Rachael’s Frozen birthday party: Doing what frozen things do in summer

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We decided on a Frozen theme for Rachael’s birthday party this year because we knew no one else would be throwing a Frozen party and themed party supplies would be readily available and not marked up.

But seriously, we knew we wanted to have her party at our local community center/pool. It is inexpensive, as venues around here go, (did I just refer to it as a venue? Wow; that’s obnoxious) it had plenty of room, and Rachael adores swimming. The angle was along the lines of Olaf wanting to do what frozen things do in summer.
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You’re Invited!
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I couldn’t buy the ready-made invitations where you just fill in the blanks. First of all, that would be too easy and not cause anyone angst or heartburn. Secondly, none of the invitations out there fit with the theme. All of them had either Anna or Elsa or just Elsa posing like the menacing snow sorceress she is. Oh, and there were the invitations which included Hans, standing all happy with the group. My reaction was, Um, have you seen the movie?

My approach to the invitations was to include the colors associated with both sisters. The blue, textured paper and the fuchsia ribbon are similar to the colors of Anna’s winter outfit. The snowflakes, of course, are linked to Elsa. I used a snowflake punch to create the three light blue snowflakes. I added a jeweled snowflake on top to create some dimension and sparkle to the snowflakes. And, of course, Olaf had to be included on the invitation.

Make with the cupcakes, lady.
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We all know what kids look forward to the most at any birthday party: the cake. I decided to go with cupcakes for the sake of simplicity. I had no desire to pretend that I have the skill with fondant that others have or pay for and post on Pinterest. It’s also easier to make enough to accommodate a large group of people.
Rachael had specifically requested chocolate cupcakes. I also wanted to have vanilla for those who don’t like chocolate. I decided to use the chocolate cake recipe from Martha Stewart that I used for Rachael’s 2nd birthday. Besides being one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve had, it’s so easy! It’s a one bowl recipe; mix the dry ingredients together, then dump in the wet ingredients and mix until combined. No creaming butter with sugar. No adding the flour and milk alternately in three additions.
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For the vanilla cupcakes, I used Old Faithful. Rachael requested that they be blue. I did a trial, layering different shades of blue. I wasn’t entirely a fan of the look, so I decided to just stick with one shade of blue.
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This is why we do trial runs, kids.

I felt like the final products turned out delicious and beautiful. Everyone seemed to agree.

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Vanilla buttercream and Sixlets

I also made some fondant snowflakes to garnish some of the cupcakes. The kids really loved them. One of the girls asked me, before we had pizza, if she could have one with the snowflake. The great thing about them is that they look so complicated, but they couldn’t be easier.
I purchased a set of four stamps from my local candy store, Fran’s Cake and Candy. This is the set I used. I simply rolled out white fondant to no more than 1/4 inch thick on a surface dusted with cornstarch. (You can also use powdered sugar. I’ve found that cornstarch gives a better non-stick result.) Dust stamps with cornstarch as well. Press down the spring-loaded button, hard, to stamp. While pressing the button, push the cutter portion into the fondant and wiggle it until the shape comes free. If the fondant remains inside the stamp, pressing the stamp button will release the shape. Allow shapes to air dry and harden.
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I wanted to add a little sparkle, so I used edible glitter spray. Make sure that when you use the spray, you cover the area around where you’re spraying. It does wipe off of surfaces easily, but it will fly everywhere.
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I wanna stuff some chocolate in my faaaaaace!
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Putting labels on everything seems to be a thing. I don’t mind it if it’s a sign card so people known what a particular food is but, otherwise, it just kind of annoys me. (The trends this year was to label carrots as Olaf’s Noses and bottled water as Melted Snow.) There is one bandwagon I jumped on, however, because it’s right in the movie. We needed chocolate truffles, and they had to be labeled!

Strawberry Cheesecake Truffles
The first set of truffles I made were Strawberry Cheesecake truffles. I did make one modification. I was disappointed by the lack of strawberry flavor in the original recipe. It just got lost in the cream cheese. So I added an additional 1 tablespoon of minced strawberries, and that did it. The sweet tang of strawberries burst through the richness of the cream cheese. The graham cracker crumbs added a nice, sandy texture.
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Lemon Chiffon Truffles
The next set of truffles could not be simpler, and they sound lovely and fancy enough for a royal ball.
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These truffles are creamy, yet light and refreshing because of the lemon zest. One recipe does not make very many, so I doubled it on the next go round. I found that the zest of one large lemon is still sufficient for a double batch.

Cookie Dough Truffles
Everyone loves cookie dough. I love the crunch of sugar mingling with the sweet dough and slightly bitter burst of the chocolate chips. I love it even more when I’m not risking salmonella poisoning from raw eggs. In place of eggs as a binder, this cookie dough truffle recipe uses sweetened condensed milk.
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If any of these truffles begin to soften while coating them in chocolate, stick the tray back into the freezer for several minutes. You can maximize your dipping time by waiting to pull your truffle filling out after your chocolate has melted and you’re ready to dip. Also, while you can melt your chocolate in the microwave, I found that using a double boiler helps to maintain melted chocolate. To dip, simply place the truffle filling into the melted chocolate. Use a fork or spoon to roll the filling around for even coverage. Retrieve the filling with a fork, and tap the fork against the side of the bowl or pan to remove excess chocolate. (I found that tilting the fork back and jiggling the truffle to around the center of the tines works best for maximizing the removal of excess chocolate while maintaining a stable surface on which the truffle sits while you tap the fork.) Using the blunt side of a knife, carefully slide the truffle onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Try to place the knife slightly under the truffle to slide it off. If a large amount of chocolate pools underneath the truffle, called a foot, then you have not removed enough excess chocolate. Don’t worry, though. You may gently snap off the extra chocolate once it has set. If you wish to add any decoration or pipe any chocolate onto the truffle, do so before setting the truffles in the refrigerator. Once the truffles have set in the fridge, you may store them in an air-tight container in the fridge or you may place them in a freezer safe bag and gently lay them in the freezer. I was relieved to find that these truffles could be kept frozen until ready to serve, so I could make them well in advance of the party.

A bit of a fixer-upper
The room we used for cake and pizza was the room in which Rachael had her gymnastics class, so I needed a simple way to bring in the Frozen theme that wasn’t just a plastic Frozen tablecloth and blue cupcakes. Clearly, recreating Elsa’s ice palace was out of the question, (although, given the time and resources, you bet your ass I’d have tried it.) The food table was going to be the best way to achieve bringing in Frozen elements in such a large room.

The Fountain
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I knew I wanted to recreate the fountain in the courtyard that Elsa accidentally froze, but I only wanted to give the impression of the fountain. I figured that would be a simple, yet dramatic, table centerpiece. I found this Sumbawa Grass at Michaels. I spray painted it a light blue, and then I accented it and covered any parts that I missed with white, multi-purpose craft paint. Once dry, (and they dried very quickly) I spray painted the pieces with glitter spray paint, which simply added some subtle sparkle. (And after smelling the glitter spray paint, I feel like I finally understand the smell of every vocal jazz singer and amateur, teen gymnast ever.) I found a great blue vase at Home Goods for $12! I filled the vase with glass accents I still had leftover from my wedding, making sure to add enough to that my pieces were secure and rising high enough beyond the rim of the vase. Finally, to add a bit more dimension and highlight the sparkle, I placed a bendable tree of LED lights in the middle.
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We didn’t manage to get a picture of it at the party, but we received many comments on how cool it was.

Signage
My husband, the comedian, is responsible for the next two decorations. He suggested that we place a sign on the table that said:

Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Snack Bar

He also said we should fill a bowl with Swedish fish and label it “lutefisk”. So we did. And it was awesome!
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Even though he has so many bad jokes and groan-worthy puns, he strikes gold every once in awhile.

Please enjoy this complimentary bag of stuff
While roaming the Pinterest to get favor ideas, (because I really hate giving people cheap crap that will either be thrown away or annoy the parents to no end) I found baked marble necklaces. Look it up. They’re really cool! But Mike was afraid that I’d go all Ralphie and put my eye out somehow. Fortunately, before I went and did them anyway, he came up with a much better idea: fire crystal necklaces. I’d be able to tie in the oft overlooked trolls, create something that was unique, and hopefully give the boys something that wouldn’t make them scrunch up their noses and say, That’s for girls.
I was able to find different types of crystals in the bead and jewelry aisles at Michaels. I used really thin elastic cord, (0.5mm) to string the beads because it fit through the thin holes in the crystals and would potentially lower the choking hazard risk for some of the younger kids.
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Printable tags

I was able to make the next favor on the cheap. Homemade play dough is easy and cheap to make, and it always a hit with kids. I found the recipe for this particular dough here. If you’re making dough from this recipe for a lot of people, I recommend doubling, quadrupling, (or more) the recipe. For those who have never made homemade glitter play dough, here are a couple tips.
1) Never walk away.
You do need to constantly stir, skim the bottom, and scrape the sides to avoid a burned skin forming. If you’ve ever made it, it’s kind of like making Cream of Wheat. Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes for it to come together, so you won’t be stirring long.

2) Get it out of the pot quickly!
This dough came together almost instantly. One second it’s liquid, the next it’s a giant dough ball. Have a pan ready to dump the dough onto. The longer it stays in the pot, once it has come together, the more likely it is for the dough to change color and burn.

3) You’re going to need glitter. Lots of glitter.
I was surprised at how much glitter was needed just to make the dough mildly sparkly. I patted the dough to a medium thickness and covered the surface with glitter, (I used both fine white and blue.) Fold, knead, repeat. Continue until you reach the desired level of sparkliness. I suggest pulling a portion of dough off, forming it into a ball, and judging the sparkle level that way.
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Zoë enjoyed helping pat the dough. She played with it as I packaged it saying, “Look, mommy. Anna’s footprints in the snow.”

“But, Julie,” you say. “Don’t glittery things fall into the ‘will annoy the parents’ category?”
Not this dough. Once the glitter was mixed in, it did not get on hands, clothes, or furniture.

I had several empty baby food jars that I had saved for crafting purposes from when Zoë was a baby, so I decided to package the dough in those.
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Rachael said it was the best birthday party ever! I hope this was helpful in throwing a Frozen birthday party for your prince or princess, and that they say the same to you!

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Christmas is over. Party planning has begun.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, Festivus, or Wednesday. Santa came to our house and both girls were pleased. After reading both my Facebook and Twitter feeds, it seems as though Rachael may be the only little girl her who didn’t receive a Barbie Dreamhouse. (When did this become a thing again?) Christmas Eve found us at church for the first time in months. We went to the my children can get away with screaming and dancing in the aisles family service, which had the children present a live Nativity. It. Was. Hysterical! Mary sat with Joseph on a quilt-covered bench. In her shiny black kitten heels, she looked about as forlorn and nauseated as I’m sure the real Mary must have felt after giving birth as a young teenager. (Side note: Even if the birth of Jesus was devoid of the miraculous, i.e. Virgin birth my ass, it’s still an awesome story. Rather than following the custom and dropping Mary’s ass after knocking her up, Joseph still married her.) The angels clomped forward, resplendent in lacy, golden tablecloth fabric, and kneeled before the holy family. The three shepherds meandered forward uncertainly. The oldest appeared or be about 8, while the youngest looked around 3. They held staffs. Someone had decided it was a good idea to give three little boys staffs. It all devolved from there. In between carols, the pastor read Isaiah and Luke with all the zeal of a lima bean. About the time that a two year old wise man walked forward, Zoë started testing the limits of her boundaries. By the time said wise man dumped his chest of gold, she discovered her reflection in the grand piano. The shepherds were full on sword fighting by the time Mike left the sanctuary with Zoë. I feared for the poinsettias and the wise men, which were placed on the communion altar far from the Nativity scene, (as they should be.) The angels began to wonder around and disrobe, while the oldest wise man, (a girl of about 12) sat at the front looking embarrassed and bored. Everyone in the congregation breathed an audible sigh of relief once the pastor called over the buzz of the kids that they could return to their seats.

This morning, Zoë woke us sweetly with sounds of vomiting. Our trip to Mike’s home in North Carolina delayed, I’ve been hanging out on the couch with Zoë and scouring Pinterest. I was asked to throw a baby shower for one of my oldest friends yesterday. She’s due in late April, so I don’t have too terribly long to put something together. I have to say, I really don’t understand cakes with baby faces or the pregnant torso cakes. They’re cute….until you realize that you are eating a baby. I mean, maybe cutting into the torso cake is a creative way of telling everyone that you’re having a scheduled C section? I think if I did that kind of cake, I’d have to go all out and make it out of red velvet cake and have some kind of gelatin in the middle for the afterbirth. Apparently another popular cake design is a raised baby toush under a blanket with feet sticking out. It’s bad enough imagining that you’re eating baby feet and whatever was in that diaper, but what about the other half of the baby? That is some serious King Solomon shit!
I think I may be required to throw a John Deere party, as dad is a country boy, but I hope not. There isn’t a lot on Pinterest to copy from which to draw inspiration. Much of what is there is ugly or…… “classy”. I mean, we’re talking recreating the butterfly tattoo mom has on her belly on a pregnant torso cake classy.

The other party is Zoë’s 3rd birthday. She is obsessed with Sheriff Callie on Disney Junior. We’ve been watching the same six episodes that are out over and over again. As I write this, we’re making our way through the list for the second time today.
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Related: If anyone happens to know Mandy Moore, I can pay not much for an appearance at a birthday party.

So the planning for a Kitties and Cowgirls birthday is underway. There is a farm nearby that does birthday parties where you can meet baby animals, (which would be perfect in April!) and wagon rides. I made the mistake of looking on Pinterest for cowgirl birthday parties first. Everything was pretty much the same: light brown and dusty rose desserts, ruffles, and accents; the girl’s name was written in thin rope on a board background, (admittedly cute, but done again and again); categorized as vintage cowgirl. What the actual fuck is vintage cowgirl? I mean, besides something some party planner made up so they could charge a family with too much money to spend extra because they used the word “vintage”?
A couple of “glamping” pins were thrown in too.

Glamping acceptable only if Aziz Ansari and DJ Roomba included.

Of course, when I searched for cowboy parties, there was variety and creativity. It would have made me ragey had I not been grateful for the search results.

So, I suppose stay tuned for lots of party planning angsty posts where I wonder why the universe has not already created what I have in mind so that I don’t have to figure out how to make it myself.

Rachael’s Jake and the Neverland Pirates 5th Birthday Party

While I was blogging yesterday, Rachael asked me to blog about her 5th birthday party. Never intending to blog about her party, I don’t have too many step by step pictures. Many of the pictures I did take were after the party, after the food had been demolished.

Rachael has a tendency to pick her party theme a year before and stick with it the whole year. On the heels of her Snow White themed 4th birthday party, she declared that she wanted a Rapunzel birthday the following year. Tired of the princess parties, (she had The Little Mermaid the year before) Mike talked Rachael into a Jake and the Neverland pirates party. It didn’t take much convincing, as Rachael loves Jake and all of the Neveland lore. Not long after, Mike showed her pictures of pirate ship cakes, and it was determined that I was going to be attempting a 3D Bucky cake. While I looked forward to the challenge of carving a 3D cake, it wasn’t anything I had done before. So there was definitely an Oh shit element to this whole thing.

First things first
I decided to make a map of Neverland for the invitation. I found some fantastic handmade paper at Michaels, and I also picked up a calligraphy pen, red wax, and wax seal. So, I tried to draw the Neverland freehand while looking at a picture from Peter Pan. Yeah….it looked like an amoeba. I have some artistic talent, but this was clearly not going to happen without assistance. TO THE INTERWEBS! I found a decent picture of the island, printed it and placed it on top of the handmade paper. Since the paper was a bit thick and soft, I was able to use a pencil to trace the outline and then ink over the indentations with a black felt tip pen.

I colored in the details with regular old Crayola colored pencils and wrote in the details with the calligraphy pen. The finishing touch was to seal the map inside the envelope with a red wax seal. I chose to use the initial of our last name. Several parents commented to me that their kids were so excited over the invitation and wax seal. One girl said it made her feel like it was addressed to a princess. Another girl carried her invitation with her everywhere. Rachael was ecstatic over them. It was nice to know that the effort had made so many kids happy.

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Let them eat cake!
As I said, I had never carved a cake before but, I’d seen enough episodes of Cake Boss, Ace of Cakes, and any other cake decorating show you can think of that I thought, It can’t be that hard. Fortunately, once I found the right cake recipe, it wasn’t as hard as I feared. I made the recipe in two tube pans, and it was amazing: dense enough to hold up to carving; rich and creamy without being sickening. When I did the trial run cake, I felt like the shape kind of looked like a toilet with the lid down, so I changed up my approach for the final go. I lopped off the uneven top, (and then promptly devoured) of one of the cakes and placed it on the bottom as my base. I did the same with the second cake, carved out the rectangle center for the main deck, and then placed the carved out section on the top back. Finally, I carved the front of the ship to look triangular. All pieces were held together with icing.

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Crumb coat stage

Tip: Don’t forget to crumb coat your cake! If you don’t, you’ll end up with crumbs in your icing. To crumb coat, simply apply a relatively thin layer of softened icing. I then place it in the fridge to get stiff. Then you’re ready for final icing and, if you choose, fondant.

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Here’s the breakdown:
Mast is a dowel rod covered in fondant
Waves, windows, gold details are colored fondant
Waves were made using Wilton fondant and gum paste mold
Cannon is a dowel rod covered in colored fondant
Slide is licorice
Crows nest is a painted Dixie cup that has been cut in half
Sail printed from spoonful.com and is secured with skewers and hot glue

I knew this wasn’t going to be enough cake for the number of people we were having, so I made these cupcakes.
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Also loved these.

Decor

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Note the scurvy dog. Hahahahahahahaha *cough cough* *sigh*
The silhouettes were gathered from Spoonful and Internet images. I placed them on canvas, (secure them with something so they don’t slip) and paint over the images. The canvas soaks up the paint pretty quickly, so you can remove the pictures pretty much right away.
I don’t have too many pictures from outside, but we had things broken up into pirate ship, Pixie Hollow, and Mermaid Lagoon sections. On the deck I placed nets and had them entangled with sea stars, Mardi Gras beads, and jewel stickers. Over the patio we set up a canopy as Pixie Hollow. Unfortunately we ran out of time, so my full vision of that didn’t come together. We wrapped twinkle lights up in the cross bars, which were supposed to be obscured by green crepe paper just so you could see the twinkles. We also didn’t have time to hang the fairies from the cross bars, but had a Pixie Hollow table cover. Clearly, Rachael was devastated by the incompleteness of it all.
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Funtivities

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Mermaid Lagoon. Canopy leaves from Ikea.

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Digging for buried treasure. I wasn’t fully prepared when people arrived, so I just had the kids bury the plastic dubloons and jeweled necklaces. They buried the treasure and dug it back up over and over again.

We also had coconut bowling, (the kids had a blast with the real coconuts. I was glad we had more than one!) and playing inside the Bucky tent that a good friend was kind enough to lend to me.

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For favor bags, I just got the Jake bags from the party store. Inside were wooden instruments I found in the dollar section at Target that I painted so the kids could play pirate rock at home. I also included eye patches and Jake tattoos. Finally, I made under the sea chocolate lollies from the Wilton chocolate pop mold.

I think my little pixie was pretty happy!

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