Alice In Wonderland Party Prep – Part 2 (Food)

Continuing on with my party planning woes, we now come to the food choices.  Our party was around lunch time so I knew we had to serve more than just snacks, but my daughter wanted “Alice-specific” food, not my usual go-to choice of pizza (which is what we did at the pirate party and it worked out wonderfully).  So, I headed back to trusty ol’ Pinterest for ideas.

Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of themed foods (other than cake/sweet stuff) for most of the Alice in Wonderland parties out there.  People generally suggested finger sandwiches because of a tea party theme and things that said “eat me” and “drink me” on them and those ideas would work just fine for the main part of the meal, but I needed more, which meant that I was actually going to have to come up with some ideas on my own!  Blerg!

I sat down with my older two kids and we tried to come up with healthy-ish food that could be named after individual characters (It was also important that it be food that mommy could make herself without struggle and without having to throw it away when it didn’t turn out – this is always a challenge, even for a simple dinner).  It took some time before the menu was finalized, but our totally cheesy, themed menu was finally complete!  Here’s what our lucky guests got:

  • Drink me: In my fantasy world, all of our guests would have received antique glass bottles with a magical elixir and a tag that said, “drink me” on it!

so cute....but as it turns out, quite expensive

However, once I went to the craft store and searched online for something like this, I quickly realized that it would just cost too much (and would probably be dropped by one of the children, thus resulting in a trip to the emergency room) so I tried to find something comparable, but more practical.

not nearly as pretty, but these are made of plastic and could be purchased in 6 packs at the grocery store...they still say "drink me" 🙂

I also thought it would be cute to personalize some “wonderland water” bottles for the adults in case they weren’t interested in the “mad hatter punch” or “looking-glass lemonade” (told you it got quite cheesy with the labeling of the food), but I’m not great making my own labels, nor did I want to pay someone else to do it, only to have them get wet in the ice and peel away like I have seen at so many other parties.  So, I used checkerboard duct tape!

Note to self: this could also be used for a Cars party that may occur in the future

I must give credit to Pinterest because I never would have thought of this myself since I am certainly not a connoisseur of fine utility adhesives, but they make so many patterns now that I just went with it!  It worked much better because it was easy, cheap and water-repellent!

  • Sandwiches: I knew we would be doing some kind of sandwiches because if I couldn’t get pizza, that’s about the only other thing that could be done easily.  So, we decided on basic PB&J for the kids and chicken salad from Costco for the adults.  But how could we make this part of the theme?  For starters, we named the sandwiches “Tweedledum’s PBJ” and “Tweedledee’s Chicken Salad” – I really am so clever (or so desperate).  Then I saw a cute idea for creating a sandwich checkerboard with playing card suits toothpicks.

so cute and clever

I was pumped to make this, purchased dark and light bread, etc.  For some reason, it didn’t occur to me until 2 hours before the party that I didn’t have a square platter.  I had some large square plates, but they wouldn’t fit enough sandwiches for everyone, so we just worked with what we had and it turned out something like this.

a round checkerboard - things get a little crazy in Wonderland

  • Fruit: I wanted to make sure that I had something somewhat healthy to serve along with all of the usual sweet party goodies so I bought some grapes and some apples (we won’t debate how fruit also has sugar so not really as healthy as it seems since it’s the thought that counts).  How could we tweak plain apple slices and grapes to fit our theme?  Here’s how.

grapes on flamingo toothpicks = mini croquet sets

Apple slices, peanut butter, and marshmallow teeth = cheshire cat smiles

Neither of these were quite authentic, but the idea behind them was solid.   Yeah, that’s what I am going with.

  • One more nibbling food: I wanted to grab one more little thing to make sure there was an array of food, so I went with some buy one, get one free baked lays (I am also sticking to my theory that baked chips = super healthy snack) and labeled them “red queen bbq” and “white queen plain”.  Perfect.

    dueling chips

  • Cupcakes:  Believe it or not, Alice in Wonderland is not a popular enough theme to warrant grocery store chains having special cakes with those decorations.  So, you either have to order a specialty cake from a small bakery (which generally costs a fortune) or make something yourself.  I am an awful decorator and can only bake with a boxed mix.

    the absolute best thing ever invented

I freely admit this limitation because I think it will lower your expectations and then you could be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  There was no way I could pull off the topsy-turvy cake covered in fondant that so many others seem to have mastered with very little effort.

wouldn't it be nice to be this talented?!

And, I wasn’t about to spend the time and money trying, only to end up baking cupcakes at the last-minute because I failed miserably.  So, I made the logical decision to just go ahead and bake the cupcakes because that’s where I would end up anyway.

It would have been very easy to print out cupcake toppers with different colorful characters (all of which can be found online with very little search effort – shout out to others on the web with talent that share their printables FOR FREE; I appreciate you more than you know) but of course that would have been too easy.  We had to try for something a little more difficult.  Originally, we were going to attempt this cute little guy from the family go website.

looks simple enough

But, once I started piling up all the different ingredients it would have taken to decorate 3-4 dozen cupcakes, it would have been easier to just get a cake from a baker.  Ugh. Then my daughter came up with the idea of having white rabbit cupcakes since it was almost Easter and we were seeing a lot of rabbit stuff around town.  Sounded good to me.  I found some gummy rabbit teeth candy and bought some plain white icing, cotton candy for the noses and chocolate covered raisins for eyes (again, pretending that these raisins are healthy to make myself feel better).

It was a master plan….that I could not seem to execute on my own.  The ears wouldn’t stay put, the teeth looked funky, etc.  Fortunately for me, my mom was able to come early so she could help me salvage what I could and I think they turned out okay, considering how I had almost destroyed them earlier that morning.

exact replicas of the white rabbit

I did get tired of decorating after a while and I figured most of the adults would want a more basic cupcake (or at least I hoped they would) so we just put some heart toppers that I had leftover from Valentine’s Day on the rest.  Good call on my part.

heart cupcakes that I wisely displayed in cute cupcake stands to distract from the fact that I had gotten lazy

  • Eat Me: And, of course we had to somehow incorporate the “eat me” idea, so we filled some heart-shaped boxes (also left over from Valentine’s Day – way to go me) with some candy and wrote ‘eat me’ on the lids.  Mission Accomplished.

I have lovely penmanship

All in all, we had a perfect amount of food, most of it tasted much better than it looked, including the cupcakes, and it was a lovely buffet.  Considering my food abilities and artistic talent, I’d say it actually went better than expected!

But, next year, we’re getting pizza.

I am a Shiksa Goddess

Happy Merry Christmukkah

My husband is Jewish; I am Christian.  So, when it comes to the holidays, our kids get the best of both worlds as we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas (or as some say, Christmukkah) and we decorate our house with blue and silver, as well as red and green.  I am very familiar with everything associated with Christmas, both religious and secular, but for the last decade, I have been introduced to a lot of new Jewish traditions such as the lighting of the menorah, the spinning of the dreidel, gelt (CHOCOLATE!) and latkes.

When we were newly married and had just one child, we were able to visit my husband’s side of the family and his family made great Hanukkah food and treats for us.  Now that we have 3 kids and still live on the opposite side of the country, we don’t get to visit as often and I have tried to take upon the duty of at least attempting to make the Hanukkah goodies until the kids get a chance to taste authentic ones again.

I have made cookies in the past, purchased the traditional gelt and made latkes from a boxed mix, but this year, I decided I would be more daring and make latkes from scratch.  And, yes, I took pictures so that I have proof!  I have great respect for the Jewish women (and I’m sure some men)  that make tons of latkes every year because those bad boys are a pain in the butt.

Here's what I started with

I washed the potatoes and peeled them.  At that point, I was already tired.  I know, poor me; I was so strong to persevere through this tough project.

aw, naked potatoes

Then it came time to shred the potatoes.  It took me FOREVER.   It could be because I cut my finger twice in the midst of shredding (I promise the latkes were hemoglobin free) or it could be because my oldest kept asking me questions or it could be because my husband kept asking how much longer I was going to be – NO PRESSURE FOR THE GENTILE, RIGHT?!

What seemed like hours later (though it was probably about 30 minutes), I finally finished shredding my 5 measly potatoes and got to work mixing in the other ingredients.

My shredded potatoes

Then I poured the oil (mine did not last for 8 nights, nor did it last for 8 latkes) and went to town frying up those suckers.

They're not pretty, but not bad for a first try

In the end, every latke was quickly eaten and I received great compliments from my husband and older son (my daughter would not even look at them and the baby can’t speak, though he only threw one piece on the ground so I assume he loved them too).  Now, my husband may have been being sweet and lying to me to avoid a potential meltdown, but my son always tells me the truth when it comes to food so I know they must have at least tasted good to him.

Y’all, I feel proud that this little, Southern, non-Jew made real latkes, but I look forward to not having to do it again until this time next year!  Poor Santa is getting the pre-made batter cookies.

Sorry, there's none left for you. You may come over and help me peel potatoes next year though.

Hey Y’all, My Baby’s Southern!

"No self-respectin' Southerner uses instant grits" ~My Cousin Vinny

To know me is to know that I love Southern cooking; and, I am fortunate enough to have a very high metabolism that allows me to eat as much deliciousness as I want to (at least for now) without weighing 400 lbs.  There’s a few Southern ‘delicacies’ that I don’t like (ie, collards, pigs feet, gizzards, etc.), but generally, if it is fried and can be dipped in ranch, I’m game. 

Sadly, it has been an uphill battle trying to get my older two kids to even try most Southern foods.  My oldest son finally started to be more adventurous with his food tastings and he recently found that he actually likes green beans – but only at Cracker Barrel due to the large amounts of bacon drippings included – yes! he discovered the Southerner within him.  My daughter is the pickiest person on the planet and cannot be forced to try anything, food-related or otherwise.  She is going to be lots of fun in the future (insert sarcastic look and rolling of eyes here).

To my great delight, the newest addition to our family has not had a problem with eating new things.  He will pretty much devour anything you put in front of him, even napkins; he’s not picky.  We have been slowly, and carefully, adding regular foods to his diet since he clearly wants them, and today my boy ate GRITS!  Since my other two still want nothing to do with grits and my husband has yet to try them even though he has lived in the South for 13 years (sacrilege), I did not have great expectations.  However, big boy was eyeing my grits and drooling like a puppy begging for table scraps.  So, the fun began.

Having dressed him in a fine seersucker romper given to us by one of my most Southern friends, he was looking quite dapper as he tasted a grit.  It was literally one tiny grain because he pinched it off the spoon thinking it was finger food.  He gave me the evil eye as he couldn’t tell exactly what he had grabbed, so I pushed his hands away and delicately put a small portion of the spoon in his mouth.  He licked the spoon and grinned so I could see the grits that didn’t quite make it off of his gums and into his mouth.  Then he spastically grabbed the spoon from me and proceeded to insert the entire HUGE, round restaurant soup spoon into his mouth so that he didn’t miss anything that might still be stuck on it. 

At first I sat mesmerized by the fact that my 9 month old fit that entire spoon in his mouth!  Then it hit me; I FINALLY HAVE A KID THAT EATS GRITS!  **Cue the song Dixie and imagine my baby as a little Southern gentleman** Oh, how I can’t wait until he is old enough to try the “comfort foods” and bbq and fried goodies (all in moderation, of course, as I don’t want him being 400 lbs or having a heart attack at age 4) – so exciting!  I am envisioning us going to lunch together in the future where he will hold the door for me and pull my chair out like a gentleman, right before ordering a large helping of fried green tomatoes and using an expression like, “Yes, Ma’am, I’m fixin’ to get some sweet tea for y’all.”  One can dream big, right?

Yep, my baby’s a Southerner, and this mama couldn’t be more proud!

The World of Competitive Eating

for the record, this is not my child, but he may be on the road to this

I know I have said it a million times, but I have a pretty big baby on my hands.  He’s not morbidly obese or anything, but for a kid who was born on the smaller side (6 lb, 6 oz), he is a beast!  In 8 months he has grown to be 3 1/2 times his birth weight.  I should have known something was up when he left the hospital weighing almost as much as he did when he was born.  If you have kids, you know that’s pretty much unheard of!  Babies usually lose weight while in the hospital and it usually takes a week or two for the weight to come back to what it was at birth.

I thought my oldest son was a line backer when he was born as he weighed 9 pounds (and for a mother who started out at 92 lbs pre-pregnancy, that’s a ridiculous weight for her newborn).  He stayed on the bigger side until he got mobile, but even he did not grow at the rapid rate of my youngest.  I am always amazed at what a hefty little man my baby is!  His thighs are almost as big as mine! I am exaggerating slightly, but to look at those chunky legs, it is possible to think that is a true statement. 

In all honesty, it appears as though he is just a cute little fatty who loves his food!  He is never done eating, whether it’s a bottle, baby food, or baby snacks.  He has not met a food he won’t eat, which is the total opposite of my other two!  And, after seeing him watch the 4th of July hotdog eating contest yesterday, I am convinced he wants to be a competitive eater.  His eyes never left that tv screen as he watched those strange people devour the soggy, disgusting pieces of meat.  You could see the envy in his eyes.  It would probably be tough for him to beat Joey “Jaws” Chestnut since he’s won the contest 5 years in a row, but I’m pretty sure he could take on “Pretty Boy” Pete, “Eater X” or “Deep Dish” Bertoletti with a vengeance. **For the record, I was rooting for “Deep Dish” yesterday, because I like his style**

He will have to wait to actually start consuming the adult version of these foods until he learns the professional methods those madmen use (or until he gets more teeth and the ability to chew without gagging), but if they were to have a baby food eating contest, he would wipe up the competition and take home the Gerber pureed peas belt (I’m assuming Gerber would sponsor this event)!  So, get ready “Jaws”, because come 2029, my boy “the Beast” will be there to finally take that mustard belt away from you….assuming that your insides haven’t exploded before then from your insane eating habits!

Even Babies Know that Bacon Trumps Bananas!

Up until this point, I have been pretty conservative with the food options I have given the baby.  He has been a huge lover of every baby food we have tried (with the exception of carrots and bananas – he will still eat both but he makes faces while doing it to let me know that he is not pleased about my choices).  He’s now 8 months old and definitely eyeballing table food, wondering why he is clearly being deprived of such delicious treats.  At only 20.3 lbs and fitting into size 18 month clothes, he is obviously wasting away to nothing right before my eyes.  So, I decided to let him have little tastes of things here and there to see how he would do with the chewing.

I started with the baby puffs that come in different flavors.  I know that this is still technically baby food, but I am not going to be the mom who has to call 911 because her baby is choking on a Cheerio that he wasn’t ready to eat (an unlikely circumstance, but my luck tends to go that way).    He did just fine so we moved on to little pieces of bread.  For some reason he felt the need to suck on the bread and he managed to make it last for several minutes before finally swallowing.  I guess he was just savoring the “flavor”.  He did the same thing with freshly peeled apple slices.

Today at breakfast, I decided to give him a piece of my banana to see what he could do with it.  Since he isn’t a huge fan of baby food bananas I wasn’t sure how he would react, but I knew he would have fun making a mess.  He gummed away at the banana until it was just a pile of drool and smiled the whole time.  We high-fived at our snack and I cleaned him up and put him in his walker so he could play while I made myself another little early morning snack – BACON! 

I sat down at the table while he rolled around and watched Sprout.  Then, as I took a bite of my bacon, I made the mistake of making eye contact with him.  He knew I had something special over at the table so he came racing over like a little speed demon.  He stopped right at my feet and sat staring at the bacon, transfixed by the mouth-watering smell.  Then he held his hand out and tried, unsuccessfully, to grab a piece.  It felt a little like the scene from Oliver where Oliver says, “please, sir, I want some more” in his little British accent, and I felt so cruel and heartless not sharing my delicious treat with him. 

Here I had teased him with a banana, making him think that everything I ate would be his now too!  I tried to hide behind my napkin and eat it quickly, but he was not fooled.  So, I gave him a bottle of very diluted apple-carrot juice (sounds divine, right? BLEH) and he was temporarily appeased.  I guess for now, he’ll have to stick with the healthier, mushier treats and just dream of the day I hand him some yummy bacon.  In the meantime, I believe he is soliciting ideas for what he should try next (and praying that it is something yummier than his apple-carrot juice).