Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Let's talk ICING!

Some days, a girl just needs a some icing, with a cupcake on bottom.

I've been searching for natural ways to dye icing lately.  The ready-made natural dyes have not been effective for making bright/vivid colors, and have changed the consistency of the icing in my experience.  Before buying a new brand and wasting more money, I decided to do a little detective work.

Whenever I need whole food ideas, I always check the Mothering forums.  These moms really know their stuff!

Basically, what I learned is that the best way to dye icing is with...wait for it....REAL FOODS.  Who'da thunk it?

Here are some tips I found:

For GREEN:

From a Mothering.com poster: "Green is easy, though! If you have a health food store, just get a bottle of some liquid chlorophyll and you can mix it right in. Not surprisingly, it gives you a very earthy, leafy green. If you can't find that, spinach leaves work well--you can literally just squeeze the color out of thawing frozen spinach."

This is awesome! I always have spinach on hand- though it's usually fresh. But I think this would work with fresh spinach also...you could simply wash, freeze, and squeeze. Liquid Chlorophyll is thought to boost the immune system, so that seems like a WIN/WIN. Be sure to get unflavored! I see marshmallow wreaths in my future....well, maybe St. Patrick's Day treats would make more sense.

For PURPLE:

Blueberries seem to be the food of choice for making purple. One poster shared: "For the Blueberries, you could cook them in some water on the stove, then strain off some liquid to add to the frosting to color it. Or juice them for a very intense concentrated color to add to the frosting drop by drop."

Another poster suggested using the juice that naturally comes when frozen blueberries defrost. This seems easiest to me and will be what I try first.

For PINK/RED:

A mothering.com poster wrote: "For the beets, just peeling them and slicing will give you red juice, you could juice them and add a few drops at a time, until the intensity is reached. I would think with all the sugar from the frosting, it won't taste too strongly or too bad." Another suggested using the juice from frozen strawberries, much like frozen blueberry juice. I have tried using frozen strawberry puree and it didn't work very well, but the juice is more concentrated with color and may do the trick.

I have also used beet juice to make things pink for my girls (waffles, oatmeal, muffins) and have never noticed that it changed the taste. Another option is beet powder. This was suggested for deep red. I have successfully used a liquid red dye from Whole Foods in the past, and it worked pretty well. However, it took the whole bottle to get a small amount of icing really red. Not exactly economical, at $10 a pop.

For BROWN:

Most of you probably know that cocoa makes delicious brown icing. YUM. Be ready to add a little milk to thin it out, as the cocoa will change the consistency.

For YELLOW:

Saffron and Tumeric seem to be the best options for yellow. From mothering.com: "Depending on your frosting recipe...you could soak the strands of saffron in a tiny bit of water, or milk, depending on your recipe and mix it straight in. The frosting would have a slightly exotic (and expensive) taste, but not overpowering." Another wrote, "Tumeric also works great for yellow, just mix it with water to make a little solution of it first."

For BLUE:

Unfortunately, there seems to be no good way to naturally make blue. Probably because, aside from blueberries, there aren't many foods that are blue. So what's a mom to do if she needs BLUE???

Well, since food dyes are linked to a multitude of yuckiness, I would suggest being creative and avoiding the use of blue dye. Perhaps you could ice the cake with white icing and top with blueberries? Or you could use blue cupcake toppers.

If anyone has any other ideas for blue, I'd love to hear them!

In the meantime, I plan to make some cupcakes and try out these natural dyes. I'll let you know how it goes!









Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Free Collage Poster from Snapfish

Thanks to Hip2Save for always keeping us updated on free collage offers!  The code is POSTERBABY.
 
This one if for an 11x14 print, and Snapfish has several new options for making collages, including the use of up to 30 images!

I can see many ways to use these collage prints for party decor.  You could intersperse pictures of the guest of honor with theme images.  For a milestone birthday (1st, 10th, 16th, 21st, 30th!), you could use pictures from each year (or month, for a first birthday) of the guest of honor's life.

If you don't have a birthday coming up, maybe you have a gift-giving occasion around the corner...

Have fun, but act fast.  There's no expiration date listed, but it won't last forever!

Friday, February 11, 2011

CUTE Valentine gift for a teacher or grandparent


Saw this on Hip2Save.  I love the idea, especially during the cold weather months when hands get dry from the weather.  This is compounded by the constant hand-washing that teachers endure in an attempt to avoid all those little germies flying around the classrooms.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Make Your Own BINGO cards FREE

Visit this site to print themed BINGO cards for any party!

Here's a ready-to-print Valentine's Day Bingo game.  Hit refresh to shuffle the pictures for a different card.  For extra fun, use an edible snack as place holders.

I saw this recently for a Super-Hero party at one of my favorite blog sites, Birthday Girl.  So much fun!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Use WORDLE to create free decor for your party!

Lots of you are probably familiar with wordle from facebook's "My Year in Status" app.

Thanks to Brook Noel of The Make Today Matter Makeover: The 26 Best Ways to Recapture Daily Magic, Kick-start High-Energy Living, and Get the Most out of Life, I was reminded of Wordle and it's free site.  As part of her weekly challenge, she suggested the use of wordle to create a list of 100 things that inspire or encourage you.  A great idea!

Of course, this also got my wheels spinning on how wordle could help with party planning.  Invites would be challenging, because the word art is random.  But for a fly by the seat of your pants party, where you secretly hope some people won't show (no! I never hope that...) it could be lots of fun.

But it could also be great for use as party decor.  You could create your word art, mat it, and use it as a sign in sheet for guests.  Or you could print it in poster size, frame it, and hang it in the party room.

Lots of options.  Here's a quick one I made for an upcoming Thumbelina and Twillerbees party.

One quirk I found when using the site- it won't allow you to save your wordle design to your desktop. You can print, or send it to the wordle gallery.  So, if you want to use a photo site to print a poster sized print, you will have to print it on your own computer, scan it back on to your desktop and then upload it to the photo site of your choice.  Granted, I only tried a few ways, so you may be able to figure out how to do this more easily.  If so, be sure to let me know!

Party on!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Invitation Idea: Placemats

After reading about this fun art party on Birthday Girl, I started thinking about placemat invitations.

For the art party, the mom created a coloring sheet invitation.  If you'd like to try making your own coloring sheets, you can make some using your own photos, which would be fun for a party invitation, or you can draw your own.

My friend Julie creates her own placemats for her kiddos all the time.  She simply takes their art work, or other pictures and uses laminating paper to cover them and make them water resistant, read: easy to clean.  An even cheaper way to do this is to use clear contact paper.  It's not as stiff as laminating paper, and won't last forever, but for invitations it would probably serve your purpose.

This would be great for a kids in the kitchen party (which I happen to be planning right now), or any themed party.  On the front of the placemat, you might have your invitation details.  I would just use Publisher or whatever program you usually use to create the invite, and use that for the front.  The back could have some fun games pertaining to the theme.  For kids in the kitchen, you might have an easy recipe, a simple fraction activity, etc.  For any theme, I think a word search would be a fun addition.  This site allows you to create your own word search.  So, for a cooking party, you could use cooking words like apron, flour, eggs, etc.  Add a connect the dots picture to the back also.  The idea is to have a few activities the kids can do that pertain to your theme, whatever it is.

If you'd like, you can include a dry erase marker with your invitation.  To take it one step further, you could add a piece of velcro to the placemat and marker to keep them together.

Have fun!