As summer settles on Melbourne, we thought we would cool down by stepping through the Wardrobe and into the decidedly chilly land of Narnia.
Everyone who has read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis remembers the feeling of wonder when Lucy stepped through the wardrobe during a game of hide and seek and stepped out of 1940s Britain and into the timeless winter of Narnia. When we were asked earlier this year to create a Narnia themed 50th birthday party (coolest 50 year old ever!) we started with the idea of recreating that feeling of childhood discovery.
We started by not telling anyone that it was Narnia themed! Instead we pretended that the party was a 1940s theme instead, sending guests telegram invitations saying they were being evacuated out of London (just like Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter).
Little did they know that when they arrived they would be stepping straight into another world!
Inside the doorway we hung two lengths of dowel from the ceiling. On each piece of wood we hung a collection of vintage dresses, tweed coats and furrrrrrrr (fake/vintage) that guests had to thread through to enter the party. We wanted to have as many textures as possible to replicate the feeling of Lucy pressing through the coats to find her back to the back of the wardrobe.
On the other side of the Wardrobe – Narnia!! – a wintery wonderland forest.
To create an indoor forest we did a ring around to all our friends and neighbours and asked if we could borrow their plastic Christmas trees. We ended up with eight trees in the end which we used to fill the front room. Although it was a pain to set up (so many pine needles!) and you need a space to store them as they get dropped off it was really effective. I think it helped that everyone’s trees were slightly different too which made it feel like a real forest. We were sure to put a couple right inside the Wardrobe entrance, too, so that you brushed against the branches as you came through.
We created all of our snow effects with paper. We made several collections of ‘icicles’ on the ceiling out of butchers paper with the help of this tutorial. We also made strings of ‘snowflakes’ using circles of translucent baking paper sewn together.
It wouldn’t be Narnia without the famous Lamp-Post where Lucy first meets Mr Tumnus. We created the post of our lamp post using two cardboard tubes (the type you mail posters in) held together with masking tape. We made little cardboard rings to slip around to make it look more realistic, and a square base to steady it. The lamp was made out of pieces of cardboard, held together with liberal amounts of masking tape.
When completed, we sprayed the whole thing with a couple of coats of matt black paint.
The ‘glass panes’ of the lamp were then put in – sheets of baking paper! We hung battery powered fairy lights from the top of the lamp lid so they would dangle in the centre and we were done!
As guests entered through the Wardrobe one of the first things they saw (apart from the Lamp Post) was our hot drinks bar.
We had two slow cookers on the lowest setting keeping our beverages warm throughout the night. One was filled with a thick, sweet hot chocolate and the other with a citrusy mulled gin. We then piled the rest of the table with things to add – marshmallows and spices and whipped cream and fresh strawberries for the chocolate, fairy floss and gingerbread men to stir into your gin. It was the perfect entrance drink for those coming in from the Tassie cold, and also made the room smell delicious!
We also had two cold options. Cocktail, while delicious, can be a bit tricky to manage for large groups of friends if you’re not a professional bar tender. You have to juggle dozens of ingredients, tricksy recipes, and unfamiliar equipment all while trying to keep up conversation with your guests, all of whom have different tastes and alcohol tolerance. Emily doesn’t drink at all, while I prefer my cocktails merely waved in the direction of mixers…wouldn’t it be better if we just mixed our own?
And that is where this nifty idea comes from!
Two choices of non-alcoholic punches – delicious and beautiful! – are set up with glasses and alcohol ready for guests to mix and match! For this party we made one clear cocktail with thyme, lime, elderflower and soda water to represent the White Witch, and a bright yellow cocktail with orange and rosemary to represent Aslan. On either side were glasses, straws and bottles of vodka and gin that guests could add if they liked.
We will be posting recipes for some of these party canapes over the next few weeks, but here is an overview of everything our guests ate on the night. We built our menu around classic British dishes.
Fish & Chips
Rosemary and Thyme Popcorn
Savoury Jelly Slice
Vegetable Curry Pasties
Turkish Delight (obvs)
White chocolate and cherry ‘Snowballs’
Cherry and Apple Jelly Cups
Warm Bread and Butter Pudding Cupcakes
and BIRTHDAY CAKE!
There will be recipes to follow – and a guide to making Ration Book Scavenger Hunts!