Pokemon Cakes

This year, we celebrated my son’s ninth birthday with a Pokemon theme. There are some pretty amazing sculpted cake ideas out there, but I like to keep it simple.

For his friend party, we made Pokeball cupcakes. These are really simple, half red, half white. Put a stripe of black down the middle, and a dot of black in the middle with an upside down white chocolate chip.

On his actualy birthday, we made a Pikachu cake. This, too, was really simple. It started with two nine inch round cakes. We trimmed the ears from one cake. You need a lot of yellow frosting, and then little bits of black, red and white (which we had left from the cupcakes, yay!).

My trip for creating the face is so draw the outline with a toothpick in the yellow frosting. Then you have a line to follow when drawing the rest. (If you don’t like it, you can smooth it over and try again.)

My Designer Takeaway: Keep it simple and tasty.

Our BB8 Cake

I always love to surprise my family with a fun birthday cake or cupcakes. When my husband’s birthday rolled around this year, I really wanted to make him a BB8 (the robot from Star Wars) cake. I hunted around the internet, and I just couldn’t find anything simple enough that I felt like we could tackle it. Most of them were 3D made with two ball-shaped cakes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there. And, I don’t do fondant, which ruled out a lot. But, I finally found some flat examples that we based our cake on.

Here is what we came up with:


This is just two round cakes. One pan was slightly smaller. I chopped about a third off the smaller cake and angled the bottom edges. We frosted it all in white. Then I drew the details into the white frosting with a tooth pick.

My mom (aka Grandma) with her steady hand and my kids traced on the orange and gray details.

We were all pretty pleased and eager to show it off to the birthday boy, who loved it.


My designer takeaway: Research and then simplify!

Groundhog Birthday Cupcakes

My mom’s birthday is February 2, Groundhog’s Day. While we have teased her every year about seeing her shadow, we have never gone so far as to incorporate a groundhog into her cake. This year, I went there (and then I promised her to never do it again). 🙂


I found this cute little cupcake tutorial on Pinterest for groundhog cupcakes. They were pretty simple. I just had to buy a few kinds of candy and cookies. (And, I used cookies rather than peanut butter cups for the head because we have a nut allergy in our family.)

To build these cute little heads, you use melted chocolate chips for glue. Boy did it hold well!


Sorry mom, but it was just too much fun! (She loved them!)

My designer takeaway: Go ahead and make the obvious every once in awhile.

A Mermaid-Themed Birthday

Last month, I threw a mermaid-themed party for my young daughter. Here are a few highlights of what we did:


Food: As our friendships have evolved and grown, we have groups with nut and gluten allergies as well as vegan lifestyles. While I can be accommodating to these, I just avoided it with this party. We held it in the morning, ending at noon. We had some simple snacks of watermelon sticks and a homemade party mix, and called it a day.


Homemade party mix:

  • popcorn
  • Teddy Grahams, honey and chocolate flavors
  • M&Ms


Cake: Well, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. For parties, I prefer cupcakes because they are less messy and quick to pass out. For the cupcakes, I made white chocolate sea shells with a candy mold. I bought some of those pearl sprinkles to add to the shells. They were very pretty! Later on her actual birthday, we made a full on mermaid cake using a shaped cake pan. The mermaid cake was a big hit!

shell-cupcakes mermaid-cake

Activity: I have done many parties in our pole barn, but I just didn’t have the urge to prep all that this time. We held the party at our local botanic gardens, which has a children’s garden, complete with water to play in.


I have been wanting to create a scavenger hunt for a birthday party for ages because my brother and I used to make them for each other growing up. They were so much fun. I decided since my oldest can read, I would make a group scavenger hunt. It was great. I picked three areas of the gardens: the sand area, the tepees and the puppet stage. I had goodies set up with an adult at each part. The first stop included a bucket to hold all of these goodies. Inside the bucket were three shells buried in sand. We did this in the sand area so they could just dump the sand there. Then my son read the next clue, and they were off to the teepees. I had an adult in a teepee with a treasure box filled with goldfish packages and fish-shaped suckers. They read another clue and ran to the puppet show area. There we had spread out these fun beach balls with fish inside. Everyone got to pick one. The scavenger/treasure hunt was a big hit. I would definitely do that again.


Overall, I think the party was a success! It was a nice day with some structured and unstructured activities. The kids ate sugar early in the day, but they ran around too. I got to take it easy the rest of my day. Over and done!

Me designer takeaway: Remember your childhood favorites and re-purpose them for today!


Sack O’ Love Gift Tutorial


A few years ago, my husband and I were invited to a wedding where everything on their registry was taken! So we came up with a silly way to give them money. I thought this would be a fun tutorial for you because there are many times where money is the best gift to give (e.g. for honeymoon cash, teens’ gifts).

Here’s what we did:
I took a plain paper bag and made a fun paper label to attach to the side. Then we filled it with shredded paper, Hersheys Hugs and Kisses and money (bills) folded into the origami hearts.

Here’s what you need:
1. Bag – paper or fabric
2. Label – Free Printable here or make your own


3. Money in bills and quarters (to insert, if desired)


Here is the tutorial for folding your money hearts!

4. Chocolate Hersheys Hugs and Kisses

My designer takeaway: A little creativity can make a boring gift memorable (especially unfolding all those bills to spend!)

Let Them Eat Silly Cakes

We’ve been celebrating a few birthdays in my family. We’ve gotten into a groove of silly cakes for everyone, young and old. Here are the latest tasty treats we made:


I did a little search for birthday cake ideas, and I fell in love with these cute little fish. The bonus was that they looked super easy, and they were! My preschooler even helped me sort M&Ms by color for the scales.


This cake was a lot of fun to make! We used this tutorial to get us going. It was a great project for little ones to help with, too. My only warning is it makes a lot of cake. Have a plan for who is eating all that cake/cupcakes!

My designer takeaway: We all need a little silly every now and then!

Word Search Card

This was a fun birthday card I came up with for my six-year-old’s friend. It was so easy and very personalized. Who wouldn’t love it!


I started by using this tool to create the word search. This is a tool I’ve used many times for kids activity books for work, and at home, I sometimes put my son’s spelling words in there to give him some extra practice that’s a little different. I just typed in the name, “happy” and “birthday”. I played with the size of the puzzle until I liked it. I ended up using an 8 x 8 letter puzzle because I wanted it simple. See what you like.

Then I copied the word search into Illustrator (but you could certainly do this step in something like Word). I changed the font, added some color to call out the three words and printed it. I attached it to a glitter cardstock card and ta-da! It’s really that simple.

My designer takeaway: Think of new ways to use your old tools.

A Lollipop Party

Last weekend, we held my daughter’s third birthday party. Let’s just say I was not in the mood to plan another party. I kept toying with holding it somewhere besides our house so I could minimize the effort I had to exert, but I just couldn’t find somewhere appropriate. So, dragging my feet, I did another party in our pole barn. And, it was great.


I’ve decided three year olds are old enough to pick their own party theme. My daughter said she wanted a lollipop party. So, we went with that, not feeling overly inspired. I got online and found some beautiful mini swirl lollipops and ordered them. They came in a package of 48, which meant I could use them to top cupcakes and for the goodie bags. And then, I was a bit stuck. What to do at a lollipop party … hmm … So, we went really simple!


Invitations: I drew my own little lollipop and made these brightly colored invitations for her party. I always like to include a photo.

Activities: These are the easiest ones I’ve done yet. I still feel a little guilty for the lack of effort I put into them, but the kids still had fun.


For the first activity, I put out all our playdough tools and toys on a low table. Then I bought a new package of all the colors of playdough so they would be nice and soft. The kids loved this area. I will warn you that all the colors ended up mixed together, but who cares, right!

For the next activity, we set out all our play pots and pans and food. Most of these toys live at grandma’s house so they feel new to my kids.


And then, I set out our play tent and tunnel, and soccer balls and goal. The kids didn’t use these too much this time. My son led a group around outside catching bugs for most of the party, ha! (Note the grasshopper in the bottle turned “bug box” above.) I always say, “They never play with things like I think they will.”


Food: I went for my standard party food: pizza, watermelon, grapes, veggies and dip, Cheetos, water bottles, juice boxes, cupcakes and ice cream cups. The cupcakes were cute and super simple. I iced them with white frosting and rolled the edges in sprinkles. Then I stuck a pretty lollipop in the middle. I left these wrapped so that kids could eat them later, if they wanted.

Decorations: This part was pretty easy for the lollipop theme. I just took the lollipops I drew for the invitations and printed them out as large as I could to hang on the walls. I made some full page versions to wrap around our outside posts. I also made little matching tags for our goodie bags.

My designer takeaway: Sometimes you’re just not feelin’ it, but you have to show up to the “party” anyway.

Lego Party – The Full Story

Last weekend, we held my son’s Lego birthday party. It went great! Last week, I teased you with a little about the party. Here are all the details.


Invitations: I simply scanned a large Lego base plate that was already in our collection, and then I made a border out of some bricks and scanned that too. I mimicked the logo font and found a photo of my son building with his Legos. I always like to include a photo because we invite his class. If they’re like me, they don’t know everyone’s names but might recognize a face.

Decorations: I reused the green Lego base plate and type style from the invitation and made a Happy Birthday sign. Last year for our ninja party, my son enjoyed making some ninja drawings to hang up for decorations. With that in mind, I found blank Lego figures and thought he’d enjoy coloring them for decorations. I was wrong. However, my mother and I made a few (Spiderman, Batman, Harry Potter and others) to hang up. We had fun with it!

Activities: We have been holding birthday parties in our pole barn, which allows for some running room. It does have a dirt floor, which is good and bad. When I pick party activities, I try to make sure they’re things that involve burning some energy. We have plenty of Legos and Duplos at our house, and I incorporated those into our activities. And to give credit, these are all things I found by doing a Pinterest search for Lego party activities.

Race cars – I found one idea where they gave everyone a little Lego race car set to build. Then they had a race track set up for everyone to race their Lego cars. I really loved this idea. It was a challenge to find enough small Lego car sets at an affordable price, but I did. I ended up buying 14 of the same set from Amazon for everyone. This, of course, was the goodie bag item.

Now, I always learn something from these parties. Kids never play like I think they will, which is fine. Turned out that we had tons of car-like Duplos, and the kids enjoyed racing those instead. I think only one kiddo built the race car at the party and the rest took them home. Ha!

Boats – Another activity I found was to see if you could build a Lego boat that floats. This means squeezing the bricks together tightly so they don’t sink. To make this area, I put down a tarp on our dirt floor and filled two underbed tubs with water. Next to those, we had a tub of Legos.

The lesson I learned here (for the second time) is no tubs of water at birthday parties. The kids loved it. They were filling up the cars with water and racing them. The water got all over the cardboard race track and the tarp and mixed with the dirt from the floor. I didn’t stop the fun. I just have to deal with the aftermath. It made a wet muddy mess. I still have two tubs of Legos to clean from it!

Water Balloon Fun

Water Balloon Fun

Water balloons: The third Lego activity (I think three activities for a party is just the right amount) was throwing water balloons at Lego targets. We used our Duplos for these. While we filled about 90 balloons, the fun probably only lasted two minutes. Totally worth it, though.

Soccer Time

Soccer Time

As activity filler, we also put out our soccer net and balls, shovels and buckets for dirt, and blank Lego figures with crayons to color. I always like to have something for little ones or those feeling shy to engage in.

Food: For a kid’s party, I have learned to just stick with pizza. Grilling means his dad doesn’t get to socialize, and subs just didn’t got over as well. My food list is pizza, watermelon slices, grapes, raw veggies and dip, Cheetos, juice boxes, waters, cupcakes and ice cream cups.

For the sake of keeping it easy, I always do cupcakes and ice cream cups for parties. It’s fast to get everyone served and less messy while serving. So, for cupcake decorations, I decided to see if this Lego ice cube mold we had would work with melting chocolates. It did! I’m also getting a little smarter (yay), and I’ve learned that large shapes of that chocolate on it’s own is not really that great tasting. This time, I put some little chunks of pretzel in the middle of the bricks. They tasted great! The kids loved them.

The Aftermath!

The Aftermath!

My designer mom takeaway: No tubs of water at birthday parties! Ha!

Sending Well Wishes

I am a big fan of sending an actual piece of mail — card, letter, drawing, photo, whatever. (Big surprise from a print designer, huh!)

To me, it says, “I took the time to think about you, plan for this occasion and spent a little time to put this together for you.” I appreciate getting those things in return. As an adult, I’ve even started writing thank yous for the cards I get. As the older generations in my life pass away, I’ve noticed the birthday/holiday mail stack getting slimmer. I think I took their sweet messages for granted a little. So, now I’m adding a few new birthday wishes to my mailing list.

I seem to almost always be able to fill a card with my ramblings (about my kids, of course). But, I’ve watched my family struggle with what to say. To those people (and my stumped self), I’m making a list of message idea site:

All Kinds of Cards
Christmas Cards
Holiday Cards
Wedding Cards
Birthday Cards

My designer takeaway: It’s always worthwhile to spend the time to make someone feel thought/cared about.

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