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22 Oct

Halloween Bentos

Can you believe that Halloween is almost here?

Where did this year go!?

If you’re a lunch-packer in need of some spooky lunch inspiration, I’ve got you covered.

Most of these lunches don’t require anything more than inexpensive cookie cutters, stickers, and a few Halloween-themed treats easily found at your local grocery store, but you certainly don’t even have to go that route.

All you really need is a little creativity. Just use your imagination and maybe some things found around your house to create your own creepy lunches for your little creepers!

Here (in no particular order) are my ten favorite Halloween bentos to get ya thinkin’!

Halloween Lunch Ideas for Kids

  1. This ridiculous lunch that I made for the Mr. that turned out to be a huge hit at work. Go figure!
  2. Bat and blood snack box. Pomegranate arils make great edible blood drops… just sayin’.
  3. Exuberant Pumpkin Bento! I still say they look more like bell peppers.
  4. A Vampire-themed bento is a must!
  5. Skeletal Bento. Super cool and only slightly spooky!
  6. This Bat-tastic Bento complete with peeled grape eyeballs, bat sandwiches, bat carrots, bat pretzels and even a chocolate bat! Give me a theme and I’ll run with it! 😉
  7. Witchy Bento with homemade tortilla cats, a cheesy broom and guacamole potion!
  8. Creepy Crawly Buggy Bento. Ew!
  9. Monster Mash Bento. I still love how this one turned out. I mean, Gummy toes. Come on.
  10. Last but not least, one of my personal favorites, Last Year’s Halloween lunch.

And if you’re in the mood to make your own Halloween food picks, I’ve got you covered there too. It’s easy, promise!

Halloween bento picks

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11 Jan

Kid-Friendly Snacks Made with Bitsy's Brainfood

 

I’m always on the lookout for wholesome, nutritious snacks for my family.

So when I stumbled upon Bitsy’s Brainfood products while walking through Whole Foods one afternoon, I was intrigued.

Bitsy’s Brainfood Smart Cookies are alphabet-shaped cookies that are made with whole grains and real fruits and vegetables. They contain Omega 3 DHA and they’re a great source of Vitamins A, B6, B12, D3, Folic Acid, calcium, and iron. Bitsy’s cookies are made in a nut-free facility, contain no GMO’s, and every box contains a collectible sticker!

I picked up a box of the Zucchini Gingerbread Carrot Smart Cookies for us to try but I really wasn’t expecting them to go over well. Cookies made with veggies seemed like a hard sell.

To my surprise, my daughter and I really liked them. They were just sweet enough and reminded me a little of Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal. Just slightly less sweet and with more spice.

I contacted Bitsy’s to let them know how much we had enjoyed their cookies and before I knew it, a large box arrived on my door step.

The box contained Bitsy’s Carrot Raisin Crunch and Fruit & Veggie 1,2,3 cereals as well as more Zucchini Gingerbread Carrot Smart Cookies and a box of Orange Chocolate Beet Smart Cookies.

Cam’s favorite flavor was the Zucchini Gingerbread Carrot Smart Cookies, but I actually preferred the Orange Chocolate Beet Smart Cookies which first taste like sweet orange, then chocolate, and then finish with just a hint of salt. That flavor combo might seem odd but it’s actually really good!

And even though they quite obviously contain beets as indicated by their lovely pink color, I didn’t detect any beet flavor at all!

I packed a few cookies in a couple of Cam’s lunches for a wholesome after-lunch treat. You can read more about these lunches here.

 

Bitsy's Brainfood Orange Chocolate Beet Smart Cookies

 

Bitsy's Brainfood Zucchini Gingerbread Carrot Smart Cookies

 

Next, we tried the cereals which are also made with Whole Grains, Fruits, and Veggies. They contain no GMO’s and they’re Organic, Vegan, and a great source of Vitamins, Whole Grains, Zinc and Iron.

The Carrot Raisin Crunch cereal contains the highest amount of sugar (16 grams) of the three varieties. I’m assuming most of the sweetness comes from the raisins because the cereal itself wasn’t very sweet to any of us at all. It’s very crunchy though and holds up well in milk.

The Fruit & Veggie 1,2,3 cereal is flavored with organic raspberry, orange, lemon, and lime flavors but to us, tasted more like veggies than fruit with a slight aftertaste that reminded me of a children’s chewable multi-vitamin which may have been from the vitamin and mineral premix that it contains. It does smell slightly similar to Fruit Loops and stays much crunchier in milk than Fruit Loops does.

My daughter wasn’t crazy about the cereal on it’s own so we added some to a smoothie bowl that contained additional toppings of her choice and we shared it for snack one afternoon.

 

Bitsy's Brainfood Cereal Smoothie Bowl

 

A smoothie bowl is exactly what it sounds like, a smoothie in a bowl topped with your favorite things that you eat with a spoon rather than drink from a glass.

It can be a meal, a snack, or a dessert (depending on the ingredients you use) and it’s much more satisfying than drinking a regular smoothie.

Toppings can be layered on, sprinkled over, or heaped into a pile in the middle. Anything goes.

I usually reduce the amount of liquid I use in my smoothie so that it has the consistency of soft serve ice cream and then add my toppings.

To make a kid-friendly smoothie bowl, I topped Cam’s berry and spinach smoothie with Bitsy’s Brainfood Fruit & Veggie 1,2,3 cereal, sliced bananas, flax seeds, mixed berries, sliced almonds, and a few rainbow sprinkles.

I’ve also created two more kid-friendly recipes using Bitsy’s cereals that I’ll be sharing with you later this week so stay tuned.

 

Bitsy’s products are available at Whole Foods, Wegman’s, Sprouts, H-E-B, Shop-Rite, and Wild By Nature Market.

 

Bitsy's Products

 

You can also purchase Bitsy’s products online at amazon.com, diapers.com, abesmarket.com, freshdirect.com, vine.com, and relayfoods.com

Bitsy’s Brainfood was created by two moms who believe that learning to eat smart can be fun! You can learn more about their story and discover more Bitsy’s Brainfood products here.

 

Disclosure: The folks at Bitsy’s Brainfood kindly provided me with a few of their products at no charge for the purpose of a review. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. I received no compensation for providing this review.

 

 

2 Dec

On the way home from pre-k every afternoon, I would ask Camryn how her day was.

She’d tell me what they did, who she played with, what they had for snack. The usual stuff.

Then one day she told me that she had been partnered with a girl named Mady and that Mady thought she was a princess.

So I asked her what was wrong with that and I’ll never forget what she said to me next: “I don’t care for princesses.”

And she never has. My daughter isn’t into fairies, dolls, princesses, Barbies, or most of the other gender specific toys marketed to girls.

When she was younger, any time we’d go into a toy store, she always headed for the dinosaurs and electronics.

cam & t-rex.52

My baby and her pal, “Mr. T”

In fact, the only female character she ever really identified with was Tinkerbell who is basically an engineer.

And (you may want to sit for this one) she’s only seen Frozen once.

Gasp!

I know.

It was on the Disney Channel one night and when I asked if she wanted to watch it again, her response was “I’ve already seen it so I’m good.”

However, if How It’s Made is on, I guarantee she’s standing in front of the television giving that program her full attention.

In all fairness she does have a huge Barbie Dream House but I think she was more interested in the construction of the house than the actual playing with Barbies in it.

So any time I shop for gifts for her, I’m always disappointed in the lack of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) toys that are actually geared toward girls.

Then I thought, I can’t be the only parent of a little girl who is more interested in the engineering and construction of a house rather than actually playing house.

So this year, I’ve put together a list of toys, games, books, and other items that would make great gifts for any girl whether she’s a sparkly pink princess in training or an aspiring rocket scientist.

I’ve included links to the manufacturer’s websites in some cases so that you can learn more about the product but almost all of these items can be found on amazon.com.

Happy Shopping!

Science

The Young Scientist Club – Science kits and games for kids 3-12. Lots to choose from.

Thames and Kosmos Science Kits – Tons of cool stuff to choose from here. I’ll bet their candy chemistry kit is pretty popular.

ScienceWiz – Activity kits for every scientific interest.

Be Amazing Science Kits – The Big Bag of Science or any of the Test Tube Discoveries kits would make a great gift.

Smartlab Toys – These are just cool. Especially this one.

Minimuseum Pocket Sized Collections of Rare Specimens – Okay, this one is pretty expensive but I think that any girl who was interested in fossils or specimens would be super excited to receive this.

Microscope & Slides – This one’s a no-brainer for a young scientist.

Baking Sets – Bet you didn’t see this one coming. Since baking requires precise math that includes addition, subtraction, fractions and time followed by a series of chemical reactions, a baking set fits perfectly in this category.

Technology & Engineering

Lego Friends – If your little lady loves to build but also loves all things girlie, this is the set for her. Cam has a few of these sets and plays with them often.

Lego Creator – My husband has already put in a request for the Mountain Hut so that he and Cam can put it together in their blanket fort.

Lego Minecraft – I’m not super involved in the whole Minecraft situation going on in my house right now but from what I understand from Camryn, it involves construction, chemistry, and problem solving so I can see why she loves it.

Zoob Challenge Moving Mind Building Modeling System – With this system kids can design their own creations or follow the instructions and build contraptions to solve 26 challenges like making a ball bounce into a target.

Goldie Blox – Story and construction sets geared specifically toward girls! I love this concept. Kids read the story and follow the included instructions to construct some pretty cool contraptions.

Roominate – I wasn’t too impressed with these until I watched one of the videos. Then I understood the appeal. Not only can kids build a customizable dollhouse out of the modular pieces, but they can also wire windmills, carousels, elevators, lamps, and so many other things. Pretty cool. It’s also got some pretty great reviews on amazon.com.

Learning Resources Candy Construction – Because it’s cute.

K’NEX Amazin’ 8 Coaster Building Set – Use 448 pieces to build your own motorized roller coaster. How cool!

SmartLab Toys Weird and Wacky Contraption Lab – This reminds me of that game, Mouse Trap (which would also be a good addition to this list). The 60 parts can be mixed and matched to create an unlimited number of contraptions. This way kiddos won’t get bored too quickly.

4M ProductsA robot you make from a soda can? Neat-o.

Snap Circuits Jr. – Kids can build over 100 electronic projects and no tools are needed because everything just snaps together!

LaQ kits

Connectagons – These are all pretty cool but I especially like this set.

Loctagons

Marble Mazes

Magna Tiles

littleBits

Math

Math Magic – At least 15 math tricks, puzzles and games.

Hot Dots – Interactive math lessons for your child’s grade level.

Inchimals – For ages 3 and up. Teaches simple math and measurement.

Tangrams – Great for kids who like puzzles.

Learning Wrap-Ups – Kids wrap the string from the problem on the left to the answer on the right and then flip it over to see if they got it right. Great for practicing basic math independently. Would make a great stocking stuffer.

Music & Books

They Might Be Giants Here Comes Science cd & animated dvd – This is going in Cam’s stocking!

What Is It? Musical Math & Science

Ballads for the Age of Science

Super Smart Science Series – All of these are on my wish list for Cam.

Bedtime Math – Cam loves to chat me up every night at bedtime so I think this book would be a great way to get some math practice into a convo or two.

Rosie Revere, Engineer – For obvious reasons.

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein – A great read with adorable illustrations.

Any of David A. Adler’s math books for kids – David A. Adler’s children’s math books were a favorite of Cam’s.

Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

Games

BrainBox Card Games – Lots of subjects to choose from including: Math Memory, Science, and Inventions.

Robot Turtles – Teaches programming fundamentals to kids 4 and up.

Professor Noggin’s Trivia Card Games – Lots of great choices that would fall under STEM.

Suspend by Melissa and Doug

Sumoku

Math Noodlers – There is also a version for kids in grades 4-5.

Clothes & Accessories

Because our girls deserve better than this.

More Than Just a Princess T-shirt and Hoodie from Goldieblox – Yes to both!

Graphic Tees from Land’s EndThis one is pretty cute and so is this one.

Cool Science T-shirts

Any of these

Love this one for so many reasons.

Either this shirt or this one, found on Etsy.

Tattly Designy Temporary Tattoos (Science Set) – What kid doesn’t like temporary tattoos? These are so cool that I would even wear them.

Experiences

A day at a local zoo or aquarium would be a great gift.

Or if you can swing it, how about a membership to her local science museum?

25 Oct

Halloween bento picks

 

I wish I could claim to be the crafty genius who came up with the idea for putting puffy stickers on toothpicks or plastic cocktail picks to create homemade bento picks but honestly, it’s been done so many times that I couldn’t even tell you where it originated from.

I can however show you my favorite way to make bento picks.

I really think you guys are going to love it.

First though, in case there are those of you who aren’t familiar with the puffy sticker/toothpick methods, I’m going to walk you through each one.

I’ll also explain why I don’t like either of them.

Seems like I’m always rebelling against something on this blog. Today it’s puffy stickers, tomorrow – who knows?

There are two ways to make food picks using puffy stickers.

Method 1 : The puffy sticker is hot-glued directly onto the toothpick or plastic cocktail pick. Once dry, it’s ready to use.

Method 2: Mirror images of stickers (like the set pictured below) are stuck together with the toothpick or plastic cocktail pick in between.

 

bento picks - Halloween 005

 

My first issue is with the glue. It can be messy and you have to wait for it to dry.

You also need to press the stickers for a minute or two to keep the bottoms together while the glue sets.

And if you don’t use glue, the bottoms of your stickers will come apart. You can see this happening in the picture at the very top of this post.

It’s not a big deal but as a perfectionist, this really bothers me.

Now let’s talk about my favorite way.

 

bento picks - Halloween 038

 

I love to use scrapbooking stickers.

They’re almost always 40%-50% off at my local craft store. I think I paid about $1.60 for those googly-eyed cuties up there.

The reason that I love using scrapbooking stickers for this project is because they all have a piece of sticky foam on the back so I can just run my toothpick right up into that foam and it’s not going anywhere.

See…

 

bento picks - Halloween 048

 

Quick and easy.

No waiting for glue guns to warm up or messy glue to dry and then peeling it off of your fingers later.

This takes two seconds and it’s done.

You can also just stick a toothpick onto the back, like I did with the pick on the left, and it will hold just fine.

 

bento picks - Halloween 052

 

Pretty cute, right?

I love them.

Camryn has a field trip on Halloween so I’ll be packing some of these cute picks in her lunch that day.

If they don’t make it home, it’s no biggie. They’re disposable anyway.

So if you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to spruce up your kiddos lunches for Halloween, or really any day, I hope you’ll give this method a try.

Remember, these work great as cupcake toppers too!

 

 

Summer Reading Update

11 Jul

The little one didn’t read very much last week.  😦

Just a few library books and one of her favorite books from home, Everyday Bento by Wendy Thorpe Copley.

We both just love that book and Camryn reads it all the time. In fact, she’s been reading it every night for the past few days. I think she has some ideas from the book marked for me to reproduce which is great because my brain is still fried from the school year.

Everyday Bento is a great book for anyone who wants to get started packing bentos but isn’t interested in anything super complicated or time-consuming.

Also, if you’ve never been to Wendy’s site, finish up this post and then go check it out!

Here’s what Camryn read last week:

 

 

 

 

8 Jul

cuddle palz

 

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know how much I love CuteZCute products. The Animal Friends and the Animal Palz have been featured many times because they’re cute, easy to use, easy to clean, practically indestructible, and most importantly – they’re affordable!

That’s why I’m super excited to be able to share the newest addition to the CuteZCute family with you today, Cuddle Palz!

 

Cuddle Palz

 

Cuddle Palz can be used to cut or stamp bread, meats, cheeses, fondant, cookie dough, pie dough, fruits, veggies, fruit leather, tortillas, and so many other things.  You can mix and match the cutters and stamps to create over forty different combinations!

And when you’re done, Cuddle Palz can be washed on the top rack of your dishwasher. Hooray for easy clean up!

There’s so much you can do with this set. I just love it.

I used the koala cutter to make Cam’s lunch today. I showed her the handy dandy combination guide (that can be downloaded and printed out from the Cuddle Palz web page) and let her choose what she wanted. She asked if her koala could be doing a hand stand just like the one pictured and I was happy to oblige because the body cutter makes it so easy.

We used the cute koala pick in her bento today as a food pick but it can also be used to help you remove the small cut-outs from the cutters. We like multitaskers!

Camryn was even able to use our new Cuddle Palz sandwich cutters to make her dad a tiger sandwich. She had a little trouble getting the edges of the bread nice and smooth at first, but once I showed her the “push and wiggle trick” she was good to go and now she’s pretty much a pro. 😉

So if you’re looking for a fun way to spruce up your kids’ lunches in a hurry, I highly recommend Cuddle Palz.

I also think Cuddle Palz would make a great gift as well as a fun party or play date activity for little ones.

Want to learn more about Cuddle Palz? No problem. Just click here.

Want to see Cuddle Palz in action? Here you go.

Cuddle Palz and other CuteZCute products are available on amazon.com and from my favorite bento goodies website, allthingsforsale.com.

 

 

 

Summer Reading Update

22 Jun

Hi all!

Just popping in to share what Camryn read over this past week.

She is still reading The Cabin Faced West which is the very last book on her Mensa Excellence in Reading Challenge list but since it isn’t finished, I didn’t include it here.

I’ll be so glad when she is finished with that book, it’s not a very exciting read. She has twelve pages to go so I’m hoping she finishes it up tonight so we can all move on with our lives.

Here are the eight library books that Camryn read last week:

 

Her favorite of this group was The Terrible Plop. She said it was pretty funny and thinks that your kids might like it too.

Summer Reading Update

16 Jun

We’ve been on summer break since June 4th, which means that we’ve been sleeping in, hanging out in stretchy pants (okay, so that’s mostly me doing that) going to various parks in our area, and having one on one lunch dates with the kids.

I haven’t made a single cutesy lunch and frankly, I’m good with it.

Towards the end of every school year I tend to get what I like to call ‘bento burn out’ and my brain  just cannot come up with one more cute thing to put into a lunch box.

Even Cam’s last day of school lunch was pretty lame to say the least. I’m pretty sure that I just tossed in whatever leftovers we had hanging out in the fridge that needed to be used up.

All that being said, I don’t have any cute lunches to share. 😦

However, as far as our reading challenge goes, I can report that so far Camryn has read the following 12 books:

 

In no particular order of importance

1. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

2. Horrid Henry’s Joke Book by Francesca Simon

3. My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures,  Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things by Judith Viorst

4. Leo Geo by Jon Chad

5. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Animal Antics by Ripley Publishing

6. Millions, Billions, and Trillions Understanding Big Numbers by David A. Adler

7. Really, Really Big Questions: About Life, The Universe, and Everything by Dr. Stephen Law

8. Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier

9. Tib & Tumtum #2: My Amazing Dinosaur by Grimaldi

10. Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine

11. Wow! I Didn’t Know That: Surprising Facts About Animals

12. The Great Lollipop Caper by Dan Krall

 

 

 

 

Her favorite books out of those 12 were: Tib & Tumtum, Open This Little Book, and Bone by Bone. She highly recommends those three.

What about your kids? Have they read any good books lately?

If so, feel free to share. We always like getting book recommendations.

 

 

 

Summer Reading

1 Jun

It’s almost that time.

Kids everywhere are finishing up yet another school year and looking forward to their summer vacations.

For us that means it’s time for our yearly Summer Reading Challenge.

At the end of last June, I challenged my then six-year-old daughter, to read one hundred books before the new school year started.

One hundred books between the week of June 24th and August 18th. She was already a pretty voracious reader so it wasn’t beyond her to accomplish that task.

The deal was that she could read as much or as little as she wanted as long as she finished her last book before the first day of school on August 19th. And if she did, she would get a reward of her choosing.

She rocked that challenge and read all one hundred books before the first day of school.

And because I know someone will ask: No, she did not spend all day every day reading. Yes, she got plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Some days she read nothing at all and some days she only read for five minutes.

This year I’m letting her set her own reading goal and so far her plan is to read 7-10 books each week until school starts.

She’s actually finishing up a Mensa reading challenge this week which contained 64 books so I’m interested to see if she’ll want to take a little break from reading or jump right back in to it. Honestly, I didn’t think she’d ever finish Little House on the Prairie. That one was not what you’d call a page turner.

That might seem like a lot of reading for a kid but she really does love to read. I know that’s because we started reading to her very early on. We read to her when she was teeny and she had no idea what we were saying. We read fiction and non fiction. We read about math and space and Mickey Mouse. We read cookbooks and newspapers to her. We read about everything and nothing. The point is we read, a lot.

Not only did this ignite her curiosity and encourage a love of learning, but it also taught her to sit still and pay attention which is kind of important in a classroom setting.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s not a perfect child. Not even close. She’s stubborn, and mouthy, and has a fit when she doesn’t get her way, and I still can’t take her shopping with me because she jacks around in the aisles, hangs all over the cart, and insists on buying ALLTHETHINGS! And she still leaves her dolls face down on the floor or against the wall (Blair Witch style) because she knows it freaks me out.

She’s quite a little punk but she’s also smart… really smart, and learning comes easy to her. I know that it’s because she’s a reader.

Children who read or are read to tend to do better in school and research continues to support this.

So whether your child is a brand new reader or a more experienced independent reader, I hope you’ll join us in our reading challenge this summer. Even if your kids hate reading and you only get them to read the back of their cereal box, that counts as a win!

Be sure to share your kids’ progress and their favorite books in the comments section below. We’re always looking for good books!

Even if your kids read just a little this summer, I promise their new teachers will be grateful come fall.

 

If your kids just can’t get into reading:

* Check with your local library to see if they have any programs geared towards their age group. A lot of libraries offer story time, book clubs, and/or incentive programs where kids can earn rewards for reading.

* Create your own incentive program at home and still keep it cheap or free! Extra video game play time may be all it takes to get your kids to pick up a book.

*Many Barnes & Noble locations have story time for kids on the weekends. Check to see if yours is participating. Additionally, your child may be able to earn a free book just by reading any eight books and recording them in their reading journal. Click here for more info.

*Sometimes it’s not that kids don’t like to read, it’s just that they prefer being read to. So another suggestion (aside from you reading to them, obviously) is to check out audiobooks from your library along with the actual book so your kids can follow along. I do this with Cam often. She will lay in bed with headphones on and listen to a story just before bed or as she’s doing a quiet activity in her room. 

* For little ones who don’t like to sit still for very long, try reading to them while they’re in the bath or on the potty.

* Keep books in the car. If your kids know they’re there, they may be inclined to crack one open.

* Bring books to restaurants, appointments, or any situation where they may be forced to sit and wait.

* Institute DEAR time in your house this summer. DEAR stands for Drop Everything And Read. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

* Do your kids have a favorite TV or movie character? Chances are good that there’s a book at your local library that that character is in. 

* Ask your kids if they’ve read any good books lately. Have them tell you about their favorite books and what they liked about them. Do you remember reading that book as a child? What did you like about it? Discuss with your kids.

* Create a special space for reading. Is there a big shady tree in your yard or a quiet spot in your house where you can create a book nook?  Something as simple as a blanket on the ground,  or a few pillows in a quiet corner of your home can provide a special place for the two of you to read together. My husband makes a blanket fort every Saturday night for Camryn by laying blankets over our dining room table and chairs so that she can crawl underneath and hang out. I’m telling you, if you can build a fort for your kids, do it! And throw some books and a little flashlight in there too.

*And finally, crack a book open yourself and let your kids see you enjoying it. Sometimes, that little action is enough to get kids interested in reading.

 

Websites to Challenge Readers:

shmoop.com

googlelittrips.org

wonderopolis.org

funbrain.com

nationalgeographic.com

starfall.com

between the lions

storylineonline.net

readwritethink.org

PBS reading games

Game Goo

Word World

meegenius.com

bookadventure.com

readingrockets.org

readingresource.net

smartygames.com

storynory.com

readtomelv.com

wegivebooks.org

barnesandnoble.com

abcya.com

scholastic.com

 

Games and Activities to Motivate Your Reader Here

Free E Books here, here, and here

 

 

 

Camryn’s Birthday

3 May

Cam turned seven last Friday.

Since her besties have all moved away, we decided to have a family celebration at home and then take her to a local bouncy place that she loves.

I asked her what kind of birthday cake/cupcakes she wanted and she said “Hello Kitty” so I took that information and ran with it.

I did the majority of the baking while she was in school Thursday so that Friday, all I had to do was a little dipping, a little decorating, and a little set up.

We set up a little Hello Kitty treats table in her bedroom and when she got home that afternoon, I told her to go change into some shorts so that we could go bounce.

She was so surprised when she walked into her room and saw everything set up. It was a really precious moment.

She saw the table and asked me if it was all for her. Goodness gracious.

Since I used quite a few things from my lunch packing stash to make her day so sweet, I wanted to share some pics with you guys to show you how you can use bento supplies for something other than making lunches.

I also wanted to share some budget friendly party tips that I hope you might find useful.

Here are a few pictures from her special day:

 

cam's 7th birthday treat table

I’ve done a lot of treat/dessert tables for various parties and I really like having a background of some sort. It ties everything together and provides a great focal point. I once spent days making a huge paper floral backdrop for a party but that’s a story for a different day. It’s not work if you love it, right?

Hello Kitty paper background: I found some HK coloring paper rolls at Michael’s (local craft store) for $1 a piece and immediately thought that they would make a perfect backdrop. Incidentally, I found HK coloring paper rolls at Super Target next door that were twice the size so if you’re looking for this paper, check Target and your local craft stores.

I’ve also used this paper to line tables at a party so that party guests could color if they wanted to. You’d be surprised by how many adults actually end up coloring.

Hello Kitty garland: This is just HK themed scrapbook paper that I bought at Michael’s. I cut triangles, punched holes in each corner and strung a ribbon through to hang it. Scrapbook paper is very inexpensive and can be used in countless ways. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a party without it.

Red tissue puff decoration: I’m sure you’ve seen these everywhere. This is just 8 small sheets of tissue paper folded accordion style, paper clipped in the middle to keep together, and then fluffed up by gently separating each layer. I can usually get a pack of 12 sheets of tissue paper pretty much anywhere for .99 or less.

Red table cover – A set of two plastic table covers that I purchased at Super Target for less than $2. The cheap table covers tend to be thin so I like to double up whenever I can.

Framed Hello Kitty pictures – I found the frames at Michael’s for $2 a piece. The pink starry background is scrapbook paper that I already had in my stash that I cut to fit inside the frames. The HK graphic is just a set of stickers that I also found at Michael’s. This project cost me about $11 to make but that was only because I could not get my mobile coupons to work. I ALWAYS use a coupon when I shop at Michael’s because it regularly saves me 30%-40%.

Hello Kitty figurine: This is Cam’s piggy bank. It normally lives on the shelf of her headboard but I re-purposed it for her party.

Hello Kitty, Keroppi, Chococat, and My Melody decorations: These are cake toppers that I purchased here. These have been featured in a few of Cam’s lunches.

Pink and white striped boxes: These served two purposes: They acted as risers for some of the food plates and they hid Cam’s presents! All of her presents fit into those cute pink striped boxes. I purchased them at Target for $2.99 a piece, stuck a few HK stickers from the same pack that the framed stickers were in on the side and called it done. The best part, is that I can use these boxes over and over.

 

cam's 7th birthday

Let’s talk about what’s on that table.

The Glass bottles are Starbucks Frappuccinos that we drank over the course of the week, ran through the dishwasher, and soaked in vinegar to get the sticker residue off. When they were dry, my husband rimmed each one with a Hello Kitty sticker, added a little strawberry juice to the bottom of each bottle, and then topped them off with lemon/lime soda.

I bought the silly straws at Michael’s for $1.50.

I love the way these bottles look on a party table. They would be adorable rimmed with rainbow sprinkles and filled with strawberry milk. These were supposed to be rimmed with Pop Rocks but my husband forgot them when he ran out for a couple of last-minute things that day. :/

During Cam’s party, we dropped big chunks of cotton candy into our sodas. This is really neat to watch. The soda bubbles up and the cotton candy instantly disintegrates. This would have been made much more fun with the addition of Pop Rocks. Maybe next year.

The four small red and pink candies at the front of the table are vanilla Oreo truffles that I molded using some of Camryn’s Moon Sand molds and covered in red or pink candy melts. I washed the molds in the dishwasher before I used them.

In the glass jars off to the right side of the table are strawberry Pocky, Hello Kitty cotton candy (yes, there is a HK brand of cotton candy!) which I found at Wal-Mart, and strawberry malted milk balls. She had so hoped the Easter Bunny would bring her some of those last week but he (ahem… she) couldn’t find any.

 

cam's 7th birthday

I think now is a good time to tell you that my kids normally don’t eat a lot of sugary foods but on their birthdays, they’re allowed to go nuts.

Now let’s move on because we need to discuss those cones. Their cuteness is still killing me. They were also really easy to make.

These are normally made with cake balls but I personally don’t care for cake balls. They just don’t do anything for me (probably a texture issue) so these babies were made with donut holes. Yep. Store-bought donut holes which made the process so much easier and they fit the mini cones perfectly.

I put a few mini m&m’s in the bottom of each cone. Then I dipped the bottom of each donut hole in some pink candy melts and set it in the cone, pressing down a little to ensure a good seal. When the candy is dry, it seals the donut hole to the cone so you can dip the entire thing in the candy melts, let the excess drip off, and let dry. I melted a little chocolate for the drizzle on top, and used a spoon to guide the melted chocolate down onto the cone to give the appearance of dripping chocolate. Then I added a few sprinkles and a red mini m&m before it dried.

These were by far the cutest food item at the party. Yummy too!

Next up…marshmallows.

Sparkly marshmallows couldn’t be easier to make. If you like peeps, these will be right up your alley. To make them, just insert a toothpick or super cute food pick of some sort (preferably one that matches your theme) into the marshmallow, dip quickly in clean water, and then roll in sparkly sanding sugar. That’s it. I like to set mine on wax paper until they’re dry.

To make the red-bottomed marshmallows, which photographed hot pink instead of red because her room is dark and my camera is old, just dip marshmallow bottoms into melted red candy melts, allow excess to drip off, add sprinkles if you want them, and set on wax paper to dry.

To make dipping easier, I ALWAYS add a little Crisco or veg oil to my candy melts. If you don’t there’s a good chance it will seize up on you and you won’t get a smooth, shiny finish. I only use Crisco for fondant work and candy melts but if that grosses you out, you can use coconut oil.

Just add a couple of tablespoons of your oil of choice per bag of candy melts, pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, pop back in for 30 seconds, stir. Repeat until smooth and melty and dip until your heart’s content.

Insert lollipop sticks before dipping if you want to serve them on sticks which is always super cute and fun for little ones.

 

 

cam's 7th birthday

I just loved these white sparkly marshmallows with the red HK bow picks.

cam's 7th birthday

Pictured above are slices of pound cake that I cut with a flower shaped cookie cutter and covered in melted canned frosting.

Let’s pause here because I can hear some of you gasping.

Yes, I am normally a from scratch kind of baker. But it is much easier and often cheaper to buy the canned stuff, zap it in the microwave until pourable, and then use it to cover baked goods with a satiny smooth finish. I haven’t been able to accomplish this with homemade frosting.

On top of each piece of cake is a red (yes, red.) marshmallow fondant decoration that I made using my new bento tools. They worked perfectly with the theme. The blue sevens are actually the L from this set turned upside down.

cam's 7th birthday - hello kitty cookies

 I love how cute these cookies turned out. Even though there isn’t a lot of detail, you can still clearly tell who it is. These are just simple sugar cookies that I cut into HK shapes using cookie cutters, spread with a little vanilla frosting, and topped with marshmallow fondant that I cut and stamped using the bow from this set.

 

hello kitty & friends cupcakes

 

For her birthday, Camryn had strawberry cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. We girls like Hello Kitty’s friends just as much as Hello Kitty so I made sure to include them too. HK’s friends were all made very late at night by me out of marshmallow fondant. I bought the Hello Kitty cupcake toppers from my favorite online bento supply store.

 

Camryn's new bento

Camryn was so delighted to find the new Cutezcute Baby Night Owl bento box in one of her gift boxes. She had her little heart set on this bento box for a while so this was a fun surprise. I have to say, this bento box is small but it’s beyond adorable. It’s going to take some planning on my part to get her lunch to fit in there so stay tuned for updates.

At this point my camera had died and I was snapping away with my phone so I apologize for the blurry picture.

After a few treats and presents, we headed out to the bouncy place. There was no one there when we arrived so for a while, Cam had the whole place to herself.

 

She was in absolute bouncy heaven until about 6:30 that evening when she came running over to me crying about not feeling well. We had planned to go out to dinner after bouncing but when her fever spiked and the full wrath of the impending bout of strep/scarlett fever hit, we knew we would be in for the night.

And that’s how it all ended. It wasn’t pretty but she had a brand new Kindle Fire tablet with a neato squishy pink cover to keep her mind off of how bad she felt.

Even though her day didn’t go quite how we planned, I’m just thankful that she was able to enjoy most of it.