Cookie Decorating Party

cookie party pipe and flow

Last summer, we visited a newly opened cookie and cake decorating shop in St. Louis while visiting Sewing Sister. Sweetology had a wall of sprinkle choices, an entire counter for mixing icing colors, and shelves full of tools and cutters for creating shapes to decorate pre-baked cookies, cupcakes, and cakes. It was dessert decorating heaven.

Sweetology Cookies and Cupcakes

Sweetology Cookies and Cupcakes

Miss Priss wanted a cooking birthday party of some kind– preferably a party with lots of icing and sprinkles. I briefly toyed with the idea of hosting at home but then began scouting cupcake and cooking locations. I started by calling our local cupcake shops who offer party packages, but I learned that the party’s primary activity is mixing the batter and baking cupcakes. We wanted to spend more time actually decorating.

I finally called the Southern Season cooking school near our home, and they worked with me to organize a party with pre-baked cookies and lots of decorating. The staff at our party showed us a pipe and flow technique, so everyone got to use piping bags (so fun) and they offered a variety of decorating materials to top the icing too.

cookie party invitation

The Invitation: I like paper invitations. I am about the only mom who still sends invitations via USPS, but choosing an invitation is one of my favorite parts of planning a party. I found lots of cute invitation options with a cooking or cupcake theme, but it was harder to find an invite with a cookie design. I finally found This Invitation on ArtFire.com. The owner e-mails a proof and then prints the paper invitations and mails them the day after the sample is approved. It is a home business, and it took over a week (8 days) to receive the proof (her store site states she will send a proof in 3 business days). The owner replied to my e-mail inquiries, but the turnaround was too long for my OCD tastes.

cookie party icing supplies

The Cookies: The cooking school had a long table covered in white paper. They had various bright colored icing in piping bags and “looser” icing in plastic containers. They provided small plastic spoons and toothpicks to help with the icing distribution. There were 5 pre-baked sugar cookies in fun fall shapes at each place. The girls received a short demo about how to pipe a design using the piping bags and “tighter” icing.

cookie party icing cookies

They needed to wait a few minutes for the piped icing to set. Then, the guests spooned small amounts of the loose icing into the open spaces on the cookie and spread it gently into the nooks and crannies. As a final touch, the kids could add sprinkles. I forgot to ask what type of icing we used, but I think it was probably royal icing since it hardened pretty quickly.

cookie party thank you favor

The Party Favors: The cookie school had clear plastic boxes to transport any uneaten cookies home. I printed business card sized Cookie Party Favor Card Inserts on card stock and put them in small reclosable bead storage bags (3″ x 5″) I purchased at Michael’s Crafts. Miss Priss added 1 t. of jimmie sprinkles and 1 t. of nonpareil sprinkles to the baggies. It looked like edible confetti! We added one little baggie of sprinkles to each box of cookies. The cooking school distributed a copy of the sugar cookie recipe too.

cookie party thank you favor finished

The Time: We booked the party for 2 hours, but 90 minutes would have been perfect. The girls decorated every cookie Southern Season had, and we still had 30 minutes left before parents arrived. I ended up siting on the floor with our group and playing games like Telephone and the Grocery Store Memory game because a dozen 2nd grade girls who have just eaten boatloads of sugar and have nothing to do is a deadly combination. I actually had to tell several of them to stop licking the table.

cookie party cookie box

The best part of the party was the clean-up. None for me! If you plan a cooking party of some kind, do not try this at home. Outsourcing this party was the best decision I made. If your child would like a cooking birthday, start with the cupcake stores in your area. Almost all of the cupcake shops near me had private event options. Have you hosted (or attended) a cooking party of some kind? What worked well and what did not?

cookie party finished cookies

Birthdays Rock

rock climbing birthday party obstacle course

Mr. Star Wars has an August birthday– in South Carolina. That rules out any outdoor party unless it is swimming. We tried an army swim party and ran into pop up thunderstorms, so we were on the hunt for an indoor party location this year. After attending my niece’s totally cool rock climbing party at a lovely, indoor, air conditioned spot, Mr. Star Wars thought that would be fun.

My niece lives 4 states away from us, so I could not use the same place. I was able to find an indoor rock climbing location close to our house that would host a children’s birthday party. It met all of my criteria for a party facility: air conditioning, a dedicated area and staff for our party only (no mixing with the general public), and a flat fee (no surcharge for outside cakes or other weird costs). It was also a great activity for an older group. Mr. Star Wars is turning 9. He is not that old, but we are moving into a more “mature” party theme. In fact, I would not plan a party like this unless the guests are at least 8 or 9 years old.

rock climbing birthday invitation

The Invitation

  • I used a site called Swanky Press to order the invitations. I found lots of rock climbing invitation choices through a Google search, but many had cartoony stick figures on them, which I thought looked too babyish. Once I ordered, I received an e-mailed proof within 2 days. I had to make one edit, and they turned the correction around in a day. The invitations arrived at my door in about a week. 
  • I also ordered matching gift enclosure cards, which I attached to the party favor bags. Coordinated thank you notes are available too.

rock climbing birthday party wall

The Location

  • From my limited indoor rock climbing experience, there seem to be two options at rock climbing facilities. Kids will either hook up to an auto belay system, which is like a pulley that lets you come down the wall on your own. Or, kids do boulder climbing on much shorter walls, and the kids jump down onto mats. For my son’s party, we did boulder climbing on shorter walls in a room dedicated to our party. We had two staff members who led games that required the kids to work around the walls. The staff members provided instruction while kids climbed, and they “spotted” for safety too.
rock climbing birthday party autobelay

At my niece’s birthday, the kids climbed tall walls using auto belays.

  • Whichever kind of location you have, make sure that there is enough space that most of your party guests can be climbing at the same time. If kids are standing around waiting for a turn, it gets chaotic. Based on our experience as a guest and as the party host, I would limit the party size to no more than 10 kids. 8 kids is probably ideal.

rock climbing birthday party

The Waiver

  • Parents will be required to complete a waiver in order for their child to participate in the climbing. We mailed the waiver with our invitation and asked parents to bring the completed form to the party. Some rock climbing locations have an online waiver that can be completed ahead of time.
  • Missing or incomplete waivers slow down the party. If parents will be carpooling to the party, make sure they understand the importance of having the completed waiver. A child will not be allowed to participate without that thing signed by a parent!

rock climbing birthday cake

The Food

  • Mr. Star Wars wanted chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. No problem. I ordered my favorite grocery store birthday cake. This year, we ordered a round cake with orange trim (to match the invitations). The grocery store added a few candy rocks, but it was very simple.

rock climbing birthday snack

  • I picked up orange and dark grey plastic dip bowls at Target a few weeks back. They have funky sides that look like the handholds at the indoor rock climbing places. Personally, I would never use these dip bowls for entertaining because the colors are totally obnoxious, and the dip bowls are pretty hideous. That is probably why they were on the sale shelf. However, they were perfect for a rock climbing themed party. I wanted to fill them with GORP, but Mr. Star Wars wanted something with cookies. I made a trail mix of two kinds of mini Oreo’s (white and black), mini Chips Ahoy, animal crackers, and small pretzels.

rock climbing party favor bags filled

The Party Favors

  • I ordered net black shower bags from Paper Mart.
  • We filled the bags with a stick of rock candy, Pop Rocks, and a small candy container that had chocolate rocks in it.
  • I attached small key chain caribeners to the filled bags and added our small gift tags that said, “9 Rocks!” I found the caribeners at a local outdoor shop, but I have seen them at Party City or online.

rock climbing party favor bagsWhat are other good party themes for kids who are older… but not that old?

4th of July Festivities

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.

bike parade

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”.

DIY party awards

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.

pizza dip

  • 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.

summer cocktail

  • 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.

cake walk

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.

oreo truffle finished

  • 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.

paper plate masks

The Craft

  • 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.

DIY paper plate masks ribbons

  • 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.

paper plate mask finished

  • 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?

Drinks Are on Me

blackberry vodka drink with garnish

I have a new Pinterest board called Yummy Drinks. I pin any yummy looking drink I find, but there seems to be a trend emerging of fresh, fruity drinks that lend themselves to summer consumption. On the horizon is our neighborhood 4th of July party and the unbelievably oppressive heat of South Carolina summers. I will need good cocktails for both events, so I tested one of my finds this weekend.

My father-in-law was visiting and gave the drink a hearty approval. You know if it is in-law approved, it has to be good.

Blackberry Lemonade with Vodka

Ingredients

  • fresh blackberries
  • 1 c. sugar
  • vodka
  • fresh lemon juice
  • club soda
  • crushed ice

fresh lemon juice

Directions

  • Make a simple syrup by bringing the sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes; do not stir. Remove from heat and let cool. Simple syrup recipe can be doubled or tripled.
  • In the bottom of a glass, smash 4-5 blackberries with the back of a spoon. Add 1 oz. vodka (about a shot), 1 oz. simple syrup, and 1 oz. fresh lemon juice (I like a little more lemon juice).
  • Fill the glass about 2/3 full with crushed ice.
  • Pour a splash of soda on top and stir gently.
  • Can be made alcohol free too!

blackberry vodka drink

TheRoomDad, Mr. Star Wars, and my father-in-law spent the day fishing and brought home a fresh catch for dinner. We served drinks with grilled fish tacos and the Mexican Chopped Salad that I shared last week. I even remembered the cilantro this time!

mexican chopped salad with cilantro

Run for the Roses

derby mint julep glasses

The first Saturday in May is the Kentucky Derby (May 4 this year). TheRoomDad is from Louisville, and the Derby is near and dear to his heart. Since meeting TheRoomDad many years ago, we always celebrate Derby either in Louisville at Churchill Downs or at our house. Throwing a Kentucky Derby party is so fun. It gives the ladies an excuse to wear a big hat; it demands cocktails and good party food, and there is a party game built right in– betting!

derby party invitation

The Invitation

  • There are great Derby invitations available. I found my invitation at FineStationery.com. Indicate on the invitation if bets will be accepted, if hats are encouraged (I missed this key detail on my invite!), and if juleps will be served.
  • I am inserting a public service announcement here. My invitation says RSVP. That means ALL invited guests are supposed to let me know if they are coming or not. It is not a suggestion. If I put RSVP on the invitation, I want to hear from you. Because of the way I set up the betting pool, I needed names of all of my party guests ahead of time. Time and effort go into throwing a party, and it is a common courtesy to let the host know if you will/will not attend if it states RSVP on the invitation.

derby hats

The Hats

  • I love big hats. It is hard to pull off a hat, but anything goes for Derby. There is a store in Louisville that will design a hat for you via e-mail. My mother-in-law gave me a gift certificate to design a hat at Dee’s Crafts a few years back. It was the best Christmas gift I received that year. 

The Bets

  • I found this program called Racehorse by Nags Head Software. The current price is about $50. Once you buy the program, you can update every year for about $15. It figures out odds and payouts based on the money you collect at your party. I have not used the software in a few years. At the time I used it, the program was a little hinky. I e-mailed the contact, and they were very helpful. You can download the horses the morning of the race, and the program will pull the horse names into your betting pool. The program allows you to place complicated bets like Trifectas. I stuck with win, place, or show at our party.
  • It is helpful to print a list of horses and jockeys to share with party guests. Many of our guests actually came prepared with their horses selected.

mint julep

The Juleps

  • My in-laws give us a set of 2 or 4 commemorative julep glasses every year. My grandparents attended the Derby in the late 60s and early 70s, and my grandmother gave me her julep glass collection. Between the two, we own about 100 mint julep glasses. I served all of our cocktails at the party in the julep glass. I have seen the official Churchill Down Julep Glasses online and at party stores if you want to go all out.
  • I use a pretty traditional mint julep recipe. A true julep is bourbon, mint, crushed ice, and not much else. These drinks are not for the weak. Click Mint Juleps and Sausage Won Ton Tartlets for all of the recipes.

sausage tartlets

The Food

  • Aside from a handful of my favorite dips, I also served Sausage Won Ton Tartlets. The filling is stuffed into a crispy won ton wrapper cup. There are many delicious fillings you can use in the won ton cups. I used a sausage, ranch dressing, red bell pepper combination. Click Mint Juleps and Sausage Won Ton Tartlets for all of the recipes.

Anyone else planning a fun spring party? I am itching to host something new.