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.

 

 

 

On Our Son’s Sixth Birthday – What I Love About You!

Today our son Aiden turns SIX.

Somehow, six years have passed since we first saw his sweet face. Time is a strange thing – it seems like he has always been, yet it seems like I blinked because he was just born! And now I can hardly pick him up.

How. Did. That. Happen?

While I may not understand how time can fly and go slowly at the same time, I DO know this – we are SO proud of him.

We love him more than we can ever express.

And we are so grateful to be his parents.

I’ve spent the past few days savoring his birthday celebrations with friends and family. It has been so fun to watch him be the center of attention, and to see him laughing and enjoy being blessed by those who love him.

Today I want to celebrate his special day by expressing how grateful we are for who he is, and the way God made him.

Aiden, this post is just for you.

Love, Mom.

 

Six things I love about YOU & the way God made you

  • Cautiously Brave and Wise
    • I love to watch you make wise decisions. You have amazing, God-given discernment for a six year old! This is something you were created with. Since you were small, you have removed yourself when uncomfortable or afraid. You willingly step back from activities or situations you know you should not participate in, and you do it while still being kind to your friends or whoever you are around. You turn off TV shows that are not nice or are frightening without a second thought. ‘Be careful little eyes what you see’ is something you’ve always inherently known and acted on. While being naturally cautious, you bravely take calculated risks. You have regularly, bravely faced and accepted medical treatments that scare you because you understand you need them. And we have watched you excitedly try new things and boldly go new places while joyfully meeting and making new friends.
  • Puzzle-Loving, Problem-Solver
    • Not many six year olds I know get excited about doing a 1500 piece puzzle with their parents, especially when they know it will take a week or more to complete. It is fun to see how you approach problems and puzzles alike with determination and follow-through. You are great at following instructions and sticking with something until it is finished. You were building Lego sets unassisted so early, we were amazed at your ability to focus for long periods and to complete complex projects. It would not surprise me if you become an engineer some day. Certainly God has blessed you with attention to detail and a joy of taking on and completing challenges.
  • Lover of God’s Word
    • It was fun to help you fill in your ‘About Me’ book to bring back to school and share with your class today. My heart swelled with joy when you chose the Bible as your favorite book. And you know what? I believe it really is your favorite book. It amazes me how much you know about the Bible. We have read every night since you were a baby and you have absorbed so much from church and BSF. It is our privilege to read the Bible with you at night and to see how you apply what you learn from it to your life. You ask thoughtful questions that show you ponder what it says and take these things to heart. Some of the content in there has been concerning to your cautious mind, and yet you keep coming back to God’s word to learn more about who God is, and what the Bible has to say. I love how God is drawing you closer to Himself as we read.
  • Kind and Empathetic
    • At your school conference, your kindergarten teacher told us you are a good friend to others, and are always looking out for others. We nodded our heads proudly because we see this in you at home. You love others well and treat them with freely given kindness, compassion and respect. When you were three, we learned Ephesians 4:32 which states: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. We see you living this out daily in the way you treat family and friends. It doesn’t mean you don’t have conflict with others – you do, just like the rest of us. What it does mean is that we see you being quick to forgive others and to move on after conflict has happened. You are also really good at stepping back to see the perspective of others in the situation, and are quick to say you are sorry. It also makes me so proud to hear your concern for others who are struggling and to see how you extend help to those you know you can help.
  • Big Brother
    • Being a big brother to two little sisters is a BIG job. And it is a job you did not get to choose. But you are a big brother and I am so proud of you in this role. You are so sweet and gentle with your baby sister Audra. She lights up when she sees you because she loves you as much as you love her. And it is no secret that Adelyn feels the same way. I love how you spend time with her, playing with her and hugging her when she is hurt or sad. You are thoughtful and considerate to include Adelyn in what you are doing and in playing with your friends. It makes me so proud when you encourage your little sister to follow rules or obey mom and dad, and to demonstrate how to do so with your own behavior. I love the excitement you have every morning about seeing both of them. Thank you for loving your sisters so much and for being the loving, protecting and kind big brother that you are.
  • Uniquely Aiden
    • There is no one on this earth who is just like you. YOU were knit together with care and love by the God who created the entire world and all the people and things in it. God made no mistakes and did nothing carelessly when He created you. I love who you are and who God made you to be. It is our prayer that you will see yourself as God sees you and that you will know HE loves you even more than we can, with His perfect love. We pray that you will continue to grow in faith and confidence in who God made you to be, that the most important identity you have is in Christ Jesus

Today, and every day, I am grateful for YOU.

oct-16

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!

 

DIY Glass Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces

DIY Glass Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces | www.thisgratefulmama.com

You guys…

I’ve been working on a tutorial, but it isn’t done, and I just couldn’t wait any longer to share a photo of one of these necklaces!

Consider this a sneak peek because I just can’t help myself.

In July, our family celebrated the birthdays of my mom and my husband’s grandma. This year we found ourselves at a bit of a loss of what to give. Neither of them really need anything, nor do they really desire more ‘stuff’.

While they appreciate ALL gifts, personal gifts (especially those involving grandchildren or great-grandchildren) often elicit the most joyful response. You know, the face-lights-up-with-delight kind of response.

Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly collecting supplies to make photo pendant necklaces. I wasn’t sure when I’d make them or who to give them to, but it was something I really wanted to try. Taking my time to buy supplies, I was able to buy everything on sale or with a coupon. As it turned out, I finally had all the supplies in hand, just days before our birthday celebrations.

Perfect timing to make some personalized gifts.

The process was easy and gave a stunning result – even for a beginner like me.

However, I was disappointed to see that when I strung two or three pendants on once chain, they overlapped. It looked good, but it was not what I had in mind.

DIY Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Digging through supplies for a solution, I was delighted to find a forgotten bag of mixed glass beads from my last trip to Art Scraps Reuse Store (St. Paul, MN). After some searching, I found this ball chain necklace at Hobby Lobby (50% off on sale for just $1 – can’t beat that). It was just thin enough to string a few mis-matched beads between the pendants.

DIY Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces | www.thisgratefulmama.com

I love how the beads give enough space for the pendants to lay flat. And, because my beads are all different, they make each necklace unique…but you’ll have to read the tutorial later this week to see the rest of them :).

The first two gifts turned out so well, I made another for myself and have been on a bit of a photo pendant gift-making binge…it is going to be so fun to give them away!

Happy Monday everyone!

 

This post was shared on The Shabby Nest Frugal Friday link party.

frugal friday

‘You Are My Sunshine’ Birthday – Simple Food So You Can Relax!

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

One of the most difficult decisions for me when hosting is picking the food.

In March, we celebrated our daughter’s second birthday. I’ve already shared how the house was decorated with a few strings of bird and sunshine garland, and a ‘You Are My Sunshine’ photo birthday banner, strung using patterned paper covered clothes pins.

Like most families, ours has a few special dietary needs (peanut and tree nut allergy, dairy intolerance, and at times gluten-free or low-carb needs). On top of all that, we want food that is well liked by both children and adults and prefer to make it all a day ahead. There were 17 adults or teenagers, and 3 children, for a total of 20 people.

Since this birthday party was for a 2-year-old, you won’t find any fancy recipes here. She is easy to please!

Plus, with small children, I often have other duties than hosting that require my attention – diapers, wanting to be held, injuries or simply a lot of people arriving at once are sure keep a mama in-demand. Make-ahead, simple food helps ensure a low stress level when I’m hosting and little ones need me. It also helps make it easy to delegate when people offer to help.

What’s the use in throwing a party if I end up stressed-out and cranky and then take it out on the very people the party is for? Keeping things low-key maximizes the time I have to visit with company and actually enjoy the festivities.

Why not keep it simple so everyone can relax?

 Main Dish 

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

We made a warm shredded chicken dish using a modification of this crock pot turkey recipe. Instead of turkey, the meat from 2 fully cooked rotisserie chickens (Costco ones are huge!) were used. All ingredients (except parsley and chicken) were combined with 1 cup water in a large skillet on the stove instead of using a crock pot. The sauce was heated over medium heat while mixing to ensure even distribution of the cream cheese as it melted. Chicken was added and mixed until coated, then cooled and stored in the fridge overnight. The day of the party, the meat was warmed on the stove until heated through. Finally, fresh-cut parsley was mixed in just before serving. Note: It was easy to reserve a cup of plain meat for our daughter who does not eat dairy. 

Simple Sides 

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

Isn’t it great that the easiest sides are also often the healthiest? We served fresh-cut veggies and fruit, and a simple salted popcorn. It may not seem like much, but these simple sides are always a hit with our family. I count it an added bonus that they are low-budget and easy to prepare ahead of time.

 

 Dessert

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

This year I was unable to find a nearby bakery that could ensure nut-free cupcakes. Instead of driving across town the day of the party for two dozen, over-priced (but nut-free) cupcakes, I chose to make them myself. As some of you may know, baking is not my strong suit and often ends in disaster. However, for once, I managed to make some plain white cake cupcakes – and yes, I admit I’m lame and used a boxed mix and pre-made frosting. I’m somewhat proud of myself for attempting and not totally failing at piping frosting…Trust me, this is a victory. They sure aren’t fancy, but were of sufficient quality to please a 2-year-old (who smashed it as soon as she got her hands on it). From the look on her face, they were birthday-girl approved.

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

Happy Birthday, Sunshine-girl!