Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fiesta de Los Muertos: Crafting A Party

The verdict is in, and my Day Of The Dead party was a hit! I can't say I'm much of a "party planner," given that my coordination skills didn't need to extend much passed my ability to pick a date and excitedly rave on for a month, to anyone and everyone (cue marketing training) about my grand plans. Once these administrative tid-bits were taken care of, however, it was simply down to shaking an intimidating fist at a pile of materials, and ordering them to "Shape up!" And wouldn't you know, this is how it went. . .

To Kill For: Food & Drink 

1. The pizza said "Boo," not the people eating it

Pizza so scary that it turned the mozzarella white! Ghost pizza is--let's face it--adorable, and so easy to make.

You can make it as complex and flavourful as you like, or, if you're a little stretched for time (like this kid, right here), you can buy wonderful pre-made dough at Trader Joes, use a thick marinara sauce for a base, and simply "slice and dice" your mozzarella into ghosts. A ghost cookie-cutter, along with pre-sliced cheese, would have made things a whole lot prettier, but what's life without trials and hardships, really.

**Tip: bake the dough for a couple minutes before adding sauce and toppings, and you'll avoid a gooey center.

2. Sick, dude! No really, sick

There's nothing quite like a puking pumpkin to make you want to devour guacamole. At first glance: "eew!" At first bite: "oooh!" And second, third, fourth, and so-on.

My little sugar pumpkin carved easily, kept the guacamole moist, and successfully had people cracking-up and chowing-down all night. Way to go, little dude.

3. After puking, it was clear the pumpkin was toasted . . .

Life lesson: don't get so wasted that you don't notice when someone scoops your brains out! Toasted pumpkin seeds made for a great snack food amid the various chips and dips, with a bit of a heavier, popcorn appeal. I felt like the occasion gave me cause to experiment, so I made paprika and sea salt seeds. Still simple, but the paprika proved to add a wonderful zing. Next time I want to try rosemary spiced pumpkin seeds.

4. d) All of the above

Pudding cups, candy corn, salsa and chips, caramel apples, and chocolate chip raspberries--man, we had it all!

5. "Gourmet Jell-O Shots" are ironic, and yet delicious

When I saw that you could make Jell-O fruit slices, I immediately scrapped the child-friendly concept and started thinking about which alcohol combination would work well with a Jell-O-sweet mixer, and fresh fruit. My first thought was tequila, as it is already associated with limes, followed by brandy, as it's inoffensive taste would blend well with sugar (retrospective thought process: fiery Christmas pudding). After a some internet research and a little smell-testing, I settled on the following: Kah tequila with strawberry margarita mix, set in lime Jell-O, and served in shucked-out lime quarters with lime pulp and a liberal sprinkling of sea salt; Cointreau Liquor and Christian Brothers' Brandy, set in strawberry Jell-O mix, and served in shucked-out orange slices with orange pulp (I'd have used blood oranges, but couldn't get them).

The Jell-O shot recipe consists of 1 cup alcohol, 1 cup boiling water, and 1 packet of Jell-O mix (with the exception of the tequila, which replaced the water with 1 cup boiling margarita mix). I shucked the fruit using a paring knife to cut halves, and then separate the fruit from the rind, then used some sweet jack-o-lantern skills to scrape it all out with a spoon--do this step over a bowl so you can save all of the delicious juice and pulp. I used a cupcake pan to hold my rinds while the Jell-O set, which worked fabulously, and then, once fully cooled, they slice easily and hold their shape! The tequila slices were good but STRONG, so I might tweak that ratio in the future (or buy better mix), and the Cointreau/Brandy were to die for . . . pun fully intended.

I wanted to serve all of the Cointreau/Brandy shots in syringes, but it was unexpectedly difficult to buy a box of the the plastic bodies on short notice (perhaps this isn't such a bad thing), and the pharmacy would only humor me with one. I think the single "bloody" martini glass got the point across well enough, though.

6. Frigid hands make for dirty jokes (further irony)

My ever-creative partner in craft for the party was going to be contributing a batch of sangria, so it made "solid" sense to chill some ghost hands to keep it cool, and creepy. You just take a latex glove (wash inside and out, thoroughly), fill it with water, and tie off the wrist with a rubber band. Once it's frozen, you simply cut and peel the glove off--be careful not to break off any fingers, or cut your own--and place the ice in the bowl with your drink.

You could also freeze various mixers (lemonade, Coke, etc), to introduce an accent flavour to your punch/jungle-juice. I used a little bit too much liquid, so my hands came out a big chubby, but that clearly just lead to further innuendo.

**Added bonus: we added the left-over orange and lime pulp to the sangria, and yes, it was as amazing as it sounds.

7. Custom drink labels don't make cheap beer taste better, but you're smiling too much to grimace

Having spent considerably too much on booze already, I decided to "dress up" some Rolling Rock to better suit the occasion. One punny name and a Google image-search later, and "Rolling Heads Beer" was born.

I used InDesign, because I'm obsessed with it and insist on doing things the long way, but you can easily whip these up using any kind of word processor label temple. I find that 4" x 3 1/3" labels work the best.

**Added bonus: I filled an empty wine bottle with red and blue (that makes purple, kids) food colouring and water, to mimic red wine, and left it out on the bar in the hopes that someone would drink it and get confused, but to no avail. Bested by my own delicious distractions!

To Die For: Decoration

1. Some go ape-shit, I go bat-shit (does that mean I say people are acting guano?)

I love origami. So when I stumbled across an instructional video on how to fold bats, I became even more obsessed with this glorious excuse to craft that I like to call my "party."

I worked with three different sizes of paper (the cell phone is for scale), and made around 20 in total. The first few took longer, given the obvious learning curve, but once I got the hang of it, I was cranking out each new bat about every 3 minutes--and now, 20 bats later, I may never forget how. Once they were all constructed, my lovely (and tall) roommate hung them with different lengths of white string all down the hallway! Na na na na na na na na bat cave!

The chandelier was turned off during the party, but we had lights strung along the floor, which cast their shadows up around the ceiling.

**Added bonus: these bats come out single-sided, but if you use a paper with some kind of design on the back (I actually just used my discarded calendar pages, so it had a grid and colourful lettering on one side) then you get an extra bit of decoration when the spin.

2. Some pumpkins were harmed in the making of this good time . . .

While there were many things at the party that got new people meeting and greeting, the trump of the night goes to pumpkin bowling.

6 toilet-paper-roll pins, 1 long hallway, 1 shockingly round sugar pumpkin with little to no stem (and a catcher, we learned, to help keep the pumpkin round, and not in pieces against the wall). I clearly had a good time assigning various expressions of fear or malice to the pins, and was equally satisfied by sending them flying across the apartment.

You can just imagine them shaking as the people gather, the excitement mounts, and the pumpkin approaches--POW! We pulled out the pins about half way through the night, giving everyone enough time to settle in (i.e. consume the aforementioned libations) and went, tournament style, for over an hour. Thirty or so people make a really good cheering squad.

3. Scream it like you see it

Decorating the bowling lane, and the various rooms of the party, were an assortment of critters:

from Bunnicula,

to the bookcase monster.

Hell, even Martha Stewart came up for a visit and brought Fievel back East.

And if the beasts don't bite, the walls were still a fright:

Eighteen fears, printed on parchment paper, to remind you of your every standing hair (see Pentheraphobia, n. fear of one's mother-in-law). Not afraid of vegetables? You're a braver man than I.

In a blur of purple, we had glow sticks kicking around inside balloons, black lights, and lantern jars:

 just crack a glow stick, cut it open, pour the contents into a small jar, and shake.

**Warning: Judging by smell, the contents of a glow stick is about as close to over-the-counter nuclear waste as you can get (one would hope, anyway), so please designate some jars that will ONLY be used for lanterns. Seriously, do not try to reuse them for anything that could be applied to sky or ingested, no matter how well you clean them. Despite gaining entertaining powers, superheros were still damaged beyond human repair by whatever the hell they got themselves into, and probably died from intense bouts of cancer. Not really worth the risk. Other than that, just try not to get the liquid on your hands when cutting the tubes (wash thoroughly if you do, even if you think it's cool to see your skin glow), and you should be right as non-acidic rain.

4. "Closing time" by Semisonic, played at the end of the night, makes my skin crawl more than vegetables do

It makes me feel warm and fuzzy (much like the hot rum apple cider that was gone before I could get it on this page) for you to have shared in my craft-spolsion, either in person or in support and readership. So hit the lights, dance to some electro-swing, and eat your heart out.

Party on, Garth.

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