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. ūüôā

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:

ideas for an

MBA Graduation Party Ideas

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I can’t believe it’s finally time for me to come up with MBA graduation party ideas. Yes, that’s right. The Frenzied Hostess is about to be less frenzied. If you’ve ever read my about page or read this steadily, you probably know my husband has been doing his MBA program on the weekends at UT. Since I work from home, that means I’ve basically been on my own Monday-Saturday either pregnant or with two children for the whole thing. Yeah. Super fun. So even though this is his accomplishment, it’s just as much my celebration as it is his, and I want to do it right. When I think of MBA grads, I think of Wall Street, despite the fact that Mr. Davidson works in government, so we’re going high class all the way.

I do want to point out a few things about MBA graduations here before we get started. First, they’ve already had two other graduation parties, so you don’t need to get those cheesy high school decorations. You don’t need to throw a kegger like in college. My hubby’s already had both of them, although I didn’t know him in high school and I missed his bachelor’s degree party since I was the maid of honor/officiant at a wedding that day. It’s fine though, my master’s degree graduation party was the next day, and he missed that due to being hungover. Hmm. I’ve apparently always had too much going on. Anyway, since he’s already done those, it’s¬† okay to make an MBA celebration totally different.

5 MBA Graduation Party Ideas

1. Get a Bottle of the Good Stuff

MBA Graduation Party Ideas include nice bottles, fancy meals, and the general Wall Street lifestyle. #mbagrad #mbagraduation #graduationparty #graduation #party #fancypartyideas #graduationpartyideas

If you don’t drink alcohol, that’s fine, but you can’t tell me there’s no beverage you ever splurge on. Only drink water? Get it sparkly. Soda’s your thing? Fine, get the glass bottles. There’s like 8 million juices and teas to get crazy with. Now on to the hard stuff. My husband’s a whiskey man, so that’s what I went with, but my parents think champagne is where it’s at, so they’re getting him something fancy. This is what the MBA life tastes like, right? Whether he shares it with everyone is up to him.

2. Cook a Beautiful Cut of Meat

MBA Graduation Party Ideas include nice bottles, fancy meals, and the general Wall Street lifestyle. #mbagrad #mbagraduation #graduationparty #graduation #party #fancypartyideas #graduationpartyideas

Oh hey vegetarians, what’s up? Vegans, I’m sure you’re hating this list by now, but hang with me. There is amazing vegan food out there, right? Like, the very best stuff? That’s what you need to be serving. Now, as far as meat goes, it can get really expensive and I am aware of that. For my husband’s graduation party, that’s totally okay because I’m using his credit card. Muhuhahaha. It’s also okay because there are only a few people coming. That’s what happens when you graduate over the Christmas break. I can go ahead and serve a full dinner with steaks to my number of guests, but if you’re MBA grad has a lot of people coming, I suggest steak appetizers, like this or this.

3. Skip the Slideshows/Collages

You’re probably thinking skipping something shouldn’t count in this list of MBA graduation party ideas. But, it’s important. This is NOT the time for some slideshow of his accomplishments (or her – mine is a him, I’m sticking with it). MBAs don’t take that long. The average age of an MBA student is 27-29. No need to pretend they’ve just finished some great chunk of life.¬† It feels like my husband has been complaining about school for a lifetime, but it was really only 18 months. Not much of a slideshow for a 34-year old. Instead of doing a collage,¬† what about honoring him with something related to his school? Since Mr. Davidson attends UT, we’ll be celebrating by having him turn down the head football coaching job.¬† Just kidding. We’ll be presenting him with a UT degree frame.

4. Use Real Dishware, Classy Decorations

MBA Graduation Party Ideas include nice bottles, fancy meals, and the general Wall Street lifestyle. #mbagrad #mbagraduation #graduationparty #graduation #party #fancypartyideas #graduationpartyideas

Do you know how much the average MBA grad makes? Well, it depends on your program, but the low end is HR graduates, and they can still expect to make about $48K with hardly any experience.¬† Since most people don’t go into an MBA program before they have experience, they can expect to be making good pay. Now, you aren’t always going to be celebrating this person with fancy things. But just this one time, get fancy. Put out actual platters instead of dollar store ones. Skip streamers. Balloons are nice; I’m not a super fan of heavy decorating, ever, but I like a nicely done¬†balloon arch.¬†Things like dessert stands will add a little class as well and don’t require any work. Even better, hold it at a restaurant. Then you know it’s all real and you don’t have to do a darn thing.

 5. Dress Up

MBA Graduation Party Ideas include nice bottles, fancy meals, and the general Wall Street lifestyle. #mbagrad #mbagraduation #graduationparty #graduation #party #fancypartyideas #graduationpartyideas

My MBA graduation party ideas wouldn’t be complete without a dress code! I love throwing fancy dinner parties anyway, but in this case it’s essential. If you’re celebrating right after graduation, it’s not even an issue since you’ll probably already be dressed up. Now you’ll be looking all classy while you sip your fancy drink and eat tasty food. Then tomorrow it’s all back to the same old same old. At least your MBA grad got to enjoy the Wall Street life for a minute, right? ūüôā

MBA Graduation Party Ideas include nice bottles, fancy meals, and the general Wall Street lifestyle. #mbagrad #mbagraduation #graduationparty #graduation #party #fancypartyideas #graduationpartyideas
A girly marine life

A Girly Marine Life Baby Shower

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This past weekend I threw my sister a girly marine life baby shower. I wanted it to be classy and pink. She bought Baby Girl marine life bedding, so I also wanted it to go with that. Too many themes? Never! I also had to plan something for a very small crowd. She had a separate baby shower at work and most of our family lives far away, so the guest list was minimal. When you’re having a small shower, you don’t want to go overboard, but then again, babies are fun and you kind of always want to go overboard for them. I have to confess something about this though… This was not my normal frenzied party. I had¬† a LOT of help.

You see, my grandma and my aunt drove over to Tennessee to attend, and my aunt brought my twelve-year old cousin with her. He entertained my son. My grandma and aunt took turns helping me and watching my daughter. And my mom came by to help with everything else. So, really, this girly marine life baby shower was created in the exact opposite manner of anything else I do. That doesn’t mean it looks perfect – even if I have help, I still don’t care that much about decorations. You’ll see what I mean. I do think this is doable for busy people though, if you start early enough. I actually began decorating a week in advance, little by little, and that definitely helped.

Ideas for a Girly Marine Life Baby Shower

1. Decorations

This is the girly marine life baby shower I threw for my sister. Lots of undersea fun! #babyshower #marinelifebabyshower #underseababyshower #marinelifeparty #underseapartyideas #girlbabyshower

My main goal here was jellyfish. You’ve seen those hanging jellyfish decorations before, right? Well, if not you’re welcome to steal ours, but we got our inspiration from Nathalie at Press Print Party. Mostly it involves hot gluing things to paper lanterns, but you’ll have to ask my mom or Nathalie for specific instructions because I surely didn’t touch those. I can tell you we used this package of lanterns if you like a variety of sizes. They had different colors too. So once I got those made, I wanted a blue background. I picked up a tablecloth roll at Party City to make the background. As you can see, I was too lazy to get a ladder and too short to reach the ceiling, but whatever.

This is the girly marine life baby shower I threw for my sister. Lots of undersea fun! #babyshower #marinelifebabyshower #underseababyshower #marinelifeparty #underseapartyideas #girlbabyshower

My other decor includes some seaweed made out of grapes, an idea I stole from Indulgy. Then I tacked some clear balloons to look like water bubbles on my blue background. The cool opalescent¬†pink tablecloth and table skirt also come from Party City. That’s about it. Not much too it, really, even though it looks like a ton of decorations to me.

2. Food

This is the girly marine life baby shower I threw for my sister. Lots of undersea fun! #babyshower #marinelifebabyshower #underseababyshower #marinelifeparty #underseapartyideas #girlbabyshower

In my mind, I was serving an elegant spread of seafood. I’ll let you be the judge of how it turned out. First I went with actual seafood. Shrimp is easy and relatively inexpensive (for seafood) so I tried this cajun guacamole recipe. I do make my own guac. It’s basically this recipe, but with half a can diced tomatoes instead of roma. I put the extra guacamole out too, because who doesn’t want chips and guac? I also made this crab dip, which I’d never done before but was delicious.

This is the girly marine life baby shower I threw for my sister. Lots of undersea fun! #babyshower #marinelifebabyshower #underseababyshower #marinelifeparty #underseapartyideas #girlbabyshower

For my other food, I wanted to make some non-seafood items that still fit in, so I did cucumber sandwiches and cut a few of them in the shape of starfish with this cookie cutter.¬† If you use soft bread, it will go through just fine, but I suggest separating it before you lift the cutter. Then I made some chicken club bacon sushi rolls. I got the idea from Delish, but that’s not the recipe I followed. I swear I’ll get around to posting my version one day. The punch was this super easy pink recipe, but I made seashell ice cubes. Then my mom and I made these cute¬†“pearl in oyster” cookies. So, not all exactly seafood, but it all fit together in the end.

3. Cake

This is the girly marine life baby shower I threw for my sister. Lots of undersea fun! #babyshower #marinelifebabyshower #underseababyshower #marinelifeparty #underseapartyideas #girlbabyshower

If you are a regular reader, you may remember I learned about pull-apart cakes from my friend who created this potty training cake. I decided to implement my own version for this girly marine life baby shower. There are other versions of octopus cakes out there, but my problem with them is that they’re all gigantic. I had eight people at this shower, myself included. I didn’t need the twenty-four cupcakes that come in a box, let alone a whole other set. So I made a smaller version. I do have specific directions for that, but I don’t want this post taking eight years to read, so head over here to check that out.

4. Diaper Cake

This is the girly marine life baby shower I threw for my sister. Lots of undersea fun! #babyshower #marinelifebabyshower #underseababyshower #marinelifeparty #underseapartyideas #girlbabyshower

This was my first time making a diaper cake, and I like having visuals. The tutorials I looked at didn’t really have a lot, so again I have a separate post if you want step-by-step instructions. But, I’m glad I made it because the height certainly added something to the visuals of the party backdrop. Plus it was fun to have a little surprise in the middle. ūüôā

5. Games & Party Favors

This is the girly marine life baby shower I threw for my sister. Lots of undersea fun! #babyshower #marinelifebabyshower #underseababyshower #marinelifeparty #underseapartyideas #girlbabyshower

I’m actually not a fan of baby shower games, so I didn’t put much effort into these. We played the regular can’t say “baby” game, Baby Price is Right, and guess the number of candies. That’s it. We’re lame. On a side note, I noticed I have a lot of UK readers, so if you’re looking for your own version of baby games to buy Party Ease can help you out. For party favors, I chose to make chocolates. I’d never done that before, but it was pretty easy. I bought this mold for the ice cubes and I figured I might as well use it! We put the chocolates in some pink candles and everything looked lovely.

Well friends, what do you think? Would you consider this a girly marine life baby shower a success?

This is the girly marine life baby shower I threw for my sister. Lots of undersea fun! #babyshower #marinelifebabyshower #underseababyshower #marinelifeparty #underseapartyideas #girlbabyshower

 

host a halloween dinner party

Ideas for a Dark Halloween Dinner Party

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Hosting a dark Halloween dinner party is a fun way for adults to celebrate this holiday without having to dress up as either a slutty or terrifying ¬†anything, and won’t we all be much happier that way? Okay, okay, I’m going to a crazy Halloween party, and I do plan to enjoy it, but I’m not throwing one this year and I’m not going to fake one just for the blog. But I really do think a dark Halloween dinner party will be a lot of fun, mostly because I’m pretty sure the internet exists only to horrify us and give us recipes, sometimes simultaneously. In this case, we’ll be going with both.

I’ve hosted plenty of fancy dinner parties in my day, but they are a lot of work, and Halloween is all about fun. Instead of trying to impress everyone with your kitchen skills, I think it’s a good idea to focus on easy recipes but make them look kind of creepy. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Ever seen a rambutan? Food is plenty scary enough on it’s own. Of course, I don’t know where to find a rambutan, so we’ll be sticking with things you can actually do at home. And for once we won’t be skipping decorations!

Dark Halloween Dinner Party Decor

Last week I told you all I think the only Halloween decoration you need is cobwebs, and that’s still true, but for this I’m going to add three more, yes, that’s right, THREE MORE decorations. Is my sarcasm coming through? I hope so. I really don’t find a total of four Halloween decorations all that impressive, but then again, I don’t need a pumpkin patch on my table either. The only part of the house I’m going to decorate is the table, since that’s where everyone will post up. I realize people have different sized tables, but I have a big one and a small one, so you’ll get to see examples of both.

1. The Cobwebs

Host a dark Halloween dinner party!

Well, you knew they were going to be included, so here we go. For a big table, I like cobwebs coming down from the chandelier. For a little one, I like little jackets on the chairs. If you have a chandelier to decorate at your dark Halloween dinner party, you can stick to the chandelier itself, or do a little extra work and pull it down to the table. If you do this, you will want to stretch the cobwebs really thin so people can still see each other from any part of the table. For the chair jackets, there’s really no need to stretch anything, but you should only do the back side. You don’t want your guests going home covered in cotton.

Host a dark Halloween dinner party!

2. Dead Flowers

Host a dark Halloween dinner party!

No, not fake flowers. Straight up dead ones. I want the atmosphere of my dark Halloween dinner party to be like someone set the table a long time ago, and for whatever reason, they were never able to return. For this, I suggest you buy your flowers a couple of weeks in advance, leave them in the sun, and don’t water them. There are ways to speed up up the process if you need to, but what could be easier than forgetting to take care of something? My flowers actually wound up with more color than I wanted for these pictures, but they’ll be super dead by the time Halloween dinner gets here.

3. Gourds

 

Gourds are so weird! I love them. Pick up a couple and throw them on the table somewhere. Pumpkins are fine as well. That was my original plan, but I found an awesome decorative gourd set at Walmart and decided to use that instead. They had some that were legit moldy and gross, though, so if you’re getting them early you might want to pick up fake ones. Here’s a set that looks like it would fit in. If you want to keep with the theme, I’d stay away from pumpkins with faces, but that’s about it.

4. A Messed Up Tablecloth

I wanted a really holey one, like mice had eaten it or something, so that’s what I picked up. But, it wasn’t long enough for either table, so it became a table runner. The tablecloth I used underneath on the big table was purple, because I like purple better than orange, but you could do any color that floats your boat. In fact, you don’t have to have one at all if you don’t want. I can’t even find one to fit on my smaller table. It’s too big of a square. I did see this tablecloth after I already took all my pictures, so that is what I’m using when I actually throw the party.

How to Make Black Food for your Dark Halloween Dinner Party

Okay guys, this is too easy. All you have to do is color one of your dishes black to keep the vibe going. You can be fancy and use squid ink, or you can use black food coloring. You want to be gentle with food coloring. A little black goes a long way. Obviously you can’t dye just anything, but the choices are surprisingly bountiful. What you need is something kind of mushy. I had some shrimp and grits and mashed potatoes to practice on. You can see how they turned out. The taste wasn’t altered at all, but don’t they look disgusting? I do have a complete menu you get when subscribing to my newsletter, and there is a recipe with squid ink included if you’re curious about that. You can subscribe below. Now go have fun hosting a dark Halloween dinner party!

Hosting a dark Halloween dinner party is super easy and fun! #halloween
Hosting a dark Halloween dinner party is super easy and fun! #Halloween
Hosting a dark Halloween dinner party is super easy and fun! #Halloween

 

the only

The Only Halloween Decoration You Need

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The only Halloween decoration you need is fake cobwebs. There. I said it. You don’t have to read the rest of this, all your decorating problems should be solved. Still here? Great! Let me explain. In general, I’m not big on decorations. I don’t even get carried away for my kids’ birthdays.¬†But, when it comes to Halloween or Christmas, I love the nonsense. That doesn’t, however, mean I suddenly get tons of extra hours to spend on decorating. My husband will help with Christmas, but he’s not a Halloween fan, so anything I do I do on my own. That’s where cobwebs come in.

To be clear, while I think cobwebs are the only Halloween decoration you need, I’m not against other decorations supplementing it. But if you only have the time or budget for one thing, go with them. For one thing, they’re super cheap. You can get 200 sq ft on Amazon for¬†$5, and I’m sure they’re at the dollar store if you (unlike myself) can find the time to get over there. For another, they’re good for any type of Halloween party. Halloween dinner party? Check. Little kid party/decorations for trick-or-treaters? Check. Spooky party for adults? Yup. College party? Also yes. So, you see what I mean. You can buy a big bag and throw eight different parties without redecorating. But, they can get time consuming if you let them, so I have a few helpful hints for you.

Tips for the Only Halloween Decoration You Need

1. Cut them up first.

This is simple enough. Instead of trying to figure how much you need for each spot, or spending too much time trying to figure out how to rip them apart, just cut your big block of webs into pieces. Then you know right away how much you’re working with for each spot and when you run out you shrug and move on. The only exception here is outdoors – if you’re doing your porch/bushes/whatever, it’s fine to go crazy and use the whole thing. They’ll stretch from place to place. Before you cut, stretch the webs out and see which way they’re running and cut with them, not against them.

Cutting vertical gives plenty of room to cut; cutting horizontal not so much.

2. Use the spiders.

I know the spiders are stupid. But if you find yourself with a big chunk of spiderweb you don’t like, throw a spider on it and stop worrying about perfection. Done. In the following pictures you will see that I draped a cut up chunk of web over my chair. I didn’t stretch it out at all other than to pull it from one side to the other. Then I put a spider on the thickest part, and it looks fine. That’s going to clean up real nice too – I’ll just lift it off and throw it away.

3. Start at the top.

Say you’re doing a dinner party. Do you have chandelier above your table? Start there. If not, try the backs of chairs. Having a party in your living room? If you can reach the fan, go for it. If not, how about a fireplace mantle or the tops of windows? Drag a chair or a step stool over and go crazy. It can be really tempting to do cobwebs everywhere, but people tend to notice things up high before they look down, so why waste time on the coffee table? Starting up also means that when you get to the bottom you don’t have to tape or pin any parts of the spiderwebs.

Draping over the top of the stairs, no tape required to start.
When you’re done you can let the spiderwebs hang at the bottom. Still no tape, no hassle, no one cares.

That’s pretty much it. Seriously, you guys, the only Halloween decoration you need is fake cobwebs. Yes, you’ll have to throw them out when you’re done, but then you don’t even have to worry about storage. How nice! Next week or the week after (I have some costume ideas to share too; we’ll see which one seems more urgent soon). I’ll show you what I did with the spiderwebs for a dark dinner party.¬† I will be adding a little more to the decor, but the cobwebs are the star of the show.

The only Halloween decoration you need is cobwebs! #Halloween
planes, trains & Automobiles Party

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Party

I threw my son a planes, trains, and automobiles party this weekend. He turned two, so we based it on modes of transportation, not the Steve Martin/John Candy movie, although that would be an interesting party too, don’t you think? Anyway, I knew for awhile this was going to be my theme because he’s obsessed with cars and trains. Would you like to know when I prepared for this party I knew I was throwing? That afternoon. Seriously. I took my mom to the store with me to pick up balloons, decorations, and even food. Prepping is not for me. Now you know to avoid my house if the world ends – and shut the door on me if you see me coming, since I’ll probably be there to rob you.

Anyway, excuse my end of the world obsession, let’s get back to the planes, trains and automobiles party. I’m sure some of you other bloggers who read this think I’m exaggerating about how little time I have. You know how much work goes into a blog. But to be fair, I’m including this blog in my crazy schedule, or lack thereof. When I throw a party, I don’t want to deal with decorations. In fact, even seeing other people’s exhaust me. Why do you go through all that work?I did get balloons, but I swear it was no trouble since I got them at Party City. Everything else I decorated with was a toy. Yes, that’s right. I saved myself not only the trouble of horrible streamers and other bad for the environment decorations, but also the trouble of wrapping presents. Hooray!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Party

Please excuse the terrible pictures. My husband turned the train on before I was ready, so I had about thirty seconds to take a whole bunch of them before my son destroyed everything. I’m not the type to recreate things, so these will have to do.

The Decor

Here’s the general feel. You’ve got a train track around the presents, a cake (and the rest of the food, eventually), airplanes on the chandelier, balloons, and your standard Happy Birthday banner that we will use for every birthday party until it falls apart.
Planes and a train make up the bulk of the decor.
This $10 battery operated train from Walmart actually did turn on and run around the track – until the 2-year old swiped it.
These Party City planes doubled as party favors. Instead of cutting off the tags I used them to tie them very simply to the chandelier and they came right off when needed.
Bought some balloons and tied them to the table. So easy. The other side had a Thomas the Train balloon as well.

The Cake

It’s a box cake with buttercream frosting. I made two colors, black and green, for a road and grass. Then I threw a few toy cars on the road and scribbled a message. Why yes, those are his plates from his 1-year old birthday in the background. Because, seriously you guys, he can’t read. Who cares?

That’s it. Wow, right? Can you imagine an easier way to throw this party? I can’t. Believe me, if I could have made it easier, I would have. I know my creations aren’t the most beautiful thing in the world, but you know what? It was a lot less stressful doing my version of a planes, trains, and automobiles party than trying to copy a professional party planner’s version. The cake was delicious despite not being beautiful. My son loved all of it. I’d say the party was a success, wouldn’t you?

A Planes, Trains & Automobiles Party for a Toddler
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! ūüôā

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
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. ūüôā
  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!

A potty training party is the perfect way to celebrate your little one. #kidparty
tips for

Tips for Surviving Political Conversations at Parties

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Have an upcoming occasion where surviving political conversations seems impossible? ¬†Like, say, a lazy Fourth of July party, or, I don’t know, a fancy dinner. ¬†If so, this is the guide for you. I grew up in a purple state, and after I got bored of moving around that one I moved to another purple state. It was nice, pretending like my vote mattered. But now I live in a solid red state in a city that sometimes votes blue, and I have to tell you, sometimes I’d rather jab a fork in my eye than talk to anyone about my political leanings. I’m an American, but I have a feeling some of our European friends might feel the same way right about now.

I’m not a political blogger, so I’m not about to force my political views on you. ¬†But I am less than a week from giving birth (hopefully) and I will be on a hosting hiatus for a little while, so I thought I’d share how I manage to leave gatherings without any fork marks on my face. I consider myself independent and my husband is a registered libertarian (they exist!) so we often leave dinners and parties rolling our eyes, but I’ve never actually been offended by anyone. Well, except that one girl who thought we should bring back slavery and spend more time executing the gays than ax murderers. That’s got to be an extreme though, right?

Surviving Political Conversations 101

Perfect Your Table Dive

I swear guys, she was right here.

This one is very important and not at all facetious. Every other Thursday or so, I have to go eat with a large group of people who have at least twenty years on me. Okay, I don’t have to. They’re my husband’s coworkers and we choose to. Most of them are lovely, normal people, or we wouldn’t go. But, a couple of them are very staunch Republicans who like to make their opinions known about everything. Let me point out that them being Republican is not the issue – if I was in California instead of Tennessee it might be the staunch Democrats who bother me – but surviving political conversations is a lot harder when every single comment is political. So, enter the table dive.

That’s right. Just drop off your chair and roll under the table. Wait it out, at least until there’s food or you can get a server to bring you booze. Now, you can try and do this in secret, but chances are your companions are going to notice when you suddenly throw yourself at the ground. They may even acknowledge it by asking if you’re okay. Ignore them until the topic has changed. If it appears it’s not going to change, others at the table may soon join you. Hopefully one of you thought ahead and brought something fun to do like, playing the board game Taboo until they get the hint or tying people’s shoelaces to their chairs so they realize what they’ve done.

Avoid the Bozo

This one’s slightly more serious. Any Saturday Night Live watchers? If so, you probably know who I’m talking about. We’re looking at Drunk Uncle or Girl You Wish You Wouldn’t Have Started a Conversation With at Party. These people know nothing. They’re probably drunk. The combination of the two things might make your head explode if you attempt to engage them. Don’t go thinking you’re going to get an easy win for your political team either. The bozo is not going to believe you won any debate, even if all they did was ramble, “MAGA!” over and over.

You should also be aware if you have somehow become the bozo yourself. Did you have too much to drink? Are you suddenly quoting Donald Trump tweets to anyone passing by? Please, do the rest of the party a favor and hide out somewhere until logic returns, or at least until you have a stronger urge to dance than to speak.

Know Your Stuff

Surviving political conversations is much easier when you read.

You know what’s worse than an alternate fact? Nothing. So, if you’re going somewhere that surviving political conversations seems necessary, and you’re sick and tired of all those terrible lies you hear, do your research. Favorite some of the news items you read in your phone and be prepared to whip them out. I’m not kidding. But please, for the love of all that is holy, do not use media sources like Huffington Post or The Blaze to prove any point. If you’re looking for facts, find actual facts. Take a look at this news breakdown. It shows the slant of major news sources. Try to use sources in the middle, or even better, academic ones.

This is honestly super important. We’re all getting less and less willing to compromise because we search out news that backs up whatever we believe, and the internet makes it possible to find a source for that, no matter what it is. Here’s a site about Walmart being a site for FEMA prison camps, for example. You still think the earth is flat? Yep, there’s a site for that too. So, when you’re arguing whatever point it is that gets you all riled up, use non-biased sources if you want anyone to listen to you. If it’s a topic you know nothing about, it’s probably one you don’t care about all that much, so just don’t get into it.

Don’t use the Words Racist or Snowflake

This may be you.

Okay, I admit snowflake might be a personal pet peeve of mine. It’s just stupid. Does anyone actually get insulted when you call them a snowflake? What’s the issue with individuality? And finally, why are the ones who use this word so often the ones who are always crying about people not agreeing with them? I digress. The point is, these are words that show you haven’t put any thought into what you’re saying. You’re spouting out talking points¬†from the TV or Facebook, and that only makes surviving political conversations even harder.¬†

A little note about the word racist – I am well aware racism exists. I live in the south. But I’m also well aware that it shuts down a conversation faster than anything else so you will have to think of another way to get your point across. ¬†If you’re at a party where everyone suddenly puts on white hoods, you can go ahead and assume they are racist, but I would wait until you get home to talk about it – and I’d get home immediately.

Remember, You Aren’t Going to Change Their Minds

Sigh. I wish this wasn’t the case. It would be great if somehow we could get through to each other and have meaningful conversations that end with both parties feeling like they’ve learned something. There’s actually a pretty great book ¬†(Tribe by Sebastian Junger if you’re interested) that talks about how people are better off when everyone wants to work but also wants to provide for those that can’t. Sounds like if Democrats and Republicans formed one mutant human, right? One day, maybe, we’ll all get along. But until then the most basic rule of surviving political conversations is accepting that you’re going home feeling disappointed, no matter which side you’re on.