Archive for January, 2012

Having a daughter is such a mix of talking and tears, sweetness and drama, giggles and ear-piercing shrieks. Or maybe that’s just my house and my daughters? And yet I wouldn’t trade a minute of it away for any amount of peace and quiet.

Yesterday we transformed our house into a “spa” so that seventeen girls between the ages of three and twelve could come together to celebrate Elisabeth’s 10th birthday. Since we are a large-ish family and especially due to the fact that all our birthdays save my own fall between the months of February and July, my children know that they may expect a special birthday party when they turn five, and again when they turn ten.

So as you may have already guessed, Elisabeth has been plotting and planning for this party for a long time. Years, even.

We tossed around many ideas as the day drew closer. But it was my mention of “let’s ask our friend if she would be willing to do fancy hairstyles, and we could paint nails, too!” that caused her eyes to light up and sparkle. We had found our party theme.

What began with hair and nails quickly snowballed into a spa theme complete with facials, makeup, and goodie bags for each girl filled with a hair clip, lip gloss, nail polish and a bath bomb.

Yeah…it was involved.

And I didn’t mind one bit. It was a pleasure for me to plan, bake, clean, prepare and set up for this pretty, sparkly, special occasion. Elisabeth is such a help to me and has become such a delightful companion. She works hard here at home, helping with Anna and the other children, doing her chores and school work, and really just being my right hand. I can trust her to throw a last-minute meal together, help with setting up when we are entertaining, get younger children ready to leave the house, and on and on the list goes. At (almost) ten years of age, there is a dwindling list of my tasks here in our home that she has not yet mastered. And so I wanted her to know how very thankful I am that she is a part of our family!

So here are some snapshots from the day.

The picture above and below are of Martha Stewart decorations that I found at a local discount store. What would usually cost an arm and a leg was just a few dollars and definitely added color and sparkle to the day. They also happened to be just the colors of pink and blue that we were using for the party.

Beautiful tulips. Lovely and very affordable at this time of year!

If you are a “regular” here or over at my mother’s blog, you may know that we have agreed to put on a dessert reception for my brother’s wedding. For me, to take on such a momentous project involves ideas, brainstorming, and PRACTICE! Birthdays and church events have been the perfect opportunities to test my new skills, but this birthday party was my first real success. Colors, taste and technique all came together beautifully and the girls were thrilled with the results.

The cupcake wrappers are made from scrapbook paper with a die cut that fits my small Sizzix machine. The cake pops were made using a special baking pan (I am not a fan of the crumbled-cake-mixed-with-frosting-rolled-by-hand cake balls…too sweet and too much work!), dipped into colored candy melts (and a tablespoon of Crisco!), and then coated with sprinkles or drizzled with a contrasting color. To display them, I popped a half sphere of floral foam into a round tin, covered it with white tissue paper, and then stuck on a few paper flowers (the kind made for scrapbooking or card making).

Sweet Elisabeth, thoroughly enjoying her special day!

Seventeen lovely ladies, all dolled up (and sugared up too!). My husband took one look at this photo and said “Wow, that’s a lot of little girls!”

Personally, I love homemade occasions. There is an added dimension of meaning and beauty to the day that simply can’t be found at Chuckie Cheese. It’s certainly true that it’s more work, and I’m not sure I even saved much money, but there’s just something about making the house sparkle, pulling out special dishes, putting on music, arranging flowers, and setting things up “just so” for guests that satisfies something deep inside my mommy-heart. Watching Elisabeth flutter between the basket of favors, the antique ironing board which served as a buffet for the cupcakes and cake pops, and the “spa” stations, taking a moment here and there to glance up at the lovely decorations, her eyes sparkling with expectation, made every minute of preparation worth it.

Note about cake pops: I found this ragingly popular little treat to have a steep learning curve. I spent a lot of time researching the process and decorating ideas online and in a couple of books. I don’t plan to do a step-by-step blog entry on how to make cake pops, but I will share a few key tips. If you use a cake pop baking pan or appliance, make the cake batter more dense by adding an extra egg, a box of instant pudding mix, and by switching out the cup of water for 3/4 cup of milk. When placing sticks into the cake balls, dip them first into melted candy. Use a double boiler to melt candy or chocolate, a moderately small one where the top pan can be easily tilted for dipping. Mix in Crisco, about a teaspoon at a time, until the consistency is runny enough to easily drizzle but thick enough to coat. Do not use white chocolate, it is fussy and clumps easily. If you color white (vanilla) candy melts, use oil based candy coloring. Freeze pops for at least 10 minutes before decorating. When coating the pop, cover a little of the top of the stick so pop will remain secure when candy hardens. Tap stick gently against edge of pan to shake off excess candy while twirling to keep coating even. If applying decoration, allow coating to harden for a minute or so first so that the weight of the sprinkles, etc. don’t drag the coating off. A cake pop decorating stand (or two) can be very useful to allow pops to harden completely (Wilton makes a sturdy and inexpensive one). The best book I found for decorating ideas and clear instructions was “Crazy for Cake Pops” by Molly Bakes. And yes. Bakes is her actual last name. Her book was the best because it lists sources and websites for all supplies and decorations, has the best variety of shapes and styles, and had beautiful pictures for every idea listed.


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