Not a cupcake decorator? My friend Kerry found a fabulous solution that takes the cake (sorry, couldn’t resist) on MeriMeri.com. For less than $13, you can order cupcake kits with wrappers and toppers in more than a dozen cute themes like trucks and magic fairies. Kerry baked vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, frosted them in orange and blue, and then added little truck toppers. The overall effect was polished and adorable, and the older kids got to keep the little trucks (they were affixed to toothpicks, which were too sharp for the little ones).
The bash took place at Kerry’s house last Saturday. She and her family have the kind of private outdoor space that most New Yorkers can only dream about–it’s a huge wraparound patio right off their family room with a toy shed, couches, and tables. It’s the perfect place to hang with friends and celebrate special moments.
The vibe was comfortable and low-key. In one area, the kids played in a sand box. Kerry also had lots of rideable toys out, as well as a mat with every kind of toy car and truck imaginable. And kids could get temporary tattoos (that’s Mason, looking tough, right). The kid-friendly eats were a hit with everyone–various hoagies, pasta salad, tossed salad, and chips with mango-pineapple salsa–and I loved that snacks (pretzels, popcorn, and goldfish crackers) were on low tables so that the kids could just help themselves.
A fun afternoon for sure! And now I know where to look for cupcake decorations for Mason’s bash next year.
What are your favorite websites for birthday party-planning?
Mason turned 2 yesterday and we celebrated with a cookout. It was very low-key, especially by New York standards, where pricey entertainment, a giant guest list, and catered food isn’t at all unusual.
We reserved the rooftop of our apartment building, and decorated it with a “mod monkey” theme inspired by Mason’s love of the stuffed monkey Chris adored when he was Bug’s age. In fact, it’s the only toy my quirky kid will allow in his crib at night, and he always makes sure that I cover “Monkey” up when I tuck him in.
I ordered all of the decorations, tableware, and favors online. My father-in-law hung clusters of balloons from the awning over the picnic table, and my mother-in-law put together the cute little centerpiece. I hung balloons and my brother-in-law’s girlfriend dressed things up with streamers.
The food was fresh and local. Chris grilled sliders and brats, while I made fruit salad, heirloom tomato salad, and red cole slaw. We served a bunch of different types of drinks (beer, wine, seltzer, soda, and juice boxes), and had the requisite goldfish crackers. Dessert was chocolate and vanilla cupcakes that I made from a mix decorated with rainbow sprinkles.
I didn’t hire fancy entertainment, I decided Mason was too young to really get a magician or whatever. Instead, the boys played with beach balls, toy cars, and bubbles–most of which came from our local dollar store. Our thinking was that new toys Mason had never played with would be easier for him to share than his beloved playthings (which stayed downstairs in our apartment). Our plan worked! The boys had a blast, and we didn’t have any major meltdowns.
The moms chilled out, eating and chatting (my father-in-law took on kid duty, which was awesome). At one point I looked around and felt so grateful to be surrounded by so many wonderful people who also love Mason. My MIL and FIL had flown in from out of town for the occasion. Then there was my BIL and his girlfriend (who are local); two LIC Mamas, Diane and Kerry, and their families; Katherine with her husband Eric and their darling twin girls, Kay and Brooke; and Aesook with her husband Henry and son Logan, a favorite classmate of Mason’s. Some neighbors whom we adore stopped by as well.
I had stressed endlessly about my simple approach; at one point, in the beginning of our party planning efforts, Chris had to remind me that we didn’t need to go overboard for our 2-year-old’s birthday party, and I’m thankful he was able to keep me focused. I find it embarrassingly easy to get swept up in what other moms think and say, and, I lose perspective on what works for us as a family. In the end, Mason clearly had a blast–and I wouldn’t change a thing about the party we had for him.
Have you found yourself in a situation recently where you’ve felt pressure to “keep up with the Joneses”? Dish with me!
Last April, I made an embarrassing confession to you guys. I revealed that I’d never baked a cake, and then later I realized I actually had baked a cake once. Apparently my efforts were pretty forgettable, even though the cake was for someone I loved very much at one time, so of course there’s a story there. However, getting into all of that, at 11:30 at night, is a bit more than I can handle, so let’s just move on.
My cake confession came about because I was stressing about my lack of cake-baking experience at a time when I was already beginning to think about what I was going to do to celebrate Mason’s second birthday this year.
Fast forward a few months and that time is here. Mason’s birthday is tomorrow. I was determined to make his cake this year (last year I purchased cupcakes), and guess what? I did it! Twice. And it was so simple I laughed at myself for being nervous about it.
My first batch of cupcakes was for his school birthday party, which took place last Friday. I made very easy puppy paw print cupcakes from cake mix and vanilla frosting. I used Necco wafers and smarties to create the paw prints. Decorating took 15 minutes, tops. And the cupcakes looked fabulous! (I can’t take credit for the idea–it was conceived of by Erica Policow, the Food editor of Parents, and featured in our May 2012 issue, along with several other easy cake decorating ideas.)
Tonight, after we got back from Mason’s first Yankee’s game, I cupcakes for his real birthday party. We’ve having a rooftop cookout with family and a handful of close friends tomorrow. (Pics to come in my next post.) I’m psyched we all get to celebrate on his actual birthday. Fingers crossed it doesn’t rain.
Mason turns 2 next Sunday. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, but it’s astonishing that he gets even more fun as the months go by. I thought 6 months was the best age, then 1, then 18 months, and now my vote goes to the age he is right now.
In the spirit of his upcoming birthday, we traveled to Columbus, Ohio, last week to visit family. My mom hosted a celebration for him, and all of our family was there, as well as Amber, my closest friend from college, and her two boys Declan and Liam, stopped by as well.
The kids played in the kiddie pool, in the sandbox, and in a giant bouncy house. They blew bubbles, and raced cars. And of course they ate cupcakes.
My mom made simple cupcakes from a mix, frosted them, and then created a little beach scene on top. A sprinkling of coarse sugar made the sand. A piece of fruit roll-up became towels and little cocktail umbrellas offered shade for Teddy grams wearing either a bikini or swim trunks made from frosting. The treats looked adorable–and they were very easy to make.
Now I just have to come up with a good cupcake design for his class party next week.
Here are the Elmo cupcakes that another of Mason’s classmates recently had for his school celebration, so I want to go another route for Mason (but hopefully be just as creative!) I’m going to start with the mix–I’m thinking carrot cake with a luscious cream cheese frosting–but I need a fun decorating idea.
The context: Mason is enjoying his first chocolate Easter egg–and entertaining us while he’s doing it. We weren’t quick enough with my iPhone to get the very first bite on video, but I think that what we did capture is still a riot!