Monday, February 25, 2013

 Happy Monday! I don't know if you watched The Oscars but in our house it's a pretty big thing! For the past 14 years we have been having parties, big and small, with our family and friends.
Every year they start the show a bit earlier than the one before and this year they started the "Red Carpet" at 4pm our time (PST). The actual show began at 5:30. We always invite people to arrive for the Red Carpet and have the food hit the table very soon after that point.  
 For the past 6 years this wonderful Gold Guy has been our centerpiece. A gift from a good friend, the Gold Guy is perched on a film reel and threaded with real celluloid film. We also created the "Star Studded" backdrop using a black plastic tablecloth and tinsel stars in gold, white and silver. 
 We always print out our ballots from and put one with a pen on a clipboard for each guest so it's easy to fill out. After everyone fills out their ballots, before the actual awards are given out, we trade them around so no one is checking their own ballots. The person who guesses the most categories right wins a prize. This year Nate won by guessing 15 of the 24 categories right and is getting a Blu-ray edition of ARGO! ( case you are wondering, this movie freak has only won twice in 14 years. Dismal, I know. To add insult to injury, the person who won this year did NO research at all...and, yes, still won. I don't know if that says more about my research or how unpredictable the Academy can be! LOL!)
 During commercial breaks I ask multiple choice trivia questions. Every single person, even the kids, gets to take home at least two prizes. Now, these are not big prizes. In fact, some of them come from the Dollar Store. We love finding the out-of-the-ordinary at Cost Plus World Market. The guys get oddly named beer, the girls something fun to cook or decorate with, the kids some sort of candy or toy. Each item is $5 or under. I then put them into paper bags with their names on them so I can hand them out when they get the trivia answer right. And everyone gets two answers right...guaranteed! LOL! (yes, we give out BIG hints if needed!)
 As always, it's the details that make the difference. I made up these little food pics out of some folded card stock and toothpics using double stick tape to hold it all together. Each Best Picture Nominee got a pic. 
 Tory makes great water bottle labels for all of our events. These little Oscar beauties fit right in! It is always a great idea to have bottled water around for everyone and not just soda or beer.
 While home cooking is always a great idea, this party isn't supposed to be a hard party to do, so make use of some great pre-made these Girl Scout Lemonades! Oh, excuse me...these "Life of Pi" Lemonades! 
 Or our grandson, Parker's, favorite the Girl Scout Peanut Butter Patty! This is a great way to make that little Girl Scout happy at the supermarket AND get to have one or two while making sure there are no leftovers hanging out at your house. 
 But I do make a lot of homemade goodies. And I'm here to share the recipes with all of you! These chicken terregon sandwhiches are a house favorite, especially since they are SO easy to make. Take two chicken breasts and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried terregon. Bake till done at 400 degrees and then let them cool completely. Chop up into very small cubes and mix with ranch dressing and two green onions chopped up. Done!
 My BBq Pulled Pork recipe is about as easy. Take a small pork roast, about the size of a 4x6 photo, a half bottle of your favorite BBq sauce, 2 small onions diced up and 1 TBS garlic. Cook in a crockpot for 5 hours on high. The meat will just shred. These are SO good!
 Here is how homemade becomes Semi-homemade and works! I bought the crispy sundried tomato bread rounds, used canned stewed tomatoes that have been cooked with basil and shredded mozzarella cheese. I chopped up the tomatoes and put a little on each crispy round, topped each with the cheese and baked them till the cheese was melted. Yummy!
 Just about as easy were these Creme Cheese Puffs. I use canned biscuits that I flatten out a bit and then use to line a muffin tin. The filling is 8oz of creme cheese, 1 cup chopped spinach, 1tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper that is mixed together well. I spoon a bit of the filling into each biscuit line muffin cup and then pinch the edge of the biscuit together in or or two places. Then bake till golden at 375 degrees. Very creamy and good. Great for any vegetarians that may be at your party.
 The most complicated of the recipes was these "taquitos". Ok, let's be real, they are more like burritos. I used 2 chicken breasts, 4 oz salsa, 2 Tbs hot pepper sauce and 1 large onion diced. I put all of that into a crock pot and cooked it for 4 hours on high. The chicken shreds easily at this point. Let this cool completely and then add in 8oz of creme cheese, 4oz grated cheddar cheese and 2 green onions chopped up. Mix really well and then divide the mix up over 10 tortillas that have been warmed in the microwave. Put a big in the first third of the tortilla, fold over once and then fold in the ends and fold over again. Place onto a cookie sheet and bake till they are crispy and golden brown.
 We all LOVE mac n cheese. I can not express how much. But since it has about a bazillion calories we save events like this one to make some up. So use whatever is your favorite recipe for this part of your party. I, personally, make a quick "roux" from butter and flour with milk and then add in grated cheese, salt and pepper. Put that into a cassarole dish and sprinkle with a mixture of breadcrumbs and grated cheese and back until it's golden brown.

Now if this all seems like a LOT of cooking here is another secret. ALL of the food can be made DAYS ahead of time. Make up the fillings and either freeze or refrigerate.  Then all you have to do is assemble the day of the party and throw that into the oven for a quick bake or heat up the filling, like the bbq pork, and put onto rolls or buns. So instead of hours of cooking on the day of the event, it's really just a little cooking here or there in the days before the event.
We finished up our night with some Silver Linings Lemon Cake. This is actually referred to as "Aunt Patty's Lemon Sunshine Cake" in our family and is just some kind of serious wonderful. I now only make it for crowds because I could, literally, eat the entire thing myself without any help at all. You can find out all about how to make this incredible goodie over at the Cake Blog

So the night was a success. By and large, those we wanted to win, won. Seth was a pretty good host. He went too far at times, of course, but then, don't they all. It went a bit long, of course, but then, don't they all? Next year we'll be taking a year off but coming back in 2015 with a HUGE themed Oscar Party. 

Join us over at our Facebook Fan Site for daily tips and tricks for the next holiday in our American holiday line up...St. Patrick's Day!! See you there!


Monday, February 18, 2013

 Happy Monday! This weekend we had a very special celebration for one our own! We celebrated up Tory's 29th Birthday! In our family, birthday's last a long time, sometimes up to 2 weeks. We have lunch with friends here, dinner with family there, drive to see others here, have others drop in at our we celebrate up birthday's in a big way. This year Tory wanted one of those to be a girls-only party based on a party she had attended earlier in the year called a "Favorite Things" party. She wanted to tailor that idea into Birthday Party form. 
 We decided to work along the Sound of Music song "These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things" and started with the invites. Brown paper packages tied up with string is one of the lines of the song so one side of the invite was brown paper while the other gave out the party details and how to play. It was tied up with Baker's Twine and a tag that looked like a "warm woolen mitten" was added that says "These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things". Finally it was placed inside a fun paper lined brown paper envelope! Click on the photo to see a larger image and the details of the invite!

Basically, as a guest, you buy 4 items that are exactly the same and that you love that cost under $10. Such as 4 bottles of your favorite color of nail polish or 4 pounds of your favorite coffee. Then you wrap each one up in a brown paper package, tie it up with string. One of these packages is for the Birthday Girl. She gets one of everything that everyone brings and so is properly spoiled! The other three will go to the three people whose name you draw out of a basket. So you go with four items and you come home with three!
 She even set up a framed set of the lyrics so that people who didn't remember the words would be able to see it again...and, yes, get the song stuck in their heads. We were singing it all day!
 We made up mini brown paper packages filled with her favorite candy, York Peppermint Patties, and tied them up with more Baker's Twine.
 They were set out with the lyrics, her Alice in Wonderland mini snow globes, her Mickey and Minnie figurines and her Mickey Mouse bowl filled with the fortune cookies for people to take home along with an Alice in Wonderland themed sign "Eat Me". Lots of her favorite things on the table.
 A simple flower arrangement was all that was needed to dress up a corner of the food table. The table was filled with food so it really didn't need a lot more decoration.
 On the "Packages Table" she set out a basket so that when people arrived with their packages they set them on the table and then wrote their name on three slips of paper and folded them and put them into the basket for the package swap later in the evening.
 There were LOTS of Brown Paper Packages. Most of them were bags that were filled with fun stuff, had tufts of pretty tissue popping out of the top of tied up with pretty ribbon.
But some of them were actually flat packages wrapped in brown paper and, yup, tied up with string! 
When the time came to do the swap Tory had everyone pick out 3 names from the basket. Then she opened up one of the packages, this one marked especially for her, and had the person who brought the "Favorite Thing" explain why it was one of her favorite things. Then they handed out the other three they had brought to the people whose name they had picked out of the basket.

 But first there was FOOD! We started out with two types of punch including this Ginger-ale, white grape juice and orange sherbet Birthday Punch. It was SO good!
 There were little spots of decoration that matched Tory's Favorite Things such as polka dot lanterns set up like Mickey Ears and a dark purple backed Rainbow Happy Birthday Sign.
 We both fell in love with banners this year so she made this one to hang over the window of the room where we opened our packages. 
 The table was full of Chinese food since that is also Tory's favorite. We were aiming for lots of color so even the sauces were part of our color scheme!
 These brightly colored square Happy Birthday plates and napkins just fit right in with the multi-colored chopsticks, food and drinks. It's the little details that complete the look.
The food was a hit. Lot's of Tory's favorites like Orange Chicken, Egg Rolls, Fried Rice, Walnut Shrimp and Mushroom Chicken as well as the Chow Mien. All of it came from Panda Express. Her Alice In Wonderland signs urged everyone to eat up all of the good food. We certainly tried!
 Even the bottles of water encouraged the Alice theme with their Drink Me labels! The red Mickey themed tray is one Tory made herself and it was a perfect way to serve up the paper straws for the water and the punches.
 The Cake Table ended up being in the same room that we opened the packages so that it was part of the decor in that room. So we set up it up on a low table with a "Let Them Eat Cake" sign that even has a cherry on it...definitely one of her favorite things! We used a plastic tablecloth for bunting tied up with tulle and curly ribbon. When you walked into the room you definitely knew that was a special area!
Even the cake was filled with Tory's Favorite Things. Each side of the cake displayed more of the things she loves in life. You can see all four sides over at the Cat's Cakes Blog
It was a Lemon Chiffon Cake filled with Lemon Curd Buttercream and her very favorite cake. This was Tory's piece!

The party was tons of fun, filled with lots of Tory's Favorite Things and a great way to celebrate in the last year of her 20's. We hope you got some great ideas for a "Favorite Things" party of your own. This upcoming week is Oscars! And, as a movie family we do it up BIG! I'll share next Monday!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day! We decided to have a very special version of the blog just to wish you all a very Happy Valentine's Day. In our home we have always just had a dinner, at home, with our family. The hustle and bustle of going out has always just not been worth it and then you add the expense of a babysitter and our kids feeling left out of the celebration...yeah, not worth it. So each year we dress it up. I cook something extra nice, with dessert of course, and make up a new tablescape. Now here's the secret..I keep the decorating budget down to $25. Yup...I even beat that this year thanks to the Dollar Store!
 First I started out with four Dollar Store paper lanterns. Sturdy these are not but I'll get a few uses out of them! I tucked in white Christmas light and they will add our "candle light" for the evening!
 Remember the wreath I updated for the door? This is the leftover pieces from that! Just a foam heart wreath cut up into pieces and glued together, red curly ribbon with felt sticky back hearts placed back to back. SO pretty! 
 Now onto the table! I used a red and a white plastic tablecloth then topped it with Valentine's Day themed plastic placemats. A white plate topped with a red napkin, a favor along with a fork and a spoon for dessert complete the set up.
 The favors are actually chocolate fortune cookies! We are having take out Chinese this year so I themed the favors to the food! The favor boxes are also thanks to the Dollar Store but the fortune cookies were from Cost Plus.
 The drinks are just dressed up Izzie's! Pomegranate fizzies to go along with our Valentine palette. Perfect! Tied with ribbon I already had and using cupcake picks I got in the cupcake liner set and  paper straws that were just a buck at the grocery store on sale.
 The rose was a gift from my mom and was just so perfect I plunked it into a small glass milk bottle and added it to our table.
 The red and white boxes of Chinese food will be placed into the center of the table for us to all serve ourselves and, yes, they match our color scheme perfectly!
 This is what I do to show my love to my family. We occasionally make home made Valentines, but we don't give gifts. My husband helps me set up and decorate and even my kids chip in to help put it altogether. A real family occasion!

Finally there has to be dessert, right? These are just dark chocolate cupcakes that I have used a heart shaped cookie cutter to remove part of the top, filled with icing, dusted with powdered sugar and then a pick stuck into the top. Easy Peasy! A dozen of these went to my son's school today and a few more will go to the Seniors in our complex. 
Our "place cards" as well as a yummy dessert after tonight's dinner is a parfait of whipped cream, strawberries, brownies and a Dove chocolate on top! YUM! Now here's the fun trick to these...the top is a cupcake liner! I just molded it over the top of the jar and screwed the lid right on. Perfect!

Hope your Valentine's Day was wonderful whether you spent it with a husband or wife or your kids, your family members or your friends. It's all about all kinds of love! See you Monday!


Monday, February 11, 2013

 Happy Monday! Welcome to the week of Valentine's Day! Lots of engagements will be happening this Thursday and lots of wedding plans will begin. Some for a Valentine's Day wedding for next year, since it's on a Friday, but many more for next Spring. So today we present a Spring Wedding Party Plan!
 Spring is about pastels to many. This color palette of muted shades always seems to have a real elegance about it so it's very very popular for weddings! This doesn't mean you have to go "Victorian" with everything.  I wouldn't call it "vintage" I would call it "soft" and "feminine". If you have a guy who doesn't mind a more girly styled wedding then this may be the style for you. (Don't worry, a more colorful version for him in a few weeks!)
 This means you can play with that pastel color palette a bit. We love the way the light pink, dark pink and green all play together on this very playful invitation from Zazzle!
 One of the beautiful trends from this past year is using vintage jewelry to dress up your bouquet. You can either borrow heirloom pieces or find some great costume jewelry to dress up your Bridal Bouquet for your wedding day.
 Heirloom jewelry can be one of the most special "something borrowed" items for your day. Thanks to Twilight there is a new popularity for that something borrowed to be for your hair, specifically for your veil. A comb like this one at the back of your veil would be a lovely touch to the back of your dress that day. And since so many stare at the back of your dress while you and your fiance are taking your vows, it's always a great idea to make sure the back is as pretty as the front.
 Your Bridesmaids bouquets can carry over this feeling as well. The muted tones of the pastel palette make for very pretty mixed bouquets. You can use any type of flower that fits the color scheme and, thus, may fit your budget a bit more comfortably as well!
 This wonderful palette also opens up the option of different colored dresses for each girl. Since we don't all have the same hair color or skin color this will make it easier for a girl who looks awful in peach or too pale in creme to still be in the wedding. And with all of the wonderful colors in your Bridesmaids dresses you will add one more little detail to your overall wedding look.
 And they don't have to be the only colorful detail you tuck into your wedding plan! You can buy this little stick on's at your Bridal store (or craft store) and add them to your shoes for the big cute! A very nice "something blue".
 Spring is when a lot of people start thinking about having their weddings outside. Whether indoors or outdoors you can still dress it up to have that "look". By using branches, brown chairs, and lots of pale flowers you can bring the outside in or just give the outside a more gorgeous look!
 To dress up each chair would be very expensive but that doesn't mean you can't dress up the Bride and Groom chairs! We love how they draped the chair simply and then tied with the different colors of ruffles. A subtle but beautiful look.
 Keep the romance going with your tables. The best part of this whole plan is the fact that you can do very simple centerpieces and it will look romantic, beautiful, and elegant. With beautiful china and stemware all you need is a crystal vase filled with "frilly" flowers, the ones usually used for fillers in rose bouquets, to overflow the vase and you have sheer romance!

Having your wedding right after a holiday is a great way to take advantage of the sales. Your favors are a great example of this! This time of year heart shaped chocolates are everywhere...and the day after Valentine's Day they all go 50-75% off! What a great way to save a bit of your budget and still give a beautiful take-away for your guests. Martha Stewart has a wonderful line of favor boxes. Choose just one color or mix up your pastels and set one of these gorgeous little gifts on each plate. Your guests will be charmed.

 If you, or someone you know, has some vintage furniture you can fit them into the decor easily by tucking flowers here or there. A chest of drawers, a desk, even a vintage bookcase would work for this look. The perfect place for the cake!
And speaking of cake! One like this sugar rose trimmed Wedding Cake from Cat's Cakes would be the perfect delicate centerpiece for your wedding. Topped with Lenox china filled with more sugar roses this pale pink ribbon trimmed confection would melt the heart of every woman in the room.

Next week we will be featuring a new type of party that is becoming very popular lately! Hope to see you there! In the meantime get some last minute Valentine's Day tips over at our Facebook Fan Site including our Northern California Cake Sale! 30% off any cake needed for an event between June 1st and November 1st for the month of February! (also, 10% more off  a second cake booked and 20% off a third! Yup, total of 50% off that 3rd cake! So book now to save a pile of cash!)

See you next Monday!