craft, general information and events

you’re invited: the wee one’s birthday, 2013.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

Obviously it’s taken way too long for me to get this post out. Seriously, it’s a birthday party. No recipe, no step-by-step instructions, no nothing; just cake and some tissue paper and a few games. I think I’ve been overthinking it because I’ve been looking at it as my first post back from hiatus, as if it needs to be some mega-incredible thing, and it doesn’t.

It’s a birthday. for a now three-year-old. And that’s pretty incredible all by itself, I think. Here’s what we did this year, and maybe this year more than ever, I wish all of you had been there. Why? We had games and a new swing set, and you all would have really enjoyed yourselves. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

invitations were made and sent…

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

tissue puffs unfurled…

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

walls polka-dotted (all the walls)…

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

and tables set up. By the way, folks, until someone teaches me the magic of taking photographs directly into windows, this will always be a poor photo. It’s much more magical in real life.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

As you know, there were tissue garlands everywhere; inside and out. We made all of these, and I’ll be posting a little how-to in case you a) would like to use tissue garlands at your party or b) you happen to be a tissue paper hoarder and would like to justify your actions. Tomato, tomahto. Moving on.

Update: here’s the tutorial for tissue fringe garland! As promised.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

The Wee One is having a pink moment, so she requested a pink cake. I complied, and produced what may be the world’s most delicious vanilla/white chocolate cake, otherwise known as the Baked Whiteout Cake. I’ll be sharing the recipe for that one later, and some tips on how not to have a (literal) meltdown with the semi-tricky-but-worth-it frosting.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

As for the food, we had a few drinks (mostly water, iced tea, and a blueberry lemonade I slapped together which was delicious)…

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

enjoyed the relish tray…

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

and ate picnic food, which is pretty standard for these parties, as they are in August and for this one, we were headed outside for games anyway. On the menu:

  • Mini Turkey Burgers with assorted sauces
  • Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwich Triangles
  • Pasta Salad
  • Cole Slaw
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Skewer Bar
  • Relish Tray
  • Assorted Fruits + Veg
  • Snackers (pretzels, chips, and dip)

Wait a minute…

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

Did I say mini grilled cheese sandwiches? I did. They are the Wee One’s favorite thing to eat, and everyone else seemed to enjoy them as well.

Mini-recipe: Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White Bread, a little butter, cheese slices of your choice (but they should be good for melting). Throw them in a 400˚ F oven for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through or when one side is toasted to your liking. Remove and slice into quarters, preferably triangular. Serve to the delight of your (child and adult) guests.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

The skewer bar should be noted as well in the highlights, as it’s just as easy as it looks to throw together, and would be fun to experiment with in the future. I did a simple one, but you could really expand it out to include vinaigrettes, fresh herbs, and more veg, fruit, and cheese offerings. However you do it, it lets your guests essentially make their own custom skewers to suit their tastes. It’s like the New Year’s Toast Bar I made, but even easier, which you can’t beat in the late summer.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

As always, there were plenty of sweet options. I made Kim’s Old Fashioned Pink Popcorn again, and it’s the first thing everyone noticed/collectively fell apart over because they loved it so much a year ago. I’ll be making a version of it every year, and quite possibly for every party I throw.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

Even my little Mini Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies got dressed up for the party. Because there’s almost nothing more fun than taking classic chocolate chip cookie flavors and pairing them with a house-made cream cheese frosting and topping them off with tiny party hats. Mini-tutorial coming up for those as well. Because some of us *ahem* hoard printed cupcake holders as well, and this is a nice craft to use some of the ones you’ve been sitting on.

But back to the actual party.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

We had games this year, which was a blast. Sure, there were only two kids there, but who cares? Adults love games; you know you do. I’m probably inviting everyone over again in October and having games for my own birthday party, and it may be these exact same ones. That up there is bowling, which was a set of kids’ bowling pins with a Mr.Table-crafted “bowling alley.”

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

We also played Tin Can Alley, which was simply that: tin cans and a ball. All you really need to take cans from spaghetti sauce ordinary to completely adorable is a little soap, water, tape, and a few colors of card stock. Add in a wood piece for stability and an appropriately sized ball, and boom: game.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

The Horseshoe Game was an old kids’ set we had lying around, which got quite a bit of traffic on party night. Everyone loves to play Horseshoes. Fact.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

We also had the Duck Pond game, where we took tiny party store duckies, wrote things on the bottom, and floated them in a Tupperware lid filled with water. Also fun. Each one had a code which corresponded to one of these:

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

Prizes. Because prizes are quite simple to put together too when you want them to be cute, and you don’t have to spend a ton of money or time on it, either.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

I could do a little how-to on these also, if you’re interested. I thought this project was pretty entertaining to throw together, with some great results.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

A pretty practical and fun way to add color to a space is to fill it up with plastic balls. Why not? It gave the kids a little something else to do, it made the backyard a little whimsical (as if the banners weren’t doing that enough), and now the Wee One has lots of balls to play with. Win/win.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

As you can see, she had a wonderful evening. And if you noticed an outfit change, there was one. I like to get her a special dress for her birthday – one I will save forever – and this one, although unfussy, wasn’t one I wanted ruined by grass stains or rips. She changed into jeans and a tank later when we officially went outside to do games.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

After the games, we did some present-opening…

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

Lit the birthday cake…

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

…and finished the night. She loved every minute of it, as did I. Hope you did as well.

This isn’t the last time we’ll talk about the party certainly, but this gives you a good overview of the day, with a few party craft tutorials and a brilliant vanilla cake recipe thrown in. I’ll also give you the recipe for the cream cheese frosting I used for the cookie cups in the post I do on their hats, as it was a really solid recipe to use and play with.

you're invited: wee one's birthday 2013.

I feel like we have so much to catch up on! I’m not one to always have full months, but this past one was pretty packed with exciting things. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Probably with many posts; not that I want to overload you, but there’s just so much to talk about. See you very, very soon, and I’ll bring actual food next time.




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  • Reply Amrita August 26, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Adorable! Love this. I am completely inept with tissue crafts so I especially love the decor. This looks like a wonderfully sweet party πŸ™‚

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you, Amrita! Tissue crafts are definitely trying; they work the nerves, i’ll say that. πŸ™‚ I was happy i didn’t have a meltdown, and the Wee loved her party so much that it was completely worth it.

  • Reply Abbe@This is How I Cook August 26, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Oh Shannon, we may have been cut from the same cloth. I used to love doing all these things and throwing the best birthdays! This looks like everyone had such a great time. I am happy for you! In fact at their 13th birthday we made over 100 tissue paper flowers to decorate the backs of the chairs.

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      Abbe, we must be party twins! It’s so much work, but super rewarding at the same time, am i right? My mom used to do the same for us, so i’m happy to carry on our family tradition. and you! i could never make it through 100 tissue paper flours; at last count, i made it through 7. That’s right: SEVEN. πŸ™‚ I’m impressed.

  • Reply movita beaucoup August 26, 2013 at 10:43 am

    I’ve been dying to try the Baked Whiteout Cake, as I have a PERFECT (and mind-blowing) signature chocolate cake, and no white cake to match. Nothing as good as the chocolate, anyway. I will await your post anxiously. So do my white cake lovin’ friends.

    Alright, next year when you take photos of the perfect party table directly into the window, simply introduce a new party game to your guests. That game is called: Hold These Reflective White Boards Behind Me While I Take Some Photos Of This Wicked Awesome Table. Alternatively, you could play the game: Hold These Sheets Of Tinfoil Behind Me While I Take Some Photos Of This Wicked Awesome Table. Both games reflect light onto the subject matter for the photographer. The prize for both games is food. Win win.

    Now, I need to tell you that the Wee One’s party looks like the best gosh darned party ever, and I seriously need you to throw me an exact replica in the future. I love party crafts and the games look way awesome. (I played ring toss at an Ocean Family gathering recently, but there is an element of danger when it comes to chucking metal washers across a lawn at one another, so maybe stick to lawn bowling for now.) Also, I want to dive into the food table face first.

    I missed you. Can you tell?

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Seriously – and i have HAD some vanilla cake in my life – this really is most likely my favorite ever, or at least on a very short list of favorites. It definitely wins in the three-layer category, hands down. Obviously you have to take into account that it’s not the easiest cake to make, but: it’s the Baked guys, so that’s to be expected.
      Next year, i get everyone in on the light-reflecting action. there will be prizes for best use of foam core. Maybe i should have the dude from Foodgawker that always tells me my photos are underexposed and too dark to come judge?
      I’m marking this down in mine and Katherine’s “Rachael’s Future Party” official notebook. We have one going. check. check check check. diving board for table.

      i missed you too. but that goes without saying. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats August 26, 2013 at 11:32 am

    EVERYTHING IS SO CUUUUTE!!!! Awesome job, Shannon. Totally worth all the time and effort you put into it and it seems like the wee one (and all the guests!) had a blast πŸ™‚ Excited for your followup posts πŸ™‚

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      aw thanks!!! there’s always a point in the party planning and execution where i wonder why i’m doing it, but it passes, so i can’t even complain that it’s lots of work; it’s fun work, and worth it. The little looks on her face during the evening are basically the best thing ever, and at that point it feels like no work at all.
      which reminds me: i need to work on my how-to posts! i have quite a few i promised, don’t i. yeeesh. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Monica August 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Such a lovely, lovely party, Shannon! Honestly, this is probably the dream childhood birthday party that I never had. What a lucky little girl! And happy belated birthday!
    It’s funny because when I saw those crispy, delicious looking grilled cheese sandwiches, I was planning to ask you for your “method” and right there – you gave me the answer! Now, let me ask a very, very “dumb” question. Do you butter the inside or outside of the bread? Told you – I have lots to learn! hehee
    And I’d love a tutorial on the prize chart! Great idea that the kids must have loved. I know when I have a little kids gathering, the games/prizes are what they flip out about. : )

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      Thank you very much, Monica: i hope she remembers these as her dream parties, for sure. She says thank you for her birthday wishes. πŸ™‚
      there you go! recipe right in the middle of the post. They were SO simple: like i completely winged that one, no recipe, no real plan, no nothing, and the worked wonderfully. The nice thing is that there’s no set “done” time, so if you have to take them out a little before or after, it only changes the depth of their golden color and nothing else; totally foolproof! you butter the bread on the OUTSIDE, GIRL. Now go make yourself a grilled cheese! πŸ™‚
      that one was a fun one: again, totally winged that one too, but i kept notes on how it came together, and it was easier than i even thought it would be, so that tutorial should be a keeper. definitely a nice way to spruce up little dine store items.

      • Reply Monica August 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm

        Did I give you a good laugh about the butter question or what? Wish I wasn’t serious. You see…I really like the grilled cheese at Bouchon Bakery and it is not greasy at all. I always wondered how they could do that with butter on the outside and wondered if it’s possible to get that crisp and brown-ness w/o the fat. Never mind me!

        • Reply shannon August 30, 2013 at 3:02 pm

          i LOVE YOU for that question! These, if you can see it in the photo, are not at all greasy. they are very much a product of a hot baking sheet and sparing butter; i do not like to overbutter grilled cheese, because then yes, it gets soggy. Baking them flat on a sheet using a good, sturdy white bread? not greasy. you’ll notice it takes longer than a pan grilled cheese, and i think that helps crisp it up as well. very crouton-y on the outside. I daresay you could try brushing olive oil on them in place of butter to see what happens? I’ve never tried it, but i make croutons like that all the time.

  • Reply Hillarie Graham August 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Looks completely adorable & fabulous! So sorry we missed it. However, Autumn and I had a spectacular time with you and the wee one at the zoo a few days later! πŸ™‚

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:55 pm

      You know i don’t mind that you missed it: besides, we got to go to the zoo together, and that was just as fun, and a nice bonus to her birthday party. πŸ™‚ We had a great time with you two.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats August 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    So, with your free time, you’re clearly going to become a kid’s party planner, right? Obviously.
    Can you plan my birthday party too? I can’t wait for the cake recipe! AND OMG PINK POPCORN! and I love everything. EVERYTHING!!!

    I cannot BELIEVE all the hand-made things, everything is hand-made and amazing! I LOVE IT SO MUCH! And I STILL LOVE THE TISSUE FLOWERS. I don’t care if they were an accident!


    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      Only if all the kids were like my kid, and NONE OF THE MOTHERS WERE LIKE ME, natalie. πŸ™‚ I’ll plan your party, though! You know i would, too…we would have so much cake, erm, i mean fun. both.

      you need to make the pink popcorn. you would love it. Halloween. orange food color. do it. i am.

      you know what i forget to mention every time in these birthday party posts? I am super lucky. the ONLY reason i can do all this handmade stuff is because the Wee One LOVES TO HELP. what kid likes to help and is actually helpful? my kid. So she’s a big reason that i’m even able to do it. lol i like those tissue flowers, too. even if they should be “spheres/orbs” WHATEVER. So next time you’re looking for tissue flowers at the party store, just look for the tissue balls and then make them incorrectly like i did. #genius

      yay i missed you too!!!!! obviously. *hugs*

  • Reply Sarah@ The Cook's Life August 26, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Your party, and the preparations look like they were so much fun! I wish I had had you around to help me when my son was little. I am woefully short of inspiration for things like games and decorations. I guess now that he’s going to be 14 (gasp!), I can’t throw him a party with games. πŸ™‚ I am going to use your oven grilled cheese idea for my next party, though. Thanks for the idea. Not sure why I never thought to bake grilled cheese sandwiches in quantity!

    Gorgeous photos too!

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      thank you sarah! and who says you can’t throw a party like this when they’re 14 years old? Let’s do it! I’ll come over and help you make the party, and i’d bet money on that a bunch of teenage boys (after they get over being super cool and awesome) would totally dig it. they probably wouldn’t allow photos or video to be taken, but i bet they’d LOVE IT.
      The grilled cheeses were a huge hit, really. like no one had any idea we were having them, but there were not that many left.

  • Reply Faygie August 26, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Yay! The party post! This is, quite possibly, the cutest party EVER! I love that while there’s a theme going on, and you did some great crafts and decorations for it, it’s not over the top like so many kids parties you see online. And it looks like it was a darn FUN party!

    And of course the food looks incredible. I already told you this, but I’m so glad you got the frosting for the cake to work, since it’s such a delicious cake!

    And now I am totally wanting a grilled cheese sandwich.

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Yay! I still wish you lived closer so your girls (and you and Chaim!) could party with us; they would love it, and the Wee One would love the company. That whole “theme but not a theme” was what i was trying to go for, so i’m happy it came across in the photos: i prefer working off of a color palette and/or ideas versus making it look like, SO themey? if that makes sense. AND yes, it was crazy fun for everyone! Couldn’t have asked for better weather, either, which was nice.

      Thank you; I thought i would have it in the bag this year with the food photos, since we were having it in the early evening, but no; almost good photos, but not quite. but thank you because i really tried! That frosting was killer: like killer good, but killer work, and kind of a nail-biter in terms of if it was going to work or slide off the cake. I’m happy it did, because it was the BEST cake.

      Who wouldn’t want a grilled cheese sandwich after seeing those? Make sure you cut yours super tiny. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog August 27, 2013 at 7:59 am

    You’re back! I missed your face like crazy. I may have even stalked your page every few days to see if maybe you were just lying when you announced that you were going to take a break from blogging. You weren’t.

    You really know how to throw a party. I’m not ashamed to say that I’d like to party with the wee one next year. Prizes! Games! Pink cake! Popcorn in a pretty glass container with a scoop–I’m game for all of it.

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:36 pm

      Jennie, i missed you too! I don’t even mind that you stalked my page just to keep me honest: i wasn’t lying (although there were a few times i thought about making something and posting it, and then decided i would just wait). πŸ™‚ It was hard because I DID miss it, but i suppose that was one of the good things that came out of it; that i really wanted to get back to it. that, and i definitely needed to take a break; too much going on to really focus.

      Jennie, here’s what: i’ve already decided to recycle the games from her party for my own birthday in October! I think we’ll just haul them out again, get new prizes (because i want prizes, duh) and hang out in the backyard again. I can’t think of anything better. And there will be popcorn again, too.

  • Reply Dana Staves August 27, 2013 at 8:33 am

    I’m so glad you’re back! The party looks amazing and fun and delicious – quite the festive success!

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks, Dana! I’m happy to BE back, which is nice to say after a month of not blogging. It was nice to be able to start off writing again with this little party; an easy post, to be sure. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Deb August 27, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Looking for an fantastic post! Well you certainly found it! What a splendid party for the “wee one” and her friends and family! If she continues on and about with her “wee” pink obsession I think that would just delightful!

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      Thank you so much, Deb! She had a great day…or great several days, actually, since we kept the games out and the decorations up for a little bit for her sake *ahem* and my sake too. She’s all the sudden just really gotten into pink lately; of her own accord, too, because she doesn’t have any real outside influences or other kids to follow. Pink was always my thing when i was little, too, and i’m happy with her finding her own little likes and dislikes. We’ll see what it turns into (or if it changes) next year!

  • Reply elizabeth August 28, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Your parties always leave me in awe, and this is no different. Related: you had me at those cupcakes: chocolate chip AND cream cheese frosting? Yes please! And I’m saving the Tin Pan Alley game idea for my nephews, because I’m pretty sure that the prospect of knocking things down again and again would entertain them for quite a while.

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Oh, thank you, Elizabeth! I have fun putting her little parties together, but it does make me happy that i have one child and not many (one of the reasons, i should say; there are more i could think of). πŸ˜‰ I had no idea about how good chocolate chip cookies and cream cheese frosting were together, but i wandered by it in some magazine a while back; it was something having to do with an icebox cake with the same flavor pairing, and it just stuck in my head. Probably because i have an intense love for cream cheese frosting.
      As you may have noticed, all the games basically involved knocking something down or throwing something at something else. ALWAYS a win with kids. Adults, too. It simply never stops being fun.

  • Reply Elizabeth @ Eating Local in the Lou August 28, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Just simply adorable and so well done! Please tell Wee One Happy Belated Birthday for me!

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks, Elizabeth! The Wee One says thank you very much too; she had a great time, and probably still thinks it’s her birthday, to be quite honest. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen August 28, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Wow.. so much fun in one little party.. and so much clever and talented creativity! Your daughter is a lucky little big 3 year old!! (she’s adorable btw!) I can’t wait to see the recipe for the white chocolate cake with the tricky pink icing. I’m with your guests.. that pink popcorn caught my eye when it was still in the background of a photo, lol, so I’ll be off to check that one out. Mine are too old for games, but I will remember this for grandkids.. hopefully not for another 10 years though, lol! xx

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks so much, Barbara! I got lucky this year that the crafts and garland came together easily and everything turned out well; i never know going in what will happen. She’s at the age where she finds herself pretty adorable, which is cute to see (and encourage) because you just wish they’d stay feeling that confident about themselves forever. πŸ™‚ That pink popcorn has officially made its way onto every future birthday party menu I put together; it’s a keeper, and it makes kids and adults really happy.
      Remember; NO ONE is ever too old for games. NEVER. I firmly believe that. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Ashley August 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    You can throw me a fiesta anyday! I love everything about it!!! And a Baked cake — you are brave and fierce! After some, uh, technical issues with other Baked recipes, I’m almost too scared to go all out on their cake recipes. But with your guidance, I feel like this Whiteout cake could totally happen.

    On the tissue paper crafting front, my mother has gone above and beyond making giant tissue paper flowers for my bridal shower. I was tricked into making a few and can only admire her (and your) dedication at tissue paper crafts. Respect!

    Also, you’ll be happy to know I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the cookbook you recommended from the fellas of Outsider Tart (ha, referenced OD!). Checked it out from the library, flagged about 20 recipes upon first glace, bought it on amazon a day later. Great find!

    • Reply shannon August 28, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Ashley, just think: your wedding reception could be JUST LIKE THIS if you let me plan it!!! πŸ˜‰ The Baked dudes do not make it easy on you in terms of cake execution, i’ll say that; i love them, but man, do they not go easy on you. The end result more than made up for the work, however; just super, super delicious. Favorite cake, or one of my favorites, ever.

      I love your mom! That’s so amazing of her, and i have deep respect for someone sitting and making them for any length of time; it will try your patience, and it’s more difficult than you would think for a dumb party thing, especially when it says “easy!” on the front of the package. πŸ™‚ Mad respect for your mom. I only did a few. and then i stopped.

      YAY for the Outsider Tart book! I’m so happy you have it now! I, sadly, haven’t had a chance to dive back into it recently, but i’m gearing up for fall and winter and i know i’ll be making a bunch of stuff from it because they have so much in there i’d like to try. Let’s compare notes this year. πŸ™‚

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