Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 9 (Or Here’s the Peter Pan Party Decoration Download)

It’s probably time to talk about the rest of the decorations at my party. Then I really will wrap this up. I promise.

I’m ready to move on from the boy who refused to grow up to Jaws anyway.

Tonight Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is airing a special called, “How Jaws Changed the World” and OBVIOUSLY I set my DVR for that. Plus I have the champagne to pop ready because I looooove Jaws.

And sharks.

They’re sort of my thing.

On Thursday I promise to write a post entitled, “How Jaws 3 in 3-D Changed My Life” complete with a shark cupcake tutorial, but until then…

Peter Pan and the decorations.

This is my quick watermelon carving of Hook’s Jolly Roger, complete with the menacing croc. I wish the windows were level, but alas… I was rushing.

I did a freehand sketch for the sign, and it’s a quote from J.M. Barrie’s novel. I wanted to include it just in case people didn’t understand why there was this weird crocodile lurking around Hook’s ship.

If you want to get yourself a cool croc, I found that guy on Amazon here. It’s not the cheapest croc online, but it’s the best looking, and let’s be honest: that matters. A lot.

This is my (bad) attempt at a papier mache version of Hangman’s Tree. Hangman’s Tree is a departure from J.M. Barrie’s original story (there were multiple entrances into the Lost Boys’ home under the ground).

It was easier to do one tree and explain it on my Neverland map than to get into the whole passage about how Peter fits boys for their own trees, so that’s why I went this route.

Here we have lipstick on the proverbial pig with pearls hanging from Hangman’s Tree.

The entire skeleton of the tree was made with painters’ tape and twisted newspaper. If I had it to do all over again, I’d probably use a few real twigs and maybe even a little chicken wire. For the final layer of the papier mache, I used paper towels. I found posts online saying that makes it easier to cover the piece with paint.

I was in a hurry so I turned on the oven to dry out the tree. It’s probably a fire hazard or whatever but I kept an eye on it and didn’t let the dogs investigate it with their faces.

In retrospect, I think white tissue paper would have been better because I could have achieved a look more like this:

Photo Courtesy of Ultimate Paper Mache

And what would be a Peter Pan party without a little Tink?

I hate Tinkerbell, but you can’t really leave her out of your Peter Pan Party.

She is a scheming bitch, but she’s essential to the story.

The lantern is this little ditty from Ikea. I made Tink out of pins and tissue paper from Target.

At one point I considered hanging the lantern from a ribbon in the yard and surrounding it with green and white suckers, but I decided to reign myself in a bit.

My menu was another freehand sketch, but you could easily trace the silhouette and keep it simple. (Simple is something I SO need to learn.)

Here’s the Peter Pan Party menu situation.

I promise I’ll write my full wrap up post, so we can really fly away from Neverland. Forever.

Not that I’m going to grow up or anything….

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Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 5 (Or Here’s a Simple Salsa Verde Recipe)

This simple salsa verde is super yummy.

Sometimes you need to reach into the music vault and bring back a song you’ve neglected for a while. Today it’s Y Control by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. While I don’t love the entire album, I do dig this song. It played a part of my past in many ways.

Example?

I happened to be singing it in my car when I found myself sitting in traffic next to an ex. When I heard the song today, it brought me back to that moment.

I’ll spare you the gory details of all that except to say LA is enormous and I run into him more than any other human on earth. And have for years. It wasn’t a particularly long relationship. Or a particularly heinous break up, but it made its mark.

I see him now and I feel an enormous sense of relief it didn’t work. I know it wasn’t supposed to — for a lot of reasons — not the least of which being that I needed to have many more adventures and more career success before settling down. I needed to do this thing on my own without being lulled into complacency by his success in showbusiness. Or his money.

So, anyway, we should talk about cilantro instead of boys because I like it better anyway.

Being spared a life that was too small and stifling for me  — and cilantro — are probably the best evidence of a benevolent God I can think of.

Come to think of it, so is salsa verde.

And just so I don’t bring you down too much, you should know I’m now listening to We Built this City at an unacceptable volume and getting close to dancing in my kitchen.

Salsa Verde

2 lbs tomatillos, husks removed
1 C diced onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 T fresh oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp kosher salt
2 C water
1/4 -1/3 C diced jalapenos (to taste)
1/3 C cilantro

Pour water into pot with tomatillos, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin and salt. Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and simmer until tomatillos are tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add cilantro and jalapenos.

Carefully blend the mixture in batches until smooth. If you’re like me, you may want to add a little more chopped cilantro so you have bigger bits in the salsa verde. If you don’t like cilantro, I feel truly sorry for you. (Kidding.)

Once I’m done with this self-absorbed birthday madness I’ll put together a rundown of the projects and the menu in case you want to replicate the mess. Then I’ll try not to mention it again because I kind of want to forget this birthday ever happened.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 1 (Or How to Make Spicy Eggplant Dip)

This easy eggplant dip is kind of spicy. And totally yummy.

The last two weeks have been an absolute blur, what with the baking and sewing and papier mache-ing for two parties. So, apologies for the radio silence the last few days. I have been absolutely covered in paint, sprinkles, and cake batter, and I thought it would be unwise to type in that condition. Also, I was so completely crazed that I nearly pulled an undergrad-like all-nighter on Saturday. For real.

In the aftermath of the madness, I was a little unsure where to start my blog posts. Then my friend e-mailed me and asked for the recipe for the spicy eggplant dip I served at my birthday party, so that seemed like a logical place to begin.

I can’t totally take credit for the recipe. It comes from a Bon Appetit Cookbook from 2003, called Best Entertaining Recipes.

Albus is very into the cookbook as well. He thinks he can learn to cook through osmosis. Or something.

I promise there will be so many Peter Pan Party posts in the next two weeks that you will be like, “Listen, I’m over your birthday — and that troublesome little boy in green tights.”

So, anyway, here’s the recipe. I have modified it slightly by decreasing the amount of salt used. (This is because I serve it with store-bought pita chips and they are saltier than the toasted pita chips used in the original recipe.)

Spicy Eggplant Dip

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons minced garlic (I don’t really measure this, to be honest.)
2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 1-pound eggplants, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
4 red bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 large red onions, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

Fresh parsley as garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray the two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Add eggplant, bell peppers, and onions to the bowl; toss to coat with seasoned oil. Divide the mixture between the two baking sheets. Roast until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, turning occasionally, about 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes on the baking sheets.

Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to the food processor. Process until a coarse puree forms. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Garnish with parsley to serve (optional). You can also mix in 3 T of chopped parsley before serving, but I don’t think it really adds that much flavor.

This can be made two days ahead, but I’d wait to add the parsley if you’re going that route.

Playing with Candy (Or How to Dip and Decorate Marshmallows)

When you’re prepping your birthday party candy bar, it’s probably best to listen to happy music like Mtume’s Juicy Fruit (if it sounds familiar it’s because Biggie sampled it for Juicy). Or Michael’s The Way You Make Me Feel. It’s also a good idea to wander into your bedroom to make sure your enormous dog isn’t eating anything like, say, the remote control to your hanging lanterns.

Well, I thought it looked like fun. Also, you were playing with candy and you weren’t giving me any.

So anyway, today I decided to experiment with marshmallows and sprinkles. I used white chocolate and corn syrup as agents to attach the sprinkles to the marshmallows. I think I prefer the white chocolate method; it adds more flavor, it dries faster, and it basically just works better all around.

I played around with the sprinkles I happened to have in my pantry for this draft, but I will likely discard most of the dipped marshmallows for a variety of reasons. My green gum balls are supposed to arrive from Amazon on Monday, and I intend for them to anchor the candy bar. Once I have them in the apothecary jar, I’ll have a better idea of my actual color palette.

I dried the marshmallows on a cookie sheet to prevent them from sticking to the table. I still managed to make a big mess of things anyway.

By the way, if you decide to use melted white chocolate chips as a dipping agent, make sure you add Crisco to the chips, otherwise you will never achieve the proper consistency to adhere the chocolate to the marshmallows. Remember my cake pop disaster? Yeah, the same principles sort of apply to marshmallow dipping too. Also, if you want to dip both ends it’s best to dip one end, let it dry for a bit, and then dip the other end. (I found that less of the sprinkles slid off that way.)

Now that we’ve covered white chocolate and gravity, it’s time to move on to the next part of the candy bar: the gummy crocodiles. While I was on a quest for affordable sprinkles to fill the vases for my floral arrangements, I found amazing gummy gators. Since a flesh-eating crocodile (croc/gator, close enough) is featured prominently in Peter Pan, I thought it was only appropriate to buy every box they had… even if they only had two.

I love gummy anything, and these “gummi” gators are super yummy. (I had to sample a few — you know to make sure I’m not poisoning my party guests or whatever.)

It’s quite likely that most of our partygoers won’t know the book as well as I do, so I’m making little cards with quotes from the novel explaining the more obscure details of the party décor. For the gummy gator/crocs, I’m going with this passage:

“’I have often,’ said Smee, ‘noticed your strange dread of crocodiles.’

‘Not of crocodiles,’ Hook corrected him, ‘but of that one crocodile.’”

Oh, and speaking of crocodiles, this croc will be chasing my watermelon Jolly Roger carving.

Amazon had other plastic crocodile options, but this one seemed appropriately feisty. And just basically, bad ass.

I’m going with this quote for the pirate ship/plastic croc display, “’It liked my arm so much, Smee, that it has followed me ever since, from sea to sea and from land to land, licking its lips for the rest of me.’”

This greedy croc has stolen my suckers.

Once I wrestle my suckers back from him, I have plans for the confections that likely involve hanging them from trees with ribbons. More on that later….

Fashion Parade Pity Party (Or I Don’t Know What to Wear So I’m Making a Playlist Instead)

Prince makes many appearances on my birthday party playlist. I adore him even though he does weird things with his face. Photo Courtesy of The Urban Daily.

I just spent the last hour in my walk-in trying to figure out what to wear to my birthday party next weekend. Now that I’m nearly suicidal, I think I need to switch gears. It’s time to work on the party playlist. Last year I neglected the task and I swear we ended up listening to way too much emo hipster music. Six hours of whining white boys is only appropriate for a mass suicide. (Or my fashion parade pity party.) Party playlists need to have the right amount of Whitney. And Michael. I mean really….

Sadly, I will have to forego some of my favorite hip hop tunes owing to the number of toddlers who will be in attendance next Sunday. I don’t want to be responsible for some kid standing a chair singing, “To the windows, to the walls, ‘til the sweat drips down my balls” in front of his entire preschool class. (We’re saving Lil’ Jon for my 35th next summer. There won’t be any children at that gathering.)

So, anyway…

It’s a 7 hour playlist, so I’m going to spare you the specifics, but here are a few of my faves that made the list:

Michael Jackson: Bad (I mean, obviously.)

Shaggy: Oh Carolina (And, yes, this song is from the Sliver Soundtrack, but I don’t care. It’s still a fresh jam even if I have no idea what “Prowl off. Jump and Prance,” means. It’s probably dirty but if I don’t get it, the toddlers won’t either.)

Nina Simone & Felix da Housecat: Sinnerman Remixed (I love Nina Simone’s original as well, but it’s obviously not right for a festive event.)

Junior Walker and The All Stars: Shotgun (Because it makes me want to dance on a table in my heels. And also because it’s all kinds of awesome.)

Lupe Fiasco featuring Trey Songz: Out of My Head (Kinda chill but sooo fun.)

Tiesto featuring C.C. Sheffield: Escape Me (Great tune for working out and also for just hanging out and being fabulous with friends.)

Eric Prydz vs. Floyd: Proper Education (Obviously I love Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall from The Wall, but this version has a better party feel.)

MGMT: Electric Feel (Like Modest Mouse’s Float On, this song never gets old.)

Prince: 1999 (It wouldn’t be a party without a bit of Prince. OK, there’s A LOT of Prince on my playlist, but it’s only because I love him. Like REALLY love him.)

Mark Morrison: Return of the Mack (Because I’m not about to neglect the 90s — or leave it to Shaggy to represent them by himself.)

Hank Williams, Jr.: Family Tradition (It’s essential to throw in some country. Just ‘cuz it’s awesome.)

Barney Stinson may believe the best mixes are all rise, but I think you need to chill things out a bit towards the end of the night — especially on a Sunday. Here are some of my slower jams.

The Rolling Stones: Beast of Burden (My second favorite Stones song of all time behind You Can’t Always Get What You Want.)

Otis Redding: The Dock of the Bay (This is a super obvious Otis tune, but it’s such a classic I can’t help myself. I have SO much Otis. I adore Otis.)

Paul Anka: Eye of the Tiger (If you haven’t checked his cover album, Rock Swings, do it. Now. You’ll thank me later.)

Oh, and because it’s a Peter Pan Party, I had to add Hook’s tarantella, Another Princely Scheme, from the Broadway musical.

Tomorrow I’ll give you an update on the flower arrangement crisis as well as the candy bar….

Only Children are Spoiled (Or How to Make Truffle Popcorn)

I am an only child. And I was the only grandchild for NINE YEARS. So, it should come as no surprise that I am an absolute nightmare on occasion. There was a time I thought the entire world existed to watch my performances, which included recitations of the Narnia Chronicles in a British accent, dramatic lip syncing performances to Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” or dancing on a picnic table in a diaper at 10 pm.

My dad is this well-behaved electrical engineer who has been pushed to the absolute brink of insanity by my antics. Were it not for his faith and his firm belief God made me this way, he might have died of embarrassment (or frustration) long ago.

Not only did I demand a fair amount of attention, but I was also given a lot of swag. Before you read this as a cautionary tale about only children, I should tell you that we’re not all bad. I can entertain myself for days on end without company, and I love to share from my lavish bounty of gifts.

My mother came for a visit recently, and I now have new Betsey jewelry, the dogs have piles of squeaky toys, and my kitchen is full of farmers’ market swag.

Before you condemn me for being some sort of spoiled parasite, I should tell you I played airport chauffeur for hours, made my mother wonderful food, and endured hours of interrogation about why I’m not dating anyone. So, it all evens out. I trade swag for my sanity. It’s cool.

You know what else is cool? Truffle salt. My mom bought me some at the farmers’ market, and I’m putting it on everything. The applications are absolutely endless, and because I’m so into sharing, I’m going to tell you about one!

Tonight I’m making truffle popcorn for my Gone with the Wind movie night, and I plan to wash it down with bourbon-spiked shakes.

See?

Truffle salt is so absolutely amazing that I might eat my own shoe if you sprinkled enough on it.

I’m looking forward to stuffing myself to the gills with goodness while watching Clark Gable strut around like sex on a stick. You might want to do the same.

The recipe is below. Enjoy!

Truffle Popcorn Recipe

¼ C popcorn kernels
2 T oil
2 T unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp truffle salt

The popcorn bag will say you should heat the oil until two test kernels pop before adding the rest of the popcorn. This is a bald faced lie. This will burn your popcorn. I have found it’s best to add the oil and the popcorn at the same time. If you want to double the recipe, work in batches and add another 2 T of oil and ¼ C of popcorn after popping (and removing) the first batch from the pot. Working in small batches prevents burning. (Or maybe I just suck at making popcorn the old fashioned way and am making more work for myself than is necessary, but I’d rather not waste food. Or set my kitchen on fire.)

Pour the melted butter over the popcorn and toss the popcorn. Add the truffle salt and toss again.