Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dinosaur Party

Originally I wasn't planning to throw a party for Abe's third birthday. I just figured we'd do something fun that day to make it special. Then there was talk of us going camping sometime around the end of August. A camping party sounded like fun, so the wheels started spinning. The camping thing never panned out, so when I asked Abe what kind of party he wanted "Dinosaurs!" was his immediate answer.

I threw the invites together in Photoshop, although I can't take credit for the design. I just copied something I found on Pinterest. We only invited Abe's cousins, grandma, and my brother so I probably could have skipped the invitations, but I like to have something to throw in his baby book.

We brought our tent up to the cabin for the 4th of July and all the kids wanted to play in it. Since the northwoods were FULL of mosquitoes at the time we had to say "no" unless we wanted to sleep in a tent full of bugs. I wasn't entirely ready to give up on my camping idea though and I thought the tent would be a fun place for the kids to play, so we set it up and let the kids run in and out all they wanted.

We filled the tent with dinosaur stuff - books, coloring pages, a scavenger hunt, and all the dinosaur (or at least reptilian) stuffed animals we own, including Abe's dinosaur tail! I brought in a few small chairs, Abe's play table, and our twin-sized inflatable air mattress so the kids would have a place to sit, read about dinosaurs, and color. I don't know why I thought kids would color and read quietly with an inflatable mattress in the tent...

They mostly jumped on the mattress. Or jumped off the furniture onto the mattress. My brother commented that it was "better than a bouncy house!" At any rate, the tent was a huge success.

Once they'd checked out the tent and explored the yard a bit, I mentioned that there were "fossils" in the sandbox...

...so they got to work digging. I bought a tube of dinosaur skulls at Joann (using a half off coupon!) and hid them in the sand. The tube said it contained 11 skulls, the kids found 8. We're still searching for the other 3...

Once they were tired of digging we moved on to the VOLCANO!!! I should probably mention that all of the games we played were things that Abe loves to do. Dig in the sand, check. Experiment with baking soda and vinegar, check. Easter egg hunt, check. Pinatas, check. Jump on the bed, check and check. So yeah, he helped me build a volcano using cardboard and paper mache which we covered with sand. I stuck a plastic yogurt cup in the top and we let the kids take turns adding baking soda and vinegar. We went through an entire jug of vinegar and most of a large box of baking soda! It made a huge mess but they all loved it. 

Then we had an egg hunt. Now ever since Easter, Abe has been asking me to do an egg hunt. Seriously, almost every day! I'm usually willing to hide a few eggs around the house with some raisins or M&M's or whatever we have on hand, but I figured we'd do a real egg hunt for his birthday. 

We filled the eggs with the dinosaur crayons we made and some small dinosaurs, and Noah hid them around the yard. The kids were better at finding those. Almost all of the eggs were accounted for except one, which I found a couple weeks later while working in my garden!

It's so much fun watching him play with his dinosaurs...and watching him play dinosaurs with his dad, which they do almost every morning before Noah goes to work. He always tells me too "Thanks for the dinosaurs you got me, mom!" Sweetest thing ever.

So I love creating themed menus for kids' parties and this one was no exception! Since Abe loves the Land Before Time series, we borrowed some names for menu items from the show...

...like "Tree Stars." ("Tree stars" is dinosaur for "leaves.") I'd been wanting to try this recipe for Kale Chips and this was the perfect opportunity. I thought they were different but not bad and Edie devoured them, but the rest of the kids weren't interested. At least kale is cheap and they were easy to make.

The "Tree Sweet Skewers" were pieces of watermelon, banana, pineapple, and kiwifruit on a stick, laying on a bed of toasted coconut (which could be sprinkled on the fruit if the kids wanted). I threw the leftover cubed fruit in a large bowl with some toasted coconut for the adults.

I also made "Prehistoric Pasta" (just rotini noodles mixed with Italian dressing), but since not everyone at the party was a "carnivore," we let the kids add their own toppings.

There were cucumbers, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes (from our garden), broccoli, olives, and peperoncinis for the herbivores, and salami, cheese, beef sticks, and hard boiled eggs for the carnivores.

We also had Dinosaur Bones (find the recipe here) and Deviled Dinosaur Eggs made from the "dinosaur eggs" Abe and I dyed a couple night before the party (since dyeing Easter eggs is another one of his favorite activities).

I used pieces from Abe's dinosaur puzzle to label the various menu items and the puzzle board itself marked the "watering hole" outside. We just filled a beverage tub with juiceboxes, milk, and small water bottles for the kids and put beer and soda and other stuff for adults in the cooler.

Abe's one request was that we have a "sharp-tooth" at his party, so we painted a bunch of dinosaurs using my seemingly endless supply of Plexiglass panels from our garage.

I painted the T. Rex but Abe helped me with the rest. In addition to the "sharp-tooth" we had a triceratops, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, and a "flying pteranodon."

So the last two years, my pinatas have been hard to crack. (See the last two here and here.) It's sort of a running joke now. "Are you going to make a pinata?" and "Will we be able to break it?" are two questions I'm often asked whenever I start planning a birthday party. Of course I had to make another pinata! This time though I made 8. Eight paper mache dinosaur eggs!

And yes, they were tough to crack. Eventually the kids figured out that throwing them at the patio or banging them on a rock seemed to do the job.

Inside there were dinosaur shrinky charms for my oldest nieces and nephew (most of them broke though!) and dinosaur squirt toys in the eggs for the younger kids, along with a bunch of candy.

Even Edie got one, although hers looked more like a dragon...

Then there was my super amazing dinosaur dig s'mores cake. It was basically a chocolate cake, "frosted" with homemade marshmallow (not frosting, actual marshmallow), and coated with graham cracker crumbs. I used this mould to make the white chocolate dinosaur skeleton, and added jellybean "rocks" and a couple tools from our Duplo collection for decoration. 

We had to light the candles three times because the wind kept blowing them out! Abe was excited about the cake but I think he only ate about two bites before he ran off to play some more. You know it's a fun party when you can't stop for cake!

Oh, and did I mention the cake was completely dairy free? Yup. Even Edie could have it, and she loooooved it!

Since I had a bone shaped cookie cutter, I decided to make some ice cream bones to serve with the cake. (If you're interested, I basically followed these directions for making the ice cream shapes.)

It was nice being able to use our spiffed up backyard and deck for the party. I can't really say I'm looking forward to planning indoor parties for Edie's birthday in February...

...especially since most of our birthday parties seem to end with a baby in the bath. 

See more birthday party posts and projects here, or check out my birthday board on Pinterest for even more inspiration!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Minnesota State Fair

So the state fair has come and gone but I couldn't let a year slip by without posting something about it! This year we went to the fair three times, including on the record-setting Sunday before it ended! These are some of our favorite fair finds this year...

1. Walleye Cakes from Giggle's Campfire Grill - Giggle's always has something to offer beyond the typical fair food. We usually make a couple stops there each year. Their walleye cakes and porcupine meatballs are a couple of our favorites.

2. The University of Minnesota's Entomology exhibit in the Horticulture Building was one of the coolest things I've seen at the fair. Perfect for my little bug lover!

3. One day we got to the fair early enough for breakfast. Tom Thumb was one of our first stops!

4. We always seem to spend a lot of time in the Eco Building. They have lots of fun exhibits for kids...and adults! 

5. We stopped at O'Gara's for some Blarney Beans and to try their new Deep-Fried Bread Pudding. Both were delicious, but that bread pudding is going on my "do not miss" list for sure!

6. This year we tried the Rhuberry and Lemon Sour flavors of Spring Grove Soda Pop. Lemon Sour is my new favorite.

7. Edie mostly wanted to get out of the stroller to practice crawling, but she also managed to take a few long naps despite everything going on around her.

8. I brought a big blanket every day so we could get Edie out of the stoller and sit down for a picnic. One day we stopped at Minnesota Wine Country to try their new Wine Glazed Meatloaf (it was just ok), and to get a flight of wines from Minnesota vineyards.

9. Sweet Martha's Cookies - need I say more?

10. I couldn't have ice cream, but this dairy free Pineapple and Raspberry Twist from Dole Whip satisfied my craving for something cold and sweet.

11. We stopped at the Kidway one day for Abe to go on a couple rides. We think he had fun...

12. Abe wanted to see the pigs, but decided that the Sheep Barn was too noisy, so we didn't see many animals this year.

13. Abe and Noah took advantage of the All You Can Drink Milk stand. I just drank A LOT of lemonade...

14. Next year I'm going back for a hot buttered pretzel from Der Pretzel Haus, but their plain salted version was delicious too!

15. We had to try the Porketta Pig Wings from Mancini's after our friends told us they were the best new food they had tried at the fair. They were really good.

16. I always stop by the MN Honey Producers stand for an ice cold Honey Lemonade. By far the best lemonade at the fair.

We also enjoyed...

...the beergaritas from Tejas...

...great local beers on tap at the MN Craft Brewers Guild...

...and spicy, stuffed Jamaican Patties from West Indies Soul Food. I usually also pick up a Mediterranean Lemonade from Holy Land Deli when we get to that corner of the fair grounds. (The second best lemonade at the fair.)

Oh, and this was another new attraction that opened last year but I never posted the photos I took (doesn't Abe look little?)...the Great Big Sandbox!

I'm already working on my "do not miss" list for the 2014 Minnesota State Fair...deep-fried bread pudding, hot buttered pretzel, honey lemonade... What would be on yours?! You can see more of my lists of things to see and do (and eat!) at the Minnesota State Fair right here, and more of my Instagram favorites here.