Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cupcake Party Day... I Mean "Independence Day" *or* Toddlers With Sticks

I am a crappy friend. I am no good at instigating events to further a relationship. I coast along and wait for someone to invite me to something or make plans. So that's why I only see my good friend Jessica twice a year - for her adults-only Halloween party, and her family friendly 4th of July party. Technically I saw her an extra time the year Little Z was born, at my baby shower, and these last 2 years I've seen her an extra time because she was willing to schlepp the 30+ minute drive down to my house for Z's birthday parties. So 3 times a year, now that I've spawned. Ooo plus that awesome game night she had this year. Anyway. The moral of the story is, she has to feed me in order to maintain my crappy friendshipness. :)

That being said, I drop everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, to go to her parties. Last year I missed a glass-blowing class I REALLY wanted to go to with my MOMS, and a Night With Kevin Smith appearance in Seattle, so that I wouldn't miss her costume party. My nephew's 6th birthday party was going to be combined with a 4th of July BBQ this year, and I had to decline, because I'm not missing Jessica's party! She even lets us bring random strangers and family to her parties! My other sister, my mom, and my brother have all been coming to her 4th party for years now. Her 4th of July party is like the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. "You will all be assimilated." Plus she has a piñata and goodie bags for the kids! And buttercream frosted cupcakes in ice cream cones for me... I mean the kids.

Since I've been doing so well making shapes out of meats and cheeses, and the lady at the deli accidentally cut roughly double the amount requested for the meat I made for Baby Mornan's party, I decided to bring some in fun shapes for the kids. I also wanted to do something with the blueberries and strawberries I had bought at Costco several days before, since they were on their last legs, and we can't ever eat them fast enough. So I took the veggie tray container I had saved from my snacks for the kids cooking class and made a 'Red, White and Blue' tray with sliced strawberries in 3 of the compartments, blueberries in 2, and Monterey Jack cheese (white... like mozarella, I guess) in star shapes in the last 2. It looked awesome, and was completely snarfed down before dessert came out. Yay. Since the stars had been somewhat annoying to make, and we were running late and I still had Colby Jack, turkey and ham to cut, I hunted around for easier shapes. I had just received my puzzle-piece shaped Lunch Punch set, which could cut 4 little puzzle pieces at a time, and I decided to use that to save time, even though the stars were better, thematically.

The Lunch Punch worked... technically. But it was more of a pain in the butt, and I had a 30% casualty rate with bits breaking off, and I was getting frustrated, since each member of my family was calling me at this time to see when I would be picking them up/arriving at the party/etc. I'd have to wipe food off my hands, fish in my pocket for my phone, grumble and clock-watch while I tuned them out, then wash my hands again to cut more food. So my husband took over, bless his heart. We decided to scrap the puzzle pieces and just do stars. He was a champ! I had an ancient (20-30 years old!) tupperware party platter tray with 6 compartments, so we did 2 with cheese, 2 with turkey, 1 with ham (I had less ham for some reason) and 1 for whole wheat Ritz crackers. It looked really good. I'm kicking myself for not taking pictures of my beautiful party trays. There were only a few turkey scraps left over by the end of the party, so it was a popular one too. Yay. I was worried, since they have so much good food that people bring, that no one would want my boring old cheese. But I figured the kids might like it, and they did! The other food was all so fancy, and most of the young ones didn't want stuff like macaroni salad (Z thought it was Mac N Cheese, so she wouldn't even LOOK at anything else) or pickled watermelon salad (crazy good. I loved it.)

A good time was had by all... for about 30 minutes, until Little Z got flattened when she ran in front of someone on the swings. Boot to the face, face in the dirt, dragged along the arc. It took at least a half hour to calm her down and nurse her to sleep, and she was still hiccoughing in her sleep for another half hour. You know... that little gasping/snuffling 'poor me' noise they make after crying. Since she had refused to nap on the drive up, this little nap was all she needed to become her normal, happy, lately whiny self. I decided to carry her back in from the car (where we were napping) while asleep, in case she wanted to wake up in time for the piñata, which she did. It was the first time for her and Tually (my sister Kayneen and Rop and the kids were also there, as was our mom) to get to hit the piñata, which they loved. Tually was so excited I had to drag her back out of the 'arc of danger' several times. (They had spray painted a white line to stay behind, to avoid using a kiddo's head for batting practice, since the younger ones weren't very skilled or accurate with the stick, and the older ones were blind-folded.)
Because a piñata is ultimately a dog-eat-dog scenario, Jessica makes goody bags for all the kids (even the infants!) so that no one goes home empty-handed because they weren't greedy and ruthless enough. But I was amazed at how much loot the little ones were able to snarf up. They even had time to pick and choose, instead of grab-and-go, grab-and-go. One little girl went straight for the middle and left behind a treasure-trove untouched under her skirt for the stragglers. Everyone seemed happy, and it took longer than the 3.7 seconds I was picturing, based on public Easter-egg hunts we've gone to.

I love Jessica's cupcakes so much, it's become a joke between us. When I had just given birth 2 years ago, we came with our little newborn and Jessica gave me a tub of leftover buttercream frosting to take home. I had frosted chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and lunch most days, as I was learning how to function with this new little 'no-sleep-for-you, booby-booby-nomnomnom' machine. That and Belly Bars, since the only stores I was getting to were Babies R Us and Motherhood Maternity!
She somehow bakes the cupcakes into ice cream cones, and even had her husband make custom racks to hold them. They are MOUNDED with frosting, and it's not uncommon to find de-frosted cones lying around the yard after the desserts come out.
Z was in love, as it combined 2 of her 3 favorite foods - ice cream (even though it didn't actually HAVE any ice cream. For her, the idea was enough) and cupcakes! The only thing missing was a Chapstick, and it would have been a Little Z trifecta!

There was an inconceivable amount of sparklers in little hands, with a surprisingly low number of injuries (none.) As dusk approached, Jessica's brother-in-law treated us to an awesome display of fountains, mortars, roman candles, and other shoot-into-the-sky BOOM CRACKLE Oooh! Aaaah! fireworks. The little monkey fell asleep on the drive home, so the day ended well.


  1. Are we going to get a recipe for the buttercream ice cream. And the cheese

    I must say, you're making me think I need to fish out my Pampered Chef cutters and try cutting up special shapes for my son. His birthday IS coming up after all!

    This is deli cheese you use, correct? How thick do you have them cut it? Do some cheeses work better than others?

  2. The cheese I just slice myself, as it's cheaper. I use Colby Jack cheese. Monteray Jack works nicely too. My slicer is old and tends to loosen and get thicker as I go. If you make it too thick, it's hard to get the cheese shapes back out, which is why my puzzle ones broke so much. The cheese was way too thick. I've read from another blog that sharp cheddar is too crumbly, and I have noticed that mild cheddar is a little more prone to breaking than the Colby Jack & Monteray Jack.
    But pre-sliced in the package should be okay. Just avoid cutters with tiny protrusions, like a teeny stem. Or you can try using a butter knife to help poke it out a little at a time in the skinny places, alternating with your fingers in the bigger spots, so it all slowly slides out together, rather than one part coming out faster/further than another, thus breaking.

    I get the meat custom sliced at double their normal cut, which on my deli's machine is setting 2. You *CAN* just stack regular slices together and punch through a bunch at once, but they tend to tear more if you try and separate them. *DO NOT STACK CHEESE TO CUT* Unless you are my husband. They always broke when I tried to get them back out.


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