Puppy love

January 14,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

It's Friday. That should say it all, right there--it's the end of a cold, snowy, busy week. And on Saturday T. is having her 7th birthday party--a puppy party, this year. When she first declared this the theme for the party I asked her, a little worriedly, "you don't mean a puppy party with REAL puppies, do you?" As it turned out, she didn't. She wants to do a pretend puppy adoption, with stuffed puppies for all the kids, and bone-shaped cookies, and a pawprint-shaped birthday cake and lots of puppy love flowing everywhere.

You all probably know by now that I love a good party. I love coordinating the theme, and finding recipes to go along with it, and coming up with fun and silly kids' birthday party games and crafts. I loved the idea of a puppy party but it was one of those ideas that, months ago, seemed just so simple and doable and then, when January hit, I began to worry a little. I found myself lying in bed at night wondering things like,

Where would we find (very inexpensively) 14 stuffed puppies?

Could I really pull off a pawprint-shaped birthday cake?

How hard could it be to pipe frosting onto cupcakes and have them turn out looking like little cocker-poo faces?

But, as often happens with party-planning, things began to come together almost on their own. Not long after Christmas T. spotted a shopping cart at our local grocery store filled with discount holiday items. At the bottom of the cart were four adorable plush stuffed puppies, decked out in Christmas ribbons. We bought them, took them home, and T. and I snipped off the ribbons. We had, suddenly four puppies, only nine more to go! I scoured three other versions of that same grocey store chain that week and by the end of the week I had found more puppies and we had, suddenly, fifteen plush puppies for the party. Each one had been marked down to $2--a steal! For the pretend puppy adoption (we're calling it a "puppy rescue"), we're planning on giving each child a number (cut out on pawprint-shaped paper, of course) and then when the time for the kids to pick a puppy from our animal "shelter", each child will go into the puppy pen and find the puppy with the matching number. I'm hoping the numbered puppy business will cut down on potential squabbling over the types and colors of puppies. Once the puppy is picked, each child will have the chance to make his/her puppy a beaded collar at the craft table, and to fill out a printed "Certificate of Ownership" (designed by T.).

We'll have puppy-theme shaped cookies, of course. T. and I made a batch on Wednesday night for her to take to school and they were a huge hit. I found this recipe and it's absolutely amazing. The cookies are light and soft, and the Royal Icing was a cinch to make. Best of all, they're vegan!

For the pawprint cake I'm planning on making one large round cake, and four small, personal-sized mini cakes for the "toes" of the paw print. T. doesn't like cake icing, so the cake will be unfrosted (I'm negotiating a chocolate glaze), but we'll have plenty of frosted cupcakes, as well. The rest of the party time will be just for the kids to run and play--I've learned, from past parties, that it's best not to have too many activities or crafts, and that the most successful kids' parties seem to balance one craft/activity with lots of run-around play time--perfect for T., of course, and for spreading lots of that puppy love.

I'll be back on Monday with the party lowdown. Until then, stay warm, and happy weekend!