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The Guide to Last Minute Tailgating

**Featured photo by  Harry Knight on Unsplash**

This is the guide to last minute tailgating, but what I really mean is busy people tailgating.  You know, people who know there’s a chance they’ll go tailgating, or know they’re going, but don’t have time to be elaborate. I’ve attended plenty of tailgates in my time, both large and small, and I love people who go all out. When I went to college in Nevada, long before Colin Kaepernick had anything to say about anything, but right alongside him, I joined a great group who would take turns doing all the work. I learned a lot from them. Unfortunately, I can’t put it into practice. I just don’t have the time. But, I love football. I feel guilty about loving it due to all those concussions, but if you invite me to a tailgate, I’m going to go.

Right now my husband is getting his MBA at the University of Tennessee. While I disapprove of their color choices, I like their school song, so I’m willing to attend their games. Tailgating for an SEC game is so different than tailgating for the Mountain West. If you haven’t done both, I think you should. At Nevada I’d roll up, park in the tailgating area, and commence the party. Here I have to find parking at least two miles away, probably pay $10 at a minimum, walk to the tailgate, and get to whatever tent I’ve been invited. People pay more for the good spots here, and a large chunk of them are catered, but if you can find your own spot, these last minute tailgating tips will probably help you out since you’ll be spending so much time just getting there!

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Equipment for Last Minute Tailgating

1. Cooler

I’ve reviewed ways to keep your drink cool before, but for this I recommend a regular cooler. It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking alcohol or not, you’re going to get thirsty. Throw your cooler in the trunk of your car, grab some ice at the gas station, and get going. You can even pick up water, beer, or soda at the gas station if you’re not already prepared. Now, if you’re not serving very many people and you want beer, I really like growlers. Then you don’t have to lug a cooler around. My husband has this one and it keeps his beer cold throughout the game. Hmm. I just realized I spend way too much time worrying about drink temperature.

2. Grill

You’ve probably seen those amazing set-ups on College Game Day where everyone has wild grilling options. Don’t get crazy here. You need something you can throw in the car and go. You’re probably wondering why you need a grill at all if you’re last minute tailgating, so I’ll tell you why. It means you get to cook your food when you get there instead of doing it at home. Genius, right? Okay, so I would say get a charcoal grill. They’re pretty cheap, plus if you’re a broke college student you can probably find one at a yard sale or on Craigslist. Or, even easier, get a stove for camping like this oneIt’s not going to get you on TV, but it will heat your food.

Last Minute Tailgating Food

Bring some dip for last minute tailgating.

1. Meat

Ah ha! Now you get it. You’re providing the main part of the meal, making you the hero – and you had to do zero prep work. Hot dogs are cheap and totally appropriate. Hamburgers are also great; I like to throw garlic salt and cayenne pepper in my bag to season them up, although you can get patties that are already seasoned. Remember to bring buns along, and cheese if you go with hamburgers. There is no need to get any fancier than that if you’re last minute tailgating. The fancy stuff is for people who have more time to devote to this than you. Vegetarians, grab some portobellos instead of meat.

2. Dip

I typically advocate a mix of homemade and store-bought food for parties, but if you are really last minute tailgating, you’ll only want store bought food. I say bring some chips and dip. Then you have a side dish that doesn’t need to be cooked, and really, who needs more than chips and a hot dog at a football game anyway? If you want to get really crazy, pick up a thing of sour cream and use one of those packaged mixes to make a fancy dip. You can even mix it once you get there, saving you even more time.

That’s it! Bring some meat, chips and dip, a cooler, and a grill. Unless you’re tailgating by yourself, request some else brings all the condiments, paper plates, etc. Why? Those people have to pack things up and bring them home. You will not, which means less clean up afterwards. Now, obviously this isn’t completely last minute tailgating, since you will already need to have the equipment at home unless you want to do a frenzied dash through Walmart. But, if you know there’s a chance you’ll be tailgating, you can at least be prepared and do the minimum amount of work beforehand. More time to party!

throw a (3)

Cheap DIY Wine and Paint Night

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Want to throw a cheap DIY wine and paint night with absolutely no skill required? Then you’ve come to the right place! I love wine and paints, and I am absolutely not knocking their business model, but they run around $30 per person on average, plus you have to buy your own wine. So, while it’s a great idea, it is a higher cost for a night out. I know you wind up with a nice canvas painting, but let’s talk reality for a second. You painted it while you were drinking. Are you really going to be hanging it up somewhere? If you go with a husband or roommate, what do you do with the spare? Believe me, no one wants you to gift it to them. I’d have to say for most of us it’s about the experience, not the art.

I say these things, but do I have both my art and gifted art in my guestroom?
Yes I do. Sorry guests.

My best friend came to visit me over Labor Day and I decided she’d be the perfect person to test out my cheap DIY wine and paint night model. After racking my brain on how I could do this without having an art training, I decided the best way to go was abstract. Yes, that’s right. Abstract wine and paint! You’re already picturing the terrible possibilities, aren’t you? Lots of DIY-ers actually do their own abstract art to decorate their houses. Here’s an article with a few ideas if you’re interested in going that route. But, my friend and I didn’t actually need any art, we just wanted to paint for fun. So, we came up with a way to make it really hilarious – we weren’t allowed to see each other’s til the end. Intrigued yet? Well, here we go!

Directions for a Cheap DIY Wine and Paint Night

Materials:

Canvases

At a typical wine and paint night you will be using something like a 16 x 20 canvas, although that will vary. For your own party, it doesn’t matter what size you use, but you can buy an 8″ x 10″ pack of 12 on Amazon for $12 and if it’s unlikely you’ll hang it, does the size really matter? The cheaper options don’t come stretched, which, again, I didn’t care about, but here’s a tutorial if you do. Here’s a few bulk options for less than $20:

Artlicious Canvas Panels 12 Pack 8″ x 10″ – $11.99
US Art Supply Multi-pack 6 each of 3″ x 5″, 4″ x 6″, 8″ x 10″ Canvas Panels – $19.96
LWR Crafts Stretched Canvas 10″ x 10″ Pack of 6 – $17.80

Paintbrushes

For these I suggest a big mixed bag. You can get one for less than $10.

Paint Brush Set CONDA Starter Kit 25 Pieces – $7.69
Loew-Cornell 245B Brush Set 25 Pieces – $9.49

Paint

Again, you can buy bulk if you want, especially if the idea of picking out colors stresses you out. But, if you really want a cheap DIY wine and paint night, you can pick up a few singles for less than $1 each at various stores. I picked out 5 colors (I already had black and white). You do need to get acrylic or oil paint if you’re going to use canvas though, so don’t go looking for watercolors! 🙂

Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint Set, 18 piece (2 oz) Best Selling Colors – $17.82
Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint in Assorted Colors (2 oz) – $0.50 each

Paper Plates, Plastic Cups, Paper Towels

Plates are for your palates, cups are to wash the brushes, and towels are to dry or clean. How much do these cost? Not very much, but don’t you already have some somewhere in your house? I also had a leftover plastic tablecloth from my streamer vs. tablecloth experiment, and I definitely recommend using one of those if you have one.

Wine

This is up to you, folks. I suppose you don’t need wine, but it wouldn’t really be a cheap DIY wine and paint night without wine, would it? I personally picked up two bottles of Kroger brand Bay Bridge for $3 each.

What to Do:

Create a Fortress – I mean, painting stations
Solitude behind our canvases.

Here’s the fun part! Set up your painting stations so that you can’t see each other’s work. My friend (why yes, the one who came up with the potty training cake) and I started before my sister got there, so we had a simple partition of the extra canvases held up by the wine bottles. As we went we had to get a little creative since my sister and husband both joined in. We constructed a paper towel fortress around my table. I posted and image below so you can see what I mean. Now, you might be thinking this seems like a silly part and you should skip it, but I swear it’s important.

Complete fortification behind a paper towel castle held up by plastic bags.
Write down Instructions

Next up you need to decide your directions. I’m assuming you don’t have an artist among you. If you do, make them teach your class. If not, here’s what you do. Have everyone throw out a couple of instructions that would presumably make your art look abstract. You know, things like draw three lines, splatter your painting, do a circle, use your wine cork to make dots. We did always start with painting a background, and I suggest you do too to make sure your canvas gets covered. The more we did, the vaguer we got, but here’s an example:

Feel free to copy that one if you’re not feeling very creative, but we enjoyed going around in a circle and suggesting things. Each of us got to pick two and then we collectively agreed on our final instruction. We did have a couple of rules after the first round. I couldn’t paint stars so I forbid them. Later my husband suggested a stick figure and we all thought that would ruin our creations so we struck that out too. It’s really up to you though. Don’t worry about your paintings while you’re doing this or make it into a big, stressful ordeal. Just get something down on paper. The real creativity happens next. If all else fails, just say.  “Splatter.”

Paint!

Pick one person to read the instructions and get to work. Some of you will undoubtedly feel nervous about the vagueness of these instructions, but the most fun part of this experience is showing each other your paintings when it’s all done. It’s amazing how differently we interpret things! At one point before my husband joined us we told him we were following the same instructions and he said, “Like hell you are.” Lol. Here’s that particular set of masterpieces:

Totally the same right? This came out of the instructions I posted up above.

The even more amazing thing was when we interpreted things sort of the same. My husband and I had a similar color palate when he joined us. My sister and I both did the ocean at one point – not that you could tell by looking at them! That set will be underneath this. You don’t have to do multiple paintings. We kept going because we were having so much fun, but if you had a bigger canvas you might focus on it and add more instructions. Overall, we painted 9 paintings between us and drank two bottles of wine. I spent a total of $26 (not including the miscellaneous towels and plates we used since I already had them). If we’d split it between the four of us, that would be $6.50 each. Either way it’s better than $30 plus wine, right? Now enjoy your cheap DIY wine and paint night!

It’s pretty obvious which one is mine, right?
game night

5 Ideas for a Fun, Unique Game Night

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I love a fun, unique game night, whether I’m throwing it or not. Admittedly, I also love the classics, and I certainly won’t say no to a game of Cranium or Clue.  But, sometimes you want a new experience, especially if you are having frequent game nights. If you aren’t normally a hostess, or if you’re as busy as I am, game nights are a great way to go when you want to have people over. There’s not a lot of pressure for you to entertain each person individually, food and beverage requirements are minimal, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a group of friends who know each other or not since they won’t be expected to make non-game related conversation. Plus they’re fun for kids and adults alike. So, without further ado, here’s a few ideas for your next game night!

Ideas for a Fun, Unique Game Night

1. Kill the World

Fun, unique game nights include apocalypses
Yes, we can totally survive off this after we become radioactive!

We live in precarious times, don’t we? I was actually inspired (or uninspired, I guess) enough to write about surviving political conversations a while back, but today I’m going to go the other direction. Blow it all up! Send in the plague! You’d be surprised how many different end-it-all games there are, but I’m a huge fan of Plague and it’s based on Pandemic, so I’d suggest those, but Amazon has plenty of similar ones. You can check out the app versions of Plague and Pandemic first if you want to see which one you prefer. The point of these is to kill the world with disease, but if you’re more of a nuclear holocaust lover, try The Manhattan Project Game. I love this one because I live near Secret City, but it is a little complicated so maybe skip it if it’s a kid night.

To make your game night particularly unique, enjoy an end of the world theme all around. Play a little The Walking Dead or Armageddon in the background (Okay, maybe not Armageddon, it’s a little too hopeful – 2012 maybe? Put it on mute and just enjoy the special effects). Serve End of the World cocktails and snacks like Twinkies or something honey related. Honey doesn’t expire, get it? We’ll be  living off it once the world is over. Is all this too bleak for you? Do you not share my love of the apocalypse? Okay, then, on to my next fun, unique game night idea.

2. Make everything a Game

Fun, unique game nights make everything a competition.
I didn’t have blindfolds, but what a great use for my solar eclipse glasses.

Why only focus on board games? I’m pretty sure every time we have a game night we all dissolve into madness by the end and resort to Name that Tune with our iPhone playlists, so why not start with that? While you’re waiting for everyone to get there, you can find a playlist of TV theme songs or 80s tunes, or whatever strikes your fancy, and get people ready to play. It would also be fun to play guess the wine or snack food if you have a couple of blindfolds handy. You don’t have to throw a wine tasting on top of your game night, but see if people can tell red or white. Or, see how many different chip flavors they can guess when you’re in between games, especially if you’re playing the type of game where people get eliminated. The uber competitive will love this!

3. Role Play

Role play for a fun, unique game night.
I don’t have any sword and sorcery gear, so we’ll be role playing as fire fighters.

You’ve heard of Dungeons & Dragons, right? I’m sure you have, and I’m also sure you either think it’s way too geeky for you or you already love it. I was in the former camp until I watched the episode of Community where they make it look like the most fun thing that anyone has ever done. Haven’t seen Community? Skip your game night and binge watch it instead.  Now, I’m not suggesting D&D itself, because it requires a lot of work. I did attempt to play it once and had trouble getting into it. It required research beforehand. I don’t have time for that. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, but there’s plenty of other role-playing games you could try for a fun, unique game night. I like Expedition. The rules are easy and a whole game can be completed in one sitting.

4. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunt the neighborhood for a fun, unique game night.
Bonus points if you can find all the manholes pretending to be plants.

This one might not be as effective if you live in an apartment building, but if you’re in a neighborhood it could be great. Go around beforehand and make notes of weird things your neighbors have lying around. You know, all the good lawn ornaments. You might want your roommate/spouse to do this separately so you can each play fairly. Divide into a few groups and give everybody lists of what to find. Make sure to give them a perimeter and determine if they just have to write the address or take a picture as proof they found it, then have at it. This sounds like maybe not the most adult thing to do, but think of bachelorette parties. Scavenger hunts are great fun. In fact, if you gave me a discreet glass of wine and a scavenger hunt list, I might not need a board game at all.

5. Test Kickstarter Games

Test out Kickstarters for a fun, unique game night.
What, you thought I was kidding? It’s a real game.

Ever heard of Exploding Kittens? It’s all the rage right now, you know, and it has Kickstarter to thank. At some point for this game to succeed, people had to play it, right?  Some game creators will release free beta versions on Kickstarter (or whatever crowdfunding site they’re using). Others might require a pledge to get a printable version. This does require a little research beforehand, unfortunately, so you might want to ask your guests to see what they can find to give you a couple of options. If it takes too long, search “free print and play games” and pick something in the creative commons. You could wind up playing the most amazing game ever. Or, you’ll be playing the worst thing ever created. Either way, people will remember that, right?

Now that you’ve got plenty of ideas, go out and have yourselves a fun, unique game night!

Parties for pay

Parties for Pay: Good Idea or Not Worth the Time?

I don’t throw parties for pay, but my Facebook is plastered with invites for this kind of thing. So, I’m going deep into the bowels of the internet to find out – do people actually make money with this stuff? How hard do you have to work? Is it worth a busy lady’s time? Personally, I’m not a sales person, so if it requires any work at all I’m out. I’m also out if there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. I just don’t have time with all that I’m already doing. But, I know there are plenty of ladies (and gentlemen) who would like to give up some of the work they do and make money another way, so let’s take a look.

First of all, parties for pay are technically called “Multi-Level Marketing” companies, or MLMs. If you’re looking for one to start, that’s how I’d search for it.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, think of the Tupperware parties of yore, or Thirty-One bags today. They’re everywhere, right? Someone invites you to a party where they’re going to show you a bunch of products and then either try to push you into buying something until you feel guilty enough to do it, or feel too guilty to push their products and then lose a bunch of money. What a fun idea! We can probably blame this on Amway if we want, although technically the first MLM was a company called Wachter.  Today there are over 1000 options, so something for everyone I guess.

The Bad News about Parties for Pay

Competitive pricing? Maybe.

One of the reasons I’m writing this is because a friend of mine started Mary Kay a while back and it cost her a TON of money. Yes, you read that correctly. It cost her money to make money. I get it; she’s technically buying a franchise, so of course it comes with a price tag. But it was a lot, and the rules were strict, and she wound up losing all of it. Then the other day I saw this article online. Parties for pay were causing women to lose money AND have psychological problems. Wow! That seems like a terrible business opportunity, doesn’t it? In fact, the FTC did a study of 11 companies and found 99% of MLM reps lose money. Reading that made me cringe and think parties for pay are terrible, terrible ideas.

When I started this research I admit I was only looking for physical parties for pay, like you see with Mary Kay or Thirty-One, but I went down the rabbit hole my friends. I mean, I went deep down a rabbit hole, and I’m not even interested in this for myself. It started to seem like such a scam I felt like I had to talk about all MLMs, including ones where you do all your work on Facebook and never see another person.  A different friend of mine got into LuLaRoe and swears she is thriving, despite all the bad news coming out of that company. Now, she might be lying, but she is a hustler and she’s pretty open about her mistakes, so I feel like she probably is making money. Obviously some people have to, right, or this wouldn’t be a thing. So what’s their deal?

Who Actually Makes Money?

Buy my fancy lipsticks! I’m selling it out of a van so you know it’s good!

Oh come on now. We know who they are. They’ve got a bridge to sell you. They were the Girl Scout that somehow sold enough cookies to feed a small country. They can place three hundred cold calls and still feel upbeat. Oh, and it appears they all have their own websites. When you first start researching parties for pay, you’ll see a lot of hopeful articles and hear about how much money people made. I’m sure plenty of them are true. But, I would remember one thing when you’re looking at those articles. If the person writing it is involved in an MLM, they’re probably selling you something. It might just be trying to convince you to join up, but you can be sure they’re getting something for that.

Actually, they’re probably getting more for getting you to join than if they’d sold you something. That’s where the real money is – networking and signing people up under you. It’s not exactly a pyramid scheme, but here’s a good explanation of how MLMs work. People who make money blogging have to network a lot too, so don’t think that’s a bad word.  It’s all about having a community, and if you are good with that, you’ll probably be more successful at your MLM. I’m going to talk about the numbers on this anti-Jamberry article in a second, but for now I’d like to direct your attention to the comment section. People are aggressively fighting both for and against the company. I especially like that the pro-Jamberry people try linking to their websites. See? They are constantly on it! No wonder they make money.

Should I Try Parties for Pay?

Not enough money for my time (although what is, really?).

I don’t know you, but I’m going to go ahead and say no, don’t do it. Not unless you are willing to devote your life to it, lose money, or potentially to scam them instead of vice versa. Is that possible, you ask? I think so, yes. After my research, I’m pretty sure you could sign up for one of these companies, do a launch party (where people typically have the most success – after all, no one’s sick of you yet), and get out with a tiny little profit. But even that would require a lot of research, so don’t think you’re just going to have a fun party one time and make a little extra dough with no work involved.  Honestly, you should never really expect that. No one’s going to hand you money for nothing.

If you’re going to do it anyway, I suggest you research and research A LOT. That Jamberry article I mentioned before calculates that their “$99” startup fee was actually more like $124 because you have to pay shipping, which they don’t mention. The average Stella&Dot rep makes between $0 and $100 a year if you include inactive reps, which many are because you have to sell $200 a month to be considered active. Is that even worth the effort? You’re going to need to do more than just generic internet research too. Check with your friends and family to see if they’re interested in whatever you’re selling, because they’re your first customers, and if it’s something you won’t put the time in for, likely your only customers.

Final Thoughts

I don’t know, friends. Parties for pay aren’t really scams, and they’re certainly not illegal, but they’re not for me, and they’re definitely not for people short on time trying to make real money. I’ll stick with not selling things to my friends at parties. Sometimes I’ll spend too much, like at my dinner parties, and sometimes I’ll make them so simple I don’t even decorate, but either way I won’t be making money. If anyone I know personally asks my opinion, I’ll probably tell them to skip it too. There are lots of other ways to make money from home if you want, and thinking you’ll casually make money at a gathering you’d throw anyway is probably unrealistic.

What do you think? Anyone had success with this type of money making scheme or plan on giving it a try? Let me know in the comments!

potty training cake

How to Make a Potty Training Party Cake

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I’ll be honest, I don’t need a potty training party cake right now.  My son likes to tell me his toys are pooping and put them in his potty, but heaven forbid he sit on it himself. But, my best friend’s daughter recently potty trained, so of course they had to celebrate. When she was looking for cake ideas, she couldn’t find what she wanted, so she created one herself. I, being the good friend I am, saw the picture and immediately decided to steal it for the blog. Her response? Let me know how it does on Pinterest. Lol. So, people, pin away!

Now, my friend called her party a “panty party,” and the cake she did is for girls. For some reason she didn’t take pictures of the entire process (what a slacker, right?), so I had to make my own. Since my son’s older than my daughter, I figured it made sense to do one for boys. I’ll just leave the potty training party cake on my counter until he potty trains in a few months or so and then we’ll eat it. Kidding, you guys.  We’ll eat it all in one sitting like healthy people. This looks like it’s going to be pretty complicated, but it actually isn’t. The secret? Cupcakes and a willingness to be a little messy. It’s called a pull-apart cake, which I’ve never heard of before, but is apparently a thing.

Instructions for Making a Potty Training Party Cake

How to make a potty training party cake
The perfect cake for a panty party.

What You Need

24 unfrosted cupcakes in wrappers
2 batches buttercream icing (the thicker the better here – I like this recipe)
Food coloring
Fondant & Edible Spray Color (optional)
Other cake decorating items, like candies or ready made decorating icing (optional)

What to Do

No, I did not mean to have two types of cupcakes. My dog enjoyed 11 chocolate ones so I had to make more (he’s fine).
First frost. Is anyone else reminded of Mrs. Doubtfire?
Second round. So much frosting! The kids will love it.
  1. After you’ve baked your cupcakes (it is totally acceptable that they come out of a box), it’s time to set them up. First prepare a surface for  your cake. It needs to be quite big, so you might have to make one out of cardboard. I used my pizza pan. Cover it with aluminum foil. This is where the cupcakes will go.
  2.  Start with 2 rows of 6 cupcakes, then a row of 5, then 4, then 3, then 2. You may have less at the end depending on how big the tops of your cupcakes are.
  3. Push the cupcakes as close together as possible. This will help prevent frosting falling through the holes, although it’s probably going to fall through at least a little. That’s why you covered your cake tray in foil. 🙂
  4.  Smear your first batch of buttercream frosting all over those cupcakes. Have fun with it, no one’s going to see this part! In fact, this frosting doesn’t even have to be colored. You might still have some gaps in frosting here but that’s fine; just make sure they’re not too big.
  5. Put the cupcakes in the fridge to chill the frosting for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Decide what colors you want your underwear. I’m lazy and decided to opt with white for the main part, but my friend used a couple of colors for hers.
  7. Once your cupcakes have chilled, get them back out and frost all of them again with your main color. There should be no gaps this time.
  8. Add your lines. You can do this with cake decorating tips, or you can do it the real frenzied way and draw them with tube frosting. Start the top of the underwear line under the second row of 6 and the bottom of the line above the row of 2.
  9. Decorate however you see fit. The girl’s potty training party cake has stars made of fondant and colored by edible spray. I can’t tell you how to do that as I would never be bothered to use fondant, but I’m sure there are 8 million tutorials online.
  10. Put it back in the fridge until it’s time to eat. Serving is easy – just pull off a cupcake! I would note that they come off a lot cleaner if you let the cake sit out a bit beforehand. If you do it when they’re still cold the frosting will break in weird places.
Making some lines (don’t mind my terrible attempt at stars).
First we had a panty cake, now we have a tighty whitey cake.
A little mess when you pull apart, but that’s alright. Toddlers don’t judge your cake skills.

Bonus Decoration Idea

I may have mentioned over and over again that I hate decorating, but I have an idea for this one that won’t take much time. Besides balloons (because every kid party really does need balloons), why not string some underwear up and hang it someplace? It’s the same basic concept that these baby showers use with baby clothes. Just get yourself a couple packs of underwear, which you’re going to need anyway unless you’re also making this potty training party cake for giggles, and either hang them on a string or clothespin them right side up. Alright, moms and dads! Go convince your kids to use the potty so they can get this awesome cake!

style sneakers (2)

Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool at an Outdoor Party

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What are the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party? I wonder this from time to time when I’m browsing Pinterest and seeing all the little DIY coolers people have made. Do they actually work? Do we even need them? Doesn’t everyone own a Coleman or an Igloo? Why can’t we use those anymore? As you can see, I have a lot of questions about cooling devices. Anyway, since global warming is making summers hotter and hotter,  I thought it would be fun to test out a couple before the end of summer barbecues started. I tested out streamers verses tablecloth decorations awhile back and enjoyed bashing streamers, so I figured I could do the same with this.

Before I get started, let me give you a quick rundown of the method. I got four different cooling devices and a whole bunch of ice on a very hot day (91 when I poured the ice). The sky was sunny, humidity not bad. I poured the ice at 4:00 P.M., figuring most people have their barbecues in the early evening. Then I just left them to see how fast the ice would melt. I did put one drink in each of the drink coolers and a plate on the bonus food coolers, but I am aware that the ice will melt differently when completely full. This is still a good baseline. Anyway, here we go!

Reviews of Cooling Devices

1. The Yeti Cooler

Full disclosure: I don’t own a Yeti. My mom won my experimental cooler at a raffle a few months ago so I borrowed it from her. If you haven’t heard of Yeti, they’re basically the new standard of coolers. My husband got one of their glasses last year and that was the first time I’d heard of it, but even a year ago everyone acted like I was an idiot for not knowing. Anyway…

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 1.5 (could have put more, but I probably wouldn’t have if I was filling it up with drinks)

Time to Set Up: However long it takes to dump ice. If you’re entertaining at a park instead of a house, this will be a bonus time saver because everything will already be packed when you load up.

How Long To Melt: As of writing, it’s still holding strong, so at least one day.

First hour, still frozen
Hour four, still frozen
The next day – still ice, with a really low layer of water at the bottom

Pros: This is pretty obvious, right? The ice still hasn’t melted. Plus it’s portable.

Cons: It’s not “cute.” If you’re looking for a nice outdoor setup, this isn’t going to wow anyone with how adorable it is. It is plain white though, so it’s also not going to be that weird blue cooler color in your pink and purple party scheme. Also, it’s going to cost you way more than any other cooling device.

Best For:

You can’t really go wrong using this if you want an outdoor party because it will keep your drinks cool, but I don’t know that I’d pay for it if I was just throwing barbecues in my backyard. I would cough up the money if I camped a lot or did a lot of long hour entertaining, like days on the lake. It’s kind of strange comparing it to the others since it’s an actual cooler, but really, a list of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party would be remiss if it didn’t have Yeti. Besides, if you don’t feel like you need your drink holders to be Pinterest worthy, might as well be high tech, right?

2. Inflatable Cooler


This is basically just a float you can put ice in. It’s said to float in a pool, but I don’t have one so I can’t confirm that. I mean, it would definitely float, but I don’t know how much you could weigh it down before it started to sink.

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 2

Time to Set Up: It took me forever because I blew it up without a pump and I kept getting interrupted. But I think probably 5-10 minutes is a good estimate, including getting it unfolded and filled.

How Long To Melt: It was halfway gone by hour 2.

Survived hour 1.
Hour two we’ve got serious melting.
It’s just a pool of water by hour three.

Pros: The look. It would look fun set up on a table in your backyard, wouldn’t it? You can put both drinks and plates in it. Also, they’re pretty cheap.

Cons: I was honestly surprised with how fast the ice melted in this one. I realize that most people will not put it on cement (I don’t have backyard furniture yet), but if you’re using a table that’s always outside, it’ll still be pretty hot. If you have something to put in between your surface and the cooler, it’ll probably do better. It’s also the longest set up.

Best For:

Short parties or parties where the decor is important. Think pool party or maybe a summer birthday party – especially one at night. In one of the Amazon reviews, they added a picture of this with some glowsticks in it to light up a night party. That would be pretty cool, and presumably the lower temperature would help keep the ice frozen.

3. Kiddie Pool

The kiddie pool cooler is honestly my reason for writing this. I keep saving the idea on Pinterest then wondering if the ice would melt immediately. If so it definitely wouldn’t be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, that’s for sure. Sorry I don’t have a link for it, but really, would you want to deal with a box that size? Go pick one up at Walmart or whatever. Mine came from Babies R Us for $5.

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 3, room for more

Time to Set Up: A couple of minutes, just dumping ice.

How Long To Melt: About 3 hours

The ice started melting immediately in this one, but there’s still plenty at hour one.
We’ve got a lot of slush at hour two.
There’s some ice hanging on at hour three, but it was gone by four.

Pros: It fits a lot of stuff. Plus people will probably tell you it’s creative. And it’s the cheapest on this list.

Cons: Um… you guys… it’s a kiddie pool. Good luck trying to keep your toddlers out of it. My son did not care that it was ice. It’s his pool, and he wants in. The pool’s so big you can’t really put it on a table, so people are going to be reaching to the ground to pick up their drinks, which is also kind of a bummer.

Best For:

Barbecues and kid parties, assuming you can get the pool set up without your kids trying to get in. The best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party do not involve freezing your children as well. 🙂

4. Bonus Food Cooler


So, I have this ice mat that you can put food on to keep cool. It’s definitely not going to be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if you have a plate or bowl you want to leave outside this will work.

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 0

Time to Set Up: One minute, but you have to remember to freeze it at least 6 hours before.

How Long To Melt: I’m not sure when it was melted since you can’t touch the ice, but at about 3 hours the plate started to warm up.

Nice and frosty at hour one.
We’ve got edge bubbles at hour two.
Hour three – bubbles everywhere!

Pros: So easy.  I love just rolling it out.

Cons: It’s so small! Can someone create a giant one of these to go over a whole table? That’d be great. Although I don’t know how you’d freeze that.

Best For:

Barbecues and potlucks. How great would this be if you’re bringing a cool dish to someone else’s party but you aren’t sure they’ll have a way for you to keep it at the right temperature?

Decision: What are the Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool at an Outdoor Party?

My decision here is there’s not a best way. It seems like a cop-out, but really, it depends on what kind of party you’re having. Is it a fancy event? I think the Yeti coolers will look classic, but baby pools will look, well, cheesy. Is your party only lasting an hour or two? Then any of them are fine. If it’s in the middle of the day and super hot, I would say the inflatable cooler is not one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if it’s an average temperature or an evening party it will work. Also, how much are you serving? Do you really need a kiddie pool full of drinks? Do you need to lug everything to a picnic area? Think about these things, and the you be able to choose the appropriate cooling device for you.

Recipe for (1)

Whiskey Bacon Brownies Recipe

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I’ve seen recipes for whiskey bacon brownies before. I’ve even used them. But I was looking for the one I like the other day and it disappeared, so I figured I’d just make one myself and share it with the world. Or the thirty or so of you who read this, that works too. 🙂 As a perpetually busy person, brownies from scratch are not normally my thing. Actually, brownies in general aren’t normally my thing. However, they are my husband’s, and every once in awhile I decide I like him and make a treat. His work is facing the end of a fiscal year this week, plus he’s got three full days of class over the weekend, so he needs some brownies. And some whiskey. And some bacon.

I’m not sure if the bacon craze of a few years back is still ongoing or not, but when it was in its heyday I threw my husband a booze and bacon birthday party. Since then I’ve developed a little bit of an obsession with boozy desserts. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth when I’m not pregnant, but a good hostess serves dessert. Because I appreciate alcohol (not in an alcoholic type way, but I love wine tastings and people with awesome mixology skills), adding it to the desserts I wasn’t really enjoying made it more fun for me. So, hopefully you will enjoy these too, but if they’re too time consuming, do it the real frenzy way: box brownies with a couple teaspoons whiskey and slices of bacon mixed in.

Frying some bacon, the most important step in any brownie recipe.
Don’t drink the whole bottle while you cook, but a little is fine.
Yum, chocolate whiskey sauce. Do not share with the kids.
A little bacon in the middle (crunched up bits are fine too).
One more brownie layer, then a swirl of whiskey sauce.
Done cooking, tasty brownies. But please, warn people they have bacon.

Recipe for Whiskey Bacon Brownies

Serves about 20, 45 minutes (15 active)

Ingredients

Brownies

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
5-10 slices bacon

Whiskey Glaze

1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp whiskey
1.25 oz milk chocolate (1/4 of the 7 oz cooking chocolate)

Instructions

  1. Cook up some bacon and set aside. Aim for crisp even if you normally like it floppy. Set aside.
  2.  Make the glaze. Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan on low heat. Stir in whiskey. Set aside.
  3. Mix the batter. Start with melted butter, eggs, and sugar. Then add cocoa, vanilla, flour, and baking powder.
  4. Pour half the batter into your pan. I use an 8 x 8 for thicker brownies, 9 x 13 for thinner.
  5. Add bacon. You can put it in strips or crumble it up and spread them out.
  6. Add the rest of the batter.
  7. Take your whiskey glaze and swirl it throughout the top layer of the batter.
  8. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.
  9. If you used strips of bacon, it is important to cool them before you cut – 15 minutes in the fridge should be fine.

Notes

Friends, I am not a baker. This is the most basic brownie around, and you’ll probably find similar versions of it all over the place. For my whiskey bacon brownies, I do omit any salt just because the bacon is salty enough. But, if you want to use your own version and just add some whiskey glaze and bacon, be my guest. I don’t think it will change much.  Since I’m not an expert I don’t know if you’re supposed to bake brownies in glass or not, but I switch back and forth depending on what’s clean and have no problems. My grandma did just buy me a new Wilton pan and it’s awesome, so I’ve been using that. I also recommend this article from SheKnows if you want brownie baking tips, like how to make them cakelike over fudgy. Now go out and enjoy some whiskey bacon brownies!

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A Mexican Inspired Brunch Menu

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I’ve been wanting to write about a Mexican inspired brunch menu for awhile. I love brunch. Seriously, if someone wants to see me on a Sunday, I’m going to suggest brunch. Occasionally I even cook it myself. Me being who I am, when I do host brunch, it has to have a theme. I can’t just throw breakfast and lunch food on the table all willy nilly. Now, when I say Mexican inspired brunch menu, I want to be clear about something. I do not mean Mexican dishes. No, this menu is really just typical American food wearing tortillas. It’s still delicious though, so bear with me.

This is not the first time I’ve done this particular theme, but I did change up the recipes so we didn’t get bored. I actually was hosting a brunch, so my food is not really photography pretty, but that’s what real food looks like. Who needs every plate to look fabulous? Crazy people and professional chefs, that’s who. I also have a little secret I need to tell you all… I don’t follow recipes very well, unless they’re baking. In fact, the only one I followed in this Mexican inspired brunch menu is the muffins, and even those I got a little crazy with at the end. Mostly I just look at pictures and do what I want. I’ll tell you what I did, but I recommend just doing whatever tastes good.

Mexican Inspired Brunch Menu

The Egg Dish

I might do a different theme for every brunch, but I follow the same basic rules every time. You have to have an egg dish, so for this meal I chose sausage taquitos. You can see a recipe here or here. I didn’t read either, but they looked pretty. What I did was cook up some eggs with a little bit of salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne. Then I put the eggs on a tortilla, followed by cheese, and then a sausage link. I rolled them up and threw them in the oven for 15 minutes. That’s it. I was going to put in green peppers too, but chopping stuff, ick. That would require chopping. Another option: breakfast burritos. My only reasoning for making taquitos instead of burritos is so I didn’t have to roll them.  Who has time for that?

The Meat Dish

Next up is the meat dish. I saw these barbecue pork nachos on Pinterest and they looked amazing, so I had to try them. And I did… several years ago. This time I just cooked up some pork and whipped up a little queso blanco, then fried an egg on top. The rest would have been too time consuming. I did get a chance to use a pretty awesome gadget though. My crockpot broke about a month ago and I hemmed and hawed about what I wanted to replace it with. Then on Amazon Prime Day the Instant Pot went on sale. I snagged it since it had 19,000 mostly amazing reviews. I wasn’t sure I would need a pressure cooker, but it was awesome, and everyone should have one.  Anyway, I didn’t even season the meat. Yes, I was being that lazy.

The Sweet/Fruit Dish

I actually made two different dishes for this, but they were really the same thing. We had a blueberry quesadilla and a strawberry one. You can see actual recipes here and here, but all I did was slather some tortillas in cream cheese and then throw in the fruit and fry it up in a pan. Actually, I also sprinkled sugar on the strawberries so it would seem like I put in a little effort. They were pretty tasty though, I was a little surprised. As you can see, my Mexican inspired brunch menu had really left Mexican cooking behind by that point, but who cares? The last time I did this theme we had apple pie taquitos, which are honestly delicious, but also a ton of work.

Bonus Dish – Bread

So, I don’t make it a big deal to have bread at brunch, but I think that might be because I always have bread anyway. But, in this situation there was no bread since everything was some sort of tortilla dish. To remedy that, my sister helped me make the most amazing churro mini-muffins. I do follow the rules when I’m baking, so my only difference here was the very end. Instead of separating sugar and butter to make it all pretty, we mixed it up and dumped it on top. So much faster, and seriously addictive. Thanks for the recipe, Flavor Mosaic!

Drink Ideas

We didn’t serve drinks this go round since I’m nursing and my sister is pregnant.  Yes, I’m aware there are drinks without alcohol in them.  That doesn’t mean I care to serve them! Plus everyone else would have put alcohol in them anyway, and who wants to see that? The first time I followed a Mexican inspired brunch menu, I served tequila sunrises. They were too strong for me on a Sunday morning, but you could try them if you want. I also saw this and this, and I think they’d be perfectly acceptable and easy enough. Well, I hope this menu helps you have your own “Mexican” brunch. Enjoy!

style sneakers

How to Manage Time if You Hate Schedules

I hate schedules. I shouldn’t. I’m busy all the time, and it would make sense for me to schedule my days out.  But the truth is, what works for me isn’t what works for most people. As a virtual bookkeeper, my schedule rotates throughout the fiscal year. I barely worked last month, but I was full time in February and March (tax season) and I will be again in August and September. I now have two kids under two who have evolving sleep schedules. My dad, who helps me out when he can, is on shift work so even my child care is inconsistent. Oh yeah, and this blog? It takes up time too. I could quit, but I enjoy it, so it stays on my to-do list.

Despite all I have going on, the fact that I hate schedules hasn’t really hurt me, even though all the experts agree you need one. I’m good at changing things up – actually, I used to do that in offices anyway, just to keep myself entertained.  But, I get that not everyone is.  I decided that since my upcoming fun hosting posts don’t have pictures to accompany them yet (I didn’t want to do too much on my two week maternity leave – I’m not that much of a slave driver) I’d go ahead and talk about my strategies to avoid scheduling. I’ve read approximately half of the 250 million time management theories, so obviously I’m super qualified.

Use a To-Do List

One of my more easily accomplished lists.

I’ve spoken of my to-do list before. I currently use Wunderlist for myself and Trello for my clients, but I can’t plug either of them. Microsoft bought Wunderlist to do away with it, which crushed me, but I’ll survive. I could move everything to Trello, but honestly, it’s not for me. I like a simple checklist. When did everything go to boards? It’s kind of dumb. Anyway, the point is if you’re not going to use a calendar, you need to have something else to keep you on track. You may not check your emails precisely at 10:00 A.M., but you do need to check them at some point. Put that on a to-do list, cross it off when you’re done, have one less thing to worry about doing. Sometimes just having the to-do list makes me work quickly simply because I want my list to be shorter.

Choose Your Priorities

Honestly, my kids run the show. I don’t work from home because I hate people or because I can’t get a job. I work from home so I can be with my children. Once they’re in school I’ll start the job search again. I’m not full time, but having the clients I do prevents gaps in my resume so I don’t get charged a higher mommy tax. Hopefully. Anyway,  they’re number one, so I won’t have client calls while they’re awake. But… those little rugrats don’t pay me. So sometimes, unfortunately, I have to skip an art project and do some accounting instead. Returning phone calls has to take precedence over laundry. If you hate schedules, you have to accept that sometimes you can’t get everything done. Either have a makeup day once in awhile or just let it go.

Be Strategic with Sleep

Basically I just test my pillow for firmness and then wake back up.

What a weird thing to say, right? Sleep is super important. Everyone knows this. But I don’t have time to do what I do and sleep the recommended amount of hours, at least not at once. Before you start freaking out that I’m advising you to be unhealthy, remember that I have a newborn so my situation is a little different. If my first is any indication, my next full night of sleep will be in late 2018. That doesn’t mean I have to be tired all the time. It means I have to have a plan. It is possible to switch up your own sleep schedule, and that’s what I had to do.

I didn’t change my schedule up a lot. Actually, it was only a one hour difference. Instead of going to bed at midnight, when I could barely function enough to do any work, and getting up at six with my son, I started going to bed at eleven and waking up at five. Wah-lah. That’s an extra hour by myself in the morning, when I’m refreshed and ready to work. You might not be a morning person, so maybe you will need to change your sleep the other way around or add naps or something, but a little change in sleeping habits might go a long way.

If You Hate Schedules, Stop Scheduling

Freeeeeeddddddooooommmmmm!!!!

I have a client who has used every scheduling system in the book. Every. Single. One. For whatever reason, he thinks that there will be some magical scheduling device that forces him to do what he is supposed to do during the day. Like me, he’s a self-employed parent who prioritizes his kids. Unlike me, he refuses to simply say, “I hate schedules and they don’t work for me.” People, don’t believe everything you read. Not working set hours isn’t going to kill you. It’s not going to make you less productive if you’re not producing anything anyway. If all you do all day is rearrange your schedule because you’ve gotten behind on something, give it up.  Go on, tear that schedule up, delete it, whatever. Don’t you feel better already?

 

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Ideas for a Star Wars Themed Nursery

Considering a Star Wars themed nursery? Or just wondering why a blog about entertaining would be talking about nurseries? Well, friends, I’m sitting here on my due date for baby #2 very aware I’m not going on time, and I haven’t thought of a single thing to write about this week. So nursery it is! My daughter’s isn’t done yet, but I always planned on sharing that one. It’s a Harry Potter theme for girls and I couldn’t find anything with the vibe I wanted when I searched, so I figured I’d help other people out. Of course it’s not done yet – they don’t call me the Frenzied Hostess because of all the spare time I have for DIY projects, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I know plenty of people have done the Star Wars themed nursery thing before, so this isn’t as original as the Harry Potter one will be. But, guess what I have over those other people? I’ve done the whole dang thing twice. Yep, we designed my son’s room when we lived in North Carolina, then did it all again when we bought our house in Tennessee. Fun, right? So, enjoy the pictures, and feel free to contact me or comment with any questions you might have while designing your own Star Wars themed nursery.

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The Walls

Tennessee Walls – a little brighter, a little less wacky ceilings

This is the only reason doing the nursery twice gave us a headache. We decided on sky blue walls with a dark blue border. Fun, right? Not if you’re the one measuring it! Actually, it really wasn’t that bad. We used a paint stirrer stick for the length. First we did the light blue, not bothering to get up to the ceiling since we’d just be painting over it anyway. Then we used the stick and a level to go around. It’s actually not that even of a line – the ceilings in both houses seemed to slant a little. I don’t think you can tell.

North Carolina walls – If only I’d known they would like kind of like R2D2

Now, you’ll see the North Carolina house had some funky walls (sorry about the picture quality, by the way – these were not taken with the intent of publication). We looked for picture example but couldn’t find any. So, we went with what we thought was best. It was a little bit more of a hassle, but I love how it turned out. We also had Star Wars fighter ship decals I found on Etsy on only one wall. I loved those too, and I might order them and put some up here too eventually. Baby girl needs a put together room first.

The Furniture

The crib and dresser were Amazon purchases, and they have been great. We chose white since it went with the trim, but we also considered black. My son has his own little Darth Vader chair, as all evil toddlers should. It’s not where it’s supposed to be right now, but it exists I swear. As for the grown-up chair, I don’t know if you really need one or not. My  husband refused a glider so we got a super comfy recliner instead.  It never made it upstairs in the NC house, but I love having it now that he’s old enough to play in his room. We got it at Haverty’s if you want one like it.

The DIYs

Not to toot my own horn, but I did most of this stuff myself.  If I got directions from somewhere else I’ll link to them.

The Name Sign

This I did see online, but it didn’t come with any instructions. It’s pretty easy. Get a sheet of balsa wood from Hobby Lobby. Your size might for either the wood or the font might vary with name length, but the type of wood is easy to hang. Paint it your background color first. Then download a Star Wars font (I used this one), print your baby’s name (I did print out 2 Ds instead of reusing one to make sure the spacing was correct), and then tape the letters on and trace them. Make a 1-2 inch border and paint that and your letters with some leftover wall paint. Then I used a paintbrush to give the letters some depth and flick paint all over.

The Wampa Rug

You can see the details here. It was pretty easy, though time consuming, but it has been beaten up since I made it. My dogs are apparently Wampa hunters.

The Mobile

I ordered this plain mobile on Amazon, along with some Star Wars Itty Bittys from Hallmark. They had both old school and new school Star Wars, and I wanted a combo so I got new since I already had a lot of old. I went with a black and white Force Awakens fabric and used a scrunchie tutorial to make a cover for the arm. To put it all together you should sew some ribbons to the characters’ heads and then do some serious knotting through the mobile holes to get them to stay. My son pulls at them all the time, and they haven’t fallen, though I have had to adjust a few times.

The Pillow & Blanket

Not much to say here. I sewed the Force Awakens fabric around an old throw pillow. Done. My aunt made the blanket out of a no-sew fleece kit.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

I found a cute, small version of this on Etsy but I really wanted something to fill this frame I had lying around, so I bought a Death Star poster and drew on the frame’s plastic cover with a chalk marker. Doing it on the frame instead of the poster means he can keep the poster if he likes it when he grows up because the chalk marker will wipe off. There are a lot of twinkle stars drawn on the Death Star, but it’s hard to see since it’s reflective. So just go crazy with them.

The Book Shelves

Not Star Wars related, but I painted some Ikea spice racks white and used them for books. They’re cute but they don’t fit enough for my book-loving child, so I am putting a full bookcase in my daughter’s room for the overflow.

Other Star Wars Themed Nursery Items

There’s honestly a lot more Star Wars themed nursery stuff in my son’s room than I thought. It doesn’t feel overwhelmingly Star Wars when I’m in it, which is something I was afraid of. There are so many good ideas online it’s hard to tell yourself to stop! But a lot of these other little details came as gifts so I threw them in the mix too. We’ve got the tin art, a Build-A-Bear Chewbacca, a talking R2-D2, some Star Wars books, and a tiny little Star Wars toy box that has always come in handy for quick cleanup. If there’s no link, I’m sorry – I really don’t know where they came from!

 

 

 

 

By the way, if you’re wondering… Yes, the Star Wars themed nursery was my idea. I gave my husband the choice between this or lumberjack. Surprisingly, the Star Trek fan went with this. Last week I talked about how hard it is to get along when discussing politics, but friends, if a Star Wars geek and a Star Trek nerd can work it out, perhaps anyone can.