Nacho Libre Party!

If you’ve ever seen the movie¬†Nacho Libre, you know it’s a hilarious, bizarre, and addictingly quotable piece of filmmaking. My husband and I have been bandying lines from it back and forth for years (in our best Mexican Jack Black impressions, of course), such as:

“Get that corn outta my face!”
“Chancho! I need to borrow your sweats!”
“Beneath the clothes we find the man, and beneath the man, we find his…nucleus.”
“I believe in SCIENCE.”

It’s a totally uniquely stylized movie with cool scenery, endearing characters, and even a great soundtrack–AND it happens to be one of the few movies we own on BluRay. So since it had been awhile since either Anthony or I had seen it, we decided it needed to be an event shared with friends. Thus was born the idea for…. “doodle deedle doodle dee!” (Nacho Libre inside joke)…a Nacho Libre movie night! I thought I’d share some of the details of this fun event here on the blog in case you, too, have been saying to yourself, “Hey, I haven’t watched Nacho Libre in awhile. Why don’t we center an entire party around it?” Read your mind, right?

Decor:
In my book, a fun party starts with a fun invitation. I found this hard-core luchador postcard on Zazzle, an online custom retailer that sells absolutely EVERY customized product you can dream. You could type “Striped Donkey Prom Queen” into their search engine, and it’d be like, “Your search yields 2,000 results!” Order this Lucha Libre postcard here.

Of course you can’t have a Lucha Libre postcard invitation without getting a little creative with your wording to reflect the Nacho Libre theme. I tried to work in some quotes from the movie:

Surprisingly, no one actually wore stretchy pants.

Oh, well! On to the decor! I’ve always been enamored with the colorful flag banners I see at Mexican gatherings, so I figured this occasion called for finally laying down 5 bucks to get one. Amazon just called this one “Medium Plastic Mexican Banner” for us gringos, but apparently these are actually called papel picado.¬†Either way, it was worth $5 to bring a festive touch over our buffet spread in the kitchen.

Amazon also came in handy for ordering a serape table runner that added some color to the dinner buffet:

Papel picado + serape table runner + food + Anthony giving me his best Nacho Libre face. Nailed it, honey.

In addition to our dinner buffet spread, we also had a dessert table:

I had seen crepe paper printed with the Mexican flag on Oriental Trading Company’s website, but couldn’t bring myself to pay shipping for it, so I decided to make my own version by lining green, white, and red crepe paper around the border of my kitchen table. Some double-stick tape held it in place on the surface and I let the edges hang down for a little flare. P.S. Yes, I know the Mexican flag also has an eagle on it. I’m just not great at drawing eagles on crepe paper.

Another area I had fun decorating was a wall plastered with luchador promo posters. Googling “vintage luchador posters” gave me some images to play with, which I printed, mounted on construction paper backing, and hung for a quick way to cover a large space.

Finally, as I said, I really can’t overemphasize the quotability of Nacho Libre. One of my husband’s favorite is when Nacho is serving some kind of disgusting slop¬†to his fellow friars for breakfast and one of them has this to say:

So, yeah, that had to be placed in the bathroom. Keepin’ it classy.

Activities:
Since Nacho Libre¬†is a pretty family-friendly movie, we let our kids be a part of the evening and invited our friends’ kids, too. While the grownups¬†gathered over sangria and Mexican beer, the kids had a chance to create their most awe-inspiring luchador masks. I found these coloring page printables on a site called First Palette:

This dude means business! Are you trembling in your bright red lace-up luchador boots?

For the adults, a friend at the party looked up this awesome site that generates a luchador name based on your actual name. I have no idea what matrix it’s using, but my luchador name is El Lobo Mas Macho–the more macho wolf. Sounds about right.

Food

Last but not least, the food! The premise of our Nacho Libre party was that it would be a nacho dinner, so I set out to create an all-star nacho buffet. Ingredients:

Chips (the Lord’s chips, obviously)
Nacho cheese sauce in the Crock Pot
Veggie-ful Salsa Chicken
Spiced black beans
Regular salsa
Mango salsa
Olives
Avocados
Sour cream
Tomatoes
Sriracha

A Mexican salad rounded out the dinner.

If you were wondering about that fabulous-looking dessert in an earlier image, here it is again. This thing was a masterpiece of cookie crust, white cake, and confetti frosting. Thank God for Pro’s Ranch Market, our local Mexican grocery store.

After all that food, all I can say is “Chancho! I need to borrow your sweats!”

In the end, after the movie was over and the last¬†guest had gone home, I would say it was a fun time dipping into the world of Nacho Libre, made even better with friends. I’ll leave you with one more quote that sums it up:

“My life is good! Reaaallly good!”

Star Wars Birthday Party on a Budget

When you’re a boy turning six, is there anything cooler than a Star Wars birthday party with your closest friends? My middle child certainly doesn’t think so. Last Sunday was his second¬†Star Wars birthday party in his six years of life. I very much enjoy planning and putting together parties, whether our annual Christmas party, going-away parties, our Twilight Zone movie night, a Preschool Halloween Party, or (why not?) Star Wars birthday parties. (Check out my Guide to Party Menu Planning here¬†for some ideas on getting event-ready.) The only problem is, when you have three children with three birthdays in the space of 6 weeks, throwing a party for each of them can become not only time-consuming but pretty dang expensive. Have you been to kids’ birthday parties these days? They’re insane, and not scary-clown insane like when I was a kid. I’m talking bounce house rental-five-tiered cake-hired-DJ insane. Which our¬†family is really not into.

So this time around, we decided to go low-key. I let my son invite five friends from school and we attempted to do a reasonably simple Star Wars party on a not-insane amount of money. In the end, it was a fun, low-stress event that didn’t cost an arm and a leg (and didn’t give my kid a celebrity complex). Here are a few of the details.

Menu:

The internet is FULL of Star Wars party food ideas, from elaborate Death Stars carved out of watermelon to¬†punny joke foods like “Vader tots.” We kept it middle-of-the-road with some regular foods and some Star Wars-themed choices.

1. Bacon-Ranch Star Pasta Salad

Amazon sells this star-shaped pasta by Barilla.

I thought it would be a great idea for a pasta salad…though I didn’t realize that those stars are barely bigger than a grain of rice–the kind that come floating in a can of Campbell’s chicken soup. So it was a bit hard to tell that the shapes in our Bacon-Ranch Pasta Salad were stars, but hey, it still tasted good!

2. Veggies and Dip. A party staple.

3. Dark Side Chips & Light Side Chips. Also known as blue corn and regular tortilla chips.

4. Salsa and¬†“Carbonite Dip” (guacamole).

No use denying how cheesy this was. Get it? Han Solo trapped in¬†carbonite? “I love you.” I know.”

5. Fruit Sabers

I can’t take credit for this idea–it’s all over Google images–but it sure was a hit with our¬†partygoers. Duct tape elevates basic fruit skewers to multicolored¬†light sabers!

6. Yoda Soda

If this ice cream soda drink is supposed to look like frothy fog from Yoda’s Dagobah swamp, it totally nailed it. (If it’s not, it’s super bizarre.) A mix of Sprite, softened lime sherbet, and 8 oz. of cranberry juice combine to make this creepy treat the kids went nuts over.

7. Dark Side vs. Light Side Cake

Okay, this one I can¬†take credit for: a three-layer (vanilla-chocolate-vanilla) Dark Side vs. Light Side cake, with chocolate Darth Vader fighting vanilla Luke Skywalker. Does it make me evil if I say I’d choose the dark (chocolate) side every time?

Games:

1. Light Sabers in the Swamp

If you’ve been to as many baby showers as I have, you may realize that shower games can be stealthily adapted to serve as kid party games. Our first party game is based off the old “find the diaper pins in rice” shower standard. In this version, Yoda has lost his lightsabers in the “swamp” (a shoebox) and needs your help getting them back.


Wearing a blindfold, our partygoers had to sift through this box of rice, popcorn kernels, and small pasta to see if they could pick out five small Lego lightsabers.

It’s so much harder than it looks! Even the adults had a hard time getting more than three in a forty second turn.

My kids had enough Lego lightsabers to make this game work, but you can also purchase them on Amazon for about 5 bucks. Budget-friendly game for the win!

2. Star Wars Tic-Tac-Toe

This game could not be any easier. Print out five crossed light sabers for X’s and five Death Stars for O’s and glue to¬†card stock paper. Use electrical tape to draw a tic-tac-toe board on any surface (we used our back patio table) and let the kids have at it! My boys played this repeatedly in the week leading up to the party.

Favors:

A good party favor that isn’t just junk you wish your kid had never gotten is a kid-party diamond in the rough. As a parent, I tried to consider other parents’ feelings about whatever party favors we offered. These super cute party food printables from Kreations By Kristy were an inspiration.

I think I could potentially resist C-3PO Carrots, but Ewok Food? I need that in my life.

The kiddos helped me make bags of Goldfish, pretzel sticks, and Craisins and place them in 89-cent Star Wars cups I found at Target. Edible but not junk, in a reusable container, for approximately $2 each. Party favor gold.

Decor:

Decorating for a Star Wars party definitely does not have to break the bank. The amount of free material is almost staggering–if you know where to look.

1. Printables.

To decorate on the cheap, printables are the way to go. Along with the above food printables, the Internet is a never-ending resource for Star Wars party printables. Many of them are free, from DIY pennants to coloring pages, so happy searching!

2. Welcome sign.

Let your guests know they’re in the right place when they get to your¬†house by printing an Obi Wan Kenobi image with this phrase below it.

3. Use what you got.

So your kid wants a Star Wars party? Presumably that means you have more Star Wars stuff lying around your house than you know what to do with. Use it to your advantage by turning toys into decor!

A couple of Halloween costume masks and a lunchbox served as a table centerpiece, and a play treehouse was placed in the family room newly dubbed the Forest of Endor. The Star Wars universe is big. You can creatively fit a whole lotta random stuff into it.

4. Star Wars terrariums.

Again, a matter of using what’s on hand. Star Wars Lego figures get cool new digs when you place them in glass with rocks and foliage. A fun, free centerpiece idea if your kids have some¬†minifigures and you have some glass containers on hand.

I’m really pleased with the way this kid’s party turned out–and even more pleased with what a wonderful kid HE is turning out to be! Happy Birthday, Elliot, and may the force be with you!

Twilight Zone Party

In ten years of marriage, my husband and I have established a tradition of hosting a few annually recurring events. For many years, one of these was our yearly Hitchcock Movie Night. Every October we’d gather with a handful of friends to eat spooky treats and watch some of Hitch’s classics–Rope, Rear Window, Vertigo, Frenzy, and others. Having gone through quite a bit of the Hitchcock catalog by now, this year we thought it would be fun to switch things up a little. Recently we realized that several seasons of¬†The Twilight Zone are on Netflix. Anthony grew up watching The Twilight Zone, but I’m a relative newbie (though I did see the Talking Tina episode as a child and was SCARRED). So we figured a Twilight Zone episode viewing night would be an interesting diversion from the lengthier Hitchcock movies–and it was! Unfortunately, due to the cold and flu season that seems to have started way earlier than usual (which almost sounds like the premise of a TZ episode), there were only a total of five of us that night, but hey, our couch isn’t that big anyway. I made some campy decorations, a few creepy desserts and some mildly alcoholic cider punch, and we were good to go. My best friend Joy and I even spent the couple of weeks before the party writing and filming our own 4-minute Twilight Zone¬†episode, which I wish I could show you here, but Blogger tells me it’s too large to post. Waaaahhhh.

Anyway, here’s a rundown of the details of the evening in case you ever get the hankering to host your own homage to the uncanny in glorious black and white.

Decorations:

When it comes to party decorations, my motto is “When in doubt, go to Michael’s and go crazy with patterned paper.” If you noticed the picture above, you’ll see I am dead serious. To set the dichromatic tone, I made a couple of signs¬†featuring the tagline from the Twilight Zone intro: You have now¬†crossed over into…The Twilight Zone. I printed this sentence off an image on the internet, cut it out, and pasted it onto some snazzy black-and-white paper and boom, instant Twilight Zone party decor.


Next, rolling along with the patterned paper, I embraced my inner pennant fetish by making a black and white banner to hang over the food.

Speaking of the food…

Mother-of-mercy-what-is-that-terrifying-creation, you ask? Oh, just a pair of baby arms reaching from the grave, nothing to be alarmed about. Actually, it’s supposed to be baby arms reaching up from a garden bed….which was the premise of the episode my friend Joy and I wrote and filmed. (Now you really want to see it, right?) So these peanut butter frosted, graham cracker topped brownies were a delicious little tie-in with our project.

Loooooook into my coooookie. Our second sweet something was another visual to match the Twilight Zone theme. Even though I haven’t seen all that many TZ episodes, one image I associate with the show is a spinning black and white spiral. To me, these chocolate-orange pinwheel cookies looked just like an edible version of it. I used this recipe for chocolate orange cookies, and then, instead of mixing the chocolate and orange doughs, I kept them separate and rolled them out to two rectangles of the same dimensions…

laid one on top of the other…

chilled for awhile, then rolled the whole thing up…

sliced, and baked as directed.


Definitely a winner of a cookie I will repeat next Halloween!

In addition to our sweet treats (and some popcorn to round out the movie night menu) I made a pitcher of this chilled spiced rum and cider punch.

If I had my way with October in Phoenix, we’d be able to drink our cider hot, but the sad truth is that it was 95 degrees the day of this party and I didn’t want our guests sweating to the point of sliding off our leather couch. So chilled cider it was! I added a cinnamon stick or two and about a teaspoon of whole cloves to give it a little extra spice.

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the diverse mix of Twilight Zone¬†episodes that made the party memorable:

1. The Fever: Franklin Gibbs believes gambling is an inexcusable vice…until he tries it.
2. What You Need: A man has the mysterious ability to give people exactly what they will need in the near future.
3. Living Doll: Little Christy’s doll Talking Tina has a mind of her own…and she’s prepared to use it.
4. Terror at 20,000 Feet: William Shatner stars as a man flying home after 6 months in rehab for a mental breakdown. Is he really cured?
5. Walking Distance: A very unusual, meditative episode about the transience of life and holding on to the good.

Though our party was almost two weeks ago, I’ve continued to ruminate on these episodes. The Twilight Zone continues to be a thought-provoking show, even 50 years after its air time. Thought-provoking enough, in fact, to consider having another party next year!

Going Away Party

For awhile now, I’ve tried to keep a Thankfulness Log. When I think of it, I write at least five things down that I’m thankful for. (And of course I always start it out like this: “Thankfulness Log, Stardate 2014.5.28.”) It’s amazing how many times my friends make this list. Between our neighbors, former classmates, and fellow churchgoers, my husband and I have a wonderful community of people we call friends. Unfortunately for us, for a variety of reasons, sometimes those friends move away. And despite our sadness at losing them, we’re not gonna let them go without a big party as a last-ditch effort to make them stay here warm sendoff. The friends I’m talking about are our music minister of the last three years and his wife. Our involvement in our church’s music ministry was the original channel through which we met these two wonderful people, but our friendship definitely evolved over time to encompass much more than that. We’ve shared many dessert nights and stupid movies (like when the husbands tried to prove to us wives that Wrongfully Accused with Leslie Nielsen was AWESOME), and eventually became involved in a Catholic prayer group called Teams of our Lady together. Jake and Yesenia have touched our lives in so many ways, from Jake getting me back into singing at mass to Yesenia giving me hours of her time as a physical therapist for free (!). We will miss them and their sweet daughter very much, because now these dear friends are off to new adventures in Boise, Idaho, where they are from. I thought I would post some of the ideas that made the Going Away party we held for them last Friday a lot of fun. (But sad.) (But fun.)

Let’s start at the entry point to the party: the front door. A while back, I picked up a customizable pennant banner at Party City–and wow, what a useful thing this is! With something like 40 flags and multiples of every letter of the alphabet, there’s nothing you can’t spell. (Though there are some things you should not spell. Like “Surprise! You’re a Moron!”) This version says “Bon Voyage.” See? Appropriate. Tasteful. Nothing like “Welcome to Turd City” it said last time we had a party.

Underneath the banner, next to the front door, we had a signpost pointing to our friends’ past (the name of our church) and their future. Have I ever mentioned we live really, really close to our church? This particular signpost was devised on the cheap using an ice bucket for the base, broomstick for the post, and a five-pound weight with a circular hole in the middle to hold the broomstick in place. Sharpie your destinations and distances on a couple of construction paper arrows and viola! Custom signpost.

Inside, I wanted to go for a travel theme, for obvious reasons. We have a couple of decorative smallish hatbox suitcases my husband normally uses to house his collection of guitar cables (not his collection of dapper hats, sorry to disappoint). These moonlighted beautifully as centerpieces–one with a simple construction paper travel tag attached…

…the other filled with potpourri surrounding a candle.

Now comes my favorite decoration of the evening: a whimsical take on the classic “pin the ____ on the ____” game. For “Pin the Inecks on the Idaho,” I thumbtacked a ribbon vertically on the wall with wallet-sized photos of our friends paper clipped/clothes pinned to it. The blindfold and double-stick tape next to it were self-explanatory….

and yes, people actually played it!

Up next–can you tell what that is?

Could it be…and Idaho-shaped cookie cutter? Do they even make such things? Yes, they do, and they sell them on Amazon! How fun is that? I’ll bet you’re wondering if this cookie cutter was used to make any actual Idaho-shaped cookies. But you’ll have to keep reading to find out. At any rate, with a tea light inside and beads nestled around, I thought it made a cute little decoration on the dessert table. Take note: if you buy a state-shaped cookie cutter, be sure to give it to your going away party guest(s) of honor as a parting gift. There is no way you are ever going to use an Idaho-shaped cookie cutter ever again.

One other decoration that may have been a little cheesy but ended up being educational for my kids was the road from AZ to ID over our mantle:

I printed off the Arizona and Idaho state outlines from 50states.com. My two older kids got really into having me print images of other states so they could color them. We now have 18 purple and green Californias. Thanks, 50states.com.

Lastly (as far as decorations) as people were leaving, they had the opportunity to write a farewell message to the guests of honor. (Since one of them is a music minister, the music theme made sense.) A small photo album with 4 x 6″ notecards that slid into the photo sleeves served as a small keepsake that won’t take up too much room in the moving van. My main piece of advice about a message station like this is to make it large and/or conspicuous enough for people to notice it before they leave.

And finally, a word about food! For this party, because of the large number of attendees, we decided to go with a pizza dinner and some gentle requests for potluck sides included in the invitation. As for dessert, there was the ever-convenient Costco sheet cake:


Someone couldn’t wait for the picture before cutting into the bottom corner of this cake. And that someone was me.

And the less caloric but more distinctive Idaho sugar cookies:

“I’m so hungry I could eat the entire Gem State!”

These were a blast to decorate. I always use Our Best Bites’ sugar cookie recipe and Betty Crocker’s vanilla buttercream frosting.

Now I just need to get an Arizona-shaped cookie cutter. (Yes, they make those, too.) Because as far as I know, we are here to stay. So even though sometimes it’s hard living at peace with the transience of this world and losing beloved friends…we really do wish them the very best and hope they (and everyone else) had a fantastic time at their going away party. Bon Voyage, Inecks!

Kids’ Baptism (Party and Recipe Ideas)


Smile and say “holy water”!

Yesterday was a very special day in the life of our family. Surrounded by friends and family, our three children were all baptized. As you can probably tell by the picture, our kids are not infants–they’re 2, 4, and 6–so this wasn’t an infant baptism, and it also wasn’t an adult baptism. That might seem a little weird, since Catholics usually baptize infants and Protestants usually get baptized as adults, or whenever they make a profession of faith. So what are we? Catholics or Protestants? Well, we’re Catholic now, but come from an Evangelical background. My husband and I joined the Catholic Church about five years ago, when two of our three children were already born. With our Protestant history, though, we never felt all the way comfortable with the idea of infant baptism. Still, baptism is a beautiful opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do its work in any person–infant, child, or adult. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments” (CCC 1213). Believing this, we decided recently that the time had come. It was a truly momentous occasion, followed by a fun party with lots of (you guessed it) yummy food!

The afterparty started immediately after the baptism, which meant I was not home for the hour immediately preceding the party. (Kind of an event planning nightmare, to be honest.) I tried my best to plan snacks that could be made ahead of time, and settled on cupcakes, store-bought truffles, a layered fruit trifle, and a little build-your-own trail mix station.

For the fruit trifle, I layered about two cans of sliced peaches (drained), about one pound of grapes, 7 sliced kiwi, two pounds strawberries, and 12 oz. blueberries. In my experience, people get excited about anything in a trifle dish. Maybe it’s because it just makes everything look pretty. This held true for this fruit salad–it was gone even before the cupcakes. A simple, healthy, pretty party treat!

For the build-your-own trail mix station, we had a variety of bite-sized, mixable goodies: honey roasted peanuts, yogurt raisins, salted almonds, and (my favorite) key lime yogurt pretzels. This could be endlessly modified to include dried cranberries, cashews, M & Ms, cereal, candy corn–whatever your trail mix-loving heart desires!

When it comes to party food, presentation can elevate your menu from the everyday to the unforgettable. Because this was such a big event in our kids’ lives (and because we had about 60 people attending!) I wanted the food presentation to make a visual impact. So, using a gold-flecked burlap runner from Michael’s, I formed the shape of a cross on our rectangular kitchen table. Then, when the cupcakes were done–an assortment of jumbo and regular-sized chocolate and yellow cake with white and turquoise frosting–I placed them on the runner to enhance the image of the cross:


I thought it turned out cool!

Lastly, a couple pics of other decorations–delightful tissue paper puff balls (which I think I want to be a permanent fixture in my kitchen):

And a customizable banner (thanks, Party City)!

Aaaaand a few awesome, newly baptized kids!