Category: Inspirations

Art and Sharks Party

So what do you do when you have two kids who have birthdays 5 days apart and yet want different themes for the party this year?  First, you have a moment of insanity, and think, “oh yes, two parties wouldn’t be that hard to pull off.  Let’s do that.”  But then you look at your life and how you hardly have time to feed yourself or clean the toilet and wisely re-think this decision.  So a mishmash of 6 and 9-year old interests results in:

Before I move on, I must put a huge shout out to my creative kindred spirit, Mikah Neff, for designing these awesome invites.  I had no idea how to communicate the theme of Art and Sharks and without any guidance whatsoever, Mikah came up with that incredible design.  I have cool friends 🙂

When asked what she would like to be when she grows up, Ramona will inform you that she is going to be an artist.  She will also tell you that this means she doesn’t have to learn how to read because she will just be making beautiful art.  Let’s see how that goes for her in the long-run…*Mom and Dad grimace*

Penny has carried on her fight for the well-being of our sharp-toothed friends and their right to a life out of the shark-fin soup pot.  She has also decided she would like to be a marine biologist.  And thus Art and Sharks became the theme!

So what do you do at an Art and Sharks party?  Pictures really explain it the best…

Kids exploring our backyard and visiting our chickens

Balance beam game in shark infested waters

Arts and crafts free-for-all table!  Ramona prefers projects without structure, and so do apparently most kids…

Pin the fin- just can’t get away from this classic party game, no matter what the theme

No elaborate cake this year (I know…clutch the pearls!)- but I did carve a pretty nifty watermelon shark.  It’s actually way easier than carving a pumpkin and way more yummy

Ok, so I know there was no epic cake, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t up to my elbows in cake prep this week.  To go with the arts theme, I thought I would make a mini cake for each child and they could decorate their own cake however they liked.  The kids just couldn’t wait to get their hands on the buttercream and fondant- it was definitely the highlight of the party.

After a brief instruction about how to roll out fondant, the kids were off and running with their delicious creations…

Did you know you can paint fondant with food coloring?  Ramona was finding her muse in no time…


Sorry Amelia- you slipped away without a pic of your beautiful cake!  But I know it came out so cute!

Two amazing girls making birthday wishes

Some of you may be familiar with Penny’s last fundraiser and how she likes to raise the neighborhood awareness of shark cruelty.  The party was just another platform to further her cause.  We collected over $20 in spare change from her birthday guests to donate to the the Wildaid shark fund.  Such a giving heart and smart too- Penny, you’ve got this marine biology dream in the bag.

After 4 major family birthdays in the past month, I’m ready to retire the party supplies and go on vacation.  But I love the creativity of these amazing little people, how unique they are growing up to be, and how I get to be their mom.  It will be interesting if we get another crazy mishmashed theme again next year…unicorns and spelunking?  Superheros and roller derby?  Only time will tell what these spunky girls will come up with next.

*This post is dedicated to my Dad (Grandbear).  He would have loved to have been there and tell the kids he was the troll in the basement.  He would have sang the short version of the birthday song (This is your birthday song, it isn’t very long, hey!), tell me about 10 times how proud he was of me, and watched with joy as they opened gifts, never taking a single moment for granted.  You are so missed, Dad!  

Penny’s Cupcake Win

Today, I watched my little girl win a prize.  This was not just any prize, my friends.  She won 1st prize in a baking competition.  Talk about living out your dreams through your children.

It all started yesterday….

After trudging through a particularly rainy and unseasonably chilly June afternoon, the girls and I huddled in our cozy kitchen around gingerbread tea and cookies to revive ourselves and discuss the summer break ahead.  Looking out of the back kitchen door and watching the rain pouring in sheets, I thought, rather begrudgingly, about the school picnic scheduled for the next day.  Trying to cheer us up, I said, “You know, Penny, they are going to have a cupcake cake competition at the picnic.”

A little twinkle came into her eye and in a matter of a few minutes, our aprons were on and Penny was brainstorming her ideas in her notebook (something she has seen me do many a time).

Here was the initial sketch:

The inspiration for Pink Lemonade Cupcakes came from this interesting find at Trader Joe’s:

It was a totally random impulse buy- I was intrigued by the idea of pink lemons and they looked fun, but I had no real intent or purpose for them. It’s how you could really describe most of my grocery cart when I shop at TJ’s (true confessions here).

Penny loved the idea of using them in her cupcakes and so Pink Lemonade Cupcakes became the plan.  She used my vanilla cupcake recipe, dyed it pink and we whipped up a quick batch before flying out the door for dance lessons and the library.

The frosting and decorating we saved for the next day.  After looking at a few recipes, we decided to just try our own attempt at lemonade buttercream.  All of them involved frozen lemonade concentrate…something we didn’t have time to run to the store for.  So she grated some pink lemon zest, guessed at the right ratios for lemon juice, and added it to my standard buttercream recipe.  It turned out perfect- the pink lemons have a little more depth of flavor than regular lemons and this frosting was perfectly tart and delicious. I have never thought to describe buttercream as “juicy” but that’s the word that comes to mind.

And below was the delightful result of Penny’s creativity and awesome piping skills:

I’m not sure how other parents prep the kids for possible disappointment, but I tend to be the voice of reality (I might be a touch of a negative Nancy). I don’t want to see them set their expectations too high, only to be crushed when they lose.  This is from experience with Penny in the past…I seem to remember a pumpkin carving contest fraught with terrible despair after she didn’t win. It practically ruined Halloween (though the candy made quick remedy of that affair).

So as we arrived and I saw at least 30 other entries (who looked incredibly delicious), I reminded her that we should have a good attitude, no matter the outcome.  She nodded in agreement, but I could tell she really wanted to win.  While her friends played on the park equipment, she hovered around the cupcake booth, stalked the judges while they did their tasting, and checked every few minutes to see if they had the the results.

Honestly, I was bracing myself for a ride home with a disappointed almost 9-year-old.  But as the points were added up, I realized that she might have really impressed judges and had a chance to place.

The anticipation was killing her:

And then it really happened.  They called Penny Scout Wiese, tying for 1st place!

She won 4 tickets for the G6 air park, a free carwash, and a smile that didn’t leave her all night.  I’m taking the win as a compliment to my own recipes, but Penny gets 100% of the credit for her creativity and determination.  Watch out world, this girl is just getting started.

Want to try out our winning Pink Lemonade Buttercream?  So simple and fun- just use with vanilla or lemon cupcakes:

Penny’s Pink Lemonade Buttercream

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

3 TB *Fresh pink lemon juice

1 TB (scant) *Pink lemon zest

Pinch of salt

(*Regular lemons could be substituted)

Cream butter with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add sifted powdered sugar slowly until completely absorbed.  Beat on med-high until light and fluffy.  Add lemon zest and lemon juice, scraping down bowl as needed.  Beat until completely combined.

We added 10 drops of yellow food coloring to make it look more “lemony.”  You could alternatively use pink if desired.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” -Paulo Coelho