Well, you had to know this day was coming. Miss Priss asked for an American Girl birthday party, and TheRoomMom complied. We have attended a few AG birthday parties recently, and we needed a new spin to the theme. I was already working on the American Girl camping supplies, so we opted for a backyard American Girl campout birthday (sleepover NOT included– I did recognize my limits on this one).
I know it is popular to use Paperless Post or Evites right now, but I really like paper party invitations delivered via snail mail. There were several fun camping party choices on Etsy. I ordered through a store called Memories Too. The store owner e-mailed a JPG file to me after about 4 business days. I had one edit, which she turned around in a few hours. I uploaded the image to FedEx Office and had the invitation printed in color on white cardstock. I found plain pink envelopes at a local paper store.
The invitation asked guests to bring a doll or stuffed friend with them to the party, so they would have a camping buddy.
When guests arrived, they received a doll sleeping bag that had a name tag with a number. We grouped the guests based on the tag numbers on the sleeping bags and rotated the party guests through three stations. That kept all of the guests spread out for most of the party and gave everyone something to do until it was time for cake.
Station 1— We set up 3 camping tents in the backyard. This group played in the tents with the dolls and the sleeping bags. TheRoomDad monitored this area and provided some monster invasions from time to time.
Station 2— This group searched for small twigs in the yard then used the twigs to make small bug jars and marshmallows on a stick. I had a table with the supplies as well as my regular babysitter to run this station. My sitter showed everyone how to set up the bug jars, make the fake marshmallows, and she monitored supplies. For full bug jar and marshmallow instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.
Station 3— This group made a doll sized campfire. I ran this station, and it was set up in a similar way to the bug jar area. For full campfire instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.
Each guest had a paper plate with her name on it. When the child finished a craft, she put her item on the paper plate. We set the plates to the side, so parents could easily carry the crafts to the trash can at their home home at the end of the party.
Miss Priss wanted chocolate! We ordered a mini chocolate fudge cake from the grocery store. I call these “smash cakes” and see this mini size at first birthday parties a lot. We put candles on the cake and sang, but we did not cut the smash cake. Instead, guests ate mini brownie bites that had been decorated with pink and white flowers.
Keeping with the doll theme, I tried to do all mini or bite sized food. After we sang, the kids went through a buffet line and picked up the little snacks and brownie bites. It was all finger food, so it eliminated a need for any forks or spoons.
Pigs-in-a-blanket— Basically, a mini hot dog. I used 3 rolls of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and 2 packages of Lit’l Smokies, which yields about 60 pigs. I cut each crescent roll into 3 triangles and then wrap a triangle around a Lit’l Smokie. I follow the baking instructions on the Pillsbury Crescent Roll package.
Dill Dip— This is Miss Priss’ favorite snack, and one of my signature recipes. I purchased 1-oz plastic shot glasses at the party store and put a dollop of dill dip at the bottom of the cup. We stacked mini carrot sticks, mini celery sticks, and mini red pepper slices in the cups, so they were ready to serve. Click here for the Dill Dip and Chex Mix Recipes.
Chex Mix— We saw mini pink popcorn boxes at our independent party store, but I also considered using Wilton mini cake boxes from Michael’s Crafts to hold the snack mix. I did a variation of one of my Chex Mix recipes. This version has popcorn. Click here for the Dill Dip and Chex Mix Recipes.
S’More on a Stick— We used brightly colored cocktail sticks and stabbed marshmallows. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and plain Hershey milk chocolate bars in a double boiler. I crushed graham crackers and placed the crumbs in a flat bowl. I dipped the marshmallow in the melted chocolate, and Miss Priss rolled the chocolate end of the marshmallow in the graham cracker. I must say, these were delicious and much safer than having 17 six and seven year olds standing around a fire pit.
The Party Favors
Guests took home the bug jar and campfire crafts. They also took home the doll sleeping bag. If you have a sewing machine, the sleeping bags are easy to make. However, had I known I would need 17 doll sleeping bags, I might have rethought my decision to have these as party favors. For full doll sleeping bag instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.
I am exhausted and am considering canceling Halloween. Anyone with me?
So, here is the download from our 4th of July neighborhood party. We have a fab neighbor who has a degree in recreational something and is a professional when it comes to organizing group events. She agreed to again coordinate a 4th of July family bash for our street. We followed the same basic format as last year and here are a few highlights. In case you are new to TheRoomMom’s world, you can read about last year here.
The Parade, The Games, and the Prizes
Each family decorates bikes, scooters, wagons… This is the kick off to the party. Any participants ride up and down the street a few times to the cheers and shouts of the bystanders.
Following the parade, we are teamed up and compete in a sack race, dizzy bat race, egg carry, and other classic relay races.
Prizes for the winners awarded after dinner. I made this year’s “medals” with Mardi Gras beads, jewelry clips, and silver posterboard with a printed message glued to the top. They are not as nice as the Dollar Store trophies from last year, but I was under a time crunch.
After the races ended, a few adults wrote in silly award names like “Best Competitor”, “Most Confident Egg Carrier”, or “Best Spinner”.
The Food and Drinks
There was lots of grilled meat and tasty (but bad for you) party food. One person did contribute a fresh fruit salad, but we mostly ate things with melted cheese in them.
I baked a pizza dip, which is a party dip that works for any occasion, any age, and any time of year. Click for the 4th of July Recipes 2013.
I also concocted a blue drink for the adults. Be careful because it does look like Gatorade. I wanted to make the cherry margaritas for the crowd, but it takes time to pit all of those cherries, so I tinkered with the recipe for this blue drink and created the Dizzy Eagle (name is not finalized– please send suggestions if you have them). Click for the 4th of July Recipes 2013.
The Cake Walk
This is everyone’s favorite event. Each family donates a sweet treat or two. Kids stand on a numbered square. An adult plays music. When the music stops, the child stops on a square. Our organizer draws a number. The child standing on the matching number gets to pick a treat from the table.
You can let adults play too, but we have it worked out so all kids win one item.
This year I boxed Oreo Truffles. I had trouble melting my white chocolate, so they did not look as professional as I would like. The taste, however, was not compromised. Click for the 4th of July Recipes 2013.
Jackie knows how to cut a large white paper plate into 3 masks from a former job as a camp director. She cut an oval (football shape) from the center of the paper plate. The resulting 3 pieces are the 3 mask shapes. Then, two eyes are cut in the center of each shape. You can also do the football shape in the top half of the plate and create 2 masks from one paper plate.
I took over after Jackie cut the masks. I found red bamboo skewer sticks in the 4th of July section at Hobby Lobby. Using a piece each of red, white, and blue curly ribbon, I tied them together around the end of a stick in a knot. I hot glued the stick at the point where the ribbon knot is to the back edge of each mask. Once the glue cooled, I curled the ribbon.
We had a table at the party with Elmer’s glue, glitter, sparkly stars, and markers. Kids could walk up and decorate a mask.
We set a big disposable roasting pan on the table with the glitter jars inside. Kids set the mask in the pan to glitter. It made clean up very easy.
FYI– this would be a great craft for Halloween parties and school celebrations.
How do you celebrate the 4th of July? Jackie was exhausted, and this may have been the last time she will be organizing a neighborhood event of this scale. Do you have any suggestions I can bring to her for consideration?
Since I will need a cocktail for our 4th of July block party, I wanted to focus on a cocktail that has a red, white, or blue theme for this weekend’s new drink. Last night I tested cherry margaritas. I mentioned last week that I like tart drinks better and this one is almost perfect. Even if it did not taste that great (which it does), the color is so vibrant that people assume it is going to be delicious.
cherries (you need 15-20 for one batch)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 c. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 c. (plus a splash) of tequila
1/4 c. (plus a splash) of triple sec
lime wedges for garnish
Make a simple syrup by adding 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a pot on the stovetop at medium heat. Do not stir, but swirl sugar water occasionally while the pot is on the stove. Remove from heat once the sugar dissolves.
Pit ~15 cherries and put them in a blender. You can do more or less cherries depending on your taste. Add tequila, triple sec, 1/2 cup lime juice, and 1/2 cup cooled simple syrup to the blender.
Blend ~20 seconds until the cherries are ground up. It will look like a dull color, but as soon as you start blending, it turns this really bright pinky red color.
Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a pitcher. Press the mixture around the sieve with a spatula to get as much liquid through as possible.
Serve margarita over ice with a wedge of lime for garnish.
Makes ~4 servings
In Other News
A dear friend of TheRoomMom e-mailed the picture below to me. She served the Watermelon Vodka Slushie in this totally awesome watermelon keg. She said she had a few leakage problems. She picked up two more foam circles a little larger than the lock nuts to try to prevent leaking next time. My friend is visiting in a few weeks, and I will get a full report, but the materials list is below if you want to use the picture and the list to give it a try.
Hose Bibb, quarter turn (that’s the tap)
Faucet Lock Nuts (those black circles)
Brass Pipe Nipple 1/2″ (the piece with threads on both ends)
I love twice baked potatoes all ways, but I am posting recipes for two of my favorite versions. The casserole is great for pot lucks, tailgating, and casual parties. The mini twice-baked potatoes are a great appetizer, look fancy, but have that comfort food factor, and… are mini. As some of my readers know, I live for mini. Unfortunately, there is no way around baking the potatoes twice, so both recipes require time. It is worth the wait, though!
Twice-Baked Potato Casserole
8 medium-size baking potatoes (~4 lbs), baked and cooled
2 c. (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 (16-oz.) container sour cream
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
½ c. milk
½ c. butter, melted
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. chopped fresh chives
1 ½ t. salt
½ t. pepper
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
Scoop pulp out of potatoes into a large bowl and coarsely mash with a potato masher (discard the empty skins). Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, sour cream, and the next 7 ingredients. Spoon into a lightly greased 13×9-in. baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese and bacon. Can garnish with additional chives too if desired.
Twice-Baked New Potatoes
12 new potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 T. olive oil
4 oz. sour cream, softened
1/2 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese or white cheddar
1 T. minced chives
1 garlic clove, finely minced
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle the potatoes with the olive oil and toss to coat. Roast the potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes until tender, and the skin is slightly crisp. If your new potatoes are on the large size, you will need longer roasting time.
Remove potatoes from the oven and let cool slightly. Halve the potatoes. Use a small scoop (I like my little gelato scooper) and remove the insides leaving a little margin of potato. Put the scooped out part of the potato in a mixing bowl.
Add cream cheese, sour cream, grated cheese, chives, garlic, salt, and pepper to the potato pulp. Mash until the potato mixture is smooth. Taste and add salt as needed.
Scoop potato mixture back into the shell (gelato scooper works well for this too). Sprinkle bacon bits on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown on top.