Minnie Mouse Birthday Cake

Minnie Mouse Cake

When my daughter told me she wanted a Princess Sofia birthday cake, I thought…uh oh. That sounds like a stretch. 

We’ve had trouble finding a nut-free bakery, so I have been making birthday cakes in recent years. So far, they’ve turned out fine, but Sophia is far beyond my limited skill set.

I was grateful a week later when she decided she wanted Minnie Mouse instead.

Minnie Mouse? Phew, I actually think I can do that.

My talented best friend made a Minnie Mouse cake last year for her daughter’s first birthday. She sent me pictures and it was so pretty! It was her cake-making skill and encouragement that gave me confidence to make this cake for our daughter’s Ballerina third birthday party. With a little practice under my belt, a Minnie Mouse cake seemed reasonable to attempt.

The process is pretty straight forward. Bake, freeze, assemble, and decorate. I carefully took a ton of photos while making it only to have my trusty camera memory card meet its untimely and frustrating death…along with those photos. Ugh. Such a bummer!  But, I think you’ll be able to figure it out from the description below and I’m happy to answer any questions.

The birthday girl couldn’t decide between Funfetti or Chocolate cake, so I made a two-layer cake. One layer Funfetti, one chocolate. I am so grateful to Rose Bakes for her Crusting Cream Cheese Buttercream Recipe {Great for Decorating}. It is quick, easy to work with and tastes delicious.

You guys, you need to make this Buttercream. It’s fantastic.

One box of each cake mix was divided between one 10″ pan (head) and two 6″ pans (ears).  After cooling, each baked cake was wrapped in cling wrap and frozen overnight. Freezing makes them easy to handle. Cutting a semi-circle from each 6″ cake so they fit snugly against the 10″ cake was easy. The bottom layer was Funfetti, the top Chocolate.

A generous layer of frosting was used to secure the ears, head, and layers together. For a little extra flavor, Santa Cruz Seedless Red Raspberry Fruit Spread was added between layers with the frosting. Who would have thought a little jar from the jelly section of the grocery store could taste so decadent?

So far, so good.

Then I started to decorate the cake and things got a little messy. Literally, frosting was getting everywhere. The cake board is a mess (see those greasy spots?). Next time it will be covered while decorating since I’m apparently incapable of not making a mess.

That is when I began to panic. It had been a while since I piped frosting and I was quite rusty.

I decided this was going to be the ugliest cake attempt that ever was.

At that point, I may have asked, er…demanded that my husband remove the children from this house. He may be a saint because he patiently and kindly obliged, asking no questions and reassuring me it was going to look great as he swept them out the door. True story – he’s awesome.

20 minutes later in a silent house, I stood looking at a finished cake feeling foolish for freaking out.

My husband was right, the cake did turn out fine and was delicious.

In the coming weeks I’ll post the Minnie Mouse party decorations but in the meantime…

sunshine girl 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Sunshine Girl.

Kids Football Themed Birthday Party Decorations

In October, our oldest turned 6. A sports fan fanatic at heart, it was not surprising he wanted a football-themed birthday party.

We were a little behind in planning his party, so we were grateful he picked a low-maintenance theme we could actually deliver.

Invitations

Kids Football Themed Birthday Party Decorations | thisgratefulmama.com
Two weeks before the desired party date I scrambled to get invitations out and decided the fastest way was to just do email invitations. We live in a young neighborhood, so we invited his friends mainly from our street and their families. Email invitations were created quickly using PicMonkey.

Water Break Beverage Station

Kids Football Themed Birthday Party Decorations | thisgratefulmama.com
The Water Break sign and footballs were made with construction paper and a white paint pen. Easy-peasy.

Football Themed Photo Birthday Banner

Kids Football Themed Birthday Party Decorations | thisgratefulmama.com
My favorite part of any birthday at our house is making a photo birthday banner. This includes one photo from each month of the year. Picking the photos and putting this together is a sentimental joy.

Entry Way Sign and Banner

Kids Football Themed Birthday Party Decorations | thisgratefulmama.com
Black poster board and that same white paint pen and a few more paper footballs were all it took to make the sign. This Chalkboard Pendant Garland was purchased at Hobby Lobby. It was a gift from my mom, who knows me well, and she joked, ‘just think of how much paper you’ll save’. Ahem, true story. She was right,I use it all the time.

Football Themed Silverware Holders

Kids Football Themed Birthday Party Decorations | thisgratefulmama.com
The silverware were placed in glass cups covered with construction paper designs – football, playbook, football field and referee. You can make these using your children’s art supplies of paper, scissors and glue sticks :).  Gold napkins were used as ‘Penalty Flags’.

 

Goal Posts and Game

Kids Football Themed Birthday Party Decorations | thisgratefulmama.com
We played a little game of Pin the Football on the Uprights. Blindfold, and use painters tape to ‘pin’ paper footballs on the wall. The winner is right in the center. We had a few right on the line, so we put those footballs in a bowl and drew the name that won the prize (a mini Nerf football). 

Balloons, Additional Decorations

Kids Football Themed Birthday Party Decorations | thisgratefulmama.com
How can you have a birthday party without balloons? Our son’s favorite team is the Minnesota Vikings so these football balloons were a hit. For additional decorations, we printed the words, GO Vikings!, SKOL!, First Down! and Touchdown! on plain cardstock. Then we taped them over our existing framed pictures using painters tape. And finally, the table was covered with this plastic football field tablecloth from Party City.

Voila!

Most of the decorations were put up while our son was at school. When he came home, he was pretty excited (which is why the photo is blurry – he was literally jumping up and down).

Kids Football Themed Birthday Party Decorations | thisgratefulmama.com
Happy Birthday little man.

 

 

 

A Ballerina and Flamingo Bedroom

When getting ready to transition our daughter from a toddler bed to a big-girl bed, we asked her what she wanted in her room.

Unprompted, she confidently answered – Ballerinas and Flamingos.

Hmm. Interesting combination. That might be a tall order.

I’m not sure what I expected her response to be, but ballerinas and flamingos wasn’t it.

Not surprising since she loves to twirl, and stand on one leg. Ha. Plus, she wanted a ballerina birthday party and ballerina birthday cake.

I  was thrilled when I found these pictures of a gold-polka dot quilt with ballerina sheets from Pottery Barn Kids. She was equally thrilled. Unfortunately I soon found the quilt and accessories were no longer available. Then when I found out how much they had been selling for, I suffered sticker shock. The quilt and shams alone would have put us back around $250.

Yikes.

Wanting to give her what she wanted, but to also be a good steward of our money, I decided to see if we could do something similar for much less.

As for the flamingos, at first, I could only find these Martha Stewart sheets. But the price was still more than I wanted to spend for mostly white sheets for a potty training child.

Stumped, I went looking for alternatives and inspiration at Home Goods.

Bedding

Oh, Home Goods, you always come through for me.

There, in their tiny kid’s bedding aisle was a Nicole Miller gold-polka-dot bedding set for $40 (less than a quarter of the Pottery Barn quilt alone).

Next to the comforter? Lyla Rose Ballerina sheets for $15.

There I stood, surprised, pleased and cracking up by myself in the Home Goods aisle.

Yep, I’m totally that lady.

Then I made a mistake I won’t make again. Unsure of whether white bedding was a good idea for a 3-year-old, I decided to think about the comforter overnight and come back to buy it.

Bad idea.

It was gone the next day. Thankfully, after calling every Home Goods in the Twin Cities, I found the LAST one 30 minutes away.

After getting almost exactly what I was looking for at a fraction of the price, imagine my surprise when Target came out with their new Pillowfort bedding…including Flamingo sheets for $18 (bought for $15 using a 20% off coupon).

Perhaps a ballerina and flamingo bedroom isn’t such a tall order after all.

ART.jpg

I ordered some alphabet, ballerina and flamingo artwork on Etsy, and found a framed arrow picture on clearance at Gordmans. I  was able to display them in frames we already owned.

Ballerina and Flamingo Room

Inspired by this Pinterest Pin, I ordered gold polka-dot wall decals from Ebay for $16.Accessories.jpg

We kept the string of bird garland from her baby room, added one painted wooden “A” from Home Goods, and a scripture verse made by my mom (the one we wrote on the wood studs of her room while our house was being built).

Done. The bedding and decorations for just over $110. And we should be able to keep it the same for several years.

Now our little sunshine girl has a BIG girl room.

To say she is delighted by her room may be an understatement.

She did some ‘twirling’ to celebrate it.

 

A Ballerina Themed 3 Year Old Birthday – Ballerina Birthday Decorations

We celebrated our daughter’s third birthday last month. It was a lovely time with both sides of our family. By request, her party decorations were ballerina-themed.

The banner below was created using a chalkboard banner I received as a gift. You can find this similar product at JoAnn Fabrics. The ballerina image is a free downloadable vector designed by Freepik.com. The paper fan is one of a pack of 5 Paperchase Card Fans from Target used throughout the house for the party. They will later be used in our daughter’s ballerina and flamingo themed bedroom.

This cake was homemade and topped with cut-out ballerina figures using glittery scrapbook paper and wooden skewers. For the cake and frosting recipe, see here.

Happy Birthday Adelyn

A paper birthday photo banner was made using black and white photos printed on cardstock, hung using clothes pins and twine.

Birthday banner.jpg

The walls were decorated with 2 inch gold or pink glitter polka-dots and ballerinas made using the remaining glitter scrapbook paper from the cake toppers.

polka dots and ballerinas.jpg

Several strings of tissue paper tassel garland were made with 3 colors of tissue paper and twine. I followed this great tutorial from PIZZAZZERIE.com to make the garland. The tassels are easy to make. I love the look of them, but they were a little more ‘putzy’ than I prefer for quick decorations. I’m not sure I would be motivated enough to do it again.

Garland

A Ballerina 3 Year Old Birthday: A Homemade Ballerina Birthday Cake

Our 3 year old girl loves to twirl. I think she spends a quarter of her day spinning.

So, when she saw one video of a ballerina, she was hooked. This made it no surprise that she wanted a ballerina birthday cake.

Order one, right? Wrong. We have food allergies in our family and have trouble finding a bakery that guarantees a peanut and tree nut free cake.

This ballerina cake needed to be homemade – a tall order.

Baking is not my strong suit. But I’ve been making an effort to learn and develop the skill because baking safe birthday cakes will be my job for years to come.

After much research, I decided to make this chocolate cheesecake layer cake from Recipe Girl. The recipe was well written, easy to follow, and the cake is delicious!

The recipe was modified to fit our needs as follows:

  • Line the pan with Parchment Paper: After reading reviews of how to ensure each layer of cake releases easily from the pan, each pan was lined with parchment paper. Not only did it work well, it was less messy than greasing and flouring the pans.
    • To line with parchment paper, spray the pan with cooking spray (I used PAM), then trace and cut out a circle of parchment paper to place in the pan. Finally, spray the top of the paper with cooking spray.
  • Freeze all layers: Due to time constraints, all cake and cheesecake layers were baked 3 days in advance and frozen.
    • Once cool, wrap each layer individually in a double layer of plastic wrap followed by one layer of tin foil. Place them in a freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to assemble the cake. NOTE: To avoid freezer burn, don’t freeze in a frost-free freezer (that heats and cools to remove frost). I used our chest freezer.
  • Use a decorator cream cheese frosting: Instead of the recipe’s chocolate sour cream frosting, this cake was decorated with this fantastic crusting cream cheese, butter cream frosting. With so much chocolate, the cake is plenty rich so skipping the chocolate was ok. Plus, decorating with sour cream frosting won’t work – the designs will just melt away. This cream cheese frosting is great for decorating a ‘girlie’ cake.
    • FYI – my hand mixer started smoking and died while mixing the frosting – it gets thick before it is thinned out! My off-brand mixer wasn’t a very good one. I sprung for the Kitchen Aid hand mixer because it happened to be 20% off and similar in price to the one I had before. I was amazed by how much better it worked. If you feel like YOU are doing all the work when mixing this stuff, I recommend borrowing or buying a better hand mixer (or use a stand mixer). Your arms will thank you and it will cut the prep time in half.
  • Assemble with frozen layers: Handling frozen layers is a cinch – they stack easily without crumbling, frosting is easy to spread, and the cake turns out super moist.
  • Decorate with rosettes: After watching this Cake Trend video, I was able to decorate the cake with rosettes. The process was really forgiving! When things don’t look perfect, you can cover the edges with the next rosette. And because this cake used only one color, it was easy to blend and fill any gaps after finishing.
    • This cake was assembled and decorated one day before the party and stored in an airtight container overnight in the fridge.

Rosette cake

Now, didn’t I say she asked for a ballerina cake? Well, drawing a ballerina with frosting is simply beyond my skill level, so I needed something to stick in the cake.

I bought two sheets of glittery cardstock from JoAnn Fabrics (one gold, one pink). Then I traced and cut out ballerina figures. Each figure was taped to a wood skewer and stuck in the cake the day of the party.

Approval.jpg

I think she liked it and it was delicious!

Trust me, if I can make it, so can you!

 

Don’t Look Too Close

Don't Look Too Close | thisgratefulmama.com

Ever have that kind friend over who comments on the cleanliness of your home? I try to be polite but sometimes it makes me burst out laughing before I can thank her.

Don’t look too close.

Being a mother of two little ones has required that I master doing ‘just enough’ cleaning. The house may appear to be clean, but I guarantee it took no more than 20 minutes to pick up and ‘clean’ before you came over.

Most likely, we ran the dishwasher last night, so we used paper plates for breakfast – I’m too lazy to put dishes away first thing in the morning. A few minutes before you arrived, we may have crammed the toys into the catch-all toy box.

Out of necessity (the potty-training-kind), I did quickly clean the toilet and surrounding floor this morning. But I would have done that whether you were coming over or not, because as I said, it’s necessity.

I do sweep the whole floor once a week, but most of the time I just touch up problem areas – around the kitchen island and by the front door. If you look for crumbs…you’ll find them. All over.

If your child is under the age of 2 and puts things in their mouth, I probably did vacuum the two rooms our kids will be playing in (although I have gone without vacuuming for quite some time when the vacuum belt breaks or the bag is full), but please know it wasn’t because I wanted you to see a clean house. No, it was to protect your sweet child from choking on the umpteen tiny clear Lego lights and who-knows-what-other-tiny-pieces all over my carpet. I am always amazed at the clatter of tiny things sucked up and tossed around the vacuum cleaner.

But don’t look too close…the illusion of clean isn’t necessarily clean.

The house is clean if you don’t pay attention to the crumbs accumulated under the overhang of our kitchen cabinets.

The house is clean if you don’t look upstairs where I surely did not vacuum…it looks like I vacuumed my stairs from the front door, but I only did the bottom 5 stairs and the landing  – the remaining stairs are still in a matted down, un-vacuumed state along with the entire second floor.

The house is clean if you don’t look into the laundry room at the mountain that is CLEAN laundry, begging to be folded and put away.

The house is clean if you don’t run your hand over any hard surfaces to check for dust.

The house is clean if you don’t open the hallway or mud room closets. Open and risk the impending avalanche.

The house looks clean when you arrive but won’t be like that again for the rest of the day week. The house usually looks like this.

The house is clean if you don’t look in the toy box. Nothing is sorted, matched or organized. ALL the toys on this floor fit in the toy box or cabinet in that room. If not, they are ejected to the basement (the kids want to play in the basement? Sure, but it’s a MESS. And not the ‘a few things are out, don’t mind our mess’ kind of mess…I mean a borderline-chaos kind of MESS).

My counters are clean and clear of mail and daily stuff, because the stuff was all shoved into my one three junk drawers in the kitchen or hidden under the now closed roll-top desk in the office.

The only reason this ‘clean illusion’ works is we are distracted by kids when you come over. When we didn’t have kids, it’s possible my house may have actually have been clean when you came over.

Back. When. I. Had. More. Time.

Seriously, what did we do with all that excess time?

The truth is, for the house to be truly CLEAN, I’d have to spend hours and hours that I do not have. I’d probably have to stay up late or get up at the crack of dawn to clean. Then as the kids got up, I’d have to chase them around, picking up after them, and probably scolding them to pick up. By the time you got here, I’d be one stressed out mama with a mop.

That kind of cleaning isn’t going to do us any favors. That kind of clean yields crabby kids and a frustrated mama.

The reality of playdates is this: our kids are going to track in sand, drop crumbs and play with toys. A house doesn’t need to be spotless for kids to have a good time or for their mamas to talk over a cup of coffee. As we talk, I’m sure we’ll agree our lives are much fuller now, even if they aren’t very clean

Plus…all this dirt must do something good for our immune systems, right?

No, I much prefer the 15-20 minute pickup so I can relax, enjoy your company and watch our kids giggle while making carefree messes and memories.

And to be clear, I am more than OK with you stopping by and seeing my house (and me) in a state of chaos and mess.  House is a mess? You’re still welcome here. Come on in and let’s be real with each other.

This life, this house, and this family are not perfect, and neither am I. No need to pretend among friends.

In fact, this house is often a mess. Don’t be alarmed. Sometimes, the mess is just here and evidence of a full life without much time to clean. We live here. But our relationship is too precious to cancel a coffee or playdate for a silly reason like my house being too embarrassingly dirty. Hopefully, you’re OK with that.

I’d much rather enjoy these messy years while kids are small than chase everyone around with cleaning products in an endless cleaning battle that cannot be won.

So my friends, if you comment on our home, please don’t be offended when I chuckle and say, ‘Don’t look too close’ – I’m not pretending my house isn’t clean – it really isn’t.

But thank you for saying it is.

A Couples Wedding Shower

A Couples Wedding Shower | www.thisgratefulmama.com

It was our pleasure to host a couples wedding shower in honor of our nephew Brandon and his bride-to-be, Lauren.

Our nephew grew up and graduated high school in MN but has since moved out-of-state. Lauren had never come to MN with Brandon to see where he spent his childhood, nor had she met some of his family and friends who live here. They were able to fit in just one short visit before the wedding – it was the perfect, and only chance to throw a wedding shower.

Since the couple came in late Friday and left on Sunday, Saturday was the only day available to throw a shower. We chose brunch so they could make the most of their only full day in town. Having the shower in the morning left the rest of the day open for the couple to explore his old stomping grounds.

This post includes the special touches to ‘shower’ the couple. I’ll follow-up in another post with the food we served for brunch.

For more shower ideas, check out another couples wedding shower we threw last year- A Laid-back Open House Couples Shower.

Invitations

DIY Network Shower Invitation Template | www.thisgratefulmama.com

The shower invitation was modified from this free invitation template from the DIY network. All text can be modified so it could easily be used for any type of event! Who would have expected to find free invitation templates on the DIY Network site? There are a few other options available – in fact, I almost picked this free Nautical template instead.

Date Night Idea Card

Date Night Idea Card | www.thisgratefulmama.com

A stamped note card was included in each invitation for guests to write date night ideas for the bride and groom. Guests came up with all kinds of creative ideas.

His & Hers – 10 Favorite Moments Together

His and Her Favorite 10 Moments

Before Brandon and Lauren arrived, we asked each of them to email 10 of their favorite moments together. Originally, I planned to display two short lists using a chalkboard or poster. BUT, they sent beautifully written paragraphs that told their story with genuine affection and honesty. Condensing their moments into a short list would have taken away the emotion and love their words conveyed. Instead of changing them, each paragraph was printed and posted on the wall for guests to read as they mingled.

DIY “We Do” Wedding Shower Photo Banner

DIY WE DO Wedding Shower Photo Banner

Every bride-and-groom-to-be needs a banner in their honor – that is just the way it is! We asked the couple to send us some of their favorite photos. Text and photos were printed on cardstock in black and white. The text flags were cut and lined with patterned tape. The same tape was used to decorate clothes pins. It was quick and easy – just peel and stick! I actually used the other side of the patterned paper decorated clothes pins used to hang the You Are My Sunshine photo banner. The flags and photos were strung using twine across our kitchen.

Coffee Station Photo Banner

Coffee Station Photo Banner | www.thisgratefulmama.com

I found this free printable about love and coffee (I lightened the exposure so it could be printed without draining our ink cartridges) to hang by the coffee station. Like the “We Do” banner, it was strung with twine alongside two more black and white photos using clothes pins.

Gift Table

Wedding Shower Cards Garland and Gift Table

Two banners were made for gifts – one hung on the gift table, and one hung above it for cards. Guests used a clothes pins to clip their cards to the twine and left their gifts and date night cards on the table.

I Have Found The One…Sign

I Have Found The One Whom My Soul Loves | www.thisgratefulmama.com

I love this verse from Song of Solomon, especially for a wedding shower. This photo (changed to black and white using Pic Monkey) was printed on cardstock and applied to an 8×10 canvas using Modge Podge. The sign was placed on the gift table in the entryway for the shower and will be hung in our bedroom.