Sunday, October 16, 2016

NEON Party

With today's post, I am celebrating 10 years of Monthly Dinners!  It was 10 years ago, that I hosted my first Monthly Dinner in hopes of seeing and spending time with my closest friends in what I hoped would be an easy night out for them without any cooking, cleaning, or spending money on their part.  Now, here it is 10 years and 120 dinner themes later, and we are still going strong! I can hardly believe it!

To celebrate 10 years, I themed my party around the 10th Element on the Periodic Table..NEON!  There are several ideas on the internet for black-light neon parties that look amazing, but I wanted to focus my party mainly on the scientific element and the bright colors instead.  It was a dinner party, so didn't want to have the lights off while we ate or anything.  Here's what I came up with...

Invite:  I designed the invite on Photoshop with various images I found online. I kept it simple with bright colors.

Decor: I originally made this giant neon green sign for my entry door, but decided I liked it better on my favor/beverage table inside.  I made it with foam board, poster board, and card stock and tried to make it look like an element on the periodic table. Of course I changed the element number and name to fit my dinner.  I borrowed several glass laboratory flasks from a Chemistry teacher at my school (thanks Sam!) to use around the room as decor.  Some I placed flowers inside and others just water colored with Wilton's Neon food coloring. I also made a banner to string across the wall alternating the neon element symbol with plain neon card stock.

Table Decor: I used a neon pink plastic tablecloth and found neon green contact paper at the dollar store that I was able to use as a table runner. I printed out large Neon element signs I made on PhotoShop to place along it.  The neon vases I found at the dollar store and filled them with bright flowers.  I used laboratory flasks with neon liquid along the runner as well.

As I place card, I made coasters out of black tiles I found at Michaels.  I designed an element with each of my guest's name on PhotoShop, and then cut it on my Cricut cutting machine. The neon paper I found at Michaels as well.  I adhered each "element" to the coaster with Mod Podge.

I found these neon Slinkies 6 for a dollar at the dollar store, so I had to figure out some way to use them.  I decided to use them as napkin rings!  The neon orange plastic silverware I also found at the dollar store.

Another look at how the napkin and place card looked together. I added a neon glowstick necklace on the plate as well.

I also used the neon glowsticks (bracelets this time) for my wine charms.  Just wrapped them around the glasses.

I designed wine labels to go with my theme.  I used the Ne element sign as well as light up sign images I found.  Then put it all together with PhotoShop.

What the entire labels looked like.

Menu:  The idea of dying all my food neon colors was not very appealing to me, so I tried to think of foods that had "Ne" in the name, so I could use the element sign.  I also wanted foods that might have some sort of bright color.

I started with a PiNEapple Teriyaki Chicken that I grilled on the bbq.  The bright yellow pineapple rings gave it the bright color I wanted along with the green onions.  I found this recipe on The Recipe Critic, and it was delicious.

Next, I made PolyNEsian rice and served it in a steamed orange pepper.  This recipe I found on Baked in Arizona, and it cooks the rice in the oven! I hadn't ever heard of that before, but I wanted to try it.  Once you have all the vegetables diced and prepped, it really was quite easy.  Very tasty too. My original plan was just to place the rice in the hollowed out peppers, but I decided last minute to steam them so they wouldn't cool the rice as fast...great idea, Carole!  They were delicious as well.

I also served grilled veggie skewers. I tried to use bright veggies - red and green peppers, red onion, yellow squash, and green zucchini.  I mixed brown sugar, basil, salt, garlic powder and pepper in a bowl and, after tossing the veggies in olive oil, I added this mixture to coat them.  Then I put the veggies on skewers and grilled them. The sweet flavor was nice and went well with the rest of the meal.
For dessert, I served rainbow sherbet in lime green and blue mini margarita glasses that I bought a long time ago from Party City. I also baked sugar cookies and used neon food coloring to dye them bright purple and pink.  Easy and good.

Activity: Just for fun, I had guests take a little 10th Anniversary Quiz to see how many of the monthly dinners they remembered.  There were several correct answers to each question which was great because it really had us reminiscing about the fun we had at past dinners as we each chose different answers on some of the questions.

Favor:  As a parting gift, I painted wooden boxes purchased from Michaels various neon shades.  I used a permanent marker to create the Neon element box on the front. Inside the box, I had a highlighter and a neon sticky note pad on which I wrote the number 10.  My gift tag read, "Thanks for STICKING with me for 10 years of Monthly Dinners.  They've been a HIGHLIGHT of each each!"

I can't believe it's been 10 years of these dinners, but I am so grateful to have these couple hours once a month to spend with my girlfriends.  We've celebrated marriages, new jobs, babies (and more babies), birthdays, and so much more together.  I love each of these ladies and cherish spending this time with them.

Happy 10 Years!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Willy Wonka Party - It's Candy Time!

With the passing of Gene Wilder recently, my husband and I decided to have a family movie night to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the kids. I just LOVE that movie!  I got so many party ideas while watching the movie, that I decided to make it our September monthly dinner theme.  This party was SO much fun to plan and decorate for! Such a fun theme for a birthday party, gathering of friends, or whatever!

Invite:  I made the invite on Photoshop.  The Willy Wonka font I downloaded for free. I send my invites by email typically for monthly dinners is why I designed it this way, but if you want something a little more fun that you can mail, send a Wonka Bar with the details on the golden ticket inside.

Entry Decor:  When the lucky 5 Golden Ticket winners arrive at the Wonka Factory in the movie, they must sign a contract of rules before entering.  I created this foam board sign for my guests to sign with the rules for the evening. I made the sign with my Cricut cutting machine. Next to the sign, I placed a little table with Wonka candies and a pen I crafted with a feather and duct tape.

One guest promising to have fun!

Table Decor:  I used bright colors and candy to decorate my table of course! I started with a lime green tablecloth, and then added some fun candy items.

First, I made a candy table runner -- a large version of the Candy Buttons candy.  I cut a piece of butcher paper the size that worked with my table.  Then I simply placed Wilton's candy melts in rows. I didn't glue them down on anything as I wanted guest's to be able to grab and eat them straight from the table.

The everlasting Gobstopper is the ultimate candy in the movie, so I wanted to have one as part of my centerpiece. I decided to make it myself.  I bought a styrofoam ball and 8 cones from Dollar Tree. I cut off the top of each cone. (I used the cut-off tops to created a smaller everlasting gobstopper for my dessert table.)  I then painted the cones and center ball various colors and used toothpicks to stick them into the ball at the center. Cute, don't you think?

Check out these great candy jars from Oriental Trading that I used in my centerpiece! They were perfect & very well-made with a thick glass. Oriental Trading Co. carries a ton of items that were perfect for this theme, and they really helped me add some special touches to the party! I used two candy jars on each side of the Everlasting Gobstopper and filled the jars with a Wonka Candy mix also from Oriental Trading Co.  The two mason jars I filled with Skittles and large swirl lollipops from Oriental Trading.  The swirl suckers came in a box of 12, and they were all perfectly intact upon delivery! There were part of my parting favor for guests, but my kiddos loved eating them after the party too!

At each place setting, I used colored scrapbook paper under bright yellow paper plates, smaller lime green plates, and pink napkins. A box of Gobstoppers for each guest was above the plates.  For place cards, I made personalized Wonka bars on Photoshop.  I bought King Size Hershey bars and re-wrapped them with aluminum foil before adding the personalized Wonka wrapper.  I decided to place the golden ticket outside.  I designed the golden ticket on PhotoShop, then printed them on gold metallic card stock.

Over the table, I hung giant wrapped candies I made using paper lanterns and cellophane wrap.  The paper lanterns I got from Oriental Trading.  They were perfect as they were a set of 12 lanterns with 4 different bright colors that went perfectly with my decor.  The cellophane I bought from a local craft supply store.  I used zip ties to secure each side and hung them from the ceiling with fishing line.

For my dessert and beverage table, I made a giant Wonka bar using foam board and card stock.  I also had the mini foam everlasting gobstopper I made, and these peppermint decorations that came already assembled from Oriental Trading. Oh...and my chocolate fountain which was part of our dessert!

For my wine bottle labels, I found some Willy Wonka quotes that I liked and designed the labels around those quotes. I changed the one on the left a bit. Willy Wonka's original quote is "We have so much TIME, & so little to do." I altered it to fit my party guests.  Here's a look at the entire labels...

I also made a Fizzy Lifting Drink which was just a Shirley Temple.  The cute polka dot straws I got from Oriental Trading, Co.

For wine charms, I tied gummy bears to my wine glass stems. I used clear fishing line and poked it through the gummy bear with a needle before tying it around the glass.

Menu: My entrees were created around the characters of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We started with a blueberry salad to symbolize Violet Beauregarde who turns into a blueberry in the film.  Besides blueberries, I topped the greens with feta cheese and toasted walnuts.  I served the salad with a Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing.

For the main dish, I grilled bratwurst which is similar to what Augustus Gloop of Austria eats when he is interviewed after finding the golden ticket.  I wrapped each bratwurst/bun in colorful tissue paper and used silver twist ties for the ends.  My way of keeping with the candy theme. On the side, I had mustard, spicy mustard, and sauerkraut. 

With the bratwurst, I served baked potatoes.  After baking these in the oven, I wrapped them in Wilton's gold foil to represent Veruca Salt's golden eggs.

The steamed veggies, I served in small bowls. I cut televisions out of card stock to wrap around the bowl to represent Mike Teavee and Wonkavision.

For dessert, I made these cute little chocolate bowls and filled them with dipping items for the fondue fountain. To make the bowls, I blew up small balloons and dipped them in slightly cooled melted chocolate. (Make sure you wait until the chocolate cools a bit or your balloon will explode and you'll get chocolate on everything...I'm speaking from experience!!). After dipping the balloons, I set them on parchment paper and put them in the refrigerator for a bit to harden.

The chocolate fountain represented Charlie Bucket's Endless Supply of Chocolate that he won at the end of the movie. I served sliced angel food cake, strawberries, marshmallows, and sliced bananas for dipping.

Favor: Besides the personalized Wonka bar and the large swirl lollipops, I also sent my guest's home with a mini golden egg filled with Wonka candy.  The eggs were from Oriental Trading as well.  I made the Eggdicator out of card stock.  My tag line was "So lucky to have so many GOOD EGGS as friends."  I really am super lucky to have these ladies in my life!

Speaking of these they are...

I hope you enjoyed this party post!  Special thanks again to Oriental Trading Co. for helping me out with this party!  They helped make this theme come alive!

"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.”

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!