Beach Basset, Beach Basset, Give Me Your Paw!

Just for Fun

Thank you, again, to Oriental Trading for teaming up with us for more Halloween fun!


After Todd’s Luau-themed birthday earlier this year, it’s no surprise that we outfitted Duncan with his own pup-sized Hawaiian shirt.


And a great thing about this doggie Luau Costume is that it could totally work for pup-wear year round, if you were so inclined.

Donning your own Hawaiian shirts is the easiest way to mach your four-legged friend on Halloween, but it’s not the only way to go. There’s the usual grass skirt and coconut bra ensemble, but mermaids are very big right now and it’s possible to find all sorts of clothing to channel your inner Ariel.

Beach Couple


And if you’ve ever felt a little iffy about all the candy being passed around on Halloween, these costumes are a great excuse to pass out floral leis instead!

Our tip of the week is a simple one, and also not just for Halloween: a tired dog is a good dog. Before heading out for Trick or Treating, take Fido on a walk or a romp in the park, or throw a ball around for a while. This gets the extra wiggles out and allows them to be a bit more calm when confronted by crowds. Of course, this can backfire–if you get them too worn out, they may not be able to make the whole circuit. If your dog isn’t exactly known for his stamina, consider decking out a wagon to cart him home in, just in case. (It’s also good far carrying his away-from-home gear).

Happy Howl-aween!

Just for Fun

Big thanks to Oriental Trading for partnering with me for another fun Halloween series!

You know we’re pretty enamored with our puppy, Duncan–even if he is channeling his inner monster these days–and you know we’re big Halloween fans, too. So, naturally, we want to dress Duncan up in cute costumes! Oriental Trading was kind enough to hook us up with some pup-sized costumes and over the next few weeks we’ll be showing them off, along with some ideas for companion costumes (and non-costumes) and a few safety tips for pets this time of year.

Behold, the elusive Bumble Basset!


You can’t even imagine how many treats he got when we did these photos.


There; we go, you can see his wings and at least one antenna in this shot.

I know not everyone is down with dogs in costumes, but I figure that if it’s not aggravating them, why not have some fun, right? And since we love dressing up, too, here are some ideas for costumes to coordinate with your cute pooch!

For Disney fans, pairing a Pooh Bear and other 100 Acre Wood characters is a natural fit for a bee-costumed pet. Then there’s the classic bee keeper (Oriental Trading has a great DIY version on their site) and I think it’d be super simple to create a human-sized bee hive costume with some pool noodles cut in half, lengthwise, and banded together. Spray paint it a golden yellow and attach some foam or pompom bees and you’ve got a winner!

But if you think wrangling a costumed pet is hard enough in street clothes, maybe dressing the part without going full-on character is more your speed, a la closet cosplay. Here is a pair of outfits that would look quite fetching (so sorry, that really wasn’t intended) with your bee-bedecked pet.

Bee Couple


Now, safety is very important when it comes to pets and Halloween. Knowing your pet’s temperament is key to knowing what they can handle. But no matter what, keep the chocolate away from your furry friends to avoid ending the night at the after-hours vet! Instead, carry a bag of pup-approved treats to reward them for walking nicely on the leash and letting strangers taken with their cuteness pet them all evening.


Despite his thoroughly unimpressed expression, above, he was actually pretty chill in his Bumblebe Dog Costume. We have three more costumes to show you over the next 3 weeks, so come back and see Mr. Adorable next Friday!

A Hawaii Five-0 Milestone Birthday Luau!


We had so much fun this weekend!

Post-Party Selfie

Post-Party Selfie

One thing about Todd is that, while he doesn’t mind celebrating mine or anyone else’s birthday, he’s not what you would call enthusiastic about celebrating his own birthday. Which is why I was so surprised when he told me, one night before bed, that he thought of the perfect theme for his 50th birthday: his Hawaii 5-0!

Anyone up for a luau?

Setting the Scene

Oriental Trading was kind enough to send me a box of goodies for the party, including leis, decorations, and tableware. I combined them with items I’d saved from a previous promotion (long-time readers may recall the Avocado party from 2013) and beach-themed items I’d stowed away after a wedding shower I threw in 2010.

Now, I’m not necessarily thumbing my nose at the de-cluttering movement but, well, maybe I am a little. There’s a lot to be said for hanging on to decorations and party supplies (even through 2 moves) because you just don’t know when you’ll be able to use them again. And if I’d had to start over from scratch? Oof! (Did you know I “broke up with” FlyLady back in the day when she suggested we cull any craft supplies we hadn’t used in 6 months?) The important thing is how you store it! I keep decor items in bins organized by color, so for this party I knew I could grab beachy items from the blue bin and utensils and other decor from the green bin.

So I took the new stuff from Oriental Trading and combined it with my decor stashes to decorate our dining room and entryway fit for a luau.

Perfect use for a coat tree when the weather warms up? I think so!

Perfect use for a coat tree when the weather warms up? I think so!

To be ready to greet our guests, I draped the leis over the newel post and on our coat tree so I could deck them in flowers as soon as they arrived.

I once read in a mid-century party guide that the perfect hostess greets her guests at the door, takes their coat, and offers them a drink. While it might be old fashioned, is it really all that bad an idea? The problem comes when the drinks cart is two rooms away from the door, so I thought it might be worth a try setting up a drink station in our main hall.

A two-tier beverage station ready to go!

A two-tier beverage station ready to go!

Our console table was just the right size to hold a punch bowl, glasses, and two pitchers, and the inflatable canoe cooler from Oriental Trading snugged right underneath to hold cold beers. Not only was it convenient to offer guests a drink as they entered, it kept the party moving around the house a little more than if everything were in the dining room (the way we usually do it). Along with the leis from Oriental Trading, I also received some hibiscus hair clips that I hooked to the netting on the table as decoration until our guests arrived and claimed them for their own. It was a great way to have them handy without just having them in a pile somewhere!

Speaking of keeping people moving, there is some debate on whether it’s a good idea to have seating available or not (to encourage folks to mingle). It depends largely on the type of party I’m throwing, but for the luau I knew people would want to sit and enjoy their food, not have to juggle their plate and drink.

Our guests appreciated the place to put down their drink and plate and relax.

Our guests appreciated the place to put down their drink and plate and relax.


I took the chairs from around the dining room table and dispersed them through the library and living rooms with some small, wooden folding tables. We also had seating available out on the front porch for anyone who wanted to enjoy the beautiful day it turned into (despite predictions of all-day rain).

These palm trees were a quick way to really give the room a luau vibe.

These palm trees were a quick way to really give the room a luau vibe.

In the dining room I decorated our windows with these fabulous foil palm trees. They’re meant to hang from the centers but it was no problem to rearrange the fronds and hook them over the curtain rods. The looked fabulous with our gold curtains and the cheeky little sun hanging between them was just plain fun!

Just because it's off to the side, I didn't want to neglect the mantle for decorating potential.

Just because it’s off to the side, I didn’t want to neglect the mantle for decorating potential.

The dining room mantle featured cotton netting, seashells, and beach glass from my stash, and those charming tin lanterns are from Oriental Trading from a few years ago (similar ones can still be found on their site in white). That’s the great thing about a luau theme, bright colors and beachy items all work together seamlessly!

A Little Mood Music

While I wasn’t too worried about providing entertainment–I’ve learned that guests are quite capable of entertaining themselves and each other when the right atmosphere is provided–I did want to add a little something to the background.

As an Amazon Prime member I’ve really been enjoying the albums and playlists available through Amazon Music at no extra cost. For the party I put together a playlist featuring Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (aka Iz), the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffet, and even a little Bob Marley. They also had several classic hula and luau albums I selected some songs from. All told it was about 3 hours worth of music and I set up my Kindle tablet and a small portable speaker in the hallway.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to share the playlist, but if you’re a Prime member and haven’t checked out their streaming services, I’d definitely recommend it!

The Menu

The shining star of the luau, of course, is the food! After all, a luau is a feast first and foremost, and I got a lot of help with my menu planning from The Polynesian Cultural Center.

What everyone looks forward to: the food!

What everyone looks forward to: the food!

Roast Pig
King’s Hawaiian Rolls
Condiments (Mayo, Grainy Mustard, BBQ Sauce)

Hawaiian Chicken Legs
Lomilomi Salmon
Sweet Leilani Luau Salad
Potato Salad

Hawaiian Cheese Dip
Assorted Crackers
Fruit Tray

Banana Pudding
Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

Luau Punch
Sweet Tea
Sparkling Hibiscus Berry Tea
Beer and Soda

A whole pig is synonymous with a luau and it was the first thing I knew we needed. Now, I considered doing the pig myself and looked into multiple ways but, thankfully, came to my senses and called our favorite local barbecue joint to see if they would be willing and able to handle the roasting duties for us. Man, did they delivery!

That's some pig!

That’s some pig!

Not only did Fallin’s source and smoke a whole pig for us and the owner, John, delivered in on Saturday afternoon, they did it for an amazing price, too. There was no need to carve the pork, once you peeled back the skin it just came off in pieces with tongs. And the flavor was amazing. Our guests unanimously agreed that it was delicious–not too much smoke, just right. Of course, this is just one of the many reasons we love Fallin’s, but it’s a big one!

Preparing the Lomilomi Salmon the day before gave the flavors time to mingle.

The napkins from OTC coordinated nicely with the plates we purchased at Sam’s Club.

I’d taken Friday off of work so I could prep as many of the dishes as possible and not have to rush before the party started at 2pm. It helps that a lot of the side dishes were meant to be served cold or had components that could be put together and combined just before the party.

Those chicken legs... wow!

Those chicken legs… wow!

The Hawaiian Chicken Legs were a particular hit, and it’s all thanks to marinating them overnight. I did tweak the recipe just a little bit as I had a surfeit of pineapple juice and, unfortunately, Kikoman soy sauce which the recipe originator claimed too salty for the job. So I improvised with 3/4 c of soy sauce, 3/4 c of water, and 3/4 c pineapple juice per batch. Between that, the brown sugar, and the coconut milk, the chicken turned out the best I’ve ever made.

The fresh pineapple in the Sweet Leilani Luau Salad worked to marinate the rest of the vegetables overnight, then I added the actual dressing about 15 minutes before combining it with the quinoa I made in the rice cooked just before the party.

The fresh pineapple in the Sweet Leilani Luau Salad worked to marinate the rest of the vegetables overnight, then I added the actual dressing about 15 minutes before combining it with the quinoa I made in the rice cooked just before the party.

Another favorite was our vegetarian main dish option: the Sweet Leilani Luau Salad. Quinoa, vegetables, and pineapple with a light dressing of soy sauce and lime juice. Even though most of our friends and family are omnivores, we do have some vegetarians in our crowd and I try to always accommodate their needs with more than a side dish or vegetable platter.

There was one slight mishap with the menu: the Banana Pudding. I’ve made cooked vanilla custard many times with nary an issue, but this time it just didn’t gel. It looked like it was right when I took it off the heat to cool, but after a night in the fridge it was just as liquid as when it went in. Maybe even more so! And baking it long enough to brown the meringue topping didn’t magically pull it together.

But when something like this happens right before the party you just have to roll with it. After all, I knew the components were good, so I put out extra cups and a ladle and the first pan was empty by the end of the party. If you’ve ever had Floating Islands (meringue in a pool of thin vanilla custard sauce), this was a lot like that, but with banana slices and Nila Wafers.

The Pineapple Upside Down Cakes were a big hit!

The Pineapple Upside Down Cakes were a big hit!

But it also didn’t hurt that I’d made a second dessert, as well. Options are a good thing and the mini-Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes might have been the single most time consuming dish of the party (pineapple rings don’t fit into the bottoms of muffin tins, so each little piece of pineapple was trimmed and placed individually, for all 36 cakes) but it was so worth it once I actually tasted one.

While I used the linked recipe for the inspiration, I subbed a Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Yellow Cake mix for reliability and used pineapple juice in place of the water the instructions called for on the box. Another thing to know is that you really need to saturate your cupcake liners with pan spray before filling them to ensure the brown sugar mixture and the cake do not permanently bond to the liners and make a big mess when you unmold them shortly after they come out of the oven.

The End Result

Another view of the buffet, just because.

Another view of the buffet, just because.

Todd and our guests had a wonderful time. Fewer people than expected showed up so we definitely didn’t run out of food (and I won’t have to cook much of anything for the first few days of the week, at least). We showed the house to the few folks who hadn’t been there before, everyone ate their fill and spent some quality time chatting in the library, living room, and on the front porch enjoying the cool breezes and sunshine.

Todd’s dad came into town from Nebraska for the weekend and helped get the bathroom into shape before our guests arrived–they even squeezed in a Lowe’s run Saturday morning after breakfast! We had a nice visit with him before he headed back to the Midwest on Sunday afternoon.

Big thanks to Oriental Trading for providing the decorations and huge props to Fallin’s Barbecue for taking on the pig roast duties. I will faithfully recommend both for their outstanding customer service and products to anyone who asks (and plenty who don’t, truth be told).

# # #

We’re linking up with the Get It Together Link Party this week!

Sunny Sweet Days

Halloween Haul with Oriental Trading Company (video)

Just for Fun

It’s my favorite time of year: Halloween!!!

We go all out for Halloween, so when Oriental Trading Company’s blogger outreach program invited me to have a mini shopping spree and blog about how I used their Halloween products to decorate for this year, of course I said yes! So this week and next I’ll be posting room by room decorating pictures, along with some simple crafts, starting with this haul/unboxing video!

(Direct Link for the feed readers: Halloween Haul with Oriental Trading Company)

So big thanks to the folks over at Oriental Trading (and, yes, I see now that I misspelled Trading in the title card–doh!) for the opportunity to have fun with some of their products, again. If you want to check out their Halloween shop, head over here:

Make sure you come back on Wednesday to see our outdoor decor, Friday for the big staircase reveal (trust me, you want to see this!), Next week we’ll show you our photo booth set-up for our upcoming Halloween party on Tuesday, and how we’re sprucing up the living and dining rooms on Thursday. We’ll also be doing a new Halloween House Tour once we’ve got everything set-up. If you want to check out last year’s, click here: Gingerbread Diaries 1.6: Halloween House Tour.

Also, they have a contest going on now through October 17, 2015!


Visit today and enter to win our weekly prize — $250 in Halloween products of your choice from Oriental Trading. Plus, we’re giving away a $25 Oriental Trading gift card every day! Contest ends October 17, 2015.