Friday, January 30, 2015

Sesame Street Party for a Grownup

Cookie Monster mini cupcakes. Never has the phrase om nom nom been creepier.
Last month one of my favorite people in the world turned 30. We agreed that there was only one reasonable theme to set the tone for this important milestone of adulthood:

Sesame Street!

And I was willing ridiculously excited to help out with the food. Especially because there were two things I had been seeing on party blogs and Pinterest for ages and wanting to try for myself, Cookie Monster cupcakes and character food platters.

There are a lot of Cookie Monster cupcake how-to's out there, but after also finding quite a few Pinterest Fail posts about these cupcakes, I decided to watch a tutorial video (this one) to um, not fail. I then adapted for mini cupcakes by using a mini spatula and a smaller frosting tip, Chips Ahoy mini cookies (which were happily a perfect size!) and candy eyes. You could also use white m&ms or similar, and use dots of chocolate for the pupils.

Grover and Oscar the Grouch, who is understandably less sweet.
The food platters were a team effort. Grover is made of blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries on an oval platter. The eyes are yogurt dip and blackberries. Oscar is broccoli and olives with onion dip on a round platter. The trick to getting Oscar to look good was to remove almost the whole stem from the broccoli florets, more than I normally would for dipping. For the eyebrows, you can use a lighter colored olive, or, if you don't have those, do what I did and use the insides of the olives to make them lighter than the mouth. The eyebrows are key. I already had small dipping bowls, which made this a lot easier. If you don't, getting those small paper cups and cutting them short would work.

For the rest of the theme stuff, she had Sesame Street goodies for guests including rings and party hats, Sesame Street paper goods for tablecloths, napkins, plates, cups, etc. For entertainment, we had Sesame Street episodes and specials. She also had a party banner.

The poster is always there, and she already had the stuffed animals. It was an easy theme choice, ok?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Highlight Reels

As the new year begins, a lot of people are starting, and then quickly giving up on resolutions. And part of the problem is we are, as the Internet likes to warn against, comparing our behind the scenes footage to other people's highlight reels.

So my message for 2015 is that if I say not to do some ridiculous mistake on here, it's probably because I've made that mistake. Ok, I've probably made it more than once. I got here by making a lot of errors, and I'll probably make many more. And I bet the same is true of pretty much every other blogger you read. 

And your glamorous party blogger will be spending New Year's Eve on the couch eating delivery and getting over a cold. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Party Guest Etiquette: When to Arrive

When should you show up for a party? I recently read an article claiming it is always bad to be late, and while I agree about business interactions, I think parties are a bit more nuanced. 

Michael Scott shows up when the hostess is still in her robe for a work party in season 3 of the Office
As shown so well by Michael Scott, showing up early to a party can be just as awkward or more than showing up late.  Emily Post says never to arrive early, but be close to on time. I am not one to disagree with Emily Post, but I feel it is nuanced based on party.

So, here's a handy guide for when you are unsure. 

When to Show Up for Parties:

A Sit Down Dinner Party:  Or any other sit down meal. Show up at, or within a few minutes of the start time. A few minutes early may be ok, depending on relationship with hosts. Someone is serving a meal, timing is involved. If you are late you hold everything up and food can get cold. That's rude to everyone. 

A Dinner Reservation: Or a brunch, or any other meal. Show up 5-10 minutes early. (If you are the host aim for 15 minutes early). You want the whole group to be there for the start time and to have found each other. At some places you can lose the reservation if not everyone is there within a few minutes of the start time. And at many, nobody can sit until everyone is there. So by running late you make everyone stand around. Not nice. 

Train Station Pick-Ups: This is probably a city phenomenon. If you are attending a party where you take the train out somewhere and then get picked up at the train station, try very very hard to be on the recommended train. I just missed a train recently The next one was an hour and a half later. In a party situation this means the host needs to leave to come get you, the straggler, an hour and a half into the party. Or if it's a long drive from party locale to train station, everyone attending has to sit around at the train station waiting for you. 

Everything Else: For all other types of parties, including meals that aren't sit-down meals, don't show up early. It is actively inconsiderate, because it doesn't consider the host(s) who planned to have that as getting ready time and are now trying to entertain while doing finishing touches, which can often involve attire touches or taking out trash. Unless you are the kind of friend who has been there when they are getting dressed before and vice versa, don't show up before the start time. I default to not showing up early unless expressly asked to. 

And for non meal parties, don't show up within 10 minutes after the start time if you can help it. Give people that buffer to finish getting ready.

You want to show up after the cream puffs are out, but before they are gone.
(Golden Age of Hollywood Party)
...I once showed up for a party with some friends and upon realizing we were slightly early, insisted on circling the block until after the start time to give the hosts a chance to finish setting up, I think to the annoyance of the people I was with.

Of course, there is a certain amount of late that is still rude, but that's a much more complex algorithm. You need to take into account length of gathering, closeness of friendship, social conventions of your group, etc. but as long as you have over an hour until the party officially ends you should be fine. And if it's more than 45 minutes after the start time, it's nice to let the host(s) know you will be late.

As with most etiquette issues,  timeliness is a question of making other people as comfortable as possible. 

Disagree? Think I'm being a jerk? Let me know! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to Make a great Facebook Invite, Updated

According to my stats, the main way people end up here (besides me asking them too, of course) is by looking for advice on creating a Facebook invite.
Event photo for pi day party. I used the digits of pi and PhotoShop.

I still stand by my almost everything in my original post on how to make a Facebook invite standout.

However, the internet is an ever-moving target, and there are two big changes I'd like to make to what I said before.

Facebook Invite Advice: Addenda

1. Don't just do Facebook.
This may seem like odd advice about a Facebook invite, or out of place. But as people leave or ignore Facebook because of privacy concerns, or just being overwhelmed by content, it's something to keep in mind. I have an email list I keep of people I know don't use Facebook or don't check it enough to see an invite. I learned this lesson the hard way, by realizing a good friend had missed several invitations....whoops. Learn from me, people. If some people never respond, try an email.

The nice thing is you can basically copy and paste your Facebook invite including date and time into an email, and just format it up a bit.

And one did for a Goth costume/dressup gathering. It's busy but shrinks down well.

2. Make an awesome scalable banner for your invite
When I first wrote about Facebook invites, back in the day, when we used to kick it old school, events only had square images. But now the invites have banners, and we have to up our game. Frustratingly, unlike with profiles, you don't get a separate square icon for the event and a banner, so you have to make a banner that looks good at full size and looks good shrunk down in a sidebar.

But because Facebook is so busy, you also want it to be eye catching and fun. While simple. Also, for reference, the banners/event photos are 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall.

My solution has been to use simple banners that have either big text or no text. Above is the image I used last year for Pi(e) Day on 3/14, and here it is in the small event page preview:
Censored to protect the innocent.

Mostly, have fun with it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kosher for Passover / Gluten Free Marshmallow Pops

It's Passover again, the hardest time of year for blog checking. I mean, an important time for gathering with family, rejoicing in our freedom, and keeping in mind those who suffer.

But also, 8 days without bread...cake...cookies...

Kosher for Passover desserts can get a bad rap. Yes, many are gross, but as I've posted before, they don't have to be. The great thing about Kosher for Passover desserts is they are often great gluten free treats, and can multitask like that.

Yours could be much prettier and more professional looking, I bet!

One of my favorites for seeming festive is a chocolate covered marshmallow pop. They are harder than they should be, but tasty and colorful and fun.

Passover Marshmallow Pops
aka Gluten Free Marshmallow Pops
(all ingredients should be marked as Kosher for Passover for this to be kosher, and gluten free for gluten free, so assume that each one is noted as such)
16 marshmallows
1 cup semi sweet chocolate
1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
rainbow sprinkles
popsicle sticks

You may want to start by brushing excess powder off the outside of your marshmallows.
Melt your chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave and add a small amount of vegetable oil for gloss and ease of dipping.
Stick marshmallows on popsicle sticks, then wrap sticks in foil
Dip each marshmallow into the chocolate and then spin to cover. you may want to use a clean finger or spare marshmallow to spread chocolate more evenly.
Push sticks of covered marshmallows into a foam block. If you are keeping passover you probably have an empty egg carton or two around--they work great. Make sure to leave space between.
After they are partially set, sprinkle generously with rainbow sprinkles.

Keep these in the fridge until dessert, then remove foil from sticks and serve. They are good cold or at just below room temperature, and get messy when too warm.