Category Archives: food and wine

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Decoration Clusterf*#%

Every year, I struggle to get my Christmas decorations up.  Mostly because there’s always SO MUCH Halloween stuff that has to get taken down, organized, and packed up first.  At least that’s what I tell myself, as the weeks tick by, and my Halloween decorations just sort of drift into piles upon various surfaces.  “I am not just throwing stuff into boxes this year,” I’ll say, completely convinced of my new-found organization skills.  “This year I’m going to get this stuff ORGANIZED so it’s not such a clusterfuck and I won’t have to hate myself next year for being a lazy asshole!”  Inevitably, though, as Christmas gets closer, Lazy Asshole indeed makes an appearance, and brings down alllll the boxes marked “XMAS” from the attic, tears them open in a flurry of tissue paper and excitement, and then quickly runs out of steam. Consequently, the house becomes completely overrun by half-empty boxes of both Christmas and Halloween decorations, old newspaper, and bubble wrap, until approximately New Year’s, because the mess is so overwhelming I don’t even know where to start, so I just don’t.

Even that SENTENCE was a clusterfuck.

I do this every single year, exactly the same way, and yet somehow I’m always surprised when it happens again.

Looks nice, right?

December 2014: The Holiday Spirit Awakens

But zoom out a little, and…

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Oooohh, nooooo…

One year, I tell myself, I’ll finally embrace this and throw a Nightmare Before Christmas cocktail party.  But it wouldn’t be just Jack Skellington everywhere, although duh he’d be in there a little bit.  What I’m picturing is all the cheesy good times of an ugly sweater Christmas party with a healthy dose of creepy camp.  A little bit Buddy the Elf, a little Marley’s ghost.  I never seem to have the capital or the motivation to do so (which doesn’t stop me from building it a huuuuuge board on Pinterest and generally fantasizing about it), but how about I detail it out, and one of you out there in the Great Big Internet can do it, and then show me pictures and tell me about it and I’ll just live vicariously through you? Cool thanks, here’s what you’ll be doing:

A Nightmare Before Christmas Cocktail Party


Part One: The Playlist

A great party playlist should work like a great movie score: it’s just in the background, guiding your emotions in the intended direction, and only occasionally do you really notice a particular song, just enough to be like, “ha! This song is awesome. Nice.” For our Nightmare Before Xmas Cocktail Party, follow this basic recipe:

  • The soundtrack from the claymation classic of the same name is a no-brainer, but mix it up a little by using fun covers of selected tracks.
  • Dump a hearty amount of Danny Elfman in there.
  • Throw in a little cheese factor.  The theme’s juxtaposition of merry and macabre is already kinda silly, so own it.
  • Don’t skimp on the classics, but keep the Xmas ones bouncy and fun.  Just hearing timeless Christmas tunes and old Halloween standbys next to each other will be amusing.
  • Stir in a few standard-issue jams to keep the party mood going.
  • Add some old-timey songs with a subtle creepy vibe.

Here’s a few suggestions.  Click the song title to listen to it on Youtube.

  1. I Sure Hope I Don’t Have to Beat Your Ass This Christmas Master Shake of Aqua Teen Hungerforce
  2. Blue Christmas Elvis Presley
  3. The Killer Storm (The Omen sdtrk) Jerry Goldsmith
  4. Island of Misfit Toys/The Most Wonderful Time of the Year Glee Cast
  5. Birth of a Penguin (Batman Returns sdtrk) Danny Elfman
  6. I Party Far East Movement
  7. All I Want For Christmas Is You My Chemical Romance
  8. Kidnap the Sandy Claws (Nightmare Revisited) Korn
  9. A Cold, Cold Christmas Stephen Colbert
  10. A Marshmallow World Dean Martin
  11. If I Didn’t Care (Bioshock) The Ink Spots
  12. Somewhere in My Memory (Home Alone sdtrk) John Williams
  13. Gremlins Theme Danny Elfman
  14. What’s a Girl To Do? Bat For Lashes
  15. The Christmas Waltz Kristin Chenoweth
  16. Jingle Balls Deep Master Shake of Aqua Teen Hungerforce
  17. Sugar Plum Fairy Remix The Groove Gallery
  18. Halloween Aqua
  19. The Batty Bat The Count of Sesame Street
  20. My Chick Bad Ludacris featuring Nicki Minaj
  21. Someday at Christmas The Jackson Five
  22. The Ice Dance (Edward Scissorhands sdtrk) Danny Elfman
  23. Puttin’ On The Ritz Shiny Toy Guns
  24. Deatheater Dubstep John Williams/Terabyte Frenzy
  25. Baby It’s Cold Outside (Elf sdtrk) Leon Redone and Zooey Deschanel (or this more blunt version, at which I literally LOL’d)
  26. The Mooche Duke Ellington
  27. Re: Your Brains Jonathan Coulton
  28. Don’t Stop Me Now! Queen
  29. Nutmeg (A Very Colbert Christmas) John Legend (also here’s an amazing chipmunk remix)
  30. Living Dolls Nox Arcana
  31. Death of Sirius (Harry Potter sdtrk) Nicholas Hooper
  32. One Little Christmas Tree Stevie Wonder
  33. Trick or Treat Eat My Pumpkin
  34. Another Christmas Song Stephen Colbert
  35. What’s This? Danny Elfman
  36. Pennies From Heaven Louis Prima
  37. Ding Dong Mmkay (South Park) Mr. Mackey
  38. It’s An Addams! (Addams Family Values sdtrk) Marc Shaiman
  39. The Headless Horseman Thurl Ravenscroft
  40. A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (The Great Gatsby sdtrk) Fergie, Q-Tip, & GoonRock
  41. I Hate Christmas Oscar the Grouch of Sesame Street
  42. This Is Halloween Marilyn Manson
  43. Witchcraft Frank Sinatra
  44. In Noctem (Harry Potter sdtrk) Nicholas Hooper
  45. We Can’t Stop Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox
  46. Science Fiction Double Feature Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
  47. Funky, Funky Xmas New Kids On The Block
  48. Twisted Nerve Main Theme (Kill Bill sdtrk) Bernard Herrman
  49. Christmastime Is Here Straight No Chaser
  50. Making Christmas Rise Against
  51. Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead Ella Fitzgerald
  52. Dick in a Box The Lonely Island
  53. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Main Titles Mavis Staples
  54. The Boogie Man (Bioshock) Todd Rollins
  55. Cool Yule Louis Armstrong
  56. Ghostbusters New Found Glory
  57. Welcome Christmas (How The Grinch Stole Christmas sdtrk) Albert Hague
  58. Christmas Night of Zombies MxPx
  59. Santa’s Beard The Beach Boys
  60. Carol of the Bells Thrice
  61. Christmastime In Hell (South Park) Satan
  62. Finale/Reprise (Nightmare Revisited) Shiny Toy Guns

This list would also make a pretty decent power hour (+2 I guess), if you’re into that kind of thing.


Part Two: The Menu

Unless you’re having an actual dinner party, where each guest definitely has a chair for their butt and a table for their plate, stick to finger foods.  It’s easier on you and your guests, and it encourages mingling.  You can’t walk and talk while using silverware successfully, and it’s always awkward eating off a plate that you’re balancing on your lap.  Don’t make it awkward, make it easy.

I’ve always imagined the décor/general vibe of this party riding the coattails of Edward Scissorhands’ set design, i.e., contrasting the loud, summery pastels of the Christmas decorations of a Californian suburb circa 1960 with the darkly beautiful Edward and his neglected gothic mansion.  I firmly believe that it would be cute if the menu captured a little bit of that gelatin-mold,- weenies-on-sticks,- marshmallow-fluff magic of that era, but without actually making anyone eat that crazy nonsense.

  •  Rachel Ray is trying to bring back the cheeseball, and for this party especially, I fully support that.  Click on the pics to get the recipes.
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Everything Bagel Cheese Ball

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Pretty Parsley Cheese Ball …to go the extra mile, smush it into a pine tree or wreath shape, and decorate it with minced bell peppers and cherry tomatoes

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Snowman Cheese Ball

  • What says ‘swanky cocktail party’ like shrimp cocktail in martini glasses? Nothing, that’s what.  Save yourself a ton of $$ and clean-up by using plastic martini glasses.  Add a little Delia Deetz flair by swirling black & white ribbon stripes up the stem, or simply serving them with black & white striped napkins.
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I like how this one includes ice and also allows the sauce to be optional.

  • I make the following cocktail meatballs for like, everything and there are never, ever, ever, ever, any left over.  Ever.  No matter how many I make.  The recipe is below.  Use homemade meatballs if possible, it’ll taste better, but frozen ones will be just fine.  Just try to find frozen meatballs without fennel in them.  The fennel…doesn’t go with the other flavors, in my opinion.
    • Ingredients: 1 1/2 jars grape jelly, 3 bottles Heinz cocktail sauce, approx 20-30 meatballs, crockpot
    • Turn on crockpot to high, add jelly.  Allow to melt, stir occasionally until smooth.
    • Add cocktail sauce, stir.
    • Add meatballs, stir together until sauce coats all the balls.  Heh heh.
    • Let simmer for about hour before serving, then turn down to low.  Always check to make sure they are hot through to the center before serving.
    • Put plates and toothpicks nearby, watch them all disappear.  That’s it.  Sooooo easy.
  • It wouldn’t be the holidays without sugar!  Go the quick and dirty route by piling up your platters with Little Debbie-type desserts, like Snowballs, Cosmic Brownie Trees, Ding-Dongs, Ho-Hos, Twinkies…you get the picture.  If you throw in one cool centerpiece dessert, like this Graham Cracker Haunted House:
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How awesome is this??

or these Jack Skellington Cake Pops:

jackskellingtonpops

HOW FREAKING CUTE ARE THESE like whaaaat

everyone will be awed by that, and suddenly the Little Debbies will be seen as kitschy and cute, instead of cheap.  It’s like when an asshole surrounds themselves with less attractive individuals in order to appear more attractive by comparison, but… kind of the opposite?  Like the pretty thing makes the ugly things prettier, just by being around it…  This is not a strong metaphor.

  • Always, always, always have ginormous platters of veggies and fruits.  For some of your guests, this may be the only thing they can eat, whether due to choice or chance, so make sure you have enough to go around with that in mind.  Keep dips on the side, too; if there’s ranch dressing all over every vegetable, that might mean not getting to eat anything at all for some people, so be conscious of dietary restrictions.  If you’re a Martha-in-the-making, feel free to go crazy with your veggie displays:
Veggie-Christmas-Tree

3D Veggie Tray Xmas Tree (you could sub out the cheese shapes for yellow and orange bell pepper shapes, if desired)

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An even fancier 3D Veggie Xmas Tree


We’ll crush Parts 3 and 4, Cocktails and DIY Decor respectively, in later posts.  I did not realize when I started this post just how long it would take to link all those songs.  Oof. What say you so far, People of the Internet?  Anyone out there already done something like this? Any tips?  Any tips you got?  Share them below!

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SGT Lincoln Osiris thanks you for reading.

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Snoopy’s Awesomesauce Thanksgiving Trash

I think we can all agree that the Peanuts’ cartoon specials are hilarious and adorable (if not, you are dead to me because what is wrong with you they are great), but I think the Thanksgiving special is my favorite.  I could watch Snoopy wrestle a lawn chair all damn day, because I know his struggle and it is real… Though I be but little, I am fierce, and nothing fills me with white-hot Hulk rage like an inanimate object defying my will.  Spice packet won’t tear at the line?  Apply brute force, spill spice packet everywhere, use entirety of lung capacity to scream “GODDAMNIT!!” and throw it in the trash, kick the trash can for good measure, spill trash across kitchen, see red as the fire of a thousand suns ignites in my pupils, destroy the world.  I’ve got Snoopy’s temper, Peppermint Patty’s tendency to steamroll people and put her foot all up in her mouth, Lucy’s maniacal mean streak and relish for pranks, and under the surface bubbles a pot of Charlie Brown’s social anxieties.  So basically, I’m a delight.  ANYWAY.

For those of you who haven’t seen it since you were 3 (or ever), Peppermint Patty invites herself (and several others) to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.  As usual, Charlie Brown is too socially awkward to object, even though he is going to his grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner in just a few hours.  Gasp!  Good grief!  Linus suggests that Charlie make a dinner real quick for his friends, then go to his grandma’s.  Given his limited cooking abilities, and the fact that his sous chef is a dog, Friendsgiving dinner ends up consisting of popcorn, toast, pretzel sticks, and jellybeans.

ABC#00841

Not everyone is impressed.

Dafuq is this?

Dafuq is this shit?

Patty freaks out, Marcy apologizes for her, Linus makes a big speech, they all go to Grandma Brown’s house, Snoopy invites Woodstock to participate in some light cannibalism, roll credits.  To enjoy this strange little gem of a holiday special in its 25-minute entirety for yourself, click here.

That sweet, well-intentioned failure of a dinner was my inspiration for Snoopy’s Awesomesauce Thanksgiving Trash (although if I’m being honest, I saw this on Pinterest (so stinkin’ cuuuuute!), and that’s what made me think of combining all the parts of the Peanuts’ gang’s Friendsgiving dinner into an autumnal version of what is commonly known as a ‘trash’ snack mix.  Click this link if you don’t believe ‘trash snack mix’ is a thing.  It is very real.  And so good. ).

I wanted to bring a little Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special to the table this year, so here’s what I came up with:

Snoopy's Awesomesauce Thanksgiving Trash

Snoopy’s Awesomesauce Thanksgiving Trash

What’s in it:

  • kettle corn
  • pretzel sticks
  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch (I wanted French Toast Crunch because the bits actually look like little pieces of toast, but I couldn’t find it anywhere…was that a limited time thing??)
  • jelly beans (specifically Buttered Popcorn, Toasted Marshmallow, and Cinnamon JellyBellys)
  • dry roasted peanuts
  • cinnamon cheesecake flavored candy melts

I tossed the freshly-popped kettle corn, pretzels, and peanuts together with the warm, gooey candy melts, then added in the Cinnamon Toast Crunch and the jelly beans afterward.  And that’s all there is to it.  Anyone can make this.  You could be eating this in less than 10 minutes.  20 minutes if you need supplies first.

I was hoping to add a little color to the whole thing by throwing in some kind of autumny sprinkles, but I apparently missed the boat for that, because it’s all red and green sprinkles everywhere, as far as the eye can see.  Oh well.  It tastes so damn good, no one will care.  I’ve been sampling it as I put it together and OH MY GOD.  SO GOOD.

The great thing about a solid trash mix is that you can change it up any which way you like, and it’ll be good no matter what, as long as you’re not terrible at combining flavors.  I wanted to get the popcorn, jelly beans, pretzels, and toast into the mix, and I had the cinnamon cheesecake candy melts left over from another project, so I just shot for sweet/salty/cinnamon when I was throwing this together.  But you can make a trash mix for any occasion, with just about anything.  And people go apeshit for it.

By the way, that killer print in the background was done by a very talented guy named Tom Whalen.  He makes all kinds of badass posters, and you should go check him out while you’re eating trash.


Beaujolais Nouveau: A Better History for Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving.  I love the food and wine and DESSERTS, and getting together with family, and I’m 100% on board with taking a day to feel grateful… But I, like any student of history, don’t particularly care for the willing ignorance behind the whole Pilgrims and Indians motif.  Call me Wednesday Addams, but even if members of these two groups enjoyed some kind of meal together, it doesn’t negate the government-sanctioned genocide and land theft.  It just feels a little disingenuous to pretend not to know any of that, just because waffle cone teepees and pilgrim hat marshmallow cookies are both delicious and adorable.

teepee-tents_shannon-mccook

marshmallowpilgrimhats

You can’t even taste the historical atrocities!

So, if you’re looking to bring some history to your Thanksgiving table that isn’t quite so soaked in blood and tears, and also brings booze along with it, may I suggest: Beaujolais Fest!  On Thursday night, Hubstep and I went to a little wine club meeting, and we learned a little bit of history while tasting many, many wines.

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This year’s Beaujolais Nouveau label. Notice how the bottle is already almost empty.

Hubstep, "just tasting" the wine

Hubstep, “just tasting” the wine

Back in the day, in the Beaujolais region of France (pronounced Boe-jhe-LAY), there grew a little grape known as Gamay.  The Gamay grapes were thought to be less “elegant” than the Pinot Noir grown in the same region, and the nobility wanted nothing to do with them.  Making wine with Gamay grapes was basically social suicide.  But the workers in the fields thought the Gamay was just fine, and found that it even fermented more quickly than the other grapes.  And so, a tradition began among the fieldhands, to collect and ferment the Gamay grapes for themselves.  A few short weeks later, they’d celebrate the end of the harvest season by cracking open their bottles of freshly fermented wine, and getting schwasted.

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Click here for the wiki. Because French words are hard to spell.

As time went on, the party got more and more out of hand, and eventually it became a world-wide phenomenon and the government of France had to lay down a few rules (mostly to prevent early release of the vintage).  But!  The Beaujolais Nouveau wine is still made the same way (essentially using gravity, rather than a press (or feet!), to crush the grapes), the Gamay grapes are still picked by hand, and all over the world, at midnight on the third Thursday of November, the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is released, and there is much rejoicing.  Beaujolais Day is a celebration of the harvest, and of the laborer who makes it possible.  Those field workers used the grapes they had access to (what the nobility thought were garbage grapes), fermented them whole in barrels, and after waiting the minimum amount of time necessary for it to turn into alcohol, busted out their humble vintage, and celebrated another year of hard work, together with their friends and family.  They didn’t have the fine wines and fancy parties of the lords they worked for, but they did have food, and wine, and family.

Making do with what you have, and gratitude for it.  Hard work, and the satisfaction of a job well done.  A table laden with the fruits of the harvest, surrounded by family.  This story may be French, but all that sounds pretty damn close to what Thanksgiving, and America, are all about.

So, may I suggest bringing a little Beaujolais Nouveau to your Thanksgiving table this year.  It’s fruity and surprisingly smooth for such a young wine, and it pairs really, really well with turkey and stuffing and cranberries.  You can find it just about anywhere that sells wine, like the grocery store, and it’s usually priced right around $10/bottle, so it’s affordable for the working family.  So, here’s to working hard, being with family, eating pie and drinking wine, and being grateful.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This image was made by thelittlecanoe on Etsy.  Click the pic to visit her shop and find more beautiful creations.

This image was made by thelittlecanoe on Etsy. Click the pic to visit her shop and find more beautiful creations.


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