Saturday, October 20, 2012

Murder Mystery Dinner Night

I had always wanted to try one of those Murder Mystery Dinner parties, so I decided to host one for my monthly dinner in November of 2010.  I did some Internet research on various kits to find one, and I decided on Pasta, Passion, & Pistols created by University Games.  This kit was in my price range, had positive reviews, fit the amount of people I would have at my dinner, and the overall plot sounded interesting.

The kit comes with invitations, scripts, recommended menu, and all the police reports/secret clues that you need to successfully play the game. You can even reuse all the materials (except the invitations) to host another party with a different group, so it doesn't have to be a one-time use thing.

Invite:  Although the kit came with invitations, I did not use them because I like to create my own.  The setting of this murder was an Italian restaurant in New York City, so I went with an Italian theme. All images I found on Google and adapted using Microsoft Word.  I sent only the front (the invite on the left) first.  Once I knew who could make it, I sent the invite again with the character they would play printed on the back of the invite (right). All information is given on the Party Planner sheet included in the kit.  By the way, even as the party host, I did not know anything about the plot, killer, details, so I was also able to partake in the fun of the evening.

Entry: In front of my entry door, I created a body outline with chalk and set up crime scene tape around it.  I also set out an "evidence bag" which was a zip lock bag with a toy pistol inside of it.  On the door, I created a restaurant sign welcoming guests to La Speranza Restaurant.

Decor:  I set my table with a red and white checkered tablecloth, green napkins, and my usual white plates. I set a few pieces of paper and a pen on each plate for guests to take notes during the evening.  The booklets included with the kit have a spot for note taking, but since I didn't know if I would be reusing the game, I didn't want to use those. 

As my centerpiece, I bought white and red flowers from my local florist and tied a red ribbon around the vase.  Next to each vase, I placed a black toy pistol for added decor. Bread and Italian oils for dipping were also on the table along with white pillar candles. I downloaded some Italian opera to play in the background.

For the place card, I used my Cricut machine to scrapbook a card that went along with the character each guest was playing for the evening.  For example, Mama Rosa is a chef, so hers was a chef hat; Marco Roni is a soccer player, so his was a soccer ball.  My monthly dinner guests are all girls, but some of us played male roles for this evening.

Menu:  The mystery kit provides various dinner ideas and recipes.  I created my own menu of Italian food, but I did try two of the recipes from the kit. The two recipes I tried were the Baked Ziti and the Mocha Cake.  Due to copyright, I cannot include the recipes.  Anything Italian would go with this theme though.  You could even serve pepperoni pizza since the person murdered was Guiseppe (Pepi) Roni!!

Favor:  At the end of the evening, I gave the guest who guessed the murderer correctly a large bottle of Italian red wine.  The other guests received miniature bottles of wine.  I created a "restaurant bill" as my tag to attach to each bottle of wine.

Three of us dressed up in our costumes for the evening!

This was a super fun evening, and we all had a great time dressing up, playing our parts, and guessing the murderer.  This kit says the party takes 3-5 hours, and it did take about 3 hours for us.  I knew the girls could not stay super late, so we did move fairly quickly through the script in order to finish.  Note: This did mean our general conversations were lessened a bit to accommodate, but none of us seemed to mind this time because the evening was entertaining on its own.

If you are looking a different way to dine with friends, this might be fun for your group!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Construction Zone: Girls at Play

I've had a couple requests from readers to post details of the Construction Zone: Girls at Play party I hosted way back in January of 2007. I must warn you...I took very few photos of the dinner details and those that I do have are horrible!  At least you will get an idea of what we did!

Invite:  I created a standard construction-themed invitation for this party on Microsoft Word. I asked the girls to dress as construction workers to add to the fun of the event.

I included this photo because he is actually reading the directions...this was a first! :)

I guess I should back up and tell you that this theme came about because my husband (well, he was just my boyfriend at this point in 2007) and I tore out the carpet in the downstairs of our condo that year to replace it with wood floors.  The project took a little longer than anticipated, so we were "under construction" when the January monthly dinner rolled around.

Entry:  I set up construction cones and caution tape leading to the entry door.  I made a construction sign on the door that read "Girls at Play" and under it was another sign that warned "Enter with Caution."

Decor:  Since my dining room table had been moved out to do the floors, this left me with a clean slate for decor.  I set up two construction sawhorses and bought a large thick piece of plywood to put on top as the table. I bought an expensive piece of plywood because we were planning to use it for another house project after the party. As a centerpiece, I just grabbed construction tools from our garage: large yellow level, hammers, screwdrivers, table measure, wrench, etc.  I also had two mini cones that I placed on each end of the level.  I wrapped the napkins with zip ties.

As a place card as well as an accessory for the evening, I gave each guest a plastic construction hat I bought at Party City.  To make it specific to each guest, I designed a tag with the guest's name and a construction-related occupation.  I used alliteration, so I had: Maria the Mason, Deanna the Designer, Carole the Carpenter, etc.

Menu: I themed my menu around construction as well.  Our drink to start the evening was Screwdrivers.  The remainder of the menu included a Build-Your-Own Pizza Bar, A Craft-Your-Own Salad Station, and a Build-Your-Own Sundae Station.  For the pizza station, I just made pizza dough and placed it on a piece of tin foil for each guest (see photo on the left).  After guest's had placed the toppings they desired on it, I placed it on a cookie sheet with other guest's pizzas and cooked them all at once.

Favor:  Each guest left with a construction cookie in a clear favor bag with the Work Complete tag attached.  As you can tell, I am not a great artist (especially when using frosting), but you get the idea!

A simple theme that would be great for a young boy's birthday party. I would incorporate dump trucks and other ideas now that I have a son with all of these toys, but back in 2007 when I had this party, I didn't have kids to steal from!

As usual...if you would like the document with the tag or invitation email or comment below.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Horror Movie Madness

It is the month for Halloween festivities, and although I am not into the Horror movie genre, I decided to theme my dinner after this concept.  This October monthly dinner marks 6 total years of me hosting monthly dinners....that's 72 dinners I've hosted...each with a different theme.  I wanted to think of a theme that had something to do with the number 6, but all I could think of was 666.  I didn't want to do that theme exactly...hence, the Horror Movie Madness theme!  (The funniest thing about this theme is I HATE horror movies and honestly have seen very few...too scary for me!)  So, although it was an odd theme for me, I decided to roll with it.

Invite:  I created two invites for this dinner and couldn't decide which I liked more.  The first was an adaptation of a quote taken from Poltergiest (who's main character's name is coincidentally Carole Ann like mine!).

The second is a simple blood/hand print that seems to reflect almost any horror movie.

Entry:  Since I have two little kids, I don't have too many scary decorations.  However, I did purchase this Scream-inspired ghost to hang near the entry door. I also wanted to have a blood-splattered message.  To do this, I wrapped my front door in seran wrap and then used red washable paint to write the message/place hand prints.

Decor:   I bought a white plastic tablecloth and then splattered red acrylic paint to appear like blood.  Along the center, I cut cardboard in triangle/random shapes and covered them in tinfoil to look like a broken mirror (I wasn't willing to take on the bad luck superstition of breaking a real mirror!).  I melted red candle wax onto plain white candles to also appear bloody. Lastly, I placed a black crow and a skull I bought at the dollar store on the table.

As a place card, I made knives and cleavers out of card stock and tinfoil.  I used the Cricut machine to add the guest's name to the blade.  A few brads were added to look like rivets on the knives.  I found mini skulls at Michaels (8 in the bag for $2) and used them as napkin rings.  They were plastic, and I just drilled a hole through them, added a black string, and tied them around the napkin.

As added wall decor, I printed out horror movie posters to cover the photos of my family that normally hang behind my dining table.

I also borrowed a garland of bloody knives from a friend (purchased at Big Lots) and some skeletons from the Human Anatomy teacher at my work. On the bathroom mirror, I painted "I Know What You Did Last Summer."

Menu: I started the evening with a plate of mozzarella eyeballs on the center of the table.  I bought the cheese already marinated in a sun-dried tomato marinade.  The pupil is just a sliced green and black olive.

For the main dish, I served ribs and shaped them into a rib cage.  A red pepper served as the heart with a knife stabbed through it.  This was a new recipe for me, but I enjoyed it.

Instead of serving a blob of mashed potatoes, I decided to shape them on the serving platter into a severed hand.  I bought a saw at the dollar store to place at the severed point. Next to this dish, I placed copies of the Saw movies as a reference.

I originally planned to serve cauliflower which already looks like a brain, but since my mom always tells me I need color variety in my meals (she's a retired home economics teacher), I decided to serve broccoli instead.  I cut the broccoli into large sections with multiple florets and attempted to pipe on a homemade cheese sauce to make it look like a brain.  As you can tell from the photo, I was not successful in my attempt.  The broccoli melted the cheese too quickly for any pattern to stay.  Oh least I got compliments on the taste!

To finish off the main meal, I baked bread sticks shaped into bones.  I bought the prepackaged Pillsbury Artisan pizza crust.  I rolled it out and sliced it into slivers.  Then just sliced the ends and rolled them down.  Before baking, we added butter and Parmesan cheese to the tops.

For dessert, I served vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping.  I bought Wilton's Icing Knives to put into each mound of ice cream to look like the knife caused the red topping to ooze out.  I also made Jason and Scream cake pops for each guest.  I shaped the cake pops into the mask shapes, then covered them with melted white chocolate.  The black and red is royal icing that I piped on.

Activity:  I found movie clips on YouTube of various scary horror movies and burned them to a DVD. Guests tried to guess the movie by writing it on the game card I made.  This game did not work as well with this group of girls, so think about your guests beforehand. I didn't know mine were so chicken when it came to horror flicks...most wouldn't even look at the screen even though I didn't have any scenes with blood!  The girls were also fairly illiterate when it came to knowing horror movies, so they were not able to get many correct.

Favor:  My favor was Voodoo Doll cookies. I used a gingerbread man cookie cutter to make sugar cookies.  Then piped on the features using royal icing and added red toothpicks as needles.  In order to have the dolls fit in the bags, I did cut the toothpicks a bit. The tag I attached played up the words "poking" and "sticking"just for fun.

It was definitely an evening to DIE for!

If you are looking for an interesting Halloween party or just a recipe to cook for October festivities, I hope you got some ideas. As usual, if you would like the template for the invite, horror movie game, or the Voodoo doll tag, just email me.