You Say It’s Your Birthday (Part Two)

March 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

And so, having failed to lie to my son about his birthday for my convenience, we threw a birthday party.  A Lorax birthday party.  A birthday party that found me looking into the gaping maw of the beast called Toddler-Birthday-Party-In-The-Age-Of-Pinterest.

Look at this madness!

Look at this madness!

First, let me be clear: I did NOT want to throw a party.  However, as the youngest in his class, my son had already attended a number of his classmates’ parties and let us know in no uncertain terms that he saw a party as an important part of his birthday celebration.  Drat.  I set about trying to conceive a party that was as festive as possible while being as minimal as possible.  I was . . . semi-successful in those goals . . .

When I was growing up, I was only allowed to have a birthday party every other year.  On the in-between years, my parents took me, and sometimes a friend, to the theater in NYC.  It was a good system.  As I approached throwing my child’s first real birthday party (the all-adults first birthday party not really counting in my book), I tried to think of a similar sort of guiding principal and decided that perhaps the first several parties would all be tied to a favorite book.  So wholesome!

And so we arrived at The Lorax birthday party.

So, getting down to brass tacks, these were the elements of the party:

  • Decorations
  • A cake
  • Activities/Entertainment
  • Food/Snacks

Here we go.

Decorations.  Because the party had a Lorax theme, for decorations we scanned some key images from the book and then used the rasterbator to blow them up and print them out.  Then we used loops of blue painters tape on the back to stick them on the walls without damaging our home.

One of the pictures coming together . . .

One of the pictures coming together . . .

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The rasterbator is great and the pictures on the walls definitely seemed to be fun for the kids, but the whole process: scanning, rasterbating, printing, assembling and then cutting out was EPIC.  We spent – by far – the most time on this aspect of the party.  If I wanted to do this again, I’d either a) choose just one or two images and make them bigger so they could be more of a focal point OR b) start putting these together a month before instead of the week before.

The Cake.  This is where I wobbled.  Where everything almost came crashing down.  I think it is purely luck that the cake came out as well as it did, which is to say, a generous B-.  It was delicious but maybe the night before the party is not the best time to establish if your theoretial plan for creating truffula trees from mini cupcakes, straws and icing is in any way a functional plan.  It was, but barely.

I made a base cake which was just a white cake with cream cheese icing that I dyed green so it would look like grass.  Then I made a batch of these chocolate cupcakes, but I made them mini.  Then I made a bunch of swiss meringue buttercream because my Martha Stewart cupcake book indicated that this was the best frosting for the job.  Then I just hoped for the best.

I stored the truffula trees in the refrigerator ’till right before the party when i stuck them in the cake along with some chocolate Teddy Grahams which were, of course, frisking barbaloots.

As you can see: neither something to be especially proud of, nor a subject of personal shame.  THIS, friends, is how you know I’m NOT one of those crazy Pinterest moms.  (Those moms would never stand for this . . .).  Bonus: the kids really enjoyed eating the truffula trees (kinda like cake pops).

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Activites/Entertainment.  We had three elements that lent themselves to “open play” and two parent-led elements.

For “open play” we made a Whisper-ma-phone out of some tubing and funnels from the hardware store.  It worked remarkably well – you really could just whisper in one end and hear at the other.  Kiddos were curious about it but had trouble coordinating one person talking and the other listening and switching.  My son really enjoyed playing with it in the days before the party and I suspect it will be one of those toys that we pull out every so often and really enjoy.

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Because I stumbled onto the idea on some other mom’s blog (go ahead and google “lorax party mom blog.” I dare you.) and suddenly felt like what we had planned wasn’t “enough,” we also made a magnetic fishing game where you fish the poor Humming Fish out of the polluted water and into fresh water.  Fishing poles were a dowel with a string and some magnets on the end; fish were Humming Fish I printed onto orange card stock, cut out, and furnished with a paperclip to attract the magnet.  My husband fashioned dirty and clean water out of cardboard and blue paper (and I can’t believe I don’t have a picture of this!)  This one was slow to catch on, but I think most of the kids spent some time being pretty fascinated by it.

I also just printed out some coloring sheets from the internet (google something like “lorax printable coloring sheet”) which was so easy and such a good idea.

Once everyone had arrived and had played for a while, we all gathered together and read The Lorax and then we made seed necklaces which are cool to make and not too difficult for kids this age, especially with a bunch of parents around to help.

Because I failed to photograph OUR seed necklaces, here's a picture of a similar one that I found on the internet! (Thanks, internet!)

Because I failed to photograph OUR seed necklaces, here’s a picture of a similar one that I found on the internet! (Thanks, internet!)

Food/Snacks.  This was a total afterthought.  As I was anxiously mulling over the merits of brunchy food vs. lunchy food, my husband said “we could just do pizza like everyone else.” Eureka!  I married a genius!

I got a bag of clementines, some raspberries and strawberries, some apples which I sliced (and tossed with lemon juice), goldfish and those chocolate teddy grahams ans we were all set.  Everyone was happy with fruit, pizza and cake!

What are my takeaways?

  • We did a good thing by limiting the number of kids.  We invited seven; five made it and the party felt big and full.  It was a perfect number for such young kiddos.
  • I wish I’d started making the decorations earlier.
  • I could have done less and the party would’ve been just as good, so I will aim to underachieve more next year.

Oh! And what did the kids take away in their goody bags?

  • Tiny flower pots (so cheap at Michael’s)
  • A cellophane bag of dirt for the flower pot. (I had the dirt; bags from Michael’s)
  • A packet of seeds to plant. (Amazon)
  • One of these tools (I bought sets and broke them up for the bags) (Amazon)
  • Some Dr. Seuss stickers and erasers. (Michael’s)
Goodies!

Goodies!

Do you have a party-throwing philosophy?  Personal guidelines or rules-of-thumb?  Share them in the comments!

You Say It’s Your Birthday (Part One)

March 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

When a blog post concerns the birthday of a three-year-old, there should only be one part.  This was my first mistake.

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Very early on the morning of my brother’s third birthday, I was awoken by a sound that went:

thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump (long pause) “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!”

This, of course was the sound of sleepy three-year-old Ian wandering out of his room and, disoriented, falling all the way down the front stairs of our house, breaking his leg.

What a terrible thing to have happen on your birthday!  Except he didn’t know it was his birthday and no one was going to tell him.  As far as he was concerned, his birthday was that upcoming weekend on the exact same day as his birthday party.  (If you’re wondering, the party went on as planned with my hobbling around in a full-leg cast.)

I remembered all of this as I was icing the first of the two birthday cakes I will have made by the end of the week because I wasn’t smart enough just to tell my kid that the day of his birthday party is his actual birthday.  So we celebrated his real birthday at school and at home yesterday and, on Saturday, we’ll do it all again.

So much cake.  Not to mention that the poor kiddo was, apparently, kind of confused and wanted to know last night where all the kids were?!  Sorry, peanut.

Next week, I’ll let you know how the party went and (what other wisdom I may have gleaned in the process of throwing it) . . .

Oven Bacon

March 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

Bacon

Bacon

I didn’t invent this.  New York Magazine turned me on to cooking bacon in the oven way back in 2008.  I still have the page I ripped out of the issue to save so that I would never forget how to make the best bacon ever.

Pause: I’m not a bacon person.  I really don’t care a whole lot about bacon.  I’m married to a vegetarian.  But sometimes, I make some bacon.  For brunch guests.  For bacon and tomato sandwiches.  For my son (who really does love bacon).

Related: before this oven-cooking technique I was a regular failure at bacon cooking, constantly overcooking the bacon and, also, just finding the whole process unnecessarily messy and stressful.

Which brings us back to: cook your bacon in the oven!  New York Magazine just says to do it on a baking sheet but I would like to recommend my own twist: put the bacon on a rack on the baking sheet.  I find this lets the extra rubbery fat drip off leaving bacon crisp without having to over-cook it.  (I strongly prefer crispy bacon and I think the rack helps achieve that.  If you’re a fan of softer bacon, I’d just try it right in the baking sheet first.)

Bonus: I find I can cook the entire package of bacon in the oven and wrap up whatever we don’t eat in plastic wrap or a plastic zipper bag and then I just pop it into a very low oven (170 is the lowest my oven will go) to warm it up while I’m preparing whatever I want to serve with it.  Super convenient.  Still delish.

Extra Bonus: I find that cooking bacon this way lets you concentrate just on the eggs of french toast or pancakes you’re cooking ensuring a less-stressful kitchen experience and a better result overall.

You’re welcome!

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