A 3rd Birthday for Baby

I guess I shouldnt call her a baby anymore as she just turned three, but I can’t help it! I still see remnants of her baby fat and chubby cheeks and yet she’s old enough to ask for a Belle-themed birthday party!  It’s bittersweet for sure.

I figured since this was her first real birthday party, we could have some of her close friends over and have a small, intimate party.  The challenge with daycare and commuting is that my schedule never overlaps other parents so while my daughter talks about her friends, I never have occasion to have my path cross with any of her friends parents.  Birthday parties are really a good way to remedy that.

I don’t know where my daughter got an idea for a Belle birthday party, but she wanted it.  I’m not a big fan of character parties so I was trying to think of the best way to accomplish this theme without having Disney paraphernalia everywhere.  I settled on a subtle Belle theme using yellow, gold and white with cupcakes alluding to the movie.

I found this cute cupcake idea on pinterst.  Unfortunately, the Wilton roses that were recommended for this cupcake had reviews that all agreed they tasted terrible.  I was talking to my mom on the phone about this one day and she decided she wanted to make icing roses for the cupcakes and FedEx then to me! Amazing!  I made a simple lemon cupcake recipe with a the buttercream frosting I have blogged about before.

For decorations, I stuck to a simple color scheme of white and gold throughout.  I think it turned out very nice and the kids had a great time!  In my next post I’ll talk about the craft all the kiddies got to make.  Until then, a very happy birthday to my littlest munchkin!

The Second is 2!

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So it’s happened.  My baby turned two.  When did this happen?  I can hardly believe that time has flown so quickly!  I don’t know if it’s because I’m so tired these days or if life is just too full of things to do, but having to even consider planning a birthday party for my daughter seemed beyond me at this point.  Planning playdates for two children seems to so difficult and this seems to be one of my shortcoming as a parent.  I look for the easy playdate where friends have more than one kid so that all the children can keep each other occupied.  Is that terrible of me?  Don’t lie, I’m sure I’m not the only one!

I am glad to say that my second daughter is quite gregarious and will run around to almost everyone after she has acclimated and flirt outrageously with them.  For this I am very grateful that she finds her happiness instead of having to have someone define it for her.

Well, I may not have planned a big party for her, but I did get my act together enough to make her cupcakes to bring to school as well as have a small gathering with family to celebrate.  For her cupcakes, I opted to make a lemon cupcake with a lemon buttercream frosting.  I have made these before for my first daughter’s first birthday, noted here.  However, instead of mini-cupcakes, I opted for large ones.  The recipe will make about 16 large cupcakes.  I used the buttercream frosting here and added half a lemon with half a lemon’s zest.  It turned out quite nice, if I do say so myself!  I also opted to use a pre-made candy flower by Wilton’s, which I got from Michael’s.

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When my eldest daughter learned that I was going to be making cupcakes she insisted on helping.  It was quite hilarious how she helped me with the icing.  For every cupcake iced and flower she placed, she would then help herself to a small taste of icing.  And with each taste, she would exclaim “I love helping you make cupcakes mommy!  Mmmm!!!”  What a comedian!  Although, I must say, she was surprisingly exact in measuring the perfect amount of batter needed for cupcakes.  I may have to employ her services in the future.  Haha!

Anyways, the cupcakes were quite delicious and my youngest daughter was quite enthusiastic about the blowing out of the candles.  She actually blew the candle out too quickly the first time, requiring us to re-light them before we finished singing happy birthday.  And, she was singing happy birthday to herself for about 3 weeks straight. What a great age this is, toddlers are like little comedians!  Happy birthday my wonderful, funny, intelligent and daring girl!

A Royal Endeavor

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If you saw my last post, you got a peek of the castle cake I made for my daughter for her 5th birthday party.  I’m going to try and describe my step-by-step on how I created this with things I learned while making this.  I used buttercream instead of fondant because I’m not a huge fan of the taste of fondant.

Step 1: The Base

I used (2) layers of 8″ round vanilla cake for the bottom and (2) layers of 6″ round vanilla cake for the top.  I made a double recipe of buttercream frosting, which was able to assemble the whole cake, all layers, and provide a crumb layer for the base.  Recipe below:

Buttercream frosting:

1 Cup butter, softened

4 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted

2 tsp vanilla

4 T milk

Cream all ingredients together.

Make sure before assembly that all cake layers are cooled and the tops are cut so that they are all flat. Between the bottom 8″ round layers and the 6″ top layers, I put a 6″ round cardboard layer wrapped in foil and supported by barbeque skewers so that the weight would not crush the center of the cake.

Step 2: Turrets

I ended up using two types of ice cream cones.  The pointy cones were the tops of the turrets and the tower portion were a combination of the flat sugar cones.  With the pointy cones, I made a royal icing recipe, watered down, and spread it onto the cone.  Then I covered it with rainbow sprinkles and set them on wax paper to set.

I didn’t need anything special for the individual towers.  I simply attached a point cone to a flat cone using frosting first, let it set, then attached that with frosting to the base cone turned upside down.  For the top of the cake, I use a barbeque skewer for the tallest turret that went through the cake and both cones (plus frosting) to provide more stability.

For the top turrets, I wanted to have a hierarchy of the towers so I ended up cutting of the base of two of the flat cones so that you would see the gradual rise of turrets.  I think that the effect turned out quite nice.

Step 3: Assembly

I have never been able to get a really smooth buttercream iced cake.  However, after a lot of research, I found that in order to accomplish this, you ice the whole cake, and then you use a cake scraper, heated with hot water and wiped clean, and run this around the perimeter of the cake.  As you do this, the heat will soften the butter in the icing and give you a perfectly smooth base layer.  It was quite amazing and I will definitely use this method again.

Step 4: Decoration

I basically made this up as I went along.  I cut a graham cracker for the door and then I just iced away.  I thought the top would look more like vines climbing up a tower.  I think though that the main attraction was the turrets so I didn’t want to make it too busy.  I ended up with seven turrets in total since there were seven girls at the party.

This was by far my most ambitious cake challenge yet, especially since I am by no means a professional cake decorator.  I did have a lot of fun though, and I definitely learned a lot.  What was the craziest cake you ever made?

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DIY Color-Me-Mine

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So birthday season upon us and I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ideas suitable for kids, especially as I was planning my daughter’s birthday party.  I had seen, a while back, an article about ceramic sharpie markers that could be used on an everyday lamp, plate, cup, etc. that would spice up an otherwise ordinary piece into something more unique or extraordinary.  In doing a little research, I learned that you could use these markers, bake said piece in an oven, and they would become a permanent part of the ceramic piece in question.  Wouldn’t this be a perfect craft for kids?

Obviously I had to test it out.  I started by purchasing a small box of these enamel sharpie markers:

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I found these to work really nicely.  If you didn’t push the tip in while you were drawing, the paint flowed smoothly and fairly evenly across the surface.  I would probably get a finer tip in the future for my own use, but for kids I think this is the perfect size.  Next, I took an Ikea mug that I had no particular affinity to and started doodling.  This was the result:

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Once I finished doodling, I set the design by baking it in the oven set at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  This was actually really fun and when my daughter saw what I had drawn, we ended up having a little craft party where she and daddy also got to decorate mugs.  So, now we all have our own personalized mugs and we found the perfect activity for seven little girls.  Win all around!

And Now We Are 5!

I figured that turning five years old was the next big milestone birthday after turning one.  Kindergarten!  Losing teeth!  Summer Camp!  The list goes on and on.  In recognition of this, I wanted to celebrate an extra special birthday for my eldest daughter.  I asked her what theme she wanted and she said she wanted a Queen themed birthday party… not a far cry from the princess party she wanted last year.  And, she wanted a cake, not cupcakes.  Similar to last year, I gave her the choice of inviting six friends to attend to keep it small.

This year her birthday party ended up being the day before Easter, so it was almost a no-brainer to have an Easter Egg Hunt as one of the activities.  After a lot of thought, I ended up deciding on a DIY color-me-mine activity that I’ll post about later. Decorations this year followed a pink, orange, yellow and white theme and I decided to use a combination of tissue paper globes, DIY circle bunting, crepe paper streamers and helium balloons.  Altogether it ended up having a very nice spatial feeling that photos can never quite capture.  However, the main focus for me this year ended up being the cake.

I’m not a big cake decorator.  I have never taken classes.  The only thing I know about making cakes was watching my mom make amazing cakes as a child.  She took classes on cake decorating and learned how to make all sorts of beautiful flowers with icing.  She taught me how to assemble a cake and ice it.  I learned about decorating through watching.  We always had the most amazing cakes as children, all made out of my mom’s imagination.  I remember, as a child, running downstairs in the morning for the days leading up to my or my brothers’ birthdays, to peek into the refrigerator and see what progress my mom made on the wonderful cake she made for each of her children each year.  It was a magical feeling and built up the anticipation for the big day.

So.  Queen party. Cake. Castle cake!  I immediately looked to Pinterest and found some really great ideas.  There are any number of ways to make a cake. I’ll post later about more details on how I constructed this.  Suffice to say, this took me about a week to make since I had such limited time to dedicate to it. However, the effect was wonderful and the delight and joy that I saw on my daughter’s face as well as the faces of her friends was well worth the time and effort.

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Happy birthday my big girl, don’t grow up too fast!

Happy First Birthday!

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Last weekend marked the first birthday of my youngest daughter.  I can’t believe how quickly time flies! I can hardly remember what happened during this whirlwind of a year.  It is true that as you get older,  time seems to speed on by even faster than before. There are so many things that I wished would move more slowly so that my ability to really enjoy the moment and memorize each precious memory is forever stamped in my mind.  Nothing can ever compare to these precious moments.

We kept the party strictly to family,  which is quickly already becoming a bigger affair as everyone’s families are growing larger!  I made the same cupcakes that I had made for my eldest daughter’s first birthday,  only I omitted the lemon from the cake batter and the icing for just plain vanilla cupcakes.  I think she really liked them, she gobbled them right up!

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Things always seem much more rushed for the second child so I was only able to make a quick backdrop for decorating for the party.  Nonetheless,  it was a festive and happy time and my daughter got lots of gifts. For the backdrop, I ended up taping the remainder of a plastic pink tablecloth to the wall. Then I ran chevron streamers from top to bottom in stripes. I lined the top with crepe paper tassles and heart balloons, then I affixed my trusty birthday banner on top for the finishing touch.

Happy birthday my dear little baby.  Please don’t grow up too quickly!

Dressed to the Fours

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This week-end was my eldest daughter’s fourth birthday.  I cannot believe that she is four already! Time really is flying and if you blink, things seem to just zip on by!

This was the first birthday party that we were going to have at our new house.  Life is finally starting to settle down and reach a routine and nothing marks an important milestone like the first birthday party in the new house!  I have been to many types of birthday parties and I have to admit that the thought of throwing a birthday bash for a class of 20 children was extremely daunting.  I decided instead to opt for a smaller, more intimate party, similar to the birthday parties I had as a child.  I told my daughter that she could invite four of her friends, one for each of her four years.  It ended up being five friends, which was still manageable.  I thought this would be much more personal and would give the parents an opportunity to get to know one another in a more relaxed atmosphere.  Days are crazy enough with school drop-offs and pick-ups that we never get any opportunity to see any of the other parents, much less talk to them!

We started preparing for the party weeks in advance. My daughter told me she wanted a princess party that was pink, purple and blue.  She wanted to have each of her friends come wearing a princess dress to do princess activities. You can recall in my previous post that my daughter and I had made a heart pinata. For some reason the thought of a bunch of 4-year old girls dressed up as princesses trying to bust open a pinata was so hilarious that it immediately went on the To-Do list.  I figured you couldn’t have a princess party without wands, so I set up an activity for each girl to make their own magic wand.  Since we were doing hearts as a theme, I ended up making heart-shaped “princess” cupcakes.  And finally, I thought, what better way to end the party, than with a special princess goody bag, which was actually a Chinese brocade jewelry bag that held all sorts of little goodies for the girls!

The nice thing about having a house and having no furniture is that you can designate a “party room” and you don’t have to worry about shuffling things around.  We spent Saturday afternoon decorating the room.  We made balloon streamers and crepe paper tassle buntings, and I made a curtain out of streamers as well.  All in all, the room was very festive and the party was a great success!  I think all the little princesses had a great time and I was correct that watching a bunch of princesses earnestly trying to crack open a heart pinata was pretty funny.  I think that the parents had a lot of fun helping to break that thing too!

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Tassle bunting – tutorial here

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Streamer Curtain – I used the same technique as a photobooth wall and just added tie-backs, tutorial here.

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Princess Heart Cupcakes – I was inspired by these images of cookie designs as well as zentangle designs such as these.

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Magic Wands – I wrapped a 1/2″ wood dowel in white grosgrain ribbon and secured with hot glue.  Then I attached some curling ribbon, where each girl selected a color, and finished it off with a silver glitter snowflake ornament.