Sunday, July 29, 2012

Kastles Klub

A certain good friend & neighbor of ours works for a certain cable sports network and often enough scores some pretty amazing tickets that she so very generously shares.  A few weeks back, right after the birthday party that consumes 210% of my energy was over, we were treated to VIP seats at the Washington Kastles tennis tournament.  Brent, Olga and Jocelyn are all great tennis players and have good reason to want to be there.  I was really just along for the ride.

The "dream seats" were literally one row back from the court.  And in that one row directly in front of us there was an amazingly special guest.  If you click on the picture above before looking at the one below, you can just barely make her out, wearing sunglasses, with her hands up to her face.

She actually came right up to our table and shook hands with Lisa, who was our genreous host for the evening's festivities.

YES, it is Mrs. President Of The United States, our First Lady, Michelle Obama!!!  It was an honor just to sit so close her her (and Sasha & Malia!) and take in some tennis.

Oh, and Venus Williams was there too.

It all just got me in the spirit.  We were served a multi-course dinner courtside and had people waiting on us throughout the event.  So lovely to watch the sun set in the middle of the city, with the peak of the Washington Monument in the center of the stands.

Afterwards Lisa's press pass got us right down on the court to see Venus up close and personal, along with the Kastle mascots.  We even got some "swag" - free racquets for the kids.

And since we were right there on the courts, we had a little fun.  Maybe they'll make a tennis player of me yet!

Or not.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Exponential Growth

5 year old check up today.

46 1/4 inches.
54 pounds.
95th percentile all around.


1 TB test.
1 chicken pox shot.
No tears.

Angry Birds but happy camper!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Shiver of Sharks

Joseph and his friends had a ton of fun splashing around the water park all day at his birthday party, especially enjoying the variety of slides and the lazy river.

Even after spending the majority of the day wet and wild there wasn't a shivering shark amongst us.  (And no, I did not know that the proper name for a group of sharks is a "shiver."  I Googled it.)   But just in case, instead of the usual bag o' plastic junk from one of the usual online novelty stores, we brought along a special party favor for each of our guests.  The towels (on clearance from Carter's) were an instant hit, and the kids had a ball with them :)

(sign also by!)

And with that, I promise, no more pictures from Joseph's birthday!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Banner Idea

Is it even remotely possible to not L.O.V.E. the birthday banner my friend Carrie made?  I started making an annual themed banner a few years back, and now it's become an absolute must on my birthday party planning check list.  I've made them myself in the past, but I knew Carrie was a paper crafter and asked if she had some kind of "wave" cutter.  Turns out she has an entire cartridge for beach and sea life cut-outs!  We had a consultation and did a sketch.  She took every one of my ideas to a higher level than I could have imagined!

Hopefully her website,, will be up and running soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Shark Cake!

Every year I put WAY more thought into Joseph's birthday cake than any sane person should.  He actually requested cupcakes this year, and the obvious way to go with that (if Google image searches has anything to do with it) was the pretty standard cupcake with ocean blue icing and a shark fin sticking out of it.  Even with a destination party I was still considering making an additional small cake, especially after seeing some tiered cakes with an ombre fondant wave pattern that I thought were just gorgeous.  I also really wanted to have an actual shark popping out of the cake.  Should I bother to mention I considered tons of other design options that would include various other sea creatures like octopus, crab, squid, etc?

One day I quickly jotted down this random sketch:

And it became this:

I am ashamed to admit with all of my baking experience I truly did not consider that it would be so hot that the icing would actually melt.  So much for the time I wasted piping!  The fondant shark fins, made days in advance so they hardened, also got soft and floppy in the heat.  Yet the large shark head, also made out of fondant, stayed perfectly intact.  Go figure.  But those limp shark fins were sad.  Just sad!  I even tried propping them up with candles.

Joseph had watched me making the shark head and asked me well in advance if he could eat it once it was his birthday.  I don't think he waited 2 seconds after blowing out the candles before he grabbed that topper off and bit right into it!

Apparently the cupcakes were pretty tasty too.  No shock - they had a little surprise inside.  Each one had an Oreo cookie baked right in the middle!  Great recipe from Martha Stewart Everyday FOOD magazine, although I used a different frosting.

There wasn't too much left after the feeding frenzy!
That's the sign of a good cake.

I think this is my favorite cake I've made to date!  Do I say that every year?  All I know is I promised my baby boy that Daddy would always make sure he had a cool Halloween costume and a great birthday cake, so I try my best not to disappoint.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Feliz Cumpleanos!

One of my favorite memories of my childhood birthdays is getting to pick a restaurant at which to have a celebratory dinner.  I clearly picked venues based on their names, winding up at places like The Penguin Inn and Charlie Brown's.  Joseph chose his based on cuisine.  He's a big fan of Mexican food so it was no surprise he asked to go to a neighborhood staple, Guapo's.  The boy loves him some guacamole, chips & salsa, rice & beans, and steak quesadillas.

He had mentioned to Brent that he also wanted to go to Guapo's because "they put the big hat on you and sing."  I had no idea what he was talking about, but I guess he had seen this very thing happen before.


Our muchacho is now cinco!

Afterwards he got to open his gifts from us.  Hot Wheels have been a favorite of late, so we got Joseph all kinds of tracks and curves and loops to build his own raceway.  It was an absolute hit! 

And it was the 1st thing he went for in the morning!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Under the Sea Adventure

A rocket ship & outer space theme came in a close second this year, and there were brief considerations of a superhero or Lego party, but in the end Joseph's love of the ocean, sharks, and sea creatures reigned supreme.  Deciding to break free of our habit of having a backyard shindig and thinking a destination could be fun and unique, we held Joe Joe's 5th birthday party at a local water park that we've come to know well over the past several summers, The Water Mine.

There are water slides of varying levels, sprayers and floatables, a huge central pool that never exceeds 3 ft deep, and the fun & relaxing Rattlesnake River that circles the park in which to take a lazy ride in an inner tube.  We were able to reserve a picnic area called the "Funbrella" for a few hours where we could set up camp, decorate, and serve lunch.

I had planned on an aqua, blue & orange color scheme (and luckily found the invitation above that coordinated so well).  We had to have blue gummy sharks and salt water taffy as well as some ocean water (blue Hawaiian punch) to drink.  Some convenient last minute finds at the craft store were perfect - squishy sea urchins and small beach baskets in the right colors to hold party supplies.  The tables were also decorated with this adorable "Fish Food" dish set I got at, which were perfect for serving goldfish crackers, of course.

My friend Carrie is a paper crafting genius, and she made this fantastic custom order sea life birthday banner.  (I'll post some close ups of it later.  You have to see the details!)

I stumbled upon the greatest cookie cutters for $1 at Sur la Table, and although I hadn't originally planed on doing much of the catering as I usually do, I knew I had to bake up these lobster, seahorse, and starfish sugar cookies with royal icing for our guests to enjoy.  We sat back for a change and let the park do the catering with typical "pool food" - pizza, hot dogs, and fries, but the party menus also included tickets for everyone to get water ices too.  I'm pretty sure everyone left adequately sugared up!

We were thrilled to have several special guests from out of town.  Grandpa & Grammy (with her broken wrist) helped hold down the fort while everyone splashed around.  Mimi was in charge of transporting the most precious of cargoes to the party - the birthday boy himself, and the cake I baked for the occasion.

Here's a sneak peak of the cake.  I loved it so much I think it deserves its own post!