Monday, June 28, 2010

Attack of the Marshmallow Martians!!

I don't know about you guys, but here we are on our three millionth week of summer vacation.  Okay maybe only week three, but it feels like three million.  Things are already starting to get pretty stale.  I'm kind of at a lost on what kind of activities to do with a three and six year old.  I can come up with all kinds of stuff individually, but it's hard to get stuff they both want to do.  I've been reading some chapter books with Sweets and having her draw pictures associated with each chapter, but Bug well he pretty much just hangs off of my leg or arm and says "mommy, mommy, mommy" the entire time I'm reading.  I guess the Narnia series really isn't his cup pf tea yet.

Sweets would be happy with endless hours of crafting everyday, but she is more interested in the advanced crafts these days, sewing, knitting, working for hours on one detailed drawing or days on a comic or book that she is writing.  This is great except for when you figure in a three year old who wants to do exactly what his sister is doing, EXACTLY.  I mean no substitutions, if she has a needle he wants one.  I'm all for letting him give it a shot within reason, but he gets furious when he can't do it just like she can and that leads to major tantrums.  The only thing they do agree on is swimming  which we do as much as we can, but even that gets boring after a while.

So I have been searching for crafts they can do equally and baking seems to be one that works pretty well, although we really don't need another batch of cookies in the house.  So as I was looking through the baking cabinet the other day I had an idea.  I grabbed a bag of marshmallows, some cereal, chocolate chips, icing, mini baking cups, candy and cocktail umbrellas and set up some plates.

I took each kiddo a plate and said "build something".  No rules, no guidelines, just make something.  Bug ate his first few marshmallows.  After he was full he was ready to build.  Sweets started the Martian idea and the kids just rolled with it.  After about 45 minutes of peaceful play we had a row of sticky marshmallow Martians.  Best part, they ate them later on, so I wasn't left with yet another craft project to find a spot for.  These are great for little ones, because everything sticks to the marshmallows since they are a little sticky.  Next I want to get some big and little ones and straws and let them build like that.

So what are your good tips for keeping kids of different ages busy over the summer?


Monday, June 14, 2010

4th of July Inspiration

After having a full week of recuperating from the kids parties I have officially started the planning for our 4th of July bash (technically 2nd of July bash).  Initially I had planned to reuse a lot of the decorations from the kids party, but I just can't shake the urge to have patriotic colors.  We are planning to do a similar soda bar set up and instead of a candy buffet a dessert buffet.  I think I am planning to use red, white and aqua or sky blue, just to mix it up a little.  I also would like to use bandannas as most of the fabric.  So I thought I would put together a little inspiration post for myself and maybe it will help you guys prepare for your parties also.


                                          Martha Strawberry and cream dessert

                                Taste of Home Cupcakes

                                            Country Living  I would just use blue and red

                                Cupcake Kabobs

                                Lovely Bunting from SpringChick on Etsy


So that's all for now.  Surprisingly I didn't find a lot of awesome ideas for this. Most stuff is a little too red, white and blue for my tastes.  Martha really has the most and best ideas for a 4th party that is still pretty.  I have a lot of my own ideas floating around in my head too, so I think I can successfully pull off a lovely red, white and blue party.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Sweet Shop Party

Well I'm finally getting around to showing you the details of this party.  I guess I'm still recovering from the massive exhaustion.  So when I asked the kids this year what kind of party they would like the response was "candy".  Okay, I can run with this.  So after hours of looking at ideas on line I started to piece together a rough outline of what this party should be.  It couldn't be too girly since we have a joint party and it needed to stay in the range of reasonable cost wise.  I decided on a sweet shop theme complete with a candy buffet and a soda bar.

The decorations came together from supplies already in my stash and actually turned out way better than if I had planned and bought new materials for them.  I made two fabric banners, using primary colors and brown bias tape/quilt binding.  These are super simple to make.  I just cut out triangles from my fabrics using pinking shears, and then sandwich them between some bias tape and stitch.  I also made two banners using ribbon, paper, fun foam and pictures.  For the first of these I simply cut out circles of foam and attached them to the ribbon using clothes pins.  I alternated with pictures of the kids for a personal touch.  For the second I wrote out 'Happy Birthday' onto the foam and paper circles and tied them onto a length of ribbon using small pieces of ribbon and rick rack.

My biggest project for the party kind of fell into my lap.  I was generously given a charm pack of Moda's 'Hello Betty' fabric and it just called out to me to be part of this party.  It has such a cute retro feel to it.  I used pretty much the entire pack plus a few squares from my stash and just started piecing them together.  I did rows of five squares across until I got to about 70 inches long.  Then I sandwiched my top with some fleece ( I didn't have any batting and actually prefer quilting with fleece) and some vintage backing fabric.  I then machine quilted the whole thing and used some store bought binding in chocolate brown to tie the whole thing together.  This is one of my favorite things I have made so far and even though it was intended for the party, I'm sure it will be a permanent fixture on my dining room table!

For the candy buffet I bought a few glass containers at different stores around town, not spending more than five dollars a piece.  For the rest of the containers I used stuff I already had; iced tea glasses, a trifle dish, plates, cake stands, etc.  You can really find a lot of this stuff in your cabinets.  I bought candy at Cracker Barrel since they seem to have a really good selection of vintage style candy and it's not too expensive.  I used candy sticks, lollipops, twizzlers, zots, candy buttons, candy bottles, lik n dips, candy straws, airheads and some handmade candy.  I bought a few things at the dollar store also.   I put out little bags so that people could take some home with them, but we were still left with more candy than any family should have.

The soda bar was something I saw a picture of on line and loved.  We have done old fashioned bottled sodas at parties in the past and they were always a hit.  This time I just covered a small table with fabric added a little sign that read 'Soda' and then arranged the sodas ( about 50) on the table in rows.  I finished it off with cups and straws.  I found mine at the grocery, Cracker Barrel (they charge a fortune for them, be warned) and even Marshall's.  I love how they look all out on the table and I refrigerated mine to make them cold before hand.  They only stay that way for about an hour though so having some ice on hand is a good idea.  I'm looking for some skinny oval shaped galvanized buckets to use for this the next time so I can keep them on ice.

The other miscellaneous decorations I made included two door signs that looked like lollipops and some paper medallions.  It was a tiring day but a perfect one.  The weather held out and the kids had a blast in the pool, folks left in a tired sugar haze and I had two very happy kids.

Thanks for letting me share!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Candy Cakes

This past weekend we celebrated Bug turning 3 and Sweets turning 6 with an old fashioned sweet shop themed party.  Which would explain why I have been neglectful of my blogging as of late.  I made everything for the party and will be sharing all of the details with you this week.  The first thing I have to share with your are the cakes that I made.  I only recently got serious about learning cake decorating.  In the past I just did whatever worked.  I really have wanted to take a class but unfortunately time hasn't been on my side with that. So I did what I usually do when I want or need to acquire a new skill, watch Youtube.  This might not be the most conventional method of learning, but it works for me.  So after a few videos and reading up on a few different sites I hit Walmart and picked up a couple of new cake tools.  I already had in my possession some decorating bags, basic tips and couplers.  I bought an angled icing spatula, a cake leveler and a fondant smoother.  I made a basic butter cream icing based on several different recipes I saw on line that I will post here.  The technique that worked best for me was to use a crumb coat, then apply a second thick coat of butter cream, smooth the best I could with the spatula and then let it crust.  After that I laid a Viva paper towel onto the cake and went over it with the fondant smoother.  This produced the smoothest butter cream I have ever accomplished.  I found this technique everywhere, so just Google smooth butter cream and you will find dozens of how to's.  After that I decorated the cakes to the max with lollipops, candy sticks, suckers, gum balls, candy bars, rock candy, smarties, gummy bears and sprinkles.  The kids loved them and I was super proud.  I should also note that I made the cakes the day before I decorated them and it made it not quite so exhausting.  The blue cake was two layers of chocolate chip cake and one layer of devil's food cake.  The green was red velvet.

Here is the basic recipe I followed.  You really need to add the sugar cup by cup to see how much you need you can always add more or add a little water if you need to thin it out.  This recipe is for a shelf stable butter cream or one that doesn't melt and turn rancid sitting out in the heat.  From what I have learned the sugar preserves the butter.  Using Crisco makes butter cream so much more stable than using butter alone.  I know a lot of people think that is gross and I used to also but seeing the difference it makes in the appearance of the cake I can say it's totally worth it and the icing was great tasting also. This does not make a pure white frosting for that you will need to use just shortening, sugar, clear vanilla and clear butter flavoring and meringue powder.

I c. Crisco
3 sticks butter softened
2 tsp vanilla
I bag or 4 cups confectioners sugar
water if needed (you can use milk if you are not concerned with making it shelf stable)
2 tbs meringue powder

Cream the butter and Crisco together.  Add vanilla.  Add sugar 1 cup at a time.  Add meringue powder.  Stir until well mixed and at the right consistency.  Use or refrigerate.