Milk & Cookies Birthday Party

Hi there! I’m Kelsey Nixon. I host a cooking show on Cooking Channel called Kelsey’s Essentials and I recently wrote my first cookbook, Kitchen ConfidenceMost importantly, I’m a mom to 2 year old Ollie! I recently threw a birthday bash for him celebrating with two of his favorite things – milk & cookies! He’s also a big fan of Elmo and Cookie Monster, so this was an attempt to do something that he really loved, but that didn’t have an overly pronounced character theme. After throwing a big party for his 1st birthday where I made all of the food (and ran myself ragged during the process), I decided to just focus on a fun cake this year and not worry about feeding all of our guests an entire meal. By scheduling the casual party later in the afternoon at the park, this worked really well. No one showed up super hungry, yet they were all happy to have a little something fun to eat.

Milk and Cookies Birthday Party

Once I decided to focus on the cake, I knew immediately that I wanted to do a chocolate chip cookie layer cake. I’d never made a “cookie cake” before, but felt like it seemed simple enough to tackle. I altered my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe slightly to make it more of a bar cookie – meaning that it was a bit thicker and more soft on the inside with crispy edges.

I used a springform pan to make the layers the exact same shape, but you could do the same thing with a standard cake pan as well. For the layers of frosting I used a cream cheese based recipe that wasn’t too sweet. I was worried that the weight of the cookies would be too much for the frosting, but it ended up working out just fine and the tart flavor of the cream cheese layers was a great compliment to the sweet cookies. I assembled the cake the day before since I had to work the morning of the party and ended up storing the cake loosely covered in the refrigerator. I didn’t want the frosting to become too soft causing the layers to shift, but I also didn’t want the refrigerator to dry out the cookie. It ended up working out perfectly, and if I were to make the cake again, I’d follow the same method of completing it the day before and storing it in the refrigerator until party time. I sliced the cake with a serrated knife to make sure that I could easily get through the layers.

The cake looked as good as it tasted and ended up being a great conversation piece for the adults throughout the party – I think everyone went home with a verbal tutorial! You can find the full recipe and detailed directions here.

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When it came to the decorating details, I used many of the same decorations that we had used at his 1st birthday party. We kept the same color scheme and reused a darling garland (similar here) that felt fun and festive with blues and greens. I’m a big fan of Shop Sweet Lulu and think that they do a great job of curating party decorations. I was able to find some additional details like this number 2 balloon  these mini milk jugs  and these paper goods that helped bring our simple theme to life and made the get together feel celebratory. I used Cookie Crisp cereal to fill the mini milk jugs for favors and also used the crispy cereal pieces to decorate the straws that everyone enjoyed with their milk. I also had some fresh fruit as an option to balance out all the sweets. We used this small picnic table to set up a few details and it was awesome. One of my favorite family purchases for summer!

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Milk and Cookies Birthday Party: Cookie Birthday Cake

Milk and Cookies Birthday Party: Stacked Cookie Birthday Cake

Milk and Cookies Birthday Party: Cookie Cake

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We held the party at a playground in Central Park that had a small grassy area where we could all congregate. It was perfect for toddlers because the playground kept them contained, yet the adults were still able to mingle a bit on the grass without having to chase their toddlers everywhere. This parachute was fun for both the parents and kids to play with on and off throughout the afternoon.

Overall, I put in a little bit of effort and felt like we all had a great experience – most importantly Ollie had a blast! Since I wasn’t so concerned about preparing an entire menu, I was able to focus on Ollie and our guests more. It was a much more enjoyable experience this year! Just like any mom out there, I love the idea of throwing birthday parties for my kids that look like they fell from the pages of Pinterest, but I also know that it’s important to be realistic and not overwhelm yourself. This little party felt like a good balance where I focused on a few details (cake, small favors, cookie straws) and let everything else just fall into place.

Milk and Cookies Birthday Party - 2nd Birthday

Happy Birthday Ollie! 2 years old has never looked so good!

Kelsey Nixon (www.kelseynixon.com) is the host of Kelsey’s Essentials on Cooking Channel and author of Kitchen Confidence. Kelsey’s Essentials is also currently airing Mon-Thurs at 3pm on Food Network. Kelsey, her husband Robby, and son Oliver (“Ollie”) live in New York City. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Kids Science Club

Post by Rebecca and Suzanne of A Feteful Life

Summer Activity: Kids Science Club

Hello friends! We had so, so much fun with our recent book club that when The Land of Nod asked us what else we had in store for our kiddos this summer, we knew instantly that we had to expand our group to include science. All of our kids have an interest in the subject and we knew once we put together a little party for the club, they’d be all over it. And they were — despite the sweltering afternoon summer heat (btw, how cute is our motley crew!?!).

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Fortunately for us, The Land of Nod carries the most stylish party goods perfectly suited for our club: The Meri Meri Fundamental Party Collection. The bright colors and graphic prints are right up our alley and the incorporation of real scientific principles, concepts and theory make them much more than just pretty partyware. Good looking and smart — a combo we can get behind.

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In addition to the party collection, we decorated the entrance to our gathering with a fabulous customizable Pennant Garland spelling out the name of our club. We hung Land of Nod’s gorgeous periodic table of elements Science Banner front and center over our lab for the day. Suzanne’s son Brady is a bit chemistry-obsessed and was over the moon to see the periodic table! We were equally impressed with the quality of canvas and beautiful colors of the artwork. We also draped a graph paper bunting, which we made using our free pennant bunting template, along the top of the elements banner. And even though a table full of sweets was sitting nearby, our kids wasted no time in getting right to the experiments.

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We set up three relatively straightforward experiments: making slime; mixing colors; and creating “snow” (you can download free printable blank experiment labels over at A Feteful Life).

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I was surprised that the color mixing seemed to be everyone’s favorite. The kids used their custom periodic element initialed lab notebooks (we had to make them after the book club notebooks were such a big hit!) to hypothesize which two colors they needed to mix to achieve their desired result. They took it very seriously and even experimented mixing different ratios of two primary colors to get what they wanted. The “snow” was another messy hit and Suzanne and I were grateful we held the meeting outdoors!

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While we waited for the slime to finish congealing, we turned to snack time. I set up a drink as an experiment itself by prepping one of my favorite party drinks: cotton candy + lemonade (a little trick I learned from Sweet Paul awhile ago). When you add lemonade to colored cotton candy … it changes color! Well, the party decided to take it a step further for us. It was so HOT outside that the cotton candy had lost all its moisture and completely solidified. The kids thought it was a hysterical “experiment.” No worries, the lemonade still changed color when we poured it over the petrified candy and earned oohs and aahs from our crowd.

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I added periodic element flags to the awesome graph paper straws, which we slipped into the beaker cups. The kids all loved finding their own initialed straw. We served puffed corn snacks and berries in clear cups, which we decorated with leftover stickers from the party collection. For some more sweet, we served up a plate of “whoopie pi,” which sat on a cake stand decorated with a handmade graph paper mini bunting.

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We obviously can’t resist DIY accessorizing, so we put together cute labels to wrap around chocolate milk boxes and custom confetti, too. You can find all of the items, including the periodic element flags, in our printable party pack.

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To keep the science going after the club adjourned, each kiddo took home an edible experiment: DIY Rock Candy (you can download the free printable favor tag at A Feteful Life). The favor kit included all non-grocery items needed to grow your own rock candy. And I used the bright cupcake wrappers from the Meri Meri kit to top a mason jar containing it all.My kids can’t wait to try it!

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It must be obvious from the photos, but we so loved our Science Club. And we think you should have one too! To get you started, we designed an invitation to go with the party pack. Hope your own little scientists are staying busy this summer. Fete on!

Rebecca and Suzanne are bloggers, graphic designers, and event stylists living in Washington, DC.  Rebecca is a mom to two young kiddos and, in her spare time (ha!), likes to pretend she’s a back-up dancer, craft cocktails, and run long distances. Suzanne is a big fan of good design, good wine, and her two rambunctious little boys. They share DIY lifestyle and event styling projects at A Feteful Life. Rebecca also blogs kid-friendly projects at Not-So-SAHM.

DIY Paper Bag Printing

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Friday nights are my absolute favorite night of the week. A few months ago we started the tradition of having a family movie night and it is something that all of us look forward to every week. Last Friday I decided to change things up a bit and bring the movie theater into our home – popcorn, candy & soda. And, in order to keep the peace between my kids, I created these cute color coded popcorn bags.

I’ve been wanting to try printing on paper bags for a while and I was shocked to find out how simple it is once you figure out a few little tricks. First – Feed the paper bag into your printer face down with the bottom entering the printer first. This will help prevent any paper jams since it is the smoothest part of the bag; Second – once you create your design, make sure you mirror the image both horizontally and vertically. This needs to be done since you’re feeding the bag in from the bottom. Here are the templates for the popcorn bags (including a 5th color) with the design already mirrored for you. I used 5″x7.5″ craft treat bags like these.

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Post by Suzanne

Rebecca and Suzanne are bloggers, graphic designers, and event stylists living in Washington, DC.  Rebecca is a mom to two young kiddos and, in her spare time (ha!), likes to pretend she’s a back-up dancer, craft cocktails, and run long distances. Suzanne is a big fan of good design, good wine, and her two rambunctious little boys. They share DIY lifestyle and event styling projects at A Feteful Life. Rebecca also blogs kid-friendly projects at Not-So-SAHM

Gold and Pastel Eggs

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I don't know about you, but I am loving that Spring is here (well at least it's here in California).  I'm having so much fun pinning Spring and Easter ideas on Pinterest.  I'm totally inspired by these gorgeous ombre eggs and these beautiful gold dipped ones.  So, I decided to make my own version.

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I love to use paper mache eggs for Easter (like my chalkboard ones).  It's fun to be able to take them out year after year and they are nearly indestructible, which is very important with an 18 mo. old in the house.

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I took my color inspiration from this lovely modern art print, Stacks, from Minted.  This piece reminded me of beautiful painted Easter eggs, so I putting it with my framed Easter cards and white bunnies.   I painted them 3 shades of blue and 3 shades of green.  Then I simply painted one end of each egg metallic gold.  I tried taping them off with blue painter's tape to start with, but then I decided I wanted something a little more free form.  So, I just free hand painted them, making them all unique and one of a kind.  I'm happy with the results.

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Post by Jeran: Oleander and Palm