My Three Kid Circus

This may be as crazy as it gets… but we're lovin' it!

Cupcake Craze June 12, 2012

Filed under: Birthday Parties,Celebrations — Sarah @ 1:11 pm
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I have decided to join the cupcake craze.  If you know me, you know I’ve resisited cupcakes for a long time.  I’ve found them to be tedious with barely satisfactory results.  And messy, both for me as the baker and as the cleaner-upper-after the kids make a crumbly disaster of them.

But, I think I’ve become a convert.  I think I’m a little hooked.  I’ve gotten rid of the tedious and am reducing the messy, atleast on the baker’s end.  I can only do so much about kids.

Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up:

I was first inspired by this blog.  She talks all about different frosting techniques and the various decorating tips you need to achieve different looks.  I haven’t tried any of her frostings, nor have I tried all of the different decorating tips, but I did find her video tutorial to be very helpful.  The basic gist is to use a jumbo tip.  Different looks are achived by either starting in the center of your cupcake and circling out, or starting at the outer edge of your cupcake and circling in.  Anyhow, watch it.  Be amazed at how easily you too can have fabulous looking cupcakes.

So decorating tips took care of my first issue with cupcakes:  tedious frosting with a spatula.  Of course, a spatula gives you a nice smooth top if that is the look you are trying to achieve.  And, decorating tips do use a lot more frosting, so be prepared for that.  But really, don’t 9/10 kids just lick the frosting and leave the cupcake anyhow?

My next issue:  spooning batter makes a mess.  Here’s an easy fix for that one.  If you’re not already, use cupcake liners.  Much cuter and way easier to remove the cupcakes from the pan.  Pour your batter into a ziplock bag, seal it, and snip the corner.  Squirt.  Much cleaner and much, much faster than spooning batter into each cupcake well.  I found that a quart size bag is easy to manage and holds enough batter for approximately 20-22 cupcakes.  Personally, I like to fill my liners just shy of 2/3.  They rise to just above the top of the liner when they bake, which gives you a nice surface to decorate.

Another trick that I learned in the video tutorial above was to stand my decorating bags into a tall glass to make it easier to load the frosting.  This tip works well for loading batter into the ziplock bag.

I’ve also found that displaying cupcakes closely together (like I did in the picture above) hides mistakes.  Speaking of mistakes, if when frosting, you goof, scrape it off and start over.  Much easier to do on a cupcake than a big ‘ol sheet cake!

And finally, to cute-ify those now-fabulous looking cupcakes: sprinkles and picks.  How easy is that?  My son’s baseball cupcakes (above) had picks made from “action shots” of each of the boys.  One of the moms took a picture of each boy, cut around the player and glued the picture onto a straw.  Other pick ideas…check out your local dollar store, umbrellas, little army people or other plastic figures that match a party theme, stickers and stamps on circles of paper.  The ideas are endless,  just have fun!

Oh, and one last thing I did last time I made cupcakes…instead of doing a full batch of big cupcakes, I used some of the batter to make mini cupcakes using my mini-muffin pan.  When it came time to decorate, I used my same jumbo tip (Wilton 1M) and did one squirt of frosting in the middle of the cupcake.  They turned out super cute and were a nice compromise for parents who only wanted a bite, and for kids who tried to negotiate two cupcakes!

Now that I’m well on my way to becoming a cupcake convert, what other tips do you have for me?

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Turning Ten October 11, 2011

Filed under: Birthday Parties,Snacks — Sarah @ 11:08 pm

Yes, I am still here.  Barely.  But I am here.  I’m drowning in October.  Working, chaueffering, throwing a birthday party and being an integral part of our school PTA fundraiser and it’s only the 11th day of October.  This little bloggy thing is getting sorely neglected, as is my house.  My kids have been eating, and I will be back to share lunches with you, hopefully next week. 

In the meantime, take a peek at my daughter’s 10th birthday party.  Yes, I have a 10 year old.  I don’t know how that happened.  Everyone says my daughter is a whole lot like me, and one of the things she likes to do best is to plan a party.  She ended up having a whole lot of input into this one which worked out pretty well ’cause I really dropped the ball on this one.  Just couldn’t pull it together. 

Her first request was a slumber party.  We’ve never done one of those, but it worked out really well.  A word to the wise:  Dynamics are huge.  A lot of people thought I was crazy to have seven girls under my roof, but they were seven really good girls.  And I mean really good.

Her friends showed up at 4:00 and were each given a bucket to keep their stuff in.  The buckets were just empty storage bins that I had around the house and were big enough to store their sleeping bags/pillows, backpacks and whatever stuff they amassed during their stay.  They made clean up really easy too.

My daughter spent time making a name tag for each of her friend’s – I love that she personalized each one with their interests!  She literally spent hours on these.  Some of the girls took them home, but for those that didn’t, my daughter plans to write thank you notes on the back. 

For awhile they just hung out dancing and talking, but then they got bored.  Part of my lack of planning meant I didn’t have a ton of activities so I had to think on the fly.  As part of their party favor, we gave each girl a lined notebook and pen.  We got those out and the girls wrote an opening sentence of a story and then started passing the notebook around and adding into the storyline.  This kept them busy for a good 30 minutes while I started dinner.  Who knew 9-10 year old girls were so obsessed with potty humor.  And my husband.  Poor guy.

Dinner was simple – spaghetti and meatballs ready in a crockpot so all I had to do was boil noodles and serve.  I had prepared a veggie platter that was barely touched, but since they had already polished off a fruit platter, I wasn’t going to complain.

There was no real theme to my daughter’s party, so we just picked colors that she liked.

After dinner, we had LOTS of time before our main planned activity so we played one game in which all jammies were thrown into a pile and then they had to close their eyes and find their own jammies and get themselves dressed (jammies over their clothes).  Only one mix up…I was impressed.  After that, we did nails and decorated cupcakes:

Another request that my daughter had made was to make “Candy Creatures.”  That turned into “put as much candy on your cupcake as possible,” though they all did come up with pretty cute creations.  And over the course of the night, they ate pretty much all that candy.  I had to tell them I wasn’t calling any moms over upset tummies…

Around 7:00, my ultra-talented friend arrived to teach the girls to make their own glass tile charms and personalized metal charms for necklaces.  All these girls are super creative so they had a good time and I think my friend had fun hanging with this little group of girls too.  I hope! 

No slumber party is complete without a movie, or in our case, two.  Hocus Pocus and Marley and Me, The Puppy Years.  We borrowed a projector which my daughter thought was beyond fantastic.  Poor child is growing up in a one-TV household and that one TV is not so big either.  Some of the girls ate their cupcakes and they all demolished this snack basket:

Water (with a sharpie to write their names on the bottles), fruit roll ups and little bags of crackers.  Didn’t need anymore sugar going into this group of girls.  

Amazingly, the girls were out by 1:00 and not up ’til 8:00.  We had waffles and sausage for breakfast, and then the girls played until they were picked up at 10:00.  It made me laugh that they opted to haul out big empty boxes and build forts…an age-less activity, I guess.

As for decorations, we kept it simple.  I strung colored Christmas lights around the main room – festive, but also functional as we kept these on all night.  I also made a bunch of tissue paper flower pom-poms:

Yes, that is my naughty dog and half a pom-pom.

One last thing that we did to make the party easier was to confine it to two rooms.  This kept the puppy out of mischief, didn’t displace my boys and kept the chaos contained.  It also prevented any girls from going off, and therefore, anyone feeling left out.  We did make my daughter’s room the “quiet room” for anyone that wanted to go to bed early, but no one took that option and everyone quieted down in a reasonable amount of time.

All in all a good party…my daughter wrote me a thank- you note afterwards in which she said, “I admire how much time you put into my party.”  As I feel myself drowning in day-to-day activities (which are still all centered around my kids), it was a breath-stopping reminder that our kids really do notice what we’re up to.  And very often, it’s the experiences that we create for them, the time we give them, and how often we are actually present in their lives.  Best said out of the mouth of a babe, even if she is now 10 years old.

 

Angry Birds Birthday September 19, 2011

Filed under: Birthday Parties,Crafts — Sarah @ 7:13 am

My middle son loves sports.  This kid has always been happiest with a ball in hand (or on foot) and he plays on a variety of teams throughout the year.  It really hasn’t been until the last year or two that he has had much of an interest in toys as he is constantly in motion.  If trapped indoors, he is playing baseball or football.  Kicked outdoors it’s basketball or kickball.  His favorite team sport is soccer.  He loves to jump rope, swim and run as well.  He wakes up in the morning to watch Sports Center and when I make him turn off the TV, he asks to check scores on my phone.  He saves his weekend TV time for games and rattles of scores and stats like no eight year old should.  Not surprisingly, nearly all of his birthday parties have been sports themed. 

So this year, I was in a bit of a quandary when he announced that he wanted to have an Angry Birds themed party.  I wasn’t quite sure how we were going to pull this off, but thanks to a little bit of ‘net searching, we put together a pretty fun party.  I love all of you who think that I need to market this party.  You know how to flatter a mama.  But really, like most of my parties, it’s all about the research. 

I have to admit, this party ended up to be a comedy of errors.

The wheels for this party were set in motion way back in July.  My kids are constantly planning parties but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to pull this party together until I saw the sets at our church VBS.  Our church did the Pandamonium curriculum and part of the set was the Great Wall of China.  See where I’m going?  Yep.  I snagged those boxes and got work researching a life-size Angry Bird game.  Of course, someone already had this idea and so I was able to move pretty quickly.  I even found the balls I needed to make the birds at our local Fred Meyer on sale for 75 cents a ball.  I snagged a dozen and thought I was in most excellent shape.  The next week, Michaels had acrylic paint on sale for 29 cents a bottle.  The patterns I was planning to use called for just a bit of paint and so I only needed 3-4 bottles with plenty left over.  Heck, it wasn’t even August yet and look how far ahead I was!  And look at how inexpensive this party was turning out to be! 

Like usual, we did an evite.  I have to admit, my daughter recently received a themed paper invitation to a party and it really set the mood and got her excited.  But, I’m just not that organized.  Even though I sent the evite out a good month ahead of the party.

(Do you sense a theme here?) 

Fast forward about three weeks.  Things are still going well.  My husband was on task to build a slingshot.  My kiddo wanted root beer floats.  Feeling rather inspired, I talked him into doing these cake balls too.  Since we were butting up against dinner time, we decided to serve pizza and fruit too.

We are now about two weeks prior to the party.  I decide to to a test bird ball.  I used these templates and things tested out fine.  I reminded my husband about the slingshot.  He got to work.  The first thing you should know about my husband is that he is an engineer.  Apparently he missed the part of the conversation when I directed him to the link above about how to make a slingshot.  So, being the nice wife that I am, I explained it to him and he kindly pointed out all of the flaws in my grand plans.  He and I, we are a good team.  I come up with crazy ideas and he figures out how to execute them.  Sometimes he gets too engineer-y and I have to bring him back down to earth.  This was one of those times.  I think he forgot that we were just talking about a bunch of 7 and 8-year-old boys here.  No state or national code to uphold at this party.  But he got to work.  I’ll show you pictures of what he created in a little bit.

Then things started falling apart.  I thought I had a whole week to get ready.  Three of those days would be sans kids. 

But then, it happened.  Again.

Our family has a knack for visiting the ER on birthdays.  It’s always been for something minor, but it still takes time.  This year, it was my turn.  On my son’s actual birthday day, my dog decided to snag a rib bone and shattered it.  I stupidly tried to fish the shards of bone from her mouth.  Just a couple of stitches but a reasonably open wound and loss of motion definitely made for a more challenging week. 

The bird balls got done.  They turned out really well and were super easy.

I traced the templates onto the balls using a non-permanent marker.  We had some primer left over from a house project so I used that to put a base coat on the ball.  The primer was oil based but I don’t think that matters.  Once that was dry, I painted the details with my acrylics and then used a paint marker to outline the face.  Finally, I sprayed the face with a matte finish spray so that the paint wouldn’t chip off.  We let each of the boys take one of the balls home as their party favor.

The slingshot got done too.  My husband completely blew my party budget but guess what?  This is probably the strongest, most industrial slingshot you’ve ever seen.  It’ll end up in my backyard and I suspect it’ll get loads of use. 

Here’s what my husband did.  He purchased steel pipe pieces and their connectors and they all twist together.  There is another piece at the base that connects pipes into 2×6 boards that he screwed together and into a sheet of plywood.  For those of you less techy people like me, the sheet of plywood actually stabilizes the whole contraption so that it doesn’t tip over.  That being said, we still had a grown up sit on the beam as the kids were able to pull the slingshot off the ground when they were launching their birds.  Anyhow, he also taped the pipes with brown electrical tape and then spray painted the wood to give it a more authentic look.  The “pouch” is made of burlap, doubled for extra strength.  I taped the edges with a double layer of duct tape and then my husband punched holes in the corner to tied the medical tubing that served as the bands to attach the pouch to the “sticks.”

The cake balls did not get done.  I tried, but they fell apart the night before party when I tried dipping the balls into the chocolate.  I made rice krispy treats instead. 

The night before the party, I also forgot to buy spoons for ice cream floats, ICE CREAM for ice cream floats and lord knows what else.  I was not in good shape that night. 

But, it didn’t matter.  The party was crazy fun.  We started with several games.

In this first game, we simply let the kids get used to the slingshot.  If they hit the pig ball, they got to get back into line.  If not, they had to go to “jail.”  The next kid to hit the pig got everyone out of jail.  The game was over when everyone was in jail, but I’m not sure that that happened.  This game was a good game to start with because not only did the kids get some practice, it allowed us to get the slingshot set at the right distance for them to be able to actually knock the piggies over!  I think they played this for half an hour, no kidding.

In the second game, we divided the kids into two teams:  Pigs and Birds.  The Pigs got about five minutes to build the best wall that they could (protecting the King Pig, of course) while the Birds ran themselves silly.  Once the Pigs declared themselves ready, the Birds lined back up to try to knock that wall over.  The wind blew in and made things quite challenging for the first team of Birds, but they all had a great time.  We switched sides and started over…I think this game lasted 30 minutes too.

Like I said, I was able to snag the boxes from my church, but the concept was pretty simple (not to discredit the people who spent hours on all of these boxes).  They were made of old packing boxes and spray painted with grey and black paint.  They also used a textured paint which made them quite realistic.  The boulders are made of paper grocery bags that were stuffed with newspaper and painted to match the boxes. 

After games, we opened gifts and then had pizza and fruit.  The kids ran around a played keep away while everyone finished up.

Our last game was supposed to be “Capture the Golden Egg” (aka, Capture the Flag) but due to a miscommunication between my son, husband and I, that didn’t happen.  The kids elected to play kickball instead.

As our final schabang, we called the kids over for rootbeer floats and rice krispy treats.  There isn’t much Angry Bird stuff out there, so I just used a plain black tablecloth and red plates and cups.

For their party favors, each of the kids took home a bird ball and a “golden egg.”  Since I couldn’t find golden eggs, I wrapped a cup full of candy in shiny gold paper tied with gold ribbon. 

Despite the mishaps along the way, the kids had a great time and that is all that matters!

Now, my husband’s birthday was this past weekend and my youngest decided that he too needed an Angry Bird birthday party.  So my husband ended up with this birthday cake:

The cake was made by my five year old, just a simple cake mix and frosted with the leftover frosting from my cake ball disaster.  We made the eyes out of full size Oreos and the eye ball is made from a mini oreo.  My five year old was very proud to point out that he adhered the eyeball with a bit of red frosting so that it wouldn’t slide off 🙂  The fuse is made from a Cow Tail, which is a an inexpensive candy that was as gross as it sounds.  I ran a skewer through the middle so that it’d be more stable in the cake.

And my son decorated the house with these birds.  I am so irritated that I forgot to bring these out for the kid party.  I made several of these last winter using this pattern.  Pretty cool, eh?

I made a bunch of these stuffed Angry Birds back around Christmas and my boys enjoy throwing them at each other things.

Another simple rendition of the original party.  And now my five year old wants to throw it for his birthday.  Indoors.  Little boys + slingshot in my house?  I dunno honey.

 

Tinkerbell/Fairy Party August 3, 2011

Filed under: Birthday Parties — Sarah @ 12:55 pm

When my daughter turned seven, we celebrated with fairies! 

My daughter has very crafty friends, so we started out with a few projects.  It was the first year of American Girl dolls, so she invited her friends to bring their dolls and they made tiaras and wings for their dolls:

This was a very last minute addition into the party plans, so I had to deal with what I had on hand.  The tiaras were made from circles of decorative wire and curling ribbon.  And the wings where made from pony beads and pipe cleaners.  Very last minute but an easy ice-breaker.

We then moved on to making fairy wings.  This was fun, but very messy.  I found plain nylon wings and the girls used liquid water color and eye droppers to decorate their wings.  They were gorgeous, but wet.  So wet, I’m not sure I’d recommend this project.  Maybe with brushes or spray bottles, though you’d end up with a different effect.

All of those projects actually took awhile (as in I had to tell them that craft time was up and bribe them with cake), so we so set the dolls up at the little tea table and then headed into the dining room for our own tea party:

Setting this table was fun!  We used real tea cups and saucers for pink lemonade.  Some of these were sets that were given to our family by my husband’s grandma, and some of them we found at a thrift store.  Each one was different, so that was pretty fun.  My daughter desperately wanted Tinkerbell plates, so we just bought those from a party store.  And the little flower hats were found on clearance at the craft store and embellished with ribbon, bells and their names written in sparkly ink, in cursive, of course!  I also sprinkled silk flower petals on the table.

These girls are fruit eaters, so I also did two platters of fruit.

And, per my daughter’s request, carrot cake:

Decorating the cake was actually quite simple.  I just used my daughter’s set of Disney fairies and then used a leaf tip to pipe leaves around the edge.  The flowers up top are actually candles (leftover from my mother-in-law’s birthday party the night prior).  The only poor planning on my part was that Tinkerbell caught on fire when her hand got a little too close to the handle 😉

After eating, we headed outside for a game.  10 fairies were lost and needed 10 girls to help locate them.  I attached each fairy to a very long piece of yarn and wound the yarn through out our woody backyard in a maze like fashion.  Each of the girls had a starting point and then had to follow their yarn to their fairy.  I attached different little prizes on the yarn a long the way…small pieces of candy, a butterfly.  Most of the girls were able to follow this pretty well, and all of the fairies were happily rescued!

 

Meow! Kitty Cat Birthday July 19, 2011

Filed under: Birthday Parties — Sarah @ 11:37 pm

 Anyone who knows my youngest son knows how much he loves cats.  He has a soft spot for all animals, but his most favorite is a cat.  He has a million stuffed cats, and still, at the age of five, he wakes up pretending he is a cat and when he needs a snuggle, he is most likely to crawl into my lap and meow and purr.  One of the things I love best about my youngest is that he knows what he likes and until recently, he didn’t care what others thought.  Two Halloweens ago, he was a green sparkly kitty.  And when he was turning four and his favorite color was purple and he wanted a kitty birthday party, that’s what we did.  It turned out to be one of my favorite parties.

We started right off with a craft:

 This was the most expensive part of the party, but it served many purposes so I went ahead and splurged here.  Somehow, I managed to find a bunch of full size Webkinz cats for $5.  At the time, Webkinz were all the rage with these little ones who have older siblings, so they ended up to be quite a hit.  I also had lots of fleece scraps left from a different project and made each kitty a small blanket.  I converted one of my toy shelves into kitty crates…and each kitty was placed with a small cat bowl that we found at the dollar store and bag of kitty treats (goldfish crackers). 

Each kiddo got to choose a kitty to adopt and then we all sat down to make them a collar (pony beads on stretch elastic) and decorate a cat carrier.  For the cat carrier, I ended up getting cardboard take out boxes  from a local deli.  My husband cut a door into the side of each carrier and we set out stickers and markers and let the kids have at it.   

Once all the cats were snug in their carriers, we played “Pin the Whiskers on the Cat”:

 

 Simple cat face made out of a piece of poster board and construction paper.  Great fun…unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the cat with whiskers.  Just as well, he looked like he had been partying a little too hard…

After all this activity, the kid were hungry, so we headed to the table to play a quick eating game:

 My little guy has January birthday so he often gets several calendars…this year he got two cat calendars so I took one apart and used the pictures as placemats.  There was much fighting over where to sit.  Who knew.  Anyhow, we had cat cookies waiting on the table, but then came the real fun.  I put a scoop of vanilla yogurt into each of the aforementioned cat bowls and the kids had to lap up their “milk.”

That took awhile to clean up, and then we were ready for a real lunch:

 The kitty sandwiches are simply PB&J cut into circles and decorated with chocolate chip eyes, carrot noses, stick pretzel whiskers and square pretzel ears.  Of course the kitties are surrounding mice!  The mice are made of strawberries with almond slices for the ears, mini chocolate chips for the eyes and nose and licorice string tails.

After presents and playing, it was cake time:

 This is one of my least favorite cakes, but he loved it. 

If you can indulge me in a mommy moment, one of the reasons that this was one of my favorite parties is that he wasn’t 100% sure that he should have a kitty party “because most boys my age don’t love cats as much as me, mommy.  They’re kind of girly and they might laugh at me.”  After much discussion, he decided that’s still what he loved best.  And you know what?  His friends loved it.  And he ended up getting three new stuffed cats (who are still all now very well-loved), cat wrapping paper and a cat game in addition to an assortment of boy toys.  I love that his friends just love him for who he is.

 

KaChow! Lightening McQueen Birthday Party June 24, 2011

Filed under: Birthday Parties — Sarah @ 10:51 am

In honor of Cars2 coming out today, I thought it would be appropriate to share the Lightening McQueen birthday party I did for my little guy a couple of years ago.  He was and still is a HUGE Cars fan.  It’s fun to see his excitement over the release of the new movie.  Marketing at it’s best, eh?

For this party, we invited three of his best buds (they still are) and their moms for a morning of fun.  I actually opted to host this party during the day when the big kids were at school, as even the best big kids have a way of skewing a party.  And once I got past my guilt, I am really glad I did it this way.  There is nothing like unabashed three year old fun. 

The first activity was to make our own cars.  Each child received a plain cardboard box that I had previously wrapped in red paper (found on clearance post-Christmas) and attached straps using wide red ribbon (also found on a post-Christmas clearance sale).  I’d just picked up a stash of boxes from the liquor store (seriously) and these proved to be the perfect size.  Each child also received four black plates and brads, and I set out construction paper, stickers, letters and glue sticks and let the kids have at it.  Excuse the blurry picture!

Once the kids finished their cars, they got to run them through the race course I’d set up in the house.  There were a few “ramps” to go up, a carwash (streamers hanging from a door), a gas pump to fill up at.  Our house has a loop, and really, just running the loop through the carwash may have been their favorite part!

Once the little guys needed to refuel, we did cake:

 

We used his collection of Cars cars to decorate this cake.  The top layer served his friends, and we save the bottom layer for the family party the next day.  At the time, I couldn’t find race car flags, so I just made those, but since then, they seem to be all over the place.  Hard to see, but in the middle of the bottom layer, there small stack of mini Oreos, ala, discarded tires.  Here’s a couple more close-ups of the cake. 

So…I know what we’re doing this weekend.  What about you?

 

Under the Sea (aka Pirates Meet Little Mermaid) Birthday Party June 19, 2011

Filed under: Birthday Parties — Sarah @ 9:46 pm

My oldest both have September birthdays, and until my daughter hit elementary school, they also had many mutual friends.  When my son turned four, and my daughter, six, they had complimentary interests that inspired this “Under the Sea” theme.  This party was held at our local park, on a spectacular late summer day. 

To get the kids “warmed up,” we played Mermaid, Mermaid, Pirate…an aquatic varation of Duck, Duck, Goose.  I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining it.

As any good pirate party would lend itself to, we also had a treasure hunt.  Because we had a massive number of kids, we divided them up into teams.  Each team just had 3-4 kids and one parent helper.  Each of the six clues was mounted onto a set of colored cards – the blue team only took the blue clues, the red team took the red clues…you get the drill.  Each team started with a different clue – this took a bit of pre-work on my part to ensure that the team would not likely get bunched up in the same spot. 

The clues included:

  1. Before Ariel gets human legs, she sits on this while singing to Prince Eric.  Your next clue will be located at a very large ______________.   This obviously led the kids to a huge climbing rock where they retreived their next clue.
  2. “Arrrrrrrggggghhhh!”  Now you’ve done it!  Go walk the __________________ for your next clue and a bit of pirate treasure.  This clue led the kids to a balance beam that we set up (6×6 blocks and 2×6 board).  They walked from one end to the other, and retreived gold coins and the next clue.
  3. If you were a fish, you wouldn’t want to get caught in this!  Find your next clue by going under, over or through this fish trap.  I honestly cannot remember what we did for this clue….it seems like I maybe set up a large net for the kids to manuever through!  It’s been a few years, ha!
  4. “Go ‘under the sea’ where you’ll find your next clue.  While you’re there, be sure to pick up some treasure.   I brought our bubble machine and had that running to create the illusion of water.  Each kid picked up a bottle of bubbles and a clue.
  5. Looking for treasure?  “X” marks the spot.  We just painted a big “X” for the kids to locate their next clue…
  6. You did it!  You found all the clues!  Return to the party island to see what awaits you!  At this age, no party seemed to be complete without a pinata, so I found treasure chest pinata.  Unfortunately, the scramble led to lots of tears…since then, I’ve learned to hold back a bag of goodies to scatter away from the crowd so that the littlest, easily overwhelmed and unaggressive kids can get some loot too.

The older kids really enjoyed reading the clues and trying to figure out where to go to find their next clues.  The little ones did well with assistance, and were more intrigued by the different obstacles that they had to maneuver through.  Having a parent helper with each team definitely helped.  Thank goodness for parents who offer to stay to lend a hand!

After we did the pinata, it was time for cake and juice…two cakes for two birthday kids!

This cake was pretty fun to make.  We used his playmobil pirates to decorate, plus gummy sharks, chocolate coins and rock candy.  The water is made of tinted gel (Wilton makes tubs of clear gel and you can just color it whatever you need it to be).  The dirt is crushed graham crackers over mounds of frosting.  Sounds pretty gross in retrospect!

This was my first tiered cake.  I apologize for not having a picture of the entire thing – it really did stand up, but unfortunately I don’t have a good picture of that!  This cake took advantage of her Disney figures from The Little Mermaid picture, plus a few candy rocks and some chocolate shells that I made with candy molds. 

Here is the top layer.  I’ve found that using my kids toys to create cakes makes it so much simpler.  There are lots of techniques for drawing or transferring pictures of specific characters, but that is definitely not my calling.  Digging through a toybox is a much better compromise and I get to unleash a bit of creativity in creating a 3-dimensional scene instead.

For party favors…the girls got a little trinket box with sticker earrings and a necklace.  We found a heart shaped box with a dolphin and it seemd to fit the theme and my daughter’s desires perfectly.  The boys (and a few girls who wanted to trade, lol) got pirate dress up sets.    For these, we bundled up an eye patch, hoop earring, telescope and gold coins in a black bandana.  I then cut red strips of fabric to tie off the bandana – this strip could be used as a sash as part of their dress up.  Easy peasy and the kids loved them.