An Extra Special Family Game Night

Last night we gathered around the table to a game of Sorry Sliders...with a few special surprises for the kids. We LOVE to play games in our family...especially now that the kids are a little older & the games are fun for us too :).
I planned all of this in the hopes of not having to buy a lot of extra stuff...most was made from my stash (and even if you don't have a stash...it wouldn't cost much to do). Decorations were simple...mainly because a game board was acting as our centerpiece...dinner was made up of some of the kid's favorites-made special (and appetizer sized...perfect for playing games at the same time). The menu included: Mini Pizzas, Almost Homemade Pretzels, Veggie Tempura with Lemon Aioli, Shake Your Own Popcorn and Chocolate Cupcakes(with a special surprise inside)

So here we go...first with the decorations...

My kids love their initials on things...especially our youngest who is 4...and happens to begin with O...he is very proud of that. So I decided to go with that. I only made two things....1. bags for the "shake your own popcorn" and 2. decorated straws for their root beer.
1. Shake Your Own Popcorn Bags (I know it's a cheesy title..oh well)
**First I printed out a font that I wanted to use as a stencil (this one is called "stencil" (ironic) and is 300pt. font. Using a craft knife I cut out the letters & traced them BACKWARDS onto the back of textured cardstock--red for the girls, orange for the boys-- and cut them out. You can, of course, just get a stencil from a craft store to use...I have a hard time finding a font I like in pre-made stencils...or if you are lucky enough to have a Cricut machine...use that :)

**I next cut 5-2.25 in. circles (a circle cutter is a great investment...mine is Martha Stewart's...it works great). I bordered each circle with little pin-point dots with a coordinating blue marker. Then cut out 5 strips of striped paper each 2 in. by 3 in.

**Last I layered & glued everything together...letters onto circle, circle onto striped paper...I liked them not perfectly straight up and down...and not perfectly centered. Then I clipped a binder clip (I found these very cute green and white polka dot ones) and clipped it onto a brown paper bag folded down twice (fold measuring about 1 in.) You may want to trim the paper bag so that it is not so deep. Later the kids filled them with popcorn, sprayed them with "butter" spray and had a choice of cheddar cheese (use the cheese packet from mac n' cheese), Parmesan, or ranch (ranch salad dressing packet)...and shook them up. They LOVED it.

2. Decorative Straws

**I printed out our initials, in another font...this one is "apple butter" in about 100 pt. font...on cardstock. I then cut out 1 1/8 in. circles around the letters, and cut out 5- 1 1/2 in. circles of the red paper.

**Then I cut a + into two sides of the red circle, large enough to push the straw through....think drink lid... the slid the straw through...carefully...a bendy straw is important here to get it back through the other side. I did rip a few trying to get them on, but once they were on I had no problems with them. Then I glued the initial circle on top.

Next...the Menu...
***Chocolate Cupcakes...With a special surprise inside...
The night before I made a batch of Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes from her Baking Handbook. Use your favorite recipe. You want to make them well in advance because they need to be COMPLETELY cooled before you can fill them.

***In the morning I made a batch of my dad's 7 Minute Frosting...it's light and fluffy and marshmallowy...and not too sweet...Here it is...

You need:
2 egg whites, let them come to room temperature (makes it easier to whisk them)
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
In a very clean & dry, glass or metal bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form...the should be able to do this...
Meanwhile, microwave, or heat on the stove top the corn syrup. It needs to boil 1 minute. When the egg whites are ready, SLOWLY (and carefully) drizzle in hot syrup while mixer is mixing. Beat on high until it gets light and fluffy and looks like this...
Next I filled the cupcakes...fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip with the frosting...poke into the top of the cupcake and squeeze some in...I found that doing two spots on the top works best. Don't worry about how it looks, its going to be covered up :). If you don't have a pastry bag, use a paring knife to cut a cone out of the top of the cupcake, cut the tip of the cone off, fill the hole you just made with frosting and cap off with the cupcake "lid".

Next I made the Ganache...don't be scared...it sounds fancy...it's really easy.
Traditional Ganache is made from:
2 cups heavy cream
1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped.
I made half a batch, and used semi-sweet chocolate chips...it turned out great.
First in small sauce pan heat cream until boiling, remove from heat. Add chocolate and swirl to cover with cream.
Allow to sit 5 minutes, then gently whisk until smooth. Allow to cool some. It does harden as it cools so don't let it cool too long...if you do, reheat it over a double boiler.
Next I dipped the tops of the cupcakes...I did two layers, letting them set up some between layers. The ganache smooths itself out & they should be glossy.
If you want a fluffy frosted cupcake, you can whip the ganache...I did mine by hand (it was a workout)...machine would work so much better. Wait until it is very cool and whip until light and fluffy...like this...
Last I made a 1/2 recipe of simple white frosting:
1/2 c. shortening
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
about 2 Tb. milk
Mix shortening and vanilla, add powdered sugar and mix until combined...it will look dry. Add milk (more or less for how thick you need it) and whip until fluffy.
And I decorated the tops, going along with our initial theme... the rest were decorated with a "R" for our last name and another design stolen from a famous cupcake:)
Next up...Almost Homemade Pretzels

For the dough I used a package of pre-made pizza dough from the deli section. It works great and it is easy...makes the many steps to pretzel making a little less daunting. Trust me they are easier then the sound.

Here they are:
1. roll out the dough & cut into long strips.
2. Fold each strip in half and twist twice.
3. Fold ends toward loop and press down. Place seam side down on greased baking sheet.

4. bake pretzels for 4 minutes at 450. Remove from oven, reduce heat to 350.
5. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt generously, boil pretzels 2 minutes, 1 minute per side. Remove to paper towel.
6. Return to baking sheet, brush with egg wash (1 egg white + a little water) and sprinkle with kosher salt (poppy seeds or sesame seed would be good too).
7. Bake at 350 for 20-25 min. until golden brown.

We also had mini pizzas from the same pizza dough with our favorite toppings, and tempura veggies (asparagus, green beans, and zucchini) with this Lemon Aioli recipe. I really LOVE the lemon Aioli :)


A Giveaway!

****Giveaway has ended :( ****
I have decided to expand my etsy shop to include gifts...mainly for kids...and some party favors.
Like this crayon apron I made for my daughter for Christmas...

along with some crayon rolls, roll up pencil cases...like this:

and some other ideas that have been swirling around in my head. I plan on making favors that coordinate with the party kits I already have for sale...plus some little girl things like hair clips & simple bracelets (all sold in groups of 10)...and I am determined to come up with some great boy party favors too :)

So now for my giveaway :) ...leave me a comment & tell me what kind of party you would like to see some ideas for before January 31st...and you will win this cute little crayon roll...it is my prototype for all future crayon rolls...with some tweaks (I make my own patterns)...for example, it only has room for 21 crayons...with a little pocket for a small notebook...but it is still very cute (and who uses the white & needs 12 types of red anyway?) :)

I hope to hear from you all & good luck!

*winner will be drawn randomly*


Just Listed...and Comming Soon...

One of my goals this year is to keep my etsy shop up and going ...mainly just as an outlet for my creative energy (it was dormant for almost a year)...so keep checking it out..I plan on posting lots of very cute (if I can say so myself) cards, banners, and party kits. Here are a few things I listed recently...some valentine cards (along with some baby gift card holders...see my sidebar..).

Valentine's Day is all over my craft room right now...as soon as Christmas was over I was searching for paper (and digging through my already large stash)...here are some things in the works:

a "love" banner...almost finished

I love this paper..."vintage" valentines...destined to become some little tri-fold valentines, & some cards...& maybe a tag or two.
And below...more "love birds" cards to make & I think the glittery heart paper will end up as valentines for kids.

I've also been thinking about a lot of party ideas for this year...including a special Valentine's dinner for the kids...and maybe for my husband too :)
And some ideas for family game/stay at home nights (that don't cost a lot of $...but are still special) and I have two big birthdays to plan this year...my youngest turns 5 & my daughter turns 8- I can't wait!
If you have any parties you want ideas for...let me know...I'd love to help :)
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