Sunday, August 26, 2012

Newspaper Roses Tutorial

After posting my dad's Black, White, and "Read" All Over Crossword Puzzle party, several readers asked me to provide a tutorial for the newspaper roses.  On this last day of summer, I am finally getting to it!! These roses are definitely easy, but they can be time consuming. I did 8 bouquets for my dad's party, each with 6-8 roses in them, so it took some time.

Supplies Needed:
  • Newspaper/Crossword puzzle book
  • Pencils (or other item you wish to use as the stem)
  • Tape
  • Scissors

Step One:  Using scissors, cut a circle/oval out of newspaper.  Any size is fine on this.  Mine were about an inch or so larger than a DVD disk.  You do not have to have a perfect circle.  When you have your circle, cut in a spiral about an inch from the edge.  I am normally a perfectionist, but I eye-ball this and just cut.  It doesn't make any difference in the finished product.  If you are really worried, you can draw it first. 

Step Two:  The "stem" of my newspaper rose was a pencil, but you can use whatever you want.  Place the pencil a bit in from the edge of the paper (as shown).  You will need to start with the outermost part of your spiral and place your pencil toward the center so that your roses fan out correctly.

Step Three:  Begin to roll the pencil along the spiral.  You want to begin with a fairly tight roll, but it can/will loosen as you go. I rolled a couple of times and then taped the spiral to the pencil there.  This kept it from moving while I rolled the rest of it.  Keep rolling until the spiral is completely rolled around the pencil.

Step Four:  Fold the paper closest to the erase down to hide the top of the eraser and serve as the center of your rose.  Then, as you are holding the rolled spiral and pencil,  slowly loosen your hold on the spiral and allow it to "bloom" into the fullness you desire. I found it also helps to turn the pencil counterclockwise to loosen the spiral as well.  You'll need to experiment with this step to find what tightness/appearance you most desire.  When I found the look I wanted, I placed a small piece of tape on the spiral to secure it as well as adhere it to the pencil.  This prevented it from moving from where I wanted it.

Step Five:  Cut 3 diamonds out of your newspaper for the petals.  Again, the size is up to you, and they do not need to be exact.  Just eyeball two petals on real roses are the same.  Tape these petals, one at a time, to the pencil.  Then fold them down to make your petals.  I found these petals also help secure the rose and prevent it from changing shape/dropping from the top.

Once you place these in your vase, your newspaper rose bouquet is complete!  I cannot tell you how many comments I got on these at my dad's birthday party and my monthly dinner. I took one vase to put on my desk at work, and my students love them!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fast Food Fun

Our culture's obsession with fast food made it into my monthly dinners when I hosted a Fast Food Fun theme back in 2011.  The idea came to me as I was trying to think of a monthly dinner theme and menu.  A friend of mine said, "Why don't you just get a bucket of KFC this time and save yourself the craziness; You are 8 months pregnant!"  The thought was appealing for all of 10 seconds, and then my crazy brain became overloaded with ideas to go with the KFC, etc. theme.  I thanked my friend for her inspiration as she rolled her eyes at me!!  Although it took some work running around town to ask fast food restaurants for various items, I did really enjoy hosting this theme.  Most of the chains were very friendly and willing to give me what I needed for this party, and the decor was super easy.

Invite:  I designed a french fry box on Microsoft Word using a Google image and a bit of editing.  You could keep the front as the McDonalds logo, or alter it to fit your last name, etc. I kept the back of the fry box plain.  Then I cut card stock to look like french fries, and wrote a party detail (date, time, etc.) on the bottom of each fry. The cardstock "box" is glued at the sides.  The fries were just placed so that guests could pull them out when they received the invite.

Decor:  Most fast food restaurants have red and yellow as their colors. (Random Fact: Did you know this is because these colors have been proven to enhance hunger/increase your appetite?)  I decided to stick with similar colors for my dinner.  I used a red tablecloth to cover the table, then folded a black tablecloth to make a runner down the middle.  A few pieces of yellow rectangular card stock were placed on the black to make it look like a street. I also added a few toy cars of my daughters to make it look like they were driving on the street.

As a place card, I made tall sign poles like you would see on the side of the road as you passed a fast food restaurant. I used alliteration with each guest to choose the establishment and included this in the sign logo.  I printed them on card stock, cut them out, and attached them to the top of black straws I picked up at Baja Fresh (I think).  I stuck this "pole" into mini play dough containers (set of 5 for $1 in the Target dollar bin). Make sure you put the logo and the front and back or it may look funny.

Samples of the establishment logos.

I had a student who worked at Jack in the Box, so I wrote a letter to his manager asking to borrow 12 of their black trays with paper accompaniment.  He agreed to loan them to me, so I used these at each place setting. I placed a crown I got free from Burger King on each plate for guest's to wear throughout the evening as well. I used red napkins at each place setting, tied a white ribbon around them, and attached a tag that matched the restaurant on their "sign".  All images were free on Google.

Activities/Games:  I had two simple activities for this party.  The first was Happy Thoughts make Happy Meals.  I got a happy meal container from a local McDonald's for each of my guests, sliced a slit in the front, and attached a paper with their name above the slit.  I made little note cards and asked guests to write down "happy thoughts" for each guest and place it in their designated Happy Meal.  It was rather sweet to read these later especially since they were anonymous.  Everyone needs a little positive energy and compliments every now and then!

The second activity was a Name that Fast Food Slogan game.  Guests had to guess the slogan for each of the fast food restaurants....Finger Lickin' Good....Where's the Beef?...etc.  It was fun to talk about the correct answers after everyone had played.

Menu:  We had homemade fast food items at this dinner of course. All items were served on the Jack in the Box tray without plates.  We started with hamburgers wrapped in Carls Jr. Famous Star paper wrappers.  The burgers were plain, and I placed all the lettuce, tomatoe, etc. on the table for guests to "have it your way"...okay that's Burger King's slogan, but you get the idea! Below are all of the menu items with how they were served...

(wrapped in Carl’s Jr. Famous Star paper)

Ground beef molded into patties
Fixins: Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, etc.

Bistro-Style French Fries
 (served in In n Out fry buckets)

2 pounds russet potatoes
Salt to taste

Slice 2 pounds russet potatoes into fries, transferring to a bowl of tepid water as you go.  Heat 2 inches of peanut or vegetable oil, shortening, lard, or a combination of fats in a deep wide pot over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees.  Drain the potatoes and dry well.  Add half of the potatoes to the pot and fry, stirring gently, until they soften and blister, 3 to 4 minutes (do not let them color).  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining potatoes.  Transfer to the freezer until firm, at least 1 hour.  When ready to serve, reheat the oil to 375 degrees over medium-high heat.  Working in 4 small batches so the oil stays hot, fry the potatoes until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to afresh paper towels to drain.  Season with salt.

Cole Slaw
(served in KFC bowl)

3 cups shredded cabbage
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon celery seed

Stir dressing together until sugar is dissolved.  Add cabbage and mix.  Serves 4.

(served in Del Taco bags)

Frozen taquitos bought at Costco served with guacamole

(served in Dairy Queen cups)

Vanilla Ice Cream
Choice of Reeses or Snickers

Put vanilla ice cream in blender and add desired candy.  Mix (don’t blend) until desired consistency.

Dairy Queen and KFC made me pay for the cups/spoons/bowls I got from them, but all the other restaurants gave them to me for free.  The recipe for the french fries was awesome.  I recommend making these if you have the time.  The Blizzards were easy and a crowd favorite. 

The evening was a lot of fun, and the food was easy.  This theme takes some pre-planning to get the suppliesfrom the restaurants, but if I could do it 8 months pregnant...I'm sure you can! :-)  If you would like the Name that Slogan document or the Happy Thoughts tag, comment below with your email,a nd I will send it to you.

Thanks for "driving through" this post!! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

DIY Wine Bottle Candles

I have received several emails asking how I cut the wine bottles for my Wild About Wine party, so I thought I would provide a quick tutorial.

The supplies you will need:
  • Glass Cutting Tool (Lowes $4)
  • Magazines/books
  • Plenty of empty wine bottles
  • tea kettle to boil water
  • protective eye wear
  • Dremel with grinding stone

Step One:  Make sure your wine bottles are empty, clean, and the cork/lid is removed.  Then place the bottle on a table and use books/magazines to elevate the glass cutter to the desired height. I cut all my bottles a quarter inch or so above the label.  I used books at the bottom of the stack and magazines at the top because the magazines are able to form around the glass cutter making it more adjustable.

Step Two:  My husband held the stack of magazines/cutter down firmly so the blade did not move.  Make sure you eye it to make sure it is level as well before you begin. Next, I pressed the bottle firmly into the blade so that it scored the bottle rotating it to get a continuous score around the entire bottle.  It took several tries for me to figure out how to do this, so start with practice bottles (not your cherished bottle from your wedding day!).

Step Three: Boil water in a tea kettle. I placed an old towel in the bottom of the sink to prevent the bottle from dropping into the hard sink and breaking, but this is not essential.  Hold the scored bottle over the towel and slowly pour the hot water from the kettle over the scored line, rotating the bottle as you pour.  Repeat this with cold water from the faucet. We found that a steady light stream of water is best.  The larger stream seemed to cause more breaks.  Continue alternating between the hot and cold water until the bottle naturally breaks and comes apart. Reminder: Make sure the lid/cork is off!!

If you are using the tops of the bottles as your candle holder, you can be done at this point.  You do not need to sand the edges because an uneven edge actually helps your candle flame stay lit. It allows air a pathway inside beyond just the top. However, if you are placing these directly on a table, I recommend lightly sanding them to avoid rough edges scratching your table. 

If you are making a candle holder with the bottom, continue with the fourth step...

Step Four:  Take a sander and carefully sand the top of the rim to give it a smooth edge.  Make sure you wear protective goggles for safety.  If you don't have a Dremel, you can use very fine sand paper it will just take much longer and is a difficult job.

After sanding the top to even the edges, rinse out the bottle and you're ready for your candle!  Optional:  You can polish the sanded edge which would look even better.  The only reason I didn't do this is because I did all these bottles hours before the party started and ran out of time!!

Hope your wine bottle candles turn out great! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wild about Wine Party

To cap off the end of my/our summer, the monthly dinner girls and I decided to put together a trip to the Temecula wineries.  In anticipation of this fun trip, our August monthly dinner carried this theme as well...A Wild about Wine Party!

Invite: I received a thank you card years ago with wine corks cut and placed in the shape of a bunch of grapes.  This idea was so cute that I stole the idea.  It made a perfect invitation for a wine tasting party.  Simply cut a wine cork in small circles and glue in the shape of a grape vine.  Then add embellishments.

Decor: I set the table with a cream tablecloth and a burgundy table runner that I already owned. I used a large sconce in the center with a smaller vase inside ($1 at the Dollar Tree) and filled it with wine corks as part of the centerpiece.  I filled the inside vase half full with rocks and placed a tea light candle on top. I used wicker place mats (Crate and Barrel) under each plate.

To add more candlelight and tie in the wine theme, I cut wine bottles to cover the remainder of the table center and placed tea lights beneath them. I read several tutorials on this, and decided to try the easiest/cheapest worked! I bought a glass cutter from Home Depot ($8) and got busy.  Special thanks to The Twisted Vine in Fullerton who donated a case of empty bottles for me to use!  If you haven't been to their wine is a it! Note: No matter how accurately you score the bottle, the glass may split imperfectly.  Make sure you have plenty of bottles to try. Also, some imperfections actually help the candle to stay lit because it allows air to enter.  If your candles do not stay lit, place a toothpick under the bottom to raise it a little.  I had to do this on some of mine.

As a place card, I made cork napkin holders with the guest's initial on them.  These were super easy.  I simply drilled a hole through the cork with an electric drill, fed a ribbon through the hole, and tied the ribbon around the napkin. I bought a set of alphabet stamps at Michaels on sale for less than $10 that I used to stamp the guest's initial on the cork.

In addition to this place card, I also made cork wine charms with the same alphabet stamps.  I sliced corks in quarter inch slices using a sharp knife on a cutting board.  Then I hand-screwed small eye screws I purchased at Home Depot into the edge of the cork.  A little ribbon gave it color and tied it to the glass.

On the wine tasting table, I made a cork board as decor.  I bought a 10x10 frame at Michaels because this is the size I was planning to make for my kitchen anyway.  I wanted all the corks horizontal because I liked this look.  I had a little less than 1/2 inch on each row left which is not enough room for a 6th cork, so I cut a cork using the same knife I used for the wine charms.  Because I had to include this small piece of cork in each row, I alternated rows so that the small piece was on the right in one row and the left in the next, etc.  I actually like how the corks are staggered because of this. I used hot glue to adhere them one at a time to the frame back and to each other.

I created covers for each of the 7 tasting wines on Microsoft Word and placed them on top of coasters I bought in the dollar bin at Target.  I also cut circles out of felt and placed them on the table to look like a bunch of grapes for added decor.  Make sure you include a carafe for guests to discard any wine they do not like, a bit of bread, as well as a pitcher of water for in between taste tests.

Each guest received a rating/note sheet packet with a page for each of the 7 wines.  At the end of the evening, we revealed the name and vintage of each bottle including the cost.  For a pencil holder at this table, I lined the inside of a small vase with corks (not glued or anything), and put the pencils in the middle.

Menu:  On each plate, I typed up the evening's menu. I made stands out of corks.  Again, this is easy.  Slice off the bottom side of the cork so that it sits flat on a surface.  Then use the knife to cut a slit half-way down the cork.  My slit had to be a little thick because I backed my menu in card stock.

The meal was very tasty and was definitely something I would make again.  The Risotto was a huge hit as well as the mushroom sauce on the chicken. 

Mushroom Sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup sour cream

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When it is melted, add mushrooms and season them with salt and pepper. Cook until they are browned, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds then add the stock and simmer for 4 minutes and reduce by one third. Add the Worcestershire sauce. turn the heat off, and let cool for a minute before stirring in the sour cream. Serves 4.  Note: I added a couple teaspoons of corn starch to thicken up this recipe.

Red Wine Risotto

3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish

Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.
Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Repeat, adding 3/4 cup of hot broth 2 more times, stirring often, about 12 minutes longer. At this point, the risotto can be made 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate the risotto (the rice will still be firm) and remaining broth, uncovered, until cool, then cover and keep them refrigerated until ready to proceed.
Bring the remaining broth to a simmer, then cover and keep it warm over very low heat. Stir 3/4 cup of hot broth into the partially cooked risotto over medium heat until the broth is absorbed and the risotto is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining broth and simmer until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the peas and parsley. Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto on plate. Sprinkle additional cheese over and serve.

Angel Food Cake with Wine-Glazed Strawberries

Angel Food Cake Mix
White Wine or Sparkling Wine

Bake cake as described on the box.  For the glaze, slice strawberries into the size you desire.  Place in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar.  Then pour white wine over the mixture.  Mix with a spoon.  Stir the mixture every 15 minutes or so before serving to make sure glaze covers all strawberries.  Serve with whipped cream.

Favor:  Remember the wine bottles I cut for the centerpiece?  Well, the bottoms did not go to waste.  I cut each bottle just above the label, placed a candle inside, and this was my favor. I had originally intended to make candle wax and poor it inside to fill the entire wine bottle, but ran out of time for this.  Ended up just buying candles. Note:  Many wine bottles are not flat on the bottom, so my candles did not sit flat unfortunately.  If I were to do this again, I would make my own candle to avoid this.  This is a great way to save that champagne bottle from your wedding or wine bottle from a special event.  It makes a great keepsake!

This was another fun and inexpensive party to throw (minus the wine of course, but you could always ask each guest to bring a bottle). I basically used supplies I had at home and finally used all the corks I had been saving from years of monthly dinners!!  Makes my husband happy to not have them in the kitchen anymore!!

Hope you enjoy this post!

Monday, August 6, 2012

ABC Personalized Baby Gift

Here's another adaptation I made on a baby shower gift idea I found on THIS link for Etsy.  The print is $15 on their site, but I chose to make mine a little different to make it three dimensional.

The supplies you will need are an 8.5x11 frame ($6 at Michaels), card stock or paper to print it on, wood letters (I bought mine at Michaels for .99 a pack), glue, and paint in whatever color(s) you desire. 

First, I painted a cheap wooden frame to add color.  This is obviously not required, but I wanted to do it with my son's frame.

I designed the layout on Microsoft Word. I played around with font and size, and decided I liked Century Gothic in size 105 for the alphabet and Lucida Handwriting size 50 for the "is for".  It took me a while to figure out the spacing, but this is what worked for me.  If you would like the Microsoft Word file of this, just comment below or email me.  Then, it is an easy editing job for you!!  Remember, I am using an 8.5x11 document frame.  If you are using an 8x10, you will need to re-size the document.

Next, I painted the wooden letters of my son's name to match the initial in the document. You can use spray paint or any kind of paint. I bought the .39 cent bottle of craft paint from Michaels since I was using so little.  You don't need to paint the back of them since they will not be seen.  If you are giving a baby shower gift and don't know the baby's name yet, you can just use "Baby" which is still really cute.

Lastly, insert the document into the frame.  Then glue the painted wooden letters to the glass.  I placed my letters so they were sitting on the bottom frame so I could make sure they were level.  I adhered them with a little (not a lot because you don't want it to spill over and be seen) Mod Podge.  That's it!  A cute little addition to my son's bedroom and an easy, cute, inexpensive shower gift for friends!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Nighttime Fun with Daytime Soaps!

Now that it is summer for many of us, that means the occasional lapse into daytime television.  We all love to avoid drama in our own lives, but so many women love to obsess over the drama of soap operas! This is why I decided, in July of 2009, to have a little fun with this idea.  My monthly dinner theme became: Nighttime Fun with Daytime Soaps!

Invite:  I created a simple postcard-shaped invite with the party details using the Days of our Lives logo.  I used a little television lingo to fit with the theme in my wording.  As a fun addition, I asked guests to come prepared to divulge a dramatic moment from their own lives that the writer's of daytime soap operas could use for their next script.  It was fun to hear everyone's stories, and since we are all close friends after years of these dinners, no one minded sharing!

Decor:  I set the table with a black tablecloth, and incorporated as many daytime soap operas as possible into my centerpiece...
  • Camping Lantern for Guiding Light
  • Hourglass for Days of Our Lives
  • Vase with Photos of my guest's children attached to sticks for All My Children
  • Globe for As the World Turns
  • Stethoscope for General Hospital
I also included a Soap Opera Digest magazine as part of this centerpiece.

The funniest decor aspect was these place cards I made for each guest.  I found photos on Google images of soap opera couples.  Then replaced the female stars face (not hair, etc). with my guest's face.  These were hilarious!! *Note: these are scanned, so the picture is not very clear...sorry!

Menu:  Wanting to stick with the theme as usual, I made a menu card to list all the entrees as well as let guests see how I altered the names to fit with soap operas.  Our menu was:

The "Bowled" and the Beautiful Spinach Dip
(served in a bread bowl)

All My Chicken
(aka my recipe for Gourmet Chicken)

Young and the Restless Baby Vegetables
(baby carrots and baby peas)

As the "Salad" Turns with Guiding "Lite" Ranch

General Hospital Dessert

As you can see the dessert was Cheesecake bars that I cut and shaped to look like band-aids.  The red "blood" is a bit of cherry pie filling. 

Favor:  As a parting gift, I made Soap Opera Soap for each guest.  All you need for this is a bar of soap, the photo you wish to use, glue, and paraffin.  Cut out the photo (mine is the image of a cover of a Soap Opera Digest) and glue it to the front of the soap so it covers the brand name.  Then melt the paraffin and dip the soap in it to create a glossy cover and permanently adhere the paper to the soap.  I dropped these in a clear candy bag tied with a ribbon and attached a tag that read "We shared our Soap Opera Drama; Now Cleanse Your Mind of the Filth!"

Thank You Card:  At the party, one thing I did was take a photo of each guest acting out a dramatic face.  I made a collage of all of our faces and crafted a magazine cover to represent our evening in a funny way.  This can serve as the front of your thank you cards for an added laugh!

Overall, this is a pretty silly theme, but great for a girl's night party.  It definitely brought out some laughs with the place cards, the poses, and the drama stories that were shared!!