Friday, November 10, 2017

Journey to Neverland

I am the Activities Director at a high school, and last week was our Homecoming Week.  Our dance theme this year was Peter Pan, so Peter Pan has been at the forefront of my thoughts and I decided to make it our November monthly dinner theme as well.  I love that this theme can be elegant, mystical, or just plain fun.

Invite:  I created the invitation on PhotoShop.  I love the nighttime shades of blue mixed with black, white, and yellow. I also love any excuse to wear pajamas!

Entry Decor:  This wooden sign is the one piece I borrowed from my school's Homecoming decorations.  We made this sign for the dance, but it worked perfectly at my front door.  I also made the giant Peter Pan hat out of green posterboard, my Cricut cutter to make the letters, and some red feathers. Super easy to make.

Inside Decor:  Peter Pan has some amazing characters, and I wanted to incorporate them all into my table. For Peter Pan, I borrowed a Peter Pan hat from one of my students who was Peter Pan for Halloween.

For Tinkerbell, I used my Cricut and a gold glitter cardstock to cut a silhouette of Tinkerbell sitting down.  I placed her on top of a candle and added green moss to the base.  The glass around her I bought at Michaels, and I set it all on a log I already had in my home. I had some battery powered tea light candles under the moss to have a little "twinkle" of light, but they were candles I had sitting around the house, and they lost power before the party, so I took them out.

The pirate ship I purchased at Michaels and then painted.  I added some blue tissue paper under to look like the ocean and spread chocolate gold coins throughout the centerpiece.

For the placecards, I painted chest boxes with glitter gold and brown paint.  I put some gold tissue paper in the bottom as a spacer, and then added a beaded necklace and some chocolate gold coins.  I made a map of Neverland on Photoshop and added each guest's name.

These Peter Pan hat napkins are super easy, and I love what they added to the table.  I bought large dinner napkins and just folded them before adding a red feather.

For wine charms, I made Captain Hook hooks out of cardstock in various colors.  These were easy to do on my Cricut cutter.

The wine labels I designed to match the invitation and menu cards.  They were just simple silhouettes of Peter and Tinkerbell.

Menu: Although some items on my menu took some time to craft, many of these items were made the evening before, so that made the day-of stress a lot less.  For a starter, we had Second Star to the Right Soup (Thanks Deanna for taking over making this one of me!)  We used star shaped pasta in a chicken soup recipe.  You can buy the star shaped pasta at almost any grocery.  The soup was delicious, and we only served a small amount so guests wouldn't fill up too much on it.

For the main course, I served beef turnovers.  I have made these a ton of times for my family using pie crust (see my Dr. Seuss post for the recipe were I made Yertle the Turtle turnovers).  For this party, I used puff pastry instead since I was having pie for dessert.  As always, these turnovers are really good.  When I make a batch, I usually freeze half of them, and save them for another night's meal.  For these Peter Pan hats, I shaped the turnovers into triangles.  I added a red feather out of cardstock just sticking the end of it into the pastry.

Along with the turnovers, I served skewered vegetables to make them look like The Lost Boys' swords.  The swords are zucchini and yellow squash cut in semicircles.  The hilt of the sword is a red pepper.  The red pepper is cut horizonal in order to have a larger curve.  We tried it the other way, and it didn't look as good.  Helpful hint: slightly cook the veggies in the microwave before skewering.  This makes it easier to thread the skewer without the raw vegetables breaking.  After all were threaded, I put the swords in the broiler to bake the rest of the way.

I also made Tinkerbell jello.  I borrowed some mini bundt cake molds from my mom and made a simple lime jello.  I found an image of Tinkerbell -- I just had to PhotoShop the second wing on her because of the placement of the wing on the image I found.  I printed her on cardstock, cut her out, and taped a toothpick to the back before sticking her image in the jello.  Super simple.

For dessert, I made these PIE-rate ships. I found the recipe here, but I only followed the recipe for the pie crust. I needed simple, so I bought apple pie filling from the grocery for the inside.  These PIE-rate ships definitely were not the simplest things to make, but I think all the steps were worth it, as they were really cute and matched my theme.

Favor:  These monthly dinner girls are my closest friends, so I made this sign to display near my favors.  I truly do have the most amazing friends.  As a parting gift to guests, I had lime green boxes that I filled with tissue paper and chocolate gold coins.  I glued a red feather to the front for a Peter Pan flair.

I also had Tinkerbell's Pixie Sticks.  I cut silver glitter stars with my Cricut and glued one to the top of each Pixie Stix.  The quote on the front of the vase is one of my favorites from Peter Pan.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Oktoberfest Celebration

We celebrated 11 years of monthly dinners with an Oktoberfest theme full of beers and brats.  Even though I am not a beer drinker, I have always thought an Oktoberfest theme would be fun, and when I saw the fun decorations from Oriental Trading, I was inspired!  I didn't completely swap out the wine for beer at this party, but I did incorporate beer into the recipes and decor.

Invite:  I created the invite on Photoshop. I used the classic design of blue and white diamond checks of the Bavarian flag and partnered it with a bright yellow.

Entry Decor:  Oriental Trading has a blue and white diamond checks bunting, that I decorated my door and tables with.  While it would have made great bunting decor, I cut the single piece of fabric into three pieces to create two table runners and a door runner for my front door.  I added this Oktoberfest hanging fan also from Oriental Trading.

My table - a yellow tablecloth and the same bunting as the front door. 

For a centerpiece, I used a giant glass beer stein with gold sunflowers.  I filled the glass with rod pretzels instead of water, just for fun.  Alongside the stein, I had an Oktoberfest lager box with empty beer bottles filled with wheat.

On the other side of the vase, I created a Prost label that matched my name cards/invitation to adhere to a pint glass.  I made these beer mug pretzels to place inside!  They were not difficult to make except for the yellowish layer/attaching the pretzel handle.  You have to wait until the yellowish layer is warm, not hot, or it melts the dark chocolate layer underneath.  Lesson learned.  The white foam top was easy.

I decorated my napkins to match the theme.  I wrapped bright blue cardstock and yellow ribbon around the folded napkin and then just set a pretzel on top. Simple. Cute.

I absolutely love my place cards.  I purchased votive holders from Michaels and made them into mini beer steins.  I created labels for the front and glued a handle made of cardstock to the votive.  I filled them with beer for added fun.

Above and behind my table, I placed more of the Oktoberfest hanging fans. I love that the package came with both of these two designs.  Above my separate drink table, I also hung a beer garland and hanging fan which was perfect.  The hanging fans and garland were both from Oriental Trading.  

The girls and I are wine drinkers mostly,  so I couldn't have a monthly dinner without wine.  I created these wine labels to go with the theme. I looked up the German words for red and white wine to include on the labels.

For wine charms, I stayed simple.  I dipped pretzels in yellow, light blue, white, and dark blue.  Then I tied them to each wine glass.

Menu: I started the evening with pretzel bites (I used premade frozen ones) and a Beer Cheese Dip.
The dip was delicious, but since I used an IPA, it had a bit stronger beer flavor.  If you want a lighter beer flavor, choose a lighter beer.

                      Beer Cheese Dip

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese softened
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 recipe Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix or one packet store-bought
6 ounces beer
4 chives or 1 scallion thinly sliced
garlic powder to taste
pretzels chips, or crackers for serving
Combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, ranch mix, beer, and chives in a large bowl and mix well. Add garlic powder to taste, starting with 1/2 teaspoon and adding more if desired.
Cover and chill at least 30 minutes to blend flavor. Serve chilled with pretzels, chips, or crackers.

For the main dish, I served beer bratwurst I made in the slow cooker.  The recipe is simple and tasty.  I placed all the fixings on the side so guests could pick and choose which they wanted on their brats - onion, red pepper, sauerkraut, yellow pepper, green pepper, and a German mustard.  The Oktoberfest serving trays for the brats and paper snack cups for the fixings (and the beer dip) are from Oriental Trading.

Slow Cooker Beer Brats
2 (14-oz.) pkgs. smoked bratwursts
cooking oil
1 large white onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced
1-2 minced garlic cloves
½ tsp. pepper
1 (12-oz.) can beer

In a large skillet over medium high heat add enough cooking oil to cover the bottom. Add the brats and brown them on all sides; I do this in 2 batches. While the brats are browning add the onion, bell peppers, garlic, and black pepper to the slow cooker.  Add the browned brats on top of the onion and peppers. Pour over the beer.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours.

I made traditional red cabbage to serve alongside the beer brats. I had never made this before.  The girls and I really enjoyed it though.  It was easy and tasty.

           Braised Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

One half a large red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced red cabbage and toss to coat with the butter. Sauté until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over the cabbage and toss to coat evenly. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pot. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until the cabbage is completely tender, stirring often, about 30 minutes total.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

A streudel was the first dessert I thought of when I thought of a German menu. In searching on Pinterest, I found a super simple recipe that I decided to try out to save myself time. I am so glad I did because it was delicious! I used the same Oktoberfest snack cups to serve the streusel and added vanilla ice cream to those that wanted it.

           Apple Sugar Cookie Streusel Bars 

1 pouch (17.5 oz) Betty Crocker™ sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 can (21 oz) more fruit apple pie filling (about 2 1/3 cups)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 375°F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch square pan with cooking spray.  In large bowl, place cookie mix. Cut in butter, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture is crumbly (do not overmix).  Reserve 1 1/2 cups cookie mixture for topping; set aside. Press remaining mixture in bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.  In small bowl, mix pie filling and cinnamon until well blended. Spread on top of partially baked crust. Sprinkle with reserved 1 1/2 cups cookie mixture.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely, about 4 hours. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

Favor:  For a fun take-home, I packed some goodies into yellow favor boxes from Oriental Trading. I created a tag for the front with "Thank you for 11 years" written in German.  Inside I placed pretzels inside another Oktoberfest snack cup, a bottle of Oktoberfest fall lager, and these fun "beer me" can openers from Oriental Trading.

Once again, this was a great theme and an amazing evening with friends.  I recommend throwing an Oktoberfest party for your friends next year!

I partnered with Oriental Trading Company for this post. I received product(s) in exchange for my honest and unbiased thoughts. All thoughts and opinions stated are my own and are in no way influenced by my partnership with the above mentioned brand.  

Friday, September 22, 2017

A League of Their Own Party

My last monthly dinner was a League of Their Own theme, and it was a ton of fun! It is such a fun movie and a super easy theme to pull off.  Play the movie in the background during a girls night dinner or just use some of these ideas for a future baseball theme party.  I had fun creating the details for this party especially the place cards, wine decor, and favors.

Invite:  Just like the movie, I centered my party around the Rockford Peaches team. I created the invite on PhotoShop in pink and red like the uniforms of the players adding their logo and some other baseball graphics.

Decor:  Baseball decor is always easy to throw together, but I wanted to add some specific League of Their Own items as well.  I used a pink tablecloth and set out red card stock to create diamonds as a table runner. 

My centerpiece was a vase filled with baseballs and peanuts.  I added a Rockford Peaches pennant that I made out of card stock and a skewer.  Alongside the vase, I created a sign to highlight one of the most well-known quotes from the film, Jimmy Dougan's "There's No Crying in Baseball!"

I purchased a plain red baseball cap for $5 on Amazon, and printed the Rockford Peach "R" logo to place on it. I didn't want to ruin the hat, so I didn't glue it, but just dented the hat a little and set it on there.  Worked perfectly.

I used my Cricut cutting machine to cut out baseball stitching to fit my plates.  To help them stay affixed to the plate until serving time, I used small pieces of scotch tape.

For place cards, I made a baseball card for each guest. I found images of the real Rockford Peaches online, and then used Photoshop to swap out the Peach's face with the face of my guest.  These were hilarious, and some really looked like they matched up perfectly! I created the design surrounding the photo to look like the originals with the GPBL logo, each guest's name, and a baseball position.

My husband and I recently finished making a baseball shelf for my son's bedroom (a shelf with baseballs below it to hang hats on), and since we hadn't put it up in his room yet, I decided to use it in my decor.  I turned it over and set some more Rockford Peach pennants I made on it.  I also printed a copy of the original Rockford Peaches to place in the middle.

One of my favorite touches for the party I came up with was the wine charms and Line Up card.  I cut Rockford Peach uniforms out of card stock to create wine charms. I used PhotoShop to design a baseball line up to assign my guest's a uniform number.  This number became their wine glass for the evening.

I always have fun designing wine labels to go with my themes, and this party was no exception.  I matched the baseball card design I created for the place cards, and created wine labels with baseball cards.  I swapped out Geena Davis' baseball bat for a white wine bottle in one, and Madonna's wave became a raising of a red wine bottle in the other! Makes you chuckle, right?

Menu:  It would be easy to serve hot dogs for any baseball theme, but since this wasn't a kid party, so I didn't want them to be my main dish.  We started with an appetizer of mini pigs in a blanket that I called "Dougan Dogs" after the Rockford Peaches' coach Jimmy Dougan.  I created menu cards in the same design as the invitation.

For the main dish, I served "Betty Spaghetti" with a Vodka ("Hooch") Sauce after Marla Hooch and Betty "Spaghetti" Horn from the film.

Along with the spaghetti, I served "Mae"-ple Glazed Carrots after Madonna's character "All the Way Mae."

Store-bought breadsticks became baseball bats to go with the spaghetti.

To represent the Rockford Peaches as a team, I served a Peach Cream Cheese cake.  You could easily do a cobbler or peach jello, but this dessert wasn't too hard to make.

Favor:  As a take-home gift, I gave each guest Peach Ring candies.  I made clear baseball pouches to put them in.  To make the pouches, I cut circles out of a clear plastic table cloth (you could probably use thick sheet protectors although I haven't tried it with those). Then I hand sewed the red baseball laces on using embroidery thread.  This did take some time to sew all them.  Once I was done with the red, the black around the edge was stitched with a sewing machine leaving a small hole big enough to stick the peach rings through. My mom helped me get the black sewn and then hand-stitched closed once the peach rings were inside. (Thanks Mom!)

This photo shows how I displayed them.  It was a bit hard to see the stitching with the reddish/peach candy, but peach went with my theme, so I did it anyway.  I think these would be really cute with white mints in there.  Then the lacing would really pop.

Only half of our normally monthly dinner "team" could make it, but we had a fun evening. Oh...and check out my Rockford Peaches shirt!  I ordered it off Amazon because it went with the theme, but I also just think it's a cool shirt I'll wear often.