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.
20131226-183539.jpg
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.

20130822-163036.jpg

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.

20130822-164840.jpg
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.

20130822-165515.jpg

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.
20130822-173035.jpg
Also loved these.

Decor

20130822-170452.jpg

20130822-170519.jpg

20130822-170553.jpg

20130822-170629.jpg

20130822-170756.jpg
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.
20130822-172808.jpg

Funtivities

20130822-171311.jpg
Mermaid Lagoon. Canopy leaves from Ikea.

20130822-171429.jpg
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.

20130822-171834.jpg
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!

20130822-173329.jpg