Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Little Mommy" Birthday Party

A few weeks ago I was looking around Flickr and found this twist on the classic Barbie-in-a-dress cake. Instead of a princess, make it a "Mommy" party for her four-year-old daughter, Emma! How cute is that? I contacted the photographer, and Laura agreed to share some of her ideas here. She writes: "This was such a fun party, I hope someone else can be inspired by it." I hope so, too! Thanks again, Laura!

For the invitations, she made miniature purses from scrapbook paper and slipped the invitations inside. They invited all the girls to bring their favorite
baby doll with them to the party. The even brought all the doll furniture into the living room and "set up a little nursery so the mommies would have somewhere to take care of their babies during the party." Awwww.

For the cake, she used the Wilton pan, but with only one box of cake mix, saying she "felt the shorter skirt really gave her a retro mommy look." I think her attention to detail is gorgeous! She covered the plate with about two inches of fondant decorations. I love the addition of the baby wrapped in a fondant blanket! Creative babywearing mamas could make a pouch or ring sling to hold the baby.

Emma's Mommy birthday cake
Originally uploaded by scottandlaurahilton

The party lasted about three hours, and there were 3 adults presents to help with the festivities. The afternoon was full of pampering and mommy time. I wish I had a party like this for me! Laura explains:

Once all the girls arrived we started with manicures. I had a friend of mine there so we could both be working on nails at the same time. And the girls who were waiting just continued to play with their dolls. I let each girl pick a nail polish to put in their purse and take home. Then they each got to pick a lip gloss that we helped them put on and then those went in the purse, too.

The party included the obligatory cake and ice cream time, and then the afternoon ended with a neat surprise scrapbooking activityy!

I had my husband take pictures of the girls the whole first part of the party (We took photo ops: each girl getting her nails done, each girl with their baby, all the girls with their rings, each girl giving the birthday girl a
present, and eating cake.) I then had him quickly upload and print about 6
wallet sized pictures for each girl. After cake and ice cream the girls gathered around the a table and did a little scrapbooking. We did the gluing while the girls stuck on stickers and colored with crayon.

Emma and her friends
Originally uploaded by scottandlaurahilton

It sounds like a fun, frugal time! Laura's resourcefulness included many homemade items. She got almost all of the manicure supplies from the Dollar Spot at Target, and she made the purses from some extra fabric she had on hand. She made mini scrapbooks by cutting down card stock and scrapbook paper and binding them with ribbon. Sitckers and other craft supplies were from the Dollar Store. She made the purses herself by sewing 6X8 fabric bags with ribbon handles.

The Birthday Girl
Originally uploaded by scottandlaurahilton

Happy Birthday, Little Mommy! It sounds like you had a great party!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Don't Tell the Cows

Perhaps you had a cookout on Memorial Day and grilled hamburgers? If so, you were unwittingly celebrating National Hamburger Month, which makes perfect sense considering that many people fire up their grills for the first time in May.

If you missed out on some burgers over the weekend, don't worry, though, because tomorrow there's another good excuse to celebrate grilled meat on a bun. According to some internet sources May 28th is "officially" National Hambuger Day! (Unlike other, less reliable reports which claim a day in December. Who wants a homemade burger in the middle of winter?)

Of course, if you don't have access to a grill to celebrate or you are a vegetarian or you just had too many burgers over the can always make this hamburger cake!

I made this cheeseburger cake for my husband's birthday about 4 years ago, because at the time we were really into Homestarrunner, particularly this toon.

If you would like to know how to make this "Big Mac" cake, you can find the instructions at Woman's Day. This was my first attempt at a frosted cake so please don't judge me too harshly!

I remember that my Homestar Jr. Cake looked much better than it tasted, and that's not saying much. It could've been my cake recipe, though, so feel free to try it out yourself.

Just make sure you have plenty of ice cream handy in case of, um, any culinary disasters. Ice cream covers a multitude of ills and makes even the driest cake or cookies palatable. Trust me.

Happy Hamburger Day, everyone!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beloved Birthday Cakes

A few weeks ago, Apartment Therapy asked about readers' favorite birthday cakes, either made or received. There are some great responses in the comments if you need some ideas for a cake!

I would highly recommend reading the original inspiration, an entertaining NY Times article titled "The Birthday Cake as a Milepost." An excerpt:

There is an irresistible charm to these flight-of-fancy cakes, and fueling children’s imaginative rides in the early years is part of a parent’s job. But I think the real reason we bake far-fetched cakes is because we hear in our children’s birthday-cake requests, whether spoken or not, this: "You can do it. You’re Mom."

My husband's paternal grandmother has always been the family cake-baker. I think she took some Wilton classes and helped out a professional cake decorator once, but however she honed her skills, the entire family still talks about "Bobbie's cakes." She even has entire photo albums (not one, mind you, but many) of her creations! I think the first cake she made was for her oldest son, when he was very young, but it soon spiraled out from there to include other family members, and she even made birthday cakes for her friends' children as they were growing up. The ABC cake featured on this post was one of her famed caramel concoctions.

One of the most-fondly remembered cakes is a computer cake she made for my husband when he was 9 or 10. It was modeled on an Apple IIE, complete with caramel squares for the keyboard letters! I don't have a picture of that, but I did find this old snapshot of the carousel cake at his 2nd birthday many, many years ago.

If you have a favorite birthday cake you have made or received or made, please share with us in the comments!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ladybug Picnic Party

Yesterday, my son received this adorable handmade invitation in the mail to his friend Miss Scarlett's first birthday party:

Miss Scarlett's mom has chosen a picnic theme, complete with ladybugs and a red checkered blanket motif. She wants to make the cake herself, and I thought I would throw out some ideas here on the blog.

At one point, she mentioned making a cake in the shape of the number 1 covered in red checkered pattern, similar to the invitation above. Here's a Checkerboard Cake which suggests making the squares using pieces of fruit leather! Brilliant!

I suggested adding ants crawling across the cake, but she says ladybugs and flowers are cuter. She's right! (I suppose I'm already accustomed to planning for a boy!)

Here are some more cake ideas I found around the web:

  • A very cute Ladybug Cake, which you make using Junior Mints!
  • A Gumdrop Garden Cake, which has a similar theme
  • Finally, in the "Why not?!" category, a Hotdog and Fries Cake!

    For decorations:
    Checkered tablecloths, of course! She's having the party at a local park, during lunchtime, so anything that is easily transportable and easy to take down is essential. I'd suggest a few blankets for the smaller children to sit on and eat their food.

    Nature, of course, is the best decoration of all, but it would be easy to make some paper ladybugs using red and black cardstock to put up around the picnic area. You could hang them from trees or a pavilion, if available. Streamers are also easy to carry, but be mindful of the weather. Wet streamers are never fun to clean up!

    Here are some other, similar themed parties:
  • Huggable-Bug Party with ideas for bug crafts and goody bags.
  • Garden Party, which includes flower-related activities and snacks.

    Do you have any ideas to share with my friend for her Ladybug Picnic Party? Be sure to leave a comment below!

  • Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Active Birthday Parties

    In the same Top 10 List as yesterday's post, Parents magazine tells us that more parents are incorporating physical activities into birthday parties.

    I don't know about you, but growing up, my parties were ALWAYS active. I specifically remember roller-skating parties, swimming parties, bowling parties, running around playing games in my friends' backyards, and slumber parties spent rockin' out to "Footloose." (We choreographed our own dance moves.)

    Do you specifically make a point to plan physical activities into your kids' parties? If so, what do you do?

    Monday, May 19, 2008

    Showers for Younger Siblings?

    According to Parents magazine, baby showers for younger siblings are on the rise. If you had a baby shower for your second, third, fourth, or beyond, how did you celebrate? Was your party more about welcoming the new little one or pampering the mom?

    Perhaps you haven't had multiple showers, but you've attended one. What did you like about it?

    Most importantly, do you think this trend is a good idea? Why or why not?

    Please leave your thoughts in the comments below! Also, be sure to vote in the poll on the sidebar to the left. I'm enjoying these new Blogger features!

    P.S. I'm back from a week away from the computer. If I had known, I would've had a post up every week day while I was away, now that Blogger has the option of scheduling posts in advance. Look for at least one post every weekday from now on. :)

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    More Baby Shower Ideas

    I hope all the moms had a wonderful Mother's Day yesterday! I certainly did!

    Just wanted to point you to Blissfully Domestic for a final round-up of baby shower ideas from readers. I love the winning "bead necklace" activity for the new mom, from megret:

    Everyone brought a bead (or two or three) that represents/reminds us either of the mommy-to-be (something reflecting her personality) OR, if you are a mom yourself, a bead(s) that represent a part of motherhood or bit of heartfelt advice. I chose a pink glass heart to remind my friend to love her little son (and TELL him she loved him) daily. Another person gave her a white bead symbolizing her pure and giving heart. It was quite touching; there wasn't a dry eye.

    The beads were strung onto a ribbon and made into a necklace that she could wear during labor.

    The thoughtfulness behind the necklace reminds me of one of the best gifts I got from a friend at a baby shower: a set of Scripture verses on little cards attached on a binder ring. I flipped through them before our son was born, and the truths brought me comfort. I didn't refer to them as much during labor as I thought I would (being completely exhausted and all), but they were especially touching during my recovery.

    My friend Rachel typed them all up herself, printed the verses out on colored card stock, punched a hole in each corner, and put them together, but you could request in advance that your shower guests each bring a meaningful verse or quote concerning motherhood, labor, nursing, etc. You could collect them by e-mail beforehand or have them write them down at the shower. Afterwards, you could fashion them into a flipbook for the expectant mom.

    I keep them in my son's room and they still make me smile whenever I read them. Here's to gifts that bring encouragement long after the party is over!

    Friday, May 9, 2008

    Frugal Friday: Found Table Runner

    When you're throwing a party, sometimes the easiest way to save money on decorations is to repurpose something you already own.

    Here, instead of buying a paper tablecloth that will be used once and thrown away, I used a multi-colored blanket as a table runner. We folded it in thirds and placed it over a fancy white tablecloth we already had. Search your closet for scarves, wraps, or other items that can be used to adorn your table. You might be surprised at what you discover that will inspire you!

    (Thanks, Jennifer, for the beautiful blanket! Despite its inclusion here, I mostly plan to enjoy it as its meant to be used--as a summer throw. Don't worry, I'm taking good care of it! No Brazilian blankets were harmed during the celebratin' at this party. )

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    Scooby-Dooby-Doo Double Birthday Parties for Two

    Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You?
    We got some work to do now.
    Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You?
    We need some help from you now.

    My longtime friend Jamie Lyn sent these photos of her recent Scooby-Doo themed double birthday party to me a few weeks ago. Her two children, a boy and a girl, celebrate their birthdays close together in April, and she always has a separate party for friends and family, so this year she hosted TWO parties for TWO kids within a few days. Way to go! She's graciously allowed me to share her advice here. Hopefully, some of you with children close in age and birthday will be able to benefit from her creativity!

    On this amazing Scooby-Doo cookie cake for her son:

    Scooby was a free coloring sheet that I found online, then blew up on my scanner. I used that to make a template out of wax paper, then cut out the cookie with a knife before I baked it. I decorated it using my coloring sheet as a guide, but there was some element of freehand to it.

    On the small daisy cakes, pictured above, for her daughter (I love how the flowers keep the groovy Scooby Doo theme, yet make it girly!):

    The daisies are obviously just seven mini cupcakes arranged together. This size was ideal for the 2-4 set, who get a little crazy on even the smallest amounts of sugar! You could use the same idea for other, more "sophisticated" events, though...petit fours or cheesecake bites would be cute for a shower or tea party.

    On the table decorations and being frugal:

    I did spend more this year on "themed" goods than I have in the past, but considering we served 42 people over the two parties (and the second included a meal), it was still very reasonable. I only bought a few "high-impact" items in the pricier themed versions (tablecloth, invitations, one small package of cups for the kids, one package of napkins), then interspersed them with less expensive solid colored goods (plates, cups for everyone else, more napkins). That crazy centerpiece thing was there only because I found it on clearance at the party store for less than $2; I would NOT have paid the $12 that it cost normally. I also skipped Party City's Scooby Doo themed goodie bag items, except for one thing that I found on super clearance. That kind of stuff is just so much cheaper elsewhere, and half the stuff doesn't survive the trip home anyway.

    We already had the special Scooby Doo plate and cup that Will used. I've discovered that if you're doing a theme because your child is into something, you usually have a lot of that stuff around your house.

    It's true! Before you go all-out for a kid's themed birthday, think of all the character toys, plates, cups and other items that you might already own.

    As an added bonus, JL dispenses some all-around good advice on cake toppers:

    A friend of mine taught me that you can be creative and frugal even if you don't make your own cake. A couple of years ago her little boy was into tractors, but the bakery was going to charge her an extra $5 just to add a couple of cheap, plastic tractors (that looked like they came from the quarter machine) to the farm cake she'd ordered. She told them to skip it, and instead added a couple of small tractors they'd planned to give their son as gifts once they got the cake home. The cake was very cute, and her little boy was super excited to actually get real toys to play with, rather than those cheap things with plastic sticks on the bottom. You could do the same thing with cars, Polly Pockets, Little People, etc.

    This just popped into my brain: how fun and simple would it be to spell out "Happy Birthday" using Legos on an elementary-aged kid's sheet cake!? (Of course, you'd have to wash them or any toy before AND after using them on a cake, but that could be easily done by putting them in one of those baby-stuff baskets or a mesh bag in the dishwasher.) I might even enjoy something like that on my birthday cake, to make me feel like a kid again! I think I still have a box of Legos in my parents' house I might just have to go recover. :) And I know a grown-up friend who would probably love a Transformer on his June birthday cake.

    If you have a good idea, please share with us! You can e-mail me or leave a comment on any post. Thanks, all! And thanks Jamie Lyn for sharing your inspired birthday ideas! More birthday ideas coming soon!

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    Flower Pot Desserts

    The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a fantastic resource for party food. True to her reputation for fantastic dishes explained in detail with photographic how-to's, she has a new recipe perfect for spring parties: the flower pot dessert.

    If you are hosting a tea, a shower, an end-of-school fete, or just a get-together that calls for something sweet, these might be just the ticket! She even has "boy" and "girl" versions (though I do like Gummy worms, myself.) I think you'll have just as much fun making these as you will eating them!

    Monday, May 5, 2008

    Baby Showers Galore!

    Blissfully Domestic is throwing a virtual baby shower for one of their own, coincidentally also named Allison (but it's definitely not me, because she's having her 5th baby!). In honor of this occasion, they are having a week-long celebration of babies and pregnancy. Click on over for all the baby-related hooplah!

    All you party-planners, be sure to add your two cents to the post asking for the best tips on hosting a baby shower! You could win a free book!

    One commentor, Rachel, of Seeking Delightful Pleasures, shared ideas for an adorable Rubber Ducky Baby Shower! I especially love the rubber duckies floating in the blue and white punch!

    I'll try to update this post this week with links to all relevant Blissfully Domestic baby shower party-planning info:

  • How to Make a Baby Block cake and Daisy cupcakes.
  • Shower Ideas for Subsequent Children
  • Round-Up of Baby Shower Ideas

  • Baby Buggy Shower Invites

    One of my favorite crafty bloggers, Anna Maria Horner, just posted some beautiful photos from a recent baby shower she hosted.

    Originally uploaded by annamariahorner

    Her design for the buggy is very familiar...I found some make-your-own card kits on sale at World Market last year that had a similar design, except they used paper and scrapbook bits instead of fabric and buttons. Still, it's a lovely idea for invitations! So cute! (I used mine for thank-you's.)

    She also has some beautiful photographs of flowers in glasses, for an in-the-womb motif, which are quite lovely. Make sure to check out her full post!

    Friday, May 2, 2008

    Q&A: Kiddie Pool Birthday Party

    Summer birthdays, rejoice! That time is almost upon us. What kid wouldn't love a water-themed birthday party? This little girl certainly looks like she enjoyed her time in the pool! (Photo courtesy of the hiltons on flickr.) I, too, had a summer birthday and I think I had a water related party almost every year when I was a kid, so this latest Q&A is right up my alley!

    Candace from Mommy Matters, a fellow Georgia blogger, asks:

    My daughter will be turning 3 in August and we are thinking of a cookout with the kiddie pools set up. Do you have any great advice on how to keep the $$$ to a minimum? We have a friend that does incredible cakes too so if you have any fun ideas for a water themed cake I would love to hear those too!

    Candace, you have come to the right place. Cookouts are my specialty. :) And happy upcoming birthday to your little girl!

    My first piece of advice is this: remember, especially when trying to stick to a budget, that it throwing a party is really all about having fun, and "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." (Of course, this applies to the birthday girl, too.) So, delegate some tasks (to husbands, family members, friends) and remember to enjoy yourself and your daughter's occasion! Whether or not the party looks fabulous, you want to make sure you and your daughter are having a good time! Now, on with the ideas...

    For a cookout in honor of a 3-year old, my menu might include:
    Goldfish crackers and/or chips
    veggie crudites
    deviled eggs
    fruit pieces or fruit leather
    various dips (spinach, hummus, yogurt/cream cheese)
    birthday cake
    ice cream
    lots of water and juice
    beverages for the adults

    Favor idea: Sippy cups or straw cups! Use a paint pen to put a name on each kid's cup (dots at the corners make it festive). The best part is...they can use it at the party and no one will get their cups mixed up!

    Here are some tips to keep food costs low:
  • Plan ahead! Figure out how many folks are coming and make a list of exactly what you will need and how much. Comparison shop if needed.
  • Buy in bulk from a warehouse store, especially ground meat, chips, sodas, etc.
  • Don't be afraid of off-brand ice cream in the plastic tubs. Transfer it into a pretty ice bucket, store in freexer, and no one will ever know. You can always have toppings at the ready to mask the not-so-natural vanilla flavor. Besides, you're eating it with cake. Who cares about ice cream when you have CAKE!
  • Make your own patties (they usually taste better than the frozen kind anyway). You can do this in advance and freeze your own! And you can make turkey burgers, which are cheaper AND healthier than ground beef.
  • Make your own dinner rolls using your favorite bread or bread machine dough recipe.
  • Make your own fruit leather. There's a great recipe for this in Super Baby Food, too.

    Cost-effective water-related activity ideas:
  • Connect a hose to a water sprinkler and let the kids play.
  • Hand out bubbles from the Dollar Store. Even the adults will have fun with this. (Also a favor idea.)
  • Put bath toys/sand toys in the kiddie pool.
  • Fill up unexpected containers with water for fun play, like an inflatable raft, large buckets, etc.
  • Play games with beach balls, such as a pint-size version of kickball or catch.
  • If you have older kids attending, water balloons and/or water guns from the Dollar Store might be appropriate. Have your own version of the "egg on a spoon" relay with water balloons!
  • Hula hoops are always a hit for any age!
  • Wondertime has some great age-appropriate backyard water games and wading pool games!
    If these aren't enough, search around your favorite parenting site for more water game ideas!

    Kiddie pools are a fantastic item for party inspiration!

    Honestly, I had no idea there were so many options. Obviously, you already have some you are planning to use, but really, I may have to get one for our patio this summer. Some of these are too cute (and affordable) to pass up!

    In fact, Parents magazine has an entire article about a Kiddie-Pool Party, with some great ideas, though most of them appeal to the 4 and up age range. They do include some great recipes, including shell-shaped pasta salad and deviled egg boats.

    You can even fill up one kiddie pool with ice for drinks. Children especially will love fishing theirs out on a hot summer day! We used a big blue plastic tub for years at large cookouts, but I've seen other folks use planters, baskets, and other decorative containers lined with a clear plastic bag to keep drinks cold, although there is a risk with that route of leakage and the dangers of plastic bags around kids. How cute would one of those kiddie pools with the island in the middle be filled with ice and drinks?

    Martha, too, has a Sprinkler Party, though most of her suggestings involve crafty-type towel favors and gift wrap. She does link to a fantastic fish-themed menu for kids, complete with a Sand Bucket Angel Food Cake.

    Some of my other favorite ideas for water-themed cakes include:
    Water Park Cake
    Snorkeler Cake
    Flip Flop Cake
    Blue Jell-O cake with Gummi creatures
    Tropical Pool Cake

    Candace, I hope this has offered you some inspiration! If you remember, please send me pictures of your party so we can see the final result!

    To everyone, I love answering your questions, so please keep them coming! And if you have party pictures of your own, please send them along! Thanks!