08 November 2011

(Seriously) Belated Birthday Post

Sheridan turned three nearly 3 months ago and I still don't have birthday pics up? Well, sticking true to form, I will bombard you now with a plethora of images that will (somehow?) make up for their tardy appearance on the blog. A big shout out to my girl Penny who took amazing pictures that day!

First Up: The Theme

Sheridan loves to help me cook, and his favorite song for 6 months running was The Rainbow Song (click here for an ultra adorable version of him and me signing/singing it). So, that naturally meant that we would do a rainbow-themed cooking party. Now, I'm not exactly crafty, so when I decided to create these handmade and hand-delivered invitations to Sheridan's friends (yes, I made them and I had to hand-deliver each one with few exceptions because mailing them was pricey) it seemed like a good idea at the time. Until I started making them. Let's just say this was my first, last, and only venture into any sort of scrapbooking activity.

Every invitation was unique, no two were the same. You can see the cooking theme, but the rainbow theme was subtle. And, the 4th panel (asking for a used book instead of a gift) was truly the BEST idea ever... Sheridan doesn't need a bunch of gifts, but he loves reading and this was a great way to foster his relationship with books.

Now, I decided on the cooking party not only because of Sheridan's love for all things kitchen related, but also because I thought it would be great to include some age- and developmentally-appropriate activities that would allow Sheridan and his friends opportunities to practice fine-motor skills, etc., but also would hopefully translate to sharing his love of cooking with his friends (yep, nerdy mom alert).  

The Theme Realized: The Cake

The cake is a big deal around these parts. Some of you will remember Sheridan's first and second birthday cakes. Each year my former student makes these cakes in Utah (yep, a whole different state) and ships them to me for assembly (they are fake inside - she uses styrofoam - but the decorations are made out of real fondant, sugar, etc.... you seriously need to check out her gallery). Some years require more alcohol consumption assembly than others, but I look forward to the surprise each year (I merely tell her the song and let her creative genius do the rest). Sheridan's cake is the centerpiece and sets the tone for the party - and it is always based on his favorite song. This year was no different.

Sixe tiers of awesomeness.

I placed the cupcakes, frog, and rainbow topper on. That's pretty much it this year - assembly was super easy. I had to pipe the clouds out of icing (yes, my clouds are a bit droopy) then place the rainbow so it would stay up.

Oh, and let's not forget mom's toes joined the party...

Setting the Stage: Always Host Cooking Parties in the Backyard

I'm not a fan of clean up. And although I had grand plans to make the 30 toddlers who descended on my backyard clean up after themselves, I figured it was easier to do it all outside and make clean up a non-issue.

The only downside to our little backyard is that we have no trees. By noon, the sun is blazing overhead and there's no relief. Notice everyone starting to migrate toward what little shade is left from the trees behind our property? Our backyard can be pretty brutal in summer.

You have to make sure everyone is prepared to work... each child received an apron with his/her name on it. Of course, this helps families who don't know each other (we invited Sheridan's whole class, plus all of his friends he's grown up with around his age), and keeps with the rainbow theme. More importantly, my hope was that this would encourage more cooking when they got home :)

We had three cooking stations:

Station #1

The "magic cupcake station" is where children made their cupcakes. Why was it magic? You'll see :)

I bought nearly all the supplies at the dollar store. I made the recipe cards myself (and made up the recipe so the children would be whipping up cupcake-size batches of batter). There were enough ingredients for children to make as many batches as they wanted. And some definitely did. Just in case you're wondering, the green stuff is grapeseed oil in salt/pepper shakers with the lids off. I thought it added a great touch to the rainbow theme.

Alas, behold the "magic" - the children were making rainbow cupcakes. So the recipe card explained that this batter (see those rainbow sprinkles?) would turn into a rainbow when I baked them. Of course, I made actual rainbow cupcakes the day before. I threw the batter in the trash at the end of the party - they were none the wiser :)

And there was A LOT of this...

Hands like that are proof of lots of fun.

Station #2

The "ready for the oven" station is where children brought their magic cupcake batter to fill cupcake tins.

Walking the finished batter to the cupcake tins.

I just love little hands at work and play.

When the children were done making batter, they put all the dirty dishes in one big tub. Made clean up super easy.

Station #3

The "build a sandwich" station is where children made their own lunches. The children's menu options included a Grilled Pear & Brie Sandwich; a Grilled Vegetable Sandwich; a Chicken Salad Sandwich; an Almond Butter, Honey, & Banana Sandwich; rainbow goldfish crackers; and fruit. The children made their own sandwiches, and I had recipe cards out for each type of sandwich.

Look at these perfect little toddler-sized rolls Magpie made especially for Sheridan and his friends!

The rainbow goldfish were a huge hit - I filled a large fishbowl and provided a little fishy net for scooping.

And don't you worry... the adults had amazing food, too. Shameless plug for Magpie Cafe. Seriously, if you live here and haven't tried it - it is a culinary MUST in Sacramento. Your taste-buds can thank me later. If you're not from here, put it in on your must-do list when you come to Sacramento (this town is really growing up - in a culinary sense - and Magpie is one of the top restaurants on the list of places changing this town). And the owners and staff are amazing - they love Sheridan and have been really supportive of the Ds community and DSIA (so they deserve a little Web love here in the form of pics).

Fresh fruit

Italian sandwiches

Vietnamese sandwiches

Grilled vegetables sandwiches


You wouldn't think a bean salad would be worthy of excitement and praise... but this one TOTALLY is.

Black rice salad - another favorite.

In addition to the cooking activities, we had plenty of other options so if a child wasn't particularly interested in making cupcakes (which turned out to be ZERO children), or if the cupcake station was too busy, the children had plenty of other options to hold their interest.

He would have buried me all the way to my neck if he could :)

Even the sidewalk chalk was rainbow.

One of my favorite images from the whole day.

 I did not, however, supply expensive technology for the party. That's his mom's iPhone.

Not To Be Outdone: The Rainbow Cupcakes

We couldn't eat the six-tier cake, so I made a double batch of white cake batter, divided it into seven bowls, and used the best food coloring ever to make the colors of the rainbow (I added pink because I felt like it, even if it's not in The Rainbow Song).

A big thank you to Sheree for this idea! She made rainbow cupcake's for Gabby's birthday party and they were perfect for Sheridan's theme, so she told me how to make them.
The cupcakes were awesome (and all the credit goes to the food coloring, not me).

I didn't bring these out until everyone had made batter, put it in the tins, made and ate lunch, enjoyed the other activities... this was the grand finale. I brought them out and converted the magic cupcake station into the cupcake decorating station.

Devouring the Rainbow

Do not even think about getting a taste from me.

I love the sandy fingers that can't wait to dive in.

The Best Part: Sheridan Had So Much Fun

Grandpa & Nanny Airplane

I love that Gary enjoyed it so much, especially after he missed Sheridan's birthday last year.

He loves his Nonna.

Don't Forget Your Party Favor

I created and laminated a recipe card for each child. Rainbow themed, of course.

I tied the recipe to the only hardware needed... chopsticks.