Birthday Cupcakes: Adorable Toppers That Make Decorating Easy

Not a cupcake decorator? My friend Kerry found a fabulous solution that takes the cake (sorry, couldn’t resist) on For less than $13, you can order cupcake kits with wrappers and toppers in more than a dozen cute themes like trucks and magic fairies. Kerry baked vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, frosted them in orange and blue, and then added little truck toppers. The overall effect was polished and adorable, and the older kids got to keep the little trucks (they were affixed to toothpicks, which were too sharp for the little ones).

The bash took place at Kerry’s house last Saturday. She and her family have the kind of private outdoor space that most New Yorkers can only dream about–it’s a huge wraparound patio right off their family room with a toy shed, couches, and tables. It’s the perfect place to hang with friends and celebrate special moments.

The vibe was comfortable and low-key. In one area, the kids played in a sand box. Kerry also had lots of rideable toys out, as well as a mat with every kind of toy car and truck imaginable. And kids could get temporary tattoos (that’s Mason, looking tough, right). The kid-friendly eats were a hit with everyone–various hoagies, pasta salad, tossed salad, and chips with mango-pineapple salsaand I loved that snacks (pretzels, popcorn, and goldfish crackers) were on low tables so that the kids could just help themselves.

A fun afternoon for sure! And now I know where to look for cupcake decorations for Mason’s bash next year.

What are your favorite websites for birthday party-planning?

Mason’s Second Birthday Party & Not Keeping Up With the Joneses

Mason turned 2 yesterday and we celebrated with a cookout. It was very low-key, especially by New York standards, where pricey entertainment, a giant guest list, and catered food isn’t at all unusual.

We reserved the rooftop of our apartment building, and decorated it with a “mod monkey” theme inspired by Mason’s love of the stuffed monkey Chris adored when he was Bug’s age. In fact, it’s the only toy my quirky kid will allow in his crib at night, and he always makes sure that I cover “Monkey” up when I tuck him in.

I ordered all of the decorations, tableware, and favors online. My father-in-law hung clusters of balloons from the awning over the picnic table, and my mother-in-law put together the cute little centerpiece. I hung balloons and my brother-in-law’s girlfriend dressed things up with streamers.

The food was fresh and local. Chris grilled sliders and brats, while I made fruit salad, heirloom tomato salad, and red cole slaw. We served a bunch of different types of drinks (beer, wine, seltzer, soda, and juice boxes), and had the requisite goldfish crackers. Dessert was chocolate and vanilla cupcakes that I made from a mix decorated with rainbow sprinkles.

I didn’t hire fancy entertainment, I decided Mason was too young to really get a magician or whatever. Instead, the boys played with beach balls, toy cars, and bubbles–most of which came from our local dollar store. Our thinking was that new toys Mason had never played with would be easier for him to share than his beloved playthings (which stayed downstairs in our apartment). Our plan worked! The boys had a blast, and we didn’t have any major meltdowns.

The moms chilled out, eating and chatting (my father-in-law took on kid duty, which was awesome). At one point I looked around and felt so grateful to be surrounded by so many wonderful people who also love Mason. My MIL and FIL had flown in from out of town for the occasion. Then there was my BIL and his girlfriend (who are local); two LIC Mamas, Diane and Kerry, and their families; Katherine with her husband Eric and their darling twin girls, Kay and Brooke; and Aesook with her husband Henry and son Logan, a favorite classmate of Mason’s. Some neighbors whom we adore stopped by as well.

I had stressed endlessly about my simple approach; at one point, in the beginning of our party planning efforts, Chris had to remind me that we didn’t need to go overboard for our 2-year-old’s birthday party, and I’m thankful he was able to keep me focused. I find it embarrassingly easy to get swept up in what other moms think and say, and, I lose perspective on what works for us as a family. In the end, Mason clearly had a blast–and I wouldn’t change a thing about the party we had for him.

Have you found yourself in a situation recently where you’ve felt pressure to “keep up with the Joneses”? Dish with me!


Easy Puppy Paw Print Cupcakes

Last April, I made an embarrassing confession to you guys. I revealed that I’d never baked a cake, and then later I realized I actually had baked a cake once. Apparently my efforts were pretty forgettable, even though the cake was for someone I loved very much at one time, so of course there’s a story there. However, getting into all of that, at 11:30 at night, is a bit more than I can handle, so let’s just move on.

My cake confession came about because I was stressing about my lack of cake-baking experience at a time when I was already beginning to think about what I was going to do to celebrate Mason’s second birthday this year.

Fast forward a few months and that time is here. Mason’s birthday is tomorrow. I was determined to make his cake this year (last year I purchased cupcakes), and guess what? I did it! Twice. And it was so simple I laughed at myself for being nervous about it.

My first batch of cupcakes was for his school birthday party, which took place last Friday. I made very easy puppy paw print cupcakes from cake mix and vanilla frosting. I used Necco wafers and smarties to create the paw prints. Decorating took 15 minutes, tops. And the cupcakes looked fabulous! (I can’t take credit for the idea–it was conceived of by Erica Policow, the Food editor of Parents, and featured in our May 2012 issue, along with several other easy cake decorating ideas.)

Tonight, after we got back from Mason’s first Yankee’s game, I cupcakes for his real birthday party. We’ve having a rooftop cookout with family and a handful of close friends tomorrow. (Pics to come in my next post.) I’m psyched we all get to celebrate on his actual birthday. Fingers crossed it doesn’t rain.

Birthday Cupcakes: Bears on the Beach

Mason turns 2 next Sunday. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, but it’s astonishing that he gets even more fun as the months go by. I thought 6 months was the best age, then 1, then 18 months, and now my vote goes to the age he is right now.

In the spirit of his upcoming birthday, we traveled to Columbus, Ohio, last week to visit family. My mom hosted a celebration for him, and all of our family was there, as well as Amber, my closest friend from college, and her two boys Declan and Liam, stopped by as well.

The kids played in the kiddie pool, in the sandbox, and in a giant bouncy house. They blew bubbles, and raced cars. And of course they ate cupcakes.

My mom made simple cupcakes from a mix, frosted them, and then created a little beach scene on top. A sprinkling of coarse sugar made the sand. A piece of fruit roll-up became towels and little cocktail umbrellas offered shade for Teddy grams wearing either a bikini or swim trunks made from frosting. The treats looked adorable–and they were very easy to make.

Now I just have to come up with a good cupcake design for his class party next week.

Here are the Elmo cupcakes that another of Mason’s classmates recently had for his school celebration, so I want to go another route for Mason (but hopefully be just as creative!) I’m going to start with the mix–I’m thinking carrot cake with a luscious cream cheese frosting–but I need a fun decorating idea.

Care to share your ideas?

Adorable Elmo Birthday Cupcakes

I love that my kid rocks out at daycare. And with Elmo, to boot.

I was frantically catching up on email yesterday when a note popped up from Aesook, Logan’s mom. Little Logan is one of Mason’s BFFs at school, and he celebrated his second birthday in class on Monday with super cute Elmo cupcakes that Aesook made. After dessert they rocked out to a song from the Wiggles–and she was there to capture it all on camera.

Aesook is the same mom who gave me the recipe for Japanese Egg-Salad Sandwich–she writes the blog Working Mom Cook Fusion–and I loved the cupcakes so much that I asked her for directions on how to make them.

You can start with any basic cupcake recipe. She made a cream cheese frosting (recipe here), and then created the Sesame Street character using a combo of fruit and candy. His body is a fresh strawberry. The whites of his eyes are small marshmallows, with tiny M&Ms for the eye balls. Half an Oreo cookie makes his mouth and a dried apricot is the perfect nose. She used melted chocolate to hold everything in place.

Awesome idea, right? Care to share any of your own creative birthday treats? Post ’em on High Chair Times’ Facebook page.

Photos by Aesook Kim

Snapshot from Breakfast This Morning

Mason loves to rub food into his hair while he’s eating. I have no idea why. It’s totally strange. But something about it makes him very happy, so we roll with it! And we take lots of pics.

This morning he mugged for the camera with a bowl on top of his head; it was filled with Cheerios until he dumped them out on his tray. His little face is covered with jam because his “real” breakfast was a PB&J cinnamon-raisin bagel (he only wanted the cereal after he saw daddy eating it). Remember how enamored Mason was with the tiny Os when he was first tried them at school?

There’s a pic of him wearing his French toast during Father’s Day brunch last Sunday on the High Chair Times Facebook page. I’d love to see more of your favorite messy food photos with your kid–the last round was awesome! Share them on FB today.

Do You Let Your Tots Have Easter Candy?

Mason is going on his first Easter Egg hunt on Sunday. I’m so excited. He has his own special Easter basket with “Mason” embroidered on it. One of my grandmother’s friends made it for him last year, and he’s finally old enough to carry it around and fill it with eggs.

The event will take place on the waterfront in our neighborhood, and it’s organized by age, so Mason won’t be competing with older, faster kids and crawlers won’t be competing with him and his friends. Local moms came up with the idea, and I think it’s super smart.

Chris and I were chatting about our weekend plans yesterday over email, and we got into an Easter candy debate:

Chris: This is going to be a fun weekend. I need to go buy some candy.

Me: Why candy???

Chris: Um…it’s, like, Easter, you know? Chocolate and bunnies and Zombie Jesus. Cadbury creme eggs, 100 Grand, all the good stuff.

Me: He’s 19-months-old, he doesn’t need all that candy. 100 Grands are a choking hazard, I’m pretty sure, and what are Zombie Jesus?!

Chris: No response

Obviously the eggs that Mason collects on his hunt will be filled with candy–but I was only planning on letting him have one piece. He’s young enough that we can hide the rest while he’s playing and he’ll forget all about it. But maybe Chris is right and I should let him indulge a little more? What do you think?  Do you let your tots have Easter candy?

Photo: Easter eggs via Piotr Rzeszutek/Shutterstock

Carb-Loading Over Christmas

Mason’s been lucky enough to visit both grandmas over Christmas. They had  been so excited to see him, and they prepared lots of gorgeous food in anticipation of his arrival. Beautiful, veggie-filled soups. Warm-and-cheesy lasagna. Fluffy egg casseroles. The traditional holiday ham. Golden loaves of quick bread. And that’s just for starters. Mason has taken a bite of this and that but mostly he’s enjoyed the quick bread. Pumpkin bread, cranberry-walnut bread, zucchini bread with raisins and pecans, banana muffins…he’s loved the bread by the handful, and he’s arranged almost everything else in a neat little pile to the side of his high chair tray. He’s also been gulping down bottle after bottle of milk. (At least he’s dazzled his grandmas by walking — a lot!) We gave him a bite of chocolate cake last night at his great-grandparent’s 65th anniversary party, but that’s pretty much the only dessert he’s had since we’ve been away. He’ll take quick breads over chocolate any day.

What food(s) has your babe/toddler loaded up on over the holidays?

Picky Eater Solution #3: A Buddy + A New Scene

Today we met up with another LIC Mama Kerry, her 15-month-old son Sal, and her husband Mike. Our mission: Go visit Santa Claus. I’ve been looking forward to this moment all season long. Last year Mason loved Santa Claus — he wasn’t scared at all and he was mesmerized by Santa’s curly, white beard — so I was really curious to see how he would  react to Santa this year. Instead of going to a crowded mall, we met up at a local community center that was hosting a Christmas party for the neighborhood. The scene was absolutely crazy, with people wall to wall and kids running around everywhere, but I did get a photo of Mason sitting on Santa’s lap. I had to sit next to Bug so that he would stay on Santa’s lap but at least he looked at the camera, even though he didn’t feel like smiling. The six of us left after the boys posed for pics on Santa’s lap and we headed out for brunch — a meal that turned out to be the highlight of our afternoon.

We ended up at a new restaurant in our neighborhood called Alobar. Chris and I dined there last night alone, and we loved the place. We had no idea how they’d be with kids, but we were starving, there wasn’t a line, and the brunch menu looked great, so we went for it.  Truth is, we couldn’t have picked a better place. The hostess set us up with high chairs right away, and we were able to place an order for the boys to share (a short stack of pancakes topped with spiced fruit) pretty quickly. A short time later the manager appeared at our table with carrot puree for the boys “in case they couldn’t wait for their meal,” and two kid-size spoons. I was speechless. We eat out all the time with Mason and nobody has ever done something so thoughtful for us. There was also no shortage of friendly servers who stopped by to talk to the boys or pick up the toy cars they kept dropping, er, throwing on the floor. The pancakes arrived and the boys dug in (that’s Mason’s little hand reaching for more, left). Mason loved eating with his little friend Sal and the pancakes were apparently awesome according to Mike and Chris. The boys were super cute with each other, and they shared their food and milk . They were so happy together, and entertained each other so well, that we parents got to enjoy our food and even chat a bit (when does that ever happen?!). If you live in NYC, I definitely recommend checking this place out.

After our meal, we stepped back out into the brisk afternoon. It was already 4 and we were planning on taking Bug home and then Chris was going to go back out and pick up our Christmas tree. We parted ways with Kerry and Sal and Mike a few blocks down the road, then hopped on the subway to go back home. We normally walk, especially after eating a big meal, but it is freezing out. Mason deigned to nap so we played ball while Chris got our tree! We’re going to decorate it tonight and gate it off so that Mason can’t pull it over on himself (hopefully he doesn’t figure out how to climb over the gate!). Today was the perfect Christmastime Sunday. Here’s to hoping there are more to come in the weeks leading up to the holiday:)

Have you noticed that your kids eat better when they’re with a friend and/or in a new place?

Dressing Your Babe Up As a Thanksgiving Turkey: A Do or a Don't?

I wanted Mason to get into the Thanksgiving spirit this year, but it never occurred to me to dress him up like the main course. Tori Spelling, however, did just that when she decked her six-week-old daughter Hattie Margaret out as a roast turkey complete with a side of veggies. According to US, the reality TV celeb explained that her daughter’s creative costume was a “fun Thanksgiving craft project”:

“If you have a baby at home, here’s a fun Thanksgiving craft project you can make for what will be very memorable holiday photos,” Spelling explained on her official website. “Your older kids will love helping to make this for their baby bro or sis — Stella loved gluing the faux veggies on the faux platter.”

Realizing that the pictures might one day embarrass her little girl, the Beverly Hills, 90210 alum offered a preemptive apology.

“Sorry to future 18 year-old Hattie. It was too cute an idea to pass up,” Spelling wrote. “If it’s any solace, you wore turkey well!”

I find the photo pretty hilarious. We call Mason “Meat” at home (Bug is another nickname that I use in this blog)  and I immediately thought of him dressed up like a steak when I saw little Hattie all turkeyed out. I’m not so sure I’d go as far as dressing Mason up as a piece of meat but I give Spelling props for the effort. The costume looks like it took a lot of time to make, and it sounds like her other kids had a blast helping out.

What do you think? Is dressing your babe up like a Thanksgiving turkey a do or a don’t?
Take our poll to cast your vote.

Photo from