Posts Tagged ‘Birthday Party’

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids

Monday, October 13th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids - Mom Advice

My six-year-old will turn seven in just a few weeks, which for our family means a party. My mom told me yesterday that Annalyn had reminded her of pending celebration and said, “I need to get busy and make some lists!”

Hello, apple. I’m your tree.

It’s true that my daughter gets her penchant for list-making and party planning from me. Some of that may come along with her curly hair and short legs, but most of it is likely a learned behavior. The fact is that I love planning events, and as my daughter has grown, I’ve shared that love with her.

When I planned her first few birthday parties, I handled every little detail – just like I have for every other event I’ve planned. From theme to food to decorations, I took care of all of it. But when I began dreaming of her fourth birthday party – a Mickey Mouse themed bash at our houseI decided to let her help.

Since then, my little mini me has jumped on every chance to help me plan a party, from birthdays and holidays to fundraisers and church events. She gets so excited, and it’s been a fun way to share something special. Today I’ve got a few tips for making party planning a family affair at your house – without losing your cool (or ending up with an all-candy buffet and buckets of glitter on your floor).

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids - Mom Advice

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids

1. Be prepared for brainstorming.

It can be a lot of fun to dream up ideas for your next party with your kids. But – what’s that phrase? Don’t give the keys to the zoo to the monkeys? (No, no, YOUR kids aren’t monkeys. Just mine.) Seriously, though. Unless you are truly 100% okay with your party taking any shape your kids can imagine, I’d recommend having a framework in mind before sitting down to brainstorm with your children.

Anyone can get overwhelmed or out of control when faced with too many options – and that rings even more true with children. I’ve learned the hard way to do my Pinterest surfing in advance, to narrow down the options and filter out the crazy (too expensive, too difficult, not age appropriate, etc.) ideas before bringing Annalyn into the mix. Now, I talk with her about ideas for a theme (if it’s her birthday party), then create a Pinterest board for us to look at together.

Not only does this keep her options limited and manageable, it also makes sure we don’t land on less-than-family-friendly pins and pages by accident while searching. (Believe it or not, searching for Minnie Mouse costumes with my four-year-old on my lap taught me that lesson!)

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids - Mom Advice

2. Take the guesswork out of your guest list.

Left to her own devices, my daughter would invite every girl she’s ever met to her next birthday party. Telling her she was only allowed to invite seven girls took the wind out of her sails and began a weeks-long deliberation.

Unless your budget is unlimited, you might have to cap the number of invitations you send, too – and I’m learning that elementary school adds a whole new level of complication to this process. When we started talking about this year’s party, I didn’t realize the politics involved – and the life lessons that would come out of these conversations. After all, if you can’t invite every girl you know, choosing who to invite can be hard. Making these decision together has given me the opportunity to discuss friendship and fairness with my daughter – as well as financial responsibility. (Because yes, of COURSE inviting all 22 girls on her first list would be easier!)

3. Ask for input about the agenda.

Much as I like to think I’m hip to what the kids are loving these days, I don’t actually have a clue. So while I think musical chairs and carrot sticks in the backyard is a perfect plan for a sixth birthday party, it turns out my actual six-year-old (hypothetically speaking, of course) might prefer Goldfish and swimming at the community center.

Likewise, when planning a family event or other party that’s not necessarily celebrating your child, he or she might have the creativity you’re looking for. (Playing charades at the family reunion? Serving pizza at the committee meeting? Making a welcome banner for small group or book club? Why not?!)

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids - Mom Advice

4. Cook up some fun with your menu and decor.

Keeping it simple is the key to every part of planning a party. But when you bring kids into the planning, you might just find your event looks a little more whimsical than you originally imagined. That might mean streamers in every color of the rainbow or balloons covering the floor instead of floating in bunches around the table. It could mean a build your own waffle bar or a pitcher of chocolate milk next to the fancy tea party china. Or it could mean pizza delivered to your door instead of the Pinterest-inspired three-course meal you’d envisioned.

Or, if you aren’t smart enough to curate a Pinterest board before your brainstorming session, it could mean you find yourself making an ocean-themed cake for a mermaid party – despite your annual vows to Never Make a Birthday Cake Again.

5. Put them to work!

When I was a kid, my parents often teased my brother and me by saying the only reason they had kids was to have someone to do chores. Now that I have my own home to manage, I’m not sure there wasn’t a bit of truth to that! But even more than lightening my load of work before and after a party (which may or may not happen, depending on the task and her age and ability), working side by side with my daughter as we prep for a party gives us one more opportunity to spend time together and teaches her the skills of cooking, decorating or cleaning. It also helps her understand just how much work goes into a fun afternoon or evening!

Special Offer: If you’d like more tips for planning parties – with or without kids – I’d like to offer a discount for my ebook, Plan a Fabulous Party {without losing your mind}. Just use the code MOMADVICE for 50% off the regular price!

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Hello Kitty Birthday Party Fun

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

We had an exciting week this week as we celebrated my daughter’s sixth birthday with a fun Hello Kitty birthday party. I wanted to keep the party simple and sweet with her closest girlfriends for her special day.  I didn’t spend a lot on this Hello Kitty party at all, but it made me smile to hear the girl’s remarking that it was, “the best part ever.”

Just in case you are thinking about spending a lot of money, for five and six year-old girls the best party ever need only include pink things to eat, glittered nail polish, tiaras, and a Barbie movie.

Here are a few of the fun projects we did for her birthday party:

1. Tissue Paper Pom Poms in Pinks & Purples to go over her party table. I did buy a package of Hello Kitty napkins and paper plates this year to match her theme and then used all of our past party supplies to bring our pink-themed party together.

2. Hot Cocoa Filling Station- I found inexpensive holiday mugs at Michael’s Craft Store. I added a batch of our homemade cocoa mix, whipped cream, homemade pink peppermint marshmallows, and lots of sprinkles for the cocoa. Each girl got to personalize her mug with her favorite additions.

3. Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes- Emily’s favorite show is, “Cupcake Wars,” so I knew that I needed to make a spectacular cupcake for my big girl. I made these cupcakes adorned with pink buttercream frosting and a shake of pink sprinkles. Each cupcake was topped with a Hello Kitty ring (that had lip gloss tucked inside). The rings were just $.50 each, but the girls really loved them.

4.  Getting Glamorous- I bought four different colors of nail polish (including clear glitter) and a package of nail stickers to do the girl’s nails. Each girl got fancy nails and a Hello Kitty tiara to wear home with them ($2.99 each plus a 20% off coupon).

5. Movies & Popcorn- We ended our birthday fun watching, “Barbie Princess Charm School,” and munching on popcorn. The girls loved this movie and thanks to a tip from my best friend, I managed to DVR the movie on Nick Jr., saving me the cost of the rental.

My sweet Emily is the type of girl that captures the heart of anyone who meets her. Her sense of style is stellar and she has just this incredible independence that sometimes makes my jaw drop to the ground. I was never as fiercely independent as her.

Most days  I shake my head and think, “How is SHE mine?” I was never that cool.

Happy birthday to our beautiful girl- we love you so much!

Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Cupcakes

Monday, December 19th, 2011

If there is one thing that I love it is cupcakes. Not just any cupcake though, it has to be a perfect balance of flavors for me. In my opinion, the word’s most perfect vanilla cupcake resides at Magnolia Bakery and no other cupcake could top it. While I was preparing to celebrate my daughter’s birthday, I decided to make this recipe for Magnolia Cupcakes for her birthday girl treat.  Being a little girl of sophisticated taste, I knew she would absolutely love these cupcakes for her birthday. I was right.

While I was in New York for BlogHer ’10, with my best blogging gal pal Jamie, I ended up walking right by Magnolia Bakery and just had to stop to sample the cupcakes. Sadly, there are no pictures of the actual cupcakes as I rushed right back to my hotel room and ate three of them. I have never eaten three cupcakes in a row in my life. I also had never watched Jersey Shore.  Bad things happened in that hotel room. I laid in my bed clutching my stomach with a bed full of crumbs as my brain turned quietly to mush.  I don’t think I will do either of those things again.

These vanilla cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery are divine and the buttercream icing is absolute perfection for piping and for eating. The icing hardens to add a bit of crunch texture to the top, while the vanilla cake itself remains moist and delicious.

For piping my cupcakes, I used this cupcake decorating tutorial from Glorious Treats and used a 1M tip for decorating. I also humbly bow to the cupcake queen, Liz over at Hoosier Homemade, as she always is baking up some fun cupcake that puts my cupcakes to shame.

Recipe:

Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Cupcakes

 

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing:

Vanilla Buttercream, recipe follows

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

 

Vanilla Buttercream:

The vanilla buttercream we use at the bakery is technically not a buttercream but actually an old-fashioned confectioners’ sugar and butter frosting. Be sure to beat the icing for the amount of time called for in the recipe to achieve the desired creamy texture.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 8-1o hours

Serving Size: 24 cupcakes

Source: Food Network

 

 

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Easy Coffee Filter Flowers

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Maybe you were one of those lucky kids chopping up coffee filter flowers in elementary school. I never had a tutorial on this in my art class though, but I have been dying to make coffee filter flowers and wanted to share with you just how easy and inexpensive it is to make these for a fun table centerpiece for the holidays or just a few posies on your nightstand in those cold winter months.  If you made the Coffee Filter Wreath from last week, you should have enough left to make a few of these pretty posies!

To begin our flowers, we will need to dye our coffee filters. The trick with getting these to look like real flowers is to divide the filters into three different bowls with three different shades of dye.

Pour a 1/2 cup of hot water into each dish, two tablespoons of vinegar, and ten drops of food coloring your first bowl. In the next bowl add the hot water and vinegar, but add only eight drops of food coloring. In the last bowl, we will be doing the same thing again, but only six drops of food coloring. Submerge fifteen coffee filters into each bowl and wait ten to fifteen minutes.

I used the Betty Crocker pink neon food coloring for this project (leftover from our marbled egg dying from this past year) so these only required about five minutes in the bowls.  Just keep half an eye on them until you reach the desired color that you are going for.

Once the coffee filters are done, you need to spread them out on an old towel and let them dry.  Ignore comments from your husband like, “Yum, yum! Coffee filters for dinner?” or, “Oh, wow! ANOTHER craft project?”

You are on the fast track to being another Martha Stewart even though the house looks like a bomb exploded and it WILL be coffee filters for dinner tonight. You can’t be good at everything.

If you want to speed up the process a bit, you can blow dry these coffee filters. Again, ignore your husband when he busts in on you hunched over with coffee filters blowing around the bathroom as you blow dry them. Just keep thinking,

“Martha would totally do this…or,ahem, she has PEOPLE who would totally do this. Totally.”

Grab some floral tape and floral wire from your craft supplies (or over in the floral section of the craft supply store. Cut the wire to the length that you desire and twist and wrap the floral wire with the floral tape until the wire is covered. You can also cover a wooden skewer with floral wire if you want a flower that stands straight up. I prefer the wire because you can bend it a bit and make the flowers a little more droopy so they look a little more natural.

Here is a handy chart for what we are going for with these. You need two of the darkest coffee filters cut like this for the center of the flower, two coffee filters in the medium dye for the middle of your flower, and just one coffee filter cut like this for the outer part of the flower.

To make the center, fold your coffee filter in half, in half again, in half again, and then in half again (four folds). Take your scissors and cut it as pictured above. Repeat with another filter in the same shade.

To make the middle of your flower, fold your coffee filter in half, in half again, in half again (three folds). Take your scissors and cut it as pictured above (but better than me since I am not the brightest with my cutting). Repeat with another filter in the same shade.

To make the outside of your flower, fold your coffee filter in half and then in half again (two folds). Take your scissors and cut a scalloped edge to your flower. You just need one of these.

Stack your flowers (still folded) and then trim the tiniest little end off of the bottom of them. This will create a small hole so that we can insert the wire into the center of it.

Slip the first filter over your wire twist it at the base, and then wrap a little floral tape around it to hold it all in place. Repeat with the next dark filter, than the each medium filter, and finish with the exterior of your flower. Finish the flower with a little more floral tape to secure everything in place.

Behold your posy! Isn’t she pretty? Make as many as you like for a fun addition to any room. I saved a stack of coffee filters and plan to make this pretty flowers to adorn my daughter’s birthday presents this year.

These posies have found a home on my daughter’s nightstand in her new big girl room. I found a short glass vase for $3.99 at Meijer Supermarket that was just the perfect size to hold three of these coffee filter flowers.  I think these would make such a fun birthday centerpiece addition though with hanging tissue paper pom poms in the same shades for a birthday party.

Right next to those flowers is this handmade lampshade that I made. I will show you how I did that last week. It is another fun, easy, and inexpensive craft that would be a cute addition to any room.

What craft projects have you been working on? Did you ever make coffee filter flowers when you were a kid?  Feel free to share any links to what you are working on! Access all of our craft fun on MomAdvice by visiting our Craft Section. Happy crafting, friends!

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Frugal Tips for Throwing a Fabulous Birthday Party On a Budget

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

It is hard to believe that my little guy turned nine this year!  When people told me that the years would go by quickly, I did not believe them. It has seemed though that I blinked my eyes and he has grown up. As we do each year, I look forward to celebrating him and wanted to share with you the results of another fun patriotic party that we threw to celebrate Ethan and his awesomeness.

This year’s Walmart Moms challenge was to embrace the 4th of July using supplies from their store and I hope you will love these inexpensive additions that I added to our party this year.

I am lucky to have one child who has a 4th of July party every year and one child who has a Christmas birthday.  I always pick anything that is red for these parties because I know that they will serve double duty for our birthday bashes.

I hate to waste any money on paper products and decided this year I would make an investment into napkins for outdoor party. These bandanas in navy and red were the perfect solution for outdoor entertaining and a steal for just $1. I grabbed these over in the Women’s department by the purses and accessories for women. Honestly, if you have any party theme, they had everything from zebra print, to camouflage, to hot pink designs. I picked up sixteen (a $16 investment)  of these and rolled silverware sets in each one and put them in the glasses for easy grabbing.

Last year, I got these silverware sets for very little money at the wholesale club.  They aren’t the best quality, but they work so wonderfully for occasions like this. Thrift stores also sell silverware and you can often find bags of it very inexpensively. Rolling these into sets made it easier for everyone to grab what they needed and kept the line for the food moving a little quicker. When you are serving a large group, taking an hour to get everything set up like this will really pay off!

Our burger baskets from last year are still going strong and are always a hit at parties. I found these at our local restaurant supply store ($14.99 for 12) and I purchased one package of delicatessen paper ($4.99 for 500 sheets) for my family celebrations. These are not only used for our parties, but for pretty much any cookout our family does.  I couple these with small plates for appetizers or sides that just won’t fit in the baskets and an additional plate for the dessert table. These really have paid for themselves over and over again and I love a nod to anything retro.

Tissue paper pom poms are my new favorite thing to make. I made these in shades of pink for Emily’s Barbie birthday party this year and thought it would be fun to have these on hand for our patriotic parties too.  These cost $1 in tissue paper to make (I grabbed the tissue paper over by the Hallmark displays at our Walmart store) and can all be done in about thirty minutes.

Visit this tutorial to get the scoop on how to make these.  I did the same thing as I did with that tutorial, but cut the corners to a point instead of the rounded, more feminine corners that I did for my daughter’s party. I have packed these away to be brought out for next year’s party or (minus the blue) these could be added for a Valentine’s Day celebration with the addition of one of my pink pom poms from my daughter’s party.

I love a good red, white, and blue theme, but you have to appeal to what your kids desire too. Each year I let my children pick their own cake out of my stack of cookbooks and then I ask them what character they would like to go with for the year. This year, Ethan said he wanted a Bakugan cake. I visited the  toy section of our store and found these little guys for $10 to put on top. Whatever tops the cake, doubles as part of their birthday gift so these little guys were rinsed after their cake debut, and are now performing Bakugan battles in my son’s room.

The cake itself was a melted ice cream cake created from a cake mix and a pint of the birthday boy’s favorite ice cream. Tune in on Monday for that recipe and for the homemade chocolate marshmallow ganache that frosted the top. The Wilton sprinkles were leftover from last year’s party and worked perfectly again to add a little nod to the 4th of July theme.

Last year’s star garland was hung (free), a red tablecloth that I have had for about eight years was placed on the table (free), three flags from our party two years ago were nestled in red tissue paper and a glass apothecary jar that I had in our family room (free), and a navy bandana was angled beneath the cake for to add a little bit of color to the display ($1), with the three tissue paper pom poms hung from white ribbon above ($3).

The trifle that I shared with you is a new family favorite and I couldn’t wait to make it. This glass trifle bowl was only $6.97  at the store and will be used over and over again in our house. Everyone must have had the same idea as me because they were all out of these at our store. Thankfully, my girlfriend happened to be at another Walmart when I called, and she snagged one at her store and saved the day for me!  I can’t wait to try other desserts in this and even use this bowl for decorating in our house. Be sure to check out the recipe for the red, white, & blueberry trifle!

Two summers ago we bought one of those atrociously large water slides to put up in our backyard to keep the kids entertained. Bought on clearance towards the end of the summer, it has paid for itself in party entertainment and for days when I just want the kids to entertain themselves.  The past couple of parties the weather has not cooperated with this form of entertainment for our guests, but this year proved to be just the right amount of humidity and sun that we could put this up for lots of slides and fun with our cousins.  I hate putting it up, I hate taking it down…but anything that can keep the kids happy and entertained for hours on end seems like a fantastic idea for a party.

There is nothing catered at this party and I try to mix in a few old favorites with new recipes each year to our party menu. I work hard to make the party planning process as painless as possible. Everything is done in stages during the week so the last day is just a matter of pulling everything together.  The cake is baked and frozen until the big day, all ingredients are chopped in bags and ready to go, the decorations are hung the day before, I try to incorporate one recipe that can be thrown into our slow cooker, and I do my best to make the last day as fun as possible for me too!

A few of the standby recipes we used this year were our Perfectly Pulled Pork Sandwiches, our Pesto Pasta Salad, and our Birthday Party Punch. More recipes will be coming in the next two weeks!

Of course, no party would be complete without the birthday announcement on the door. The kids have really come to love this tradition of hanging our birthday balloon wreath so everyone knows that their special day has arrived. It isn’t a party without a wreath.. at least that is my philosophy. There is nothing that makes me happier than these simple traditions of fun, food, and family.

happy 9th birthday, ethan alexander!

I hope this gives you a few ideas for your own parties and would love to hear how you keep your parties fabulous and frugal!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

Great Gifts When You are Eight and a Boy

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

I find buying boy gifts to be quite a bit more challenging than girl gifts. As my children get older, the other challenge becomes finding a gift that they don’t already have and something that isn’t electronic-related.  This year I really tried to find games that would challenge Ethan to use his imagination. These are some of our favorite gifts to get our favorite eight year-old little man.

ZOOB 250-Piece Set

My son is a big fan of Legos and last year we bought a lot of Lego sets for him. The challenge with Lego sets has always been keeping all of the pieces together. This year we decided to try something a little different and got him a set of these ZOOB pieces that he could build with and both of the kids have been in heaven with these. The pieces fit together easily and you can create moving pieces that are three dimensional. The set came with a huge booklet of designs that you could create and 250 pieces was just the right amount of pieces to create just about anything. They are larger pieces than the Lego blocks so they are easy to clean up and find in the carpet.  Once our son got the hang of these, we were encouraging him to develop his own designs for creations, which further challenged his imagination. He plays with these almost every single day and they have been a great set to build with.

ZOOBMobile Car Designer

Ethan’s grandparent’s helped us add to Ethan’s ZOOB collection and purchased the car designer kit for him.  This added another fun layer to the building pieces and he could design his own cars to be built as well. There are 76 pieces in this kit and twelve car designs that could be created and Ethan loved these as much as the building pieces themselves. I would definitely recommend this as a great way to keep little boys busy on a rainy day!

The Boys’ Doodle Book

We are huge fans of doodle books and over the years I have bought five or six of these books for birthdays and Christmas in our house.  If you have not seen these doodle books before, you love the imagination that is involved in designing these books and how they foster imagination in your child.

Instead of having you simply color, each page tells you something that it would like you to draw. One page will tell him that the alligator is angry and have him fill in his face. Other pictures are exactly alike, but may request colors and patterns to make each of the pictures different. This book is specifically boy-driven and is filled with pictures of dinosaurs, cowboys, knights, pirates, robots, and more things that would be adored by a little boy in your life.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series

I am so lucky because my son is a ferocious reader and I have no trouble getting him to read books at all. He will read anything from Pokemon comic books to the newspaper to The Hardy Boys. His favorite books over the past couple of years have been the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series. Every little eight year-old boy I know has a love for this series and it is a fantastic series to encourage kids that don’t have a lot of ambition to read, into reading again.

If you haven’t seen the books before, the books are perfect for little boys filled with fun illustrations that help tell the story.  I find these books in his bed almost every night and he reads them over and over again. This book set that is featured above contains the first four books, but for Christmas this year, Ethan got the fifth book in the series, “The Ugly Truth.”

If your child likes Diary of a Wimpy Kid, we have found that the Bad Kitty, Big Nate, and Captain Underpants (although it has gross boy humor and I am not as big of a fan of those) are other great books to tackle for this age group!

Rush Hour Traffic Jam Game

We love board games in our family and have quite a collection of games since we try to buy one every year for the kids. Rush Hour is a very unique game because it is played alone and is intended for kids that are ages eight to adult.  The board game has squares that the cars can fit into. It comes with a set of cards and each card displays how the traffic jam is supposed to look and how to arrange the colored cars on the board. The object of the game is get the red car out through a small opening on the board, but the cars can only be moved up and down or side to side, depending on where the cars are located. There are forty different cards ranging from easy to advanced and the solutions for play are on the back of each of the cards.

This is a fun game to set up in the morning that can be worked on while my son is eating his cereal before school. He absolutely loves this game and I love that this is one that he can play on his own!

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 Wii Game

Of course, I did want to include one electronic game that our son really loved! Ethan and I have been working our way through the Harry Potter book series (we are currently on the third book in the series) and we are loving it. Ethan’s aunt gave him this Harry Potter Wii game that he has absolutely loved, that brings to life the stories in books 1-4 through LEGO characters.  The best part about the LEGO games though is the lack of violence and the hilarious scenes that are written using the LEGO characters. He has had to fight for control of the Wii to play this one because it is just as much of a hit with his sister as it is for him.  I would definitely recommend this cute game for any of the Harry Potter fans in your life (including the grown-up ones)!

Search & Win

For Christmas and birthday gifts I do try to horde my Swagbucks rewards and use my points to buy Amazon gift cards. To begin earning rewards, all you need to do is use Swagbucks.com as your search engine tool instead of your usual route with Google. It pulls the same results, but when you are surfing, you can earn points just by making it your search engine tool. These points are then deposited into your account and can be redeemed for your rewards.

I put my points towards Amazon gift cards which has been a fantastic way to enjoy a little shopping without dipping into my bank account. Not only has it covered birthday gifts, but I also have ordered countless books for my Kindle and other fun little extras in my life.

I rarely use affiliate programs, but can’t recommend Swagbucks enough. If you start now, it is quite possible that you could have a free (or discounted)  Christmas in your future! Every little bit helps in this tough economy and the best part is that it is free tool to assist with your shopping needs.

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the products quickly and easily. Feel free to order what you need, but we encourage wise spending & buying things you & your family will truly love and appreciate.  We promise though to only refer you to products that we are really loving and using. We also bought each of these fair and square- no one asked me to promote them or gave me anything. Don’t you like people who disclose far too much information? That is me! Enjoy!

Do you have any boy gifts that were a hit this Christmas? Please feel free to share your son’s favorite gifts!

Great Gifts When You Are Five & a Girl

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

It has been so much fun sharing with you all of our ideas for celebrating our daughter this year!  If you haven’t been here for that, I encourage you to take a peek at our DIY Barbie Doll Cake, our step-by-step tutorial for tissue paper pom poms, & and our tips & recipes for an inexpensive winter party.

I am not big on promoting buying things, but I do think it is fun to see what other people are giving their children for their birthdays so I can get inspired with great gift ideas for my child. We do not spend a lot on Christmas or on birthdays. For Christmas we do the four gifts for each child (Want, Need, Wear, & Read-inspired giving) and then for birthdays I typically give the kids two or three gifts that I think they will really love. We are blessed with a big family of generous givers so my children never feel our more simple gifts are not enough for them.

I wanted to share with you Emily’s favorite gifts that she received for her birthday & Christmas this year!  I try to wait awhile before I share what our favorites are so you can know that they are really hits if they have been loved long past the excitement of their birthday and holiday festivities.

Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems

It is is no secret that I am an avid reader so it should come as no surprise that my children love to read too! We are longtime fans of Mo Willems and the Knuffle Bunny series is my daughter’s favorite book series by him. The book series is about a little girl who loves her bunny and Emily is a bunny-loving fool who carries her own bunny everywhere she goes. I am sure you can see the appeal of this book series to her!

Mo Willems brings to life a little girl who has a habit of leaving her Knuffle Bunny everywhere and the books chronicle her adventures to get her Knuffle Bunny back. We loved the character of Trixie when she was a baby and left her bunny at the laundromat, but couldn’t tell her daddy why she was so upset when he was left. We sympathized with Trixie when there was a case of mistaken identity and she brought home the wrong one-of-a-kind Knuffle Bunny after a show & share at school where another girl had brought the same exact bunny…making him sooo not one-of a kind.

In Knuffle Bunny Free, Trixie is older now, but she still loves her bunny. When they take a flight to Holland to visit her grandparents, Trixie accidentally leaves her bunny on the airplane where her daddy just can’t get him back for her. Your heart breaks a little bit inside as Trixie realizes that she really is old enough to go without him. Try to have your tissues handy for this one. I simply can’t get through the last part as I look at my own little girl and how big she is getting, clutching her own bunny tight in her fist. This book is beautifully written, beautifully illustrated, and offers comedic writing that adults will truly love.

Knuffle Bunny Plush Toy

Now that you know that we are Knuffle Bunny groupies, it will make sense why Emily was so thrilled to receive her very own Knuffle Bunny to go along with the books. Some kids are into plush toys (like my daughter) and some kids never really get into them (like my son). If your children are into plush toys, this is a wonderful one to pair with the book series.  This Knuffle Bunny is super soft and squishy with long ears that are perfect for clutching and dragging around the house.  Knuffle Bunny has been hitting the road with Emily every day and I find her snuggled up in bed with him every night.  Although I thought this was a little expensive for a simple plush toy, he has gotten $20 of love out of him already! If you have a Knuffle bunny lover in your house, this makes a wonderful gift!

Ladybug Girl at the Beach by David Soman

Another series that our daughter has been a fan of for a very long time is the Ladybug Girl book series. Lulu reminds me so much of my own spunky Emily with her own fashion sense and spirit for adventure, that this book series seems to echo they way our Emily thinks.  Lulu is the type of girl that your daughters can look to as a role model because she is very brave, she uses her imagination, and she is a friend to others.

We loved Lulu when we were first introduced to her and she finds her alter-ego, “Ladybug Girl,” who can do anything. We loved when Ladybug Girl found a friend on the playground and fought crime together as the Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy duo. Now Lulu is making her very first trip to the beach and she finds that there is so much to love at the beach, but also finds that she is a little fearful too of the water. You can watch Lulu overcome her fear of the water and discover that Ladybug Girl can even brave the ocean- she truly can do anything!

Lana the Ladybug Groovy Girl

We came into collecting Groovy Girl Dolls completely by accident.  I bought a doll for Emily at a gift shop on a trip and she absolutely loved it. She slept with her every night and I loved her yarn hair, rag doll style exterior, and that she was so wholesome.  I wanted to find another one like her for Emily and discovered there are actually many Groovy Girls out there and accessories to go with the dolls.

Since Ladybug Girl is such a superhero in our house, Lana the Ladybug Groovy Girl was absolutely perfect for Emily!  These dolls are so adorable and Emily loves playing with them for hours on end! Ladybug Girl was the perfect addition to our accidental collection!

Midnight Star Groovy Girl Horse

In our house there is lots of talk about sparkle, glitter, horses, and unicorns. Imagine, Emily’s delight when Grandma & Grandpa got her this sparkled and bedazzled Groovy Girl horse to go with her dolls! Yes, this horse has been making quite a few pony rides around our house and offers a lot of entertainment & imaginative play for Emily.

This toy is really well-made and includes lots of little extras that Emily really loves. There are reigns that the dolls hands can go into and stirrups for the doll’s legs. Since it has all of these stirrups and reigns the dolls can actually ride on this horse and have adventures without her having to hold on it. I am not a big fan of toys that make noise (I know, I am such an old, grumpy mom) and we discovered that this horse makes horse sounds when you press a little button on the side. Luckily, it is a very quiet horse that gives just the right volume without being annoying.

Loving Family Fisher Price Dollhouse

Last Christmas we decided to buy Emily a dollhouse and asked that everyone buy her accessories to go into her house for a gift. I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a dollhouse, but I did want something that would last. We decided to get her the Loving Family Fisher Price house because it was relatively affordable for a dollhouse (about $75) and it offered lots of fun accessories to go with it.

We got almost the whole collection last year, but she didn’t have any bedrooms for the dollhouse. She would make the dolls lie down on the floor with tiny rugs and would  sigh deeply at me, pointing to the absence of beds in her house. This year we added a little girl’s bedroom set and the parent’s bedroom set to her collection. All the dolls seem more well-rested and Emily is very happy to have a place for her dolls to sleep now.

This is a bit of an investment piece, but she plays for at least an hour in this house every single day. I love anything that helps her to use her imagination and when her friends come over, they park themselves in front of the dollhouse and play house for hours on end. It really is the perfect gift for a little girl with a big imagination!

Barbie & the Diamond Castle Princess Liana

You can’t have a Barbie party and not get a few Barbies for your birthday. It was a Barbie-filled extravaganza at our house filled with tons of Barbies and accessories. Everyone brought the coolest Barbies, fanciest clothes, and we even got a Barbie car for them to ride in!  We have been playing with and brushing Barbie hair nonstop since her birthday.

Of all the Barbies that Emily got, this Diamond Castle Barbie is Emily’s most favorite.  You turn a little dial on the back of her and her dress transforms into a different colored dress with a magical sound. She also sings…she sings an awful lot in our house. Emily ran her batteries out after three weeks of nonstop signing and I couldn’t get the song out of my head if I tried.  She is magical though because I still let her keep her even though she sang all the time.

This Barbie is from the Barbie & the Diamond Castle movie which she also got for birthday. We love all the Barbie movies, but I think this one is Emily’s favorite because it is about two friends. If you haven’t seen the Barbie movies, they are truly awesome. I am not a fan of the recent ones, but The Nutcracker, Barbie & the Twelve Dancing Princesses, & Swan Lake are just beautiful. Your daughter would love them and you will love the pretty music!

Barbie Tote

We are new to the Barbie scene. Boy, do we have so much to learn about navigating the Barbie world! My sister found this Barbie tote to put all of our Barbie accessories in and Emily really loves this bag for taking her Barbies everywhere. There is a zipper on the inside for tiny Barbie accessories and clothing. The bag size is generous, unlike some of the other totes on the market. All of her collection fits comfortably in this and the outside is a plastic exterior, making it easy to clean. I love this gift as much as Emily and we hang it on our playroom door so we can play with our Barbie’s or take them with us for fun on the go.

Search & Win

For Christmas and birthday gifts I do try to horde my Swagbucks rewards and use my points to buy Amazon gift cards. To begin earning rewards, all you need to do is use Swagbucks.com as your search engine tool instead of your usual route with Google. It pulls the same results, but when you are surfing, you can earn points just by making it your search engine tool. These points are then deposited into your account and can be redeemed for your rewards.

I put my points towards Amazon gift cards which has been a fantastic way to enjoy a little shopping without dipping into my bank account. Not only has it covered birthday gifts, but I also have ordered countless books for my Kindle and other fun little extras in my life.

I rarely use affiliate programs, but can’t recommend Swagbucks enough. If you start now, it is quite possible that you could have a free (or discounted)  Christmas in your future! Every little bit helps in this tough economy and the best part is that it is free tool to assist with your shopping needs.

Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the products quickly and easily. Feel free to order what you need, but we encourage wise spending & buying things you & your family will truly love and appreciate.  We promise though to only refer you to products that we are really loving and using. We also bought each of these fair and square- no one asked me to promote them or gave me anything. Don’t you like people who disclose far too much information? That is me! Enjoy!

Do you have any girl gifts that were a hit this Christmas? Please feel free to share your daughter’s favorite gifts! We will be back next week with great boy gifts to give!

Pretty In Pink Strawberry Cupcakes

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and these Pretty in Pink Cupcakes would be the perfect accompaniment to a romantic dinner or a fun school treat for your children to share.  As I have been doing the last few weeks, I wanted to share with you all of the recipes and ideas we used for my daughter’s birthday party. In case you missed the earlier posts, I have a step-by-step picture tutorial for a beautiful Barbie Cake, directions for making elegant tissue paper pom poms, some easy tips & recipes for a fun winter party, and now today I am showcasing  these Pretty In Pink cupcakes that were made for the adults. Tomorrow I will share with you a few of our favorite gifts and that will conclude the never-ending posting schedule of birthday posts.

These delicious cupcakes are made from the same batter as the Barbie cake that I showcased from her party. I wanted a fun treat for the adults and so I created a batch of these cupcakes with a strawberry cream cheese frosting and a fresh berry garnish topper. The cupcakes were displayed in cupcake stands for easy grabbing throughout the evening.

This cake is very moist and flavorful and the vivid pink hue comes from the addition of the strawberry gelatin dessert. While fresh strawberries are not in season this time of year, one package of berries is plenty for your garnish and to be whipped in the cupcake batter & frosting. Although they are more expensive, it is a worthy investment for such a fun and unexpected treat out of our normal berry season.  The cream cheese frosting adds a hint of sweetness with even more delicious strawberry taste that takes this cupcake to the grown-up level.

I hope you will enjoy these delightful cupcakes as much as we have and consider adding them to your Valentine’s menu this year!

Pretty in Pink Cupcakes (adapted from “Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor“)

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix

1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin

1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries with juice (approximately 1 1/2 cups whole berries)

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

Place your oven rack into the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 2 quart oven-safe batter bowl by greasing heavily with cooking spray. Place the cake mix, gelatin strawberries and their juice,  milk, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for thirty seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat two more minutes. Pour batter carefully into your prepared batter bowl. Bake the cupcakes until they are lightly golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 20-25 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for five minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for fifteen minutes before frosting.   Meanwhile prepare the frosting.  (This recipe makes approximately 22-24 cupcakes)

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

This frosting is VERY thin compared to a traditional frosting. You can thicken it up with a little extra confectioners sugar (1/2 cup at a time) if it is too thin to ice your cupcakes with.  I also put the frosting in the fridge overnight and then puddle it on top of the cupcakes and then let it up set up in the fridge again. If you prefer a frosting that you can decorate with or that is thicker, may I recommend my favorite buttercream frosting?

1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature

3 to 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/2 cup mashed (and drained of the juice from the mashing) fresh strawberries

Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add three cups of the confectioners’ sugar and the drained, mashed strawberries. Blend the frosting on low until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium and blend the frosting until fluffy, 30 to 45 seconds longer, adding up to a 1/2 cup more sugar if needed to make a spreadable consistency.

Place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread it out with a short metal spatula or a spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely. Place in the refrigerator, uncovered, and chill until the frosting sets, 20 minutes. Sprinkle the cupcakes with sprinkles (if desired) and garnish right before serving with a sliced strawberry (Side Note- Do wait until right before serving as the berries will release their juices and cause your frosting to be runny, as mine were shortly after taking this photo!)

Do you have any special Valentine’s Day food traditions? I would love to hear what your favorite foods are!

Tips & Recipes for Pulling Off a Great Winter Party

Monday, January 10th, 2011

If there is one thing that I feel I do really well, it is pulling off a budget-friendly and wonderful birthday party for my children. The truth about pulling off a great party  though is that it takes a lot of planning and preparation to make a wonderful party come together. Now that I have shown you how to make your own DIY Barbie Cake and elegant tissue paper pom poms to hang over your party table, I wanted to share with you our menu from this party!

We decided to host the party on a Friday evening since that seemed to work with everyone’s schedule the best.  With seventeen people in our immediate family, it makes for a big party even for just a family birthday party.  In the dead of winter, I wanted food that would warm everyone up, would be relatively easy to assemble (since the cake did require a bit of effort this year), and that would also make great leftovers.

Homemade party subs are so inexpensive to make and can be a fun addition to any party. Walmart sells french bread loaves for $1.50 each and turkey breast meat (behind the deli counter) is only $3.99 per pound.  Each sub was loaded with almost an entire pound of meat, a layer of cheddar cheese (only bought inexpensively behind the deli counter), and then sliced and assembled on cookie sheets. Condiments were gathered on trays and fresh tomato and lettuce was cut the day before to pull out for the big party. These took about fifteen minutes to pull together, serve eight people each, and cost less than $8 each to make yourself (even with the cost of condiments included).

If you have any sandwiches leftover, store them covered in the fridge and the next day they will make fabulous paninis to serve with your leftover soup. As an aside, I make these almost every grocery day for my family as a quick meal when I am too tired to cook from shopping.   It is my special treat after getting the shopping done and the kids go bonkers over these subs.

I made a double batch of our Pesto Chicken Tortellini Soup to go along with our sub sandwiches. Bowls and a creamer full of spoons were set out for our guest to dish their soup. I also set out a hunk of Parmesan cheese that could be grated over the bowls of soup to add even more flavor to it. To save on the cost of the soup, buy the pesto over in the pasta aisle (rather than the refrigerated pesto in the dairy cooler) and feel free to substitute the fresh tortellini with the cheese tortellini found in the freezer aisle.

No party is complete in our house without a punch bowl brimming over with some delicious punch. This new punch recipe that I pulled together is the new favorite with strawberry soda, cranberry juice, strawberry lemonade, and cherry 7-up. The cranberry really added a hint of tartness to the punch and this punch bowl was drained in record time this year.  I have to say that my thrift store punch bowl is one of our most used party items and has served us well over the years!

In addition to punch, the coffeemaker was preset for hot coffee to go with the dessert portion of the evening.

I rounded out the party table with a couple of easy appetizers that I made the day before.  My cheese ball and spinach dip went perfectly with our soup and sandwich theme, and gave guests something to munch on before and after the dinner hour.

Party supplies can really burn through a girl’s budget, but I strive to keep the paper products to a minimum. To incorporate the Barbie theme though, I did find a cute tiara and reuseable Barbie themed cup & plate for the party girl that cost only $5 total.  This made the party theme fun for her, but kept my party budget right on track. Our regular dishes were used for everyone else and last year’s vinyl tablecloth made another appearance this year at Emily’s birthday party. With our inexpensive tissue paper pom poms, it still looked like a fabulous party without the need for excessive party themed plates and one-time use decorations!

Here are a few recipes that can be used at your next party!

This tortellini soup brought together all of the flavors that my family loves, but is a versatile recipe that could be created with what is at your supermarket that day or what your family loves to eat. For our vegetarian readers, the chicken tortellini and chicken broth can easily be switched to a cheese-filled tortellini with vegetable broth instead. I used basil pesto in this, but you could also try a sun-dried tomato pesto or omit the pesto altogether if it is not a favorite of your family. Versatility is the beauty of a good soup recipe  and this recipe is quite versatile!

Pesto Chicken Tortellini Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans petite diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound chicken herb tortellini or tortellini of your choice (I used the refrigerated kind, but you can also use the dried pasta)
9 ounces spinach, chopped roughly
1/4 cup basil pesto

In a large pot, saute the garlic in the olive oil. After a minute or so, add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth to the pot. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and then add in your tortellini. Cook tortellini as directed on package. In the last minute of cooking time, mix in your roughly chopped spinach and stir in the 1/4 cup of basil pesto. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top. Side Note: When reheating, feel free to add some additional chicken broth to thin the soup, as the tortellini will absorb the liquid!

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You can never go wrong with a good spinach dip and this one is my absolute favorite because of the unexpected flavor that the salsa adds to the dish. You can make it as mild or as spicy as you like! I opt for a mild salsa and serve it with pita chips, tortilla chips, or fresh veggies for a little lighter fare!

Spunky Spinach Dip

2 cups salsa (approximately one standard size jar)
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese
8 oz low-fat or fat-free cream cheese, softened and cubed
10 oz frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)

Make Ahead: Mix ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Place in an oven-safe bowl and tuck in the fridge for Thanksgiving Day.

Party  Day: Cook at 350 for 20-25 minutes (double your cooking time for a double batch) in an oven-safe bowl (covered). Serve with your favorite dipper! I served this with blue corn tortilla chips, but you could also serve with fresh celery sticks and fresh carrots to balance out the heaviness of your party day food!

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These cheese ball is so embarrassingly easy, but is always a showstopper when I bring it to holiday get togethers. Put the ingredients for this recipe on your grocery list and relish the joy in ease of the preparation and the compliments that come from it!

Bacon & Ranch Cheese Ball

2 (8 ounce) packages of low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 package of Ranch dressing mix
1 cup cheddar cheese
5-7 strips of bacon cooked and crumbled (or buy prepackaged crumbled bacon)

Make Ahead: Mix all of the ingredients together with a mixer until they are incorporated. Mold into a ball  and wrap in plastic wrap,

Party Day: Roll in a plate of shredded cheese. Serve with assorted crackers.

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No get together in our family is complete without a big punch bowl that is overflowing. This punch is always a hit and it can be ready when everyone arrives. It is loved by kids and adults alike. The addition of cranberry juice adds a delicious tartness to your punch that balances out the sweetness of the strawberry soda and lemonade.

Christmas Cranberry Punch

2 liter bottle strawberry-flavored soda (I found this at Walmart)
2 liter Cherry 7-Up
1 (12 ounce) can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1 container of cranberry juice

Mix all the ingredients together for the punch. This will fill one large punch bowl or two smaller ones.

What is one idea you incorporate into your parties to keep your birthday parties on budget?

The Perfect Pink Barbie Cake Tutorial

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Over the month of December we celebrated Emily’s 5th birthday.  This was the year of the Barbie which thrilled me to no end as I had envisioned a Barbie cake for my little girl long before she was even a twinkle in our eye.  Barbie cakes are a true labor of love by the mothers who create them and this cake was a testament to my undying love for my daughter.

Today I wanted to share with you how we created our Barbie cake and some tips for creating this cake for your own little princess! The week will be filled with oodles of tutorials and ideas for making your Barbie party special and I hope to add a little inspiration to your own Barbie-inspired party!

For this cake you will need a white cake mix, strawberry gelatin dessert, eggs, milk, canola oil, a package of fresh strawberries, and your doll.

The doll that is pictured in this tutorial ended up not being used because the cake was not tall enough to form her dress and stand her upright. Doll toppers can be purchased specifically for cake decorating at Michael’s for $3.99 (you can also use on of those 40% off coupons on that purchase to save) or you can ask your bakery if they will sell you a doll that you can use for roughly the same amount. Cakes can also be improvised as Monica, from The Homespun Heart discovered, by making your cake taller to fit a Barbie. My girlfriend also found a shorter generic one that could be found at the dollar store because the generic ones are not as tall as the real Barbies.

My best friend broke the legs of her Barbie for my cake.  May you all have a super awesome mafia friend like me who is willing to donate her legless Barbie for your project.

This cake is an easy mix and dump cake, but you will need to finely chop your strawberries to mix into the cake. I used my food chopper to chop these up evenly and fine for the cake. Once you have done that, you have the brunt of the cake mixing portion done.

Dump all of the ingredients into your mixer, including those finely chopped berries, and give it a good mix.  I let it run for a good minute or two while my oven was preheating to 350 degrees.

Pour your batter into a greased mixing bowl. The mixing bowl I used for this project is the Pampered Chef Classic Batter Bowl that I had in my kitchen. Many years ago when I bought it, the consultant had shared with me that it would make the perfect Barbie cake. It doesn’t have to be a Pampered Chef bowl though, any two quart ovenproof  glass mixing bowl should do the job!

Now let Barbie sit back and take a little nap while her dress bakes. Because of the depth of the cake, this cake will take roughly an hour and ten minutes to bake. You want to make sure that the rack is not too high on your oven or it will really brown the top of your cake. You will also want to keep an eye on it and test the center after an hour to see how it is doing. Mine took the full hour and ten minutes for this cake though.

Once the cake is done baking, you can pull it out and let it rest for at least fifteen minutes. Invert your cake on a cooling rack and let it cool for three hours before decorating.

I prefer to make my cakes in a two day process so I went ahead and wrapped the cooled Barbie cake in plastic wrap and rested it on top of a dish, then covered the whole thing in foil.  When the cake is frozen it is much easier to decorate and I have a lot less crumbs to have to work around.  That little tip came courtesy of a Michael’s cake decorating course I took and has served me well over the years of making and decorating special occasion cakes.

Now it is time to make the frosting. You can definitely skip this step and just use two 16 ounce containers of vanilla frosting (tinted to your favorite cake dress color), but the jarred frosting won’t give you the stiffness you need if you want to decorate and embellish the dress. This buttercream decorator’s frosting uses the confectioner’s sugar, shortening, milk, clear butter flavor (pictured above and purchased at Michael’s) and a little Meringue Powder (pictured above and purchased at Michael’s) that gives it a yummy whipped and buttered taste without adding any off-colors to your frosting.

Making frosting is a messy, messy job and is one of my least favorite parts about cake decorating. One way you can really cut down on the mess is to dampen a kitchen towel and drape it over your mixer while you are whipping up your frosting. This will cut down on the confectioner’s sugar dust clouds that you will find all over the kitchen and you can wipe down your mixer when you are all done.

Really try hard to resist eating this frosting. You really will need all of it to decorate your cake. Doesn’t it look delicious though? Tint the frosting in your desired color. In our case it was Emily’s two favorites…pink and dark pink.

Now it is time to frost your cake. I frost my cakes frozen and they turn out beautifully. You just want to give your decorated cake a few hours to thaw before the guest arrive, but frozen cake frosting is so darn easy that you will never go back. Frost it the best you can and remember that you can add as many details as you need to and that will cover up any of the imperfect parts.

To get the surface even smoother, dip your clean spatula in hot water and run it across the surface of the cake in long strokes. This will melt the frosting slightly to help remove stroke marks. Wipe the spatula clean and dip it in the hot water before each stroke.

Once your cake is smooth (ish), you are ready to add your embellishments to decorate your dress. I used Wilton Tips #2D to make swirl flowers and my zigzag border, tip 3 to make the centers of the flowers and added dots to her dresses, and tip 21 for the shell borders and little loops on her dress.

You can add whatever details you prefer on your cake, that is the beauty of making your own Barbie cake. Embrace your inner-fashionista and have a blast making Barbie’s party dress!

Here is our finished cake. I left the top of Barbie’s dress on and tried to incorporate the lower half into looking like a continuation of her top. Her hair was tied with a little leftover grosgrain ribbon. If your Barbie has legs, you can wrap her in plastic before inserting her.  After Barbie was done with this party, I put her dress top in the dishwasher and it came out clean and perfect. Barbie just got a good wash in the sink and I put her away…just in case we might need her next year.

4.0 from 1 reviews
The Perfect Pink Barbie Cake With Buttercream Frosting
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
This cake is so moist and full of strawberry flavor.  The color from the gelatin adds a vivid pink hue and the flecks of fresh berry take these pantry ingredients to another level.  If a Barbie cake isn't your thing, wait for your post next week where these are transformed into a grown-up cupcake complete with a Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting. While buttercream icing is not my favorite tasting frosting, this frosting is ideal for decorating and piping beautiful decorations on your Barbie cake. The butter flavor really adds a lot of richness to this frosting. This recipe creates a batch and a half (or approximately five cups of frosting). This will likely be more than you need, but I would rather have extra frosting than not enough and make it all over again. Extra frosting can also be used to decorate a batch of cupcakes for the adults!
Ingredients
  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix
  • 1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries with juice (approximately 1½ cups whole berries)
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • For Buttercream Icing (Medium Consistency): 1½ cups solid white shortening
  • 1½ teaspoons Wiilton Butter Flavor
  • 4-5 tablespoons milk
  • 6 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1½ tablespoon Wilton Meringue Powder
  • Pinch of Salt (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place your oven rack into the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a 2 quart oven-safe batter bowl by greasing heavily with cooking spray.
  3. Place the cake mix, gelatin strawberries and their juice,  milk, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for thirty seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat two more minutes.
  5. Pour batter carefully into your prepared batter bowl.
  6. Bake for 1 hour and ten minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed with your finger and a cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool for fifteen minutes and then invert your cake on a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool for a minimum of three hours before decorating. For more tips see the post above.
  8. For icing: Cream shortening flavoring, and water.
  9. Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together. Blend an additional minute or so until creamy.
  10. Tint as desired.

Disclosure: The Amazon links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books & supplies for your project quickly and easily.
Have any cake decorating tips? What was your proudest birthday cake moment? Feel free to share them here!

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