For Birthdays September Is…

September is the most exciting, busy, and tiring month of the year.  It beats even the holiday frenzy of Thanksgiving and Christmas in our family with the number of birthdays we have along with all the back-to-school shenanigans.  My birthday is also guilty of being in September along with my now, 7 yrs old son, who we just finished throwing a themed party for last weekend.  My son has always had something he was obsessed with since he was a baby, starting with airplanes, dinosaurs, etc, and now we’re at Star Wars, so you can probably guess the theme of his party.  I always start off saying I’m going to make the party as simple as possible, then I start adding things here and there until I find myself staring at the ceiling with about a gazillion things running through my head at 3am and wondering what I got myself into.  We ended up having his party at our local park with about 2 dozen 1st grade boys after inviting school friends, church friends, and his soccer team.  Let’s just say I’m glad that this park is usually empty so we had the place mostly to ourselves and so relieved that there were no injuries aside from a rope burn.

Brayden Star Wars shirt

So I am kicking myself in the butt for not taking more pictures at the party, but I was more concerned at that time in making sure I didn’t lose anybody’s kid and that they were safe than try to document the setup/party.  Just imagine I posted pretty pictures of the “Yoda Soda” made from green Gatorade powder in a large, glass, drink dispenser and a beautiful spread (who am I kidding? ha ha) of a huge bowl of our own hodgepodge trail mix ranging from a “seasonal” Star Wars Lucky Charms type cereal, Star Wars Honey Maid grahams, M&M’s, pretzel sticks, Chex cereal, to Rocket Ship Crackers (Trader Joe’s).

In preparation for the party, I wanted to make those lightsabers from pool noodles, but after some research, I was disappointed that the pool noodles were actually quite expensive.  But I found a pinterest image of one made from pipe insulation and duct tape to make the lightsabers which I thought was perfect; especially the price.  I got the 6 ft. insulation at OSH for $1.29 (Home Depot was cheaper but further from me) and I was able to cut them into 3 pieces.  I got red, blue, green, and gray duct tape to cover the pipe insulation and later added thin black duct tape to add a finishing touch to the handles.

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This is also an after-the-party picture (if you can’t tell by the slight warp to the lightsaber).  It was pretty crazy when I handed out the lightsabers to the boys to play with… had to take them back after 2 kids started crying because someone hit them on the head and they didn’t like it… so hand them out at the END of the party.  -__-

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I used my go-to Soft Sugar Cookie recipe to make the cookies and got the Star Wars stencils from this Etsy shop.  I used store-bought black cookie icing (the kind that hardens, aka. royal icing) to “scrape” the Star Wars stencil designs onto the cookies.  See the step-by-step pictures below.  You could do that really with any stencils.  I did have to wipe down the stencils carefully after each cookie so the edges and lines would stay neat and not get smeared from leftover icing.  Sort of a tedious task, so I used buttercream to frost some of the cookies 🙂

stencil icing steps

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Obviously, I made a huge black mess on my first try with the icing and stencils , but the key is to make sure the stencil doesn’t move and scrape carefully so that the icing doesn’t seep through the cracks and “muddy” the lines and edges.

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Since the party was at the park, I didn’t want to cut a cake there and in order to “simplify”, I did cupcakes with these Star Wars cupcake rings to top them off.  Silver cupcake liners and silver sprinkles for the R2D2 rings, gold liners and gold sprinkles for the C3PO rings, and silver liners with Chocolate sprinkles for the Darth Vader rings.  I didn’t get a chance to get close-up pictures of the actual cupcakes from the party on the Star wars Cupcake stand, but I had leftovers with one C3PO ring on it, so I was able to take those pictures at home.  See below for the recipes I used for the cupcakes.  The yellow cake recipe is by far my favorite vanilla cake recipe and it’s the moistest homemade butter cake you will every try!  I have “The Well Decorated Cake” book by Toba Garrett and her recipes are fantastic.  I usually use her French Vanilla Frosting recipe which tastes like Vanilla ice cream, but I tried this other buttercream this time.

Yellow Cake Recipe (I made cupcakes instead and reduced baking time to 20 mins)

Special Buttercream Frosting (I replaced half of the shortening w/ unsalted butter)

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So imagine all of those cupcakes had a cupcake ring on it 🙂

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My favorite purchase from putting together this party were these $1 cupcake carriers!!!  Yes, you heard me, $1 from the Dollar Tree!  They fit 9 cupcakes, and the lid is high enough not to squash the frosting if I had decided to go crazy on the frosting or decoration.  We were able to stack them to carry, and they even have handles (although I wouldn’t recommend carrying them by the handles since they are just a dollar and I wouldn’t want the bottom to fall off and the cupcakes…)

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We ended the party with the Darth Vader Pinata which was actually a pull-string pinata but my son wanted to whack it so I just cut the strings off and called it good.  Note to self: forego a pinata with 7 yr old boys… they stampede and trample…  Good thing my little 3 yr old (pictured above taking a whack at the pinata) was used to having a rambunctious 7 yr old brother and was fine when they all swarmed around for candy.

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If you’re contemplating putting together an all boys birthday party of 6-7 yr olds… may the force be with you.  🙂  My son loved it and I think they had fun; that’s what counts for me, but would I do it again?  Ask me next year.

Thanks for reading~

-Flora

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Fudge-y Chocolate-y Cherry Brownies for your Soul

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It’s official.  I’m a soccer mom.  We even picked up a minivan this summer despite my husband wailing and kicking against the inevitable “suburban mom car” he knew was upon us.  Now our next 10 Saturdays are scheduled with cheering for our 1st grader and Kindergartener and watching them swarm across the field back and forth running after the ball that miraculously makes its way into a goal post once in a while.  Did I mention my husband is coaching my son’s 1st grade team?  He’s an avid sports fan and loves basketball, football, and baseball, but soccer…  Let’s just say he’ll be learning as he goes.  Who knows, he just may add soccer to his list of favorite sports soon.

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I have a huge sweet tooth, but then, I don’t like sweets too sweet.  Does that make sense?  I like desserts, but I like to cut back on the sugar when I’m baking and like light Asian bakery cakes better than the creamed butter frosting covered cakes (although I eat those too).  So whenever I bake, I cut out some of the sugar that the recipe calls for and I usually don’t run into any issues with the final product.  This Chocolate Cherry Brownies I made from the recipe book “Chicken and Egg” was so fudge-y and delicious with the tart cherries adding the perfect compliment to the rich, chocolate-y brownies studded with chocolate chips!  It made one big 9×13 pan of brownies and I had to give some away after I started to feel my waistline disappear…  Even after cutting out some of the sugar, it was still rich because of the chocolate chips embedded in the brownies; a good thing too, otherwise, I might have finished the entire pan of brownies.  It really hit the spot though when I was craving those decadent chocolate treats that my body craves (not me, my body) every once in a while.  😉  The recipe calls for a chocolate frosting to cover the brownies with, but I thought that was a bit overkill… maybe I’ll try frosting it next time I’m really in the mood for death by chocolate.

Chocolate Cherry Fudge-y brownies

(adapted from “chicken and egg”)
ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (60% cacao) (I used Trader Joe’s dark choc.)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs, room temp (place cold eggs in warm water)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I used about 1/2)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz semisweet choc chips
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries (I used Trader Joe’s)
directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and coat a 13″ x 9″ glass pan with nonstick spray.  Melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave at 50% power in 30 sec increments until warm and melted.  Whisk smooth then set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  In large bowl, beat the eggs then add the sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add the chocolate mixture and mix then on low speed, add the flour mixture. Add the chocolate chips and cherries then pour into prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the brownies are set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (if you can find a spot to test that doesn’t have melted chocolate)  Let it cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  4. Cut and enjoy~

*Optional Frosting

  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 TB unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

-Combine ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and melt at 50% power for 30 sec intervals until it is melted and smooth.  Spread over the brownies before you cut.

I didn’t use the frosting and it was already very rich with all the chocolate chips mixed into the brownie batter.

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The tart dried cherries I used from Trader Joe’s. Not sure if they’re seasonal, but I got them this Aug.

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