Friday, June 20, 2014

Airplane Birthday Party

Our middle little dude, whom we affectionately call 'Goose', had this third birthday party today! This was his first 'real' party. At one, they don't really get what's going on, and the fact that they get to have cake for the first time ever is awesome enough for them.
At two, they're a bit more clear on the idea that this is something special, and it seems to be about them, but add sparklers on top of that cake and throw in a present or two, and honestly they pretty well max out for their excitement anyway.
At three, they can finally get it - this is a party, and it's all about you. Granted, Goose is one of the most generous-hearted, artless and easily-pleased little boys in the world, so all he needed to have happen to ensure it was an exciting time for him would be cake, candles and a rendition of "Happy Birthday". But I knew he'd still like a party :)

I asked him months ago what party he would like, and this little boy always has an answer. Some kids need prompting. Some kids shyly hide and refuse to offer up a word. This kid knows what he likes, even if the answer often surprises me. He chose airplanes. He could have picked Spiderman. He could have picked Cars. He could have picked anything he wanted because that's how we do birthdays around here, but immediately he answered, "Airplanes". Which is nice, because he could also have picked something like Triangles I suppose, and how do you plan games for a triangle party? (k, I just came up with a couple ideas as I typed that, but still, airplanes is a nicer theme)

A few things were quite fortuitous about this choice of party theme. First off - unbeknownst to Goose, I had long wanted to do an airplane theme in his bedroom, but kind of gave up when older brother started hanging hunting posters and archery targets on every inch of empty wall, and ceiling, space. But I had already fashioned some cotton 'clouds' that hang from fishing line. Score.
And I had bought him an airplane comforter for his bed that we could use as a backdrop should we need one. Awesome. Secondly - at Easter time, my uncle unloaded on us gifted us with half of the product of his 'Paper Airplane a Day' calendar from the previous year; he made 365 paper airplanes, and sent half of them home with us. We picked out the very best and reserved them for the party, and the rest we let the boys play with for a few weeks before they were crushed enough to justify recycling them. But right there: built in party entertainment!

The dollar store was a treasure-trove for this party; we picked up those foam airplanes that come in a flat pack and then you assemble yourself as party favors, a giant one of the same variety to show off to the kids, and an airplane shaped cookie cutter.
I made a runway on our coffee table for the kids' toy planes to sit on as a party centerpiece, and then used cardboard boxes to make our games: a target practice game, and Pin-the-propeller-on-the-airplane!
I even found an airplane book from the library that I borrowed in case the kids wanted a story!

Snacks were pretty simple since I was super sick all week and didn't have the energy to prep much: carrot sticks, cucumber slices, and pita chips with hummus, I used the airplane cookie cutter to cut out watermelon pieces, and then I bought a 40 pack of Timbits, stacked them high, and set a candle in the middle for a cake that the kids adored!

Lastly, I ordered an Aviator hat from Avon for little Goose, which he proudly wore and got called 'Captain' by everybody. Any excuse to wear a costume in this house!

I've said it before: we don't rent out Chuck-E-Cheese. We don't hire petting zoos. We don't have professional planners for our parties, or major excursions for them either, but my kids' birthday parties are fun - for them, their guests, and for mommy - and certainly seem to be the highlight of their year.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Grandma's Lemon Butter

Everyone has those recipes that remind you of your childhood. This is one of mine.

My Grandma is renown for her excellent cooking skills, and her ability to feed any small army that unexpectedly pops by for supper. She always has food ready to go in case of last-minute invitations and visitors, and one trick up her sleeve is to always have a jar of her fantastic lemon butter in the fridge. This Lemon Butter is perfectly tart, but with enough sugar that it won't cause anyone to pucker. It's thick, and creamy, and an instant fix for any boring dessert. Stir this in with cream cheese for a fruit dip. Fold in Cool Whip for a lemon mousse. Use it as cake filling for an angel food, or serve a dollop on top of a Blueberry Brunch Cake. Or, do as my Grandma does and throw a scoop in a tart shell for super fast mini-pies.

I usually zest just two of the lemons in for the perfect amount of tartness - Grandma does three, my mom does one... It really just depends what your personal tastes are. And if you are using Meyer lemons, use 6 whole lemons instead of the 3 the recipe calls for. And above all, don't be intimidated by the idea of having to use a double boiler - this recipe really is simple.

Grandma's Lemon Butter recipe:
2 cups granulated sugar
3 lemons - juice and zest *see note above
6 eggs
scant 1/4 c of butter

Combine all ingredients in double boiler.

Don't forget the butter (I nearly did this time!)

Bring water in bottom pot to a boil and cook mixture, beating continually. As the mixture cooks, the color will get lighter, and it will eventually begin to thicken. The mixture may boil a bit - this is okay. Once it looks as thick as pudding, remove from heat and transfer into a separate bowl to cool. This will stop the cooking process faster to make sure your egg doesn't decide to do anything funny and clump up on you.

Store in a jar in the fridge for two weeks - if it makes it that long without being eaten up! The Lemon Butter with thicken further as it cools - FYI.

This recipe makes about 3.5 cups of Lemon Butter. But hey, who says it has to be lemon? Try grapefruit, or blood orange! And if you don't have whole lemons, you can use bottled lemon juice and sub in a couple drops of lemon essential oil to replace the zest!

I laugh when I see Lemon Butter for sale in stores - this recipe is so fantastic, and so simple, I've never had a desire to try any other! I hope you agree!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

*credit to Grandma Free for this wonderful recipe!