I love Birthdays. Yesterday, mine. Today, the State of Israel.
My kids came home from school all sugared up, humming Israeli songs, dressed in hand-painted Israeli flag t-shirts and smelling faintly of falafel, telling tales of chumus and pita and apple cider. I have not yet figured out the significance of the apple cider but the rest of their day sounded awesome. These are the kinds of days when I kind of wish I was still a little kid, going to school everyday.
Today is the kind of day that calls for a big thank you to the teachers for turning Yom Ha'atzmaut into a joyous and teachable day, where love of The Land is reinforced in kids who might forget why they sing the Hatikvah on a day to day basis.
Happy 65th, my friend. Oh how I wish we could celebrate together. I mean, I'm not knocking the giant blue and white cookies for they are indeed tasty and celebratory, but it would be nice to celebrate together, thousands of miles away from where I sit now.
(And just in case you're really interested, right now I'm sitting on a little stepstool next to the bathtub while the girls fight over who gets to come out of the bath second...)
The lovely chocolate-covered fruit arrangement from my brother. This is BEFORE the kids fondled all the fruit and ate all the chocolate off the sticks. See the cupcake lookalikes with sprinkles in the picture? I told the kids there was a fruit hiding underneath all that chocolate. They disagreed. They insisted it was an ice cream bar. It wasn't. And it turned into a bite and spit party. Fun for everyone.
Another year, another birthday, another day to eat way too much sugar.
The day started well with a nice Whole30 breakfast and then went downhill from there.
Well, downhill and uphill.
Everything was very tasty - the falafel at my birthday lunch, the surprise Edible Arrangements chocolate covered fruit thing and Dunkin Donuts with the kids. All delicious. But now I don't feel too good.
Sugar is not my friend and that makes me sad.
Tomorrow, we go back to eating like a grownup.
My youngest, my little one is turning three in a week or so and this Sunday, we are throwing her a birthday party. She is beyond excited and asks every single morning if her party is today. It's not, but she shrugs it off and goes about her day. She's that kind of kid.
I asked her who she wanted to invite to her party - and after she listed every single family member that she knows and loves, she said she wanted to invite her friends. I was kind of surprised, because as she's not in school yet, she doesn't really have a posse with whom she plays on a regular basis. So we talked:
Me: Who are your friends?
Her: Um, people. I don't know their names.
It was kind of sad and kind of very very funny at the same time. Then we talked about going to nursery in the fall and how she would meet all her friends there and then invite them all to her birthday party then. And she was okay with that so, you know, phew.
We've been getting ready for this party for what feels like ages. We took a trip to the party store where she picked out Strawberry Shortcake paper goods, even though she has never heard of Strawberry Shortcake before. And the butterfly pinata she picked out in Target has been hanging in the living room for a good week already. And today is party baking day.
We are serving brunch food at the party and so this morning, we made cranberry-orange muffins and coffee cake muffins, both of which made the house smell amazing.
And now the little one has decided that the time has come to bring the Birthday Chair
* up from the basement. Birthday Chair?
Yeah, years ago I made a birthday chair out of one of the un-needed kitchen chairs from my grandmother's apartment. And it was that chair that started this blog. It was the subject of my first post ever and was quite terrible.
I had still not gotten the hang of my camera at that point and I had no clue as to what was appropriate blog material and what was not. You can look back at that Birthday Chair post
and laugh at me. I just did.
Anyway, here is the recipe for these very delicious cranberry-orange muffins. The coffee cake muffins are as yet untasted so I can't share those yet. I mean, you know, they might be gross. But the orange ones are delish, I make them all the time.
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1.5 cup craisins
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients and then add in the craisins. Stir the craisins into the flour mixture. The reason you do this, as opposed to adding the craisins at the end like you would add chocolate chips to cookie dough, is because the flour coating keeps the craisins from falling to the bottom of the muffins while they are baking. See? You learned something today.
Next, add the egg, orange juice and oil and mix with a spoon, just until it's all combined. But really, please, mix until just just combined. Don't keep mixing or you will wind up with hard muffins and you don't want that. You want light and fluffy muffins. Next,
spoon the muffin batter into a paper lined 12 cup muffin pan, dividing the batter evenly between all the muffin paper liners. Bake for 15 minutes and then check to see if they are done with a toothpick. Mine needed another minute or two, but be careful not to overbake them.
Remove the muffins from the pan and let them cool completely. You can eat them right away or store them in a ziploc bag until you need them. They also freeze very well. *The Birthday Chair - used only on birthdays, not half-birthdays, even though my children have tried to persuade me otherwise - was spray painted blue and decorated with rhinestones and painted letters spelling the words, Happy Birthday. The thing is, it's been through quite a number of birthdays so far and so now the chair reads: AP Y BIRTHDAY. So if it's your birthday, then AP Y BIRTHDAY to you! And if it's not, then hurry and go make a birthday chair before the next family birthday rolls around!
Winter break. The kids wait for it all year; a whole ten days off from school and finally and thankfully, we're all better. No more tissues floating around the house and just enough coughing left over so that the daily hot chocolates still make sense.
The other day we found ourselves in Rockland County with some extra time and nothing to do. We headed over to the Palisades Park Mall and even though I am not a fan of malls*, do all my shopping online and only enter a mall when I absolutely have to, I have to say, it was
Not only will you find a Disney store, a Lego store and a carousel, but a ferris wheel. Inside. Oh, and there's ice skating, a movie theater and an arcade. We considered spending the night.
Because my kids are my kids, they were terrified of all the rides, but they went on them anyway, and were so proud of themselves afterwards. So a day at the mall and a shot of self-esteem. What more can I ask for?
Actually, you know what else I can ask for - a life lesson in using your money wisely. And, oh my goodness, did we find ourselves with a teachable moment in the food court.
My kids asked (and asked and asked) for ice cream and because it was kid#3's half birthday and because we like any reason to justify having a treat, we went to check out the ice cream. Alas, the only kosher ice cream available was Haagen Daaz. We waited on line while the kids seriously discussed their orders. Josh listened patiently while they each described their
flavor and sprinkle color and cone vs. milkshake requests. And that's when we noticed that there was no price list hanging behind the counter. And you wanna know why? It's because a small cup costs $3.50 and a small milkshake, a whopping $7.00. Seven Dollars. And while we slowly backed the kids and the stroller away from the ice cream counter, we took that opportunity to explain that seven dollars is an obscene amount to pay for ice cream and that if each kid indeed got their preferred shake, we would have spent $28 on ice cream.
And the kids just looked at us. I explained that they were welcome to return the $7 box of lego we just bought each of the boys at the Lego store and use that money to get ice cream and that's when I saw the light go on in their eyes, understanding that it's so much better to spend that money on a toy than on ice cream that would be gone in a few minutes. Instead, everyone picked a chocolate bar treat from the vending machine.
Josh went on to explain that for $28, we could buy enough ice cream in Shoprite to throw an ice cream party for them and all their friends. They asked when the party was going to be.
Huh. We need to learn when to stop explaining things, be quiet and just eat chocolate.
*My mom loves to shop. I can't even italicize the word 'love' enough to get my point across. She shops for sport, which works out well now because my kids always have enough clothes, courtesy of my mom. When I was little, though, I didn't find this shopping hobby to be that great. In fact, I hated it. I hated being shlepped to malls, I hated the walking around and I hated it that the malls were all so hot in the winter and there was nothing to do but carry your own coat. I mean, what is that? But I digress. My point here is that my best friend from preschool (hi Esti!) loved to shop when we were younger and her mom, as the fates would have it, hated shopping. So we traded moms on a semi-frequent basis. Esti would go along with my mom and they'd do their shopping thing and I would stay with Esti's mom, who, luck would have it, was very into creating intricate designs with chocolates and chocolate molds (yum!) so I got to see the inside of Brooklyn's chocolate shops on a regular basis. Bliss - for everyone.
If you have a little boy and are in the market for a birthday idea, take mine. This baseball themed birthday party was simplest birthday party ever thrown.
While the princess party
of a couple of weeks ago had a games-crafts-activties list a mile long, the baseball birthday party had just three easy steps:
1. Play baseball.
2. Hit pinata.
3. Eat cake.
And that's it. Really.
There were a few things we did to prep for the party, but they were no big deal:1.
Borrow bases. My neighbor had some so we were good, but I saw a set of bases online for $12. 2.
Buy pinata and candy. My dad bought the former and Josh went to Shoprite for the latter. 3.
Figure out party favors. I ordered punch balls (the kind of balloon that has a large rubber band at the end) from Oriental Trading. Lucky me, they had baseball themed ones. Even luckier, they were in the Less Than Perfect section. You know what else was in the Less Than Perfect section? Baseball tattoos. I know. It was awesome. 4.
Order baseball themed cake from Costco bakery. Again my dad took care of that but he enjoys going to Costco. Otherwise, just order it on the phone. (Just as an aside: I truly enjoy baking birthday cakes for my kids, but I have to say that the lure of an entire sheet cake decorated for $18 is very strong. So I went for it.)
4 1/2. Josh mowed the lawn in the backyard. But it needed to be mowed anyway; this was just kind of an incentive.
Here are some pics from the party.
We hung the punch balls as decorations on the fence.
We have these two 8 foot long wooden benches in the backyard. We set those up so that the team that was not in the field would have a place to sit and eat their snacks: Just some 16 ounce plastic cups filled with licorice, pretzel rods and popcorn. Each kid also got a water bottle as a drink.
Making the teams was not as simple as we had though it would be.
Josh had all the boys sit on the benches, and using his teacher skills, he went
down the line saying, "you're on Team A, you're on Team B, you're on Team A...".
Then he got to the last kid. "Okay. Team A, you're on the field first."
And every single little boy ran to the field.
My dad, the pitcher. He was awesome, making each boy feel like they were the greatest hitter ever - when really, he was just kind of throwing the ball at the bat and hoping for the best.
My nephew, showing the younger boys how it's really done.
The kids were so well-behaved. I don't know why I never thought of a simple baseball party before.
Always funny: Diving for candy after the pinanta was smashed open.
And here it is: the $18 baseball birthday cake from Costco. So worth it.
Such a fun party. And such a fun day.
It took a few minutes, but I think I was finally able to explain to a bunch of four-year-old girls that if you kiss a frog, he'll turn into a prince, but not really and it's just all pretend because they all looked rather horrified.
Instead of playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey at our recent Princess Birthday Party, we played Pin the Kiss on the Frog, a cute little game floating around online.
At first, I felt like making this game might be more trouble than it was worth. In my head, I saw myself using a white piece of oaktag and either drawing a large frog and spending quite a while coloring it in green or using many pieces of cut up green construction paper and putting the whole thing together like a puzzle, and frankly, neither option appealed to me.
And then, walking around AC Moore, I realized that I could just buy a piece of green oaktag. So I did.
Draw a frog, cut out some shapes that kinda sorta look like lips and the game prep is done. Hooray.
The rules of the game, in case you cannot recall your childhood, are:
1. Tie a bandana around the first player's eyes.
2. Place a kiss (or tail) with a piece of tape into the player's hand.
3. Spin the player around three times and let them go, wandering around, trying to stick their piece to the frog (or donkey). The one who gets it closest to the target wins.
We did a little differently. The girls didn't want to wear a bandana so we let that go. And also, in our game, everyone was a winner - as soon as you taped your kiss to the frog, you got a Hershey kiss. My kind of game.
Everyone gets a cold and mommy can't write.
It somehow doesn't seem fair that my kids get colds the first week of school, when they are just getting used to it.
What we did do that seemed to help my four year old's transition a lot - and which, I think, had nothing to do with her getting a cold two days later - was to throw her a birthday party on the first Sunday after school began, or you know, two days ago.
I was quite nervous about this princess party. I am infinitely more comfortable with making a lego or dinosaur or baseball* birthday party. This whole princess thing still feels new to me even
though my older daughter is already four years old.
To start with, we handed out princess themed invitations at school, complete with a line about coming to the party "dressed in your best princess costume for some non-messy fun". Which is the
best kind of fun when you're wearing your good clothes.
After all my worry, bordering on anxiety (Josh thinks I might need to see someone about this), the party turned out to be quite adorable.
We began with the same activity all my birthday parties begin with - a bunch of crayons and themed coloring pages. We went with a Hello Kitty Princess coloring page from some free printable website. Google and you shall find.
And that's what I did.
There are many many sites devoted to princess parties, and funnily enough, each one seemed to have the same ideas. But none really went into the details of how to make the princess hats or how to make your own pin the kiss on the frog game. And that's why I'm here, for the excruciating
details. And also so when it's your turn to make the princess party, you won't have to think.
So today we're gonna learn how to make Real Princess Hats.
Or how to successfully attach tulle to paper party hats.
And after much trial and error, I can tell you that this does not involve glue, even though I was quite sure it would. I just wasn't sure what kind. I tried Elmer's glue, Mod Podge, and a glue stick. None worked. I even, very briefly, considered a glue gun, but there was no way to get the glue gun inside the pointy part of the hat without needing medical intervention.
In the end, it's just going to be you and the tulle. And maybe, if you're neurotic, some Scotch tape.
First, go out a buy some plain old party hats, in assorted solid girlie colors.
Also, go buy a small roll of tulle, which is a type of netted sheer material, kind of what you might find a bride's veil made of. Except we bought pink instead of white. You can use whatever color you like.
Cut pieces of tulle that are about 14 inches long and 2 inches wide from your roll of tulle.
Now, if you look carefully at the very top of the party hats, you will see there is a small hole. This hole is way to small to accommodate the tulle, so using a pencil, widen the hole by gently sticking it through the bottom of the hat, all the way through to the top, opening the hole just a little.
Once you've that done, you're good. Roll one of the short edges of tulle in your hand to form a point and stick the point through the hole on the top of the hat, letting about four inches of tulle come through the hole to the inside of the hat.
Why four inches? Because that's enough material so that when the point you made with the tulle unfurls inside the hat, the tulle will get stuck. And stuck tulle is what you want because then it won't fall out. I wasn't so sure about the whole sticking the tulle in the hole thing as I was not at all convinced that the tulle would stay put, so I added a small piece of clear Scotch tape to top of the party hat to keep things in place, but I'm not really sure it was necessary.
Just as an aside, I made twenty princess party hats and it took about an hour. But I also had a two year old helper, so it may just take you a much shorter time to complete this project.
I had big plans for these hats. I thought we'd glue jewels and foam flowers to the hats at the party, but on party day, we merely stuck princess stickers onto the hats. Much neater, much more controlled. And the girls were so busy with the hats, you would have thought they were taking
the SATs. Either this is quietest group of four year olds ever or they were really into their hats.
Next up: Let's play Pin the Kiss on the Frog!
*That's this Sunday. Call me crazy but I like to bunch the parties together, get them over with all at once.
This might be the most awesome (and easy) birthday cake I have ever made.
Sadly, I did not think of the idea, I found it on a blog called Paige's Pantry
, but I totally
wish I would have thought of it, it's that good of an idea.
We made our newly minted two-year-old a family party on Sunday with cousins
and grandparents and aunts and uncles and some friends. I was not in the mood
to do a whole big fancy cake and really, who needs such a big cake. We (Okay, I) should
be eating some carrot sticks anyway. I had a vague idea of wanting to make
some kind of cake decorated with candy because it seemed so
much easier than decorating with icing and frosting and molded chocolates and
things. So I googled, and shockingly, did not come up with much, until I hit the
jackpot with this kitkat and m&m cake.
It really couldn't get much easier than this for a good-looking cake.
Step 1. Bake 2 8"round cakes. You can do this with just one box of cake mix.
Step 2. Frost the cake between the layers and all over the top and sides.
The beauty here is that you don't need to make it pretty because the whole thing
(yup, the whole thing) will be covered so no one will see your frosting skills.
3. Unwrap the kitkats. Try not to eat them - and I'll tell you why.
It's not because I don't want you to have them, it's because you will
need the whole bag to surround the cake. Stand the kitkats up around the sides
of the cake, pressing them in slightly.
4. Open the large bag of m&ms. You can eat some of these because you will only
need about half the bag to cover the top of the cake. Pour and kind of pat them
down into a single layer.
5. I thought the bow in the original picture on Paige's blog was kind of overkill
but once I was done, I realized mine needed a bow too, if just to keep those kitkats in line.
Wrap, tie the bow and store in the (basement) fridge until cake time. I don't really
know if you need to keep it in the fridge, but in my house, it's always better and safer to
be out of sight, out of mind.
Sing Happy Birthday and enjoy!
And then when everyone leaves, have yourself a handful of m&ms when no
one is looking because there's gonna be a whole lotta dishes in the sink waiting
My now two-year old loves loves love balloons. So we made balloon cupcakes for the little party we are making tomorrow.
These could not be easier even if I tried to make them easier. Don't believe me? Watch.
1. Bake cupcakes.
3. Stick lollypops into the cupcakes.
And you're done.
Listen as the kids squeal in delight, not so much because they appreciate the aesthetics of a cupcake, but more because they get to have a cupcake and a lolly at the same time.
To each his own.
We're about to go slightly overboard with a little girl's second birthday tomorrow.
The first installment of party fun are these cupcakes. She really wanted Curious George but we were working with what we had in the house, so Cookie Monster it is.
Does he look like Cookie Monster? I kind of thought yes but with maybe something slightly
off that I couldn't put my finger on. So far though, between my husband and my brother
and my oldest, I have been getting comments like: "I think he looks more like Grover." "Isn't Cookie Monster's head more football shaped?" "I think his eyes are weird, no?" "Why does he have only a few pieces of cookie in his mouth?"
And my personal favorite: "Who's that?"
Whatever. Here's the how to:
a batch of whatever cupcake your birthday kiddie likes.
. And when I say frost, I mean that you should open a can of Duncan Hines vanilla
frosting, tint it blue (the brightest blue you can find, preferably using gel colors and not
liquid based colors. Also be sure to wear gloves when using gel colors, they make a huge
and hard to wash off mess) and frost your cupcakes.
3. Attach the eyes.
There are probably many different ways you can go with the eyes - for example, mini marshmallows or white candy melts for the eyes, along with some melted dark
chocolate or an appropriately colored M&M. I went with what I had in the house - white Mentos candies and chocolate chips. I attached the chocolate chips to the Mentos with a drop of frosting. I realize that Mentos are not exactly a child-friendly candy so I will just remove them before the kids start to eat.
4. Make a mouth.
Again, several ways you can go here. You can bake your own small chocolate chip cookies to stuff into Cookie's mouth or you can just buy a bag of cookies. I actually
find baking the cookies easier than going to buy the cookies with the kids but to each her own, ya know? I found that the whole cookies were too big to use, so I tried breaking them in half. Those looked okay, but then I saw these cookies
and thought these were way funnier. So I crumbled
up a cookie to make it look like Cookie Monster was eating his cookie right now.
Remember to make appropriate Cookie Monster noises when you eat these - om nom nom!