Happy New Year! Looking Back to the Best of 2012!

Image from the Huffington Post.

Happy New Year to all our readers and supporters out there! It was a fantastic year in 2012, we were able to help bring joy and relief to hundreds of kids in San Jose during their birthday months. And in 2013 we hope to reach even more :). With 2012 behind us it is important to reflect back on what was good, so today we have our top 5 posts from this past year! You guys really like to craft don’t you ;)!

Make A Birthday Wishes Top 5 Posts in 2012:

  1. DIY Decorations: Paper Stars – A great tutorial for handmade paper stars perfect for a party or just because!
  2. DIY Party Decorations: Pennant Banner – Both fabric and paper options abound in this post!
  3. DIY Owl Crafts: Part 1 – Seriously adorable owl crafts at a variety of difficulty levels! Who doesn’t love owls?
  4. DIY Crafts: Button Bracelets – So simple and so cute. These make great little gifts or packaging additions.
  5. 3 Party Favor Packing Ideas We Love – And apparently you love these unique ideas too!

What was your favorite post this past year? And what would you like to see more of in 2013?

If you are interested in supporting what we do at Make A Birthday Wish or learning more you can go to our website by clicking here. Have a great New Year’s Day!

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Sustainable Gifting: Give A Gift That Supports A Cause

Birthday’s and holidays are sometimes overshadowed by the gift-giving process. These are times to share memories and experiences with loved ones, not necessarily getting a new pair of shoes or the latest iPhone. We aren’t saying that at Make A Birthday Wish we don’t get excited about presents… we do. But we get excited about giving presents to those that are in need and truly could use a boost. So if you are looking to show your kids the beauty of compassion and giving (not receiving), or if you are looking for a gift for the person that has everything why not consider giving the gift of charity. We’ve got a collection of great causes that will give you the chance to give the gift of charity no matter what your budget!

  1. Oxfam America UnwrappedOxfam is a great relief and development organization working to save lives, end poverty, and fight for social justice. Through their “Unwrapped” program you can choose from one of 70 unique gifts (ranging from 40 chicks to mosquito nets to art supplies) to donate in honor of your friend or loved one for their birthday or for the holidays. You will get a card with an image of the unique gift you chose and then you have the option to personalize it online and have it sent to the recipient directly, or receive the card in the mail for you to handwrite a personal message. Donation prices range from $12 to $1,500, so there really is something for any budget.
  2. TisBest – TisBest is the original charity gift card—which means you select a design (or upload your own image) for the gift card and choose a value between $10 and $5,000 to give to someone special. You can have the gift card emailed, print from home, or have a physical card made of recycled plastic sent to you or the recipient directly. To use the card you redeem the code and select up to three charities of your choice to donate to. This is especially great for someone that wants to be more involved in the process. Their are hundreds of charities to choose whose missions range from helping animals to promoting the arts to education to promoting women’s rights. There really is a charity for everyone at TisBest.
  3. DonorsChoose.org – This online charity platform helps you give gifts that support classrooms in need. Teachers and schools can post projects that you can donate to specifically, or you can give a gift card, a tote bag, mug, or t-shirt that supports the classroom causes. If you are getting married you can even create a wedding registry for people to donate to in place of gifts.
  4. Make A Birthday Wish – Of course we think our cause is a worthy birthday gift for the humanitarian in your life! If you are looking for a unique and memorable gift why not sponsor a party for children in need (or sponsor a child and purchase a gift from our wish list)? We throw birthday parties and buy presents each month for children in need in the San Jose area in partnership with West Valley Community Services. If you aren’t in the Bay Area and prefer a more local cause look into charities where you live that also have donation and gift options!

Have you ever given or received a charity gift? What did you (or the recipient) think?

 

Party Theme Resources: A Circus Act

 

English: "The Barnum & Bailey greatest sh...

 

Here at Make A Birthday Wish, we spend a lot of time planning birthday parties for special children in San Jose. Party planning is a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of work! So we were thinking of doing a series of posts that shares collections of resources for planning parties around different themes. We’d love to take requests on different themes are readers are interested in and doing some digging around for you! But to get us started this week, we want to share some resources and inspiration for a circus themed party

 

General Circus Party Planning Resources

 

Martha Stewart is always a great go-to when looking for inspiration and ideas for hosting a party. Check out her advice on decorating for a circus party here.

 

Circus Themed Party Favors

 

Kara’s Party Ideas is a great resource for gathering ideas for just about any themed event. We love her ideas for a circus clown party (click here to see her post), especially the adorable candy favors and crackers!

 

 

 

Circus Invites & Printables

 

One Charming Party has put together a post (click here to read and see all their resources) on a circus party that includes free printables for circus themed cake toppers and invitations.

 

 

Circus Crafts

 

The blog, The Crafty Crow has a beautiful collection of circus crafts available for download (click here to see the complete list). We especially love the tea box circus train!

 

 

 

 

Circus Themed Recipes

 

Vixen made wrote a post sharing some of her recipes for a circus themed gala. We love the blackberry white chocolate ice cream. Check out her post with recipes here.

 

What do you think of these circus themed ideas? Do you want to see more collections of party planning resources on our blog? We were also thinking of organizing Pinterest boards around party themes. If you are interested check out our resources we’ve pinned so far here.

 

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Organic Carrot Birthday Cake, Yum!

This recipe serves 20

Many store-bought birthday cakes are loaded with sugar, frosting, and unhealthy ingredients. This carrot birthday cake is made with wholesome ingredients that kids and adults are sure to love.

Cake Ingredients:

  • 4 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 8 organic eggs
  • 2/3 cup organic maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 2/3 cup organic oil (or reduce the fat and calories in this recipe by using 2/3 cup low fat vanilla yogurt or applesauce in place of oil)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups finely shredded organic carrots
  • 2 cups chopped organic walnuts
  • 2 cups dried raisins or currants

Frosting:

  • 4 (8-ounce) packages organic cream cheese, softened at room temperature (or reduce the fat by opting for low fat cream cheese)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) organic butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • Finely grated zest of an organic lemon
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh organic lemon juice
  • Organic confectioners’ sugar (or stevia) to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Then grease and flour two 9×13-inch baking dishes. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, spices and salt. In a second large bowl, whisk together eggs, syrup, oil and vanilla. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture until just combined.

3. Once you have combined the wet and dry ingredients, you can mix in the carrots, walnuts and raisins (or currants). Divide this mixture between the two baking dishes. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let the cakes cool for 15 minutes.

4. While the cakes are cooling, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice until smooth. Then add sugar (or stevia), beating well to incorporate.

5. Carefully invert the cakes. Place one cake on a cake board. Generously spread the top with frosting. Set second cake on top. Cover the sides and top with frosting. Save any leftover frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use on muffins or cupcakes.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe at She Knows found here.

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eVites

Handmade Wedding Invitation

Handmade Wedding Invitation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier this week we shared some tips for making your birthday party a little greener. One easy tip that saves time, money, and trees is using online invitations, or eVites! Paper invitations are nice, but these days, making the switch to web-based invites just makes more sense. It allows your guests to sync the event to their phones and calendars immediately – so they don’t forget! It also allows you to avoid the hassle of calling around for RSVP’s (which you know usually ends up happening). Instead people can respond right from their computer with the click of a button.

Going paperless doesn’t mean you have to lose your personal flair. There are lots of options to customize your eVites with themes, images, colors, music, etc. Did I mention that most online invitation sites are free to use – ka-ching! Some sites that we recommend looking into to send your next eVite include:

  • Evites – This site is great! It’s easy to use, free, and you can sign-up via Facebook! Features include a variety of pre-made designs, the option to build or upload your own design/image, RSVP tracking, importing contacts, and so many more!
  • Pingg – They have some awesome free designs to choose from, and some that you can upgrade and pay for. We love this design and this one too!

Need some tips on wording your eVites? This blog post has great advice on how to get the right message across for your event!

What are your favorite online invitation resources? Have you sent an eVite or eCard before? What did you think?

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Eco Friendly Gift Wrapping – No Green Required.

Traditional Japanese wrapping cloth,furoshiki,...

Traditional Japanese wrapping cloth,furoshiki,katori-city,japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everybody enjoys the excitement and surprise of unwrapping a gift, both on their birthdays and when the holidays roll around. But the impact of gift wrap and packaging on the environment and our wallets is staggering. Nearly 1/3 of the waste generated in the U.S. is made up of packaging materials. It has been estimated that if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! Even more incredible, if each family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

Greening the way we give gifts doesn’t mean using green paper or spending more green (i.e. money). Reusing materials and rethinking the way we wrap our gifts can reduce our impact on the planet, save our wallets, and create beautiful and personalized gifts. Some ideas you might consider:

  • Furoshiki – This is a Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts in cloth. Consider using scrap cloth from your sewing bin, old cloth napkins, sheets, curtains, or clothing that could make for beautifully wrapped gifts. Consider securing the gift with buttons, safety pins, ribbons, or knots.
  • Newspaper & Paper bags – There are lots of ways to personalize and embellish newspaper and paper bags to create beautifully wrapped gifts. You can add origami embellishments, ribbon, glitter, or stamps to dress up the packaging. If you are going the newspaper route it could be fun to highlight words that have meaning to the person you are giving the gift, or even make a puzzle about the surprise that is beneath the paper by highlighting clues!
  • Children’s Drawings – This is a great way to really personalize a present, and would work well for parents, grandparents, teachers, or anyone that has a close connection to your little one.
  • Old Shopping Bags & Gift Bags – It seems like common sense, but reusing the bag the store gave you to give your gift is a great idea. Again you can embellish it with ribbons or stamps to add a personal touch.
  • Old Maps or Posters – If you have old maps or posters lying around your house those can make excellent wrapping paper for gifts!
  • Wrap the Gift in a Gift – If you really want to be eco friendly try wrapping a gift with another gift. For example wrap jewelry or a small purse in a pretty scarf!
  • Cloth Bags & Sturdy Boxes – Using cloth bags or very sturdy decorative boxes means that your gift wrap can be reused for future gifts or for storage!

At Make A Birthday Wish we are accepting gently used gift bags or ribbons to wrap presents for children! So if you are interested in helping out and clearing out old bags send us an email at office@makeabirthdaywish.org and we can set up a way to collect your bags!

Do you have any of your own eco friendly ideas for wrapping gifts? Or any pictures of your green gift wrapping – share them with us!

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Birthday Breakfasts That Sparkle

One of my (Elise-Project Manager)  favorite memories as a child was waking up to a breakfast that looked like it jumped out of my coloring book. I was always a child who loved messing with the colors of my food, shhhh….I still do, these pancakes are easy, cheap, and can be a special way to start out your child’s special day!

Birthday Sparkle Pancakes

makes about 12 pancakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup yellow cake mix

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 cups milk (I used vanilla almond milk)

assorted sprinkles

Combine flour, cake mix, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix. Add 1 cup of milk, egg and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. You want the batter to look like regular pancake batter; not too thin, not too thick. This will vary greatly on the brand of cake mix you use. Start with 1 cup of milk and add more if needed. I suggest a small taste test as well to see if the pancakes are flavored enough.

Pre-heat a skillet on medium heat (I use an electric grilled and turn it to 250 degrees). Fold desired amount of sprinkles into batter. Pour batter in 1/4 cup measurements onto skillet and let cook until bubbles form on top, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 minute more. Serve with vanilla glaze.

Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

assorted sprinkles

Mix milk, extract and powdered sugar until glaze forms. You may need to add a little more sugar or water/milk to reach desired consistency. Mix into glaze and drizzle on pancakes.

(We got this recipe from HowSweetEats.com)

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