Roll Out the Barrel: Oktoberfest Party

Oktoberfest Party: Photo Booth

It was one of my best friends birthday recently so we decided to throw her a birthday party with an Oktoberfest theme. Whats not to like, beer, costumes, and German food.

To start I decorated with some beer and fall things I had around the house, empty bottles, beer steins, burlap runner, dried wheat and fall leaves. I also bought a blue and white harlequin tablecloth ( the official Oktoberfest pattern) from a party store and hung it over a curtain rod in my family room to make a back drop for a ” photo booth”. I had props like steins, lederhosen, German signs and Oktoberfest bibs from the party store. I set my camera on a tripod in front of it and tried to get shots of all the party goers.

I am also very lucky that I have some home brewing friends who made a keg of beer especially for our party, delicious!  But this is a great time to taste some of the fall varieties of craft beers like Oktoberfests and Pumpkins.

For appetizers I set up a “Pretzel Stand” I had assorted flavors, shapes and sizes of pretzels and dips to go with them. I even made some homemade Pretzel Bites by following this recipe. http://www.snixykitchen.com/2012/10/24/pretzel-bites-with-four-distinct-dipping-sauces/. I made the dough a day ahead of time and covered it tightly with plastic wrap. then boiled and baked the pretzels the next day. I also found that I needed to add about 3/4 c more flour than the recipe called for to get the dough to be the right consistency but I live in Florida and baking here can be weird.

Oktoberfest Party: Homemade Pretzel Bites

Oktoberfest Party: Pretzel Stand

For dips I made a Sweet and Spicy Mustard Sauce

1 c mayonnaise

3/4 c coarse mustard

2 T  jarred grated horseradish

2 T honey

Oktoberfest Party: Sweet and Spicy Mustard

a Chocolate and Toffee Dip

1 brick cream cheese softened

1/2 c brown sugar

1/4 c white sugar

1/4 c cocoa powder

1/2 c toffee chips (Heath)

1 t vanilla

Mix all ingredients together in a mixer on low until combined.

Oktoberfest Party: Chocolate and Toffee Dip

I also made Beer Cheese Dip using an Oktoberfest Beer instead of an IPA.

To make all of the food seem more festive I labeled them with German names on the tables.

For the main course we had Brats braised in Beer, Rouladen, Oma’s Potato Salad, Saurkraut with beer and apples, and Homemade Cucumber Salad

Oktoberfest Party: Rouladen

Cucumber Salad

4 cucumbers peeled and sliced thin

1 cup sour cream

2 T sugar

2 T white vinegar

1 t dried dill

1 t salt

1/4 t black pepper

Slice cucumbers and place in a colander to drain for 20 minutes, then mix all ingredients together in a large bowl

Oktoberfest Party: Cucumber Salad

Last but not least, everyone’s favorite, cupcakes. My friend made 3 different kinds for our Oktoberfest themed party. Apple Strudel, German Chocolate and Bavarian Cream. ( I will try to get the recipes to post on here)

Oktoberfest Party: Cupcakes

Fun was had by all, the food, beer and company was all delightful. Go on try some of these ideas at your next Fall party and share your tips below.

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Pool Party: My Nephew’s 1st Birthday

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Under The Sea Cake

I come from a very large family, and my nephew turned one last week and so we celebrated in style.  It was a collaborative effort by friends and family with ideas from everyone and Pinterest. It turned out so cute I thought I would share some of the highlights. The cake above came from the very talented Creative Wine-O, check out her facebook page here. The detail was stunning. The beach ball was the “smash” cake and even the sand dollars were edible.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Watch Me Grow Time Line

To celebrate his first revolution around the sun my sister made a timeline, featuring a picture from each of his 12 months. Use ribbon and clothes pins to hang. Make sure you put it in a place that is easily accessible so all guest can admire it.  We also used this as the back drop when he ate his birthday cake. We placed his high chair in front.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Fish Craft

We hung a fishing net ( available at party stores) over the main food table and attached sand molds to it. We also had a craft table so that some of the older kids could make paper plate fish to hang in the net. We also used sand buckets and shovels to serve some of the food in.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Shark Bite Fruit Salad

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Shark Bite Fruit Salad

One of the highlights of the food table was this awesome watermelon carved into a shark by my brother-in-law. We then filled it with various cut up fruit.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Blow Fish Fruit Platter

He also made a cantaloupe into a blow fish.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Fish Veggie Tray

Vegetables morphed into a tropical fish.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Octopus Spinach Dip

Spinach dip was turned into a jolly octopus using a bread bowl and pretzel sticks.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Hummus Beach

Make your own hummus beach by spreading hummus in a shallow tray ( I used a clear lid to a casserole) and decorate with drink umbrellas and Pretzel Crisp crabs.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Dolphin Finger Sandwiches

I found a dolphin sandwich cutter at Sweetbay, perfect to make mini sandwiches for the kids.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Bait Bucket

Swedish fish and gummy worms turned into an edible bait bucket decoration.

Pool Party 1st Birthday: Party Favors

Each child got to take a bit of the fun home. Our good family friend made party buckets out of plain sand buckets decorated with stickers and ribbon and filled with beach themed goodies from the dollar store.

It was a true success and a joyous celebration of one of our youngest family members birthday.

Graduation Party Revisited

Graduation Party Ideas

I can’t believe it has been a whole year since my oldest graduated from high school. He has now completed his first year of college and is working part time. He votes, pays taxes and insurance and is a true adult in everyone’s eyes but mine, to me he is still my baby. As I see many parents getting ready to celebrate their own children’s accomplishments and graduations I decided to revisit some of the highlights from last year’s graduation party and post them here.

For decorations we did all of our sons school and baby pictures under a sheet of clear plastic on the table, it was fun to reminisce and see all the crazy hairstyles he went through as a preteen. We also rolled the napkins into diploma shapes and tied them with black ribbons. Then made little stacks of them around the table.

Graduation diploma napkins

For food we incorporated his favorite food, chips and set up a chip and dip bar. We set out various types of chips and dips in different bowls plates and cake stands and let everyone mix and match.

Chip and Dip Bar

Don’t worry we also had vegetables for dipping.

Veggie platter

Some dip ideas are… ( click on the link for the recipes)

Salsa and Guacamole

Bacon Horseradish

Kalamata Olive

Beer Cheese

Goat Cheese and Marinara

Sweet Potato Hummus

Pimento Cheese

Also you could include some dessert dips

Creamy Reese’s Peanut Butter Dip

Key Lime Pie Dip

I was lazy and let Publix make the cake, but this book cake would be pretty easy to replicate using 2 different sized rectangular or square pans.

Publix's Book Style Graduation Cake

Congrats to all who graduated and the people that helped them get there, have fun celebrating this momentous occasion.

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Cinco De Mayo is this weekend and I will be in London but here are some recipes for you to enjoy while I am gone.

Spicy Tequila Pulled Pork

Spicy Tequila Pulled Pork

Beer Ritas

Beer-ritas

Chicken Frito Pie

Chicken Frito Pie

Chicken Frito Pie

Cactus Pear Margaritas

Cactus Pear Margarita

Salsa and Guacamole

Homemade Salsa and Guacamole

Calabacitas

Calabacitas

IMG_3571 IMG_3554

and here are some ideas for decor

Enjoy!

Gone Girl Book Club: Crepe-a-Dillas

Gone Girl

This month’s book selection was the suspenseful mystery Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It was the perfect book for book club, lots to discuss, surprising twists, crazy characters and a unique writing style. I liked it a lot, but I may be biased because it was actually my pick. That also meant that book club was at my house so I had to really bring it with the food. Hmm where to start, how about the beginning, on the day Amy goes missing she is makes crepes for their 5th anniversary breakfast. Crepes are not generally a finger food though and since there is always tons of food at out book clubs, the portion size would be too big. So I thought about it and decided to make my own surprising twist on quesadillas, crepe-a-dillas. Individual triangles of crepe-y goodness, perfect for parties.

Crepe-a-dillas

Crepe-A-Dillas

Filling:

8 0z marscapone cheese

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1/4 c lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

3 T honey

10 crepes (you could make your own, but I used pre made ones found in my produce section of the grocery store, flour tortillas would also work)

Blueberry Balsamic Sauce

1 pint fresh blueberries

1/4 c sugar

2 T balsamic vinegar

1/4 c water

For the filling,  mix all ingredients with a mixer  until incorporated. To make crepe-a-dillas lay one crepe flat, spread thin layer of filling on crepe, fold in half and then cut into wedges with pizza cutter of knife.

Crepe-a-dillasCrepe-a-dillasCrepe-a-dillas

Place on a plate and put wax paper or plastic wrap between layers to prevent sticking, place in refrigerator until ready to use.

For the sauce, add all ingredients to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Place in small bowl and cover. Cool in the refrigerator.

I also made a Chicken Frito Pie, just like the nice woman brought Nick after his wife disappeared which I will share the recipe to in my next post. We also had members bring manchego cheese, chocolate truffles, chili cheese fritos and casseroles, all thematic for the book.

For decorations I really wanted to have live lobsters in a pot (too mean), so I looked for fake ones but I couldn’t find them. I also wrapped a large box in a blue plastic table cloth from the dollar store ( I couldn’t find plain blue wrapping paper anywhere) for the centerpiece. I had a number 5 candle in my crepe-a-dillas. I also thought it would be fun to make some fun quizzes for book club like the ones Amy wrote for magazines.

Caution tape by the front door would have been a nice touch but I thought of that after book club.

I kept a bowl of red jelly beans close by for our discussions so that they could be throw at people for fun if you disagreed with their thoughts about the book. By the way I am still finding red jelly beans in and under my couch. Gone Girl Book Club

IMG_7126

Valentine’s Day: Personalized Candy Box

Valentine's Day Personalized Candy Box

Valentine’s Day Personalized Candy Box

Here is an easy and inexpensive Valentine’s Day gift. Take your usual box of chocolates and cut paper to fit under each piece of candy. Write a memory or something you love about your valentine on each paper and place the candy back on top. Write a heart felt message on paper in the shape of the candy box and place on top of the candy, decorate the top of the box with hearts, the recipients name or what ever is meaningful to you and place on top. I made this box for our 20th Valentine’s Day which was also the 20th anniversary of our first date. I even found a box that had 20 pieces of chocolate so there were 20 messages. This would also be great to do for milestone birthdays and anniversaries.

Olympics, That Sounds Like a Reason to Party

I will find any excuse to dress up or have a party, but this was a good one. My favorite band, Duran Duran was doing an Olympic concert, my birthday was a couple of days away and the opening ceremonies were on TV. Unfortunately the concert was not televised but that didn’t stop me.

First the decorations, I decided to go international, I made some easy flag centerpieces from styrofoam and dollar flags from the party store.Cover 2 rectangular styrofoam blocks with colored paper. I cut the paper and used tape at the joints so it would bend around the styrofoam so I could reuse them for another party.

I also painted the olympic rings onto the paper using a top to a pill bottle and paint and then stamping it onto the paper.

Paint around or dip the bottle top into paint and then use like a stamp.

insert your flags into the styrofoam and then you could pour colored glass or pebbles over the top of the styrofoam to cover it ( I forgot to do this step on mine). Paper crinkles would also work.

Use paper flag toothpicks for appetizers or sandwiches

Spell out your favorite team (or band) with vegetables.

Serve Olympic themed desserts, My friend used mini M&M’s to make the olympic rings on her coconut cake

or try the Olympic Fruit Tart

We played lots of silly games, like Olympic Themed Pictionary (divide into 2 teams and draw different events, countries, athletes, or London landmarks or traditions), Minute to Win It’s “How’s it Hanging“, and Diving for Cherries ( put a maraschino cherry in a bowl cover with whipped cream and using only your mouth try to get the cherry, whoever gets it first wins)

and of course there were costumes and medals. Buy some at the dollar store or make your own with paper circles, glitter and ribbon.

Dress as your favorite athlete, event or country and have fun!

How to Throw a Baby Shower, It’s as Easy as ABC

My sister is having a baby, a new nephew for me, which is very exciting. I, with a lot of help from friends,  threw her an alphabet themed baby shower. This is an easy theme and can be used for either a boy or a girl.

1st the invitations, these could be done several ways but since my printer was down at the time, I ordered mine from Vista Print, the design is called Alphabet Soup. They were very budget friendly. I blurred out a lot of the info but they come printed with envelopes and were delivered within a week.

For decorations I bought cardboard letters from a craft store and spray painted them, then I hot glued a painted wooden shape that started with that letter, A-apple, B-bee, C-car. Mom got to take these home to use in the new baby’s room.

We also made boxes out of 8×8 colored paper folded into fourths, make a vertical cut in the top fold to the center.

Fold the paper in half horizontally and criss cross the cut pieces to form a half cube.

Repeat with 2nd paper and then tape two halves together to form one cube.

Decorate with paper cutouts and letters

We also taped cut out letters to long bamboo skewers and inserted into a Styrofoam cone then cut scrapbook paper to look like a vase around it for a food table decoration.

The food place cards were also made to fit with our alphabet theme.

The table had a white table-cloth with a runner of brown craft paper adorned with alphabet stickers.

Favors were made from small chinese style boxes with puffy alphabet stickers and filled with candy

For a game we played Baby themed scatergories.

and each party guest made a page for the new baby’s “Alphabet Book”

I placed out 8×8 sheets of colored paper, each one had a different letter of the alphabet on it. I did this ahead of time with scrapbook stickers. I put out markers, crayons and alphabet flashcards for ideas, or the guests who felt they weren’t artistic could just paste the card on their page. Then each guest signed their masterpiece, and some wrote a message to the new baby.

I placed them all into an 8×8 scrapbook with plastic sleeved pages, along with a copy of the shower invite for a great keepsake for baby and mom.

The shower was a success and as easy as ABC.

60 is Nifty! A Birthday Party and Stuffed Mushrooms

My mom turned 60 last week so my siblings and I, there are a lot of them, threw her a birthday party.  As it has become tradition for milestone birthdays, I made her a slide show of pictures throughout her life, teamed it up with some of her favorite songs and showed it during the party . It’s on DVD so she will have it as a take home souvenir. My sisters and I did the decorations. I am not one for the typical black and gloomy, over the hill type parties so we went for a festive and colorful look. We made lots of tissue flower bouquets.

To make, take large sheets of tissue paper and cut into fourths. stack 6-8 sheets of the cut paper together and accordion fold the short side. wrap a pipe cleaner around the middle tightly and cut the ends into a scallop or point. then gently pull each piece of tissue apart until it looks like a flower.

Here’s a tutorial  since I forgot to take pictures of the process: http://www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/Nature/mexicantissuepaperflowers/mexicantissuepaperflowers.html 

We also made large tissue pom, pom flowers to hang on the porch, with some white twinkle lights. Here is the tutorial for the pom poms http://www.marthastewart.com/how-to/tissue-paper-pom-poms-how-to

So everyone could share their well wishes and memories for the birthday girl, I cut a large 60 out of cardboard and spray painted it (colored poster board would work as well)

and had bright colored post it notes and a pen so guest could write on them. I am using the post it notes and the pictures of her party to make a scrapbook for my mom.

Everyone pitched in for food and drinks, my sister-in-law made a gorgeous “sunflower” from mini cup cakes, an 8″ round cake and blackberries

60 IS NIFTY! A BIRTHDAY PARTY

There was lots of great food. One of my contributions was stuffed mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms:

2 pints whole mushrooms, stems removed and saved

1 T oil

1 c chopped onion

1c mushroom stems chopped

1 cup chopped spinach (I used fresh)

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

1/4 c white wine

1 block cream cheese softened

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

1/4 c parmesan cheese grated

In a large pan heat oil and saute onion, and chopped mushroom stems until soft, add spinach and saute until wilted. add salt and pepper and white wine, bring to boil and reduce heat to low, simmer for 5 min.remove from heat.

add cream cheese, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and cooled onion mixture to a food processor and puree.

Toss mushroom caps with olive oil and stuff with cheese mixture, bake in a preheated oven, 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes depending on size of mushrooms. Serve.

Happy Birthday Mom! and thank you to everyone who made the party a success.

Graduation, A Broken Tooth, and a Chip and Dip Bar

My oldest child is officially a High School graduate and I couldn’t be prouder. We have looked forward to this for weeks, months, years. Everything was going smoothly, I thought I had everything under control and my niece was on her way to our house to share in the festivities. I was getting the linens from the top shelf of the closet for her when something hit me in the mouth.  Suddenly my mouth was filled with tiny pieces of grit, which after thinking for a moment I realized must be my tooth. An alarm clock had fallen out of the closet and hit me in the exact angle that shattered my front left tooth. It was 9pm and my sons graduation, the day we had been counting down to, was the next morning at 8 am. I had a melt down, and not a small one. I was too afraid to look at the damage, it took me a while to be brave enough to look in the mirror. It was in a word hideous.

I thought about not going to his graduation, I thought about canceling our upcoming trip, I thought about calling it a life and never leaving the house again. None of those were viable options. I put on my best tight lipped smile and made it to graduation. I did a mean Geisha impersonation covering my mouth with my hand when I had to speak. It was the right call, tears came to my eyes as I watched  my oldest child take the field with his classmates dressed in his cap and gown. I saw him with new eyes, he was a man now, we had done our job, his whole future was ahead of him. A moment I could never get back or recreate.

Graduation was done, straight to the dentist and 5 hours later I emerged with 2 new front teeth and a huge list of things to do to get ready for a graduation party. I had pre-planned but losing so much time due to injury caused me to reevaluate my list and make some cuts. One thing that made the cut was a chip and dip bar, chips happen to be one of his favorite foods. I bought various types of chips and used different sized bowls and plates to display them, them made a variety of dips to accompany them. This was a big hit and is perfect for a cocktail party, teen birthday or graduation.

We made labels for the different dips, and the nice part is that most of them could be made the night before. One of the crowd and teens favorite was Bacon Horseradish Dip.

1/2 c mayonnaise

1/2 c sour cream

1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese grated

1/4 cup grated horseradish, I used the jarred variety

6 slices of cooked bacon chopped

1 t worcestershire sauce

Mix ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, chill until ready to serve, top with shredded cheese and chopped bacon.

For a festive touch roll white napkins diploma style and tie with black ribbon, stack and place on buffet tables.