Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer Fun with my GRILLS!

There's nothing like a party to celebrate Summer.  For August's monthly dinner, I went with a theme of Summer Fun with my GRILLS!  A fun play on the words grills and girls, don't you think?  All the food and decor was either grilled on the bbq or decorated to look like a grill. Check it out...

Invite:  I created an invite on Photoshop. I went with a color scheme of red, orange, and yellow to pull in the fire aspect.  I added the light blue to give it a light summer feel.

Entry Decor:  I purchased a small charcoal grill at Ace Hardware to use as a prop at my entry.  I placed colored tissue paper in the bottom and through the rack to look like a fire.

I cut "Welcome Grills" out of card stock using my Cricut.  I sliced a slit down the center of real hot dogs, and placed the letters inside the slit to hold them in place.

Inside Decor:  I set the table with a red tablecloth and some picnic fabric I bought at Joanns.  For the centerpieces, I made a pretend grill, set out BBQ tools, and a condiment candy "grill".  The drawers in the "grill" are the salt and pepper!

Here's a side view of the grill centerpiece.  I found a red plastic bowl at Target, placed charcoal in the bottom, and glued skewers I painted black to the top.  I set it on a metal spice jar and borrowed my kids' pretend food to set on the top.

For place cards, I made mini grills. I bought metal ramekins off of Amazon.  Then I hot glued sucker sticks to the bottom in a tripod and added red buttons for wheels.  I found the flame image online here and added my guest's name.  Chopped up Oreo cookies were my charcoal and helped hold up the paper flame.

I also made flames with red, orange, and yellow napkins.  I used my Cricut to cut a black grill rack to place on the front, and then tied it to the napkin with black ribbon.

For wine charms, I cut charcoal grills out of card stock in various colors and wrote the guest's names on them.

I made my wine labels on PhotoShop.  The grill images I found online here, and I just designed backgrounds around them.

Menu:  I wanted all aspects of the meal to be somehow associated with grills - either cooked on the grill or made to look like grills.  This is what I came up with..

We started with a Grilled Romaine Salad.  I looked up several recipes for this, but many seemed to have lots of ingredients. I wanted something easy, so I decided to just keep it simple. I brushed vegetable oil on the top of each romaine heart and sprinkled it with salt and pepper.  My husband grilled them for about a minute or so on each side just to get the grill marks. I served these with Feta cheese and various salad dressings for guests to choose from.  Yum!

For the main dish, I served Grilled Chicken Burgers just to make it a little different from beef burgers which we normally associate with BBQs.  I served these on Brioche buns.  The fixings I served on the side: lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, and avocado.  

At first I was going to actually grill fruit on kabobs, but then decided I would make a pretend grill.  I hollowed out a small round watermelon and made 3 holes in the bottom to fit celery sticks snug.  I needed to use skewers along the bottom, as my watermelon was too heavy for the celery to hold on its own. I cut celery sticks to hide the skewers.  (This photo was taken before I did that.)

Inside the "grill" I placed blackberries to look like charcoal.  For the lid of the "grill" I used a slice of cucumber hollowed out and attached it with toothpicks.  There is a full tutorial on creating this fruit grill here.

I also served grilled corn on the cob to finish out the main meal.

For dessert, I found a recipe for these cute little cupcake grills! I baked chocolate cupcakes and then mixed orange and yellow frosting to pipe onto the top.  Then added the red sparkle gel.  To make the grill, I melted chocolate and piped it onto parchment paper to dry.  The skewers are gummy bears cut into 3 pieces and skewered on a toothpick.

Favor:  For my parting gift, I wanted to stick with the theme, but make something useful to my guests.  I decided to give them my favorite seasoning for BBQ - Montreal Steak Seasoning.

 I wrapped some seasoning into small bags and then crafted a grill around them.  I cut small squares of red, yellow, and orange tissue paper to make a flame.  The grill I made out of card stock using my Cricut. After placing the flame/seasoning inside the bowl, I glued the grill to the rim of the bowl.  The mini bowls I found on Clearance at Target for only $0.65 so I was pretty excited.

Instead of attaching a tag to each bowl, I made these signs to display to let my girls know I love and appreciate their friendship.

As usual, we had a great time.  Would love to hear your thoughts on the details of this party!  Happy end of summer!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Puppy Paw-ty!!

For the past few years, I have been lucky enough to combine my daughter and son's birthday parties. Saves me tons of stress and time!  This year, our kids decided they wanted a puppy themed party.  I instantly got a ton of ideas!  I contacted Oriental Trading Co. about doing a product review about some of their puppy themed items.  They carry a ton of items that were perfect for this birthday theme, so I was excited to choose some puppy favors and neat decorations. They really made the party special, and I am so thankful to Oriental Trading Co. for helping me to add these special touches to the party!  Check out all the fun...

Invite:  I designed the invitations on Photoshop.  I decided on red, blue, and brown as the color scheme for the party.  #1) I just love those colors together.  #2) Both my kid's favorite color is blue #3) I found dog bowls at the Dollar Tree in those colors!  I backed the above invitation in blue or red card stock before mailing them out.

I created this sign for the front door, but it was sprinkling outside at the beginning of the party, so I added the sign to the dessert table instead. I made the sign using my Cricut cutting machine, card stock, and foam board.

I found some puppy-themed fabric at Joanns Fabric Store to make birthday outfits for my birthday kiddos.  I made a pair for shorts for my son, and a skirt with an elastic waist for my daughter.  My daughter also made a necklace with the fabric and marbles.

I had some leftover fabric, so I placed it on the dessert table under the cake.

Check out the cute fire hydrant cupcake stands from Oriental Trading Co.!! I added these to my entry table with the sign for that first pop of fun at the party.  These cupcake stands are made of a thick foam board, so I found them very sturdy.  They were super easy to assemble, and I love how they displayed the PUP-cakes!

I made a Happy Birthday banner to match the colors of the party and included paw prints to play off the theme.

I also made these DIY fire hydrants for each of the tables.  The hydrant consists of an Oatmeal container, a paper towel holder cut for the sides and top, an upside down bowl ($1 for a 4/pack at Dollar Tree), an empty ribbon spool, and a milk carton top.  I hot glued them all to the oatmeal container and then spray painted them. I used a spray paint primer for this.  The puppy scrapbook paper I found at Michaels.

I cut dog bones out of card stock to decorate the tables and to place on my utensil pails.  The pails I bought at the Dollar Tree.

Party Activities:  When it came to party activities, these stuffed puppies and balloon puppy kits from Oriental Trading Co, were a huge hit!

Each friend at the party got to Adopt-a-Puppy to take home.  The package of plush puppies from Oriental Trading Co came with 6 different breeds of puppies which was great.  They were also the perfect size. I also love that the Adopt-a-Puppy served as an activity for kids to do at the party, but also was the party favor.  Most of the kids took their puppies into the bounce house, fed them lunch, walked them around the party, and really had a great time with them.

After the kids chose their puppy, they created a collar with his name on it. Since my kids are only 5 and 7, I bought colorful pipe cleaners so the kids could string the beads themselves and tie it around the puppy's neck without needing parental help.  The alphabet beads, star beads, and pipe cleaners I purchased at Michaels craft store. Some of the kids even made a leash out of the pipe cleaners and walked their dogs around the party!

Making their puppy cute!

The kids also filled out Certificates of Adoption for their pupplies. I made these on Photoshop. My daughter named her puppy Snowy! 

Four of the breeds with their cute collars.  Welcome to our family Cute Pup, Snowy, and Star!

The second activity for kids to do was these puppy balloon kits from Oriental Trading Co.  The kit comes with 12 balloons, the cardboard stand, and sets of stickers to make each puppy. The kids had fun making them, and again, they didn't need parental help to create them.  A+ in my book!

Happy kids with their finished products!  Jenna's even gets a kiss!

Menu:  There are so many things you can do with a puppy-themed menu! Hot dogs are cheap and easy, so we did those.  I added some fixings to make it a little more interesting and used dog breeds to label the various options.

I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids that did not like hotdogs.  I bought a large dog bone cookie cutter from a local cake shop to slice into bones. As you can see from the photo, they were popular! I didn't even get a photo before they were almost gone!

I also made a yummy PAW-sta salad. I should have made the cheese with a mini bone cookie cutter, but I didn't have time to make it back to the cake shop to purchase one.

I used the same large cookie cutter to make watermelon to look like bones.

For snacks, I served PUP-corn, pretzel FETCH sticks, Scooby Snacks, and PAW-tato chips with dip.  I made all the labels on Photoshop.  The containers all came from the Dollar Tree.

Here's another cool item from Oriental Trading, Co -- a fire hydrant beverage dispenser!  It was so cute and worked great.  I filled it with blue Kool-Aid instead of water.

I made this Golden Doodle Puppy cake after finding the idea and recipe here.  I used frosting for the collar, malted milk balls for the eyes and nose, and black licorce (that I cut into diamonds) for the claws.

I made the paw prints on the cupcakes using Hershey kisses and chocolate chips.  Just stuck them in upside down...super easy.

Everything turned out great for this PAW-ty and the kids had a great time.  Special thanks again to Oriental Trading Co. for helping me out with this party!

"This review is based strictly on my opinion. Others may have a different opinion or experience with the products listed above. I was provided the samples free of charge by Oriental Trading Company and I provided my honest opinion. No other type of compensation was received for this review.”

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Celebrating National Parks

My family just got home from a 3000 mile two week road trip!  Among other stops, we visited Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.  Both were beautiful and the inspiration for this month's monthly dinner theme - Celebrating National Parks.

Invite: I created the invite on Photoshop.  The fonts I used were Rustler and Rocky Mountain Beauty.  They are both free fonts I downloaded.

Decor:  My color scheme was greens and browns. I made the brown National Park poster using cardstock and my Cricut cutter.  I glued the pieces on foam board.  The carved bear and the branches in the vase I already had as decor in my home.  The pine-cones and rocks my kids collected on our trip.  The stuffed bobcat was my daughter's souvenir from Yellowstone.

This beautifully carved bear was a wedding present from our friend Josh Slater in Mammoth.  He even carved our names and wedding date into the stump base.  It was one of my favorite wedding gifts.  Check out his website, Bear in Mind Carvings. This wooden bear was a perfect addition to this month's theme.

I added a few of the ornaments we purchased in Yellowstone to the branch tree.  I always purchase an ornament from the main places we visit on vacations, and I love decorating my Christmas tree in December and remembering these fond family memories.

Table Decor: I used a green tablecloth and my wicker chargers for the table.  I  bought the green and white mixture of centerpiece flowers at Costco.

For the centerpiece, I purchased a wooden tree ring from Michaels. I used vases I already had for the flowers and the candle.  The stuffed bear and the deer were my other two children's souvenirs from Yellowstone -- along with the pine-cones.  The frame I also purchased at Michaels.  I cut a postcard of Yellowstone to fit inside the frame.

The entire centerpiece.

The Yellowstone postcard in the centerpiece was from a pack of postcards I purchased from Amazon here.  I also used these for place cards. I bought small pieces of wood from Michaels, and my husband cut a slit in them to hold the postcard.

I wrote each guest's name and address on the back of the postcard just like you would if you were actually going to mail it to them. It would have been cute to write a fun message and create a fake stamp that went with the theme, but I thought of that idea too late!!

On each plate, I folded a green napkin and cut an animal out of cardstock using my Cricut.  I cut bear, bison, deer, and elk since those were the animals that my family saw in Yellowstone.

Drinks:  I created water bottle labels to match our theme as well.  Costco water bottles suddenly became "Geyser" water from Old Faithful in Yellowstone!

I created labels for my wines based on National Parks that had Red or White in the title. I used images I found online of park maps and the vintage postcards so they would match the rest of my decor.

The wine charms I also created using images I found online.  The images matched the vintage postcard set I bought for the place cards.

Menu:  I made a starter salad with romaine lettuce, hard boiled egg, tomatoes, cheese, and crutons. I used a small cookie cutter to cut the cheese into a leaf shape and called the salad "Autumn in the Tetons".

I served a bison ribeye steak which was delicious.  My husband grilled it, and I added a browned herb compound butter to the top of each steak. I found the recipe on Food52 here.

With the steaks, I served small potatoes that I thought looked like different colored "rocks".  I used a cookie cutter to cut butter into acorn shapes to serve alongside the potatoes.

Asparagus "trees" were our vegetable.  I seasoned them and baked them in the oven.

I also served Pillsbury rolls calling them "Bread DOE Rolls".  I served these with a Huckleberry jam I purchased in Yellowstone.

For dessert, I themed it around two Yellowstone animals - moose and bear.  I called it Chocolate "Moose" with "Bear"ies.  I made the chocolate mousse using this recipe from Betty Crocker. I added raspberries and blueberries to the top along with a chocolate bear I made from a mold. Yummy and perfect for the theme!

Favor:  As a parting gift, I made chocolate and peanut butter fudge shaped into tree rings. I used the recipe found here on Lumberjacks Rejoice! The first batch I made did not turn out.  Either my candy thermometer was incorrect or it needed to be cooked higher than the 234 softball stage that is indicated on the recipe. I had to start over.  The second time I used dark chocolate chips (the recipe didn't specify and I had originally used milk chocolate).  I would recommend dark chocolate.  I also cooked the milk mixture a little longer to thicken it. The fudge was very tasty and the tree rings turned out great.  I love that they are not perfect, so they look even more natural. I made the "TREE-T" tag on Photoshop.

All in all, this was a really great dinner and a fun theme. I was sad all my ladies couldn't make it this month, but the small group of us had a good time. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this party!  Leave me a comment on something you liked!