Vegas Survival Kits

Two years ago to the day, I helped to plan a joint bachelor & bachelorette weekend for 30 20somethings in, what other place but, Las Vegas. Looking back, I’m amazed we pulled it off. Coordinating with that many people and having a successful weekend is one I’ll never forget! 

In order to be sure the ladies were treated to favors, I had to ship an extra box down to meet me in Vegas. The boys were wholeheartedly disappointed to find out the favor bags were for the girls only. Here’s what they contained…

Vegas Survival Kit

VEGAS Survival Tote

  • Sunglasses
  • ‘Vegas’ sleep mask
  • Bling ring
  • Flip flops
  • Excedrine
  • Vitamins
  • Band aids
  • Lip gloss
  • Mini tiara
  • Gum
  • Kleenex
  • Loofa
  • Banana hair clip
  • Disinfecting hand wipes
  • Granola bar
  • Candy
  • Weekend agenda/itinerary


You’ll also need:

  • Tote bags (I ordered online from Oriental Trading)
  • Felt, glitter pen, scissors, ribbon
Bachelorette Weekend

Bachelorette Weekend


Sharkbowl Holiday Gifting

As a Michigan State grad, one of our favorite spots on Grand River was The Landshark. The best drink to order, with a crowd, was a Sharkbowl. The cocktail (with an extreme punch) is literally served in a bowl with a fistful of straws and, if it was a lucky night, lots of shark gummy candies. Usually a crowd would order a couple of Sharkbowls with “teams” challenging each other to race to a finish.

While many of my college friends have moved away, I decided to recreate the infamous Sharkbowl as a surprise Christmas gift in the mail. I can see this being a fun crowd pleasing punch for upcoming gatherings (BCS Bowl Championship, Winter Olympics opening ceremony, the Super Bowl, etc). Note: The shark gummies are a must in this concoction!

12 oz cranberry juice
12 oz lemonade
12 oz lemon lime soda
12 oz soda water
2 shots tequila
2 shots rum
2 shots vodka
Dash of grenadine
Shark gummy candies

Mix, serve in a bowl over lots of ice, add a handful of straws, gather the crowd and ready-set-go!



Black Bean Butternut Squash Chili with Quinoa

Looking for an easy, healthy, and ghoulish stew? Give this recipe a try adapted from Epicurious. I made this for my company Halloween potluck. It was a hit! Fittingly themed as orange and black this is a low calorie dish that is great for a large crowd.

20131101-142118.jpgHalloween | Day of the Dead | All Saints Day| Chili

2 1/2 TB olive oil
2 sweet onion
8 garlic cloves
2 1/2 TB chili powder
1 TB ground coriander
1 Tsp dried oregano
2 14.5 oz cans crushed tomatoes with Italian seasonings
8 cups of water
1 8oz can diced mild green chili peppers
2 diced chipotle peppers
3 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
3 cups raw, cubed butternut squash
1 medium diced red apple
1/2 cup quinoa
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large stockpot and add diced onion.  Season with salt and pepper while cooking through to caramelize the onions.  Add garlic, chili powder and coriander, stirring for about one minute.  Stir in tomatoes, water, peppers, black beans and oregano.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for an hour.  If you’re making this ahead of time, let the soup cool after it’s simmer and refrigerate up to two days.

Add squash, apple and quinoa.  Intimidated by peeling and cubing the squash? Here is a nice tutorial via Simply Recipes.  Allow the additions to simmer for another 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Happy Halloween!

Happy All Hallows Eve! Did you carve pumpkins? Are you dressing up or passing out candy? I decided to carve pumpkins for the sole purpose of roasting the seeds. Yum!


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Red pepper flakes
Chopped onion

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Rinse the pumpkin seeds separating as much of the pulp as possible. Spread out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place in the oven at 300* for about 10 minutes to dry out the seeds.

Remove from the oven, drizzle olive oil over the seeds and combine with seasonings to evenly coat. Increase temperature to 350*. Continue to roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the seeds have turned golden brown.

Trick-or-Treat! Happy Halloween

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Fall Baked Stuffed Squash

The grocery is full of beautiful pumpkins, squash and gourds. Aside from using them for decor, they’re wonderful to cook with and have so much flavor! One of my favorite fall time meals is this stuffed squash. Before hopping to it, I find that for this meal’s prep, Halloween pumpkin carving tools are essential. Usually during the post-Halloween sales, I (my bargain hunter Dad) search for kits that are on mark-down just for their extreme aid in hallowing out, cutting, splitting and cubing squash or gourds.

This is a great make ahead meal. I decided to prep everything the night before to bake off the next day for a gal pal lunch.

Give this recipe a whirl! It’s rather dietetic (a low carb yet robust meal) and for those looking for ideas, it’s also gluten-free. With very few ingredients, this is packed with flavor and great for a cool fall evening.

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

2-3 Acorn squash
1 Pound extra lean ground beef
1 Sweet onion
1 Red bell pepper
2 Cloves garlic
2 TB butter
2 TB brown sugar
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes (if desired)

With carving tools and a good grip, half each acorn squash lengthwise. Lightly season the insides with salt and pepper. Place face down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350* for 20 minutes. Watch the squash closely. You’ll want them to be just fork tender. Set aside.

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

In a large skillet, heat just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sauté diced onion and bell pepper with salt and pepper until translucent. Add the ground beef, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook thoroughly until meat is completely cooked through. If not using extra lean ground beef, drain any remaining grease.

Place a small pat of butter and 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar in the bottom of each squash. Fill the squash with the meat mixture baking at 350* for 30 minutes or until the tops have browned.

Let stand and serve. Be sure to enjoy all the squash and beef with forkful! Does this meal have the potential to make it on your table to fill up your trick-or-treaters before heading out?

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

Spooktacular Halloween Owl

Halloween season is upon us! What are you dressing up as this year? I usually tend to create my costumes rather than buy. I guess that’s just how I am with A/MY/ Crafting abilities. Inspiration for this year came from Martha Stewart’s Halloween edition magazine. I personally think I blew her rendition out of the water. Create your own spooktacular owl mask with the below.

Halloween Owl Mask

Large plastic frame glasses (remove the lenses if you prefer)
Stiffened felt
Hot glue gun

I started by popping the lenses out of the frames I’d purchased at Claire’s. (The owl costume isn’t quite complete without feathered eyelashes–they don’t mix with the lenses.)  Try to proportion the beak to the frames.  Create the cut so that its semi-rounded on the top and triangular at the bottom.  The stiffened felt works nicely because you’re able to get a good crease by just folding the beak in half.  Once folded, place hot glue around the inner nose of the frames.  Place and center the beak until it’s firmly affixed in place.

Halloween Owl Mask

From there, begin places feathers along the top corner of the glasses with hot glue.  The more feathers, the more fierce the mask.  Like the beak, hot glue the feathers on the inside of frames. Finish things off with rhinestones (i.e. bling from the product list) for extra flare. Halloween Owl Mask

Halloween Owl Mask

Idea soured from: “Owl Glasses.” Martha Stewart. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

Happy Halloween! From one spooktacular owl to another! Cheers!

Owl Halloween Costume

Bib Bouquet

I recently became an Auntie!  Well, not officially by blood, but this was one of the first of my friends to have a baby.  I was on pins and needles waiting for the arrival.  What did I do while I waited for that impending due date? Made a bib bouquet! I knew that I would want to bring a gift to the hospital visit.  I didn’t want to go with flowers (they’d probably get enough of those).  The most useful, practical, and crafty idea I could come up with was this bouquet.  Instead of flowers, or cupcakes, or candy, they’d get things that the baby could use! I really couldn’t find much information on the internet to get me started, so this is what I came up with.

Bib Bouquet: New Baby Gift

Cotton bibs

Burp cloths

Cotton onesies

Basket, tub, or container

Styrofoam half ball


8 in. lollipop sticks

Tissue paper

Bib Bouquet

Start by placing the half round Styrofoam ball into the center of the basket.  Set aside.  Take a bib and fold in half the long ways (hot dog style as it was referred to in grade school).  Place a lollipop stick on the inside of the bib, near the top where the Velcro closure is.  Place a pin in and around the stick to hold in place.  Roll the bib completely around the stick.  Use a second pin to hold the bib’s rose rolled shape.  Insert the ‘rose’ into the Styrofoam.  Continue until all bibs have been rolled.

Follow the same steps for burp cloths.  These will be larger pieces to work with.  Fold in half lengthwise as above, roll, and pin.  This rose will be a larger size.  Same with any onesies that are used.  Fold in the arms and legs, fold again in half ‘hot dog style’ and roll around the lollipop stick as tightly as possible.

Some online tutorials suggested using floral tape.  I started with that and it failed miserably.  I wouldn’t recommend wasting the investment.  The pins worked just fine. (You’ll note the floral tape disaster in this picture)Bib Bouquet

Strategically place the completed roses throughout the basket.  Finish with tissue paper and ribbon.   Finally, a baby gift that’s useful and gets many second-looks & compliments as its carried throughout the hospital!

Bib Bouquet

Newborn baby gift

Fall Book Club

The change in season brings some of my favorite things; fall colors, football, sweaters, tall socks, and holiday parties!  I had tried to organize a book club this time last year.  Our first (and turned out to be only) meeting went off fabulously!  The book, coming with very high ratings from myself, was A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

Hosting a large affair sometimes isn’t the easiest.  For this party, I had asked all guests to bring a dessert or appetizer to pass, while I would provide the cocktails.  A host has a lot going on.  The house has to be clean, the kitchen cannot be covered with dirty dishes from meal prep, and of course, there are all of the decor and favor details to attend to.

Any of /A/MY Parties have to be fairly stylized and themed.  Working with the framework of the novel and the changing season I came up with the below.  I’d recommend any of these ideas for fall season entertaining!

Witch Broom Favor Bags

1 package brown paper lunch bags

1 package black pipe cleaners

1 spool of orange ribbon


One favor bag will require 2 paper lunch bags.  Trim 1/3 off the top of the brown bags.  Cut the bottom off of half the bags.  You’ll have to stacks; those with bottoms and those without.  For the first  set of bags, fill with candy.  Attend to the second half of the bottomed out bags by shredding/cut up strips of the “broom’s bristles”.  Leave about 1/2″ around the top to maintain the shape.  Overlay the witch broom bag on the candy filled bag.

Take 2 pipe cleaners and twist together for the broom handle.  Insert into the center of the witch’s broom. Tie with a ribbon and display for your guests!

Witch Broom Favor Bag

Orange and Clove Potpourri



This is a such a simple way to freshen up the room and add to the party’s ambience.  Insert cloves artfully throughout a whole orange.  If you’d like you can add an artistic touch by carving designs out of a thin layer of the orange peel.  Use a small paring knife.  Display throughout your home to add fragrance and party swag.

Orange & Clove Potpourri

Witches Brew Martinis

Serves 8

24 oz Pomegranate juice

8 oz Citrus flavored vodka

4 oz Triple Sec

Lime cut into wedges for garnish

Black Sugar to rim glasses

Witch’s broom cocktail picks

Tall appetizer toothpicks (they measure longer than the average toothpicks)



Hot glue/hot glue gun

Mixing the drink is self explanatory.  It’s the way in which this cocktail is served that makes it notable (or blogable in this sense).

To make the cocktail picks, trim raffia into 4 inch strips.  Bunch about 5 raffia strips together, fold over and around the top of the pick with hot glue.  You’ll need to prepare for hot fingers to get the raffia tightly adhered to the top of the stick.  Finish off with a small cutting of ribbon that’s wrapped around the base of the “broom” and add another small spot of hot glue.  Let dry and set.

Dip the glasses in lime juice and then in black sugar to rim the top. Serve the shaken and strained cocktail with a lime wedge.  A bartender adds a nice touch to an exclusively female club, although it’s not included. 🙂

Witches Brew Martini Fall Book Club

Refinishing Furniture in /A/MY Style

If there is one thing to learn about refinishing furniture is that it requires an insane amount of patience.  It’s definitely not the easiest thing in the world, demanding a lot of time, space and ventilation!

Here are some before pictures of classic, antique pieces I’d received from my Grandmother.

Desk "Before"China Cabinet "Before"

Step 1:


Remove all drawers and hardware.  I found that a sanding block works the best.  It covers a lot of area and allows you to go to town.  This isn’t a quick step.  Just when you think you’re done, sand some more!  Make sure you’re getting as close to the bare wood as you can.

Step 2:

Stripping the Finish

This is part of the process where you need to be in a well ventilated area. With a clear weather forecast, I set up shop on the back porch working on this large project outside.  Be very careful.  The product I chose to use to strip the old stain is: Zip Strip.

Cover the area liberally with newspaper.  Use full length rubber gloves.  Have a bucket of water on hand; if any of the product comes into contact with skin, you’ll need to immediately rinse the area.

Apply Zip Strip to all areas of the furniture.  Don’t be shy.  Use an inexpensive paint brush for application that will later be disposed of.   Zip Strip has a texture similar to rubber cement.  Watch for it to begin to bubble over the surface.  At that point you can use a metal scrapper to begin removing the layers of stain.

Zip Strip Stripping the Finish

Depending on the depth of the stain, you may have to repeat the process to strip away more color.  The scrapings that come off of the piece need to be collected and disposed of properly as the product is flammable.  Again, this is not the cleanest phase and requires precautions.

Step 3:


After the wood has had time to set and dry after stripping the finish, a tack cloth is required to wipe down any excess dust or debris.  The staining process then comes into play with three products: Pre-Stain, Stain and Polyurethane.

I recommend applying the products with a foam roller and/or foam brush.  Also have a clean cloth on hand to smooth the stain.  I actually used something called a “staining pad”.  This product is a foam block covered in terry cloth.  It made for an even application.  Apply a careful eye to watch for air bubbles or drips.  Ensure you have a smooth, clean finish with the stain.

Tack Cloth Minwax, Sherwin Williams Stains

Step 4:

Enjoy the Handiwork

The after pictures are here!  The process is well worth the sweat and tears.  I take pride in reviving old pieces that have been in the family.  I’m now able to use and enjoy them everyday!
China Cabinet

China CabinetDesk