One of the things I'm enjoying about my daughters getting older is that the birthday parties are getting smaller and the girls are taking a more active role in the development, planning, and preparations.
This year, my eldest daughter turned nine and decided that she wanted to go to see a movie with a small group of friends for her birthday. It turned out to be a very simple, low-stress, and successful party that met with rave reviews from the kids that attended. If you're looking for a birthday party concept that packs in a lot of fun for relatively little work, money, and artistic/crafty ability required, the Movie Theater party is a great way to go.
STEP 1: THE MOVIE ~ The guests were dropped off in front of the movie theater where my husband, children and I were waiting (having already purchased the tickets through Fandango). The invitation listed the meet-up time as 1/2 an hour before the movie was scheduled to start. When everyone had assembled, we headed in and secured a row of seats.
STEP 2: SNACKS ~ From the lovely ol' DollarTree, I purchased plastic popcorn buckets (they come in a 2-pack) for each child. I also picked up a few packages of Red Vines. When we arrived at the theater, my husband bought two XL popcorn buckets. When the kids were seated, we gave them each their own bucket filled with popcorn and (3) Red Vines. The kids were so excited about having their own "official" snack container. Cost: 2 large buckets of popcorn ($14, served 12), 12 Plastic Popcorn containers ($6, DollarTree), 2 packages of Red Vines ($2). So, the snacks came to about $1.85 per guest, and they got to take the popcorn container home.
STEP 3: TABLE-SETTING ~ After the movie, we schlepped the kids back to our place for dinner. I really wanted to keep things simple, but special, and used items I already had around the house (for the most part). Using two different colored rolls of tickets (can be purchased at Target, Staples, Smart & Final) I created a TICKET TABLE-RUNNER. I filled vases with salted peanuts and placed a pinwheel, or flower made from tickets in each. Because I'm a sucker for olde tymie nostalgia, I placed a box of Cracker Jacks at each place setting. For drinks, I put out a collection of vintage milk bottles, with a bendy straw in each.
STEP 4: GAME ~ While the kids sat at the table waiting for dinner, they played a game and snacked on peanuts that doubled as table decorations. The game was a twist on the old "Who Am I?" game. I wrote the name of a different kids' movie on the bottom of each plate. Each child took a turn holding their plate above their head (so they couldn't see what was written). They then went around the table asking each of their friends a question that could help them figure out which movie title was written on their plate. If they still hadn't guessed correctly by the time the questions had gone all around the table, they got to look at the plate. The kids had a great time with the game. It was challenging, but the table was full of laughter and smiles. By the time the game was over, dinner was ready.
STEP 5: DINNER ~ To keep it simple, and by my daughter's request, we served homemade macaroni & cheese, hot dogs, and watermelon. We put a spin on our family-favorite Macaroni & Cheese recipe (HERE) by omitting the gorgonzola and replacing the panko bread crumbs with Italian seasoned bread-crumbs. Scrumptious!
STEP 6: CAKE ~ One of the hazards that comes from being a cake artist is that your kids know what you can do and often expect one of your 30-hour creations to magically appear for their birthday party. I wish I still had that kind of time, but not this year. I wanted to still do something special for my daughter that would delight her and appeal to her sense of creativity and whimsy, so I was thrilled when Pen n'Paperflowers (on Facebook) featured a project for Red & White Striped Popcorn Cupcakes from Dog n' Bird. Because my daughter's birthday was just days away, I wasn't able to order the cupcake sleeves that were recommended. Instead, I whipped up a template of my own. Special thanks to Stephanie Lynn at Under the Table & Dreaming for the absolutely perfect tutorial for how to make the "popcorn" marshmallows!
Here's my spin on this clever little cupcake creation:
1. BAKE CUPCAKES IN 3 1/4 OZ. SOUFFLÉ CUPS (ALSO KNOWN AS NUT CUPS). You can find these at most craft stores in the cake decorating section, or at Smart & Final, where you can get around 200 of them for under $5. My favorite chocolate cupcake recipe is from Martha Stewart. It's scarcely more work than a cake mix, and tastes way better. Click here for Martha's ONE BOWL CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES recipe. This recipe yields enough batter for 20 soufflé cups.
2. While cupcakes are baking, prepare the mini-marshmallows. Under the Table and Dreaming has an excellent tutorial HERE. Instead of painting the marshmallows once they were on the cupcake, however, I chose to put them all in a large bowl, paint a few, toss, paint a few, toss, etc. The "paint" was a simple mixture of yellow food coloring and a little bit of water. I found that it takes almost an entire 16 oz. bag of mini marshmallows to make enough "popcorn" for 20 cupcakes.
3. Prepare frosting. Regular readers may recall that I have a slight aversion to Rachel Ray's Pollyanna-perkiness, but I must admit that I do enjoy her simple and delicious recipe for basic vanilla frosting. You can find it HERE. I cut back on the vanilla by half when making it for children, otherwise the vanilla can be a bit overpowering.
Download the Popcorn Bucket Cupcake Sleeves HERE
4. Download and print my FREE POPCORN BUCKET CUPCAKE SLEEVE. I was out of cardstock, and since I was making a trip to the DollarTree anyway, I took a gamble and purchased their "Premium Photo Paper". I've purchased generic photo paper from some of the big office supply stores and was sorely disappointed, so I wasn't expecting much from this $1 purchased. BOY WAS I SURPRISED! This stuff rocks! It's thick! It's glossy! No smudging, smearing, NADA! It comes 8 pieces to a sheet, which brings your per-sleeve-cost to just under 5-cents each!!
Professional Results for Pennies!
5. Cut out each sleeve, and using glue, or tape, adhere the first white stripe on the left, over the second white stripe on the right. This should give you the perfect fit for the soufflé cup. Now, drop a soufflé cup into each sleeve.
6. Frost each cupcake, then top with your "popcorn" marshmallows. It takes between 18 & 20 "popcorn" marshmallows to top each cupcake.