I Celebrate Shark Week (Or How to Make Shark Cupcakes)

Check out my shark week action.

It’s time to talk about sharks. Why? Because it’s Shark Week! And also ‘cuz I LOVE them. Like, you have no idea. For as long as I can remember, I wrote research papers about sharks. I mean, I wrote manifestos about conservation. When I was ten.

See, I saw Jaws 3 in 3-D before starting kindergarten and while some might say that was a serious error in parental judgment, I disagree.

The things that are wrong with me?

They weren’t caused by a rouge Carcharodon carcharias eating people at Sea World.

I promise.

So, anyway, Jaws 3 was a decisive moment in my childhood. Not because the movie was any good, mind you, but because it probably began my fascination with the Great White and sharks in general. As we settled into our seats with buckets of buttery popcorn, my 3-D glasses, slid off of my face. They did so repeatedly until my mom used my bobby pins to secure the glasses to the sides of my little head. Once we got that situation settled, I was riveted as severed legs floated toward my face and Louis Gossett, Jr. went running around Sea World shouting and shit.

It wasn’t just Jaws 3. It was everything Jaws. I read the Benchley book when I was 10. And I put the first two movies in a steady rotation during much of my childhood. I also devoured all of the information I could find on sharks.

When I was 16, I visited Washington, D.C. for a student government forum. I stood up and started grilling some political official (I can’t remember his title now — ocean something) about his stance on shark finning in front of about 200 people. (Everyone called me “Shark Girl” for the rest of the week. True story.)

And my dog? Apparently, he likes sharks too.

So, anyway, you get it. Sharks are my thing. And Shark Week speaks to my soul.

To celebrate this magical week and the majestic apex predator I adore, I made shark cupcakes.

I found inspiration in a few places. First of all, I got the idea to fill them with strawberry compote from this post on Cupcakes and Cashmere. The actual sharks themselves were inspired by Hello, Cupcake!. I didn’t exactly follow the directions because I didn’t want to buy fruit roll ups, miniature chocolate chips, or chocolate wafers, so I improvised a bit.

Here’s how I did it.

I put the Twinkies in the freezer for a while to make them easier to cut.

And for the fins? I opted for Trader Joe’s Maple Leaf Cookies. I sliced them like this.

Then I created a pointy end I could stick into the Twinkie shark for stability. Oh, and I also scraped the leaf pattern off of the other side of the cookie with my Shun Santoku knife.

I attached the Twinkie sharks to the cupcakes with some frosting. I sliced a small slit into the Twinkie and inserted the cookie fin.

Then I put the cupcakes in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Next, I heated up the gray frosting for a few seconds in the microwave (on the defrost setting) so that the frosting was runny enough to pour over the sharks. (Hello, Cupcake! recommends dipping the sharks, but I did not find that as effective as pouring the frosting over them with a spoon.)

If you end up with excess frosting on the cupcake, you can scrape it off after it freezes.

After I covered the sharks (and the fins) in frosting, I put them in the freezer until the frosting hardened.

After the frosting had hardened, I put on a little Frank Ocean and decorated those fabulous fish. Hello, Cupcake! recommends using fruit roll ups for the mouths and small chocolate chips for the eyes, but I didn’t feel like buying those things so I just improvised with frosting. It’s totally worth buying the book, though, because they have SO many amazing ideas. Plus it’s like $11 on Amazon. Total bargain.

After decorating the sharks, I put them in the fridge for a while so everything hardened properly.

Then I pretty much dove in head first. And devoured them.

I used Amy Sedaris’ recipe for the cupcakes, but I made my own cream cheese frosting. (I did use a butter cream for the gray frosting, though, because I wasn’t sure how well the cream cheese frosting would melt.)

Soon I’ll hook you up with the owl cupcake tutorial. Remember those? From the baby shower that didn’t happen because my birthday buddy decided to arrive early?

I made the cupcakes anyway… for fun.

But now? It’s time for my other love: NFL pre season football.

Peter Pan Party Wrap Up (Or Here’s Everything in One Place)

OK, this is it. The final Peter Pan Party post. The everything-in-one-place post. The you-never-have-to-hear-about-it-again post.

These Peter Pan Partygoers are eager to wrap this ish up.

See, I’m saving you from digging around my blog to piece together a Peter Pan Party the way I used to rummage through piles of black capris and halter tops on my floor in college just to find two matching Steve Madden platforms. (Note: I do NOT wear Maddens anymore. This is because I no longer think it’s acceptable to be hobbled by cheap footwear.)

Invitations
I used Paperless Post because I’m into saving the planet by saving some trees. And also because their designs are like the perfect storm of affordable and attractive.

Photo Courtesy of Paperless Post.

If you’re not into this design, here are a few more pirate-y options.

By the way, PP now offers a charity stamp option. They donate $0.05 to Amensty International, Red, or the ASPCA if you choose the charity stamp instead of the default option. Naturally, I went with the ASPCA puppy stamp. Since we had 142 people on our guest list, we bought a little bit of kibble for homeless pets just by inviting people to drink with us at our party.

Flowers
Here’s the work in progress post, complete with ordering info on the vases and sprinkles.
And this is the reveal.

Neverland Map
I explain how to age paper for a treasure map or Neverland map here.

Other Assorted Decorations
This is the decoration wrap up, complete with product ordering information.

Appetizers
Spicy Eggplant Dip
Truffle Popcorn

Taco Bar Main Course
Cola Carnitas
Slow Cooker Chicken (Note: I didn’t handle this part of the party, but if I had, I probably would have tried this recipe.)
Salsa
Salsa Verde

Dessert Bar
Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
Glazed Lime Cake
Chocolate Stout Cake
Skull and Crossbones Sugar Cookies

And now… bacon wrapped meatloaf, because everything is better when it’s wrapped in bacon. Truth.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 9 (Or Here’s the Peter Pan Party Decoration Download)

It’s probably time to talk about the rest of the decorations at my party. Then I really will wrap this up. I promise.

I’m ready to move on from the boy who refused to grow up to Jaws anyway.

Tonight Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is airing a special called, “How Jaws Changed the World” and OBVIOUSLY I set my DVR for that. Plus I have the champagne to pop ready because I looooove Jaws.

And sharks.

They’re sort of my thing.

On Thursday I promise to write a post entitled, “How Jaws 3 in 3-D Changed My Life” complete with a shark cupcake tutorial, but until then…

Peter Pan and the decorations.

This is my quick watermelon carving of Hook’s Jolly Roger, complete with the menacing croc. I wish the windows were level, but alas… I was rushing.

I did a freehand sketch for the sign, and it’s a quote from J.M. Barrie’s novel. I wanted to include it just in case people didn’t understand why there was this weird crocodile lurking around Hook’s ship.

If you want to get yourself a cool croc, I found that guy on Amazon here. It’s not the cheapest croc online, but it’s the best looking, and let’s be honest: that matters. A lot.

This is my (bad) attempt at a papier mache version of Hangman’s Tree. Hangman’s Tree is a departure from J.M. Barrie’s original story (there were multiple entrances into the Lost Boys’ home under the ground).

It was easier to do one tree and explain it on my Neverland map than to get into the whole passage about how Peter fits boys for their own trees, so that’s why I went this route.

Here we have lipstick on the proverbial pig with pearls hanging from Hangman’s Tree.

The entire skeleton of the tree was made with painters’ tape and twisted newspaper. If I had it to do all over again, I’d probably use a few real twigs and maybe even a little chicken wire. For the final layer of the papier mache, I used paper towels. I found posts online saying that makes it easier to cover the piece with paint.

I was in a hurry so I turned on the oven to dry out the tree. It’s probably a fire hazard or whatever but I kept an eye on it and didn’t let the dogs investigate it with their faces.

In retrospect, I think white tissue paper would have been better because I could have achieved a look more like this:

Photo Courtesy of Ultimate Paper Mache

And what would be a Peter Pan party without a little Tink?

I hate Tinkerbell, but you can’t really leave her out of your Peter Pan Party.

She is a scheming bitch, but she’s essential to the story.

The lantern is this little ditty from Ikea. I made Tink out of pins and tissue paper from Target.

At one point I considered hanging the lantern from a ribbon in the yard and surrounding it with green and white suckers, but I decided to reign myself in a bit.

My menu was another freehand sketch, but you could easily trace the silhouette and keep it simple. (Simple is something I SO need to learn.)

Here’s the Peter Pan Party menu situation.

I promise I’ll write my full wrap up post, so we can really fly away from Neverland. Forever.

Not that I’m going to grow up or anything….

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 4 (Or I Like My Flowers With a Side of Sprinkles)

If you’ve been following my flower saga, you know arranging flowers is not my thing. One of my best friends usually does my birthday flowers, but she’s living in Cabo at the moment. So not only did she miss my birthday festivities, but she also couldn’t arrange my flowers this year. (Tragedy. Twofold.)

So, I was on my own and wanted to do this ditty with peonies and hydrangeas.

Yeah, well, it turns out peonies are out of season. Peonies are my absolute favorite, and I was so tired and just generally overwhelmed that I almost cried at the florist when I learned this. Now before you think I’m just a silly, emotional girl you should know I don’t often cry unless there’s a really good reason. I’m usually really good at being a robot and stuff, but there’s just a lot happening at the moment, and the peonies were sort of the last straw.

The selection at the first florist also just generally sucked, so I had to find another florist. At this point I had been in the car for about two hours picking up spare crock pots and whatnot, and I did not relish heading deeper into the valley to hit up another florist. But I also hate ugly… so I did it anyway.

The second florist had a much better selection and the woman behind the counter was so sweet that she gave me a few free snapdragons (love!) and a birthday rose (double love!). She really turned my day around, and that was absolutely awesome.

I don’t have great photos of the final arrangements, but here they are in action and stuff.

People have to lean around my enormous flowers to be sociable. A small sacrifice for aesthetics, really.

If you want to do something similar, you can see a breakdown on the sprinkles and vases here — and you can order the suckers here.

Here’s a close-up of the flowers before I steadied them by stuffing all kinds of paper towels into the inner vase.

Here’s the Leaning Tower of Lilies before I fixed it with wads of paper towels.

And thus ends my flower saga. Until next time….

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 2 (Or How to Age Paper)

I used to draw. Then I started high school and thought it would be appropriate to fill my schedule with heinous things like extra AP Chemistry and AP Calculus classes — all while swimming, skiing, serving on student council, working on the Homecoming float committee, blah blah blah, etc. College was a similar story. Come to think of it, so was grad school. And don’t get me started on my life in the entertainment industry….

So, you get it. I’m a masochist. And a maniac.

I didn’t draw for YEARS and when I tried to take it up again recently, I was frustrated that I wasn’t very good at it. (Big shock.) I have decided it doesn’t matter if I suck. I need to be patient with myself because I’m never going to get better at drawing if I don’t actually draw. I’m sure this mentality could be applied to other areas of my life, but I’m not that evolved yet.

So, anyway, since I’m trying not to be all dead inside anymore, I thought it would be a good idea to make the decorations for my Peter Pan Birthday Party. I should point out, however, that it’s hard for me to go halfway, so I went totally overboard on the decorations and the baking, but you can’t give up overachieving overnight. (Or maybe ever, actually.)

Albus is concerned about my to-do list — mostly because he doesn’t see “Spoil Big Dog with Hikes and Kisses” anywhere on it.

I came up with the idea of making a map of Neverland and aging the paper.

Here’s How I Did It:

You can use black tea or coffee to age the paper. Since I’m not much of a tea drinker, I didn’t have any in the house. I opted to go the espresso route for aging instead. (I do so love my espresso – and my DeLonghi espresso machine. It’s magic.)

I preheated the oven to 200 while I watched Twin Peaks and made a freehand sketch of a Neverland map. You’re supposed to print or draw on the paper before aging it and then pour the tea or coffee over the finished product. Since I had done my sketch in pen, I was afraid the pouring method would smudge the drawing too much.

If your’e wondering why this drawing is on my floor it’s because there were white chocolate-dipped marshmallows covering every surface of my home. I had to sit on my floor while drawing this.

I decided to use a pastry brush to carefully apply the espresso around the ink instead. I also had instant espresso powder leftover from this Bittersweet Whiskey Cake a while ago. I sprinkled a little instant espresso powder in a couple of spots to give the paper areas of darker aging. I brushed those areas with espresso as well.

My paper-aging tools. Riveting, right?

While the paper was still wet, I distressed the edges with my thumb and forefinger to give it more of an aged, vintage-y feel.

Then I set the paper in the oven to dry.  Since it was too big to fit in the oven with the door closed, I left the door open and dried the map one half at a time. It really didn’t take long to dry the paper, and this was probably because it was 200 degrees in my oven and about 110 degrees in LA that afternoon.

Here’s the map drying and stuff. (And, yes, I know my oven door is filthy.)

Despite the drawing itself not being Dali-quality (my fave), it came out mostly OK. Here it is in action.

Map and table runner situation.

Oh, and the table runner is actually wedding wrapping paper from Target. Since the table was too long for one sheet, I taped two pieces together in the middle and used the map to (mostly) cover up the seam.

My plan was to use a v-cut on the ends of the paper so the runner would look like this:

I adore v-cuts — and basically everything about this tablescape. (Photo Courtesy of 100 Layer Cake)

but somehow after four trips to my friend’s house to drop off desserts, napkins, and salsas, I had forgotten the yardstick I needed to make the cuts and she didn’t have one. I decided not to bring it back on my fifth trip and to accept that everything was not going to be executed according to my vision. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses. I think I’m learning that.

So there you have it. I aged paper. And I made a drawring. More on the dessert table and the floral arrangements later….

[And if you want to check out the blog post I consulted for paper aging instructions, it’s here.]

Playing with Candy (Or How to Dip and Decorate Marshmallows)

When you’re prepping your birthday party candy bar, it’s probably best to listen to happy music like Mtume’s Juicy Fruit (if it sounds familiar it’s because Biggie sampled it for Juicy). Or Michael’s The Way You Make Me Feel. It’s also a good idea to wander into your bedroom to make sure your enormous dog isn’t eating anything like, say, the remote control to your hanging lanterns.

Well, I thought it looked like fun. Also, you were playing with candy and you weren’t giving me any.

So anyway, today I decided to experiment with marshmallows and sprinkles. I used white chocolate and corn syrup as agents to attach the sprinkles to the marshmallows. I think I prefer the white chocolate method; it adds more flavor, it dries faster, and it basically just works better all around.

I played around with the sprinkles I happened to have in my pantry for this draft, but I will likely discard most of the dipped marshmallows for a variety of reasons. My green gum balls are supposed to arrive from Amazon on Monday, and I intend for them to anchor the candy bar. Once I have them in the apothecary jar, I’ll have a better idea of my actual color palette.

I dried the marshmallows on a cookie sheet to prevent them from sticking to the table. I still managed to make a big mess of things anyway.

By the way, if you decide to use melted white chocolate chips as a dipping agent, make sure you add Crisco to the chips, otherwise you will never achieve the proper consistency to adhere the chocolate to the marshmallows. Remember my cake pop disaster? Yeah, the same principles sort of apply to marshmallow dipping too. Also, if you want to dip both ends it’s best to dip one end, let it dry for a bit, and then dip the other end. (I found that less of the sprinkles slid off that way.)

Now that we’ve covered white chocolate and gravity, it’s time to move on to the next part of the candy bar: the gummy crocodiles. While I was on a quest for affordable sprinkles to fill the vases for my floral arrangements, I found amazing gummy gators. Since a flesh-eating crocodile (croc/gator, close enough) is featured prominently in Peter Pan, I thought it was only appropriate to buy every box they had… even if they only had two.

I love gummy anything, and these “gummi” gators are super yummy. (I had to sample a few — you know to make sure I’m not poisoning my party guests or whatever.)

It’s quite likely that most of our partygoers won’t know the book as well as I do, so I’m making little cards with quotes from the novel explaining the more obscure details of the party décor. For the gummy gator/crocs, I’m going with this passage:

“’I have often,’ said Smee, ‘noticed your strange dread of crocodiles.’

‘Not of crocodiles,’ Hook corrected him, ‘but of that one crocodile.’”

Oh, and speaking of crocodiles, this croc will be chasing my watermelon Jolly Roger carving.

Amazon had other plastic crocodile options, but this one seemed appropriately feisty. And just basically, bad ass.

I’m going with this quote for the pirate ship/plastic croc display, “’It liked my arm so much, Smee, that it has followed me ever since, from sea to sea and from land to land, licking its lips for the rest of me.’”

This greedy croc has stolen my suckers.

Once I wrestle my suckers back from him, I have plans for the confections that likely involve hanging them from trees with ribbons. More on that later….

Of Owls and Strollers (Or I’m Planning a Baby Shower)

So, it’s 2:34 am and there is a band of drunken revelers on the sidewalk below my window. They’re too drunk to know they’re actually yelling at each other and not just having a regular conversation. Also there are about 15 of them. My dogs are yelling back. I sort of wish I were drunk on the street disturbing dogs and the peace, but I’m in my jammies blogging and listening to The Righteous Brothers.

Why am I writing when I should be sleeping? Well, I can’t come home and go straight to bed. Ever. No matter how tired I am. I need all of this time to unwind after being with people. Sometimes I feel so wound up at midnight or whatever that I’m temped to go running. And then I remember I don’t run.

See, I just returned home from a baby shower planning dinner, and I now have my marching orders. They involve finger sandwiches, cupcakes, and sachets. Mercifully, there are no cake pops involved.

During the planning session I learned all kinds of scary things about being constantly kicked in the ribcage and having a tiny person mashing about on your bladder day and night. And I learned about strollers.

My friend showed me hers. It looks like it’s on hydraulics. After witnessing a brief demo, I informed her that she will have to install speakers so she can play Dre while she pushes the kid around the 90210. (Yes, that’s really her zip code.)

She also showed me another stroller by the same company. And it has a video. The video involves the sort of techno music you’d hear at a rave where people wear glow sticks, Ed Hardy, and too much cologne. You HAVE to watch it. The thing has space-aged lights. And it charges your iPhone. You absolutely cannot make this shit up.

So I guess strollers have gotten sick since the ’70s. I mean, mine looked like this:

The fat baby in the rickety ride is me. The bear next to me answers to, “O.J.” even though there’s an apple on his bib.

I’m sure the thing was all dangerous by modern standards but it had room for friends… whether I wanted them around or not…

I am the big, bald bully on the right.

I’m not saying things were better in the ’70s or anything. Because people responsible for my wellbeing did let me out of the house looking like this:

There are many crimes against aesthetics happening all at once here.

So anyway, I have nothing helpful to say tonight except that I’m going to make owl cupcakes like these:

Photo courtesy of jennycookies.com

They’re based on the owls from Hello, Cupcake which is a totally fabulous book that I happen to own.

And my sachets will be inspired by these darling little owl pillows I found on Pinterest:

Photo courtesy of April Foss on Etsy.

Just to reiterate: there will be no cake pops at this party.

I’m saving that horror for my birthday party the next day. The guest list for that is at 135 and counting. More on that later. There will be crocodiles involved….