Simple pleasures

Tag: birthday parties

Thing One and Thing Two

by tableofcolors

I obviously have never been a little boy and to be truthful I was a little nervous when I was expecting Erik as to how I would cope as a Mom to a boy after our girls. My qualms were unfounded. Such sweethearts my boys are even if they do keep me on my toes both in mind and body. Erik often will have facts and quiz me during the day. I took him grocery shopping the evening before his party so that he could decide which chips and soft drinks we should buy. He decided on “Sahara” chips as it had a picture of a desert on the package. As we walked down an aisle, he would stop to inspect a package of macaroni or some sausage and explain his world to me. He told me about how the Crusaders invaded Jerusalem and quized me to see if I knew what prehistoric species are still living after the “turmoil of the dinosaurs” as he calls it. I fortunately had been pop-quized on the subject before and so I passed. If you do not happen to know that the alligator and gar are both prehistoric…and he went on to explain that from the scales of the gar, indigenous people made arrowheads. FYI

erik and snowmenAs we were in the baking section there was a package that had a picture of macarons. He stopped and very dramatically exclaimed, “This is what I have always wanted for my birthday!” And yes, indeed it would be have been a great idea as his cake was to be a hockey cake and so the macarons colored black could have been little pucks. But my time was running short and so I promised that we would try to remember next year. Fortunately he was perfectly pleased with the melting snowmen.

melting snowmenI happened to have about one pound or half a kilo of gingerbread dough still in the freezer leftover from Christmas. This helped speed things up considerably. You may find the recipe to the gingerbread here. I thawed out the gingerbread dough so that it was still cool but not frozen and rolled it out and made cutouts with a round cookie cutter.

Melting snowmen

24 round cookies (ginger, sugar or a cookie of your choice)
2 egg whites
powdered sugar
12 large marshmallows cut into halves
50 g/1 and 3/4 oz dark chocolate, melted

Basic buttercream (from the book, Maailman Parhaat Kakut by Barbara Maher)
125 g/4.4 oz unsalted butter
250 g/8.8 oz confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp milk or cream to make it more pliable
a few drops of red and yellow food coloring for making the orange noses

Separate the egg whites from the yolks and mix enough powdered sugar with the whites so that the frosting becomes a soft white with some consistency. Make sure that it is not too thick so that ou are able to squeeze through a parchment paper icing bag or a plastic bag with the tip cut off.

First make the outline of the puddle for the melting snowman on each cookie. By the time all twentyfour outlines have been made, fill it in with zig zag line of frosting. You do not need to fill in every spot as the frosting will spread out. If needed, use a palet knife or a butter knife to help spread the frosting out. Place the marshmallow where you would like the head to be. Next melt the chocolate and make an icing bag out of parchment paper. Spoon the melted chocolate into it and make button, eyes, a smile, and stick hands.

Next make the buttercream and color it a desired orange. Make another icing bag out of parchment paper or use a plastic bag with the tip cut off, give each snowman a carrot nose and a scarf.

making melting snowman cookiesDuring the first few minutes of the party, the house was quite quiet and I was just beginning to wonder if the next two hours would actually pass in considerable peace. I shouldn’t have wondered. As they warmed up we barely had to come up with party games as they had a fast paced game of indoor tag so that their cheeks were quite rosy from the exercise. Even some of our girls got involved and soon there were about eleven kids zipping about. I know that photos below are not quite in chronological order with the previous post of Elma and represent the next generation when they were children, but I promise that I will get back to Elma and all of the interesting stories that belong to her era. When these photos of my Grampa and his cousins arrived in my inbox, I felt like they could have just as easily walked in my door for a wild game of tag with their irresistable grins. I kind of felt like I had Thing One and Thing Two come over from the Cat and the Hat, but just add in Things Three through Nine to the count.

Anderson cousins

Anderson cousins

“There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Jim and Don

Jim and Don

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” -Willian Shakespeare


Anderson cousins

Anderson cousins

And I do believe that they might have like my melted snowman gingerbread cookies just as well as Thing One through Nine did at the party the other night.


A Perfect Ten

by tableofcolors

party treats3We have a tradition that the morning of your birthday starts with a song and gifts. Everyone else is woken up and we quietly make our way to bring the well-wishes for the coming year to the lucky birthday kid. A few weeks back when Marian turned ten our Erik had told me that he had a special congratulation to make, “On hienoa olla täysi kymppi!” or “It’s great to be a perfect ten!” A perfect ten has other implications in the Finnish language and culture. It means a perfect score. In school the grading scale goes from four to ten with the ten being the best grade. pinata collage Turning ten in our house is little bit of a bigger deal than turning nine. It is the last year that they get to have a large children’s birthday. Of course they may celebrate their birthdays in succeeding years but they are a bit smaller in proportion; perhaps a few friends over for a sleepover or a picnic at the beach. The kids often spend all year planning theiry birthdays. They think of the cake that they would like to have or the games they might like to play. The plans and flavors change quite a few times before the year is up. But I think that dreaming about their party is almost as important as the actual party. Whenever they say that they can’t sleep or have a bad dream I tell them to think of their birthday and what kind of party they might want to have. They then drift off to sleep dreaming of friends, the cake, piñatas and games. The newest introduction into our party traditions is the piñata. After visiting their cousin’s birthday party, they have all put it on their wish list. I started by making one, but having a houseful of helpful hands we soon were making three and in each stage there was someone participating. It was the perfect group project as it involved nearly everyone. And I think we will be making a record amount of piñatas this year! Afterall this was only our first birthday for the year and there are five more to go and while we are at it, I’ll have to ask if my husband would like one too!

pony cake collage This year the birthday girl wanted a pony cake that she had found from the book Deanna F. Cook’s Family Fun Birthday Cakes or Lasten omat synttärikakut. So with the idea in mind we made our own version. I used a double batch of Jamie Oliver’s Simple Sponge as the cake.

Pony Cake


3.3 dl/1.4 c heavy whipping cream
100 g dark chocolate

Make the two sponge cakes and set aside to cool, preferably overnight. Split the two cakes and cut the second cakes as shown the picture above. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave at twenty second intervals, stirring between each time. Be careful to not overheat the chocolate. Set aside while the cream is being whipped. Combine a couple of large spoonfuls of the whipped cream with the melted chocolate and then pour the chocolate mixture with the whipped cream. This allows for a smoother chocolate cream. Mix until evenly combined and a spread onto the first layer.

Place the second layer on the chocolate filling and prepare a buttercream frosting. You may color it as you wish, I used two tablespoons of dark cocoa powder this time. Frost with buttercream and use candies to decorate. I used black marzipan for the nostrils, mouth and eyelashes, but liquorice cut into thin strips would have worked just as well. Use your imagination with what your local grocery has available.

bella jumpingI must say that at times the house was nearly quiet even if we did have seventeen children. They were playing charades. At other times our house sounded like a football stadium.  The piñatas offered the most entertainment. They were cheering each other on and even jumping up and down at times. For the first turn they were blindfolded but then we decided to make the task a bit easier as a couple of the parents had already arrived to pick up their children. The piñatas were of a sturdy nature as we had used the classic newspaper and wallpaper glue. Each child had numerous turns (multiply that by seventeen) before we had all three down. With all of the glee, I really couldn’t help myself but to join in with their spontaneous laughter.

pinatacorkscrew cookies collageSince this was a children’s party, they also helped decide on the menu. The recipe for these Corkscrew cookies is from our all-time favorite children’s baking book, Suomen Lasten Leivontakirja by Ulla Svensk.

Corkscrew cookies

250 g/8.8 oz softened butter
1.5 dl/0.6 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder
5.5 dl/2.3 c flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Mix all of the ingredients except the cocoa powder together. Divide the dough into two parts and add the cocoa powder into one part. Wrap the dough in cling film and place into the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. If the dough is in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight allow it to soften just slightly. If it is too hard or too soft it may be tricky to handle.

After removing the dough from the refrigerator, roll into long bars and cut into 32 pieces. Roll the pieces until they are about 1 cm thick. Take a rolled piece of dough of each color and pinch them at one each and twist them around each other. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for about 8-10 minutes at 200 C/390 F. After removing from the oven allow to cool a bit before placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.

pussy willowsDo you remember when you turned ten?

It was a party

by tableofcolors

We had a houseful. Twenty little ones, eight big ones, fireworks, one birthday party and the New Year at midnight. If new year’s eve foretold the future, 2014 might be a year on the fast track. It looked like everyone had  a good time. The kids all found friends and at times, nearly everyone went outside and so for a moment there was a calm inside the house. Outside there was a cacophony of bursts, explosions, snaps and pops as the fireworks went off all around us in the neighborhood. Happy New Year to you all!


blowing candlesBefore the guests arrived we had a baking project with two of our girls. One had received a cake pops set and the other a tiered mini cake mold for Christmas. With only a little help, they baked for the party. I suppose that for now they will still need help, but it won’t be long and they will be working independently in the kitchen. So quickly they grow up. Whenever there is a birthday, I always think back to the day the child was born and their personality that has unfolded so far. Each one has their own unique character. Our birthday boy is so passionate about the things that are important to him. I’m not sure if he gets that from his Dad or Mom or maybe both. And he is a visualist. We once walked into a sea museum. You could describe the building as contemporary, with lots of light colored wood and curved shapes. He walked in and his eyes became large as plates as he looked around and climbed the stairs that are in the entryway and exclaimed, “This is an art building!” He was four at the time.

grasshopper pie

Grasshopper Pie for a Celebration

This Grasshopper pie is very loosely based on the recipe by Nigella Lawson. I usually do not use food coloring when cooking and baking as I like to go the more natural way, but I do make an exception when there are birthday parties and especially ones for children. I figure that it can’t hurt to have one day a year, in addition to Christmas, that is a “dream-come-true” type of day.

26 cookies (Oreo, Domino etc.)
60 g/2 oz good quality dark chocolate (70%), roughly chopped
85 g/3 tbsp butter, melted

150 g/5 oz mini marshmallows or large ones cut up into small pieces
1 dl/1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp peppermint flavoring
2 candy canes, crushed
a few drops of green food coloring
3.3 dl/1.4 heavy whipping cream

domino cookies

For the cookie crumb crust, line the bottom of a 20 cm/8 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Remove the white filling from the cookies and discard. Crush the cookies and melt the butter. I use a onion chopper (that is not used for onions) as my cookie crusher. It is a neat and effecient way to crush cookies for cookie crumb crusts. In a bowl mix the crushed cookies, melted butter and chopped dark chocolate. Pour into the lined springform pan and press evenly to form the crust. Place in the refrigerator to chill.


For the filling, place the milk and marshmallows (cut into four, if using large ones) into a medium saucepan. Heat until the milk is foaming but not boiling and remove from the heat. Stir constantly so that the marshmallows melt and forms a smooth mixture. Allow to cool. After the marshmallow mixture is cooled, whip the cream and fold into the marshmallow mixture. Fold in the peppermint flavoring, green food coloring and crushed candy cane. Pour into the springform pan and allow to set in the refrigerator for at least four hours or until overnight. Using a vegetable peeler, make dark chocolate curls to garnish.

If marshmallows are not on hand, this pie could be made using gelatin leaves and sugar to taste instead of marshmallows and milk. The marshmallows contain gelatin and glucose syrup, giving it a soft texture. This is definitely not a health food, but sometimes a little treat perhaps helps our mental health.

grasshopper pie 2