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Monday Musing: Celebrating the difference a year can make

21 Oct
This cake signified more to me than just a birthday cake.

This cake signified more to me than just a birthday cake.

Caroline is about to be 14.

Her birthday is next weekend, but we celebrated with our family this past weekend.

As I was thinking about her upcoming birthday, planning out my menu and thinking about a birthday cake, I was struck by the difference a year can make.

One year ago, for her 13th birthday, we were in a very different place. She hadn’t been feeling well for months, and she was really quite sick most of the time, but we weren’t sure why.

That birthday was a rough one. She’d been to the hospital just a week or so before. She was seeing so many doctors, having lots of testing and trying to go to school each day even though she was really not herself.

She was such a trooper, and it was an intense time for us as a family; very stressful and scary for a while there.

Just before Christmas last year, it was finally determined that it was the fat in foods that was making her so sick, each and every day.

We went to town, immediately revamping our menus from top to bottom, changing our diets to make as much of what we ate low fat or non fat, as much as possible; working hard to make her well again, and it worked. It took many months, literally, for her to begin to feel well more times than she didn’t, and it’s been many weeks since she’s felt sick now that we’ve got our eating habits down pat.

One year later, here we were again, ready to celebrate another one of her birthdays.

As I Googled “Low Fat Nutella Cakes” trying to find a fun, but low fat birthday cake for her celebration, it hit me how far she’s come and how well she is, and how healthy she looks, compared to last year.

I found a great recipe, different than the birthday cakes we used to make, but good for her and with just enough sweetness to make it delightful, and I made it this weekend.

To me, this cake signified more than just a birthday. To me, it stood for how far we’ve come as a family over the past year, and specifically how well she is. In my mind, I was celebrating the difference that a year has made in her life, and in the life of our family. Last year we were in such a dark place at this time and this year, everyone is healthy and happy.

I take nothing for granted, and I celebrate every blessing. This weekend was a bigger celebration than just a 14th birthday, at least for me. So as I share this cake recipe with you, a healthy, low fat recipe from Turntablekitchen.com, know that it signifies so much more than just a cake recipe. I’m sharing with you a piece of our celebration of good health, happiness, and blessings.

Happy 14th Birthday Caroline! What a difference a year makes!

Happy 14th Birthday Caroline! What a difference a year makes!

Here is the recipe, just as it appears on Turntable Kitchen. Thanks to them for sharing a recipe that was healthy and delicious!

**Pay attention to the recipe, as the ingredients need to be mixed in a certain order, different than the way they are listed. For our own purposes, we used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and 1/3 less fat cream cheese. Using the low fat cream cheese meant we needed to add a bit more confectioner’s sugar to the top frosting, to make it sweet enough, and about a teaspoon of vanilla, to taste.

Banana Cake with Nutella and Cream Cheese Frosting

*serves 6-8

 For the cake:

 1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup white sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

4 ripe bananas, mashed

2/3 cup buttermilk

For the Nutella frosting:

3 heaping tablespoons of Nutella

1/2 cup of powdered sugar

3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup of butter

For the cream cheese frosting:

1/2 cup of powdered sugar

3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup of butter

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour.

2. Sift the flours, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and set aside.

3. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until incorporated. Next, add the mashed bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Beat until incorporated. Add about half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.

4. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Cool the cake layers to room temperature.

5. To prepare the Nutella frosting, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Set aside.

6. Repeat step five (omitting the Nutella) to make the cream cheese frosting.

7. To assemble: place one cake layer flat side up on a serving platter. Frost evenly with the Nutella frosting. Top with the second cake layer. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top.

– See more at: http://www.turntablekitchen.com/2011/11/banana-cake-with-nutella-and-cream-cheese-frosting/#sthash.GLbbjQCw.dpuf

Banana Cake with Nutella and Cream Cheese Frosting
*serves 6-8

For the cake:

1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk

For the Nutella frosting:

3 heaping tablespoons of Nutella
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

For the cream cheese frosting:

1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour.
2. Sift the flours, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until incorporated. Next, add the mashed bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Beat until incorporated. Add about half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
4. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Cool the cake layers to room temperature.
5. To prepare the Nutella frosting, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Set aside.
6. Repeat step five (omitting the Nutella) to make the cream cheese frosting.
7. To assemble: place one cake layer flat side up on a serving platter. Frost evenly with the Nutella frosting. Top with the second cake layer. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top.

– See more at: http://www.turntablekitchen.com/2011/11/banana-cake-with-nutella-and-cream-cheese-frosting/#sthash.6Elj5jvc.dpuf

Banana Cake with Nutella and Cream Cheese Frosting
*serves 6-8

For the cake:

1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk

For the Nutella frosting:

3 heaping tablespoons of Nutella
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

For the cream cheese frosting:

1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour.
2. Sift the flours, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until incorporated. Next, add the mashed bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Beat until incorporated. Add about half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
4. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Cool the cake layers to room temperature.
5. To prepare the Nutella frosting, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Set aside.
6. Repeat step five (omitting the Nutella) to make the cream cheese frosting.
7. To assemble: place one cake layer flat side up on a serving platter. Frost evenly with the Nutella frosting. Top with the second cake layer. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top.

– See more at: http://www.turntablekitchen.com/2011/11/banana-cake-with-nutella-and-cream-cheese-frosting/#sthash.6Elj5jvc.dpuf

Banana Cake with Nutella and Cream Cheese Frosting
*serves 6-8

For the cake:

1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk

For the Nutella frosting:

3 heaping tablespoons of Nutella
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

For the cream cheese frosting:

1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 1/2 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour.
2. Sift the flours, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until incorporated. Next, add the mashed bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Beat until incorporated. Add about half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
4. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Cool the cake layers to room temperature.
5. To prepare the Nutella frosting, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Set aside.
6. Repeat step five (omitting the Nutella) to make the cream cheese frosting.
7. To assemble: place one cake layer flat side up on a serving platter. Frost evenly with the Nutella frosting. Top with the second cake layer. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the top.

– See more at: http://www.turntablekitchen.com/2011/11/banana-cake-with-nutella-and-cream-cheese-frosting/#sthash.6Elj5jvc.dpuf

Fun Friday: Have you ever tried these?

2 Aug
One of our summer dessert experiments: Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

One of our summer dessert experiments: Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

I can’t be the only mom who’s seen these everywhere, can I?

Cupcakes.

Ice cream cones.

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes.

It sounded easy enough when my kids asked if we could try these and take them to one of the concerts on the beach this summer.

It was going to be Elizabeth’s birthday that night and we thought that’d make a great treat for her and for the rest of the kids who would be joining us at the concert.

I made cake batter and frosting. I had cones, food coloring and cherries. Elizabeth asked if we could make the cake batter marbled with the food coloring to make it look like “Crazy Vanilla” ice cream, a flavor at our local ice cream spot.

How hard could this be?

Silly question.

These look near-perfect in the photo, but I definitely had some issues. If anyone has ever made these before, I’d love to hear some comments with tips or suggestions!

Problem number one: leaky cones!

Problem number one: leaky cones!

My first problem was that the cake batter leaked out of many of the cones, filling the tins.

The cake batter was cooked, and swirled as Elizabeth had requested, but some of the cones were now half-full and then had these little muffin top type things around the bottom.

They almost went in the trash.

The kids stopped me before I got there. They were still cupcakes they said. They would still taste good, they said. Let’s just keep them, they said.

So we did.

I added food coloring to the frosting and gave them each a color and a bowl of cherries to decorate their cupcakes.

They were done! So pretty. Ready to go.

Which leads me to Problem Number Two.

How would one transport these pretty little ice cream cone cupcakes?

I had a cupcake carrier, which I planned on using. However, keeping them standing upright proved to be a difficult task.

Impossible actually.

By the time we got ourselves onto the beach they had all fallen. I’d even tried wrapping them in foil around the bottom to fill the tins, in the hopes it’d keep them from falling over.

I’d call this an Epic Fail, a term my kids often use.

But they weren’t all bad. The kids all ate them anyway. Upside down, sideways, leaky or not, they were still a cupcake. Still frosted with a cherry on top (or next to). They still tasted good, or so they said.

So would I make these again? I think so.

Anyone out there have any ideas, tips or tricks for me?

It was a Ronald McDonald House Birthday Party

22 Jul
Elizabeth couldn't wait for a chance to help out the Ronald McDonald House in Providence.

Elizabeth couldn’t wait for a chance to help out the Ronald McDonald House in Providence.

I’ve always said that one of the things I love about Girl Scouts is that the kids get the chance to do things they wouldn’t normally get to do. This past spring, in March, Elizabeth had one of those chances. Her troop visited the Ronald McDonald House in Providence. The house hosts the families who have children in treatment at the nearby hospitals, no matter how long the treatment might be.

I was not a chaperone on that trip, Don took her that night. When Elizabeth came home, I asked her how it was, and it was clear to me that the visit had made quite an impression on her. She talked about all that she had seen and heard when she was there, and she said that she wanted to find a way to help out the house.

In the later part of the school year, Elizabeth began planning her 11th birthday party, which would be her first sleepover party. It was then that she told me she wanted to do something for Ronald McDonald House at her party, but she wasn’t sure what to do. Around the same time I covered a story at a local elementary school and there was a speaker there from the Ronald McDonald House.

As I listened to the speaker, taking notes for my story, I realized that there was a lot we could do to turn Elizabeth’s birthday party into a fun night of helping others. I came home and told her some of my ideas. As we talked about it, Elizabeth decided that she would incorporate her invites, her crafts and activities, her cupcakes, and even the colors of the paper goods she chose.

We kicked off our party planning and shopping with a visit to McDonalds where Elizabeth got her color scheme inspiration and took a photo with the RMH Helping Hands.

We kicked off our party planning and shopping with a visit to McDonalds where Elizabeth got her color scheme inspiration and took a photo with the RMH Helping Hands.

It wasn’t hard to get excited about this party. Elizabeth’s enthusiasm was catchy. I typed up her invitations before the end of the school year and I put the Wish List from Ronald McDonald House website on the back. Elizabeth added her own message on the front:

** A message from Elizabeth**  My theme is Ronald McDonald.  Ever since a Girl Scout field trip to the Providence Ronald McDonald House, (which by the way was spectacular) I have been inspired to do something that includes helping other other people! Now that it has come close to my birthday I went with helping the Ronald McDonald house fund. You don’t have to come with anything to donate because we’ll be making things for the house at the party, but if you would like to then the Wish List is on the back!

And then came the real fun. Elizabeth had found plates, napkins and streamers in the colors of red, orange and yellow at the dollar store. While we were there, we happened to find bright yellow t-shirts that we could decorate with the fabric markers we had at home; a great activity for the party. We decided to make covered journals and coordinating bookmarks as the craft. We’d use composition notebooks and scrapbook paper to cover them. The bookmarks would be made with the leftover scrapbook paper. These would be for the girls at the party and for the Ronald McDonald House; each guest would make one to keep and one to donate. The journals could either be for kids or adults. They could be used as diaries or for keeping notes at doctor visits or even as gratitude journals.

Around the same time, the kids saw an episode of DC Cupcakes on TV and the bakers were designing cheeseburger cupcakes. It was then that Elizabeth knew she’d found her cake. I hadn’t seen the episode myself, but the girls told me how they were made: chocolate cupcakes sliced in half to make burger patties and vanilla cupcakes sliced in half to make buns. Once assembled, fondant and frosting were used to build the “burgers.” That sounded fun and easy.

Making fondant lettuce for the "build your own burger" cupcakes for the party.

Making fondant lettuce for the “build your own burger” cupcakes for the party.

The day of the party, I used a coupon at Michaels Crafts to get a four-pack of premade fondant in red, orange and yellow. The girls each took a color and made a condiment. Elizabeth made lettuce, Caroline made ketchup and Alex made Swiss Cheese. The white frosting would be the mayo. I baked my two batches of cupcakes and set them out to cool.

These were fun and we used them for the chips and snacks at the start of the party.

These were fun and we used them for the chips and snacks at the start of the party.

Earlier in the month we’d spotted the coolest additions to the party theme: fast-food themed paper goods in the dollar bins at Target. We had plates and napkins already for some of the food, but we could definitely incorporate these items for the rest of the food. We even found similar containers shaped like hot dog holders that we could use for the cupcakes.

The night of the party arrived. All of the guests brought bags of donations for Ronald McDonald House. We had coloring books, puzzle books, toiletries and grocery items. We filled a whole basket with them. The girls decorated their t-shirts any way they wanted to. Our three decided to make theirs Ronald McDonald themed, with big red smiles. Caroline, who loves doing nails, did all the girls’ nails in yellow with big red smiles on the thumbs. So cute!

They seemed to love decorating their journals and creating special ones to put in the donation basket. As the basket filled, they were even more excited. The “build your own burger” cupcakes were fantastic. The girls got such a kick out of creating them and eating them, and they really did look just like burgers!

100_5893

Ready to deliver!

A few days after the party ended, on a Friday evening, we gathered up our family and Elizabeth got together all of the donations and off we went to Ronald McDonald House in Providence. It was exciting for me to see the house, since I’d missed the original field trip. It was fun to bring in the donations and place them in the house where the families could take a journal and where the donated items would be added to the supplies that are kept on hand for the those who need them.

All in all, this party was a huge success. It was a fun party, it was very inexpensive to put together, and it helped Elizabeth help others, which was her intention from the beginning.

Best of all though, the feeling we had from doing good for someone else, definitely takes the cake.

T-Shirt decorating time!

T-Shirt decorating time!

Below are more photos from Elizabeth’s Ronald McDonald House Birthday party.

Caroline's shirt

Caroline’s shirt

Everyone loved their covered journals!

Everyone loved their covered journals and bookmarks! Alex ran the bookmark-making station.

Ready for "Build Your Own Burger" cupcakes

Ready for “Build Your Own Burger” cupcakes

YUM!

YUM!

Ronald McDonald nails

Ronald McDonald nails

Elizabeth created Ronald McDonald smiles on a stick for all her friends to take home with them.

Elizabeth created Ronald McDonald smiles on a stick for all her friends to take home with them.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Sausage & Peppers

26 Sep

Everyone at our house likes some aspect of this recipe, whether it’s the sausage, the peppers, the pasta or all three!

Today’s recipe is one of those not-an-exact-recipe posts. It’s more of a meal suggestion post.

We’ve been back to school for one month now, and everything is getting back in full swing. We often need a fast, easy meal so we can eat together and then run to wherever we need to be.

Sausage and Peppers is that meal. Not so often because it’s not super-healthy for you, but on occasion it’s a good one.

We usually throw ours on top of pasta so that there is something for everyone to choose from, no matter what they like or don’t like.

To make this simple meal you need just a few ingredients:

Sweet Italian Sausage cooked through and sliced
Sliced Peppers (red, green, yellow any color will do!)
Sliced Onions

Cooked pasta (we like egg noodles but any kind is fine)

And the directions are simple:

Saute your veggies in olive oil and garlic.
Add cooked, sliced sausage (you can either cook your sausage under the broiler first, then cool and slice or you can cook on top of the stove, cool and slice).
Saute sliced sausage with sliced veggies.

Serve on top or next to pasta.

Option: Sometimes we offer rolls for sausage and pepper sandwiches instead of pasta. The sandwich version also makes a great meal to serve for our at-home birthday parties as part of our buffet.

Pineapple-Banana Cake

31 Aug

It’s rare that we like cake to begin with, but this one we all loved!

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but no one in our house really loves cake, as in a birthday cake type of cake, with the exception of Lemon Cake and Boston Cream Pie which we adults choose for our birthdays, but we recently had a cake that we loved so I thought I’d share it with you today.

My parents had come for dinner and my mom had volunteered to bring dessert, saying she had a new recipe for a Pineapple-Banana Cake she thought we’d like. The recipe is not her own, she credits Roberta Grundy for passing it along to her. (Thanks Roberta!)

Well we gave it a try, and we all loved it! It wasn’t too sweet and the flavors of the pineapple mixed with banana was delicious and perfect for the upcoming fall season. I encourage you to give it a try!

PINEAPPLE-BANANA CAKE
BY ROBERTA GRUNDY
INGREDIENTS

*Grease and flour two layer cake pans
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 package Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix
1 eight ounce can of crushed pineapple NOT drained
2 medium bananas, mashed (approximately one cup)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

Combine ingredients and mix together on low for one minute.
Scrape sides of the bowl and continue to mix for two more minutes on medium until well blended.
Pour into greased and floured pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30-33 minutes until cake springs back.

See that little layer of frosting in the middle….yummy!

FROSTING

Roberta uses Betty Crocker frosting mix, beaten by hand and adding in 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 ts. vanilla, but you can also choose to make your own vanilla frosting, adding in the cinnamon and vanilla as well.

Optional: sprinkle with nuts

Serves 10-12 approximately

A Chocolate Lover’s Dream Day

13 Aug

We hadn’t even parked the car yet and I was already salivating.

Last week, you may remember that in my post about Boston Cream Pie, I mentioned that Saturday was my birthday. This year for my birthday, I got an extra-special treat: we spent the day before my birthday in Hershey, PA.

That’s right. I was in the Chocolate Capital of the World this past Friday.

I know, I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

I must give all the credit for this amazing treat to my mother-in-law, Marylou, who treated both my family and my sister-in-law’s family to a long weekend vacation in Pennsylvania with all the activities and everything that went with them, this past weekend. It was such a fun weekend and I loved being able to spend my birthday with this side of my family, something I don’t always get to do. We hated to see it end.

All of my favorite things, all in one delicious place!

I had been to Hershey a long time ago, back when we lived in New Jersey, but it was so long ago that I had almost no memory of the trip. It was like being there for the first time, all over again.

The streets smell of chocolate as you drive through the town. It’s heavenly.

The street lamps are shaped like Hershey Kisses.

It was truly a dream-come-true for a chocolate lover.

There are several parts to the Hershey experience, and I can share a little bit with you about the parts that we got to see on Friday. There’s so many family-friendly things to do there, you definitely have to pick and choose what you’d like to do on your visit. We were lucky too, it was a rainy day and at first I thought we would not be able to go. However, there were tons of indoor activities so we were able to keep to our plan for the day.

On our first ride we learned all about how chocolate is made, how all our favorite candies come to be.

We first chose to take a moving ride tour through the chocolate-making experience. It was about 10-15 minutes long and you learn all about how chocolate is made and it was a fun ride while being very informative at the same time. It was during this tour that I realized just how many different kinds of chocolate candies are actually made by Hershey’s.

After that, since it was lunchtime, we ate in the food court, which I thought seemed very affordable. There were ten of us total: five kids and five adults, so eating out is not an easy thing to do, especially when you’re trying to stick to a budget.

Caroline got a great shot of the trolley after we finished our ride.

Following the food court, we took an hour-long trolley ride which led us all through the town of Hershey. Here we not only saw the entire area, but also heard an animated history of the town and of Mr. Hershey himself. There was lots of laughing and singing (yes, we sang) on this ride and it was just as fun to watch our kids reacting to the antics of the tour guides while they were learning about the town and seeing all the local landmarks.

The kids got such a kick out of the antics on the trolley and we got such a kick out of watching the kids.

After the trolley ride ended, we went on to what was the most highly anticipated event of the day: The Gift Shop. The kids had all saved their money for the entire summer to take on this trip and they were anxiously awaiting the first time to spend some of it. I was proud though, both couples are on tight budgets and it’s rubbed off on our kids in what I think is a good way. They all took great care in buying their items and they really seemed to weigh the pros and cons of what to get and why. No one over-spent, as we still had other places with gift shops that we’d be visiting. All of my kids came home with extra money ultimately, and I believe my nieces did as well.

Ready to leave the hotel, wearing our Hershey’s t-shirts, purchased here in RI especially for this trip.

One tip I will pass along: this summer I found brown Hershey’s t-shirts at our local Walmart store. Total cost for three shirts: $22.50. I called my sister-in-law and she went to her store and found two for her daughters. Our five girls wore their matching Hershey’s shirts to Hershey Park on Friday and they looked so awesome. None of them had to spend their money on a $21.50 Hershey shirt from the gift shop. I thought that was a great treat for them and a great lesson as well.

There were some things that we didn’t do at Hershey Park that you might enjoy if you visit as well. They included a 3D show, a tour of the production facilities and an outdoor water park. If we took another trip there, those are things we might consider doing.

Overall, this was a fabulous way to spend the day before my birthday, or any day, and I’m so thankful I got the chance to visit Hershey Park again.  Here are a few last photos from the 200 or so that the girls and I took that day.

Enjoy!

The kids got a kick out of the singing cows.

Lamp posts on the streets of Hershey.

Trolley ride antics

So Much Candy

The biggest and for $29.95 it could be yours.

The Almost Sleepover Birthday Cake

27 Jul

Elizabeth turned 10 earlier this month, which meant she got to host a couple of friends for an “Almost Sleepover” last weekend. The Almost Sleepover is also sometimes known as a Mock Sleepover or a Half Sleepover. It’s when the guests come with pj’s on, sleeping bags and pillows in hand, and do all the typical sleepover type stuff (pizza, cake, movies, games, presents) but then right before bedtime, *poof!!* they go home!! The Almost Sleepover means that everyone gets to actually sleep! It’s one of my favorite birthday parties of all.

When Caroline had her Almost Sleepover two years ago, I coincidentally received an email earlier that month, from Kraft Foods, showing a slumber party cake, which I adapted here at home for her party. Here’s what her cake looked like back in 2010.

Caroline’s Almost Sleepover Cake from 2010. So cute, right?

I decided after making the cake once, that I’d do it slightly differently the next time around, which was now for Elizabeth’s party last weekend. Here’s what I did differently:

I used brownie as the base, rather than cake.

I used one quarter of a graham cracker for their sleeping bag instead of whatever I’d used here. That allowed me to make smaller people and fit more of them on the cake than just six. I like everyone to get a person to eat and there’s already three girls here before any guests or adults arrive.

I couldn’t find the rainbow candy for the hair this time around, I think it was from Halloween that year since Caroline’s birthday was in October. But, Elizabeth found some gummy worm type of candy in the checkout lane at Walmart when we were buying our supplies, so we used those, which worked out fine.

So here is what Elizabeth’s Almost Sleepover Cake looked like:

The Almost Sleepover cakes are so fun to make and the guests always love seeing it, almost more than eating it!

There was plenty of space for candles too:

Make a wish!

And in case you’re wondering what we did for a craft at the party, it was decorate-your-own pillow cases:

Everyone had different colored pillow cases to choose from. Elizabeth had everyone sign hers so she’ll always remember her 10th birthday party.

The party was fun and easy and the cake was delicious! Best of all was seeing Elizabeth enjoying her special day:

Happy Tenth Birthday Elizabeth!