Step One: Agree To Throw The Party
It really helps if you happen to have a child clever enough to schedule their birthday a week after the end of their parent’s semester. This serves two purposes:
- The last weeks of the semester are so harried for teachers that the parent is almost guaranteed to having fallen a bit behind in the more optional parenting duties, and be feeling rather guilty as a result.
- After a day of utter collapse, said parent is likely to feel a burst of semester-over energy, leading to the parent spending three solid days completely over-preparing for their child’s birthday party.
I know. It’s ridiculous. But I’m going to give you the details anyway, in case you are similarly the over-preparing sort, slightly-guilty sort.
Step Two: Decorate The Cookies
I have four main pieces of advice on cookie decorating.
1. I love the sugar cookie recipe at Sweetopia -- I have used it several times for decorated cookies, and inevitably at least one person exclaims, “This is surprisingly delicious!” Not in those exact words, but you get the gist. Also, it makes a double batch of dough, so if you’re not cooking for a crowd, you can freeze half for another day. Chill frequently for best results, and yes, scraping an actual vanilla bean is totally worth it. I like to get mine from Penzey’s, because they have the BEST spices.
2. Don’t try to bake and decorate the cookies on the same day. I used to do that, and I always ended up miserable, cranky, and swearing. Baking is one day (with children allowed to help with the cutting out, generally). Decorating is another. Both can be done a few days in advance; the cookies will be fine in an airtight container in the fridge.
3. Set aside a small batch for the kids to decorate first. Unless your kids are super artistic, one or two cookies each (loaded with squeeze icing and sprinkles) will be more than enough to satisfy their cookie decorating (and eating) urges, while covering themselves in sugar. And then you can send them outside to get even more filthy in the yard, while you ice the rest of the cookies in peace.
4. Learn how to use a squeeze bottle to ice cookies, and how to outline first, and how to thin the icing to "flood" the cookies. It will make life infinitely easier if you’re not already a master of the pastry bag. I like Alton Brown’s royal icing recipe (you can find a little carton of pasteurized egg whites in the cold case near the eggs, usually), and love Wilton’s gel food colors for their intensity and versatility -- a 12-color set will last you through many batches of cookies and cakes.
Step Three: Prep The Dress
You have two options here:
The first is the sensible, reasonable choice, especially now that prices for Elsa and Anna dresses appear to be coming back down to only normally-exorbitant Disney prices. The second choice will save you money, but may cost you your sanity.
- Buy a dress!
- Decide, in a fit of frenzied ambition, to sew a dress.
I improvised my daughter’s Elsa dress, and there are all sorts of problems with the finished version, and also, I didn’t take photos at every step due to my inadequacies as a seamstress and the weeping. Did I say that out loud? But here are a few details.
The idea was to start with a light blue leotard for a base (that was a great idea!), and then see if I could turn some stretchy bling-y fabric into an ice queen bodice. I’d found this gorgeous little bit of embroidered ribbon at Hancock Fabrics, very Arendelle, but wasn’t sure I should use it, since the sparkly fabric was so tacky? Loud? But my friend actually held the two together, and somehow, it worked fine; the ribbon actually made a nice transition to the pale blue leotard. So okay, design good. Next step, sewing down the ribbon.
First big mistake happened here. I tried just sewing down the middle of the ribbon, thinking, oh, it's just a costume, I don't have to be precise and fussy. That is pretty much always a mistake with sewing, I think. Because the ribbon curled like crazy when I did that, and I ended up having to cut the whole thing off and try again. Argh.
But the next time, I pinned it and sewed down first one long side and then the other of the ribbon, and thus, it lay flat. I didn't iron anything, because it's a costume for a seven-year-old, so I was still being somewhat lazy. And you can tell. But I knew no one would care, especially not my daughter.
Stretchy fabric is a pain in the rear to work with, did I mention? I plan to stick to cotton from now on.
Then I hemmed the sides and bottom, and I had a lovely little rectangle. The original thought was to just sew it closed into a tube that she could pull on, but I wasn't sure it would fit, and -- most importantly -- that's not very princess-y.
So I Googled various closure options, and found that stretchy hair ties are actually super easy to use for closures. I raided her stash, found four gradating from white to blue, and just pinned them evenly and then sewed them down in a straight seam. Aside from their tendency to spring away, easy-peasy.
Honestly, the finished Elsa dress was a little beyond my sewing skills, especially working with the stretchy material for the bodice; it didn't do what I thought it would do, so the back of it all ended up much messier than I consider desirable. I can’t even remember why I abandoned the buttons for lace-up ribbon instead -- I think I thought it would look more princess-y, but it just looked messy.
On the other hand, the gauzy snowflake cloak hid a multitude of sins (buy snowflake fabric on Etsy, drape over child into a hood, pin and then hand-sew a broken necklace on for a chain closure, though ribbon would work just as well). My daughter was thoroughly delighted with her Elsa outfit, which was the real point. And I learned some things about sewing, which is always nice.
Step Four: Bling It Up In Blue and Silver
If you celebrate Christmas, or even better, Hanukkah, now would be a good time to raid your storage bins for anything blue and/or silver. Any glass and metal servingware you have on hand will work great.
I ordered my cake (because by this point I was getting very tired), but I think a blue frosted or fondant cake with some snowflake cut-outs and edible sparkles should be within an intermediate cake-maker’s skills.
Party City organizes their candy by color, which makes it super-easy to set up a sweet station on theme -- they also had just a little of pre-printed Frozen paper products; Amazon carries them, too.
And “Olaf noses” make a healthy snack -- you need at least one, right?
Punchbowls make your blue Hawaiian punch super-fun, esp. with "snowballs" of vanilla ice cream. (If you’re entertaining adults as well, blue margaritas might be nice.) Snowflake stencils will help your face painter create a Frozen wonderland on smiling faces.
Amazon carries fabulous (somewhat pricey) blue balloons with glittery silver snowflakes, and will even ship you a (recyclable) helium tank so you can inflate them at home, saving yourself the early morning, stand-in-line hectic-ness at Party City. The winter holiday balloons are a little more affordable.
Frozen decals can decorate your party, and then be moved to decorate your child’s room afterwards -- we put them on the stairs. Purple snowflake bands were worn by both boys and girls at our house. And I wore Snow Much Fun nail polish -- tiny white snowflakes on my fingers!
A craft table set up with card-decorating materials will entertain a host of little ones for quite a while.
And don’t forget the sparkly crowns!
Step Five: Collapse -- hopefully after the party ends.
Visit my Pinterest Frozen party page for even more ideas, including a Pin-the-Nose-on-the-Olaf game, and templates for foam crowns and antlers for your guests. My daughter had a lot of fun cutting out the crowns and antlers herself the night before -- but we didn't allow enough time to actually assemble them with ribbon closures before the party. Oops! Oh, well -- there's always next time.