Sunday, February 26, 2012

Having Fun...Dr. Seuss Style!

Who doesn't love Dr. Seuss books and all the fun rhymes? It makes a perfect theme for a birthday party, graduation party (with Oh, The Places You'll Go), baby shower, and so much more.  These photos are from the March monthly dinner in 2010, but I am seriously thinking about using this theme again sometime.  I may even incorporate some of these ideas into teacher appreciation gifts when my kids are in elementary school.  This theme is so much fun!

Invite:  The wording on your invite should definitely be inspired by Dr. Seuss.  You can easily use lines from his books.  For my invitation, I used some lines from his books mixed with some created by me:
You could not
would not
want to miss
a celebration such as this!


"Dinner with Dr. Seuss"
Come dressed up for this fun show
in one bold color from head to toe
Tell us in the RSVP what color you'll be
Come on's super easy!

A Dr. Seuss dinner can be so much fun
You definitely don't want to miss this one.
One week away, so hurry and reply
That's all I have to say...Good-bye!!

Decor:  I talked to my librarian at work, and she let me borrow several Dr. Seuss stuffed animals to help decorate for this party.  I set the table with a Dr. Seuss hat I bought at the dollar bin at Target flanked by Yertle the Turtle and a Sneech.  I also placed little bowls of multicolored goldfish crackers for guests to munch on before dinner.

I themed each place setting after a Dr. Seuss book.  I printed off 8x10 pictures of the book cover (found on Google), and adhered them to 12x12 scrapbook paper.  I didn't laminate them because I didn't care if they were ruined, but at a kid's birthday party, you could laminate them for kids to take home.  Using my Cricut machine and cardstock, I scrapbooked a  place card to match each book.

I used Dr. Seuss books I checked out from my local library to decorate several side tables with more stuffed characters.  I borrowed a Fox in Socks Dr. Seuss puzzle from my step-daughter to place on my coffee table.

To display my menu without giving away exactly what I was serving, I printed off book covers and taped them to the wall.  Not very sophisticated or cleverly done, but it served its purpose.
Menu:  I don't think you can have a Dr. Seuss party without serving green eggs, so I made deviled eggs and died them green.  One of my friends refuses to eat anything with food coloring in it, so this is why the middle ones in the photo are yellow.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is one of my daughter's favorite Dr. Seuss books. Everyone loves finger jello...even adults I have come to learn!  I bought a fish cookie cutter from Calico Cake Shop to make these.

As my main dish, I decided to serve Poppy Seed Turnovers, but shape them like turtles for Yertle the Turtle.  Poppy Seed Turnovers are a favorite dish of our family.  I normally shape them into semi-circles, crinkle the edges with a fork, and freeze them for days I don't have a dinner planned.  Making these into turtles was time-consuming, but they received lots of compliments.

Poppy Seed Turnovers
1/2 cup minced onions
2 pounds lean ground beef
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 (10.5 oz.) cans cream of chicken soup

Crumble Beef in frying pan.  Sprinkle with onions.  Fry over medium heat until beef is cooked, drain off grease into a can. Add other ingredients and cook until liquid is absorbed.  Cool slightly before filling pastries.

4 cups flour
1 cup + 1/3 cup + 1/4 cup shortening
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup poppy seeds

Combine flour, salt, and poppy seeds in large bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until shortening is the size of small peas.  Sprinkle with water, tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with a fork until flour is moistened.  Gather dough together with fingers to form a lump.  Divide dough into 16 equal pieces.  On a lightly floured board, roll each piece into a circle about the size of a saucer, 1/8" thick.  Place 1/16th of ground beef mixture on half of the circle.  Fold dough over and use a fork to press the semi-circle closed.  Repeat until 16 are made.  At this point, turnovers may be frozen or baked.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes (30 minutes if frozen).      

I also served a green salad along with the meal which went with The Lorax book.

For dessert, I made Thing 1 and Thing 2 cupcakes from The Cat in the Hat.  I bought red cupcake holders, and made the signs on card stock.  The cupcakes were really cute, but I had trouble with the cotton candy.  I put it on directly before serving them because the ones I did prior to the party melted.  It didn't last long at all. I think if I were to host this party again, I would copy what Katie from Good Life Eats, Etc. did with her cupcakes....

Favor:  As a small gift to guests, I bought crazy colored socks from the dollar bin at Target and packaged them with a cute rhyme from the Fox in Sox.  This photo was just quickly taken to give you the idea. I forgot to take photos of the actual favor (which were super cute!).

There are so many great ideas for a Dr. Seuss party on the web.  My son is only 8 months, but he may have a Dr. Seuss birthday party in his future...LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras Time!

February and March is the season of Mardi Gras.  In 2011, I decided to theme my monthly dinner after this festive celebration -- A Fat Tuesday Party!  This is an easy theme for a dinner because you can purchase Mardi Gras themed items all over the place.  The colors are also simple -- purple, gold, and green.  I asked guest's to dress in these colors for the dinner.

Decor:  I used a bright purple tablecloth and green napkins. I made black masks and created designs on them with gold glitter.  I purchased a glittered top hat from Party City with the main Mardi Gras colors as another centerpiece and surrounded it with purple, gold, and green bead necklaces.  These items became props for our group photo later.

Just for laughs, I bought some fake boobs from a local costume shop!!  As the girls entered, I had them put them on for a quick photo op...and this is how they earned their bead necklace for the evening of course!  The bigger the better on these is awesome!!  I created a street sign for the wall with Bourbon Street to add more to the decor.

For a place card, I purchase mini bottles of bourbon.  I printed a Bourbon street sign on card stock with the guest's name.  I attached these to the bottle with Mardi Gras colors as well.

Party Activity:  When I ran my first marathon in New Orleans years before this party, and I noticed a popular game being played on the streets.  I decided to play this game, The Doubloon Toss, at the party.  I set up glasses (I used tea-light candle glasses because they are a little bigger than shot glasses), and I bought those chocolate gold coins you find in any store.  Guest's took turns seeing how many points they could earn as they tossed from a set line on the floor.  I adhered construction paper to the rim of the glass to designate point value.

Menu:  I served Jambalaya as my main dish as this is a very popular dish in New Orleans.  It was tasty.

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound frozen cooked shrimp without tails


  1. In a slow cooker, mix the chicken, sausage, tomatoes with juice, onion, green bell pepper, celery, and broth. Season with oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and thyme.
  2. Cover, and cook 7 to 8 hours on Low, or 3 to 4 hours on High. Stir in the shrimp during the last 30 minutes of cook time.

For dessert, I made a traditional Kings Cake.  The tradition with this cake is that you hide a mini plastic baby inside. The guest that is randomly served the slice of cake with the baby is supposed to be the next to host a party.  Some traditions say they are the next to bake a Kings Cake.  Since I always host the monthly dinners, it was a just for laughs for us.  I bought the baby at a local cake shop, Calico Cake Shop.  If you live in the area, you have to check out this is amazing!! I also bought the colored sugar there.

King Cake
Traditional New Orleans Recipe

1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)  
2 packages active dry yeast  
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar  
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups flour unsifted  
1 teaspoon nutmeg  
2 teaspoons salt  
1 teaspoon lemon zest, this is lemon rind, grated  
1/2 cup warm milk  
5 egg yolks  
1 stick butter cut into slices and softened, plus 2 tablespoons more softened butter  
1 egg slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk  
1 teaspoon cinnamon  
1 1" plastic baby doll

Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl, and sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar into it. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for three minutes then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm place for ten minutes, or until yeast bubbles up and mixture almost doubles in volume. Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt, and sift into a large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon zest. Separate center of mixture to form a hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk. Add egg yolks and, using a wooden spoon, slowly combine dry ingredients into the yeast/milk mixture. When mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons butter (1 tablespoon at a time) and continue to beat 2 minutes, or until dough can be formed into a medium-soft ball.

Place ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and knead like bread. While kneading, sprinkle up to 1 cup more of flour (1 tablespoon at a time) over the dough. When dough is no longer sticky, knead 10 minutes more until shiny and elastic.
Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with one tablespoon softened butter. Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered. Cover bowl with a moderately thick kitchen towel and place in a draft-free spot for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in volume. Using a pastry brush, coat a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of butter and set aside.

Remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured surface. Using your fist, punch dough down forcefully. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top, pat and shake dough into a cylinder. Twist dough to form a curled cylinder and loop cylinder onto the buttered baking sheet. Pinch the ends together to complete the circle. Cover dough with towel and set it in draft-free spot for 45 minutes, or until the circle of dough doubles in volume. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. 

Brush top and sides of cake with egg wash and bake on middle rack of oven for 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Place cake on wire rack to cool. If desired, you can hide the plastic baby in the cake at this time. 

3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3-6 tablespoons water

Mix sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water until mixture is smooth, adding more water as necessary to achieve a smooth, spreadable consistency. Spread icing over cake and immediately sprinkle colored sugar in alternating color rows.

Happy Mardi Gras season everyone!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fake an Injury Party...SOOO Fun!

A good friend of mine, and one of our amazing monthly dinner girls, just had major surgery on her ankle, so I thought I would choose a theme in her honor.  Didn't want her to feel alone with her wheelchair and cast, hence...a Fake an Injury Party!! This party was a lot of fun to host, and you could host this theme for many occasions such as a welcome home from the hospital party, a congrats on your graduation from nursing school, a funny birthday party playing up the "you're old" idea, or a party for watching your favorite medical drama TV show!

Invite: Start off with a hospital themed invitation.  Maybe an admittance form to the Emergency Room or a prescription note.  Another idea would be to slice open a gauze pad wrapper (neatly so you cannot tell it is open), and slide in a note with the party details. Or...send a box of band aids and write one party detail on each band aid inside.  The possibilities are endless.  Just make sure you ask guests to come dressed up with an injury for this Fake an Injury party.  This just adds to the fun!

Decor: The decor for this theme started at the street in front of my house where I placed handicap parking signs at all the places my guests would park.  The girls got a kick out of this.  At the entry door, I borrowed a manikin from a colleague and gave it some simple injuries -- bandaids, Ace bandages, cast on the leg made of toilet paper (it's cheaper than gauze).  I placed a walker I borrowed from my mother-in-law in front of her.  A sign on the door read Emergency Room.

The table was set like an medical exam room.  I bought a plastic bluish/teal tablecloth from Party City and made a runner with exam room paper down the center of the table.  I just asked my doctor if I could take 13 feet of this paper, so this didn't cost me anything.  I also asked my doctor for the pinkish maroon paper exam gown they give to patients. I cut this up into rectangles to use as napkins and wrapped a band aid around to enclose the silverware.  I used the board game Operation as my centerpiece.  I also borrowed some hospital pitchers from my parents and served red and white wine in them.  I wrapped each chair with an Ace bandage just for fun.

 For place cards, I created a prescription slip using Microsoft Word.  I marked each prescription according to the guest's personality/lifestyle, so guests received prescriptions for items such as a "stiff drink" or a "day off".

I also created prescription bottles for each guest.  This is a scan of the label, so the colors as not as vibrant here.  The bottle of pills could be your favor, but I used it as a place card.  I designed the label again using Microsoft Word and modeled it after a prescription label I found online.  The prescription number was the date of the party.  I bought empty pill containers from a local pharmacy and adhered the label using Mod Podge. I filled each prescription bottle with Mike n Ikes because they are shaped like little pills.

From the ceiling, I dangled medical gloves filled with air (actually my hubby did which is why there is blue tape and not a clear tape that wouldn't show!). The gloves I had were too heavy for helium to make them float, so I just used air.  Just make sure you knot them (which is difficult).  Those I did not knot and just tied tightly with the ribbon lost all air.  I also posted some xays up as more decor.

Menu:  I started with a simple green salad and fixin's.  I served this in a hospital urine (new of course!).  I got 10cc syringes and put the salad dressing in these.  A bigger syringe would have been better for this, but I got the syringes for free from a colleague, so I couldn't be picky.  This size was a little difficult to get the Italian seasonings out of though.  The Ranch dressing worked fine.

For the main course, I made Chicken Parmassan. I served this with roasted asparagus and spaghetti. To tie in the hospital theme, I served the spaghetti in a hospital bowl and the spaghetti sauce in a syringe (I chose this meal mainly so I could have something red in the syringe).  The syringes I used for this were made for taking alcoholic "shots", so they had a bigger opening.  I purchased them at Party City.  Note: I did have to put the spaghetti sauce in the blender to make it thin enough to work.

When I was thinking about what to have for dessert, I thought of the slogan for Rice Krispies -- Snap, Crackle, Pop -- and thought this idea went well with my theme!  I looked on the Rice Krispies website and found this yummy recipe that incorporated both the cereal as well as strawberry topping which could look like blood.  I made Rice Krispie treats according to the general directions, but then pressed them into a 10 x 15 x 1 inch pan. I didn't have a circle cookie cutter big enough (3"), so I used an empty can of pears with the lid cut out.  Then just make a normal sundae.  I used fat-free vanilla yogurt.

As usual, we had a great time at this party.  If money is not an issue, you can order all these things online and save yourself a lot of time. Money is ALWAYS an issue for me, so I handmade and borrowed a lot of the items.  Would love to hear your opinion about this party or hear how you've incorporated these ideas into a similar party.  Just comment below.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day...the Way We Wish THEY would Do It!

Romance is a foreign word to some of our men, so this holiday is not often exactly what we women hope for.  Back in 2007, I decided to make some of our Valentine's Day wishes come true.  Unfortunately, I don't really have any photographs from this dinner (didn't know about blogging back then), but I wanted to share the yummy recipe of the main dish I served in case any of you want to craft a homemade dinner for your special someone.
Easy Mixed Grill
(taken from Better Homes and Gardens)

2  3-to-4 ounce beef tenderloin steaks (cut 3/4 inch thick)
1  sweet Italian sausage link, cut in 1 1/2 to 2-inch slices
4  jumbo shrimp, 16 to 20 per pound, peeled and deveined
4  6-inch wooden skewers
1/4  cup fresh lime juice or lemon juice
2  cloves garlic, minced
2  tablespoons olive oil
2  tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1  recipe Herbed Ketchup (see next recipe)

Place meats and shrimp in resealable bag set in shallow dish.  Soak skewers in water.  In bowl, stir together lime juice, garlic, olive oil, cilantro, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper; pour in bag; seal.  Marinate in refrigerator up to 2 hours, turning occasionally.  Drain; discard marinade.  Thread 2 shrimp on each of the 2 skewers.  Thread sausage on remaining skewers.  For charcoal grill, place sausages on rack of uncovered grill directly over medium coals.  Grill 15 minutes or until juices run clear and no pink remains, turning frequently.  Grill steaks 8 to 10 minutes for medium-rare, turning once.  Grill shrimp skewers 2 to 3 minutes per side or until shrimp are opaque.  Place steaks on platter.  Add cilantro sprigs.  Remove shrimp from skewers; place atop each steak, forming a heart shape.  Add sausage kabob.  Serve with Herbed Ketchup.  Serves 2.

Herbed Ketchup

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic, quartered
1/4  teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in small food processor bowl. Cover; process until nearly smooth, stopping to scrape sides.  Cover and chill.  Use within 2 days.  Makes 8 (1 tbl.) servings.

Decor:  The decor was simple for this dinner.  A red tablecloth with white cloth napkins and my fine china.  I had a vase of single red roses as the centerpiece and gave each guest one as they departed along with a chocolate rose. (Flowers and chocolate = happiness!)

To top off the night, I decided to present each girl with a gift most women hope for on Valentine's  I bought a light blue box for each girl, wrote "Tiffany's" on top, and tied it with a white ribbon.  Inside, I put a ring pop!! The girls got a kick out of this.  The surprising thing was 2 weeks later, my boyfriend (now hubby), actually proposed on Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ready for the "Souper" Bowl?

The Super Bowl is less than a week away, and while I am very bummed that my 49ers could not pull off a win to be playing, I still love watching the game.  Every year, the February monthly dinner falls just after this football game, so last year, I decided to theme my dinner the "Souper" Bowl. I had already done a Monday Night FOODball theme back in the first year I started hosting these dinners, so this one did not really have anything to do with football beyond the name. can see it was still a lot of fun (and super yummy!)

Invitation:  Why not make a recipe card with party details as your recipe? For an example of this, see the post of my daughter's cooking-themed birthday party. If you wanted to stick with some link to the football game, you could craft a sports ticket to the big game with all the details.  That would be cute.

Decor:  I wanted to have a simple table because I wanted to have bread and chips handy for guests to use for their soup.  The only centerpiece I had was a pretend bowl of soup created with my daughter's play vegetables and a little orange tissue paper.

Each place setting, I set with a ceramic soup bowl for each guest.  All but one of the guests that attended this particular dinner were teachers, so I found some cute bowls that said "Souper" Teacher.  For the one guest that was not a teacher, I just scrapbooked over the teacher part so that it said her career (a little cheesy I know, but these are my good friends--they are well aware how cheesy I am!).  Inside the bowl, I wrapped a package of instant Chicken Noodle Soup mix as well as the 4 recipes for the soups we had at the party. I rolled the silverware in an orange napkin and tied it with green ribbon to somewhat look like a carrot. I could have done a better job with this if I had more time, but I was rushed on making them.

For the place card, I bought cans of chicken noodle soup and created personalized soup labels for each guest. I used alliteration, so the labels identified the soups as "Minestrone Michelle", "Kidney Bean Kelli", etc. I cut out a photo of the guest and pasted it in the middle graphic.  I also changed the expiration section to read "Best if Tasted By February 7th, 2010" which was the date of the party.  This was all done with a soup label I found on Google and then using Microsoft Word to edit it (remember, I don't know Photoshop!!)

Menu:  I served 3 different kinds of soups for the main meal and one for dessert.  Each one was a little different, and honestly, they all got rave reviews.  I just had crock pots set up on a table with all the fixings for each soup, so guests could pick and choose which soup to start with.  Here are the recipes and the recipe cards I made for each guest.

The Split Pea recipe I have made several times and it always tastes good. The other soups were fairly new to me, but all were delicious.  The dessert was just a recipe I found online, but it was super yummy!! I served this soup in a martini glass just for fun.

Activity/Game:  I like to have small activities at the monthly dinners just for laughs.  We had a vote for which soup won the "Souper Bowl" of course, but we also played a game with alphabet soup.  Each guests used spoon to scoop out two spoonfuls of uncooked Alphabet soup.  They then had a certain amount of time to craft as many words as they could using the letters in front of them.  Each guest got a point for having the most words that no one else had.  We had some good laughs with this one.  The winner had to do all the dishes for the evening...just kidding...they got a jar of homemade soup mix.  I had to search a bit for the alphabet soup (they were too expensive online for me), but I ended up finding the packets at Albertson's for less than $1.  Here is a scan of the sheet I made for the game...

All in all, it was a very simple, but fun evening.  I made the Split Pea and the Strawberry soup ahead of time, so this cut down on the day-of craziness.  If you are interested in throwing a "Souper" Bowl party for Sunday's big game, maybe this is your ticket! Enjoy!