Birthday Party Burrito Bar

June 2nd, 2014 · 28 Comments · Uncategorized

Is it just me, or is it impossible to open a newspaper these days without reading about Chipotle? I know they’ve had a few setbacks lately — there was that whole executive excessive salary issue last week; and then last month when they decided to print inspirational quotes from the country’s literary lights on takeout bags and cups and didn’t include any Latino voices in there…well, that was not the best thing ever. But there’s no question they’re shaking things up a bit and challenging the status quo –I mean, think how crazy it is that your adobo-marinated chicken tacos come with a side of Malcolm Gladwell or George Saunders reading? And how about that whole “Farmed and Dangerous” series they did for Hulu earlier this year — the four-part mini series eviscerating industrial agriculture? (“It’s not about product integration it’s about values integration,” said the campaign’s producer.) It’s also no small thing that whenever we finish a soccer game out in Jersey or Long Island, the first thing my kids ask me to do from shotgun is launch my chipotle app and find the closest location, so we can celebrate their victories (or soothe their defeats) with a big-a$$ burrito bowl. In other words, I’m willing to give Chipotle a pass on their most recent troubles. I’m also crossing my fingers that no one posts a link in the comment field telling me they’re hiring two-year-olds in Bangladesh to do their sustainable farming or something like that.

OK now that all the wonky stuff is out of the way — here’s the real point of this post: Have any of you thought about a Chipotle-catered birthday party for your kids? Because until last month, it never occurred to me, even though all I do is whine about never finding any takeout party food that is as big a crowd-pleaser as pizza. (Remember that dark moment in birthday history when I served California rolls at Abby’s Japanese-themed party? And one of the poor little unsuspecting seven-year-olds actually cried?) Anyway, Phoebe went to a 12th birthday party a few weeks ago where all the celebrants got to make their own burritos, courtesy of the local Chipotle. I thought that was such cool idea. There was shredded pork, chicken, and then beans for the vegetarians. And of course, all the toppings and the cilantro-spiked rice that we love so much in our house and replicate often, along with the rest of it. The order comes with sternos, trays, serving utensils, too. It’s totally my new party move.

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Sayonara Seven

November 2nd, 2011 · 41 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Favorites

Day Before the Eighth Birthday

Abby: Mom, I don’t want it to be my birthday.

Mom: What? Why not?

Abby: Because then it will be over and I’ll have to wait a whole ‘nother year for it to come again.

We have this same conversation every year — which is amazing to me, because between the classroom doughnuts, the annual restaurant-picking ritual, the party with friends, and the cousins-and-grandparents get-together, we seem to be celebrating Abby’s birthday all year long. All year long, it’s on her mind. “Where should my party be this year?” she’ll ask on New Year’s. “What restaurant are we going to on the night of my birthday?” she’ll ask in the middle of her sister’s February birthday dinner. “What should the theme of my party be?” She asked when I picked her up from camp one day in July.

I don’t want to pretend that this is hard work. All of us got into picking the theme this time, submitting our best proposals to the Birthday Boss.

How about an “almost-sleepover” party?
Too babyish.
An upside down party?
A British tea party?
Too girly.
A soccer party?
Not all my friends play soccer.
secret agent party, like Phoebe’s 9th?
We did that already.
A Drive-by Truckers party?

We wracked our brains. What did Abby love more than anything else in the world. More than her LaLaLoopsy dolls, more than Lemony Snicket, more than flying down a soccer sideline?

Once Andy threw out Japan as a theme we wondered what took us so long to get there. Abby’s idea of happiness has always been miso soup, shrimp shumai, and chicken teriyaki, followed by a private screening of Totoro.

Here’s what we ended up doing…

Candy Sushi! For twelve girls I made two sheets of Rice Krispie Treats, cutting them into round and square sushi-size pieces. Then I proceeded to load two trays (one for each side of the table) with some world-class junk: Swedish fish, gummy worms, jelly beans, Airhead Extremes (the rainbows), Dots, chewy Now-and-Laters, green Fruit-by-the-Foot (which stood in for the seaweed and is truly, hideously repulsive), and sour peach strips that were a dead ringer for ginger. (I think as I type this a week and a half later, the girls are just now coming off their sugar rush.) To make things a little easier for everyone — I chopped up a bunch of the candy into bite size pieces so they’d fit nicely on or around the rice patties. (more…)

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Whose Party is it Anyway?

February 17th, 2011 · 19 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations

I didn’t make this cake for my nine-year-old’s Secret Agent Party. I had the local bakery write the birthday message in “code” (see if you can crack it!) but that’s where my confectionary contribution ended. I opted to buy the cake instead of bake one from scratch because by the time I was thinking about this last piece of the party puzzle, Reasonable Mom (Secret Code Name: Make-it-Easy-on-Yourself Mom) was losing to Unreasonable Mom (Secret Code Name: Who-Exactly-Are-You-Trying-To-Impress Mom). In fact, for this particular party  – with its three-floor, ten-clue scavenger hunt, hand-stenciled tablecloth, and late-night phone consultations with my friend Marcie, who threw her own spy party a few years ago — Unreasonable Mom was crushing Reasonable Mom. For this party, Unreasonable Mom was leaving it all on the field.

It was Unreasonable Mom who, two weeks earlier, forced me spend an hour designing the invitation for the party on my computer, even though the 9-year-old honoree herself was downstairs playing Angry Birds on the iPad. (A major violation in our house! Reasonable Mom always makes sure the birthday girls are as involved in the process whenever possible. Reasonable Mom does everything in her power to protect me from being on the other end of the silent accusation: Who’s this party for anyway? The mom or the kid? ) (more…)

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Get Your Game On

October 24th, 2010 · 6 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Rituals

Cupcake Tic-Tac-Toe

The party officially began at 6:00 and ended at 8:00, but at 5:58 I had already checked my watch twice, counting down to its finish. Why do minutes feel like centuries during birthday parties in your own house? Or at least they do for me. But its sorta like having a baby, I guess. Because I forget the pain as soon as the last kid walks out the door with her goody bag. And then I live off the high for a solid few weeks. Before that blessed moment, though, I deal with the chaos the only way I know how: I make a schedule, always underestimating the time it takes for each activity because there’s no panic quite like the one that grips you when you look at your watch and realize you have 30 minutes left and 14 cupcake-fueled kids to entertain.  Below was the itinerary for Abby’s Game-Themed Party. I am not too proud to admit that it was written down on a piece of paper that I kept in my pocket and referred to several dozen times throughout the evening. (more…)

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Guaranteed Crowdpleaser (For the Under-10 Set)

October 21st, 2010 · 17 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Rituals

It’s a miracle if I bake something from scratch even once during the course of my child’s birthweek. And if I’m going to do it, it’s going to be Rosa’s Mud Cake for the actual birthday party. But for the classroom party? No chance. A few years ago I debuted this Dunkin Donut Cake at school and was actually embarrassed by how slap-it-together it was. But the kids went bonkers when I removed the foil and pretty soon I started getting emails from parents. Sean wants some donut cake for his birthday and told me to ask you? What’s this I hear about a donut cake? My friend Sue told me that your daughter had some cool cake in class? Erin told me to ask you about the munchkin cake. Do you know what she’s talking about? If so, can you pass along instructions?

Here they are — make sure you are paying close attention because it’s kinda complicated: Cover a concave platter with tissue paper. Stack three Dunkin donuts in the middle and shove your candles in the top one. (The top one should be festive with sprinkles.) Dump 75 assorted munchkins around the stack.

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Summer-in-the-Winter Birthday Party

February 1st, 2010 · 7 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Rituals

I am so jealous of parents who have kids with warm-weather birthdays. My girls were born in late fall and early winter which basically precludes any attempt at an easy breezy outdoor party (aka: One of those let-them-run-around-then-serve-cake-then-say-goodbye parties). So for Phoebe’s 8th this year, we all decided to ignore the weather and have a summer party anyway — inside the snow-shrouded house. Phoebe insisted on planning the order of events, the playlist, the invite list. And though it didn’t exactly end up being easy-breezy, we had so much fun planning it that it was totally worth the effort. Here are some highlights:

The Invitation

Phoebe is really into Peanuts, so Snoopy of course found his way onto the invite. I always have the kids make their own invitations then I shrink and photocopy. It becomes an instant keepsake — not to mention costs exactly zero.

Leis and Sunglasses greet the guests. I ordered both from the all-powerful Oriental Trading Company.

Pin the Fin on the Shark
I google-imaged “shark” about a week before the party, freehand-copied the easiest one I could manage onto poster board, then had the girls help paint it. Then we played Pass the Coconut. All the credit for this one goes to Rebecca Ffrench, who was the party editor at Cookie.

Prize Table
I know, the self-esteem crazies will be after me for not giving a prize to everyone, but I think it makes the kids get so much more into the games when they know something is at stake. I wrap all the prizes (little crappy things, really, like a Polly Pocket, a yo-yo, etc.) to add a little more mystery to it and the game winners get to choose whichever one she wants.

Starfish Buddies
These were really cute (again, Oriental Trading), but I had budgeted 20 minutes for them and they only took about three, which left us scrambling a bit to fill time at the end. (Thank goodness for freeze dance.) The girls got to take them home in their goody bags.

Tropical Smoothie Bar
Another Rebecca Ffrench suggestion. (I’m telling you, the woman is a genius.) The kids got to choose whatever fruit they wanted and Andy did the blending and topped each off with a hibiscus straw.

Beach Cake
I would say we had the most fun with this. I drew it a couple different ways before Phoebe decided on this layout, then the girls helped me decorate it.

The “sand” is Nilla wafers that have been crushed in the food processor; the frosting is store-bought (with a little bit dyed blue for water); the parasols are from Oriental Trading, and the cake is, of course, Rosa’s Mud Cake, pretty much the only recipe I ever use for birthday parties.

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