Sunday, May 20, 2012

Game Night with the Gals

My family used to play a board game every time we got together for dinner.  I love them. I honestly think they help contribute to building family bonds with the laughter and friendly competition they invoke. They make a great excuse to have people over for a party too.  Our monthly dinner party had a few other quirks to make it extra fun...

Invite: This party was back in 2008, so my decor and invite were a lot simpler than they often are now.  Invite your guests with some sort of game.  I created a crossword puzzle with the party details and mailed it to guests.  Other ideas would be to cut up your invite like a puzzle, and guests would have to assemble the puzzle to figure out the party details.

Decor:  My decor started on the walkway leading to my door.  I drew large Monopoly squares on poster board and laminated them to avoid footprints. I placed these on the sidewalk leading up to my door and saved a few for the walls inside my house.

My tablecloth was a Twister board with a red tablecloth under it. I also used the Twister spinner as my centerpiece, but you could use any game or a collection of game pieces. If I were hosting this party again, I would add several other parts of games to the table to create more of a centerpiece.

For a place card, I decided to create Sculptadors from the game Cranium. I bought molding clay from Michaels and sculpted items that represented each guest. I did not include their names on the sculptures, and it was a game for guests to guess which one represented them. 

Party Activity/Game:  You could play any board game for this party, but I chose to play Taboo (which is always hilarious), and a short round of Cranium.

Menu:  At each place setting, I had a menu card.  I scrambled the letters of each menu items as a game, so guests had to unscramble them to figure out what we were eating. I wanted items that were simple in case we needed to eat while playing games.  I also did not want to be in the kitchen cooking.  I wanted to be a part of the games, so this impacted my choices of what to serve.  I started with a simple green salad.  We had slices of watermelon that I attempted to cut to look like puzzle pieces.  As the main dish, we had baked "hot potato" to play off the title of a game. I made Chili to place on the potato or as a side soup.  Guests could also add whatever they wanted to their potato - broccoli, cheese, etc.  You could make a game of this instead and do what I did at my Toy Story party which was to create Mr. Potato Heads.

For dessert, I made a Hangman Cake.  We played Hangman to figure out the message on the cake. I just piped on the letters and the body parts as guests made their guesses.  Simple.

For a favor, I found travel size Connect Four games in the dollar bin at Target.  I wrapped these in a cellophane bag with a tag that read, "Thanks for being game to party tonight.  Let's Connect Four another game night soon!"

This party as a lot of fun. I didn't have to purchase much either because I had all the games already.  As a teacher, I also had access to a laminating machine, so it made the Monopoly pieces easy to create.  Hope you are inspired to host a game night of your own!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's Time for May Flowers

Everyone knows the saying: April Showers bring May Flowers.  In 2008, I decided these would be my April and May monthly dinner themes.  In April, I focused on the rain and rainbows, and of course in May, I had fun with flowers...

Invite:  There are so many options for a flower-themed party.  If your guests live close, drop off a flower on their doorstep with the party details on a tag.  The wording on my invite played with the word "may".

We've had April
"It's Time for May Flowers"

 May your Monday night be free...
So that you May spend some of it with me.
May you come ready to laugh and eat
For there May be something sweet.
May you laugh until the party is done
On this May-day night of fun!

Hope you are a "yes" and
not a "May-be" for this blooming bash.

Decor:  My decor was very simple for this dinner. I set the table with a light green tablecloth and green napkins.  My centerpiece was a flower arrangement I made out of vegetables. The center was a metal watering can that helped hold some of the flowers up.  I used celery as stems and cut jicama into a flower shape.  A sliced carrot was placed in the center to finish off the flower.  All were attached with toothpicks I cut so they wouldn't show.  As you can tell from the photo, I also cut red peppers into tulip shapes and used zucchini and carrots in the center.  Radishes cut like roses and slivers of carrot wrapped in circles finished off the centerpiece.

At each place setting, I bought flower seed packets and added the guest's name as a place card.

Menu:  I know there are people that really do eat certain flowers in meals, but I am not one of them!  I decided instead to display my menu items as flowers.  For the main dish, I served Chicken with Peach Salsa. I arranged the chicken on the plate to look like a flower and placed the salsa as the flower's center (additional salsa was served on the table).

I used cookie cutters to cut cantaloup and honeydew into flower shapes and each guest received an individual small plate. Tips of strawberries were used as the flower's center.

For dessert, I made pudding flower pots.  Because I wanted the pots to be see-through, I used votive candle holders I purchased from Michaels.  I placed crushed Oreo cookies at the bottom and top, and I filled the middle with chocolate pudding to create the "dirt". I used a flower lollipop mold to create the flowers.  Then, I added a gummy worm just for laughs.

This was definitely one of my simpler parties, but still a lot of fun to put together.  If you decide to recreate the centerpiece, just give yourself plenty of time.  It took me a lot longer than I anticipated!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mayday! Mayday! S.O.S Party!

It has been a super busy month, so this month's monthly dinner snuck up on me.  I didn't have a theme and was in panic mode with only 4 days to go before party time...hence, the going down in flames/barely surviving theme of Mayday! Mayday! S.O.S Party!  It is May, so it seemed to go with the month too!  Must say I am pretty proud of the fun decor of this party.

Invite:  Since I was so last minute in choosing a theme for this party, I did a simple Evite invitation, but an paper airplane would have been my invite had I had more time.  This is a super cute sample of what I would do.

Decor: I set my table with a blue tablecloth and used sand from my daughter's new sandbox to make an island as a centerpiece.  I carved S.O.S in the sand and placed a toy rescue helicopter near it.  To cover my
frames on the wall, I used white wrapping paper cut to fit, and printed Mayday-related pictures and words to place on top.

From the ceiling, I made airplane oxygen masks -- so fun!  I bought yellow cups from the Dollar Tree and wrapped favor bags bought at Michaels around the bottom (secured with clear tape).  I punched holes in the side of the cup and tied a write ribbon as if it was the elastic part that goes around your head.  You could use elastic, but I wasn't planning to have anyone wear them, so it would have been a waste of money for me.  I did buy clear tubing from Home Depot to dangle from the ceiling and attach to the bag.  This was $2.50 for 20 feet, so it was super cheap.

At each place setting, I folded an orange paper napkin to look like a life jacket. I just "winged" it (fun pun for an airline party!). I didn't have a pattern or anything.  I used white ribbon to hold it closed, and cut a small rectangle out of shiny silver scrapbook paper to add a little detail.  This jacket held the forks.  I also made life rings to use as wine charms. I used my Cricut to cut an "O" out of red and white, then cut the white to make the stripes.  I used a thin letter "O" in white for the rings on the side.  If you have a cartridge that has an actual life ring in it, you can do it that way, but I don't so I did it with letters.

On the plates, I had the menu which followed the S.O.S. initials (more details below). I also folded a 747 airplane and elevated the back of each to make it look like it was "going down".  I found the pattern for these and the instructions to fold them online at Amazing Paper Airplanes. You can use these as a game during the party to see who's plane could fly the farthest before crashing since it goes with the theme.

I also made a wine label using Morse Code.  I found the basic label on Google images, and just used a text box to add the party title and date.

Activity/Game:  As a fun game to tie in the theme, I created an activity where guests were challenge to guess the movie, book, or TV show presented in the clues.  These were all survivor/mayday stories such as Lord of the Flies, Lost, Swiss Family Robinson, Castaway, etc. 

Menu: I also like to my menu to go along with the theme, so I played up the S.O.S and each item followed these initials.  We started with Soup Or Salad (although most of us had both).  The soup was from Trader Joes - Roasted Red Pepper soup.  Garlic salt, and a small package of mixed vegetables were added to give it a little extra.

The main course was Slices Of Steak, Serving Of Spuds, and Slivers Of Squash.  These are yummy recipes I totally recommend...

Slices Of Steak
1 flank steak (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
2/3 cup Italian Dressing
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
3 tablespoons butter
2 green onions chopped

Trim steak of fat.  Score each side in a diamond pattern 1/8" deep.  In a dish with edges, pour dressing over and under steak.  Refrigerate covered overnight, turning once.  After steak is marinated overnight, preheat the broiler.  Broil steaks 5-6 minutes each side. Add blue cheese mixture over steak and cut steak at an angle into slices.
Serving Of Spuds
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/4 cups milk
3 medium round red or white, long white, or yellow potatoes (1 pound), peeled, if desired
3/4 cup shredded cheese

Grease a 1 1/2 quart casserole; set aside.  For sauce, in a small saucepan cook onion and garlic in butter until tender.  Stir in flour, salt, and pepper.  Add milk all at once.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.  Thinly slice potatoes.  Place half the sliced potatoes in the casserole dish. Cover with half the sauce.  Repeat potato and sauce layers. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 15-20 minutes more or until potatoes are tender.

For cheesy potatoes:  Prepare as above, except stir 3/4 cup shredded cheese into thickened sauce until melted.

Slivers Of Squash
Cut up green and yellow squash that I steamed.

For dessert, Surprise Of Scrumptiousness, I made cake pops to look like Wilson, the volleyball from Castaway!  I didn't bother with the black lines on the volleyball. I simply made the vanilla cake pops using my sister-in-laws Cake Pop maker, melted white chocolate as the coating, and then used tan and red frosting to draw the hand print and pipe on the dead grass of Wilson's hair. I used a toothpick to carve out the eyes and mouth after the red had set a bit. These were tasty! I made a few pops for each guest to make sure I had enough.

Favor:  Originally, I was planning to do a generic Survival Kit favor with a bottled water, granola bar, and a box of matches.  I changed my mind last minute and decided to make individual survival kits for each guest (I only had 7 at this dinner). The idea was, what was one item if they were stranded on a deserted island that they couldn't live without. Most were funny things I bought at the Dollar Tree -- a Hershey bar for a friend that has a dog named Hershey, a toy cell phone for my friend that can't live without checking Facebook, etc.

This was a super fun party.  You could adapt it for a kid's airplane birthday party as well if you took out some of the survivor aspects. For those of you that are new to my blog, remember I try to keep my parties inexpensive, so some of my decor is cheesy looking -- I am okay with that!! I am not trying to win any awards here or anything, I just want to have fun with my friends over dinner. Most of the supplies for this party were purchased at Dollar Tree or with coupons at Michaels.  The only "expensive" item was the flank steak, but it's so yummy, it's okay!!

As usual, if you would like any of the items discussed or have questions, just email me.  All tags/menus/etc are made on Microsoft Word--nothing fancy. Happy May everyone!