Category Archives: Entertaining

How was your Thanksgiving?

JT and I tried to get some volunteers hours in Thanksgiving AM with the first annual Lost Our Home Pet Foundation’s Turkey Trot.  First we walked two min-pin looking chihuahua mixes, Simon and Minnie and then took a short spin with Shadow (who had already been on a mile and half walk but was still so wound up that we were afraid he might get away from us – that boy was strong!)  When we got home, Shenanigan could smell we had been visiting other dogs, so we took him on a nice long turkey trot too.


Once we had our good deeds behind us, we lazed around the house and did some of our cooking prep.  JT was in charge of the  turkey and I had tasked myself with some vegan side dishes.  The stuffing was easy – Stovetop (cornbread version) from the box made with vegan margarine (no different from real margarine – super processed and pretty gross to eat plain but at least they offer a soy free version), a veggie dish and the cranberries.

For my veggies side, I made a roasted brussels sprouts and cinnamon butternut squash dish with walnuts and dried cranberries (recipe here).  I’m usually not a fan of sweet and savory together but this really works and I’ve made it a few times now, all to good reviews.  The cranberries were something my dad would always make for family gatherings in Iowa.  I remember packing the food processor, bag of cranberries and oranges in the minivan for the schlep.  I don’t know that he had a written recipe he followed and I’m also pretty sure his had gelatin in it, so I’ve found a veganized recipe that still holds on to what I liked best about his version – the freshly grated cranberries and whole oranges (even the peel – recipe here).  In place of the gelatin, this recipe simply uses sugar (I toned that way done if favor of a more tart recipe) and raspberry jam.  I had an organic superfruit jam blend that also had cherry in it, really good.  My mother-in-law and her husband brought the rest of the feast with them, including a “wacky” cake for dessert and we were all set.

I love setting the table for nice meals.  This year I used a white flannel sheet I had bought at Goodwill’s half off day.  It was much less stress of worrying about wine or cranberry or anything else that might get on the table.  The napkins are the embroidered “T” napkins we used at the head table at our wedding, almost twelve years ago now.  The table runner was an impulse buy at Target and I think it is a Nate Berkus design.  It had a really ugly black tassel on the ends that I removed as it was too harsh of a contrast between the white, light grey and silvers.

I am thankful for a lot in my life but I do have to say how very thankful I am for our old dog Shenanigan.  He is so sweet and calm and sometimes silly and he brings so much comfort to our lives.  He was happy to see his grandma but also happy to lay on his “pillow cloud” in the corner and hang out with us all evening (one of the dog beds is usually under the table but since we had the tablecloth on, I added it to his pile.)  His face is almost all the way white now and his fatty tumor is so big that people ask if he is pregnant and I know our time with him is growing shorter every day.  We’re trying to enjoy every last drop.

JT and I just had a nice lunch of leftovers and are enjoying one of the few gloomy days in Phoenix to lounge around and relax.  I’ll be back later with our #opt outside events from yesterday and some gift ideas for the new-to-the-outdoors people like me.  I hope you all had a great time gathering and feasting with your friends and families.  Cheers – CT


Purple meets green. A bridal shower.

In case I haven’t mentioned it here a few (many) times, my sister is getting married in about two and a half weeks.  That’s crazy.  Let me take you back in time a few weeks to when things were a little less crazy — we headed up to Iowa for a bridal shower at our aunt’s house.


We’ve been driving the “Avenue of the Saints” since we moved to St. Louis in 1991.  Things have changed a lot since then!  One time I accidentally took us to Quincy on the way because they had “improved” the highways so much.  Well, they “improved” the roads I guess, but not the signage.

At any rate, my aunt hosted a bridal shower at her house.  In exchange for letting us use her house and to quiet some of my control-freak tendencies, they let me do a lot of the planning/making/arranging (or maybe I just took over.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell).  Here’s what we came up with:


We did a twist on the white wine sangria recipe I got from my friend Erin and loaded it up with purple and green things instead: green apples, limes, blueberries and raspberries.  So yummy.  We had light finger food like chicken salad (and chickpea salad) sandwiches, spinach brownies, stuffed mushrooms and a veggie tray.  Dessert was a “wacky cake” shaped into a very large cupcake mold and frosted semi-successfully by me.  The saving grace was probably the extra-large cake confetti/deco things.  It didn’t look very large but it managed to serve everyone at the shower with some left over.  (FYI – I found out that the “wacky cake” recipe came from the Depression when many people did not have eggs or dairy to bake with.  It also comes in pretty handy for us crazy vegans.)


My mom spray-painted some soup cans to match the shower theme and these made great decorations and also little take home gifts for all our family at the end of the day.  She also snagged the cool green chevron napkins on the interwebs.


So that’s a quick little blurb about our time in Iowa.  Here’s my sisters and me with our Grandma just before the shower started:


(Yes, I think there’s a strong family resemblance! I hope I get the sophisticated white hair like my Gram someday – like someday in sixty years but you know what I mean.)  We are the only “branch” of our family who live in Missouri — all our aunts, uncles and cousins are spread out from coast to coast.  By percentage however, the highest concentration of our family is in the Des Moines area and it was so nice to be able to get together with all of them (both sides of the family at once!) for a nice shower.  I think my sister really enjoyed it.

Fast forward into wedding crazy time and I am now in the process of designing cute little things for the guest book, the programs (they’re going to be fans – perfect for an outdoor wedding) and the (hopefully) ace-in-the-hole ceremony backdrop modeled off of this:


(Looks cool right?  Image via this site.)

Wish me luck!

Nacho Ordinary Bachelorette Party

Hey interwebs! It’s me, CT, back from a work-induced blogging hiatus.  We’re in full on wedding mode here at Living Analog getting ready for my little sis to say “I Do” on June 1st.  Last weekend was the bachelorette party hosted by yours truly.  Who wants to see some day late and dollar short ideas for a Cinco de Mayo party?  Here we go.


I already showed you guys the invite the other day — this is the starting point for everything  . . . . manicures . . .


margaritas . . . .


(Purple margarita recipe here — we added some Sprite because it was really strong and subbed out the Chambord for some Blackberry brandy.)

. . . and movies!


I got happy with some colored tissue paper and made a simple garland to hang around the living room and give it that festive fiesta appeal . . .


It was simple to make — cut your sheets to the same size rectangles, add fringe and stitch together on the sewing machine.

For food we did a quick and easy nacho bar and set that all up in the kitchen:


(Dessert was cinnamon twists from Taco Bell (so classy!) and some really good Mexican Hot Chocolate brownies that only I ate . . . they might have been on the spicy side.  Recipe here)

After our manicures and some test your knowledge quizzes on the bride-to-be and the movie, we settled in and watched “10 Things I Hate About You” (and then “27 Dresses” to get into the wedding mood).


It wasn’t your typical bachelorette party with penis straws or strippers or scavenger hunts through bars but I thought it was more personalized to my sister, the bride.  And isn’t that really what it’s all about?  Many Cheers – CT

How to be a Hostess with the Mostest

Last weekend my littlest sister came in town and we decided to celebrate her birthday with a retro “Mad Men”-esque themed shindig.  I’ve been working on entertaining more so I was excited to host.  And now that I’ve got a few of these events under my belt, I’m starting to feel like my Martha abilities are getting polished and refined.  So while I am in no way, shape or form a party-throwing wunderkind, I thought I’d pass on a few tips I learned the hard way.

First, plan a little in advance if you can!  This seems like an obvious one but sometimes by planning in advance you can have a few extra touches ready to set the party off.  Since this party was “Mad Men” themed, two things were very important — appropriate cocktails and cigarettes.  I scouted Amazon for a set of plastic martini glasses (I also saw some at Party City) and also a case/carton of candy cigarettes.  That was all the non-food or beverage shopping I did but I think it gave the party a little something “extra” (and thanks to the interwebs I didn’t have to leave my living room to do it).


Plus having one pre-mixed drink made serving guests easy.  Thanks to my mom I’m set up with a bunch of nice entertaining pieces like the large drink dispenser in the picture above.  We made a lemon drop martini (recipe here, found via Pinterest) and made sure to garnish the martini glasses with a little extra sugar!

Another planning tip: ask for help!  If you have good friends or family coming over, ask if they can bring something!  Since you are hosting the event, they’re usually happy to comply.  My family really stepped up for this one — my sister made some amazing champagne cupcakes along with bringing a dip and some pizzas and my mom also stocked us up with a dip and beer for the non-martini drinkers.


The morning of the party or the day before if I’m ambitious I like to set up the house.  I put out all the serving pieces I’ll be using where I’ll be needing them, making sure to plan out spots for what I’ve asked guests to bring.


I dipped into my wrapping paper bin and pulled out some simple gold paper to make a quick tablecloth for the kitchen work island — it made the kitchen feel a little more festive.  As you guys saw for the Sweetheart Dinner, I’m not above rearranging the furniture if the party needs it.  Set up the space to function and tuck other things away (our basement filled up and then emptied back out again for this one!).

Now for my super secret party success tip:  one or two hours before the party starts empty your dishwasher, trash and recycling.  That way you have a place to go with last-minute stirring spoons, soda and alcohol bottles and all the cartons and bags that packaged party food comes in.  There have been times where my dishwasher is already full when we start the party and I have nowhere to tuck some of these things out of sight.  In a small kitchen like ours, it makes a big difference!

The best and last tip I can leave you with for party hosting: enjoy yourself!  Once everything is set-up and your guests arrive make sure you get out of the kitchen and enjoy yourself!  It seems like having a theme or costume party helps a little too — people get into it and let go a little more too.


(Candy cigarettes, remember!  40 calories a pack too!  It was a small purchase but it made the party that much more memorable — as did encouraging everyone to get out their Don and Betty Draper best party attire!)  That’s my little sister, the birthday girl, on the right.  Some say she could be my fraternal twin.  Okay, maybe that’s just me, but who’s keeping track?

It was a great time and I’m glad my sister could make the trek from Omaha so we could all hang out.  Her friends were super sweet to put up with my 1960s attitude on partying (I think kids just “hang out” these days . . .) and we all had a great time.

Okay, maybe I have one final party tip: once the evening’s over, I quickly tuck anything perishable into the fridge and then I GO. TO. BED.  I save clean-up for the day after when I have more brain cells to do a quick and efficient sweep.

Any other party hosting tips or ideas?  My next fiesta is a fiesta – a Cinco de Mayo bachelorette party for my middle sister, the bride-to-be!  I’ve already got big plans for this one and yes they involve a sombrero wearing stripper!  (Just kidding sis . . . or am I!)

And I’ve got a quick tease for you — the party put JT and I into overdrive to finish up those Super Bowl shelves.  I need to take some better pictures and show those to you guys next.  The wall that Paul was on is looking a lot different!


Cheers – CT