Easter Egg Hunt for Grown-Ups, with Carrot Margaritas

 

easter4The youngest “kid” in our family is 23, and none of us older kids have started having children of our own yet, so this year we thought it would be fun to do a grown-up Easter celebration.  My mom and one of my sisters put me in charge because, let’s face it, I’m the most creative (and fun).  Even though we’re all well into adulthood, my family still enjoys holiday (or any) theme parties, and we’ve been doing egg hunts every year.  As we got older, a lot of the candy, stickers, and other prizes got replaced with loose change, small bills, and usually one golden egg, containing $20.  Although whoever finds the golden egg is happy, the other participants usually feel a little disappointed.  Pocket change is great and all, but all that running around for a couple of dollars got old.

easter5  So I devised a game that was part egg hunt, part “Minute to Win It,” and part White Elephant.  I also knew that the more “real” prizes there were, the more fun/competitive the hunt would be.  While I would have love to have funded the whole thing myself, I didn’t have that kind of money to spend, so I asked my family members who would be participating (6 of us in total) how much money they would be willing to contribute to our Easter game if it meant more fun and prizes to be had by all.  Everyone agreed to chip in $20, with my sisters both saying that better mean it was A LOT of fun, lol.  So my budget was $120.  The breakdown I decided on was this: $20 bill, $50 in $10 gift cards, $5 gift card, $20 in airplane sized liquor bottles, $10 in $1 lottery tickets, and $15 in candy.  We already had all of the supplies for the hunt and games, such as plastic eggs and cotton balls (more on that later), so the $120 all went to prizes.  My mom counted all of the plastic eggs, and there were over 80, accumulated throughout the years.  I decided we should hide 60, and keep 20 out for the challenges.  I made a of numbers 1-50 (two sets) that we cut out and put one number in each of 50 eggs, and taped one number to our prizes.  The lower the number, the better the prize, numbers 30 and 50 were taped on the big bag of candy, so if a person got a number in that range they could grab a handful.  Five of the eggs contained a “steal”, where a person could – you guessed it- STEAL an UNOPENED egg from any other player.  The last five of the sixty eggs had a “challenge,” where they could choose another player and challenge them to the particular Easter themed game on their paper, and if they won, steal a PRIZE from another player.

easter6 My dad sequestered us into a room together and drew the shades, then went outside to hide the eggs in the front and back yards.  It took him a while (did I mention there were 60 eggs?!), but we amused ourselves with strategy, trash-talking, and carrot margaritas!  I followed the linked recipe, minus the sugar.  It’s healthier that way and with all of the juices, none of us missed it.  Even the non vegetable loving guys liked the margaritas.  That will definitely be my Easter cocktail from now on.  Once all of the eggs were hidden, it was ON!  We jostled for position to get out of the door, and ran around like crazy looking for the eggs.  Since we’re all grown ups, it didn’t have to be “fair,” so it was a free for all.  Unfortunately there are no pictures of this since the referee and photographer (aka Dad) was too busy making sure we didn’t injure ourselves or each other.  I found the most eggs with 15, and the person with the least had 6.  We were not allowed to open our eggs until we all were seated around the table back inside.  Then, we went one by one, reading our numbers out loud.  Everyone got excited when they discovered a number lower than 30.  But the real fun began when the steals and challenges came into play.  As I said before, the steals meant you could blindly steal another persons unopened egg, and so this sometimes resulted in candy, but one lottery ticket and a challenge egg were stolen as well.  For my challenge games, I chose two mental and three physical to keep it pretty equal, and all were Easter themed.

The first mental game was just an elementary level Easter fill in the blank worksheet that I found online and printed two copies out for free.  There were twenty words with missing letters, ie. B_ SK_T. The two opponents had to race each other to see who could fill it out correctly the fastest.  This may sound easy, but when you are under pressure and there is liquor or a gift card at stake, it got intense!  The other non-physical challenge consisted of two sets of six plastic eggs, each containing from 1-6 pennies.  So one egg had one, the next had two, the next three, and so on.  My dad had prepared these two sets in advance for this challenge.  The two opponents were then each given a set in no particular order, and had to shake them and place them in the correct order (one penny to six pennies) in the fastest time.  My sister challenged me to this one to win one of my gift cards, but I was fastest and had three wrong, whereas she had four wrong.  So I got to keep my gift card (suck it Jen 😉 ).

eastereaster2easter1easter3

The three physical challenges consisted of the traditional egg-on-a-spoon race, with a plastic egg; throwing the most number of plastic eggs in a bucket in one minute, and one I called “bunny tails.”  In bunny tails, each person had a bowl of 20 cotton balls on their lap, while holding another empty bowl on their head.  They had to use a spoon to get the tails from the lap bucket into their head bucket.  If the tails flew off of the spoon, they could not reuse those unless they happened to fall back into the lap bucket.  The person with the most tails in their head bucket once both lap buckets were empty won.

When it was all said and done, my brother-in-law had cleaned up, with over $50 in cash and prizes.  But most of the prizes were somewhat equally distributed, half of us made at least our $20 “entry fee” back with our prizes, and the other half had at least $10 worth, so they were still happy.  Not one of the 10 lottery tickets was a winner, which was a bummer, but the not knowing until the end made it fun, and I would still buy those again for prizes.  However, I would definitely not buy as much candy.  I would buy maybe 5 of the $1 movie theatre type boxes and put the other $10 I spent this year back into gift cards or lottery tickets.

Overall, everyone had a great time.  It may have been the margaritas, but I’d like to think my awesome planning and creativity were the real reason!

 

When Good People give Bad Gifts

cowskull

I like to think of myself as a good gift-giver.  I have even been referred to as a “gift whisperer” by a few friends and family members.  I have an ongoing note on my phone that I can jot down ideas that people may mention in conversation, usually as an aside.  I love to surprise people with something they want but didn’t ask for, to me it’s a way of showing I care by paying enough attention.  For example, my dad is notoriously hard to shop for.  One night on the phone, we somehow started talking about the gym or working out, and he said the only thing he misses by no longer going to the gym is the rowing machine.  Then we continued the conversation and started talking about other things.  As soon as we got off of the phone, I added a note in my phone to research getting my dad a rowing machine for his birthday and/or Father’s Day, which are a month apart.  By the time it rolls around a few months from now, he will have forgotten he even mentioned it, but be pleasantly surprised at the gift and gesture.  Another tactic I use is to troll Etsy and Pinterest when I am bored.  I have favorite gift ideas on each site, some specific to a person, some just general good ideas.  That way I don’t panic-buy something random or impersonal at the last minute when a birthday or gift-giving holiday comes around.  Finally, I have a gift cache in one of my closets.  These gifts are mostly things I find on clearance that are too cheap to not buy that will be combined with other gifts when needed, such as toys, cute hair accessories, picture frames, candles, etc.  Again, for some I have specific recipients in mind, some I know are good to have on hand for most gift-giving needs.  But the remainder of gifts in my cache are those I plan on re-gifting, which brings me to the original point of this post: when good people give bad gifts.

The photo above is of a gift my mother just received from her sister.  I can assure you the photo does not do it justice.  I only wish my mom had agreed to be photographed wearing it, to give you the full idea.  It has a high-low hem, but the low hits at the sides, not in the back.  And the skull is bedazzled.  Also, it hits at a length where one begins to question if it is a shirt or a dress.  In my aunt’s defense, she lives in New Mexico and apparently bought this in Texas.  I haven’t spent enough time in either place to discern if this sort of garment is fashionable there, but it was mass-produced and sold there.  In a store.  However my mom does not live in the Southwest.  She lives on the east coast, in a beach town.  A town my aunt is familiar with, since she grew up there.  My mom and I both said “Oh, wow,” when we saw it, and I confess whenever I see the picture I giggle.  My baby sister had a similar reaction, and cracked up when my mom put it on.  Through the fits of laughter with my family, I felt a twinge of guilt.  Were we being mean?  My aunt isn’t a bad person, she took the time to pick this out and mail it, and even included a very sweet note about how she bought herself an identical shirt (seriously) and will feel happy wearing it knowing that my mom is wearing hers as well.  My mom graciously wrote a thank-you note, and didn’t indicate to her sister that she will never wear it.  She’d probably donate it to charity if there were no chance of my aunt visiting, but it will be kept in the back of the closet in the event my aunt does make her way back east.  I am reminded of the Christmas Story rabbit suit that Aunt Clara sends, and that Ralphie has to keep for when she visits.

images03MGP9ACimages

I have gotten a few dud gifts in my day as well, although none quite so off of the mark.  Just like my mom, I usually politely thank the person, and then start thinking if it’s something I can return to the store without the giver knowing, or regift.  But is this really the best tactic?  My partner has no problem communicating when he gets a gift he doesn’t like and/or won’t use.  His practice is to say “thank you,” when he opens it, but then to later say something along the lines of, “I appreciate the thought, but I won’t wear that (can’t use that, don’t need that, etc.), and it’s probably best if you return it.”  Notice he doesn’t ask for a replacement or any kind of monetary equivalent, he just offers to let the person return it.  Although in some ways his honesty is refreshing, I admit it hurts my feelings sometimes, and I know it has hurt others.  But at the same time, that person hasn’t wasted money on something that will just be donated or thrown away.  It’s nice for the giver to have the option of offering a gift card or alternate gift, and also to get some feedback that maybe next time they should go another direction with their gifts.  Ironically though, when I have received gifts from my partner that I haven’t been thrilled about, I still suck it up and pretend that I like them.  The thought of hurting his feelings, even though he may appreciate the honesty, discourages me from telling the truth.  I know he meant well and it IS the thought that counts, even though sometimes it seems as though people are OUT OF THEIR MINDS in their thoughts- HA!  Is this gift honesty a man/woman thing?  Is it better to lie or to tell the truth in this situation?  I mean, we can’t all be gift whisperers…

Valentine’s “Fishing” Gift for Him

IMG_0940Men are notoriously hard to shop for, and my man is no exception.  I was lucky this Valentine’s Day in that I had a good idea for one gift, and a few “maybe” ideas.  I decided the best way to turn the “maybes” into good V-Day gifts was to match them with something I love about my partner.  And since my partner likes to fish, I thought it would be fun to present them like a fishing game, having him fish for his gifts, even though none of the gifts was actually related to fishing.  😉  The finished product is shown above.  There is some red tissue paper in there but I sort of stuffed it down to cover the gifts and so it wouldn’t just fly up when he pulled out his first gift.  I numbered the papers in order from smallest (in value and excitement level) to largest.  I tied or taped one end of jute to the gift, and taped the corresponding note to the other end of jute and hung them outside the bag.  I underlined the key word in each clue:

IMG_0941IMG_0942IMG_0944IMG_0945

My partner isn’t easily impressed or really into this cutesy stuff, but he actually had a fun time reading the clues, guessing the gift, then fishing them out.  I am filing this idea away for other recipients/occasions, as I think the clues and guessing really add to the gifts, even if they are all small and inexpensive.

Merlot Cupcakes

cupcakeAnyone who knows me knows I have a thing for cupcakes.  I like to bake them, eat them, just seeing a cupcake puts a smile on my face!  I try to make at least one batch a month, and I prefer “different” flavors beyond basic chocolate or vanilla.  I like the idea of drunken – or adult – cupcakes, maybe because they combine two of my biggest vices, alcohol and cupcakes!  I’ve made some great margarita ones in the past (bring on the tequila!) that I will most likely make again around Cinco de Mayo.  About a month ago, I was trolling Pinterest (again) and came across this recipe and decided that they would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.

I used this organic cake mix and followed the directions on the box for the milk, oil, and eggs, then added in chocolate chips.  You’ll notice I didn’t add wine to the cakes themselves.  I made a batch for a party in January and followed the linked recipe exactly, adding wine in place of the other liquids.  When I tasted the cake, I didn’t taste wine at all.  My partner, who doesn’t really like wine (I know, right?!?!) said he tasted it and didn’t want anything to do with them after that.  So because to me I felt like not tasting the wine sort of “wasted” it (I used good wine in the recipe), and because my partner was disappointed that he tasted it TOO much, I did not add it in the batter this time.  But I do follow the merlot icing recipe because you DO taste the wine, even for someone with quite an immunity such as myself ;), and it is delicious.  I leave the icing off of a few for my partner and he gobbles them up.  Since I made these as a valentine for friends, I topped each one with a conversation heart, which I had plenty left over from my conversation heart vodka. P.S.- Although I am a cupcake addict, I’m not a great decorator, for me flavor trumps presentation, so I will probably never post a beautifully decorated cupcake that I’ve made, please bear with me on the photos.  🙂

DIY Valentine’s Cocktail Mix Gift

vdat3

I love themed gifts, and I throw myself fully into all the greeting-card holidays as an excuse to theme away!  For Valentine’s Day, I like to do small but meaningful gifts for my friends and family.  I get lots of good ideas off of Pinterest, since I am a Pinterest troll. 😉 I found a great recipe here for conversation heart infused vodka, and decided that would be my Vday gift this year.

 

vdat2

The original recipe calls for a bag of conversation hearts in the brand of your choosing.  I got lucky when I went shopping and saw that Brach’s is selling a bag of only “reds.”  They are actually white, and three shades of pink, but whatever.  Less colors/flavors means less sorting, higher number of hearts of each flavor, and less waste of colors that don’t taste as good.  I started sorting out of the bag, but as the three shades of pink look similar, it was easier to dump them on a white paper towel and sort from there.  When they are all on a white surface, the differences in the colors was more apparent.  Once they were all sorted, I attempted to discern the flavors.  The bag says they are cherry, watermelon, raspberry, and strawberry, but there isn’t a key as to which color is which flavor.  I looked on the Brach’s website and even googled it, to no avail.  It took me two rounds of tasting to come up with the following key, and to be honest, I still am not sure which is raspberry and which is strawberry, they were THAT similar:

White- Cherry

Light Pink- Watermelon

Orange-y Pink- Raspberry

Hot pink- Strawberry

 

vdat

I am giving away one batch, and taking the other three to visit my family for a pre-Valentine’s party.  The batch I am giving away I’m gifting in a mason jar, as pictured.  The recipe calls for 20 hearts per half cup of vodka, I did 3/4 cup to 30 hearts.  I used decent “middle shelf” vodka as it was on sale at my local ABC store.  I also got some cute paper straws from Target, and tags with hearts on them from Michael’s. (See top picture for completed look).  I put the flavor on the front of the tag, and a suggestion to strain it and add to sparkling wine on the back of the tag.  That’s how I plan to consume it with my family.  You can shoot it as is, but it’s a bit sweet for my taste.  One bag of the “reds” was enough for at least two batches of each flavor, but I am saving the other half for another treat.  I actually thought it looked cooler before the hearts dissolved (see below), but they do eventually disappear and turn the liquid the color of the hearts, leaving just a little sediment, which is why I recommend straining before serving.

vdat1

 

A Cheese By Any Other Name Does NOT Smell as Sweet! …. Baked Brie on Baguette

Brie-Cheese-On-Bread-600x450freshmint1371238362044-156028187

 

I lived alone for many years, and while I cooked for myself a lot, sometimes I just liked something simple for dinner at the end of the day. This meant a bowl of cereal, or if I wanted to treat myself, brie on a baguette with fresh mint and strawberry balsamic vinegar. Now that I am shacked up with my man, I can’t get away with this. He requires a full meal, usually consisting of meat, starch, and veggies, followed by dessert. Before you take away my feminist card, know that he cooks for us often as well, or pays for us to go out to eat. However, he does travel frequently, and when he does that’s my chance to eat like a single lady again! This week he’s in New Orleans, so I went to the grocery store and bought a loaf of French bread, and what I thought was brie- on sale! (Score!) I like Ile de France brand, it’s reasonably priced, as brie can get expensive. I got home from work yesterday, got on my warm comfy clothes, and poured myself a glass of red. I cut my thick chunks of bread and turned on the oven. Then I got out my cheese, and saw it was CAMEMBERT! Now this is totally my fault, I was rushing in the grocery store because it was snowing out and I was worried about getting home before the roads got bad. But in my defense, Ile de France has the same packaging for both cheeses, and the word camembert was partially obscured by the sale sticker my grocer put on top. I couldn’t remember having camembert before, and there was no way I was going back out to the store, so I thought, “why not, maybe I’ll find a new favorite cheese.” I sliced a few pieces and piled it on my bread, just like I do with brie, noting that it had a slight smell to it that wasn’t very appealing. Then I put it in the oven. Once the cheese started to get melty, I took it back out, and put some mint from my kitchen garden on, then drizzled my balsamic. I took a bite, and…. YUCK! It tasted like it smelled. I was super disappointed, and also felt like I just wasted some of my precious balsamic, which isn’t cheap. I hate to waste money, and time, so I decided to just pick off as much of the cheese as I could, and then eat the bread with the balsamic and mint. Even still, the smell was on the bread, so I felt like that was all I could taste. Even my dogs wouldn’t eat a piece of the cheese, and they think rabbit poop is a delicacy! So- lesson learned- be more careful when grocery shopping and make sure you’re buying what you think you are. And now, the recipe for BRIE on baguette.

BRIE ON BAGUETTE

Everything is estimated to my taste, feel free to change it up according to your own. This is more a suggestion of food pairings than a recipe.

Brie– Several ounces, I usually have a small wheel of Ile de France brand in the fridge, and for one serving I use about half of it.
Baguette or loaf of French Bread– I go back and forth, sometimes based on what my grocer’s bakery has on sale
Fresh Mint– One large leaf for every slice of cheese, or several small ones per slice
Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice two or three thick (1.5-2 inches) pieces off of your loaf. On a baking sheet, turn them on their sides, so that the center is facing you and the crusty sides are perpendicular to the baking sheet. Pile on the brie. I cut several thin slices and place them on top (see the picture). Put the brie covered bread in the oven, and watch for it to get melty, but not oozing hot. (Usually 4-5 minutes.) Take out the baking sheet, and gently press your mint leaves into the soft brie, taking care not to burn yourself. Drizzle with your balsamic, and enjoy!

Hello world!

Like a lot of people these days, I spend a lot of time trolling Pinterest.  Sometimes it’s when I actually need something, such as a new recipe for dinner or an idea for a theme party.  But a lot of it is mindless scrolling looking for inspiration.  There are plenty of Pins that I know right away I’m too lazy, or too unskilled, to pull off.  A lot of times I am inspired to try the idea, with mixed results.  I seem to have just as many fails as successes.  But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  Right?

Join me as I “do” Pinterest…