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?

 

Airplane Baby Shower May 29, 2012

Filed under: Celebrations — Sarah @ 10:05 pm
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It’s been a long time since I’ve hosted a baby shower.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure that I’ve even hosted one before last week.  There aren’t too many new babies gracing my days any more, so when a good friend of mine announced her pregnancy, there was definitely a lot of excitement!  And I have to say, this was one of my most favorite parties I’ve ever hosted.

For starters, there were no screaming kids.  Just kidding.  Sort of.  Really though,  this was just a brunch for all of the mamas.  All the big kids were in school, and it was such a treat to be able to enjoy adult conversation and an uninterrupted meal.

Second, the shower was simply at my house.  So many people offered to bring food to share and another mom and I had been looking for an excuse to craft together, so she helped me with all of the decorations.  This “village” mentality is so important.  Together, we can do so much more.  I can’t tell you how much happiness it brings me to know that I have these sort of friends.

We chose the theme of the shower to match this little baby’s new nursery…light blues and airplanes.  I chose red as an accent color, just because it looked good.

Here’s a peek at some of the festivities:

A clothesline of sweet baby clothes.  My friend and I purchased the clothes at the local consignment store so we could stay on budget.  She made all of the little airplane clothespins.  Wish I had a close up as they were so stinkin’ cute!  To make them, she spray painted a regular clothes pin in baby blue and popsicle sticks in red (both a regular length and the shorter length).  Assemble, and it’s pure cuteness.

The drink table.  This table was draped in blue bed sheet…and my daughter’s American Girl picnic blanket.  A bit of subway art, a teddy bear holding an airplane and again, cuteness!  We took this picture before the punch arrived, but my friend made a yummy blend of sherbet and 7-Up.  Can’t go wrong with the classics!  Speaking of classics, see those little juice glasses?  I think they’re from the 50’s…my grandma gave them to me in their original packaging and every time I use them, I think of her.  They’re nothing special when you glance at them, but to me, they’re the “good stuff,” since they came from my grandma.

The food.  A wonderfully collective effort.  The table was draped in a light blue plastic table cloth…and then re-draped with a smaller classic red checked tablecloth.  We had a couple of salads (green and pasta), a fruit platter, tea sandwiches and croissants.  My friend was so tickled that I brought out the good china, but better excuse to use the good stuff than a new life?

And last but not least, dessert.  Another checked table cloth overlaid with a baby blanket.  See that diaper cake back there?  I take absolutely no credit for that one.  Another crafty friend made that.  Isn’t it the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?  She also brought red velvet cupcakes, and I whipped up a batch of lemon cupcakes.

The final touch were all of the banners my crafty friend and I made.  I don’t know why we didn’t get any pictures of those.  Lots of shades blue with splashes of red tied onto twine.  Actually, the final touch was that the weather was perfect.  One of the first really warm days we have had and I was able to move the whole shower outside.

What a great day of celebrating new life!

6/1 – Edit

My friend sent me some more pictures so you could see the darling banners.  Enjoy!

Baby

Welcome

A closer up of the diaper cake and clothespin airplanes

 

Teacher Appreciation Week

My kids’ school just celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week not too long ago, and I wanted to share my simple and fairly inexpensive gift idea.

Thanks to Pinterest, I’d seen various pencils-turned-gift ideas and bought several boxes of yellow pencils way back at the start of the school year when they just were a penny each.  Yes, every once in a while, I do plan ahead.  My daughter and I made this for her teacher.  We started with a simple plant (this is a little tiny fuchsia, I forget its proper name, but it was in a four-inch pot so it was only a couple bucks).  I put a wide rubber band around the plant, and then started inserting pencils around the plant.  Because the pot wasn’t straight, the pencils eventually angled themselves for a slightly different effect.  A scrap of ribbon hid the rubber band.  My daughter made her teacher a card that read, “Thanks for helping me grow into a sharp student,” among other fourth-grade-girl sentiments.

It would have definitely been cleaner to glue all of the pencils onto the pot, but this way, the teacher can use the pencils for next year’s class too!  At this price, I will certainly be doing another round of these gifts next year.  Perhaps poinsettias for Christmas?

 

Happy Pi Day! March 14, 2012

Filed under: Celebrations,Meal Planning,Recipe — Sarah @ 10:17 pm
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In honor of National Pi (not Pie) Day, we had pie for dinner:

Chicken Pot Pie using this recipe as it’s starting point.  I made lots of changes, so really, it went more like this:

Preheat oven to 400. 

I use a ready made pie crust just to make life easier.  Put one crust into your pie plate and prick several holes.  Bake for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the roux.  Add precooked shreded chicken and a bag of frozen vegetables.  Today, I used one of those Steamer bags that had sugar peas, carrots, cauliflower and brocoli in a basil butter sauce, plus added frozen peas and corn.  Normally, I would just chop up a bunch of fresh veggies and add my own seasonings but I was a little short on time today.  Melt cheese into the mixture.  Dump the entire pot into your now partially baked crust and then add your pie top.  We got a little fancy today and used cookie cutters to stamp “3.14” onto the top.  If you don’t want to get that fancy, make sure you vent your pie somehow so it doesn’t explode 🙂

Bake at 400 for about 45 minutes.  I had to cover my top after about 30 minutes as it was getting too brown.  Yum.

For dessert, we also had pie:

Apple Crumble Pie.  I made the recipe as is and just divided it into individual servings (Yes, we each got 1/5 of a pie.  Guess what?  We all licked our bowls clean too).  The kids loved having their own pies – and this pie is crustless so it was very easy.

My kids haven’t learned about Pi at school, so we found a short movie on BrainPop that did a reasonable job of explaining it to my 2nd and 4th grader.  They made some connections based on where they are in their math curriculum right now, which was fun to see.  But really, to a non-math person like me, Pi is just a number (3.14) that gives us an excuse to eat pie for dinner on the fourteen day of the 3rd month, eh?  Now I just have to find out when National Pie Day is, so we can have an excuse to have more pie for dinner…

 

Happy 100th Day! February 24, 2012

Filed under: Bento,Celebrations — Sarah @ 11:53 am
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Today my kids are celebrating their 100th day of school! I packed them 100 pieces of lunch:

10 pieces of cheese

 10 pieces of pepperoni

10 crackers

10 carrot coins

10 green beans

10 grapes (on skewers)

10 apple bites

10 candy hearts

10 bunny crackers

10 sesame sticks

What did your kids do to celebrate the 100th Day of School?

 

February Update February 23, 2012

Filed under: Bento,Celebrations,Crafts — Sarah @ 10:17 am
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It’s been a long time. Again. And I even have timely lunches and projects to show you. Let’s just say I want you to be prepared for next year and leave it at that.

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Have you had this bread? Dave’s Killer Bread. Seriously good and full of yumminess.  My kids won’t eat it. I sent it, they tried it and told me it was disgusting.  I beg to differ, so I just saved the rest for my hubby and I.

Anyhow, pretty simple lunch here: half a turkey sandwich, pears and letter cookies.  It’s fun to send specific letters…names, short messages.  I think my bookend kids actually play with the letters at lunch.  I imagine that they are even conversation starters for the 10 year old girls.

 

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This is the dipper lunch.  All things that my kids can dip into hummus. Pita, carrots, sugar peas, cucumber and apple slices. An almond cookie for dessert.

Another dippy lunch. I can tell I must have been to Costco recently. Pretzels and yogurt covered raisins.

 

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Asian infusion lunch.  Noodles tossed in sesame oil, a touch of soy and who knows what else.  Chinese BBQ pork.  Mandarin oranges.  Pears and a cookie wrapped in plastic so that the oils from the noodles don’t ruin it.

 

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Kid lunch galore.  Crackers and cheese (cheese is in a silicone muffin liner so that it doesn’t touch the crackers and make the crackers soggy).  Yogurt covered pretzels.  Apples.  And grapes and strawberries on a stick.  My boys won’t either if they aren’t on a stick…put them on a stick and they’d each a pound of each.  Go figure.

 

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Valentine’s Day Lunch (see, I told you there would be timely lunches). More fruit on a stick plus the featured *hot* dog. Yes, my children made that up. Anything “sexy” is hilarious to them. Including a *hot* dog on Valentine’s Day. To make it heart shaped, I sliced it in half on the diagonal and reassembled it, using a toothpick to hold it together. If you wanted to be really cute, you could find an arrow shaped toothpick, or cut appropriately shaped pieces from cheese to attach to the toothpick to make your own arrow. This lunch also had a side of mac and cheese.

Another cracker and cheese lunch.  This one has that spreadable cow cheese (that’s the sliver wedge tucked in the corner), ham slices, kiwi, apples and a side of crackers.  For dessert, the kids got fortune cookies and a lychee candy.

 

A “cute” lunch.  My daughter had a school assignment in which she was supposed to write a love note to her parents.  Among the charming things she had to say:  “Mommy, you are so creative with crafts, and you used to be with lunches for school, but that’s stopped now, thanks to the boys.”  So I am trying to make amends with her – meatballs with cute picks and cheetos.  What kid wouldn’t love me?  And yesterday, I was chastised for not putting vegetables in her lunch, so today she gets cucumber slices and carrot sticks in addition to apples and strawberries.

 

And NO!  I didn’t send a six pack of beer for my kids’ lunches!  That’s my hubby’s Valentine Day present.  Inspired by this, executed at midnight with only the kids’ leftover scraps.  Not usually a good plan, but he loved it anyhow.  Do it next year, your hubby will love it!

 

Gung Hay Fat Choy! January 23, 2012

Filed under: Celebrations — Sarah @ 9:36 pm
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Gung Hay Fat Choy!  It’s the Year of the Dragon and the year 4709 on the lunar calendar.  My friend texted me this morning to wish me a Happy New Year and asked if I had any dragon-like lunches planned for today. 

I’ll the be the first to admit.  I am a rare breed these days.  I’m 100% Chinese.  Yet, I am an abyssmal failure when it comes to passing any bits of culture on to my 50% Chinese children.  I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but it is what it is.  In fact, I have admittedly broken just about every rule in the book…most of these traditions that my parents tried to instill in me surround the idea of securing good luck, good fortune and long health.  Breaking these customs reduces my chances of the aforementioned.  For instance my mom taught me:

  • No bathing…yet I took a shower this morning
  • No hair brushing…which sort of had to be done after the shower
  • No conducting business…not only did I conduct business (by purchasing some food items), I met with our financial planner this morning! 
  • Start your day off with something warm and sweet…and I started my day with my standby berry smoothie
  • No cutting…which I did several times during the day in order to make meals (which really should have been prepared yesterday)

My house was not clean, my floor not swept.  I could probably come up with other wrong-doings, but I don’t want you to give up on me completely 🙂 

Tonight my kids will eat their version of a Chinese New Year dinner.  I’m not sure how we landed on this dinner as our “traditional” dinner as it is far, far from what I remember as a kid, but it’s what my kids have come to expect.

Fried Rice.  We used to do plain white rice, but it turns out my most adventurous eater also doesn’t really like white rice.  What kind of Chinese kid is he?  So this year, I upgraded and made fried rice.  Stepping even farther away from tradition.  What can I say? 

Jai.  Jai is a traditional vegetarian dish (if memory serves me right, one should not eat meat on Chinese New Year, but we break that tradition too).  My mom taught me to cheat on this dish – she and I start with canned jai and add in…she does much better than I,  I am down to adding just tofu and a soybean based noodle.  This was one of my favorite dishes growing up.  The long noodles are added to symbolize longevity. 

Potstickers.  Years ago, I started adding potstickers for my husband.  He’s not a huge fan of jai (it is sort of an acquired taste) and I always felt like he’d go hungry, so I made him potstickers.  And now I can’t not.  Some “traditions” just start like that, don’t you think?

So there you have it, that’s what my kids consider a traditional Chinese New Year Dinner.  I don’t mean to knock cultural traditions at all.  I could begin to tell you why I suspect I haven’t carried a lot of traditions forward, but none of you are being paid to be my pyschiatrist 🙂  Instead of getting hung up on it, I have chosen to move forward and realize that our dinner is a blending of cultures and a creation of THEIR traditions.  Yesterday we “closed” the ending year by having dinner with my parents and brother and my kids know that means they get “da bin lo” which is extremely similar to fondue in broth.  We have flank steak, chicken, tofu, prawns, and this year’s additon:  calamari.  Everyone cooks their own meat, and then there are lots of different Chinese dipping sauces.  The meal ends with a bowl of noodles.  In a couple of weeks, my mom will host another dinner and cook up a storm.  The menu changes from  year to year, but it’s always a delicous feast. 

The Chinese believe that the Year of the Dragon is always a lucky year – those born in the Year of the Dragon are considered to be the strongest and most revered.  Here’s to hoping that this symbolism is true – Gung Hay Fat Choy!  May this be an incredible year for you!