Fam­ily DIY

Parenting - - Con­tents -

Pop-up gar­den café

1.Find a fab­u­lous bunch of 11-year-old girls to help A bunch of Abby’s friends heard about our plan and vol­un­teered to help. They worked their butts off all day. They baked, waited ta­bles, made kids lunch packs, cleared ta­bles, smiled at pa­trons, painted faces, served cake, counted change and were hands down the most hard-work­ing bunch of girls I've ever met. I can't rave about them enough. Run­ning a real café was their idea of fun. There was noth­ing in it for them but hard work and left­overs – but they were ex­cited and be­yond keen to help.

2.Invite every­one you know (and every­one you don’t)

I cre­ated a Face­book event and in­vited every­one lo­cal on my friend list. We tar­geted peo­ple who might be at a loose end dur­ing the school hol­i­days, want­ing somewhere to meet a friend for cof­fee while the kids could run wild. Our back­yard was per­fect for that. The day be­fore, I sent out a re­minder, which en­sured we had a bunch of cus­tomers the next day that kept our young staff (and me, the ring-in barista) work­ing with­out a breath, for three hours straight. Our café was a rav­ing suc­cess. So many cus­tomers.

3.Keep the menu sim­ple and de­li­cious We stuck to our strengths for this café, keep­ing the menu sim­ple and do-able. The girls (and some of their ma­mas) baked cakes and cook­ies the day be­fore. I con­trib­uted some al­ler­gyfriendly ad­di­tions (brownie and al­mond or­ange cake) and on the morn­ing it­self, whipped up a batch of scones to serve with jam and cream.

For lunch, we of­fered pump­kin soup with garlic bread and kids packs. The pump­kin soup was - gasp - from a can! I kept it warm­ing in the slow cooker and served it with cia­batta garlic bread, which we pre-but­tered and cooked on de­mand. To drink, we of­fered espresso cof­fee, iced tea and cof­fee, hot choco­lates and fluffies, berry smooth­ies and pots of tea. I ended up be­ing the barista, keep­ing our Ne­spresso ma­chine buzzing for three busy hours.

4.Dec­o­rate with all the pret­ti­ness you can find

To cre­ate the vibe for our café, we used ev­ery bit of cute­ness we could lay our hands on. Ev­ery black­board, strand of bunting, vin­tage teapot and cake stand we could find was called into ser­vice. We bor­rowed domed and tiered cake stands, wrote menus, signs and la­bels on black­boards big and small, and for­aged down the street for flow­ers, which we dis­played in cans, jars and bot­tles of all shapes and sizes.

The over­all ef­fect was eclec­tic vin­tage cool­ness with a colour­ful home­made twist. We cre­ated menus in Pic Mon­key, which we printed out and clipped to vin­tage book cov­ers with mini wooden pegs. We rounded up ev­ery ta­ble and chair we could find, and cre­ated a few more with planks and wooden tres­tles. Ging­ham table­cloths and for­aged hy­drangeas, cou­pled with plenty of flut­ter­ing bunting made for a very wel­com­ing set­ting.

5.Work, work, work, smile, work

Word about our café spread faster than I could ever have imag­ined. Par­ents and grand­par­ents hear­ing ‘cof­fee’ and ‘kids run free’ in one sen­tence flooded in from all di­rec­tions and kept us run off our feet from 10.30am-1pm with­out a break. Ev­ery ta­ble was full, kids were play­ing basketball, climb­ing trees and mak­ing train tracks. Grown-ups were pa­tiently wait­ing for cof­fees, smooth­ies and soup while we raced around try­ing our best to get ev­ery­thing out to the right ta­bles with­out much de­lay.

Some­how it all worked. We had real cus­tomers, (not just sup­port­ive friends and rel­lies) and they were im­pressed! It was in­cred­i­bly sat­is­fy­ing to pull off such a mas­sive thing – a café worth com­ing to, in our back­yard, staffed by 11 year olds and some­how, a suc­cess. We raised over $500 dol­lars and had an ab­so­lute blast.

It went so well the girls all agreed we should do it again. Next time, maybe in sum­mer, lead­ing up to Christ­mas. We'll pick a char­ity and do­nate pro­ceeds to a wor­thy cause (plus this time I'll make sure the girls get some­thing in their pock­ets for their ef­forts too).

The nitty gritty

We had enough serv­ings of soup and garlic bread for 20 peo­ple (10 cans of soup, 20 cia­batta pock­ets). We had enough in­gre­di­ents for kids packs for 20 kids (a pack of 20 bread rolls, ham, pre-sliced cheese, chopped fruit and grape ke­babs, pop­corn and gin­ger­bread men). Cof­fee was made on a Ne­spresso ma­chine – we or­dered ex­tra cap­sules in readi­ness. We had about nine litres of milk in the fridge for cof­fees, tea and smooth­ies. We of­fered soy milk, de­caf, long black or latte as op­tions. We made five litres of iced tea and five litres of ap­ple soda (ap­ple juice with soda wa­ter). We set up the food or­der­ing and prep area in­side in the kitchen/din­ing room. We asked cus­tomers to come in­side to or­der and pay – they took a ta­ble num­ber and their or­ders were brought out to their ta­ble by a wait­ress. We had a float of change ($25) and it was cash only. The girls took the or­ders, the money and gave change.

The wait­resses cleared the ta­bles and we washed the cups and plates by hand as we went to en­sure a ready sup­ply. We had take­away cof­fee cups and brown pa­per bags in case cus­tomers wanted their good­ies to go. Cakes and cook­ies that could be made ahead of time were kept in air­tight con­tain­ers un­til the day. Scones were baked on the day to en­sure fresh­ness, as they don't keep well. We served cakes with a choice of cream or home­made Greek yo­ghurt. We had three gluten-free and two dairy-free op­tions to make sure there was some­thing for every­one. The girls be­gan by hav­ing a ros­ter al­lo­cat­ing jobs, but in the end they ditched the ros­ter and stuck to a sys­tem of one per­son hav­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for cer­tain things. For ex­am­ple, one girl made all the kids packs, oth­ers stuck to wait­ress­ing, an­other took or­ders and plated cakes, while grandma la­dled soup and grilled garlic bread and I manned the cof­fee ma­chine. Si­mone Gra­ham is mum to Joshua (13), Abby (12) and Jono (8). She blogs at great­fun4kids­blog.com. You can read the orig­i­nal pop-up gar­den café post there, and find all kinds of other fun ideas and par­ent­ing sto­ries.

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