Saturday, March 17, 2018

Leprechaun Olympics - St. Patrick's Day Fun

In 12 years of hosting monthly dinners, I have yet to have a St. Patrick's Day theme. I decided this was the year to do it, but I wanted to add a little fun to it as well.  Remembering how fun our Minute to Win It Dinner Party was back in 2012, I decided to add some fun St. Patty's Day games to this dinner.  Our monthly dinner became the Leprechaun Olympics!

Invite: I designed the invite on PhotoShop making Olympic Rings in shades of green to pull in the Olympic part of the party.  I used the same leprechaun and Olympic rings on my front door entry sign to welcome guests to the party.

Inside Decor: One of my friends made me the cutest Valentine's mantle banner which inspired me to make a St. Patrick's Day one.  I made this using my Cricut Explore and then printed out some signs I found online to frame above the mantel.  The green grass balls are from Oriental Trading. I originally got them for my daughter's Trolls party, but they work perfectly for St. Patty's and Easter too.

I added a gold medal I made to each grass ball by hot gluing the ends of the rainbow ribbon together and adding a big gold chocolate coin. These worked as added mantel decorations, and they were also awarded to the winners of the Leprechaun Olympics at the end of the evening.

For the table, I used a green tablecloth and made a centerpiece out of St. Patty's day themed pieces.  The leprechaun and bear I borrowed from a friend.  The felt hat I purchased in the dollar bin at Target.  The glitter shamrocks I found at the Dollar Tree.

Had a bit of trouble getting the leprechaun and bear to sit up, so I added a couple Guinness bottles -- an easy and theme-appropriate fix.

For place cards, I made mini pots of gold.  I painted flower pots I purchased at Michaels black, added a glitter strip with card stock, and a shamrock sticker.  I filled the vase with gold tissue paper, chocolate gold coins, and Rolos.

Added a strip of black card stock and a gold glitter square to make a leprechaun belt for my napkins.

I made a couple themed wine bottle labels to match my theme using PhotoShop.  There's nothing like some red wine when you are getting ready for Shamrocks and Shenanigans, right?

For my wine charms, I used my Cricut to cut out shamrocks in 5 different shades of green.  I glued a Lucky penny to the center of them.  These were cute, but I would suggest writing the guest's name above the penny to further distinguish them (especially if you have a large number of guests).

Menu:  I knew we were going to play our Leprechaun Olympic games before our main meal, so I wanted to have something for the guests to snack on as we played.  I settled on a Guinness & Cheddar Dip which was delicious!  I served the dip with red peppers and celery for dipping because they are light and I didn't want the ladies to fill up on bread or chips.  I did set out pretzels alongside the veggies. I shaped the dip into a shamrock for added fun.

I love Corned Beef and Cabbage, and St. Patrick's Day is the only day I eat it all year, so this was my main entree.  There wasn't a need for side dishes since potatoes, carrots, onion, and cabbage are already a part of the entree.  I made the Corned Beef and Cabbage in the crock pot. I have never done this before, but it was tender, tasty, and super easy.

I made these small shamrock-shaped mini toasts to go alongside the corned beef and cabbage.

For dessert, I made Leprechaun Olympic Torch cupcakes.  I used a cake mix and added green food coloring.  I baked the mix directly in the ice cream cones - standing them up in loaf pans in the oven.  Two mistakes I made -- 1.  I filled the mix a bit high, so some overflowed. Make sure you fill a little below 2/3.  2.  I put the cones in a sealed container after cooling for storage.  When I took the cones out the next day to frost them, the cones were soggy and disgusting! I made a quick run to the store to buy more cones.  I pealed away the old soggy cone and stuck the cupcake down into the new one.  It worked fine, but could have been avoided if I didn't store them in something with a lid.  For the frosting, we piped on 3 shades of green and added a gold chocolate coin to the top to symbolize the Gold Medal of the Olympics.

Activities:  I love short games even at adult parties, and Minute to Win It games work perfectly.  I found a few games that were easy to play, and that I could adapt to be St. Patrick's day themed.  The guests got into teams of two, and I awarded points for each game (1st place = 4 points, 2nd = 3, 3rd = 2, 4th = 1).  The winners received the gold coin medals I made.

The first game was the Leprechaun Suck (a.k.a Suck It Up).  In this game, the object is to move as many M&M's from one plate to the other in one minute. I bought green mint M&M's to fit with the St. Patty's day theme.  Turns out these mint M&M's are a bit larger than normal ones, so it made it a little more challenging. I pulled some green out of a regular M&M bag as well because of this.

Next, we played Scoop "That Gold" Up (a.k.a Scoop It Up).  The object of this game is to transfer 6 ping pong balls from the bowl to the green cup using only a spoon held by your lips.  My plan was to spray paint the ping pong balls gold to match the name of my game and the theme, but I ran out of time.  I had guests transfer all 6 into the cup and then attempt to transfer as many as they could back into the bowl in the one minute time limit.

Our third game was the Lucky Charm Stack.  The girls had one minute to stack only the marshmallows from a bowl of St. Patrick's Day Lucky Charms cereal.  At the end of one minute, the team with the highest stack was the winner.

The last game we played wasn't a Minute to Win It game, but it is a common drinking game, so it fit with St. Patrick's day.  I called it Flip Your Luck (a.k.a Flip Cup).  The guests could choose whether they wanted a shot of Guinness or a shot of apple juice in their cup for this one.  We did it in a relay of 4 on 4.  If you haven't played this game, the first person drinks their drink and then has to try to flip their cup 180 degrees from standing upside down on the edge of the table to standing right side up on the table.  Then it is the next person's turn to drink and then flip, and so on.

Favor:  I needed simple for a favor, so I made Rice Krispie treats, dyed them green, and cut them in the shape of a shamrock.  I added a little tag about friendship.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Girl Scout Cookie Dinner Party

Have your bought your Girl Scout cookies yet this season?  Chances are, you've had a young Girl Scout come to your door or ask you at the supermarket to buy some of those yummy Girl Scout cookies.  It may have even been my daughter!  Since my house is inundated with boxes of Girl Scout cookies my daughter is selling, I thought it would be perfect theme for this month's dinner party.

Invite: I designed this invite on PhotoShop using simple images. My daughter is a Brownie currently, but most people know green as the major color of Girl Scouts, so I used green and brown as my color scheme for the dinner and invite.

Entry Decor:  Making this tower of empty Girl Scout cookie cases was so easy. I stacked them up and used a little tape to keep them in place.  I cut the Welcome letters out with my Cricut and glued them to the front.  Then just set them next to my front door.  On the actual door, I hung two hangers with my daughter's Brownie and Daisy vests and a large Caramel Delight cookie cutout I painted on poster-board.

Table Decor:  I set the table with a green tablecloth and added Girl Scout touches through the centerpieces, napkin, and place card.  I stayed fairly simple and just added some creative touches here and there.

Michaels sells ceramic pieces, and I just happened to find a cookie jar that would work perfectly as a centerpiece. I found the Cookie time image online and printed it on vellum, then stuck it to both sides of the cookie jar.  The GS symbol I printed on cardstock and taped to it the handle.  Then I just placed a brown piece of cardstock under the cookie jar and surrounded it with boxes of various GS cookies.

I love my place cards, and honestly, they were not difficult to make.  I bought the brown foam pieces from Michaels and cut them into sashes.  I got 2 sashes out of each piece.  For the badges, numbers, and patches, I found images online and printed them on cardstock.  The troop/names I just used my Cricut cutting machine.  I tried to choose badges that applied to the theme or the dinner, but any badge would be fine. (I'm just a detailed oriented person!)  The place cards made fun photo props too...

I printed the GS symbol to glue to the front of brown napkins just to add another touch of the theme.

The wine charms were simple.  I printed out photos of each variety of Girl Scout cookie and tied them onto the stems of the glasses.

I made my wine labels on PhotoShop.  There's several websites online that pair wines with Girl Scout cookies.  Chardonnay is said to go well with Shortbread/Trefoil cookies, so I designed one label with that.  For my red wine, I just found a funny badge that had wine and cookies -- the ladies and I definitely earned this patch tonight!

Menu:  I wanted to use Girl Scout cookies in all aspects of my menu.  This proved to be rather difficult, but I included them somehow in most of them.  I started with an Asian Sesame Salad to which I added cut up Lemonades.  The dressing was delicious, and I enjoyed it on my salads at work for several days after the party.  The salad itself was romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges, wonton strips, sliced almonds, and cilantro.  You can add chicken, but I already had chicken in my main dish, so I did not.  Here's the recipe for the dressing:

1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 whole cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds 

Place the rice vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat and allow it to just come to a gentle boil, add the sugar and garlic cloves and let the sugar dissolve.  Remove the rice vinegar mixture from the stove and discard the cloves.  Put the rice vinegar mixture in a mason jar and add the sesame oil, canola oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds.  Allow the mixture to come to room temperature.  Screw on the lid and give it a good shake until the dressing mixes together.

For the main dish, I served Do-Si-Dos Peanut Thai Chicken.  I didn't really have a recipe for this. I just brushed teriyaki glaze on chicken breasts and put them in the oven.  I added a Thai Peanut sauce the last 10 or so minutes.  After the chicken was tender and ready, I pulled them out, added a little more peanut sauce to the top and then sprinkled crushed up Girl Scout Do-Si-Dos to the top.  I think I used about 8 cookies that I had crushed with a rolling pin.

These Sesame Peanut Butter Noodles are amazing!  LOVED THEM!  I didn't actually use the Girl Scout Peanut Butter Patties in this recipe, but I did use peanut butter.   You can add whatever veggies you want. I chose to add strips of red pepper, edamame, and shredded carrots.

6 oz. of your favorite Asian noodles (I used ramen)
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root

Cook and drain the noodles according to the package directions.  In a medium bowl, add the sesame oil, peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, and ginger.  Whisk until well combined (it should be smooth).  Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss to coat. Add sesame seeds and cilantro as a garnish as desired.

Any Girl Scout cookie lends itself to an amazing dessert, but I chose to use Thin Mints.  I found a recipe for Thin Mint Cheesecake bars that I thought wouldn't be too heavy.  Delicious...

34 thin mints (or a generic store brand)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg (at room temperature)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 drops of green food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8x8 baking pan with nonstick foil.  Add thin mint cookies, sugar, and butter to a food processor or blender and pulse until blended.  Press mixture evenly into the bottom of your pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.
For the cheesecake layer, whisk together the egg and sugar until light and foamy.  Add cream cheese, vanilla extract, and food coloring and mix until smooth.  Pour mixture over crust.  Return to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until cheesecake layer is set.  Allow pan to cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then transfer to fridge to finish cooling completely.  Cut into bars, drizzle with chocolate syrup, and add a dollop of whip cream and half a thin mint.

Favor:  The Thanks-A-Lot cookies make an easy favor to thank guests for coming.  I made favor bags/boxes out of Girl Scout cookie boxes just cutting them with scissors.

I added a tag that said "Thanks-A-Lot" for coming tonight.

Inside the box, I had a favor bag with 2 Thanks-A-Lot cookies and I made chocolate suckers in the Brownie symbol.

This was a super cute theme, and would be fun to do aspects of this party for an end of the year girl scout event.  We even used the Welcome cookie boxes for the Girl Scout meeting following this dinner.  Comment below to let me know your thoughts.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 15, 2018

PUN Party = Fun Party

Who doesn't love a good pun?  Puns -- play on words - make small jokes exploiting the various definitions of words we have in the English language.  As an English teacher, I love a good pun...gets me giggling every time!  So January's monthly dinner theme was all about puns, and I had so much fun coming up with puns for the decor, the food, the place cards, the favors, and anything else I could think of for this party.

Invite:  I wanted to incorporate as many puns into my invitation as possible. I think I got 4 in this one.  I chose the blue shades and burgundy as a color scheme because these were colors used in the toasting plates image and the "Pun Party" banner images I found online, but any color scheme would work perfectly for this party.

Entry Decor:  The night of the party it was raining, so I had to bring most of my outside decor inside. If you follow my blog, you know that our last party was a HO HO HOme Depot party where guests made a wooden Santa or a Snowman.  This is the snowman I made at that dinner party.  I just added a pun to it.

On the door, I used my Cricut to cut letters to spell Dumble (as in Dumbledoor from the Harry Potter series).  I put the his symbol from the novel as well.

This sign would have been outside as well.  To "whale"-come or welcome guests to the party.

Table Decor:  I had a lot of fun with the puns for the table.  I started with a centerpiece of four different puns.  I created speech bubbles with the puns to attach to each item so guests could understand the pun.

My favorite was the loaves of french bread that I cut to look like slippers/loafers.  These were super easy to create.  Just cut off half for the back of each loafer, and then scrape away the inside where the toes would go and a bit of the entire bottom. It's true...I love "loaf-ering" around with these ladies.

Also in the centerpiece was a bouquet of "carnation" flowers. I bought Carnation instant breakfast packets and some fake flowers.  I took off the flowers and replaced them with Carnation packets.  A pun with the French thank you - merci beaucoup became Merci Bouquet.

I also bought a small watermelon and a bottle of Heinz ketchup.  The watermelon for the pun "You're one in a melon (million)" and the ketchup for "Great to Ketchup (catch-up) with you."

On each plate, I made a small insert that I printed and placed in the center.  It encouraged guests to "eat your heart out."

For placecards, I wanted to come up with a pun with each guest's name.  This is a huge challenge.  I only had 6 ladies able to attend this party, so it was easier than trying to do it for a huge crowd.  Here's some of the ones I came up with for my friend's names:

When thinking of puns to go with guest names, you may need to try both first and last names.  I even had to do one friend's nickname because I couldn't think of any good puns for her first or last name.

For napkin rings, I used ring pops and carrots to create "one carrot (diamond) rings."  My kiddos enjoyed eating the ring pop suckers.  Then I washed the rings, carved a hole in a carrot with a screwdriver, and then put the carrot onto the ring.  You could add a diamond cut out of card stock under the carrot which might make the pun even easier to understand.

I made this small sign on PhotoShop to put on the drink table.  Parties are great chances to "wine (wind) down and (gopher) a drink".  I had a little clock next to the sign, but it kept disappearing...gotta love my kiddos!

I designed these wine labels for the three wines I served.  The red wine one "well red (read)" has open books designed behind it.  The chardonnay one is lyrics from a popular song right now.  "Now watch me Sip on Chardon-NAY NAY" instead of "Now watch me Whip; now watch me NAE NAE" song.

For wine charms, I made FACEcards.  A facecard is the Jack, Queen, and King in a deck of cards.  To make the pun, I just used Photoshop to put a photo of each guest's face in place of the queen's on each card.

Menu:  There are so many puns that go with food, so coming up with my menu was pretty easy.  I made menu tags to match the invites and other party decor.  For food, we started with a simple salad - romaine lettuce, cucumber, corn, bacon, and shredded cheese.  I used a "salad (solid) gold" pun as well as a "lettuce romaine (let us remain) friends forever" pun.

I made Cool Ranch Chicken for the main dish.  This is super easy to make and yummy (even my kids like it).  Alongside the chicken, I had a bottle of Ranch dressing that I added sunglasses to make it "cool".

For sides, I served green beans and cilantro lime rice.  "Thanks for bean-ing (being) great friends" and "Lime (I'm) glad we're friends."

For dessert I made a fruit tart with strawberries, kiwis, and blueberries.  It's Nilla wafers and butter for the crust, vanilla pudding and whipped cream for the middle, and fruit for the top.

Favor: Each guest took home a cheese grater I found at Dollar Tree.  I used a cookie cutter to cut a slice of cheese into a heart to attach to each grater.  I attached a tag to the front that read "I know it's CHEESY, but I am GRATE-ful for you!"  The girls loved them.

All in all, we had a PUN (fun) night.  Most of the guests came dressed up as a pun.  Pictured here from left to right:  Hawaiian punch, baking soda, chip on your shoulder, Freudian Slip, and Sugar Mama (she's got a bag of sugar wrapped in that baby blanket).

Hope you enjoyed this post!  Would love to hear your comments!