Minecraft Birthday Cake

Chocolate Creeper Cake
My son loves Minecraft. A lot. When given the chance, he will play it all day and night, coming up with all kinds of cool things to share with me. Since he’s home schooled, he even did a few art projects using Minecraft. It is really neat to see him so interested in something creative and that requires a bit of thought.

When I saw this on Pinterest, I knew I had to make it for his birthday. His grandpa had gotten him a T-shirt from Tanga featuring a “creeper”. (For those of you who do not know Minecraft lingo, those are kind of like “bad guys”)

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Birthday Present for the Old Guy

My dad has to be the hardest person in the world to buy a present for. When he’s hungry, he cooks. When he needs personal items, he buys them. And collectible or non-useful items? FORGET IT! For years we bought him nothing but sweatshirts and tshirts, but now he’s so stocked on clothes he’s actually requested that we don’t give him any more.

So, what do you do to show your appreciation and help him celebrate his 60th  birthday with a personalized, unique gift?

Since he’s a big Iowa Hawkeyes and Green Bay Packers fan, the kids and I decided to make him an extra special present that he WOULD use and would not just sit around collecting dust….

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Happy Birthday, Buddy!

On Saturday, we celebrated my son’s 11th birthday. I can’t believe how big he’s gotten, and it always makes me a tad bit sad seeing my kids grow up. Can you believe he’s just an inch or two shorter than me now? Where has the time GONE?

We wanted to make his birthday special, so planned a pretty awesome birthday for the kid that didn’t cost us an arm and a leg. He was super pleased with the way the day went. Keep in mind he is in the Autism spectrum, so seeing him happy is a huge accomplishment.

Xbox Games
Like most boys, my son is addicted to his Xbox. We probably could have planned an entire party around it, but decided to go out instead. We did, however, lift the time restrictions we normally put on his game time. For his entire day, he was allowed to play as much Xbox as he could handle. He took full advantage of it, believe that!

If he wouldn’t have already had an Xbox, this would have been an excellent time to get him one. Amazon has them for decent prices, and I probably would have got him one for his birthday. Lucky for us though, he got one for Christmas from grandpa. That allowed everyone to basically give him Microsoft points, Xbox games, and cash so he could get the games he wanted.

Incredible Pizza
If you don’t have an Incredible Pizza in your area, this is something to search for when on family vacations. While they do have birthday packages, we opted to just show up with a few family members (grandparents and immediate family, basically). Everyone got fed, and the adults even joined in on quite a few of the games. Read more about our first trip to Incredible Pizza Incredible Pizza.

Other Ideas
To me, birthdays are an excuse to honor that person for just one day. It’s their special day, and they should be able to do just about anything they want to do within reason. For example, on the kids’ birthdays, they pick out what’s for supper. We clear the day of “adult stuff”, and give them the opportunity to plan the family’s activities for that day. In the case of the boy, though, he picked just playing his Xbox for half the day completely uninterrupted. No chores, no sharing the TV, no “get off that game and do something else”. It’s not something we’d allow every day, but was a special offer for his birthday.

Incredible Pizza happened to appeal to him so much he wanted to go for his birthday, but I realize not everyone has this option. Chucky Cheese, we’ve been told, is too “childish” for an 11-year-old, so we are lucky to have the other option in our area. What if you don’t have an Incredible Pizza? How about arcade rooms, go-kart tracks, science centers, or the zoo? Even a day at an indoor pool can be enough for boy who’s too old for traditional birthday parties.

Every area has something that holds interest to boys, so be sure to ask them for ideas when planning a birthday party. Remember if they don’t like it, they aren’t going to enjoy the day like they should!

What ideas have you used for your boys birthday parties?

Our Incredible Night at Incredible Pizza

On a random Tuesday night, the family and I visited Incredible Pizza for the first time. We didn’t even know this awesome kid’s restaurant existed until the other half and I ate at the restaurant next door, and just happened to see it. It looked interesting, so we had to give it a shot.

It’s hard to impress all of us at once, but Incredible Pizza did an awesome job at this near-impossible task. I can’t remember a time we’ve had this much fun as a family for such a low price. Four buffets and $30 worth of game credits costs only $40 (plus tax), and we stayed a good 2 or 3 hours.

The first united delight was the choice of dining areas, along with the overall “50s” theme throughout the entire restaurant. There was “Route 66 Diner”, “High school gym”, “Family diner”, and the “Drive-In Theater”. We decided to dine in the dark at the drive-in, with an almost private showing of iCarly (since there was no movie that night, they had the movie theater sized screen tuned in to Nick). A minor set-back more than made up for with a large screen viewing of one of the kids’ favorite TV shows.

A family-style buffet was available in the “main room” outside of all the dining areas, and everyone was impressed by the food. The quality of the salad, pizza, pasta, potatoes, and desserts were more than you would expect from a buffet, and absolutely delicious.

After our meal, it was play time. This is where fantastic escaladed to incredible, and where we vowed to come back as often as we could.

Just a few of our activities that evening included:

Family go-kart race
Dance-off competition
Skeet ball
Miniature bowling
Old-fashion bumper cars
Shooting gallery

Miniature “glow in the dark” golf and countless other games and activities were also available, but the ones listed above are just some of what we accomplished in the hour or two we spent playing.

The four of us (two kids and two adults) had only $7.25 each our game cards, and a few of us went home with a few dollars left for the next time we visit. These cards were all labeled when we got home, and registered on the Incredible Pizza website, so they can be used and replaced if needed.

Overall, this restaurant comes highly recommended for any family wanting an inexpensive night out together. Big thumbs up!

Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake

It may seem easier to go out and buy a cake for a birthday party, remember how much time and money you’re spending. Even though you have plenty of tasks to complete before the birthday party, making the cake can take less time than you think. Plus, you’ll be providing a special gift made by your own hands.

The following recipe is a bit different, but still in the realm of “chocolate cake”. It’s absolutely fantastic for a change from normal, often dry, birthday cake.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake and Frosting

2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
3/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. shortening
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted

1/3 c. butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 c. sugar
1/2 c. sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla

Preparing the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 inch pan. Add all cake ingredients into large mixing bowl, and mix well by hand. Beat with a hand blender for 3 minutes at high speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

Preparing the Frosting:
Mix butter and chocolate thoroughly. Blend in sugar. Stir in sour cream and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

If it’s a child’s birthday party, let the kids decorate the cake with chocolate sprinkles, candy, and candles. Allow them to be creative, and enjoy themselves too. It’s a great activity to do before opening the presents, and entertainment for the little guests.

Enjoy the party!

Hosting an Elmo Birthday Party

What kid doesn’t love Elmo? At some point in time, it seems that every child seems to grow some sort of fascination with this favorite character. Though Sesame Street has always been a favorite through the years, Elmo always tends to steal the show. It starts early for some kids, as the fascination seems to set in around the toddler years. As kids are old enough to watch Sesame Street and to really understand it, most of them tend to have a special affinity for Elmo as their character of choice.

Because of his popularity, it only makes sense to have a birthday party with Elmo! Here’s how to go about hosting one.


In this electronic world, it’s nice to take the time and mail personal invitations to your child’s friends. And because Elmo is so easy to draw, you can make them yourself out of red construction paper. Simply cut out the shape of his head and eyes with red paper, and glue white, black and yellow paper to make his face.

On the back, or inside the card, add the details of the party in the third person, as that’s how Elmo always talks. “Tina is having an Elmo’s World Party” or “Hooray! Elmo invites you to Tina’s birthday Party!”

Create Elmo’s World

If you’ve ever watched Elmo on Sesame Street, then you know firsthand that it’s all about “Elmo’s World”. This segment of the show focuses solely on Elmo, his goldfish Dorothy, the cute little crayon-created place where he lives, as well as a few favorites such as Mr. Noodle, talking to babies, and his sometimes uncooperative furniture and window blind. Do your best with an Elmo birthday party to recreate “Elmo’s World” in the comfort of your own home.

For instance, if your child has a playhouse, cover it with large sheets of white paper and draw it as a cartoon house with crayons. Either that, or cover your walls in the party area with paper and draw windows and a door in crayon. As part of the activities, you can even have your guests draw on the walls with various crayons to create Elmo’s furniture and Dorothy the goldfish.

Elmo, Elmo, Everywhere

It’s not going to take much to get the kids excited about Elmo. You’ll likely have some Elmo stuffed animals and figures on hand, but as he has been around for decades, it won’t be too difficult to find him, either new or at second-hand stores. Though you can certainly incorporate all sorts of decorations with the Elmo theme, just having stuffed animals or puppets is plenty for your child’s birthday theme party. The idea is to think of shapes and primary colors, as this is what Elmo is all about – circles, squares and cheery color. Be creative and think like a kid!

Don’t forget Mr. Noodle. For fun entertainment, have somebody (Dad?) volunteer to act as this goofy character. Think of some activity (such as how to use a skipping rope) that Mr. Noodle always gets wrong, with plenty of slapstick. Have your guests call out on how to get it right. Because Mr. Noodle is always silent and full of body expression, a great alternative would be to play a game of charades.

A Simply Delicious Elmo Cake

As Elmo is simple to draw (basically a bunch of circles and ovals), you can easily bake a cake of Elmo’s cheerful face. Since Elmo is furry, after the cake is baked and cooled, use a serrated knife and cut indents along the edges to create fur. Trace his eyes with a toothpick to finish the outline of his face. Then, trace an outline of his features (eyes, nose and mouth), and fill those in with white, black and yellow icing. Fill the remainder of the cake with red icing. For his nose, wait for the yellow icing to slightly harden, then roll it into a nose and stick onto his face. Serve with ice cream.

Other snacks to serve at the party are Goldfish crackers and fruit such as sliced watermelon or cantelope – they are the shape of Elmo’s mouth.

Party Favors and Creative Thank You Cards

Before the children leave, be sure that each child leaves with a goodie bag of Elmo memorabilia. At your local dollar store, you can find stickers, pencils and small Elmo figures, as well as crayons, of course! Another neat idea is to have a personalized Elmo candy bar in the goodie bag, or even as part of you child’s thank you card. Your little guests will fondly remember your child’s party for months to come!

by Chris Molnar

Halloween Birthday Party

I pitched an idea for my daughter’s upcoming birthday to something Halloween themed, and was excited to find she too was on board with it. I’ve always called her my Halloween baby, obviously since her birthday is in October. She’s just like me and absolutely loves this time of year!

I may not be any good at making cakes, but I sure do like trying. After giving it some thought, we both decided on a pumpkin shaped cake. Basically what we’re planning to do is making 2 bunt cakes and putting them together. It’s going to be a pretty big cake but hopefully will turn out alright.

I even thought about making the cake an actual pumpkin cake, but decided against it. I’ve have enough problems in previous years working with cake, and I have no idea how “solid” a pumpkin cake would be. While this one wont need to be “shaped” or cut, it will need to be flipped over. So we did get a regular cake mix again, which hopefully will be alright too.

For the “stem” we’ll be using an ice cream cone frosted green, which I think will fit pretty well inside the cake giving it the real pumpkin look. The birthday girl also came up with a neat suggestion, which was making it look like a jack-o-lantern. So with black frosting decoration we’ll be giving him a face.

She also requested plastic spiders around the top of the cake, which I also thought was a pretty fun idea. More specifically she wants rings so the guests can have them to take home. Cute!

I’ll be working on the cake tomorrow, and HOPEFULLY will have some pictures if the cake turns out alright. I am no artist, so wish me luck!


Here’s the finished project, before adding the spider rings:

Pumpkin cake.

Pumpkin cake.

Valentine’s Day Treat Idea

Since I love to come up with creative ideas in the kitchen, I knew I was going to have to come up with something spectacular for Valentine’s day. I’m in charge of the snacks for my daughter’s kindergarten class this year, so this gives me a chance to finally use some of those cool cookie cutters I’ve had forever. We always use decorated sugar cookies in Halloween style for her birthday in October, so the cookies are out.

While shopping yesterday with a cake mix coupon, the idea hit me.  Heart shaped brownies with pink icing. It might not be the most creative, but I’m thinking it will get us some “brownie points”. Ha!

The mix I got looks like a moist cake, so I’ve got my fingers crossed this isn’t going to turn into a big mess. It also says to bake it in a 13×9, but I’m thinking if we use a bigger pan they’ll be a little less moist and easier to work with. Should they come out a little too thin, we may just make brownie sandwiches with the frosting in the middle.

This is probably one of those ideas we’ll try out directly after school the day before the party, just in case we need to run to the store for plan B.

Wish me luck!

Castle Cake for Princess Birthday

After making the airplane cake a few months ago for my son’s birthday, my daughter something special for her birthday as well. Thankfully she chose the castle at the time, and has not changed her mind. This should be a whole lot easier than the airplane was.

I’ve looked at a few ideas from Family Fun, and should be able to come up with my own based on these. Today I ran to the store and picked up the cake mix, frosting, sprinkles, ice cream cones, and gummies. It should be all I need, but I have my doubts I’ll get off that easy. Most likely on Sunday I’ll be running to the store for a last minute decorating detail.

The thing I like the most about this particular idea is I can go anywhere with it. Should I decide just to make a square cake, that’s fine. If I want to stack them in the middle to make a slightly different design, that’s fine too. Bottom line is there should be very little cutting and shaping involved, unlike the last one.

I’m also a little more experienced, and know how to handle the decorating a little better. Let me share with you what I learned from the last disaster.

The cake must be completely cooled and actually cold to start. I’ll most likely make the cake early in the day on Saturday (the day before the party), and stick it in the fridge.

The frosting needs to be warmed up before you start, so it’s easier to frost corners and edges. Just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds, repeating as you get further down into the container if need be. Just as long as the cake is cold and the frosting is hot, it won’t stick to the cake.

Use an idea that has few frosting colors, unless you are an extremely good artist. I am not, as we have learned in previous years. Most of the detailed decorations will be done with candy and cookies. Sticking something in the right place I can handle.

For the extra decorations that can be done with candy or any kind of writing, use the gel decorating stuff or food decorating markers, NOT the frosting decoration. It may be great for little flowers and suck, but not for drawing or writing names.

Something new I’m going to try this year is using cookie cutters as somewhat of a stencil. I’m hoping I can just press the cutter into the frosting ever so slightly, making a design that’s easy to trace. Again, I’ll use either food decorating markers or gel. That frosting decoration stuff is pure evil! (But I won’t deny it tastes good!)

If you are searching for cool cake ideas, I hope you find one that works for you!

Early Birthday Pool Party

We got an invitation the other day for a pool party at the local public pool. Nothing fancy, with “no gifts” printed right on the paper.  Now what was different about this particular birthday party is that it’s being celebrated a whole 2 months early.

You see, the soon-to-be 8yr old boy isn’t actually having a birthday until September. But he loves to swim, and loves to hang out with his friends. Since his birthday is clear at the end of September, it’s not as easy to have a pool party. So he came up with the idea to have the party now and not really celebrate later.

Mom and dad of course agree, because it’s  such a simple idea. I’m in love with it too, since instead of spending money on a gift I’m putting that money into a day pass at the pool for me and my kids. His parents get to allow him the chance to have a “big” party with lots of friends, without the hassle of having boatloads of kids running around the house (this idea has always scared the heck out of me!).

This idea got me thinking though – where else could you be doing parties like this? Clearly stating no gifts, but having parents pay into the party itself. I mean it might rub some parents the wrong way, but really if you think about it, it’s a lot better deal. Not that we don’t want to buy a gift for another kid other than our own, but we’d much rather give something to our own.

If you look around your own community you might be surprised what you find. Trips to the zoo, pool, and other community activities might be an option for a great birthday party location for your kids.😉