Saturday, July 13, 2019

Hello to the Heartland

My family just returned from a 3-week road trip exploring some of the Midwestern states.  It was a lot of driving, but such a great family experience.  We love road trips, and my 5, 8, and 10 year old do great with them. This year, we hit a total of 17 states!  California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, tip of Oklahoma and Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. I love a travel theme, and since I got back two days before my dinner party, Hello to the Heartland seemed like a good theme.

Invite:  I designed the invite on Photoshop and highlighted one landmark from some of the states we visited.  Nothing too fancy for the invite, just straightforward info.

Decor:  For my table decor, I chose to use tablecloths and napkins that matched the red, yellow, and blue of the invitation.  For the centerpiece, I used some souvenir items from our trip as well as some things I found around the house.

Kansas is the Sunflower State, so I bought some beautiful sunflowers to place in a mason jar.  Next to it I set my 5-year old daughter's duck boat souvenir from Wisconsin Dells.

I made a St. Louis arch with a pool noodle and some wood.  My husband made the wood piece with pegs on each side.  We spray-painted the base green and the noodle silver and slid it on the pegs to make it stay.  I borrowed my son's Field of Dreams souvenir hat with a baseball and ear of corn to represent Iowa.  My daughter's Nashville shirt and toy horse to represent Tennessee and the hundreds of horses we saw on farms.

When in Kentucky, we toured the Louisville Slugger factory.  These are the mini bats they gave us at the end of the tour as well as a magnet I purchased.

My aunt and uncle gave my son this hat when we visited them in Indiana. Added another ear of corn to represent this state as well.

For place cards, I designed postcards from some of our favorite spots we visited.  I thought it would be easy to find current postcards with Google images, but it was actually not as easy as I thought.  I did have to design them.  Instead of just "Greetings from Nashville" as a normal postcard might say, I needed to add the guest's name.  I used Photoshop to change it to "Michelle sends Greetings from Nashville" or sayings similar to this.

I set up my drink and appetizer table with this metal United States.  I bought it to use on my wall of travel photos.  Just added a heart near some of the heartland states.

I printed out state shapes to use as both napkin decor and wine charms.  Nothing fancy.

I had fun making the wine labels to match this trip.  My family visited both Churchill Downs and Wrigley Field, so I used these as inspiration.  "I'll have Another" won the Kentucky Derby in 2012, and it just seemed like a fun name to use for a word play.

My family also visited both the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee for a tour as well as the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis to see the Clydesdale horses.  I don't usually serve beer at these dinners, but since it was part of my Heartland vacation, I decided to serve both.

Menu:  For the menu, I wanted to try to serve the most popular food from each state we visited.  We started with Wisconsin cheese.  I found Wisconsin cheese sticks at the grocery and cut them into cubes. 

I also served Toasted Ravioli - a favorite in Missouri.  I bought frozen ravioli and then dipped them in egg wash and breadcrumbs before frying them and adding a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.  So good.

Many states in the Midwest are known for barbecue, so it was easy to choose the main dish.  To represent Kansas, we had BBQ chicken with Kansas City sauce.

Corn is a huge crop in the Heartland, and it goes great with BBQ, so I served small ears of corn to represent Iowa.

Chicago is well-known for deep dish pizza, but it didn't quite fit with the BBQ and corn.  I stretched the most popular foods for this side dish and went with baked beans to symbolically represent the Bean at Cloud Gate in Chicago.

There are so many great desserts to choose from. I almost made Hoosier Pie, a favorite in Indiana, but decided to make moon pies from Tennessee.  These looked so cute when I first made them right before the party.  Unfortunately, by they time I served them the marshmallow had melted a bit.  If you make these, keep them in the frig or pipe the marshmallow on right before for a better look.  They were really good regardless.  Here's the recipe I used.

Favor:  You can't do a road trip in the Midwest without seeing cornfields, so I decided corn would be my favor.  I popped some popcorn and put it in a Ziploc baggie. I taped the closure of the bag to hide it in the back and wrapped a piece of green tissue paper around the bag for the husk.  Make sure you tape the baggie to the tissue paper a bit so it stays where you want it. I twisted the bottom and tied it with string; then made a silly tag to go with it.

We had a great time.  Can't wait to hear what you thought of this party theme and it's details!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Best of Broadway

I love Broadway musicals, so I knew I could have some fun with this theme for our latest Monthly Dinner.  I stayed mostly with well-known/popular musicals, but added in a few others for smaller details. After throwing this themed dinner, I can't wait to get tickets to another musical soon!

Invite:  I designed the invite with Playbill covers of musicals on each side.  I incorporated some songs/phrases from popular musicals in the text.  Broadway musical fans would recognize most - empty chairs at empty tables (Les Miserables), Seize the Day (Newsies), Wicked, Rise Up (Hamilton), and Razzle Dazzle You (Chicago).

Decor:  I had so much fun setting the table for this dinner.  I highlighted 5 musicals in the centerpiece - Legally Blond, Mamma Mia, West Side Story, Newsies, and Chicago.  If you had multiple tables, you could easily break these up.

For Legally Blond, I found a wine gift bag shaped like a purse.  I bought a chihuahua plush from Party City to represent Elle's dog Bruiser, a Cosmopolitan magazine because "any Cosmo girl would know", some bunny ears to symbolize Elle's outfit at the "costume" party, and a pink boa just for fun.

For Mamma Mia, I borrowed some silver-glittered microphones from the dance teacher at my school.

For West Side Story, I grabbed 3 red bricks from my backyard, made a stencil, and spray-painted the words of the title on them.

For Newsies, I printed off some old newspaper headlines that went with the strike, rolled them up, and put them inside a vase.  I added a newsboy cap to complete the look.

Finished off with the centerpiece with a red boa and a plastic gun to go with Chicago.

For each place setting I used black paper plates and cut out a white Phantom of the Opera mask to set on it.  I cut out the Hamilton logo on gold cardstock to set on up of a black napkin.

For placecards, I created theater tickets with popular musicals on Photoshop for a VIP Performance for each "special guest".

I made some fun wine labels to go with the Broadway theme. The musical Cabaret (instead of Cabernet) for the red wine, and a fun play on the Hamilton logo for the white wine.

The wine charms were Playbill program covers for musicals that I had not used for other aspects of the decor.

Here a look at the side table with the wine and favors.  I made a sign out of posterboard and cardstock.  I punched some holes to fit some lights through to add the flashy side of Broadway.  I created a simple banner of Playbill covers as well.

Menu:  It was fun to come up with the menu for this theme.  I tried to stay with common phrases from musicals or actual names of musicals again so guests could see the reference even if they were not hardcore Broadway fans.  We started with a Caesar Salad, I named "Seize"er the Day - after the famous phrase from Newsies.

I recently bought my husband a Traeger smoker for his birthday (we love it).  I decided to cook Tri Tip on it for our main dish...and yes, it was Wickedly good!

I made Potato Chip Zucchini Sticks as a vegetable using Lays Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.  I called this Lays Miserables.  I had marinara sauce on the side for those guests that wanted to dip them as this was a suggestion from the recipe.  These were pretty tasty.  I like the combo of the softer veggie with the crispy potato chip.

To go with the Broadway show Annie, I served a fruit salad in buckets with mops.  The buckets I found 3 for a dollar at the dollar store.  The mops I made out of chocolate sucker sticks and yarn.

For dessert, I served vanilla ice cream with a chocolate spoon.  I added drink umbrellas that I painted black to represent the musical Mary Poppins with her iconic umbrella and a spoon full of sugar.  The spoon mold is from Pampered Chef and I have had it for a year.  I finally found a chance to use it!

Favor:  I had a lot of fun customizing the favors for this party. Instead of giving everyone the same favor this time, I came up with something small that went with a Broadway musical and put it inside a black bag.  I printed the Playbill covers for the front and used a small clothespin with a glitter star glued to it to close up each bag.  Here's what I came up with to put inside.

For Mamma Mia, the bag had two Abba-Zaba bars since all the music from this musical is from Abba.  Guests opened the bags one by one after dessert.  It was fun to capture the laughs and smiles.

Inside the Newsies bag, I put two packs of Extra gum.  "Extra, all about it!"  The Legally Blond was empty because it wouldn't fit, but the guest was given the Cosmo magazine from the centerpiece.

For Chicago, I put a silly squirt gun and some Razzles candy to "razzle dazzle them".  The musical Hairspray, was obviously a travel size hairspray.

For both the Phantom of the Opera bag and the Shrek bag, I bought face masks.  A white face mask for Phantom and a green cucumber one for Shrek.  Super silly little gifts in these, but it was fun to open them.  I tried to get all usable and inexpensive items (except the magazine, but since I was using it for the centerpiece it served two purposes).

We had a lot of fun with this theme, and I encouraged guests to come dressed to the theme.  This is me as a Newsie and my friend in a Wicked apron.  Some guests had cat ears for Cats, Aladdin leggings, and a Lion King shirt.  I had so much fun throwing this gathering, and it definitely made me want to go see another musical.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Wheel of Fortune Party

For some reason, when I was trying to think of a theme for April's monthly dinner, the television show Wheel of Fortune popped into my head.  I don't even really know why as it isn't a show I watched very much growing up, but it is the longest-running syndicated game in show in US history!  When I started to think about this theme, my creativity started flowing, and I had so much fun putting together the theme for this dinner.  So, let's get to the details...

Invite:  Of course I had to use the iconic puzzle board as the main focus of the invitation along with the giant wheel.  I used PhotoShop to create the puzzle and add the other items.

Entry Decor:  It was fun to create the table decor for this dinner theme. I used a lot of bright colors and game show inspired pieces to make it fun.

For the centerpiece, I used scrapbook paper to make wedges to resemble the giant spinning wheel wedges from the show, and used my Cricut to cut out the numbers, etc.  I placed them in the center along with a $1 frame from Michaels that I painted with gold glitter.  I made a puzzle board with our theme on it to tape to the center of the frame.

For the place setting, I folded napkins to look like wedges and then added numbers.  On top of each plate, I had a puzzle for the guests to solve later in the evening.

I made the placecards to be name badges like they have on Wheel of Fortune.  I bought wooden ovals from Michaels to paint white.  I cut the blue oval out of cardstock and the letters on white cardstock.  They sat at each place setting to start, but I hot glued a large safety pin to the back, so once we sat down to dinner, the guests wore them on their clothing.

For my side table, I made a banner and a giant fake check.

I designed these fun labels for my wine! Vanna White Wine and Pat Sajak asking  if we want to "Buy a Vowel" to complete the Red Wine puzzle.

For wine charms, I printed out the Wheel of Fortune spinner wheel to wrap around the stem of each glass.  I cut a small white triangle of card stock to act as the "pointer."  Each pointer was glued to a different wedge, so guests could distinguish which glass was theirs.

Menu:  I had fun planning the menu for this dinner and trying to match it to the theme.  We started with a colorful green salad, but instead of serving it in a giant bowl, I separated the ingredients into wedges on a wheel.  The salad included spring mix salad, tomatoes, corn, orange peppers, and olives.

On the show Wheel of Fortune, there is often a prize wedge with some sort of vacation. For this dinner, we won a trip to Italy!!  I bought wagon WHEEL pasta that we served with a simple tomato sauce, sauted mushrooms, and fresh Parmesan cheese.  Easy and yummy.

We also won a car for this monthly dinner!  I borrowed my daughter's Barbie Corvette as a serving platter for garlic knot rolls.  These were just frozen rolls I found in the frozen section of the grocery store.  Five minutes in the oven and they were delicious.

We had a bit of fun with dessert with the "mystery wedge."  I converted a cake decorating turntable into the Wheel of Fortune wheel using colorful cardstock.  I bent a bright colored pipe cleaner to use to indicate which wedge the spinner landed on.  I bought a cheesecake variety pack from Sams Club, and placed a slice of cheesecake on each wedge.  Guests spun the wheel to see which piece they would get for dessert!

This was so easy and such a fun addition to the evening fun.

Party Activities:  We had a little fun with guessing puzzles in our own style of Wheel of Fortune.  At each place setting, I had a puzzle.  We didn't spin a wheel, but each guest was able to participate as Vanna White while the rest of us guessed the puzzle.

I placed the "solve" of each puzzle on the bottom of the plate, so each guest was able to know the answer before each round began.

For this dinner, I used the names of past monthly dinners.  It was fun to remember memories and laugh about them after we solved the puzzle and the game definitely got everyone involved.

Favor:  We were all winners with this game of Wheel of Fortune.  Each guest won 3 mini 100 Grand bars!  I created a simple game puzzle tag that read Thanks for Coming.

This was a fun party to design.  We had fun with everything from the food to decor.  Definitely recommend hosting one of these if you have friends that love game show-inspired games!