Oct 20, 2015
Over the years, I've made all of my children's birthday cakes (except my oldest's very first). Being a bit over-eager, I often attempted difficult cakes. Some came out great...
How to Make a Campfire Cake
You will need:
A cake and frosting
Twix candy bars
Life Savers in red, yellow, and orange
Rimmed baking sheet
1. Bake the cake, using your favorite from scratch recipe, or a boxed cake mix. (I admit it; I used a cake mix, even though it's not as healthy!) You can make any type of cake you want. I made a double layer chocolate cake.) Let the cake cool completely.
2. Frost the cake. I recommend doing a crumb coating (i.e., a rough coat of frosting), then letting the cake sit in the refrigerator for an hour or more. Then do a second frosting; this time it should be easy to make it smooth and crumb-free. If you won't be serving the cake right away, pop it back into the fridge.
3. Make the "fire:" Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet. Place Life Savers about 1/2 inch apart on the parchment paper. Use only red, yellow, and orange candies. Pop into the oven and turn the temperature to 300 degrees F. Check on the candies every minute or so until they start melting, then watch closely. As soon as the candies are completely melted, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Let the melted candy cool completely.*
4. Shortly before serving the cake: Pile a little extra frosting - 3 or 4 tablespoons, I'd say - in the middle of the cake. This will give the "logs" on the cake a foundation to stick to. Place Twix candy bars in the center of the cake, to look like wood logs.
5. Break the melted and cooled Life Saver sheets to form the cake's fire. Stick the larger "flames" in the center of the logs. Place smaller "flames" in between the Twix "logs."
* I think lollipops would work well, too, though I've not tried it. I would try to remove as much of the lollipop sticks as possible before melting, then, once the candy is fully melted, use tweezers to carefully remove the remaining sticks before the candy cools.
Oct 13, 2015
1. Musical Chairs. This game is easy to customize by the music you choose. I usually just select something off YouTube (it's free!) and play it on my laptop. (For example, this time around, we'll use "The Ballad of Davey Crockett." For our scarecrow party, I found a children's song about scarecrows. For our Little House on the Prairie party, I found fiddle music.) To play, put as many chairs as you have children - minus one - in a circle. Turn on some music and let the kids walk around the chairs. When you stop the music, they all try to get their own seat. The child who can't get a seat is out of the game. Remove another chair and play again. Continue until only one child is left.
|Bean Bag Toss.|
|Pin the Tail.|
7. Spitting Contest. A few years back, we used this one for a Little House on the Prairie party. You can use any kind of larger seed - though I think watermelon seeds or cherry pits work best. Give the kids seeds or pits and have each one try to spit it as far as she can. (I recommend having them eat the watermelon or cherries first; it's part of the fun...and saves you some work!) It's helpful to use cheap plastic tablecloths on the ground. you can mark where each person's pit landed by using a Sharpie.
9. Blind Man's Bluff. Blindfold one child and spin him around a few times. The other children must walk around making noise while the blindfolded child tries to catch them. Once the "blind man" catches someone, he guesses who it is. If he's right, another child gets blindfolded and the game begins anew.
10. Spoon Relay. Again, this is pretty easy to customize. One year, we used plastic Easter eggs (which we called "dinosaur eggs"). Another year, when kitties were the theme, we used Goldfish crackers. Give each child a teaspoon. Set an egg in the spoon (or have the children scoop up something - like crackers - into their spoon). They must balance it carefully as they walk a course. If they drop the egg (or whatever you're using), they must start over. Whoever gets across the finish line first, wins. To make the game more challenging, divide kids up into teams and have the first child pass over their egg to another child who must complete the relay.
Some Kid's Birthday Parties Mentioned in This Post:
* Knight & Princess Party
* Horse Party - with Cowgirls & Cowboys
* Little House on the Prairie Birthday Party
* Dinosaur Party
Aug 19, 2015
Yes, this process is a bit messy...but my kids had such a good time with it. Making something out of paper mache is a project every kid should try at least once. I recommend making the paper mache part of the pinata outside - somewhere where the flour glue won't hurt anything (because, yes, it will drip all over). I also recommend only making a paper mache pinata when the weather is warm; the hotter it is, the faster the layers of paper mache will dry. If you must try this indoors on a cooler day, add a little salt to your homemade glue; this is supposed to help prevent the mixture from molding if it takes a while for it to dry.
What You Need to Make an Easy Pinata
A balloon. (I used a regular balloon because that's what I had on hand. A punch ball balloon is larger and more circular, and is another option.)
A whisk or fork for mixing
A large bowl
Non-glossy newspaper, preferably black and white
Piece of cardboard
Paint (we used Crayola Washable Kids Paint)
Colored paper or felt (optional)
How We Made Our Kitty Cat Pinata
1. Cut the newspaper into pieces about 1 1/2 inches wide.
2. Blow up the balloon and hang it somewhere outside, using string or yarn. Pick a spot where you don't mind the glue dripping on the ground.
3. Mix up the glue: Start by dumping 1 cup of flour into the bowl. Add 2 cups of water and stir well. You want the consistency to be close to Elmer's white glue; don't make it thick, like a paste. If the glue seems too watery, just add another handful and stir some more. Continue until the consistency is right. And yes, the homemade glue will be a bit lumpy.
4. Drip a strip of newspaper into the glue, then, holding the paper over the bowl, wipe it down, so only a small amount of glue remains. Place the paper onto the balloon. Smooth out the paper as much as possible. (Although, trust me, especially if kids are helping, the pinata will be a little lumpy!)
|Cover the balloon with strips of newspaper dipped in flour glue.|
|This is what our balloon looked like while the first layer of newspaper was drying.|
6. Using scissors or a pin, poke a hole in the exposed end of balloon. Remove the deflated balloon from the pinata.
7. Cover the hole where the exposed end of the balloon was with several layers of paper mache. Allow to dry completely.
|This is where the end of the balloon was exposed, now covered with a few layers of paper mache.|
|Here's what the pinata looked like, entirely dry. I put it in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer, to make handling easier.|
8. Being very careful, use an Exacto knife to poke a hole in the very top of the pinata. This is where the string for hanging the pinata will go. Now cut a trap door on top of the pinata, over to one side; this is where you will add the candy; the door shouldn't be huge - but it needs to be big enough to pour candy/toys through, and get a piece of cardboard into the pinata. Pry the door open; try not to completely break the door away from the pinata; ideally, the uncut edge of the door will bend a little. (If it breaks off, don't worry; just set the broken piece aside for a moment.)
|Carefully cutting the trap door...|
|Trap door is cut and open.|
|Threading the string through the hole.|
|Getting ready to knot the string.|
|Putting the cardboard, washer, and knot inside the pinata.|
12. Paint the pinata. Dark colors will cover the newsprint better than light colors. My daughter chose purple for her cat (grin), and she only needed to use two coats.
|Painting the pinata.|
|The finishing touches!|
|Ta-da! All done.|
|After the party.|
Aug 13, 2014
|(c) Bryan Valencia Photography|
Our birthday parties are casual, family affairs, so I always send electronic invitations. I scoured the web looking at horse-related invitations, and chose elements from 3 - 4 invites to create my daughter's invitation in a photo editing software program that came with my computer. (If you don't have a photo editing program, you can use a free online service, like PicMonkey.) I found a photo of my daughter's favorite type of horse (Appaloosa) and with it, paired an Old West type font: "Cowboys and Cowgirls are WANTED to giddy up to the [last name]'s for a galloping good time celebrating [first name]'s birthday! [First name] is turning [age]!" I saved the invite as a .JPG and send it as an attachment in emails to our family.
|(c) Bryan Valencia Photography.|
When I'm planning a birthday party, I always decide upon the cake first. In this case, I looked at images online - always hoping for cakes that look do-able for me, a mom without any training in baking. My daughter fell in love with this cake, which I found on Pinterest, and wanted an almost exact replica. Initially, I was nervous about all those piped roses, but looking at YouTube videos, I realized it was do-able with the right piping tip. It's a VERY easy technique. (Trust me; if I can do it, you can, too! I especially recommend watcing this video by Lori's Bakery and this one by Kitchen Adventures for how-tos.)
I made the cake in four 8 inch round layers, using a cake cardboard in between the second and third layers. (For more tips on assembling a layered cake, click here.) I made my own buttercream frosting; regular store bought frosting won't work.
Just before serving the cake, I added my daughter's favorite toy horse and a free printable pennant banner I found online. (To add letters to the pennant, I opened the .PDF and took a screen shot of the pennants, saving it as a .JPG. Then, using free image editing software, I added one letter to each pennant. I printed this, cut out the pennants, and folded them in half along the indicated fold lines. I used bamboo skewers and some silky string I had laying around to create the "holder" for the banner. To secure the pennants, I placed them over the string and glued the pointed ends of the paper together.
Other Food and Decorations
We normally keep our party food pretty simple: hamburgers and hot dogs, coleslaw, potato salad, and the like. This year, my husband did some pretty impressive barbecue. Whatever the case, I rarely find that trying to pair the food to the theme works; we have too many picky eaters!
This is what the children played:
|Pin the Tail on the Horse.|
|(c) Bryan Valencia Photography.|
|Apple toss game.|
|Water Gun Target Practice Game. (c) Bryan Valencia Photography.|
Feed Sack Race: Otherwise known as a potato sack race. I still had the gunny sacks left over from last year's Little House on the Prairie party, so I just called them "feed sacks" for the purposes of our horse party. This simple game always generates lots of laughter.
|Lasso the Horse Game. (c) Bryan Valencia Photography.|
Horseshoe Toss: We actually had to skip this game, but I do think it's a fun addition. I don't think plastic horseshoes would work very well (they don't have enough weight), and that was all I could find online for under $30. But a local store had a real metal set on sale for summer, so we lucked out. I've also seen people sew bean bags shaped like horseshoes, which makes the game more appropriate for younger kids.
Horse Pinata: My kids love pinatas, but I had a hard time finding anything but teeny horse pinatas. I ended up buying this small - but quite adequate - horse online. It held plenty of candy for 6 kids.
For more horse or cowboy/cowgirl party ideas, visit my Pinterest Horse Party Board.
Oct 16, 2013
|A DIY pull string pumpkin pinata.|
If you've never used a pull string pinata, here's how it works. Hang the pinata, then have the children, one by one, pull a single string off the bottom of the pinata. Most of the ribbons will just fall off, doing nothing to the pinata. But once one string (indistinguishable from the others) is pulled, a trap door in the pinata will open and all the candy will fall out.
Sometimes you can find ready made pull string pinatas, but often you have to convert traditional pinatas into pull string pinatas. In the past, I've purchased pinata conversion kits, but the truth is, it's really easy to make a DIY pull string pinata - you don't need a special kit. Here's how.
What You'll Need:
Exacto knife or box cutter (you could use scissors, but it's more dangerous!)
Transparent adhesive tape (the kind used for wrapping gifts)
Small piece of cardboard
Extra tissue paper in a matching color
1. Begin by selecting a relatively flat location on the bottom of the pinata. Carefully remove the crepe or tissue paper covering an approximately 3 1/2 inch square near the center of the bottom. (If, for some reason, that seems too difficult, it's fine to skip this step...as long as you have matching tissue paper on hand.)
2. Use an Exacto knife to cut a door (about 3 1/2 inches square) in the "naked" area you just made.
making your own pinata - which isn't at all difficult, though it is time consuming - you can fill it with candy through the trap door, before closing that door and covering it with tissue paper.)
Aug 19, 2013
I always send out digital invitations - but I do them in the form of a .JPG that I create on my computer, using free photo editing software. This year was especially easy; I found a black and white drawing from one of the Little House books and added some text:
"It's [name here]'s birthday! Please come to our Little House on the Prairie party - dressed in your favorite frontier costume. Join our 'half pint' for old-fashioned games, yummy food, and fun!"I also let everyone know costumes weren't mandatory - just encouraged - and gave some ideas I knew might be easily accomplished with dress up or everyday clothes: Cowboy, Indian, railroad engineer, frontiersman, or pioneer, for example.
I wanted to keep this very simple, using things we already had on hand:
* A well worn (not historic or valuable) quilt as a tablecloth
* A basket of apples and a bowl of cherries (used later for games)
* A bucket lined with calico for utensils
* Old canning jars for straws and simple bouquets of flowers from our yard
* A Lincoln Log-built cabin
* Some sepia photos we had of our family in 19th century costumes
* An authentic old school slate with my daughter's age written on it (I later photographed her in costume, holding the slate.)
Although it didn't really fit in with the theme, we also put up a few balloons - because in our family, you can't have a birthday party without them!
I also considered using hay bales for outdoor seating; they are inexpensive (about $3 a piece around these parts) and I would use them later for chicken bedding - but we have too many people with allergies, an important consideration if you are thinking about using hay or straw bales.
I considered serving pioneer-inspired food but decided we had too many picky eaters. Instead, we stuck with easy picnic fare like hot dogs and burgers - and lemonade served in canning jars. I also considered making popcorn balls as party favors, but ran out of time to do this. At one point, I thought we'd make ice cream with an old fashioned, hand cranked ice cream maker. This would have been a nice addition, but I couldn't find a cranked ice cream maker to borrow.
We considered many ideas for the birthday cake - some pretty elaborate, with covered wagons or log
cabins on top. But in the end, my daughter decided she wanted a simple cake - something like Laura Ingalls might have had if Pa and Ma could have splurged on a cake. So I made a chocolate cake with white cream cheese frosting - two round layers. On the day of the party, I plucked some edible flowers from our yard (bachelor buttons and pansies) and used them to decorate the cake.
I had a lot of fun choosing old fashioned games for the party - and I think both the adults and kids enjoyed them. We played:
* Musical chairs, using music from Pa's Fiddle - a collection of music Pa played in the Little House books. (I downloaded a single song for a mere .99 cents...all I needed for our game.)
* Potato sack race - so fun, we did it a couple of times. You can find burlap sacks all over the Internet, but I was afraid some of the cheaper ones would rip. (We had older children - and some adults - using them in the game.) Even so, I bought them inexpensively - four for $3.55. They worked perfectly and I will keep them for future parties.
* Watermelon eating contest - I placed a cheap plastic party tablecloth on the picnic bench and gave each child 1/4 of a watermelon. Then we did an adult version, too.
* Cherry pit spitting contest. (If you can find a watermelon with plenty of seeds in it - difficult to do these days - you can use those instead of cherry pits.) I laid another cheap plastic tablecloth on the ground. (If adults will be playing, too, I recommend at least two tablecloths or a plastic aisle runner.) Each child ate a cherry, reserving the pit. Then, one at a time, she tried to spit it as far as she could. With a felt tip pen, I circled each child's pit and wrote her initials beside it, so there'd be no question about whose was whose. The child who spit a pit the farthest won. The kids liked this game so much, they played it many times.
To view my Pinterest inspiration board for this party - and discover lots of great ideas I didn't use - click here.
Little House in the Big Woods Activities
Pancake Men (from Little House in the Big Woods)
Little House on the Prairie Activities
Little House on the Prairie Birthday Party
On the Banks of Plum Creek Activities
Little Town on the Prairie Activities
Activities for The First Four Years
These Happy Golden Years Activities
Farmer Boy Activities