Outdoor Fairy Party

September 29, 2012

It has been an unintentional birthday party month over here at The Mary Frances Project.  Don't you love the masks that Carlee made?  If only I could convince my daughter to have a super hero party....

We celebrated my daughter's 5th birthday last weekend with an outdoor fairy tea party.  It was a beautiful day (especially for September!), and we had so much fun. 

I loved all of the birthday party tips that Carlee gave, and I want to share a few more highlights and tips from our recent birthday party experience.

Ask for help.  I was lucky to have a few of the other parents offer to stay and help with the party.  It was great to have some extra adults around.  When one of my friends arrived, she said "Hand me your camera.  I'll take the pictures."  I loved having a "photographer" to document the party, and take pictures of all of the little details (like our wooden fairy path below).

Play games.  I think the classic kids party games are pretty fun.  We played pass the parcel (the gift inside was a teeny chocolate), and bean bag toss.

Keep the food simple.  We served a fruit tray, a veggie tray and honey sandwiches.  Everyone could find something that they liked, and it wasn't too difficult to prepare or messy to clean-up.
Serve mini-cupcakes.  I have a set of mini silicone cupcake liners and I love them.  Most adults only want a taste of cake, and most kids don't finish a whole cupcake anyway, so I think that mini-cupcakes are the way to go for little kids parties.

Give a gift suggestion.  Many people will bring a gift to birthday parties, even if they told that they don't have to.  This year, I included a note that said, "Please don't feel obligated to bring a gift, but if you would like to bring one, I know that my child would love _____."  I think that most people want to give a gift, and want to bring something that they know will be liked.  I gave the suggestion of art supplies, and my daughter ended up with some great art supplies, books, and a few other really lovely things.

Our fairy party was a great way to celebrate my daughter, and have fun with friends.  She is my oldest, so maybe in a few years, I will see birthday parties a bit differently.  Over all though, I think that we hit on the essential elements for a successful party: friends, fun, and food.

Birthday Thank You Packages

September 26, 2012

I mentioned this earlier, but this year instead of handing out goody bags at the party, I decided to include a small gift with the thank you card.  I am no shining example of this, but I'm trying to teach my kids to write a thank you note when they receive a gift.  Emily is great at sending cards, and I think it's such a gracious habit. 

Since the party was superhero themed, I made little masks.  I know there are tons of tutorials/free patterns for masks, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here (although I can put up my pattern is anyone is interested).  Masks are pretty straight forward, which is nice when you are mass producing them.


I used leather for the front.  There are a few reasons for this.   First, I have lots of it on hand.  Second, I think it makes for a longer lasting and higher quality mask.  Or, in other words, leather seems fancier.

My one suggestion for making masks, or other small things with a front and back, is to cut out the front of the mask but not the back.  Sew the front mask shape to an uncut piece (for the back) and then cut it out after you sew.  This makes it easier to line everything up and is way easier to sew.

I gave my son free creative control with the thank you cards, and he decided to draw a picture of himself on the front, and on the back a little symbol.  I love the symbol.  I think it adds a nice touch.

He's still learning to write, so I wrote down the thank you message for him to copy.  I'm always looking for ways to encourage writing, and making cards is a great way to practice.


I also listed all the names of the children attending the party and he crossed off each name as he finished their card.

The party was a month ago, and he just finished making his cards today.  It was slow going, but I think it is such a nice gesture.

We hope our friends enjoy their masks as much as we enjoyed having them at our party!

Super Hero Party

This year, my five year old was wise to the the birthday party scene.  In the past we've been able to get away with a casual party for both the boys where we invite whole families.  Not this year.  Kid 1 really wanted to have a super hero party.  At this stage, he doesn't really know that much about actual superheros, we we were able to get away with a loose theme.

We invited a ton of friends and held the party at the park around the corner on a Saturday morning.  It ended up being a really fun party.  I am not one of those ladies that has an adorable spread of matching water bottles.  I like to keep things simple.  Even though it was low key, we got a ton of compliments on how fun the party was.  I'm certainly not experienced at throwing parties, but here are a few things that worked really well for us.  

I think the key to having a fun kid party (in the summer) is to have it outside where they can play.  If you have a good backyard, great, use it.  If you are like me and don't, choose a local park or beach.  I love having our parties in a public place so I don't have to worry about cleaning before, during, and after the party.  I don't know what I'll do when Baby Girl is old enough to have a party since her birthday is in the winter.  Outside parties are the best.

Keep it short and simple.  This is especially true for parties for young kids.  Don't plan too many activities.  We had a craft for the kids to work on while everyone was arriving.  This was pretty fun for most of the kids.  I cut out pieces of coloured poster board to make into superhero cuffs.  The kids decorated these with glitter glue, letter and star stickers, and crayons.  When they were finished, we stapled them onto their arms and called it good.  Kid crafts with staples are my favourite.


We also organized a few relay type games for the kids.  This ended up being a little crazy since there were about 20 kids there, but in a cute and adorable kind of way. 

Little kids love to dress up.  The parties that have been the very most fun for us have involved costumes (true for adults as well as kids).  I won some respect from our friends and my kids by showing up in super hero attire.  Sorry no picture!  I'm not quite ready to post a picture of myself in tights, and gold accessories.

Make a good cake (I made my new favourite Wacky Cake Recipe with chocolate frosting from the Cook's Illustrated book).

I always do a nice 2 layer round cake, and then make a batch of cupcakes to make sure I have enough sweet stuff.  The boys like to help, but aren't quite old enough to work on the big cake, so I put them in charge of decorating the cupcakes.  I don't worry about how they look, and this keeps the boys busy while I finish up any last minute preparations.


Bring wipes. Don't forget this, the wipes are very important!  They were indispensable for cleaning glitter glue and chocolate cake off of hands and faces.

If you do a goody bag, keep it simple and practical (I like that article that Emily linked to as well).  We've been to a few parties recently where the goody bags had very fun, and very inexpensive toys that broke within the hour.  This seems like such a waste to me.  This year instead of sending home goody bags we are sending out thank you cards (made by Kid 1) and leather super hero masks (made by me and more on that later).


 Looks like a fun party, eh?  It really was.    

Black Baby Mocs

September 24, 2012

I just went to a baby shower for a friend who is having a girl.  She also has a two-year old boy, so I was expecting the shower to be filled with pink, pink, and more pink, with possibly a little purple thrown in for good measure.  No surprise, I was right.  Just a few hours before the party, when I finally got around to making a gift, I decided to put together a little pair of black baby mocs (shamelessly copied from these brilliant ones like I've done before).

With all the girly things I knew she was going to receive, I thought it would be nice to bring something a little more gender neutral that will go with everything.  Oh, and they look hip and adorable.  The baby mocs that I made for my little one get tons of compliments every time she wears them - which I must admit is good for my ego.  They really are so cute on.        

Baby shoes are pretty fast for me to make at this point, but I only make them if I'm in the mood.  I'm fickle like that.  What do you bring to baby showers?  Do you make or buy?  Is there a standard present you bring, or do something different each time?   

Birthday Party Goody Bags

September 21, 2012

Kid #1 just turned five, and tomorrow is her birthday party.  I think my child may have a future career as a wedding planner - this party has been talked about and planned for months.  We just finished making the goody bags today, so I will share that now, and share the rest of the party details later.

The theme that was requested for this birthday party was a "Fairy Princess Lavender Tea Party."  Why not, right?  Although my kids have not been to a whole lot of birthday parties, they have been to enough to know that an essential part of a birthday party is the goody bag.  I do like the idea of giving a little gift to friends as of way of thanking them for coming to celebrate with you.  However, I am not super keen on spending a lot of money, or buying something unnecessary.  (This New York Times article on the topic describes the extreme.)

For our goody bags, my daughter and I decided on a list of inexpensive items that we could mostly make, and that we thought her friends would enjoy.  Kid #1 is so excited about these goody bags and is really hoping that one of her friends doesn't come tomorrow, so that there will be one left for her.

Do you want to see what we put in them?  Here it is!


I made playdough using a recipe I found here.  It looks quite blue in the picture, but it is a purple colour. 


As Carlee has already mentioned, I am not eating refined sugar for the month of September.  Kid #1 is really taking the idea of no sugar to heart, and insisted that we have raisins instead of candy in the bags. 


Something that my daughter really wanted in the goody bags was a notebook.  I did look at the dollar store briefly, before realizing that I would never find a teeny fairy notebook for a reasonable price.  Instead, I laminated a fairy picture, found here, and bound it up with white paper. 


When Kid #1 requested flower seeds, I thought it was a really sweet idea.  After checking out a few stores, I realized that 1) you can't buy seeds at the end of the summer, and 2) we have a ton of seeds in our own garden.  We harvested a bunch of sunflower seeds, put them in a little bag, and added instructions for planting next year.

Glitter Pen

This was the one purchased dollar store item.  At $0.20 each, it was my biggest "splurge."

Fairy Ring

The fairy flower ring printable was found here.  I cut out the rings, laminated them, and then cut them out again.  It was a bit labour intensive for a goody bag present, but cutting is a kind of a fun thing to do while watching TV at night.

We loaded all of the gifts into a brown paper bag, and stapled on a cute fairy picture that says "Thank-you fairy much!" (found here). 

So, what's your take on goody bags?  Too much work?  Totally fun?  I will have to see how the party guests react, but this has been a fun project to work on with my daughter, and a nice way to teach her that giving gifts to others can be rewarding.


Blue Bonnet

September 19, 2012

I have admired the Peekaboo Bonnet pattern at Made by Rae for a while now, and last week I finally took the plunge and bought the pattern.  We spent a few days camping with my brother's family and my parents in Lake Placid, NY, and instead of packing, or getting ready for our trip, I spent the night before making this hat.  She didn't have a hat that fit, so what else was I supposed to do?   You would have all done the same, right?

As I'm sure you all have heard, it's a really great pattern.  It's fast, easy, reversible, doesn't use a ton of fabric, and very cute.  I'm a sucker for a baby in a bonnet, as you might remember, and Baby Girl is adorable in her new bonnet. 

For this bonnet, I used some blue cotton chambray, white bias piping and tape, and pink and white striped cotton from a thrifted men's button-up shirt.  The scrap of pink and white fabric that I had left was an odd shape, so I had to piece together several pieces so make the brim.  It's always a good feeling to use scraps!  It makes me feel better about all the fabric scraps I compulsively save. 

(Wacky) Chocolate Cake

September 16, 2012

We are in the thick of birthday season at my house and I have been baking a lot of cakes.  I've also been eating a lot of cake.  It was my birthday, my two boys got a year older, and I also made cake for two friends.  All in the last month.  It's my new 'cake a week' diet.  Incidentally Emily and Mr. Emily are doing 'Sugar-Free September'.  Good thing we live so far away from each other so I can't tempt them with my delicious and beautiful cakes.  Are you jealous that I have my own personal cake decorator?  Mr. Carlee always does the finishing touches on our cakes after I've assembled them and put on the main frosting - we have a good thing going on. 

Can I share my new favourite cake recipe?  Maybe you are all familiar with this type of recipe, but I just learned about the beauty of the chocolate 'wacky' cake this year from my friend Kelly. 

This is a great basic cake recipe.  I love that it is made entirely with stuff I always have in my pantry.  The recipe dates from the earlier (some things I read said the Depression and others WW11) when ingredients like butter, eggs, and milk were expensive and out of reach for lots of families.  There is no dairy or eggs, so it's great for vegans, and those with egg allergies.  Not so great for those people with loads of will-power and their 'Sugar-Free September', but you can't please everyone.

The last few times I've made chocolate frosting I've just sort of winged it.  For me this works since I have an idea of the taste and texture I want, and I know more or less how to get there.  I prefer to use cocoa powder for frosting over actual chocolate.  My reasoning for this is that I have an easier time  making a stiffer frosting without it being overly sweet.  And it's cheaper, so in my books it's a win.  

We had a hard time getting a good picture of the texture because the cake is so dark.  My apologies for not being a better food photographer.

Wacky Chocolate Cake

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa (I use Hersey's Special Dark)
2 TBSP vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup + 2 TBSP oil
2 cups cold water

  1. Sift the first five ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  The original recipe that I use calls for only 5 TBSP of cocoa, but I add more because I like it dark.   
  2. Make three indentations into the mixture.  Into the first hole pour the vanilla, into the second, vinegar, into the oil into the third.  
  3. Pour 2 cups of cold water over the mixture.  I've also tried replacing some of the water with milk, buttermilk, or sour cream.  All are delicious and give it a slightly different taste.  Which is good when you are making a cake every week during Birthday Season.  
  4. Beat until smooth.  
  5. Spray your pans with Pam with Flour and pour in the cake batter.   
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes for a 9 x 13 pan.  When using two round cake pans, bake it at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Reducing the heat makes the cakes bake flatter and means you have to trim off less when you are leveling and stacking your layers.  
  7. Pull the cakes out of the oven when a toothpick comes out clean. 
  8. Cool for at least 10 minutes before turning your cakes onto a wire cooling rack.  

Winging It Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
5 cups icing (powdered) sugar
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until evenly mixed and fluffy.
  2. Add vanilla.
  3. Add sugar. If you need some white icing for decorating your cake, add the sugar first and then save some in a little ziplock bag (if you are not fancy and do not have piping bags). 
  4. Add cocoa.  If you want it less chocolaty, start with less cocoa and add sugar and cocoa until you are happy with the taste and texture.  I find this type of frosting to be very forgiving.  It's hard to go wrong with butter, cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa.   
  5. Frost your cake.  If your icing seems a bit too soft, chill it for a bit in the fridge.  You don't want it too cold and stiff or it will tear your cake (although if you are using frozen cakes this is not really a problem).  

Isn't my son sweet?  He was so bashful when we were all singing Happy Birthday too him.  Thankfully we have a break before the birthdays start up again around here.  I LOVE this cake, but I'm ready to go back to eating cookies for awhile.  

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