Sunday, January 06, 2013

Favorite Things Party - 2nd Annual

So by far my most popular blog post is about my favorite things party from 2011.  This post is about my second time around.  So I'll include some info that I sometimes get emails asking me about.

First off, I OVER invite.  I invited about 35 or maybe even 40 people this time.  Knowing that usually, you get about half the people you invite to actually come.

Here are my cute invitations from this year:

Zigzag Pop Orange Bachelorette Party Invitation
Shutterfly cards for Mother's Day, Valentines Day, Birthdays & more.
View the entire collection of cards.

Then I start planning.  I like the whole party to revolve around "favorites" - mine, and my guests.  And of course the people I invite are my "favorites" too.  So last time I did little mini pizzas on pita bread that at the time, I was making really frequently.  This time I thought about what new food am I making that I really like or that my family likes.  And since it was winter time I wanted it to be a good winter food.  I quickly thought of my yummy and easy chicken chili recipe which I serve with tortilla strips.  And since I promised the recipe, here it is.  I got this from pinterest originally, and only tweaked it ever so slightly:

Chicken Chili

In a large crockput:

Place 4 to 6 chicken breasts (I will usually do 6 if I'm using organic, 4 if not, I prefer organic, but sometimes the sale on regular breasts is too tempting) in the bottom of your crock pot.  Put them in raw with no preparation other than rinsing.  On top of the breasts place:

3 drained cans of black beans
3 drained cans of sweet corn (I prefer white)
3 cans of rotel

on top of everything place two bricks of cream cheese

Season with: cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and garlic powder or garlic salt

Cook for 3-5 hours on high

when you're ready to serve it stir it all together and shred the chicken with a fork.  It will pretty much fall apart, but you may need to remove it and shred the chicken in a separate bowl and then put it back in the crock pot.  Taste to see if you need additional seasoning.

That's IT!

To keep things easy I then ordered fruit salad from one of my favorite restaurants.  I particularly love it I think because it has delicious red grapefruit in it.  I just did water with lemons off my tree for a drink.

For dessert we had Buffalo Chip Cookies which I think are particularly delicious. (and for which, I also promised the recipe)

Buffalo Chip Cookies

Melt 1 and 1/2 cups butter (allow to cool to room temp)
In a mixer place the melted butter and then add 4 eggs (don't skip the part where you cool the butter or it will ruin the recipe and you'll cook the eggs slightly in this step)
Mix together
Add two packed cups of brown sugar
add two cups white sugar
add 2 Tbs of vanilla
add 2 Cups quick oats
add 2 Cups crushed corn flakes (measure after crushing)
add 4 cup flour (mix between each cup)
add 2Tbs Soda
add 2 Tbs Baking Powder
add 1/2 to 1 full package milk chocolate chips
add 1/2 to 1 full package butterscotch chocolate chips
mix completely

Heat your oven to 315 - it's a weird temp, but just a smidge between 300 and 325
use a ice cream scoop to scoop your cookies onto a cookie sheet
put plenty of room between the cookies and only cook 9 cookies at a time rather than the usual 12
cook for exactly 18 minutes, cool on parchment paper, use a super wide spatula to get them off the cookie sheet when hot (this makes a very big cookie)
recipe yields approximately 32 cookies

I timed the cookies to be warm as my guests were arriving so the house would smell like cookies.  The thing that's great about that recipe, with 18 minutes between batches you can get a lot done in between.

I think it's kind of fun to play a get-to-know you game so I make up sheets of paper asking for favorites.  This year I used favorite flower, movie, actor/actress and perfume.  (I'll compile this list of our favorites separately below).  A lot of my guests already knew each other, but some of them didn't really know anyone.  This kind of helps at least get people introducing themselves because the game requires you to find out at least 5 other peoples favorites per category.

Next I let everyone eat and chat for a while.  I always eat last and watch to see when everyone is basically finished to start the gifts.  Each guest was instructed to bring 5 favorite things $7 or under (last time I did $5, but that's really challenging, $7 feels like a lot more somehow).  I just ask them to bring them unwrapped and in a bag they can distribute them from without necessarily revealing what they've brought.

While people are still finishing eating, or earlier in the party, you have each guest write their name 5 times on a slip of paper.  All the names then go in a bowl.  I have someone start by explaining what they brought, why they like it - where they got it is good too.  Then they choose names out of the bowl - 5 draws and if they get the same person twice, they choose again.  It's always funny to see how excited people get to have their name chosen and to get one of the items.  The more popular items cause more anticipation.  We keep going like that all the way through all the guests.  It's super fun to see what people bring.  I just ask people to bring something that they like or that they regularly buy.  Sometimes we don't even think about things we like that are that inexpensive, but there are lots of things we buy all the time that are little things.  I think part of what I like about this party concept is that it makes you appreciate things more that you kind of take for granted.  Yeah, we would all like to go to a favorite things party where Oprah doles out new cars, BUT, a really great lotion is pretty good too!  :)

The Favorites my guests brought this year:

A selection of Essie nail polishes

Cherry Sours

Fun Colorful Socks

Dove white bar (facial soap)

Gold Bond Hand Sanitizer

Eucerin Cream

LUSH balls

Redken Shine Flash 02

Target Make-up Remover wipes

Fancy little Christmas balls

Box of Fortune Cookies

Bath and Body works Car Fresheners

Lunch boxes with built in utensils

(I think the prize for most ingenius goes to this idea) a pound of slab apple wood smoked bacon from a local meat shop!

Jergens natural glow

Pure Komachi 2 Knives

Wrinkle Remover

Baking Sheets with Parchment Paper Roll

NUTELLA (maybe 2nd most genius idea)

Trader Joes Chocolate Bars

OPI nail polish

Here in Phoenix we enjoy a special blessing of living near a store called Last Chance.  Last Chance is what happens when Nordstrom doesn't sell stuff in their stores, or the Rack, or it's also what happens when they over-order, or where they unload perfectly good returned items (and admittedly, some not so perfectly good, which you have to watch for).  This store ONLY exists in Phoenix and one other location world wide.  Imagine how happy I have been to purchase a Kate Spade bag for a mere fraction of the original price, or a Diane Von Furstenberg dress for only $50.  Yeah, it's pretty freaking awesome.  Anyway, this guest took advantage of our proximity to this store and bought 5 cute fashionable scarves to give out.  Also, could I just mention we are triple blessed because those of us who live in Central Phoenix are a mere 5 minutes away from this store.  I mean, if that doesn't qualify as a "favorite thing" I don't know what would

Bath and Body works oil for diffusing

Sensodyne Pronamel tooth paste

colorful lip gloss

Recipe cards and card covers to protect

Burt's Bees Deep Cleansing Cream

St. Ives Apricot Scrub

OPI nail kit (with 5 polishes)

After we go through all the gifts from both the guests and myself, I add 5 more gifts for random drawing.  Using the "get to know you" papers filled out at the beginning, I draw 5 more names for some extra "favorites" I bring.  This year I gave out:

GQ magazine (I know this seems odd, but I really like their interviews)

2 different types of this chocolate, one milk and one dark

L'oreal telescopic mascara (it was on sale, so normally this would have been too much)

Italian Blood Orange organic soda 

That's it!  This year we sat around the fire pit and it was kinda chilly for those of us who weren't right by the flames, but it was really fun.  I'll definitely be doing a 3rd annual, maybe with some new twists to keep things fresh.

Our compiled list of "favorites"

Favorite Flower:

Hydrangea (4)
Tulips (3)
Orchid (2)
Gerber Daisy (2)
Wild Roses
Calla Lily
Bird of Paradise
Sweet Pea

Favorite Movie:

Ferris Buehler's Day Off (2)
Sound of Music (2)
Pride & Prejudice (2)
My Brilliant Career
Sunset Boulevard
Sense & Sensibility
Die Hard
When Harry Met Sally
Say Anything
Notting Hill
North & South
Strictly Ballroom
Lars & The Real Girl
Benjamin Button
Les Miserables
Bridget Jones Diary
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
South Pacific

Favorite Actor & Actress:

Colin Firth (4)
Ryan Gosling (3)
Meryl Streep (2)
Hugh Grant (2)
Sandra Bullock (2)
Kate Winslet (2)
Tom Hanks (2)
Nicole Kidman (2)
Emma Watson
Dame Maggie Smith
Richard Armitage
Chris Helmsworth
Queen Latifah
Daniel Day Lewis
Kristin Scott Thomas
Bruce Willis
Meg Ryan
Rachel McAdams
Julia Roberts
John Cusack
Mark Wahlberg
Harrison Ford
Amy Adams
Emma Thompson
Gerard Butler
Leslie Mann
Joseph Gordon Leavitt
Jennifer Aniston
Jimmy Fallon

Favorite Perfume:

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (2)
Viva La Juicy (2)
Vanilla (2)
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue
Calvin Klein Escape
Calvin Klein Eternity
Poloma Picasso
Trescho Pure Passion
Coach Poppy
Chanel no. 5
Ralph by Ralph Lauren
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady
Michael Kors Very Hollywood
Lady Gaga Fame

And if you're interested in my first blog post on this topic,  you can see that HERE.

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