Friday, September 30, 2011

That Takes the Cake

This is the cake that started it all. For months, when Hannah's birthday was mentioned, all she would say is that she wanted a cake like Aurora. She didn't mean the nice cake that the fairies made using magic. She meant this one. Turns out, it's harder to make a falling-down cake that it looks! Here's what happened...

We started with eight, 7-inch layers of orange cake.

After leveling the tops, we covered them with butter cream frosting. Hannah helped up to this point (she loves baking almost as much as I do).

I let the butter cream set for several hours. Meanwhile, I made some runny, blue royal icing. Like the favors, this tip came from a desperate Facebook post. (Thanks for the tip, Erin! She used this technique to make blood on a Halloween cake. Clever, huh?)

So here it is in all it's glory! Six layers high, I started to get nervous about the cake's stability, so I stopped building. About 15 minutes later, it was getting tippy, so I skewered it, with the hope that as the royal icing set up, it would become sturdier.

Turns out, that wasn't the problem. (Anyone who knows about cakes probably already knows what went wrong, right?) My cake needed to be denser to support the weight of all those crazy layers. An hour later, the whole thing had fallen over.

I was too sad to take pictures of that, but here it is the next day, after I had salvaged they layers that were still intact.

Oh yeah, I also ate some of broken layer. That's why half of it's missing.

So literally minutes before we served the cake, during the party, I ran inside and constructed this cake out of the remaining five layers. We raced it outside, to a delighted little birthday girl who was so excited that she couldn't sit in her seat long enough to blow out the candles!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Royal Favors

Leading up to Hannah's Princess Aurora-themed birthday party, I thought and thought about the party favors. I knew exactly what the girls should have: pink princess hats, the kind with the floaty streamers hanging down the back.

But what about the boys? Boys don't want pink princess hats. An informal Facebook poll resulted in lots of good suggestions: boy's hats, mustaches, pirate gear. Finally, I settled on an approximation of a stuffed felt dagger I spied one day on Pinterest. (Gotta love social networking, right?)

By now, I've run out of pictures that hide the left side of Hannah's face. So you'll notice that she fell on the driveway about an hour before the party and ended up with an impressive cut above her eye. No major injury, but not a fun birthday surprise.

Even though you probably haven't seen Sleeping Beauty in the last 23 years, and don't remember the story, there are three bumbling fairies who care for Aurora. So these pretzels, dipped in white chocolate, are meant to evoke Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather. Hannah and I made these together, and she was very proud of them.

The pretzel rods were too short for the hurricane glasses, so I added some marshmallows to the bottoms to add height. I can't tell you how many kids asked me during the party if they could have some marshmallows. Who knew that the filler would be cooler than the main event?

And finally, each kid had their own goblet. This is from another scene from the movie, where King Stephen and King Phillip toast each other, their children, and everything else under the sun, while imbibing in a little too much 16-year-old wine, and ending in a fight for honor which involves a dead fish. You have to see it... I think it's one of the best scenes in the movie.

The plastic glasses had each child's name on it, and were pre-loaded with stick-on jewels (the most expensive item I bought for the party, by the way).

They were fun to make, especially for the oldest kids present, who were sophisticated enough to make color patterns and designs.

Of course, some folks just don't care about fancy cups (until the apple juice is poured, anyway). Luckily, there are lots of other things to keep a body occupied in the back yard.

And I know you've been waiting, so tomorrow, the cake!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not your everyday cardboard box castle

What's a princess party without a castle? (And you know how much we like castles around our house!) So Jonathan went to work on a couple of boxes we had stored in the garage for an occasion such as this. Check out what he came up with!

Of course, Hannah got out her tools and went to work right along side Daddy. She fixed her own hair. I thought it was very fitting that she's sporting the Princess Rambo look for this particular construction project.

First, the arched doorway...

...then the towers...

...and of course, the pink paint. We actually had almost a whole gallon of paint left over from painting Hannah's room, so Jonathan used a little of that to spruce up the castle.

Hannah helped.

And here's the finished product. We were just so pleased with how it came out. If you look through the doorway, you'll see Hannah's signature "H" painted on the back wall. Not bad, huh? We added some Sleeping Beauty-inspired banners to the castle, and to the back fence. (For those of you who aren't obsessed with all things princess...uh...I mean, who's daughter is not obsessed, banners feature prominently in Princess Aurora's birthday celebrations.)

And here's our birthday princess. I was so excited to find this Aurora shirt at Old Navy, and paired it with a super ruffled tulle skirt that I made. Like the hat? Come back tomorrow for more about the party favors!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You're Invited...

Hannah's third birthday is this week, and we celebrated her birthday party over the weekend. Join us on WeeWarrens throughout the week to see how we attended to the details of Hannah's princess party. Well, it was an Aurora Party, to be exact.

Somehow, Sleeping Beauty is Hannah's favorite Disney princess, and she loves the movie. (Imagine me scratching my head in puzzlement.) Her absolute favorite scene is the one where the good fairies try to make Aurora a birthday cake without using magic. It turns into a huge, leaning tower of cake layers, blue icing, and prematurely lit candles, which eventually falls over - in spite of the broom Fairy Fauna tries to prop it up with. When Hannah imagined her upcoming birthday party, that cake was all she could see.

We sent the invitations pictured above, which are part of a garland we bought from Williams Sonoma. Hannah licked all the envelopes herself. And I'm pleased to invite you to join me in a behind-the-scenes look at the party planning, including the infamous falling-over cake.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Library Card Holder Tutorial

Hannah got her very own library card last week. To celebrate the momentous occasion, before this week's trip to the library (and when I say before, I mean like 45 minutes before story time was to begin), super-ambitious-Mama decided to make a holder for the card. It needed to be pretty enough so that Hannah would want to carry it, large enough that it (and the card) would not be easily lost, and have something to attach it to our library bag.

So I got out some clear vinyl I've been hoarding, and went to work. Hannah helped by choosing the ribbon and putting her card into every photograph I took. This turned out to be a good idea, because my worktable has a glass top, on which you can't see the clear vinyl, so the card makes it a little easier to see what' going on. Thanks, Hannah!

Materials needed are two scraps of clear vinyl (ours was from an old bag), about 24 inches of ribbon, and coordinating thread.

Cut two pieces of vinyl about an inch larger than the card on each side. Mine were 5 x 3.5 inches. Cut one piece shorter on the narrow end by about an inch.

Start with the shorter piece of vinyl (the front of the pocket). Finish one narrow edge by folding a piece of ribbon over the edge. Sew with a zigzag stitch.

Now take the longer piece of vinyl. Cut a long piece of ribbon for the handle. Mine was about 12 inches long. Attach it to the top (short side) of the vinyl.

Line of the bottom edges (short sides) of the two pieces. Attach the pieces together by encasing them with one lenght of ribbon. Sew with a zigzag stitch.

Finish the top edge of the longer pieces (the one with the handle) with a lenght of ribbon. This will leave the handle turned the wrong way.

Fold the handle up toward the top and secure with a zigzag stitch.

Finish the two long sides with two pieces of ribbon.

If you look closely, you will see that I didn't turn under the edges of the ribbon. This was mostly because I was trying to finish the thing in 15 minutes. You could make a very nice finish by doing this. In my case, after we got home from story time, I added a little bit of fray guard to the ends of the ribbon.

Hannah was so proud of her library card and its very own bag, that I could get her to hold still for a picture. You get the idea... I think she fancied herself a grown-up library lady with her very own custom purse.

And here it is, attached to our library bag, so we know where it is. The best part, it's on display for all to see that Hannah has her very own library card!

P.S. Did anyone notice the title picture says ""? Get ready to change your bookmarks because we bought the domain name, and are working to change the site over in the next few days!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Last week, our friends Marcia and Paul invited us to their place to pick grapes. Hannah and I were so excited about our outing that we even convinced Jonathan to tag along. What a time we had!

Paul told us that the best of the crop was over. I told him it was okay, that we were mostly there to spend the morning outdoors and to take pictures. (Marcia said with the three 5 gallon buckets Paul picked before we came, she made something like 46 quarts of grape juice and pints and pints of jelly. The Warrens are not quite so ambitious...)

So we set out to the beautiful little vineyard in the back yard. We ate a few grapes,

picked one or two bunches,

posed for the camera.

Paul, meanwhile, had picked a gallon bucket full, and went by muttering, "You weren't kidding about being here to take pictures." Nope!

Paul and Marcia have several varieties of grapes, the names of which I don't remember. There are purple ones

white ones

and big muscadine grapes (I guess I remembered something.)

After we filled our bags and buckets (and chased the cat for a while),

Marcia shared with us some of the grape juice she made, along with the recipe for making our own.

Back at home, we washed and sorted the grapes, preparing some for making juice and some for grape jelly.

For the juice, Marcia said to fill the jar half full of grapes,

add half a cup of sugar,

fill the rest with boiling water, and then process the jars for 10 minutes. (I later learned that one shouldn't can on a glass-top stove because it could break the glass. Lucky thing it didn't because the grape juice was a maiden voyage for our brand new stove!)

The jelly we made using this recipe, which called for squeezing the grapes out of the skin. Boy was that a job that a two-year-old could really get into! (Mama thought it was pretty fun too.)

Finally, after the juice sat for a few days, we cracked one of our jars open and enjoyed it.

It was pretty sweet for me, but Hannah was a big fan. And let me tell you about how these grapes tasted. This might prove my fruit-ignorance, or maybe the part of the country I'm from, but I always thought that grape-flavored stuff - candy, medicine, whatever - was really fake tasting. Grapes don't taste anything like that. Well, now I've amended that opinion to say that grocery store grapes don't taste like that. These real grapes tasted just exactly like grape. What do you know? The grapes I've been eating all these years are pale imitations of the real thing.

Thanks, Marcia and Paul, for sharing your grapes and giving us a wonderful morning - and some tasty souvenirs!
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