My Little Dinosaur Turns Five

Submarine, Troll Hunters, Nijago….Oh my!  Those are just 3 of the one billion birthday ideas my soon to be five year went through until finally landing on dinosaur theme and by landed on, I mean I had to cut him off from making another change.

The bonus of his final selection is that everyone and their mama or son or even daughter loves a good dinosaur birthday.  There was no shortage of Pinteresting ideas splattered all over the internet so it will come as no surprise that his birthday was just a mock up of my Pinterest board.  I am pretty sure the only unique idea for the party was the enchilada casserole I prepared for the parents.

This event, I’d have to say, was my most successful to date and I have to thank my sheer determination and Microsoft Excel.  For every party I have ever hosted, I am usually still finishing up when people arrive and, more often than not, not even changed into hostess presentable clothing.  However, this time I was not only dressed, there was even make-up.  Can you believe it?!

I started off, of course with my usual plan to prep baked goods 2-3 days before the event.  If you don’t know about this, you better ask somebody.  Like seriously, ask a baker.  Baking ahead and freezing is a Godsend and the baked goods  still taste wonderful on party day.

This little handy dandy project is something I learned from YouTube and my new obsession with learning about baking.  Turns out, you don’t have to let your cakes form and dome.  You can put this make shift cover over the pan and save yourself time and a sample of your treat.  OK, that last part is the downside of this method (wet a long piece of paper towel and place over foil, fold the foil over the paper towel so the towel is not exposed and wrap it around the cake pan).

 

Now it wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t being honest, my cake was a bit sunken in the center.  I attribute it to the thickness of my wrap.  I think I went a bit far.  I am willing to give it one more try and see if I can get an evening baked cake.

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Below is the finished product.

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When I tried it with the second cake, I saw the same phenomenon happening so I pulled off the foil wrap, but it was too late, I lost the center.  Never fear, I worked with it.

Despite chocolate not being my favorite, this recipe was phenomenal.  The best part, the freezing helped significantly.  I was able to flip the cake upside down and because it was still frozen it was easy to spread the frosting and the ganache handled like magic.  The cake got rave reviews so this is definitely going in the books for a chocolate go to.  Should we be surprised though?  It did come from Ina after all.

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The chocolate cake turned out so beautiful, I almost did not want to continue on to the overly ambitious dinosaur themed cake for which I had intended to use this part of the cake.

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The top layer is the poinsettia cake that I made last year for a cake tasting party with an addition of food coloring.  I wanted to design a dinosaur landscape type cake, but due to the softness of the buttercream frosting and the incorrect piping tip the grass was not too clear.  However, I am sure the point came across.  Especially with the chocolate bundt volcano cake at the top.  Interest three dinosaur toys and no one is the wiser.

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If you have followed my events, you know I am obsessed with chalkboards.  Don’t ask why, just know that I am.  This is one of only two for this event, but it was the first piece to greet guests at the door.  Unfortunately I didn’t remember to take this picture until after the party so the smears are just a reminder that kids will be kids.

Drawing didn’t stop there, I was in a space for this event and busted out my art skills…too bad art is so challenging for me, it apparently masks my ability to spell.

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My prize pony for this event is this gem, I sketched and painted free hand for a fun bean bag toss game

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The triceratoss game was funny, especially since the only party hats I could find were from Jurassic World.

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Note to parents, free play is all you ever really need.  It was like pulling teeth to get kids to play structured games.

Decorating for this was pretty fun, I mainly was going for dinosaurs in their natural habitat type of theme so thanks to Amazon, Oriental training company, and Micheal’s, I was able to create a very green event.

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I ordered cute labels from Etsy, OMG they are my favorite go to for awesome label templates.  I printed everything on natural color cardstock from Michael’s to give it that earthy feel.

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The template package even came with an awesome template for the birthday sign.  This is also cardstock.

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I staged the play area in the playroom which also has a chalkboard wall…insert chalkboard #2.  The kids had a ball with this one.

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The craft table was a hit too.

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To guide kids to the playroom, I placed these cool footprint stickers on the floor.  I think they are from Oriental Trading Co., but it could be Amazon.

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To no surprise, the dessert table stole the show.  The streamers were actually up for 3 days before the party.  I was super serious about completing this time around.  Even the table was up complete with Dollar Tree table cover.

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These dinosaur cookies are everything and took everything to prepare.  Thank goodness my husband suggested using this special syringe I had on hand because otherwise, this would not have happened.  The cutter is so cool and can be found on Amazon.

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These cupcakes are where I give myself a hearty pat on the back.  At 5:30 am when I was up in the kitchen after only 3 hours of sleep, I realized I had a lot of time and decided to mentally plan for making a quick batch of cupcakes as I felt like not only I did not have enough desserts for the kids and the parent, the current desserts were heavy on the chocolate.  Well time went by and I found time and literally squeezed in  some vanilla cupcakes and used left over frosting from the green cake.  I totally think I am ready for one of those timed cooking shows.

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The gift bags were fun to prepare, but the plan to fill them slightly backfired in that I expected them to be filled as the party was in progress.  The kids did a dinosaur egg hunt and even were able to put in a dinosaur for which they adopted (sadly did not get a picture and it was such a cute steal from Pinterest), but I forgot to have them get candy and there weren’t enough desserts to take home.

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The bags did look cute sitting on the table though.

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My son and all his friends had a ball and the food and dessert got rave reviews, most importantly, I finished everything and it all due to this special little list.

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A Little Something For Easter

Prompted by a co-worker’s exclamation that she was inviting her brothers and their families over for an Easter dinner, I decided to throw a small Easter gathering for my kids and a couple of their friends.  I mean, I have never done an Easter themed party and when I say Easter themed, I mean the commercialized version of the holiday (I am so going to get it for that) so why not celebrate in true SPD style.

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First I must say, I have turned over a new leaf.  Call it age.  Call it finally learning from my experiences, but whatever it is I have finally come to terms that I cannot do it all.  With that said, I pushed it a bit but I really did keep this  one (my kind of) simple.  Party time was strategically set at 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm;  well enough after lunch to start twitching for some food  and early enough to not be craving dinner just yet so I would only need to have snacks purchased from the store.  I know, gasp!  A fruit platter (I recommend homemade as it cuts down the cost by at least a third especially if you have bargain stores like Aldi), a cheese and cracker platter, and some veggies.  The cone bags filled with Trader Joe’s “Cheetos are my favorite snack for the kids since they use a type of turmeric too give that orangish color so their are no artificial flavors.  Now before you start pondering whether or not I have gone off my rocker, I absolutely made sure there was plenty of homemade dessert.  Oh and the milk bunnies idea I found on…you guessed it….Pinterest!

Before I go into the details of the desserts as that is all I really want to talk about, I will say I got a little creative with the activities.  The kids painted eggs with paint (because I was not in the mood to deal with dye) and boy were the kids serious about their masterpieces.  I also hosted an Easter egg hunt which was was outfitted with cute pinwheels I made using gorgeous card stock purchased on sale at Micheal’s.  Side note:  this works best with the very thick stock.  I used the thin ones because they had the most beautiful patterns but the wind proved to be a tough match.

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Now back to dessert, my proudest was the Lemon Cheese Layer Cake which I later renamed 4 Layer Lemon-Orange Citrus cake as there is nothing cheese about this cake.  Even Southern Living, from which the recipe was obtained, mentioned the name was a bit misleading.  The layers are filled with a lemon curd, which, turns out is way easier to make than one would think.  Then the sides are smothered in a buttercream laced with orange zest.  This had to be the most well assembled cake I have ever prepared thanks to some YouTube tips.  I chose to top it off with a beautiful yellow tulip in which  I secretly wrapped the stem in plastic before I inserted it into the cake so the yucky flower germs wouldn’t touch it and also to retain the moisture.  I will definitely make this one again.

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The rice crispie treat nests were so cute.  I opted for the brown buttered version of the recipe w/ a hint of vanilla bean paste to kick it up a notch.  The little chocolate eggs add just the perfect look.

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The cupcakes were a simple white cake and standard buttercream frosting, but you can’t tell me the sprinkles and cute bunny toppers found in line at Home Goods do not put them over the top.

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All in All I was so happy that I got my creative juices flowing again and finally got a moment to take pictures to share.  I am not even going to apologize for the fact that this is my first post in like months because it just shows how life can take over.  I am not one of those moms that has it together all of the time.  I have two young boys, a demanding full time job and all the stuff in between so adding in regular blog posts just won’t happen,  But every once in a blue moon I can muster up the strength to share a little gem.

Side Note: my photography skills have diminished and the lighting was not consistent so neither were my photos.  But I hope  you still enjoyed it.

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Pinteresting Baking: 4th Birthday Treat

Yeah….so…..the 35 weeks of baking hit a hard wall.  I cannot even explain it, but I literally could not bring myself to blog.  I was and still am baking and I usually remember to take pictures, but sitting at the computer and editing images and then writing about the experience seemed so daunting and add to the fact that time just would not stop.  But I am not the one to give up.  I am just tweaking or adapting the plan.  I have lost track of the weeks and have had several weeks without baking so I will just bake when I can and post when I remember.  With the holidays coming up, I suspect there shall be a great frequency of posts.

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My son’s 4th birthday was in August and, true to my rule of “only one”, he did not have a party.  We had our dessert ceremony as a family or four plus the in-laws and went on a mini-trip planned with the munchkin in mind (The rule of “Only One” is that only one kid gets a birthday a year and the other gets a trip or a day of their choosing-from meals to some fun location).

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This dessert was so fun to make.  It’s a Neapolitan cupcake!  Basically a chocolate layer and vanilla layer of cake and a strawberry frosting on top.  My layers did not come out as defined as the picture from the original post and when I removed the cupcakes from the oven, you could see the chocolate bubbled through the vanilla.  The bonus, is that the frosting covered it up and it tasted delicious.

I guess I can say this was just a fun dessert with a cherry on top.

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Cleaning & Cocktails

 

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I know! I know! I have been M.I.A and what happened to my 35 week challenge you ask… life!  Life happened and there was nothing I could do about it but accept that I had, once again, challenged myself to an unattainable level.  I will say, however, with the exception of a couple of weeks, I have been baking up a storm.  The major challenge has been to transfer my pictures to the desktop and edit them and then proceed to write up a reader worty blog post.  I assure you, I will get those delicious, Pinterest board delicacies on my post but for now I will leave you with a quick recap of my latest endeavor.

After begrudgingly attending a friends Norwex party, I found myself walking back to my car with a baggy of freebies in my hand, an order receipt in my pocket, and contemplation in my mind as I had purchased products and volunteered to host a party.  The clever consultant, Jennifer, both lured me with her excellent presentation and played to my hosting obsession.  Fast Forward to a few days after  my friend’s party and I  not only had a theme for my party but an catchy title as thought up by Jennifer The Consultant (Thanks Jen…I didn’t even ask her if I could call her that)….”Cleaning & Cocktails”.  Oh be still my hosting heart.

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Unfortunately in the middle of planning, I had a life situation happen that distracted me and took me out of town away from my children for the first time.  I actually ended up returning only four days from hosting day.  So you know what that meant, last minute shopping and running behind.

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On the day of the party, I was really limited in my time.  I was fortunate enough to have baked my cupcakes two days in advance and tossed them in the freezer (I can never thank the baker who posted this tip in a thread).  Anyway, I will tell you one thing that has come out of all of this baking and cooking, I am getting pretty fast.  I think I am ready for one of those speed baking cooking shows.  In the morning, with my kids running circles around me, I was able to prepare a mint chocolate mousse (post to follow….at some point), mint flavored whipped cream (homemade), tart crust and shrimp bruschetta topping.

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Since I had little decorating time, I chose to buy four gold balloons and instead of wrapping the gift boxes containing the most amazing coconut cupcakes I have ever tasted (oh yes I am boasting about something I made and you will be as well should you try it out) with gold ribbon I had purchased, I used the gold marker with which I decorated the mirror in the drink bar area to write a simple “Thank you!” and it looked pretty cute.

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I was so behind, I was plating up dishes when guests arrived so the pictures are few and poorer quality than my usual and I even put Jennifer The Consultant to work on prepping the caramelized onion tartlets.  She did an amazing job by the way!

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In the end, the turn out was enough to make me smile and the food had everyone including myself eye rolling.  You know what I mean…when the only response you can muster when savoring every bite of a delicious piece of food is just a slow roll of the eye.

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Top all of that off with yummy wine and Moscow mules and I was a happy girl.  I had almost forgotten someone was selling something in the middle of all of this.

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A special thank you to all my guests and a special special thank you for your purchases.  I made it to some freebies!  Who could ask for anything more!!!

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35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 9 – A Sophisticated Strawberry Cake for A Sophisticated 7 Year old

I did not take many pics of this one so I will also attempt to spare you the long, drawn out, wordy blog, but don’t get too comfortable with this format.  For my 9th Pinteresting goodie, I chose to make a cake for my son’s actual birthday.  Again, I will be posting his party sometime this week.  He loves strawberry desserts so what better treat than to create a delicious Strawberry Cake with an even more irresistible Brown Buttered, Roasted Strawberry Buttercream Frosting.  Oh yes, you heard me right, roasted strawberry and, at this point, you are likely not surprised that the butter has been “browned”.

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For this cake, I actually combined two different recipes with the frosting being the sole inspiration for the cake.  My son liking strawberry desserts was a cover-up I must confess.  The roasting of the strawberries was exactly what you imagine….heavenly.  First you toss the fresh strawberries in brown sugar and I don’t know about you, but strawberries are probably the most beautiful fruit with that rich, red color and sugar always brings it out even more.

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Finally when they are pulled out of the oven, you get this rich and syrupy version of the strawberry that produces an aroma sweet enough to give you a cavity without a single bite.

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The cake recipe itself, was quite simple and definitely made sure it stood out alongside the superstar frosting.  The cake also contains fresh strawberries in the form of a puree and produced a really moist texture.  I did slightly overmix the batter so it did not turn out making the final product slightly more dense than it should have been.

This cake was so delicious and I love that, as emphasized in the recipe prep, the strawberry pieces were visible through the frosting.  I am telling you this had to be the best tasting cake I have made so far.  I ate more than I care to admit, but most importantly my son was so excited despite likely not appreciating the quality and sophistication of the frosting, but the smile on his face when he saw his cake was more than any praise I could ever get from even the most experienced of bakers.

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35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 8 – The Unbreakable Cinnamon Roll

Once again, I am late with my post, but I have decided as long as I bake in real time I have fulfilled my challenge.  Being a working, who relentlessly takes on more than I can handle pretty much sets me up to constantly have something fall by the wayside.  I must say, though, I have been baking away come hell or high water or just plain crying…I have been baking!

This particular week, I sneaked over to my “Breakfast Breakfast Brunch” board to find a delicious addition to my son’s birthday breakfast which I will post later.  I landed on this handy dandy recipe and let me tell you I did not regret it.  The funny thing about making cinnamon rolls is it is very intimidating.  Then, mid-way through preparation, you realize it is not that bad.  I think it is the yeast that gets you.  I mean some weird creature that you have to feed or keep a certain temperature or you baked good will not turn out right seems pretty creepy.

Well this time was no exception.  I was pretty much worn out from party preparations when it was time to prep.  I  almost almost decided not to bake so you can imagine that when I chose to push forward, I was dragging.

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In preparing the dough, as the recipe notes, it was really sticky and and took longer to rise than I am used to.  It also requires you to come back and forth to your dough mound and flip it and flop it in a 2 hour time period.  Fortunately it is a two day process so Thursday evening while on my last leg, I was pretty happy when I got to the point of putting it in the fridge for the overnight rise.

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Day 2, I was more energetic, but who would I be if I was having to rush due to the fact that people would be over shortly to taste whatever it is that was going to come out of the oven.  First thing is I must watch a master roll out the dough.  I never obtain this mythical, measured rectangle that recipes so often tell me to make in order to get a particular size and amount of cinnamon rolls and this time was no exception.  Actually it was an exception, an exceptionally far deviation from the measurements as I was really really rushing at this point.  It was so funny when I rolled my dough and found more of a cone rather than a perfectly symmetrical cylinder.  Needless to say, I got several rolls and tossed them in the oven.

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I almost overcooked them since I was chasing 7  year old boys around and also preparing many other dishes, but they made it out with what I would just call an elevated browning.

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The frosting took seconds to make and I just slapped it on and threw the dish on the table.  Once things settled down and I had finished my hosting duties, I snagged a bite and holy bleep, they were amazing.  You have absolutely got to try this recipe.  Even with my half-step, one eye open, delirious baking they turned out so good.  The rolls were moist and the cream cheese topping melted in my mouth.  I think the main difference with this roll that contributed to its amazing flavor was the honey.  Most cinnamon roll recipes do not have this and I often find them tasting quite yeasty.  Now that may be my fault and my strange husband says he likes that taste, but I am not a fan.  If you are looking for a recipe where you can go wrong, look no further, I have found it for you.  Enjoy!

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35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 7 – Franken Pie

For shame!  I am so behind on my posting that it should be a crime.  In all fairness, I baked two last week and then just could not post.  Why do I put so many challenges on myself, I could not tell you.

This week I attempted to make a dessert for Father’s day.  I planned on making apple pie since that is the favorite of my husband and my father in-law (if I add the vanilla ice cream.  On baking day, I ended up not having any apples so I opted for a pie with whatever a had remaining in the house.  In this case it turned out to be random berries, raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry to be exact.  I had a recipe for mixed berry hand pies so naturally I decided to use that recipe, but without the hand part.  I wanted it to be a full on pie because that just looks fancier.  Also I call it Franken pie because, for some reason, it took several links to get me to the actual recipe from the link I have on my Pinterest board and I am pretty sure in the end I just meshed together a few recipes that I viewed while trying to confirm my actual Pinteresting recipe was legit.  I also used the streusel from this recipe since I opted against a double crusted pie.

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I was unstoppable.  I made my fancy crust and utilized the techniques I learned (e.g. use the rolling pin to gather the dough and place over the pie plate).  I rinsed the fruit which, in itself, looked so gorgeous.

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I was on a roll!  I mean, I made two desserts in one day and had this gorgeous pie.  Oh yes, I was full of myself…..for a moment.    I even tried to use the stressel recipe instad of just adding a top crust.

While driving on the back roads on the way to Oma and Opa’s house, I noticed some liquid forming on the surface of the pie.  “That’s weird”, I thought to myself and like a bolt of lightning, it hit me…Holy sh*@, I forgot the flour.  I totally forgot to add flour to the filling.  I cursed myself all the way to the in-laws.  All that freakin’ work.  All of that self-gratification gone!  It was so liquid like, we totally ended up depending on it being an ice cream topping.

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There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  The flavor of the crust (to which I added an extra tablespoon of sugar) was superb and the berries tasted like heaven.  I want to make this one again with the, you know, correct ingredients.  It is definitely worth a try!