Appreciating the Teachers

The girls’ last day of school happens today, so I put together some gifts for their teachers and a couple of other staff members at their school.  I trolled Pinterest for inexpensive gift ideas that were easy to assemble because I don’t have access to my gift wrap vault, which is a little sad-making.

Undaunted, I pressed forward and decided upon dressing up regular ol’ paper bags with some paper Christmas doilies, which was ridiculously easy.  The girls were so excited to take “their” gifts to school–there was a little bit of bickering about who would carry the box containing all the bags as they headed out to catch the bus.

I kept it simple, gift-wise.  I baked up some soft ginger cookies and then piped a simple snowflake on top of each one and added some foodie pearls at the various snowflake junctions:

I don’t even know if ginger cookies are something Australians even like, but it was from the heart.  (FYI, Peanut Butter and Jelly isn’t a thing here.  My neighbor asked me what PB&J actually was…”Just peanut butter and jam?  On bread?  Do you toast it first?”)  I’ve questioned a lot of my food assumptions in the past months, especially after having the missionaries over for Thanksgiving.  I’m constantly amazed by how different two first-world, English-speaking countries that stem from the same mother country can be.

I put two cookies in each bag, along with a gift card to a popular chain of stores around these parts.  Simple, looks and smells good, done.

Michael and I were talking about the irony that this is the first time our kids have given teacher appreciation gifts, and how it really was too bad I never received any teacher appreciation gifts while homeschooling.  And then, at the same time, we both laughed aloud and said, “Yarn stash!”

Now that I think of it, a lot of my yarn was purchased at the end of trying school days…

Merry Christmas, Educators!

Bonus link:  Doilies to dress up plain ol’ chocolate bars!  Squee!

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Junebug’s 5th Birthday: Snow White Party!

Junebug’s Snow White birthday party is officially over and done with, leaving us only with apple-filled memories and hordes of Disney Princess paraphernalia.

The Snow White theme emerged from the very first thing Junebug blurted out when I asked her what kind of birthday party she wanted:  “A Bambi party!”

Me:  “Bambi?  As in, the deer?”

Junebug:  “Yep.”

Me:  “Why Bambi?”

Junebug:  “So we can play ‘Pin the Tail on Bambi!”

After a few more minutes of brainstorming ideas for a “Bambi birthday party,” Junebug mentioned how much she loved it when Bambi showed up in the Snow White movie and helped clean dishes.  I pounced, and we agreed upon a Snow White party in the next few minutes.

Pinterest gave me a lot of great ideas for this party; we decided to decorate crowns, paint with apple halves, make caramel apples, paint fingernails, and play “Pass the Poisoned Apple.”  (After playing “Pin the Tail on Bambi,” of course…)  Junebug had a blast and came over to me to give me a hug and kiss on my leg a few times because she was so happy.  (Awwwww.)

The Invitations

The Food

I made little apple cupcakes, based off of the pumpkin cupcake instructions in Hello, Cupcake!  (Love that book.)

We also served Broken Glass Jell-O in Snow White colors, pigs in blankets (because that’s what Junebug wanted to eat!), veggie sticks, and chocolate-dipped strawberries with cheesecake filling.

The Fun

As guests arrived, we had them sit down to decorate crowns.  (Burger King crowns, spray painted gold by yours truly.)  They had glitter stickers and gems, which stick on incredibly well if you use “glue dots” instead of white glue or anything like it.  (I wish I could remember where I found the glue dot idea because it is wonderful!  I found our glue dots in the scrapbooking section at Wal-Mart…yeah, that easy.)

Next, they used apple halves to paint apples onto tote bags:

We then played “Pin the Tail on Bambi,” and I have no pictures of it!  That might be a blessing for you, because my drawing of Bambi has been mocked by almost every family member as resembling either a:

A.  Fox
B.  Dog
C.  “What is that?

After “Pin the Tail on [Whatever That Is],” we herded the girls into the kitchen where we made caramel apples.

One of my trusty helpers returned for Birthday Party 2.0.

Then we had lunch, and opened presents, and ate some cupcakes, and painted nails.  And then we danced.  Because all the cool princesses dance at parties.  🙂

The End

Bluebird’s 9th Birthday: Baking Party!

It was during the week after Christmas–you know, when you’re fighting the urge to be sad that the big day is over, and you’re kind of euphoric with all the lofty New Year’s Resolutions to which you’re thinking about committing–that I found myself obsessed with the idea of throwing each of my kids their dream birthday parties in 2013.  We don’t do a lot of birthday partying in Brooketopia, mostly due to cost and logistics (newborn babies every two years will do that to you), but here we were going into a new year with no new babies…the idea sounded feasible.
 
Bluebird and I sat down to gorge ourselves do a little research on Pinterest birthday ideas, and we happened across a pin of a baking birthday party and she was awestruck.  Culinary celebration, commence!
 

First, we raided the fabric stash and picked out fabrics that somewhat coordinated with each other, and then I settled in for three weeks’ of sewing aprons for Bluebird and her guests:

Apron B from Little Retro Aprons by Cindy Taylor Oates
(Yes, you’ve seen this pattern on the blog before, both the child’s version AND the adult version–I’m totally in love with it.)

Then we hurried about with all the other preparations (amidst all the ear infection fun we were also dealing with at the time) and Bluebird bounced off the walls as she counted down the days until her party.

Finally, the Big Day of Baking Fun arrived…

…but first the girls had to stop and adore Baxter for a few minutes before I could entice them towards the birthday fun.  (After insisting they wash their hands after touching the dog.)

First, they made cupcake liner flower pins to adorn their new aprons, then we gathered in the kitchen to make mini pizzas for lunch.

While waiting for the pizzas to bake, the girls made fruit kabobs which they then drizzled with milk and white chocolate:

 

I had hired two of the young women in our ward to help me out, and they cleaned up the lunch mess while the party girls watched Bluebird open her presents in the living room.  Then, while the party girls decorated cake boxes, my helpers finished tinting batches of frosting for the finale of the party:

Man, a gang of 8-9 year old girls can pick up the basics of cake decorating pretty quick!  Candies, marshmallows, sprinkles…we had it all and they had a blast creating their own dream cakes.

After decorating cakes, we sat down to enjoy Bluebird’s actual birthday cake, complete with raucous singing and laughing:

Hardly anyone wanted any cake after the candles were blown out because they had just spent the past three hours stuffing their faces with candy, pizza and frosting.  No biggie, just more left over for the other Brookelets when they returned home!

Nine years old.  Bluebird, you’ve been with us for almost a decade!  You bring me so much joy, and I’m happy to indulge your lofty ideas.  You are such a creative spirit and I look forward to fleshing out more of your big birthday plans in the future.

Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcakes

I am loving the Hello Cupcake! cookbook that we gave to Bluebird for Christmas. This is just one of the cute ideas in it. I made them for Recipe Club at the end of March.

It’s just cupcakes from a box, frosting from a can, strawberry preserves and Ferrero Rochers. Love it. They tasted good, too.

Planet Earth Cake

I just realized that I never showed y’all my cute little Planet Earth cake that I made for Bluebird’s space birthday party. Here it is!

If you’re interested in making one for yourself (as in, next Wednesday is Earth Day…), it’s quite simple:

Take a regular ol’ box of cake mix, mix it up and pour it into your pans–I used Wilton’s Sport Ball pans, but I’ve heard of people using Pyrex bowls. Bake it. Let it cool. Frost it with some blue frosting (I used the stuff from a can…many of you are already aware of my disdain for making frosting.)

Now don’t get scared, but this next step requires a map or an atlas:
Make some green frosting and put it into a decorator’s bag with a #3 or #5 writing tip on it and freehand some continental outlines. (Don’t worry too terribly much about accuracy, it’s a blinkin’ cake…you’re going for recognition, not masterpiece.)

Once you’ve got your outlines, put on a star tip and start filling in your land masses.

Voila! Planet Earth Cake!

I laugh every time I see how close Japan is to Alaska, and I was thisclose to leaving Australia and New Zealand off of the whole thing altogether because it was really hard to get the frosting down there, but I figured I owed it to my brother (who resides in New Zealand) to represent his place of residence…oh the fun of frosting creations.

Heart Cookies

We had made up the cookie dough needed for Bluebird’s birthday party cookies when everyone got sick; and since it’s only good for a few days, we decided to go ahead and make heart cookies instead!
We didn’t deliver them to anyone out of fear of passing on the myriad of symptoms the family was experiencing.