Category Archives: favors

Jake and the Captain America Party

This weekend we celebrated my youngest nephew’s third birthday with a Captain America-themed bash. I can’t speak for your family, but birthdays are big in mine. Whether you are turning 2 or 92, each year your birthday is celebrated with cake, presents and the annual telling of the birthday story. Yes, the story is repeated each year without fail. It may seem redundant, but if anyone ever asks me about mine for witness testimony or otherwise, I’m happy to share the details including my Dad’s labor room attempt to try and name me after a Russian gymnast he was watching in the ’84 summer Olympics or that my initially low Apgar scores did NOT inhibit me from the honor roll after all.

captain america birthday party

I’m confident he’ll grow into the mask

Never one to miss a birthday or any party if I can avoid it, we decided to hit the road Saturday morning after I got my long run in. It would be a quick trip but worth it to take advantage of the nice weather our friends to the south had been enjoying all week long (not that I’m bitter or anything). We haven’t had great weather in Chicago this week (once again not bitter), but it was above 30 and dry and I actually thought I overdressed as I hit the first four miles or so.

April (snow) Showers from Sarah Murphy on Vimeo.

Then it started. Snow. And then in worsened. Heavier snow. No wait, that’s more like sleet. Oh hail. That’s a lot of hail. And I’m 5+ miles from home with no other option than to just put my head down and deal with it. And I wasn’t the only one. Each pack of runners I passed shared a head shake and a look of bewilderment with me as we scurried through the unseasonable weather like ants to a picnic. Only this was no picnic, folks. It was miserable. And because I was running solo my only chance at misery loves company was to take incessant amounts of iPhone photos and video to share with my family who was currently enjoying a warm 75 degree Saturday just 3 hours south of me. And so I did.

snow_saturday

The last photo in the sequence is back in my neighborhood at mile 10. That’s right. Blue skies and sunshine. Figures. I had a brief chat with a neighbor as I was stretching after and he summed it up nicely.

Are you heading out for a run? What a beautiful day. Looks like you’ll have great weather for it. 

Yes. It does look like that now doesn’t it. ARGH.

It’s amazing how much a little sunshine can lift your mood. Three hours of driving in the sunshine later, we arrived home to a balmy 65 degrees.

Jake’s party was held at a local gymnastics center. This was the same location we had Owen’s 5th birthday and if it were up to me, I’d drop my kids off there every Saturday when the weather was questionable just to let them run like crazies until they passed out. Whoever came up with this idea was genius. And the folks at the facility have a system down. They waste no time getting parties in and out. Two party rooms, 4 time slots each Saturday. Kids arrive, a brief rule set is described and particularly precocious ones listen closely.

captain america birthday party

I’m going to forget everything you said in 3, 2, 1

They line up and march down to Bounce House room for 1 hour followed by 25 minutes in the foam pit. Then its up to the party room for cake and presents for the last 45. Genius. First of all, this time frame fits perfectly with the attention span of three year-olds. They run. They jump. They play. They get all sugared up and crash before they even get home.

Jake’s marks the 10th birthday party my sister and I have thrown over the past few years for the boys. She get’s credit for most of the prep work this time a including saving the banner from Jake’s first birthday to use again. As the older sibling, she’s not one to hoard items like I do. She’s a purger. I have a hard time letting go of things for fear that I might need it for a Halloween costume 5, 6, 7 years down the road. We usually differ in this regard, but since we used similar colors for other parties, saving this banner turned out to be a simple yet nice addition to a blank party space.

captain america birthday party

Add some simple captain-themed cup cake toppers, some thank you tags and you have a quick and easy Captain America Party without a lot of fuss.IMG_3019

And no fuss means more time for play. And funny faces. Note: I highly recommend replacing the word “poop” for “cheeseburger” in attempts to get kids to smile. And judging from the photo below, I’d say Papoo and Jake enjoyed it most. You can clearly see they share a sense of humor. 

Papoo wanted in on the photo

Papoo wanted in on the photo

Once the kids had their fill of foam pit flipping and vinyl bounce house burns, we made our way up to the party room for cupcakes and presents.

captain america birthday party captain america birthday party IMG_3050

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Each party goer was sent home with a treat bag filled with popcorn from a local shop, fun party glasses and a kazoo to keep their parents entertained all the way home.

The party was fast and furious but fun nonetheless. Jake confirmed Sunday morning over blueberry birthday pancakes that he did in fact have a good birthday party but that his actual birthday was over Tuesday. Noted. And so with that we enjoyed our last little bit sunshine and a few signs of spring before heading back to the city.

daffodils

My mom has quite the green thumb

Here’s hoping the only remaining April showers are brief and followed by oodles of sunshine. Have a wonderful week!

Baby Season

I think I’ll call this winter the season of babies. After all, in just a 3 month time frame, 4 of my closest girlfriends delivered (or are soon-to-be-delivering) 4 healthy baby girls. I don’t know what the odds of 4 friends having 4 girls 6 weeks apart are but I’m pretty sure we should have gone to Vegas.  Then again, pregos and vegas probably don’t mix well. Maybe we’ll take the girls when they turn 21.

It seems like just yesterday we were playing beauty pageant in my mom’s basement. It seems even more recent that we were planning 21st birthday bashes, bachelorette and bridal showers. But babies?! I can still see the look on our most recent bride-to-be’s face when not one, not two, but three of her besties announced that they would not be able to indulge in Mex-all-you-can-drink-ico at her wedding last summer. Luckily we have a great group of fun girls and party-worthy boys to keep the festivities up regardless of liquor consumption.

I think that was the moment I realized we were adults. Not that I didn’t feel responsible before (I may or may not be known as the “mom” in the group), but something about creating offspring just makes it real. And I’m sure the Moms and Dad’s that are now Nana’s, Papoo’s, Rockin’ G’s and Grandma’s felt it even more so than us kids did.

Just like the milestones we experienced in our years growing up as close friends, this one calls for a party, err 3 parties. So grab a drink and use the restroom before I present to you: Baby Season!

We kicked off Baby Season with the “oldest” of the three, little Miss Grace. For Grace’s shower we went with a vintage pink and gray theme. The shower was held at a local bakery and cafe in the late summer so we wanted something that would be girly, have a touch of vintage and fit with the season. Grace’s nursery also followed the same color scheme so we were able to incorporate a few elements that could be used later in the nursery as well (always a plus). NOTE: I highly recommend thinking about the time of year before picking a theme for a shower or party. Your hunt for corresponding elements will be so much easier. Nothing is worse than trying to find magenta table decor the week before Halloween.

Since food was catered, we focused on dessert and cake for the sweets table. We incorporated some local popcorn, a few of the mother-to-be’s favorite sweets and some labeled popcorn buckets for guests to take the treats home with them.

pink and gray baby shower

baby shower dessert favors

Cafe Moxo, the venue where we hosted the shower, makes great cakes. I was very impressed with both the look and taste of the cake and just added a little bunting for decoration. We also did cupcakes on each of the tables in various seasonal flavors.

pink rosette baby shower cake

Pink Rosette Cake

My good friend Amanda also had the cute idea of implementing a station so that guests could create a custom headband for Grace to wear. We included some tags so that guests could label the accessory when they were done. It was a hit!

baby shower headband station

Headband Station

paper straws baby shower drinks

Drink Station

Fast forward one month and we were ready to celebrate Baby Abigail. Due just a short 6 weeks after her bestie Grace, Abigail’s shower fell the weekend before Halloween so we embraced everything Fall. Since this shower was held at a friend’s house, we had a little more flexibility with food and drink. It was so nice and comfortable to be able to use a friend’s house for the shower. Always grateful for hospitable friends and family!

Fall Baby Shower

Sweets Table

Since sweets are always a must, we set them up on a bar in the kitchen and incorporated Fall treats including caramel apple cupcakes and macaroons from the Confectioneiress bakery in Zionsville, Indiana, candy corn and acorn and pumpkin cookies.

Fall baby shower cupcakes cookies

Assorted desserts

pumpkin and acorn cookies

Pumpkin and Acorn cookies

For lunch we served a cheesy vegetable chowder, cheddar and chive scones, guacamole bruschetta and pumpkin dip. We wrote the menu on a chalkboard that could later be used by the mom-to-be for baby stats and photo ops. (Just a wooden frame, chalkboard paper and a washable chalk paint)

chalkboard menu baby shower

Lunch Buffet

And since no party is complete without a favor, we asked guests to take a homemade caramel apple with them when they left.

caramel apple baby shower favor

Caramel Apple Favors

Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went and with the new year came Baby shower #3/3. This past weekend we celebrated the soon-to-arrive Baby Ella. Since Ella’s mom is in her residency and on a very busy schedule, we were fortunate that nearly all of our friends and family could make it up to Chicago for the shower. And fortunate again that a mutual friend of ours offered to host it at her home. While I’m never opposed to a cool venue for a party, there’s something nice and intimate about sharing these events in someone’s home. And a gorgeous one at that.

garden baby shower sweets table

I had a vision of a sort of garden theme with pinks and greens after sending out the invitation and it ended up matching nicely to the french country design of the space. Naturally, it didn’t take much to make the sweets table coordinate as well.

If you’ve not experienced the bakery at Mariano’s, I highly recommend a visit. Since most of our showers thus far were held back home, I didn’t have the chance to use any vendors in the city. A Mariano’s just opened up in my neighborhood and after drooling over browsing their bakery section, I decided I had to try them out for the last shower cake. Oh, that and the fact that this little gem cost me less than $10. That’s right, a custom cake for $10! I’ve spent 5x that much for some pretty “special” cakes in the past. I can still see the look on the baker’s face when I stood there just staring at her after she “priced out” my design. Even better, it tasted amazing. Can you tell I’m a fan? ok I’m done now.

pink and green baby shower cake

Bella Cake

Because my co-host contributed some tasty peanut butter chocolate ganache cupcakes and we had cookies for favors, candy and other sweets, I didn’t want to go overboard on the cake. I do love how they look as a centerpiece however so this was perfect on a number of fronts.

garden baby shower

Wishes for Ella

I stole the wishes idea from my cousin’s shower last summer. We had so much fun with it and I thought it would be a great way to involve the guests without making everyone feel like a child with silly games. We used them at each of the showers this season. It’s something the mom-to-be can take with her and read later and it really shows the personality of each guest. Plus, it’s a fun way to add design details throughout the shower, which I love. I have a template I’d be happy to share if you want to comment on this post, otherwise I found this one through a simple search online.

cucumber sandwiches

Cucumber Sandwiches

Since the shower was in the late afternoon, we stuck with a light menu of cucumber sandwiches, assorted crudites and hummus, fruit and cheese, goat cheese and grape crostini’s and mac n’ cheese bites.

pomegranate punch

Pomegranate Punch

My co-host made a pomegranate punch that was light and refreshing. We served it with ginger ale and just had a bottle of Prosecco on hand for those who wanted a little kick to their punch. I’m not sure the exact recipe she used but I found a similar one from Food and Wine here.

elephant cookie baby shower

‘Ella’phant Cookies

Guests were encouraged to take elephant sugar cookies as a thank you for coming.

And so wraps a successful Baby Season! As we expect the final girl here in a few weeks, I turn my focus back to boys and birthday parties for the next several months. But when the weather cools again, I can foresee a lot more pink as all of these little girlies celebrate turning 1!

>Cake Bite Favors…

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After making these cake bites for Easter this year, I decided to try them again for the favors for a friend’s wedding shower this weekend. I used the same bakerella recipe and substituted strawberry and white cake in place of red velvet. I also used my new candy melt dye to match the colors of the wedding with the almond bark. These are always a hit and I can promise many more adaptations in the future!

Just a few things to note before you try this recipe: After crumbling the (cool) cake and mixing it with icing, I recommend letting the mixture cool overnight before rolling and dipping in the chocolate. I use one toothpick to dip the ball and another to push it onto the parchment paper. Then simply put another drop of chocolate to cover the hole on top and let cool.