Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Birthday Fairy

Ok, so this has nothing to do with a recipe, but this is a fun tradition that I grew up with. When I was a child birthdays were HUGE in my family. Not expensive huge, but tradition huge. We got to pick our very own birthday breakfast. I usually picked donuts or Marshmallow Mateys since those were considered something for special occasions.

We also got to pick our birthday dinner. Like we are talking the whole menu. I loved to pick chicken roll-ups and fruit pizza. My parents made the day feel so special and birthdays were something we were so excited about. I remember getting just as excited for birthdays as I did for Christmas. I loved being together with family.

My favorite birthday tradition was the Birthday Fairy. The night before our birthday we would leave out our favorite pair of shoes. We would go to bed and the Birthday Fairy would magically come and leave quarters for every year plus one to grow on. Even though it wasn't a secret of how many quarters would end up in our shoe, I loved to sit and count them. I would put them in my Piggy Bank and save them for something special.

Kynli, Braxton (my awesome BIL) and I all have birthdays in March.
It is so fun!
March is a big month for birthdays in our family. My daughter turned three and this is the first year she has really understood the concept of the birthday fairy. She was so proud to pick out her shoes and was tickled with delight to see the quarters in the morning. She asked me if the Birthday could leave dimes next year instead. :) I love the sweet innocence of children and how the simplest things are so fun. I love carrying on this tradition in my own family.

The thing I'm realizing now that I'm older is that traditions don't have to be extravagant. It's just about doing the little things that make big memories for your family. I came from a family of simple means, we never went on big vacations and holidays were monetarily simple. I have so many wonderful memories from my childhood and all of them revolve around family, celebrating and tradition.

I hope I can give and create memories like these for my family. And there is just something so special about carrying these traditions with my kids. And you are never too old for a visit from the Birthday Fairy. :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Brave Birthday Food, Part 1

Doing themed birthdays can take some work and require planning and preparation. I did a Brave birthday for my daughter and I found a lot of cute ideas of how to incorporate the theme into the food we served. Just like I've said before, you don't have to take tons of time to be creative and festive. I got most of my ideas from Pinterest and then I tried to think of different ways to serve cute food without having to spend a lot of time doing it. I decided to make my daughter a themed cake from scratch and knowing that would take the majority of my time, I tried to find ways to cut corners elsewhere without compromising the theme.

At the party we served Arrow cupcakes, Bullseye cakes, Bear claws and Target practice pizza. This post will focus on those and then I'll make a separate post about the birthday cake. I also used some cute Brave themed printable food tags from Printabelle. There is a whole Brave themed printable party pack on that website that you can print for free. There were SO many cute party ideas.

The Witches Green Potion: I had planned to make this cucumber lime drink and then completely spaced it during last-minute party preparations. This is one of my all-time favorite drinks to serve at a party. It's easy to make and it is SO refreshing. I get a lot of compliments when I make it. I got this recipe from one of my favorite sites for all things festive: So Festive!. All you need to do is add a few drops of green food coloring (I know it's not the most healthful, but birthdays are but once a year!) and it would make a yummy green potion that fits perfectly in the theme! If you are against food coloring, you could drop some scoops of green sherbet after the ice melts to make more of a slushy drink.

Target Practice pizza: My daughter loves Pizza and this was a cute way to incorporate it into the party. If you couldn't tell from the picture, these were pizzas from Papa Murphy's. I called a few days before the party to preorder the pizzas and also asked if they could arrange the pepperoni in the shape of a target. I could have easily done this myself, but I figured they had to put the pepperoni on anyways and it would save me a lot of time the day of the party. My local Papa Murphy's store was happy to help and I think the pizza turned out cute. This saved SO much time.

The Bullseye cakes: These were the easiest things to make! I used the Little Debbie cream-filled snack cakes that I had leftover from when I made the birthday cake. I used some leftover buttercream frosting to draw on the target with a writing tip and piping bag, dyed a little frosting red and used a Red Hot in the center. I got those little cocktail toothpicks that have the wispy stuff at the end and voila! You now have a cute Bullseye cake. I prepped these about an hour or so before the party. You could prep these the day before, but just keep them in an airtight container.

The Arrow cupcakes: I made vanilla bean cookie dough cupcakes (I will post the recipe once it's perfected) with buttercream frosting. This is my absolute favorite recipe for whipped buttercream. It's from Our Best Bites and I love making it and substituting the white sugar with brown sugar. To save extra time you could easily make cupcakes from a cake mix and it would still taste good because the frosting is to die for. I made the arrow toppers from this site, Cue the Confetti, and they were SO easy to make and it really tied in the theme. K loves cupcakes!

I actually made these about 5 days before the party and froze them. I took them out the day of and frosted them. I kept them refrigerated because my frosting required refrigeration,but these could be left out if using a different frosting. This is one of my secrets for cupcakes and cakes--they freeze well so when you make a batch just make extra and toss them in the freezer. They'll keep for a month or two in an airtight container.

Bear Claw cookies: I saw this idea on Spoonful via Pinterest and I had to make them. These took a little bit of time, but they fit perfectly with the theme that I couldn't leave them out. I was in a pinch for time so I didn't follow the recipe on the original website, but rather used a quick recipe for Cake Mix Cookies (that I also use when I'm making homemade Oreos). I got about 25 claws out of this batch. I also made these the day before the party and stored them in an airtight container. You could also make these and freeze them and then thaw out the day of your party.

I'm going to show you how I made these. They look a little more complicated, but they are easy to do.

Here's what you need:
-Any dry cake mix (I used Devil's Food)
-1/2 C shortening
-2 eggs
-2-3 TBS water
*1/2 C of slivered almonds

Just mix all the ingredients (except for almonds) together in a large mixing bowl. Normally you would spoon drops on to a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, but I had to get them into the claw shape first.

Here's how to make the claw:

1. Take a TBS measuring spoon (or cookie scoop if you have it) and a 1/2 TBS measuring spoon to make 2 balls. I did this directly on a parchment-lined baking sheet so that I wouldn't have to transfer them before baking.

2. Push down on both of the cookie dough balls and lightly shape them into the form of a foot.

3. Take 5 slivered almonds and place them into the cookie dough to look like the claws.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven when done and allow the cookie to rest 5 minutes or so before trying to remove them to a cooling rack. If you try to do this step while they are still warm, they will break.

Here's the printable recipe.

Enjoy and Happy Baking! Hope these ideas were helpful to you. I loved how fun it was to plan a Brave Birthday party.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Brave" Birthday Party

My daughter recently had a birthday and months ago she decided she wanted a Brave party. This was her first official party where she got to invite friends and, honestly, I was a tad nervous. I shouldn't have been, but I wondered how I could incorporate food and fun games into the theme she had chosen AND how to keep a handful of preschoolers entertained. 

A few weeks before her birthday, K decided that she wanted a Minnie Mouse birthday and then she decided on an Ariel birthday and then it was back to Brave. I could have taken the 2 former themes and had a handful of easy and festive ideas, but I'm glad she chose Brave because it was a fun and challenging to plan and it became a creative outlet for me. This also gave me the perfect excuse to attempt my first decorative cake. I was so excited to do something that would create memories for our daughter.

She LOVES anything princessy and I wanted to make sure to incorporated a bunch of her favorite things into the party: makeup, nail polish, sparkles, rainbows, pizza and cupcakes. Thanks to Pinterest and talking through some ideas with friends, we created this event for our daughter.

This is an overview of the party and I'll post specific recipes in another post. I also wanted to give a special thanks to Tarren Jessop who came as Princess Merida. This was her first birthday party and she was AWESOME! She was so great with the kids and her Scottish accent totally rocked. The girls couldn't believe that Princess Merida had come all the way to attend the party. They were all pretty stoked! If any of my Northern Utah readers/followers need and awesome Princess to come to your daughter's party, let me know and I'll give you her contact info. She was so great!

I also wanted to give thanks Alisha and Steve from Embre Photography for capturing the night for us. It seems like when you put an event together you don't have enough hands to accomplish everything, especially taking pictures, so I'm so grateful for them. I loved how the pictures turned out. This will definitely be a fun memory and I'm glad they captured it for us. Embre Photography also has a Facebook page, so check them out.

Here's the party in a Reader's Digest version:

The decor: Was really simple and I tried to tie the forest into the decorations since the movie takes place in the Scottish Highlands. We cut up some logs and covered them in parchment paper and served the food on them. I also gathered sticks from our backyard and arranged them in a glass vase and used it as a center piece. I also took blue tissue paper and made "wisps" for the table. The main decor was less than $1. I saw the idea here. I also bought the Disney Deluxe Figurine Pack so that I could use Merida on the birthday cake and I used the rest of the figurines on the food table.

The food: We served Target Practice pizza, Bullseye cakes, Arrow cupcakes, and Bear claws. I totally loved how easy it was to make the cupcake toppers. That site is so cute and filled with lots of ideas. I also made a Brave-themed cake. I used these cute food tags from the site, Printabelle, that was part of the free (and super cute) printable Brave party pack. Check out that site because there are lots of themed (and free) printables for birthdays, holidays and other celebrations. I also wanted to serve Scottish Sweet buns seen here and here, but I just didn't have time. They would have made the party extra festive, especially since the triplets in the movie LOVED sweet buns.

The activity: We had a girl come dressed as Princess Merida to the party. She read the girls a book, played games outside with them, did a Princess Makeover on each girl and played at the party with each of the girls. I couldn't believe how much the girls loved it! And anything that involves sparkles and makeup is sure to please little girls. Other ideas that could have been fun that I toyed with was: pin-the-tail-on Angus, a pinata in the shape of a horse or arrow, and outdoor games. There are so many avenues you could take with this theme.

The party favor: I went to Zurchers and got the Brave party bags. I filled them with a candy necklace, a Ring Pop, a party noise maker and Brave Stickers (also from Zurchers).

The "Thank You": Each Princess that attended the party will receive a card with a picture of them with Merida. What little girl doesn't want to remember meeting a REAL princess? :)

Now here is the extended party version with lots of fun pictures. I can't believe how well this all came together. I hoped it would be a magical time for the girls.

We had all the girls come in Princess dresses.

Princess Merida came to meet all of the princesses. They were so happy and excited!

She read them a story. K's cousin even made sure she was paying attention.

We did Princess makeup and hair sparkles.

We painted fingernails.

And toenails.

 Princess Merida even let K paint her nails. K loved that!

 All of the Princesses got their pictures taken with Merida after their Princess makeovers.

The Princesses couldn't resist playing in the leaves with Merida.

We had yummy food and decided to do dinner since we were having the party in the evening. We also wanted to have desserts along with the cake.

Target Practice pizza.

Bear Claws.

Bulls-eye cakes.

Arrow cupcakes.

And her birthday cake. This was my first decorative cake. I did a vanilla bean sponge cake with Swiss Buttercream frosting and dark chocolate ganache. It was tasty!

The kids were SO excited when we cut the cake. K loves rainbows, so this was another little surprise for her and I wanted to incorporate it into the party. Note to self: If you do a rainbow cake for a kid's party, either make 2 of them or make rainbow cupcakes. The arrow cupcakes were SO not cool after we cut into the cake. :)

The Birthday girl couldn't wait to open presents. She got spoiled rotten! She got a bunch of new dolls and "animally friends" (aka stuffed animals), a new outfit and a ton of princess toys and makeup. She was so happy that Merida helped her open gifts. She loved celebrating with her friends and family.

She couldn't stop hugging her new stuffed friends.

We sang "Happy Birthday" and she couldn't even wait until the song ended to blow out candles.

We gave out little party bags for each of the Princesses that had little favors in them: noise maker, candy ring and necklace and Brave stickers. 

Princess Belle having some fun outside.

K's little Sis holding down the fort inside.

Cinderella even had a chance to take a ride on Angus. :)

We had so much fun seeing the joy and fun that the kids experienced it made all of the hard work worth it. I can't wait to plan her next birthday. I have to give a HUGE thanks to my amazing husband who was my right-hand man for the whole shindig. He is the most awesome person in the world and I'm glad we get to party together. He is so supportive in all of my baking and party adventures. And the most willing taste-tester. Gosh, I love him! My parents were also so great to come a few hours before the party to help organize and set up everything. They are always there to help and my Mama always says, "Many hands make light work." My good friend, Missy, was also great to come over and help me with the cake. I needed some serious moral support to pull that off. She always has fantastic, creative ideas. Party planning is SO much easier with awesome people to help me. I definitely could not have pulled this off solo. :)

I'm so glad I came from a family that enjoys celebrating, making memories and creating traditions. Life is so good. I hope this inspires you to find the joy in celebration and finding little ways to become more festive in creating memories with your loved ones.