Candy Flower Cupcakes

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My 8-year-old helped me decorate these amazingly simple cupcakes for her birthday this year.  I simply made cupcakes with a boxed cake mix and frosted them with store-bought frosting.  I chose to make lemon cake with cream cheese icing, but feel free to choose whichever flavors you like best.  Then my daughter used M&Ms to create the cute flower on each one.  We were really pleased with the results and it was a fun and simple activity to do together!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box cake mix + ingredients to make it
  • frosting (from grocery store or homemade)
  • M&Ms candies

Directions:

Make cupcakes according to package directions.  Let cool.  Frost.  Use M&Ms to make a flower on each cupcake.  Enjoy!

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

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I believe that I found this recipe on allrecipes.com.  But honestly, I can’t remember anymore.  The point is that I love, love, love these appetizers!  They are very messy, so have forks and napkins ready.  If you prefer less sauce, they are just as good with half of the called-for amount.  I especially enjoy serving these at Christmas or New Year’s parties.

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 1 C. ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans water chestnuts, drained

Directions:

In small bowl combine brown sugar, ketchup and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut bacon strips in half.  Wrap one halved slice of bacon around each water chestnut.  Secure with a toothpick or place seam-side down in 9″ x 13″ cake pan.  Bake wraps about 45 minutes for crispness.  (If desired you can broil them in metal pan for about 15 minutes instead.)  Remove from oven and drain grease from pan.  You can use a cooling rack to keep wraps in place when pan is tilted for draining.  Drizzle refrigerated sauce over wraps and bake 30-35 minutes more.  Let cool slightly.  Serve warm.

*Note: This recipe makes a lot of sauce.  If preferred, you can halve the amount of brown sugar, ketchup and Worcestershire that you use.

Taco Dip

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Who doesn’t love taco dip?  We’ve been known to have this for lunch, though I’m sure it isn’t the healthiest option.  Feel free to customize the toppings according to what your family likes.  I got this recipe from my brother’s girlfriend’s mom when we attended a graduation party at their house.

Taco Dip

Ingredients:

  • 4 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 2 envelopes taco seasoning
  • 1 can refried beans
  • shredded lettuce
  • 1 lg. can sliced black olives
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • green onion, chopped (to taste)
  • 2 C.+ shredded cheddar
  • 1-2 lg. bags Fritos or tortilla chips

Directions:

In large bowl combine cream cheese, sour cream, and taco seasoning.  Mix thoroughly.  Spread mixture evenly in jellyroll or cake pan.  Layer toppings over cream cheese mixture: beans, lettuce, olives, tomatoes, onions, and cheese.  Cover and chill.  Serve with chips.

Bananagrams

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Look at those beautiful letter tiles from a game that’s a bit like Scrabble, but more akin to a party game!  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy Scrabble, but it can become incredibly tedious when you play it with people who are freakishly bent on getting the most points out of their words.  When you can get up and make yourself a cup of tea in the amount of time it takes your opponent to make their move, you know you’re playing that kind of game.  Can you tell this hits home for me?

Bananagrams is simpler than Scrabble, and I’d say a whole lot more kid-friendly.  Each person starts out with a whole lot of tiles, instead of just a few.  Players work on their own “boards” (really just an open space on the table) simultaneously to make an interconnected set of words, trying to use up all their tiles in the process.  Once a player has used all of his/her tiles, they say, “peel,” and everyone takes another tile from the middle.  The challenge is in constantly getting new letters to add to your board, which means you need to shuffle things around.

If you are not a good speller, or quick-thinking games are not your bag, this would be a very frustrating game.  It is also a challenge for kids to play against adults, but we let our kids bend the rules by not requiring that their words be interconnected.  We will also help them with spelling if they ask.

Basically, if you enjoy Scrabble, try out this game for a raucous good time.

Ages: School-age+

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Authors

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I was introduced to Authors while at a family reunion on my husband’s side.  That was 11 years ago, when my eldest son was one month old.  How time flies.  Tonight my two sons and I played this game, which is like a glorified version of Go Fish.  Instead of collecting pairs of cards, you collect sets of four.  In this game, sets of four books published by a common author.  The authors featured are Louisa May Alcott, James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Henry W. Longfellow, Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Walter Scott, William Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Mark Twain.  If you’re a fan of classic literature, this is a nice little game to have around.  Bonus–my kids have started asking me about these authors and what their books are about.  Score!  I would love to have them someday read and discuss classic literature with me!

There are other versions of this game as well, with differing themes:

American Authors

American Women Authors

Children’s Authors

Composers

Explorers

Famous Women in American History

Inventors

Presidents

Scientists

*The squiggle on the box is to keep our last name out of the post.  You’ll see it on many of the game photos I post.  Our games like to travel, and we have to make sure they find their way home again.

Apples to Apples

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Apples to Apples is one of my favorite games.  It is so much fun to play with a group, especially if you know some of the quirks of your fellow players.  It is a party game in which players have a hand of cards which are all nouns.  In each round, an adjective card is placed in the middle of table.  Each player chooses one card from their hand to either match the descriptive word, or be a funny answer (my preference).  The judge for that round chooses his/her favorite card, and whoever put that card down, gets a point.  You can decide ahead of time how many points you want to play to.  The box says it’s for ages 12 and up, with 4-10 players.

Ages: 8+

Graveyard Cake

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My son requested that we make this totally tubular Graveyard Cake from the Betty Crocker Halloween Cookbook.  The thing I like best about this type of cake is that it doesn’t depend on stellar frosting skills.  As long as you can get a basic coating of frosting on there, the rest is fairly simple.  It’s just a matter of assembling the different components and arranging them on the cake.  This is my favorite way of decorating cakes.

Graveyard Cake 4The chocolate trees are made from melted chocolate bark, while the headstones are Nutter Butters with “RIP” piped on in the same chocolate.  I like how the chocolate bark works really well for making nice lettering.  It doesn’t look sloppy at all.

Graveyard Cake 5These are all the graham cracker pieces that we used for the little house/shack.  You may end up breaking a few crackers as you try to cut them, so plan to have some extras on hand.

Graveyard Cake 6Here is the assembled house.  I ended up cutting the side pieces too short, so I just cut another little piece to patch the hole.  No problem since it’s supposed to look dilapidated anyway.  I reserved some of the green frosting to hold the house pieces together.

Graveyard Cake 3I love how the trees turned out.  Another thing you could do is break off the tree so that it looks like a dead tree stump.  That looked quite realistic, too.

Graveyard Cake 2A few more of the details: chocolate graham cracker walkway, candy pumpkin and Reeses Pieces decorations, and gravestones spread about.  We forgot the crushed chocolate graham cracker crumbs around the headstones to look like dirt.

I hope you have fun making your own graveyard cake!  Post a link below so I can see how yours turned out!

Ninja Party Invitations

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My second son has a birthday party coming up and the theme that he wanted to go with this year was Ninja!  I found this fabulous and easy homemade Ninja party invitation on Pinterest, from Mommie Forever.  Thank you for this great idea!

The original post did not have step-by-step directions, so I just winged it, wung it–you know what I mean!  My son trimmed some black 12×12 scrapbook paper and folded it in half for me.  It kind of gave our ninja a wide-head appearance, but I really was not worried.  The boys who would be receiving the invitations aren’t too picky about that sort of thing.  😉

After that, we trimmed some kraft paper to about 4″x1 1/2″.  Then I just eyeballed it in trimming off part of the bottom to make a small incline from the bottom middle to the outer edge.  This was taped to the front of the card, where the ninja would be peaking out of his hood.

Next, we affixed some googly eyes to the kraft paper, where the eyes would be.  My son had fun placing them in all kinds of silly positions.  These ninjas really had some major eye issues.  Our googly eyes were smaller than the example’s; if I had to do it over again, I’d get the big googly eyes.

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Finally, I quickly typed up a little party information sheet which we cut out and taped inside each invitation.  Include information like: date, where it will be taking place, RSVP number, activity info., etc.

Have fun trying out this easy invitation design!  It was nice to be able to do it with my sons.

Zelda or Link Party Activities

I’d like to share with you the activities we did for my son’s Link birthday party.  For me, the activities are always the hardest part to plan, so I hope this helps you get a head-start on your party plans.

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Our decorations for this party were almost laughable, but that’s to be expected with such short-sighted planning.  As I was busy in the kitchen preparing the food, my husband put up the few decorations that I had.  I told him to do whatever he wanted and this is what he came up with in a short time.  There were the typical twirled streamers over the table.  On the table we had a cheap plastic tablecloth in green.  My husband did something cool with the beam.  He hung up these bug decorations that I got from Oriental Trading (I’ll post the link later; their site isn’t working right now.), and then twisted/crumpled streamers to make them look like hanging vines.  It was a cool effect.

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The favor bags were very easy–just some plain brown paper sacks decorated with fancy script letter stickers.  The stickers were at Walmart and had quite a few letters in each package.  I thought the fancy script fit the theme well.  Once the kids were done decorating their bags, we moved on to BINGO.

IMG_0377 crI just realized that I didn’t get any pictures of the kids playing BINGO.  I guess I was too busy calling the spaces.  The picture above shows the basket of prizes–Hershey’s bars, Andes mints and Rolos.  I got them because the colors fit the theme and they didn’t contain nuts.  I printed off BINGO sheets from this Pinterest link.  So…all the sheets ended up being the same.  The kids noticed it and I just told them they’d all be winning every time.  Once they started getting candy, they weren’t too upset about it.  😉  It was so funny to hear twelve kids call out “BINGO” at the same time.  We used dried beans as counters, but use whatever you have.  Side note–it’s very satisfying to vacuum up the beans afterward.

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After BINGO the kids had a little treasure hunt for “Ruppees.”  I found some acrylic gems on Oriental Trading (link will be added when their website is working) and thought that they were a fair approximation of a Rupee.  We hid them mostly in plain site in our upstairs hallway and the boys’ bedroom.  The kids were told that they had to find two of each color (red/blue/green) and then turn them in to “buy” their party favors.  Some of the kids were done quickly and a few took longer and needed assistance.  When the kids turned in their Rupees they got to take their favors from the basket.  My husband officiated so that there was no grabbing or fighting.  We followed this activity with a coloring activity so that those who were finished didn’t have to sit around waiting for the others.

IMG_0367 crFavors are really tough.  I just have a hard time thinking of things that the kids will like, that don’t cost too much, and that parents won’t dread.  This is what I came up with for this party.  Only one item follows the theme of the party but really, the kids don’t care.  Our favors were fruit snacks, cheese crackers, colored pens, Rupee perler bead keychains from etsy, and scented markers.  In addition to this, the kids had candy in their bags from the BINGO game.

IMG_6589 crAs a time-killer we also did some coloring of a Link coloring sheet that I found online.  I told the kids we were having a coloring contest and that they should try to be creative.  We ended up with some very funny-looking Links.  One of them even delivered pizza!  Each kid got to show their picture to everyone else and then we decided what award they should win for their picture.  For instance, the one on the bottom left won the Reddest Face Award.

The last thing we did was to watch some LEGO Ninjago on Netflix.  I wanted to end with an activity that got everyone calmed down before leaving and that would allow kids to leave at differing times, without too much fuss.  It was a great transition activity.  Overall the party went great.  When you have that many kids in the house and there is no fighting or crying, and everyone stays occupied, you can call it a success.

Let me know if you’ve ever had a Link birthday party and what you did.  I’d love to hear from you!

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Zelda or Link Party Food

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Well, I’m finally getting around to posting the food we had at my son’s Link birthday party.  This party was so poorly planned, you wouldn’t believe it.  The day before, we sat down to figure out the food and activities.  I’ve been quite busy of late and extras like this have fallen along the wayside.  As luck would have it, everything turned out fine and the kids had a great time.  Check out all of our party food below!

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I had some really grand ideas for the cookies we were going to make, but because our plans were last-minute, we had to simplify.  I got two pre-made cookie dough logs.  My husband and son baked them and we let them cool so that we could decorate them the morning of the party.  We made both red heart Life Cookies, and yellow Triforce Cookies.

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I used Wilton decorating icing to decorate the cookies.  I didn’t even bother with tips, but just squeezed out some red heart shapes and yellow triangles.  So simple.  The other items in this picture are decorating pearls, and the chocolate frosting we used for the cupcakes.  (Side story here–the baking section of Walmart was completely picked over.  Not one container of white/vanilla/normal frosting, except 2 cans of this chocolate kind!)

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I’ve made these acorns before, but this time they were Guardian Acorns.  They are very simple to make.  Use icing to attach a snack-size cookie to the bottom of a Hershey’s Kiss.  Use a bit more icing to attach a butterscotch or peanut butter chip to the top of the cookie.  That’s it!

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Snack Pack gelatin was our Chu Jelly.  This was another item that was picked over at the store.  I wanted more colors, but this was all they had.

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Plain meatballs in the slow cooker became Dodongo Meat.  These were a big hit with the boys!  Go figure–boys liking meat.

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Bean and bacon soup became Elixir Soup.  Here was another thing that went over better than I thought it would.  Some of the kids added meatballs to their soup.

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For Cucco Wings I got a box of appetizer chicken wings with the sauce included.  I should have gotten two of these because they were very popular!

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We had one beverage and it wasn’t bright red to stain anything!!  Lemon-lime Kool-Aid became Energy Potion.  I sweetened it with flaked Splenda and it didn’t taste overly sweet at all.

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I am loving this new method of doing birthday cake at my house–make some cupcakes and let the kids go crazy decorating their own!  We had chocolate frosting, the leftover pouches of Wilton decorating icing (red/yellow/green), and the decorating pearls that were in forest colors.

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The tableware was all purchased at Oriental Trading, except the paper straws that we found at Walmart the other day.

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The boys made little signs to go with each of the dishes.  We messed up a bit on the chicken wings–we started off by calling them Ooccoo Wings.  My husband graciously informed me that they should be Cucco Wings.  Thank you, my dear.

I hope you’ve gained some fun and easy ideas for your Link/Zelda theme birthday party.  Let me know what you think or if you have any additional ideas!