Monday, March 26, 2012

All About the Birthdays

We had our birthday shirts ready, then we needed birthday cupcakes!  I cheated and made these cupcakes earlier in the month with my Greek yogurt and pumpkin substitutions.  They froze and defrosted very well.

I used some fondant, colored small batches, rolled, cut out and voile:  birthday cupcakes for my three kids and family.

I had purchased alphabet and number mini cutters.  They worked pretty well, but I had a hard time with the "8".  There must be a trick that I haven't learned yet.  I saw something about utilizing the freezer, but that was after the fact.

The cupcakes went over very well, especially the spice cake with pumpkin.  Definitely worth trying out if you like pumpkin and all those good spices!

Celebrating 100 years of Girl Scouts

We usually celebrate with at least cupcakes for snack. In my planning, I wondered if the group of second grade Brownies would enjoy decorating cupcakes themselves. I decided to make mini cakes in a nice square mini cake pan I have. I used my new trick of substituting 1 cup of Greek yogurt and 1 cup of water in place of the eggs and oil for boxed cake mixes. I used a moist Devil's food and also a moist yellow cake mix. They both tasted great and came out a touch denser than usual.

I made up a double batch of buttercream frosting. Half I separated into three one cup dishes for coloring pink, purple, and yellow. The rest I colored green. Before the meeting, I made up six decorator bags of frosting. I used the Wilton disposable bags and one piping tip and one flower tip for each color. The green was separated into three smaller dishes with plastic knives for frosting the cakes.

The girls each took their time with decorating and the fourteen of them had no trouble taking turns with the six decorator bags. I was impressed with their creativity and excitement.

Other activities we did at our meeting included coloring and cutting out paper dolls and hearing the story of Juliette Gordon Low. I chose the paper dolls because girls 100 years ago may have been playing with paper dolls also.

For the story, I used suggestions I found on the Internet. I collected all kinds of props that would be relevant to the story. Before I started telling the story, I randomly handed out the props. I had a plush jack o'lantern, a silk daisy, a paint brush, a painted tea cup, a toy horse, a bag of salt water taffy which was shared at the end, a map of the world placemat, a toy boat, a toy ring, a bag of rice, a telephone, a picture of a boy scout mounted on cardboard, a play pearl necklace, a picture of an old Girl Scout manual mounted on cardboard like a book, a mini basketball, a first aid kit, and a breast cancer pink ribbon bracelet. The girls listened very intently as I told the story and they showed everyone their object when I talked about it. This is a great way to tell a story!

After the story, I collected the props again and chose ten to lay on a small blanket. Then I asked the girls to study the objects and I would take one away when they looked away. Then they would guess which one was missing. We played this a few times. Another game would be to have them write down all the objects after studying them.

We did have an extra fifteen minutes at the end and started making our SWAPs.

It was a successful meeting and meaningful too.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Birthday Shirts

Every year since my son turned four years old, I have been making birthday shirts.  In the last few years I have even made some as gifts.  I've looked around at what other people are doing with birthday shirts from time to time.  One really cute idea I liked was to put pictures along with the number.  When the birthdays are a seventh, eighth, or ninth, I wasn't sure I wanted to do that.  But when the birthday is a second one, two little pictures is easy!

This year my youngest is turning two!  She seems to really like owls and more recently elephants.  I like making owls too, so we were all set.  A big number two for Kessa and two little owls.

two birthday shirt machine embroidery

Once my son hit about nine years old, he no longer wanted birthday shirts.  But last year when I had kids turning 1, 7, and 11, I knew I wanted something for him.  I did a quick search for "11 shirt" and found this cool vintage military 11th Airborne shirt.  It was a perfect fit.  
This year, we are again doing a joint 2, 8, 12 party and I searched again for a shirt:  "12 shirt."  I found many!  And one design had significance for us.  It's from the Hunger Games, district 12.  Perfect again!  
The eight year old is still into birthday shirts and choose a nice peace symbol print this year.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Super Cute Felt Cookies

My sister suggested felt cookies as a nice birthday gift for her daughter's upcoming third birthday. She sent me links to a few options other people had made. I thought they were really cute and probably not too hard to make.

Felt Cookie with sprinkles
I looked through my stash. I had cookie colored felt and beads that would make perfect sprinkles. I started with the tan felt and made two circles. Then I made a smaller frosting-like shape out of pink felt. From there I just sewed the beads in a random sprinkle-like fashion. Sewing the beads onto the frosting and the top of the cookie was enough to connect the frosting to the cookie. Finally I sewed the top of the cookie to the bottom with coordinating thread and used a very small bit of polyfil to give it some body.

After seeing my toddler trying to remove the frosting layer, I decided I needed to place beads even closer to the edge.

I did run out of the tan felt and decided I could use some cream, dark brown, really dark brown fabric and more tan.  After a shopping trip I started on more cookies.

I was excited to try to make chocolate chip cookies. I took scraps of the dark brown felt and tried to make random chips. Each chip was then attached with a few stitches. It was a fun challenge to place the beads and chips in a random looking pattern.

Felt Cookies
Even though I'm not a big fan of sugar cookies in real life, they certainly looked cute in pictures. I used cream felt and found these tiny colorful beads. The package seemed pretty old. I think I've had these a while!

Because St. Patrick's Day was on its way, I decided to also try a shamrock cookie.

I thought of other cookies we like to eat and make. I started a gingerbread man, but didn't like how it was looking. I thought a tree would be nice too. But found that I really like the way the circle cookies look, so I stuck with them. I did try a kiss cookie or a peanut blossom cookie. I'm not sure that's a winner either.

Probably when I finished my first or second cookie, it became clear to me that I would need to make a second set for our house. They were too cute!  Good thing I have an almost two year old in the house.

I saw one set of cookies in a picture that was presented so nicely in a little box. I looked around at Target and JoAnns for small boxes. We actually found a perfect little pink treasure chest gift box at Target, but it was too big for six little cookies.

After looking at cookie and cupcake boxes, I settled on small paper mâché boxes. They seemed a bit more durable than the bakery boxes.

However these little boxes needed some color. I decided to paint them. Painting and drawing have never been my strongpoints and I was reminded of this fact again as I was painting. It was especially hard when the almost two year old wanted to climb on my lap when I was trying to make careful lines and dots. But as they were drying, I decided they will make nice little cookie boxes for two little girls.
Felt Cookies & gift boxes

Monday, March 5, 2012

The wonderful world of Greek yogurt and other substitutions

We have started eating Greek yogurt and finding all kinds of great uses for it!

For lunch, I was sharing a peach flavored regular yogurt mixed with plain yogurt with my toddler. It worked well, cut the sweetness, and went further. When we tried it with regular peach yogurt mixed with plain Greek yogurt, it was very creamy and more filling.

Guests were asked to bring a dish to pass for a party I was attending. I like making fruit salad for parties. Because it was winter I got pineapple, oranges, and mango. It was very good. I brought some vanilla Greek yogurt to go with it. It went from very good to amazing!

I have started using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream in a ground turkey casserole and the yogurt is undetectable.

Next up was to try it in cakes. When I made a chocolate cake from scratch, it wasn't anything special. I found a link from Hungry Girl that explained a bunch of substitutions to use for cake mixes.

So far we have tried Devil's food cake with a cup of Greek yogurt and a cup of water. We used cupcake papers and the results were a bit denser than traditional cake and delicious!

We also tried spice cake with a can of pumpkin. Hungry Girl suggests that it will turn out like pumpkin bread. We felt the consistency might be a bit more like bread, but it was plenty sweet like cake. I used cupcake papers again and it worked well.

I can't wait to find more uses for healthier substitutions. Applesauce has long been a favorite of mine for baking, but I think Greek yogurt is my new favorite!