how to

4 Party Food Bars Your Friends Secretly Hate

Party food bars are all the rage, and it seems like everyone is trying to one up everyone else with how “creative” their food bars can get. I was considering writing a funny post about a really ridiculous food bar, but you know what? I couldn’t find one that didn’t actually exist! Now, party food bars can be really fun. Who has ever turned up their nose at a nacho bar? No one! But, dear readers, I think it’s time we acknowledge that most people heading to a party aren’t thinking, “Gee, I really hope I have to make my own food when I get there!” There is one caveat to this, of course. If you actually are heading to a party specifically to make your own food – you know I love a good food competition, for example – then all these ideas are great! Otherwise, stick to nachos.

Party Food Bars you can Skip

1. Bloody Mary Bar

The Problem

I know what you’re thinking. But Beth! Who wouldn’t want to have a Bloody Mary at one of those fun brunch parties you rave about? Well, let’s think about this. How many of your friends claim they know how to make a delicious Bloody Mary? Two, probably, and one of them’s lying and the other one used to be a bartender. Ex-bartender friend is really going to hate it when he/she has to make Bloody Marys all day because you thought this would be a fun idea.

What to Do Instead

champagne bar

If you must serve Bloody Marys, do it yourself. Make up a mix that isn’t too spicy and provide some extra hot sauce, celery, and olives. Don’t make them guess how much tomato juice they need, and please don’t leave horseradish sitting around. No one knows what to do with that. If you aren’t set on Bloody Marys, I would suggest a champagne bar. No, it’s not a “mimosa” bar if you’re putting out champagne, orange juice, and cranberry juice. Cranberry and champagne is a poinsettia. Just saying.

2. Grilled Cheese/Pizza Bar

sliced pizza with cutter

The Problem

Grilled cheese and pizza bars have one major problem. They have to be cooked. If you’re going to create one of these party food bars (or something similar), you’re telling your guests not only do they have to decide what cheese and topping combinations might be delicious, they also have to wait around and cook it themselves. Or, even worse, you have to stand around cooking them all yourself. I guess that’s fine, if you want someone else to tell you how the party went. Of course, this is one of those that would be fun if the only purpose of the party was to cook, but otherwise it’s a hard pass.

What to Do Instead

Ever seen those cute mini grilled cheeses? Cook those. They’re delicious and everyone oohs and aahs at them. If you want to serve pizza, save yourself some time and just order pizza. There’s no need to stress yourself out over something that most people will eat from Little Caesar’s without a second thought. If the point is to let people feel creative, try a hot dog bar. If you have the equipment, a pasta bar might be fun, although I’d probably skip that one too just because of the cleanup. The point is the food already needs to be cooked. They can do toppings. With grilled cheese and pizza, that’s not an option.

3. Salad Bar

green salad with dressing container

The Problem

What are you, a Sizzler? Don’t waste your time on this. It’s not a time saver by any means; all those fruits and vegetables don’t cut and wash themselves, you know. Think you’re going to impress your vegetarian/vegan friends? You’re not. I was a vegetarian for three years, and never in that time did I walk into a party and say, “You know what this place needs? More salad.” There’s a million other things to serve vegetarians. It’s not that salad isn’t good for you, or even that it isn’t really tasty. It’s that it’s hard to eat standing up, and the more you add to it, the messier it’s going to be. Think you’ll overcome that by having lots of seating? It won’t matter. Someone always stands.

What to Do Instead

First of all, determine why you want to serve salad. Did you just want to impress people with your party food bars? Then pick anything else that’s not on this list. If it’s more of a health thing, regular fruits and veggies are fine. If you really, really love salads, then mix up something yourself with only a few ingredients and serve it as a side dish. People probably won’t overfill their plates with salad and drop lettuce all over your house that way.

4. Crepes or Crostinis Bar

crepes with orange slices

The Problem

Hear me out on this one, because I hear half of you screaming at me that these are so much fun and the other half screaming, “How are these possibly related?” So here goes. Crostinis and crepes are both delicious foods… if you know the correct combinations. Some of your party-goers absolutely will make beautiful crepes, whether sweet or savory, and plenty will make standard but tasty crostinis. The thing is, if they’re going to be making typical food anyway, you can do that for them instead of setting up pointless party food bars. There’s also this little thing called decision fatigue and you don’t need to add that to your guests on their day off. Plus, and I hate to say this,  but some people won’t even know what a crepe or a crostini is.

What to Do Instead

I would suggest you serve one or two types of crostinis that you make and be done with it. I really can’t see the point of having your guests make their own appetizers. If you’re doing brunch and you want it to be crepes, I actually think you can succeed with a crepe bar, but you need to tone it way way down. Either offer one obvious savory option, like egg and cheese, verse one sweet option, like raspberries with whipped cream, or offer two sweet options. Do not get crazy with this or your guests will start filling them up with nonsense. If you want to put a whole bunch of stuff out and let everyone go nuts, do a bagel bar, because everyone already knows what they like on a bagel.  The point is not to overwhelm your guests with options.

Well, what do you think? Have I been too harsh on these party food bars or this just the reckoning they deserve? Before you decide, remember this – I’m not talking about weddings, just your everyday party. Brides, you do whatever your little hearts desire on your wedding day, and don’t forget to eat.

Party Food Bars can be a great idea, but some of them are too complicated for your friends to enjoy. Here's four you should skip and what to do instead. #foodbars #partyfoodbars #partyfood #party #partyideas #food Party Food Bars can be a great idea, but some of them are too complicated for your friends to enjoy. Here's four you should skip and what to do instead. #foodbars #partyfoodbars #partyfood #party #partyideas #food Party Food Bars can be a great idea, but some of them are too complicated for your friends to enjoy. Here's four you should skip and what to do instead. #foodbars #partyfoodbars #partyfood #party #partyideas #food Party Food Bars can be a great idea, but some of them are too complicated for your friends to enjoy. Here's four you should skip and what to do instead. #foodbars #partyfoodbars #partyfood #party #partyideas #food
big game time zone

Big Game Tips by Time Zone

If you’ve lived on both sides of the country, you’ll understand why I’m offering big game tips by time zone. While others are boycotting the NFL for political reasons this year, I’ve been boycotting it due to the fact that I’m asleep. Football sucks on the east coast, you guys. I miss getting up, going to the bar for Bloody Mary’s, and being home before two. I miss Monday Night Football. Is that still on? I wouldn’t know, it starts way too late. And, of course, I miss Super Bowl parties in the middle of the afternoon. But, they come with their own problems, so I have some solutions to those potential problems. I know there’s four time zones in the continental US  (I can’t help you, Hawaii and Alaska), but I’ve split it into two for these big game tips by time zone. Here we go!

Big Game Tips by Time Zone

These big game tips by time zone will help you figure out how to keep the party going - or end it early. #superbowl #party #gameday #gamedayideas #biggame #superbowlparty #footballparty

Eastern Time/Central Time

The Problem

Your party ends at halftime whether you want it to or not. The kids have to get to bed, so no one’s watching the game at all, and you’re left watching Malcolm Butler get an interception in the end zone by yourself, trying to figure out if that really just happened. Eventually your next-door neighbor sees the replay and the three of you still awake get excited for a wild ending, but really, the moment has passed.

Potential Solutions

  1. Make a really fantastic dessert. Seriously amazing, and it has to smell really, really delicious. The catch? You don’t put it in the oven to bake until right before halftime so people either smell it and want to stay or feel guilty and want to stay. If you can keep them there through halftime, unless the game is a total blowout, they’ll probably stay until the end.
  2. Invite neighbors and kid-free folk. If they don’t have kids, their bedtimes are probably later even if they do have work on Monday. Neighbors are also likely to stay longer since there’s no driving. That saves them time and means they can drink.
  3. Have all your friends from far away come, with their kids, but suggest the kids have a pajama party. Then the kids are already in their jammies when they show up and that saves times for the parents when they go home. You can set up sleeping bags and pillows with a movie in a different room so they calm down after the halftime show and the ones who really need it fall asleep.
  4. Play a super fun game at halftime, or set up your own sports book that requires them to be present to win. Who wants to let a good bet go by the wayside?
  5. So, this is completely the opposite. Let’s say you actually want all the guests out of there by halftime (I’m not sure why you threw the party, but hey, who am I to judge). Start cleaning up at the end of the second quarter. Seriously, just put all the food away and hide the cooler. If you do that, people will get the hint, and even if they don’t, who wants to hang out at a party without food?

Mountain Time/Pacific Time

These big game tips by time zone will help you figure out how to keep the party going - or end it early. #superbowl #party #gameday #gamedayideas #biggame #superbowlparty #footballparty

The Problem

You invite everyone over at 3:00 P.M. Everyone has a great time, getting their drink on, enjoying the game and all the delicious food you prepared based on the cities of the team’s playing.  The game comes down to the wire and you expect Tom Brady to come back, but instead Eli Manning beats him for the second time. It’s too exciting to handle because everyone hates the Patriots unless they’re from Boston. Now no one will leave – or couldn’t drive if they wanted to – and your house has turned into a rager.

Solutions

  1. This should be your first step – set an end time when you invite people. Yes, it’s fine to say Super Bowl party from 3:00-7:30 or 4:00-9:00 or whatever time you’re dealing with. If you invite them in person, just send a text later with what to bring and the end time.
  2. That being said, sometimes people ignore that kind of thing, including other people you live with. In that case, you’ll have to try something else. Start with putting all the drinks away at the end of the third. This gives them a whole quarter to sober up. Don’t think they’ll take kindly to it? Either be really wise about the amount you buy or just sneak it away so they think they drank it. No one wants to leave in the fourth quarter for a beer run.
  3. Go ahead and start putting away the food too. You can do that as you go – anytime something finishes up, get rid of it. Then you can start your cleaning right when the game is over. People will get the hint.
  4. You know how the post game is always fun at first but gets boring once the confetti stops blowing? If you’re having a good time, you’ll want to change the channel to something awesome. If you want people to go home, you’ll want to either dive deep into some game analysis or check out something even more dull… C-Span? I don’t know. These big game tips by time zone do depend on your tastes a little.
  5. Again, the opposite – what if you want your guests to stay? It’s only seven-ish, after all, and maybe you want to avoid cleaning. This is pretty easy. Serve dinner. You had snacks out all day, so just make them less filling and order pizza delivery or something when it’s over. Then turn up the music and have yourselves a jolly time!

I hope you enjoyed these big game tips by time zone. I know I can’t be the only one who notices how different east coast and west coast parties are. Also, if the Patriots are playing this year, you should know by now, they have crazy endings. Don’t let those guests leave and miss an epic comeback or helmet catch.

These big game tips by time zone will help you figure out how to keep the party going - or end it early. #superbowl #party #gameday #gamedayideas #biggame #superbowlparty #footballparty These big game tips by time zone will help you figure out how to keep the party going - or end it early. #superbowl #party #gameday #gamedayideas #biggame #superbowlparty #footballparty These big game tips by time zone will help you figure out how to keep the party going - or end it early. #superbowl #party #gameday #gamedayideas #biggame #superbowlparty #footballparty

These big game tips by time zone will help you figure out how to keep the party going - or end it early. #superbowl #party #gameday #gamedayideas #biggame #superbowlparty #footballparty

wow overnight guests

How to Wow Overnight Houseguests

Do you want to wow overnight houseguests? Well, you should start by getting yourself a couple.  It’s my understanding that some people don’t have houseguests very often, but I have them all the time. That’s what happens when you move far away from everyone you know. You get a lot of visitors and you can’t let them stay in a hotel room, especially if they’re family. It’s not that big a deal, but it does mean you have to clean your house, have groceries, and tell your husband to stop walking around in his boxers.  I’ve had five different overnight houseguests since September, so feel free to steal my tips.

Steps to Wow Overnight Houseguests

1. Share the WiFi password right away.

Back in the day, it seemed a little rude for people to ask for the WiFi password when they came to your house. They’re there to visit you, not look at their phones, right? But it’s 2018, people. Everyone’s lives are connected to their phones, and there’s no point in pretending differently. Get your overnight guests hooked up to internet access before they have to ask and you’ll already be a great host in their eyes. If you want to be funny about it, provide a card like they do at hotels. If you use the same password for your WiFi as your bank accounts, be on the safe side and input it for them. I have a crazy AT&T provided password, so I took a picture of it and show my guests the photo. Regardless of how you get it to them, make sure you get it to them.

2. Show them around the kitchen.

You already know to clean your house, but to wow overnight houseguests you should take a few more easy steps. #houseguests #hostess #overnightguests #entertaining
Good luck finding any sort of organization in there, houseguests.

Some people will automatically feel comfortable getting things for themselves, but others won’t. You’re hosting overnight guests, not people stopping by for an hour. Trust me, you want them to get their own food and drinks. Show them where to find water glasses, what water to drink (some people have filters, others drink bottled, whatever, just give your guests the clean stuff), and other things like snacks. If they’re coming from a later time zone, you should give them access to breakfast foods as well. Actually, you should probably call them ahead of time and get a few food requests, just in case. That will really wow overnight houseguests.

3. Give them their freedom.

You know what sucks when you’re on vacation? When your hotel gives you a curfew and makes the bellhop go everywhere with you. What, that doesn’t happen? Hmm. Then maybe you shouldn’t attach yourself to the hip of your overnight guests either. We recently had one of my husband’s classmates staying with us on weekends because she moved out of state before they finished, and she wasn’t there to hang out with us, although she did join in our MBA graduation celebration. Anyway, she came and went as she pleased. Our family members don’t typically do that, but we wouldn’t mind if they did. Trust me, if you want to wow overnight houseguests, don’t make them feel like prisoners.

4. Offer bathroom goodies.

You already know to clean your house, but to wow overnight houseguests you should take a few more easy steps. #houseguests #hostess #overnightguests #entertaining
Courtesy of the dentist and Best Western.

I have a basket in my guest bathroom with extra soaps and shampoos and whatnot. That way, if I have a guest who doesn’t want freedom, they don’t have to run off to the store if they forget something. I do have a separate guest bathroom so it stays out all the time, but if you don’t, you can hide it away until someone comes to stay. Don’t want to buy a whole bunch of stuff that may or may not get used? Relax, all mine comes from an actual hotel. Just remember what you can and can’t steal before you try this!

There are plenty of other tips I could give you for hosting overnight guests, but I feel like most of them are obvious. You know, clean the sheets they’re going to use, don’t give them blankets covered in dog hair, provide breakfast, and make it easy for them to park. But some of these others are overlooked, and it’s so important to making your guests feel comfortable. Now you can invite people over!

You already know to clean your house, but to wow overnight houseguests you should take a few more easy steps. #houseguests #hostess #overnightguests #entertaining

You already know to clean your house, but to wow overnight houseguests you should take a few more easy steps. #houseguests #hostess #overnightguests #entertaining You already know to clean your house, but to wow overnight houseguests you should take a few more easy steps. #houseguests #hostess #overnightguests #entertaining You already know to clean your house, but to wow overnight houseguests you should take a few more easy steps. #houseguests #hostess #overnightguests #entertaining

warm boozy drinks

The Best Warm, Boozy Drinks for Winter

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through them I will receive compensation at no additional cost to you.

The best warm, boozy drinks are the ones that require little effort and only hint at alcohol. You can drink whiskey straight, or a naked martini, but do you really want your vodka steaming? Yuck! If you haven’t noticed, it’s been freezing this week. There’s apparently a bomb cyclone roaming about, which sounds terrifying but is mostly just cold. That means I’m stuck inside with my two children and two dogs with no breaks for a week. I’m going to go insane. And I’m also cold. I think that calls for a nice toasty glass of alcohol. Oh, and if you’ve stumbled upon this thinking I meant boozy drinks for warm weather, check out my ways to keep drinks cool instead. Enjoy!

List of the Best Warm, Boozy Drinks

Mulled Wine

The best warm, boozy drinks are easy to make while you're too cold to move! #boozydrinks #warmdrinks #booze #alcholicbeverages #winter #bestdrinks

The first time I tried mulled wine I thought I was going to hate it, but it turns out it’s delicious! Making it is not that hard although it is definitely harder than opening a bottle of plain wine and drinking it. But how many glasses of room temperature wine would it take you to get warm? Too many for your liver, my friends. Try one of these recipes or get a mulling packet (way easier) and don’t forget the cinnamon stick!

Cider and Spiced Rum

In college, I dated this terrible human being who came from a family of terrible human beings. One of them actually murdered another one, I’m not exaggerating here. Anyway, I have one bright memory from that time and it is drinking spiced rum and hot apple cider with the non-terrible sister. I don’t have a recipe for this. Just get yourself some Captain Morgan and some warm cider and mix the way your heart desires.

Hot Chocolate and…. Whatever

The best warm, boozy drinks are easy to make while you're too cold to move! #boozydrinks #warmdrinks #booze #alcholicbeverages #winter #bestdrinks

 

Hot chocolate goes with anything. In fact, I think it’s the only way you’re legally allowed to drink peppermint schnapps. (That’s a joke, non-sarcasm reading folk). Whiskey and chocolate are good, you know, and there’s plenty of flavored vodkas. I personally enjoy a regular hot chocolate packet with a dash of whiskey to spice it up, but here’s a list of a bunch of fancy ways to do it. Just don’t drown out the chocolate or you’re doing it wrong.

Coffee and Bailey’s

Yep, Irish coffee. Of course it’s one of the best warm, boozy drinks! I suppose you could drink any of them in the morning, but this one is especially good for that, if that’s your thing. If you enjoy mixing uppers and downers for dinner, then it’s a night drink too. Apparently there’s an actual recipe from Bailey’s for this, but I just add a little whiskey and a little Bailey’s, then head off to my early morning tailgate. Yeah, I only drink this one for tailgating, but it’s perfect for it!

Bonus: The Hot Toddy

Why is this one a bonus? Because I really can’t think of a reason why you’d drink it if you’re not sick. You probably shouldn’t drink when you’re sick, but if you do (no judgment from me), give this recipe a try and see if it cures your ails.

So that’s my list of the best warm, boozy drinks! Did anyone notice I mentioned murder up there? You rum drinkers are still thinking about it, aren’t you? Mulled wine people never even got to that part. Too bad for them. Besides that, what do you think? Do you have a favorite warm, boozy drink? A way to make any of these easier? Let me know in the comments!

The best warm, boozy drinks are easy to make while you're too cold to move! #boozydrinks #warmdrinks #booze #alcholicbeverages #winter #bestdrinks The best warm, boozy drinks are easy to make while you're too cold to move! #boozydrinks #warmdrinks #booze #alcholicbeverages #winter #bestdrinks The best warm, boozy drinks are easy to make while you're too cold to move! #boozydrinks #warmdrinks #booze #alcholicbeverages #winter #bestdrinks The best warm, boozy drinks are easy to make while you're too cold to move! #boozydrinks #warmdrinks #booze #alcholicbeverages #winter #bestdrinks The best warm, boozy drinks are easy to make while you're too cold to move! #boozydrinks #warmdrinks #booze #alcholicbeverages #winter #bestdrinks
how to (1)

Last Minute Party Planning for Underachievers

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Welcome, underachievers! Ready for some last minute party planning tips? New Year’s Eve is coming up, and that means it’s the perfect time to host your friends without overexerting yourself. I am a big fan of the last minute party, but when I go to do a search for last minute party planning ideas, it seems like everyone gets “last minute” confused with “easy.” Yes, it would be easy to blow up fifty balloons and tape them in a rainbow design to your wall. No, it would not be something I could do at the last second before guests show up. So, with that in mind, let’s see what us realistic party planners can actually get done when we decide to host a same day party.

Last Minute Party Planning Tips

Food

Looks like I’m serving pizza and cookies.

First of all, there’s no point in last minute party planning if you don’t have time to go to the store. At that point you just call everyone and tell them what to bring. If you do have time to go to the store, then you’re in luck, because the deli/bakery section is going to plan your menu for you. Whatever tasty looking desserts and/or dishes they have cooked up is what you’ll be serving. They pretty much always have cookies and cakes and some sort of chicken, so those are  safe bets, but you do not need any sort of theme for a last minute party, so feel free to pick up whatever looks tasty. Now, if you live in a small town with only one grocery store and they don’t have a deli/bakery (I grew up in a town like this, so they exist), just pick up frozen stuff instead.

You’re also going to want chips or whatever. I highly advise against taking on too much actual cooking, but if you are going do so, I’d go with an easy dip. There’s so many of them and they don’t have to look nice. Here’s a place to start. Thinking about making your famous dessert? Can I tell you why I wouldn’t bother? Unless you’re a professional baker or your friends are food critics, they probably won’t know the difference between a box dessert mix and something homemade. Trust me, I tried it with brownies. Save those good recipes for when you have more time.

Decorations

Well, my general theory on decorations is don’t bother, but I know how people are obsessed with decorating, so here’s my thoughts. Get something fancy and tall to put on your food table. I like a crazy cupcake holder, although that would require you to buy cupcakes. If that’s not your thing, really any serving dishes with varying heights will do. I’ll put a few shopping items at the bottom for you – surprisingly, this kind of thing is hard to find at your regular Walmart! I think that’s really all you need, but if you can’t stand the idea of using only dishes as decor, add a tablecloth and/or confetti, and possibly balloons, assuming you have time to get helium-filled ones. Don’t bother if you have to blow them up yourself.

Clean Your House

Okay guys, here’s why you can’t spend all your last minute party planning time on decorations. It is so much more important for you to clean your house than it is for you to google free printables or hang streamers. If you’re like me, you’re always prepared for drop-in visitors, but if you’re not I suggest you get yourself a housecleaning schedule put together now so you’ll be able to throw spur of the minute parties later. If it’s too late for the party you’re currently working on, find the worst areas and work on those. The good news is you won’t be doing much cooking so the kitchen should be easy!

The Important Stuff

I want you to think of the granddaddy of all parties. You know, weddings. What’s the best one you’ve ever been to? Was there food? Probably. Decor? Undoubtedly. Dancing? Absolutely! You remember that part even if you have no idea what the centerpieces were. Having fun is what makes a party memorable, not oohing and ahhing at tissue paper creations. So what should your focus all your last minute party planning energy on? Entertainment, of course!

Now, I’m not saying you need to turn your house into the club, but music would probably help. I’m not a big buyer of music, but there’s always things like Party Mixes on Soundcloud. Games are always enjoyable, drinking or non. Or both, if you’re creative. Drinking Operation, anyone? If you don’t own games, charades or Pictionary are easy to do. Playing cards are cheap to pick up and can be found everywhere, plus the game options are endless. Remember, if you’re enthusiastic about whatever you’re doing, your guests will probably get more excited too. Now go have fun at your last minute party!

 

Last minute party planning for underachievers - no need to DIY everything here! #lastminuteparty #partyideas #lastminute #timesavers #easypartyideas

 

Last minute party planning for underachievers - no need to DIY everything here! #lastminuteparty #partyideas #lastminute #timesavers #easypartyideasLast minute party planning for underachievers - no need to DIY everything here! #lastminuteparty #partyideas #lastminute #timesavers #easypartyideas

Last minute party planning for underachievers - no need to DIY everything here! #lastminuteparty #partyideas #lastminute #timesavers #easypartyideas

 

Are Scratch Brownies worth it_

Are Scratch Brownies Worth My Time?

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through them I will receive compensation at no additional cost to you.

I wonder about things from time to time. Like, are scratch brownies worth my time? Short answer: No. Long answer: Nooooooo. Oh, what, you want more explanation? You’ve read this post in Bon Appetit, written by a professional baking blogger, and you assume your brownies are going to be as delicious as hers and your friends’ palates are going to be as sophisticated as her friends’? Well, that’s fine. If you are also a professional baker, you have my permission to not read this. If you aren’t, though, let me walk you through my methodology and explain why homemade brownies just aren’t worth the effort.

Are Scratch Brownies Worth my Time Experiment

The Method

Are brownies made from scratch better than the box kind? #brownies #timesaver #baking #dessert #partyfood
One of these looks like a lot more work than the others.

I made two types of brownies: box brownies and homemade. The box was Betty Crocker and the homemade recipe came from one of the top rated recipes on allrecipes.com. You can try it here if you want. I chose that one because the pictures looked most like the box ones. Then I also had to buy store-bought. They came in mini-muffin form from Walmart. I wish I could have found them in squares so I could use this amazing invention. If you are big brownie eaters, you’re going to want one. Instead I had to use my mini-muffin tin, which if you don’t already have, I’m not sure we can speak anymore. How do you make your desserts cute or serve mac and cheese bites? Anyway, three types of brownies.

I made the two types of brownies about an hour apart so my tin had time to cool down. I bought the store ones on the same day. Then I made the recipients of my Christmas baking (which I’m very organized at doing, by the way) try one of each. I did have to serve them upside down because the tops were very obviously different, but if you aren’t wearing your baby and trying to work while you’re baking, maybe you will have an easier time being tidy than I did.

The Results

Are brownies made from scratch better than the box kind? #brownies #timesaver #baking #dessert #partyfood
Yes, I know which one is which, but if you can’t tell I guess it doesn’t matter.

Guess how many people preferred the scratch brownies? Are you ready? Here goes…. Zero! Zero people preferred the scratch brownies over the box or store-bought. Now, I’m not the best baker in the world, but I can follow a recipe, especially an easy one like that. As for the favorites, most people skewed toward the box, myself included. We had two people prefer the store-bought, although my husband did wait until the next day to eat them. Obviously that warps the result a little bit since they had preservatives, but he adamantly disliked the homemade ones. So I guess they don’t hold up well either.

Conclusion

Are brownies made from scratch better than the box kind? #brownies #timesaver #baking #dessert #partyfood
This experiment caused a lot of extra holiday weight in my neighborhood.

Is making scratch brownies worth my time? Nope. Probably not yours either. I’m not trying to knock your cooking skills or anything like that either, honestly. My mom felt guilty when she tried the experiment because she didn’t like the homemade ones, but you know what? I was relieved. I wanted everyone to like the easier ones better. That means busy moms like me don’t have to worry so much about creating the perfect dessert! We don’t have to be the best at baking, because we can trust Betty Crocker and Walmart to know what they’re doing. Will I still make my own whiskey bacon brownies from time to time? Sure, when I actually have time! And you shouldn’t throw out your cool cheesecake or red velvet or whatever brownie recipe either. Just don’t feel guilty when you have to turn to the box. 🙂

 

Are brownies made from scratch better than the box kind? #brownies #timesaver #baking #dessert #partyfood

 

Are brownies made from scratch better than the box kind? #brownies #timesaver #baking #dessert #partyfoodAre brownies made from scratch better than the box kind? #brownies #timesaver #baking #dessert #partyfood

Are brownies made from scratch better than the box kind? #brownies #timesaver #baking #dessert #partyfood
Are brownies made from scratch better than the box kind? #brownies #timesaver #baking #dessert #partyfood
host a tamale party

How to Host a Tamale Wrapping Party

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Last weekend I attended a tamale wrapping party. Well, halfway attended. My neighbor threw it, so my husband and I kind of traded off during the kids’ naps. It was a good time, so I figured I’d share how she pulled it off. It wasn’t my first rodeo with tamales (my husband loves them and we’re from Nevada, so it’s kind of a typical Christmas thing), but I do have a confession. I really don’t like tamales. It’s the masa. So gross. But, I like the idea of them, and I love a big group of people getting together to wrap them up, so I’m totally going to recommend you do it anyway! Just don’t make me eat them if you invite me. 🙂

Tamale Wrapping Party Guide

Set a Price

I’ve talked about parties for pay before, but this is totally not the same thing. Tamales are expensive, and unless you’ve got a group of super hungry guests, they’re going to take the tamales home. It’s one thing to invite friends over and provide food for them at a party. It’s another to provide them with take-home meals. My neighbor does $20 for 2 dozen tamales, which is pretty reasonable. However, she makes all the meat filling herself. If you’re going to have guests bring meat too, you’ll probably want to charge less. Speaking of…

Let Guests Know What to Bring

Tamale wrapping party tips. Tamalada parties can be a great way to get together! #tamales #tamaladapartyideas #tamalepartyideas #tamalada

This is up to you. If you’re hosting the tamale wrapping party, you should probably have the masa, cornhusks, take home bags, etc. But, it is a lot of work to make a whole bunch of meats, so maybe you want to split that chore. That’s fine; only cooking up one meat and dragging it along with you is no big deal. You should still check with everyone and see what filling they’re going to bring, though, or you might wind up with only super spicy pork or something.

Send them Home with Instructions

People who want to come to this party probably already know what tamales taste like, but that doesn’t mean they know how to cook them. It’s really not hard. You steam them forty minutes to an hour. There you go, copy and paste that to a text message and you’ve gone and an extra step besides just telling them what to do! Oh, you should also let them know they’re great for freezing.

Provide Snacks & Drinks

Tamale wrapping party tips. Tamalada parties can be a great way to get together! #tamales #tamaladapartyideas #tamalepartyideas #tamalada

This tamale wrapping party was your idea, friend! Since it is a form of party, you should be offering your guests refreshments and snacks. I suggest chips and guacamole and/or salsa. I also think it’s fun to have margaritas or Mexican beer like Dos Equis, but that’s all up to you. If you were having a cookie baking party or something, people might eat the ingredients as they go along, but that’s unlikely with tamales. You don’t have to spend a lot, but have at least a little something.

Set Everything Up on a Big Space

If you don’t have a big table, use your counter space to set up your tamale wrapping party. You’ll have big bowl of maza, husks, paper wrappers, and all the different fillings you’ve made. It’s easier if your guests can get to everything without constantly passing it back and forth, so if you can put two bowls of each out, that’s helpful, but in smaller spaces it’s not realistic.

Demonstrate

Tamale wrapping party tips. Tamalada parties can be a great way to get together! #tamales #tamaladapartyideas #tamalepartyideas #tamalada

It’s totally okay if you’ve never wrapped a tamale before, but you should be the one willing to look like an idiot and go first no matter what. It’s  not hard, but it is time consuming, and no one has the time to sit around guessing what you’re supposed to do. If you don’t want to demonstrate, pull up a YouTube video on your phone. Here’s one. Play that and you’re good to go!

Well, that’s it! It’s pretty simple to throw a tamale wrapping party. Now, you may have noticed I didn’t provide any recipes. I don’t have any that I didn’t steal from someone else, so I’m not going to provide that, but here’s a few places to get started:

guide to

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!

Throwing a tailgate can be a pain when you're always busy, but it doesn't have to be. #gameday
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!

ideas for a fun, unique game night