white, more modern takes that are baby-sweet and gender-non-specific.
• Alphabet. Print large letters on A4 sheets and tack them onto the walls. Spell out “baby” on a wall, window or over the food table. Pipe random letters onto cupcakes and cookies with icing.
• Animal. If fluffy ducks aren’t your thing, consider the Chinese horoscope: Will baby be a little piggy or a wee mouse? For a baby born in the year of the pig, offer pigs-in-a-blanket and top the table with porcelain swine – let your imagination run wild.
• Chinese. Go crazy with a host of red lanterns, vases of bamboo, placemats featuring intricate paper cutting, and a party banner made of hongbao hung along a length of string. Use red napkins and serve jiaozi and spring rolls, green tea and fresh hawthorn juice.
• Pet Name. Another fun idea is to run with the pet name that Mom already calls baby. Pumpkin? Bean? Bug? All offer cute possibilities.
• Books. If she’s not a first-time mom and has no need for new baby items, why not throw a book-themed shower? Each guest can bring a copy of their favorite children’s book as a gift.
• If your invitations are paper dolls, make a paper doll chain in your theme color.
• Drape swathes of organza fabric around the room.
• Paper chains are incredibly simple and surprisingly stylish.
• Buy flowers in bulk and divide them into small cups, dotted across the room.
Cupcakes are delightful and easy; bake them yourself using cake mix, pile them high with store-bought frosting, and stack them on a pedestal plate. Top with little flags made from colored paper and toothpicks.
If time is short or baking is not your thing, drop by your local bakery and ask for an undecorated cake: Request one with either smooth white icing or white chocolate shavings, and you’ll have a great base upon which you can add your personal touches. For a baby girl, top with fresh or fake flowers. For a boy, a little wooden toy is adorable.
Or, top your cake with a delightful peapod made from fondant icing tinted with food coloring. To make peas, roll fondant into balls and use a blunt, pointed object to make eyes and a mouth. Mold the pod by pressing together two flat pieces of icing. To give your peapod a curl, roll out a small ball of icing on a flat surface until it resembles a thin snake, then wrap it around a pencil. When it’s dry, carefully remove it and assemble on top of the cake.
• Chinese Baby Grab. When a Chinese child turns one, some parents perform a ritual called “zhua zhou” or “one-year-old grab.” Parents place several items in front of their child and whatever the baby reaches for first dictates her future career. Items can include a pen (writer), book (scientist), toy (creative type), coins (banker), ball (athlete or astronomer), leaf (biologist), paintbrush (artist), and so on. For a twist on the zhua zhou tradition, lay the appropriate items on a tray and blindfold Mom. Have her grab an item and reveal her baby’s future occupation!
• Name the Baby. Give each guest three small slips of paper in pink, blue and white. Have them write a real baby name suggestion for each gender on the colored paper, and the craziest name they can think of on the white paper. Mom can read the blue and pink names out and try to guess who suggested each name. Stick the white slips into a hat and have Mom pick one – with the agreement that whatever she pulls out will be the baby’s middle name!
• Tummy Measure. You’ll need a ball of string and a measuring tape. Measure Mom’s belly in advance, then hand each guest a length of string. Ask Mom to stand in the center of the room and then have the party guests snip a length of string that they think is equal to the circumference of Mom’s belly. Either measure the strings with the tape measure or let each guest try to wrap hers around Mom. The guest with the closest guess wins.
• Baby Betting. Mock up a page with columns listing the following: baby’s name, gender, date of birth, time of birth, weight and length. Have each guest fill in her guesses and hand in the finished sheet (with her name) when she leaves. Mom can announce the person with the most correct guesses once baby is born.
Eats and Drinks
Think baby-small: tiny sandwiches with the crusts cut off, or, better still, cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Corn chips or crudités with ready-made dips are easy to make in advance. Simple savory egg tarts can be reheated in a slow oven as guests arrive. Offer a platter of freshly cut fruit with tiny wooden forks.
Serve bowls of candy and cookies in your theme color. Make our little pea cookies with green-tinted icing and piping gel; you can bake them yourself or buy plain round cookies to top with frosting.
In summer, serve clear soft drinks lightly tinted with food coloring, or fresh juice punch and champagne. For a winter baby shower, hot pots of tea and coffee, or hot chocolate sprinkled with marshmallows, are all perfect.
Prizes and Favors
Miniature boxes of chocolates, scented candles, little tubes of hand cream, or small silk scarves are all affordable prize ideas. Lolly bags are a sweet idea for favors, especially if you can find candy in the shower’s color scheme. If Mom is willing, another nice idea is to hand out little thank-you cards with a copy of the baby’s ultrasound printed on the front.
Where to Shop
• Jenny Lou’s, Friendship Store, April Gourmet for icing (confectioner’s) sugar, frosting, food coloring, sprinkles and candy
• Yashow (Yaxiu) or other local markets for balloons, streamers, colored paper and other decorations
• Kids Plus, and Tot to Teen at Pinnacle Plaza and Sanlitun Lu for party favors, balloons and other decorations
• Exquisite Bakery for cakes, frosting (including fondant icing), cake decorating and baking supplies, and food coloring
• Laitai Flower Market (upstairs) for organza at 3 kuai a meter, ribbon, cards, stickers, cellophane bags, printed wrapping paper, candles and trinkets for party favors
• Local markets, supermarkets, chain stores (like Wal-Mart and Carrefour) and Kuelox Stationery Co. for colored paper, cardstock and many other art supplies
• Local markets for stickers, colored paper, decorations and trinkets for favors
• Local cake shops and bakeries for undecorated cakes – try Bread Talk, Tasty Taste, Paris Baguette, Exquisite Bakery, Kempi Deli, CRC and other supermarkets
• 250g (8.8 oz) softened butter
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 2 tsps vanilla extract
• 1 egg yolk
• 2¼ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
• Baking paper
Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Add vanilla and egg yolk, beat to combine, then add flour until a smooth dough forms. Roll out between two sheets of baking paper and refrigerate 30 minutes until firm. Cut with cookie cutters, place on lined baking sheets and bake at 180°C (350°F) for 15 minutes until light golden. For chocolate chip cookies, mix one cup chocolate chips into the flour.
Simple Savory Egg Tarts
• 12 slices of bread, crusts removed
• 3 whole eggs
• 3 tablespoons milk or cream
• ½ an onion, finely chopped
• 24 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
• ½ cup grated cheese
• Salt, pepper, dried herbs to taste
Roll each slice of bread with a rolling pin until almost flat. Cut a circle from each slice with a large cutter or cup and press each into a 12-hole greased muffin tray. Brush with olive oil and bake at 220°C (420°F) for about 10 minutes, until starting to brown. Remove from oven. Whisk eggs with milk or cream, then add onion, tomatoes, cheese, salt, pepper and herbs to taste. You can also add any other ingredients you desire, such as chopped ham or bacon. Fill the bread cups to the top with egg mixture. Bake at 180°C (350°F) for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.