Sunday, August 22, 2010

The teddy bear cookies

I made teddy bear cookies to give out as favors for the littlest W's 3rd birthday party. I was inspired by way too many episodes of Martha Stewart. I used her recipes for the cookie dough and the icing. Last year I bought a cookie decorating set that had the little plastic bottles that she uses on her show to do the icing and still had not gotten around to trying it out before the party. I was way to ambitious considering I was adding this project to making a bear cake.
Making the dough, rolling it out, and baking the cookies was easy enough. I only needed to have 6 cookies and I even though the bear cutter was a large size, I think the recipe yielded 10 cookies. The icing was a different story as I had to figure out the best way to add food coloring to just enough icing to do the 'daming' before adding water to it to thin it to 'flood'. So the blue shirts that I did first were more complicated than the yellow bear parts because by that point I decided to add the food color in the bowl, rather than in the plastic bottle. Trial and error!
First I did the blue shirts because I figured they'd require less icing than the rest of the bear. I created a dam/ outline of the shirt first on all the bears.
Then I watered down the icing so I could flood the shirts, using a popsicle stick to spread things out as needed.
The blue sanding sugar I bought earlier in the year because it matched the blue of the plates and paper lanterns. That went on while the icing was tacky.
Then I dammed the rest of the bear with a Pooh Bear inspired yellow. The flooding of that followed. I ended up with more icing than I needed which is better than running out, right?
The sugar bees were purchased at The Decorette Shop. I had to dab a little bit of frosting behind them to get them to adhere to the bears, but I thin they turned out really cute!
i was so pooped after the party that I put off taking a photo of the finished bears. As result of putting them in tupperware overnight the blue sanding sugar shifted in spots and bled onto the blue. So this photo isn't as cute as it could be. I just consider that another lesson learned.

Teddy bear picnic

Since the Mr. and I will be out of town for a wedding on our son's birthday, my guilt directed my birthday party planning. I'm not Martha Stewart, so I don't know why I do this to myself. Even though I started planning for this last winter and have been gathering party supplies all year in the end some things end up being so tedious and end up taking more time than one would anticipate. But the party is over, pretty much everything turned out as I'd hoped, and I think the little boys all enjoyed themselves.
For the first two birthdays I did a baseball theme, which is really just a play off of the nursery theme. My original 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles" theme for this year had to be postponed because it would be too expensive with our international traveling this year. Instead I decided that 3 was the best age for me to still be able to do a teddy bear theme as a play on his name. In the past his birthdays have also been big family and friend attended bbqs, to take advantage of the summer weather. I decided a picnic in the front yard would work just as well and I could string up lights or paper lanterns from the overhanging lilac. I also decided to limit the guest list this year in keeping with the conventional wisdom to have it be their age plus one.
For some reason Mr. W has an inordinate amount of concrete blocks laying around the house. And none of them are employed in hippie bookcases. We used these as a base and a sheet of nice plywood to create a low little table for the picnickers. I added a length of red and white gingham for the table cloth and used outdoor pillows for cushions. At the end of last summer I found some cute blue paper lanterns to suspend form the tree and then found some melamine plates at City Liquidators in the same blue. So it would be a blue and red color scheme which would be easy to add in other accessories already around the house. I bought smaller red paper lanterns at Lippman's and found adorable blue and white striped paper straws at Powell's Books for Cooks.
I decided to make a cake and to finally try out decorating sugar cookies. Watching all those episodes of Martha Stewart while I was nursing were finally going to pay off. I went to The Decorette Shop because I knew they would have all kinds of cake accessories that I didn't even know that I needed. I finally found a good sized bear shaped cookie cutter, I needed it for the cookie favors and picnic sandwiches. I was also hoping to find some sugared bees to add to the cookies. And of course, in the front display case there were bees among the other sugared decorations. I'd read about assembling a bear shaped cake using two cake pans for the head and body and cupcakes for the arms, legs and ears. I decided that proportionally I'd like a smaller sized head so I bought a 6"cake pan and was able to find some pipe cleaner bees to add to the top. Oddly out of a box filled with colorful bees, only 4 were yellow. It would have to do!
I felt pressed for time (and energy) so I decided to used boxed cake mix with a nice chocolate frosting. I used this chocolate ganache recipe. I thought honey covering the bear would be cute and found a cute pre-made sparkle gel from Wilton that looked honey-ish. My honey pot did not urn out as well as I anticipated, the frosting was didn't warm back up in time to pipe easily. But overall I'm happy with how the cake turned out.
I kept with a theme of 'what do bears like to eat' for the food. Here is what I served for the picnic:
  • peanut butter and honey on dark brown bread sandwiches
  • ham and cheese on wheat bread sandwiches
  • egg salad on white bread sandwiches
  • (all were cut out into teddy bear shapes and assembled on a blue splatter ware tray together)
  • carrots and broccoli
  • gummy bears
  • lemonade, milk, or water
(I was going to serve ants on a log, but was talked out of it in the end because "toddlers don't like celery")
Speaking of ants, I spread out plastic ants on the table cloth to give it an authentic picnic feel. I think the table turned out very sweet.For party games we did the following:
  • We read bear books until all the children arrived.
(I 'd asked that every child bring their favorite bear to the party with them.)
  • Honey bee toss
(I glued googly eyes on little yellow pompoms and drew stripes with a sharpie to create the bees. We lined the children up behind a line and had them toss them into a an empty flower pot which served as our "hunny pot")
  • Teddy bear toss
(We placed everyones' bear on a blanket and shook it until there was only one bear remaining)

  • Musical bears
(Just like musical chairs except they ran around with their bears and tried to find a seat. I didn't ever remove any seats during this game. It was enough of a challenge getting them to stop and sit down on a seat once the music stopped)
  • Teddy bear parade
(We have a little set of musical instruments and gave each child one and paraded them around the block carrying their bears and making as much noise as they wanted.)

I decided not to give out prizes for the games, mostly we just let the kids repeat them over and over again which was fun for them, they aren't the age where they care about winning. After the games we opened gifts and fed them cake. One their way home they each got a little favor box, which I forgot to take pictures of but it was a little take out box in a red and white gingham print. Inside I added a teddy bear cookie to the little trinkets. They were a lot of work, but I'm happy with how they turned out too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's an Oregonian!

That was our joke the first time we were pregnant when people would ask if we knew what we were having. That was our plan for this pregnancy as well. The night before our big ultrasound we went for a "stroller ride" with the littlest W and he directed us to the ice cream shop. On our wlk we were discussing potential baby names but we were both still firm in our desire to have this pregnancy be a surprise.
So you can imagine my surprise as I drove us to our apointment that Mr. W blurted out "I want to find out what it is!" I was on that windy road at the top of Mt. Tabor and was like "Wha ?" I was so shocked that I didn't really take him seriously. Once at the ultra sound and the technician asked if we wanted to know the sex or not I caved in. They request that you drink 32 oz of water prior to the exam and I was SO uncomfortable because my bladder was so full and I was tired of being poked and prodded. So I think I agreed just so that it would be over and I could go empty my bladder.
So this Advent we will be welcoming a baby brother for our son! In the end it will be helpful for us to be able to explain that it is a baby brother growing inside me. So many of his little friends have baby brothers so he has some idea what that means. It also means that we don't have to buy anything for this baby! Some new washcloths and a new changing pad cover. I can't think of anything else... I still have a drawer full of never used blankets and multiple tubes of diaper cream. We are totally set!