Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bacon Themed Outside Dinner Party

Hi All! Spring is Here! Well, not today, it's raining here today.
This looks like a fall post, but, it's an outside party and that's what's on my mind! Soon it will be time to take my dinner parties outside again and I can't wait! These parties are a little less formal. I have room for more people and I don't usually have place cards. My last outdoor dinner party last year was on Labor Day Weekend. I went to the Dollar Store with my awesome helpers Sage and Sierra and tried to figure out what theme we could use based on what was currently stocked. They had already moved on to fall so, we went for a fall theme. I decided to use my glass plates this time although sometimes outside we go with paper. I picked up these large leaves, several for a dollar to use to decorate under the plates. The Dollar Store also had cute foam leaf confetti. I already had the fall leaf garlands and was able to place them down the center of the table with the logs and apples.
I found some very cool logs in the yard and with the help of my husband I used a Forstner bit to make space for tea lights. I also wanted to use apples to decorate and tried using the bit to clean out the apples but that didn't work. So I planned to core them out by hand right before the party and put tea lights in them. They turned out great but I'll probably never core out an apple again. Forty minutes before party time with Sierra looking on I was trying to make just a little more room in an apple and ended up splitting the web of my hand open with the paring knife. It still makes me shutter. Poor Sierra! She was calm and cool though. With the table not yet set and some people already on the way we had to have mom come get Sierra and we had to run to the urgent care. Should have had a stitch, but the doctor on call didn't do stitches. Boy did I bully my way through that visit. Yep! I just kept saying "my party is about to start and people are already on their way!" "I need to get patched up and get out of here!" Anyway, I got back to the party and quickly set up with everyone's help and one hand. Now I know what it takes to get out of doing the dishes after one of these and for the next 3 weeks!
It's very important to me that everyone be able to sit together. So I asked my husband to put a table together for me out of saw horses and plywood. He gathered 3 saw horses and two very large sheets of plywood and used screws to hold it all together. That's it! We just used the yard chairs and camping chairs we had and covered the table with tablecloths. I buy my paper (with thin plastic backs) tablecloths 7/$5 at Costco! And I've been able to keep the table out and have used it many times, including for my outdoor crafting!
At the time, I was trying to set up my Etsy Shop and I desperately needed professional photos. Que Julie Jenks and Liz Young, two very good friends and excellent photographers! They took the above photos and many, many more of my Glittered Wine GlassesChalkboard Glasses and Wine Glass Tags.
I haven't even told you about the food theme yet! Thanks to it's popularity on Pinterest I was bombarded by Bacon everything and I kept pinning Bacon recipes so we went with...Bacon! for the theme! Bacon everything! I had to replicate this poem floating around Pinterest. And, we smoked a sausage stuffed, bacon latticed pork tenderloin.

 I made Bacon Vodka from a recipe on Instructibles, which is really easy to make. I thought we would just have Bloody Mary's but I found so many recipes that called for bacon vodka. My favorite of which was the Pizza Shot! So good! It calls for Bacon Vodka, Tomato Juice, Pineapple Juice and a little Salt and Oregano. Very Yummy! (And a much needed medicament for my aching hand.) I also did the desserts with bacon. I candied the bacon, I chocolate covered the bacon, I tried to make mini caramel apples with candied bacon and even tried to make chocolate, caramel, bacon cookies. These last two...fails! You cannot get caramel to stick to wet apples! I tried drying them first and got them all covered, dipped in candied bacon pieces and into the fridge but came back and the caramel had completely slid off the apples. So I put the apples in a container and scrapped up all the caramel and bacon bits and saved it. I tried to just add candied bacon and caramel bits to my chocolate chip cookie recipe but of course there was too much fat in them and they just spread out in the oven. So those also got scrapped up in crumbs. My save? Vanilla Ice Cream with cookie and bacon/caramel topping! Lucky save!
So my after dinner plan was to use my dry erase board on it's home made easel to play Win, Lose or Draw. However, just as we sat down to eat it started raining! No rain was called for and we don't get rain in early September in Northern California! But we did that day. Thankfully, everyone was in great spirits and the rain felt pretty good in the heat so we just went ahead and ate in the rain. But by the time we finished eating our plates were starting to puddle with water.  As some people started leaving we just played games on our XBox Kinect inside and that was fine. I find that I need to be flexible and not as ridged as my head tries to be. I've learned with time and age that being flexible makes you a much better host. One day we will play Win, Lose or Draw and the ladies WILL win!
What are your favorite outdoor dinner party ideas? Please comment below. And be careful with those paring knives! (As I shutter again.)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Annual Valentines/Bring Your Own Crab Dinner Party

Well, this is my first Blogpost! Wish me luck!  I have received help and support from more people than I can list here but you know who you are and thank you!
I have an awesome group of close friends. They range from their early 20's to their early 50's. And myself? Can I pretend I'm about in the middle? When I met these people we had parties in our garage. We have a kegorator, a dart board, a Foosball table, a fire place and a couch out there. And God Bless them, they have followed me into the house for civilized Dinner Parties! I'd love to write about some of my past parties in the future but today I'd like to share my "Valentine/Bring Your Own Crab" Party. For a few years we rented a cabin in Lake Tahoe for Presidents/Valentine's weekend. We always did a bring your own crab night but we haven't gone in a couple of years. I still wanted to capture that feeling so I started hosting these Dinner Parties. We all look forward to this one! Everyone brings about a pound of crab, (or steak or something for the crazy non crab eaters) and a side dish. No appetizers are needed as we must save room for all the crab! Then we sit at the table and drink champagne and eat crab!
My friend Keri has two daughters. Sage and Sierra. I love that they come over and help me set up and do fun projects! We have so much fun! This year we're into the whole "photo booth" thing. I printed out the mustaches and lips over at Living Locurto . We created a cute background (found here) and gathered together a few props from around the house and from the Dollar Store. We set everything up on the bathroom counter so people could style themselves. Then I enveloped the hallway in red lights. Not sure I like how the pictures turned out but it felt festive!

My friend Julie took the photo booth pics and she got everyone in at least one profile for a future project I'm really looking forward to doing.

My favorite thing is creating the tablescape. As I'm on a very tight budget I try to gather things that I can use again and again, or things from the Dollar Store. My favorite trick is using the clear plates I got from the Dollar Store. I have about 20 of them. My Dollar Stores don't carry these anymore but Walmart does. In sets with salad plates and bowls. Perfect! With each dinner party I can use these plates with different place mats or decor items. Like last V Day I used heart shaped paper doilies with everyone's names written on them. This year I wanted to get an 8 1/2 x 11 pad of Valentine themed scrapbook paper to use as place mats but I had to come up with a new idea when that wasn't in the budget. I love my new idea so much more! I took colored pencils, markers and a package of white card stock, all of which I already had, to our Super Bowl party. Sage, Sierra and Jillian were there and were excited to make a "Valentine Card/Place Mat" for each of our guests! They turned out great!  
 Another trick is to buy my tablecloths 7/$5 at Costco. They're just whitish paper with a thin plastic backing. That way they are a neutral color, I can use stamps or markers on them and I don't have to worry about stains on my tablecloths as we can just roll them up with all the garbage and toss them out! I bought 20 black napkins for my Halloween Themed Dinner Party hoping to use them for other holidays as well. I had intended to decorate the table with Red, Pink and Black but didn't end up with much else black on the table except for one pair of black glittered champagne glasses. I also decorated with corks as this is a passion of mine and I love to craft with corks. I used them in the hurricane vases with a candle in the middle and then made napkin rings also. Making the napkin rings was fun! I got the idea here.
I love to have a game after dinner. Sometimes we don't get to it because we're having so much fun just sitting around the table. I can't wait to tell you about my Minute To Win It Party but this time it was Bingo! I asked for the game stuff for Christmas. It reminds me of childhood summers at Trinity Alps Resort, playing on the covered deck at night in front of the General Store. It was 10 cents a card, winner takes all and the grand prize was an Ice Cream Sunday. After I bought prizes for the Minute To Win It Party we decided that maybe everybody would bring either a white elephant or $10 wrapped gift that we could just keep in a pool and hand out to game winners at any of the parties. The winner this time took home Binocular Glasses! Who'da thunk there was such a thing?
I have some great tiered plates I put out while we played Bingo with pink, heart shaped cookies, homemade Tagalongs, homemade Twix bars and cheesecake stuffed strawberries. I did the strawberries the day before and they were kind of a fail. The strawberries started turning into strawberry shortcake strawberries. Get it? All juicy and sugary. I would try it again, I think, but you can't let them sit too long.
All in all it was a great night!
What's your favorite Valentine's memory?
Hope you got some good ideas, enjoyed my story and would like to hear more. Check back soon for my next post.