I planned a birthday brunch for a friend at Gold Cash Gold in Detroit. I still wanted to decorate even though we were in a public setting. Here’s what I did!
Obviously, find a place that takes reservations. I got there about 20 minutes before to set it all up. The birthday girl arrived about 20 minutes after the reservation to make it a surprise.
I think the easiest thing to do is make place settings for the table. And that way you get to pick the seating arrangement ;). I found a Polaroid template online and put a photo of each person with the birthday girl – I tried to find one of just the two of them. Then I glued them to sparkly card stock so it was more durable and the back was glittery! I did three colors – black, purple and gold. I put each person’s name below the photo. Then everyone got a sparkly gold and pink 30 straw to put in their brunch cocktail.
I sprinkled 30s all over the table, got a cute plant center piece with Happy Birthday in it and cupcakes with 30s and stars!
Overall super easy, but still seems thoughtful and personal. And like a party! You could also hang up a birthday sign or get number balloons. The restaurant we went to was smaller so I didn’t want to overcrowd the area. Getting a private room somewhere would be great too!
Pretty much every season we do a beer tasting party with our friends. It’s a fun drinking activity that feels like you’re doing something more sophisticated than just chugging beers.
PICK A THEME. The most important part! Since we do them seasonally – that’s usually the theme for us. So summer beers – the quintessential summer flavors or labels. In Michigan, that would Oberon type stuff. My favorite is fall – we do pumpkin beers and carve pumpkins. We also do a Christmas beer tasting – this one is fun because there are a lot of holiday related beers with cool labels. You could do other themes like Michigan (or local) beers or the type of beer (IPAs, stouts, etc.)
DECIDE ON BEERS. I think it’s easier to provide all the beers for the party yourself vs. asking people to bring beer. This way there are no overlaps and you can make sure there’s a good variety. You can ask everyone to pitch in with money if you need to. You do end up getting accidentally drunk during these things to be careful of how many beers you select with how many people are attending.
MAKE A TASTING SHEET. I make one based on Color, Aroma, Taste, Body, Name and Label. We like to breakout Name and Label since it really skews the results. Each item is ranked 1-5. I put a key at the top of the card so people know what is good and bad about each category. Then at the bottom make a chart for them to add their scores. Obviously I make the chart match the theme – so black and orange for fall! Download my tasting sheet here and see an example below.
PARTY LOGISTICS. We like to do a blind tasting. One of us puts each beer in a paper bag and labels the bag with a letter. Then pours each person a little tasting cup of each. Give time for people to taste and discuss. It’s nice to have matching food to snack on in between. After all the beers are tasted – we announce the winners based on the first set of criteria. Then we reveal the names and labels of each. Everyone discusses/rates and we add up the new winners.
We went to Toronto over Thanksgiving since we both had time off of work. Our airbnb was on Queens street in the Fashion District. We loved this location – it was near a bunch of bars, restaurants and shops. We were only a short walk from a lot of sites. And there was free overnight parking on a few blocks nearby.
We tried to choose places that would keep us warm in the cold November weather.
DAY 1: A CASTLE, SHOES + LOTS OF VINTAGE SHOPPINGIN KENSINGTON MARKET
Fahrenheit Coffee: We stopped here to start our day and this place was crazy! Everyone was dressed in costumes and they were all going insane when we walked in. It was the store’s birthday and all drinks were free! What a great start to the day.
Casa Loma Castle: We hopped in our car and drove over here. Anddddd found out tickets are a little bit pricey + you have to pay for parking (there are streets with free parking nearby). We opted out of the tour tickets and just walked around outside. They had cute holiday decorations up so it was still nice. They do have shows and other events at night, which may be more bang for your buck.
Bata Shoe Museum: This place was super cute and definitely worth a stop! The rooms get a little bit repetitive, but overall I would definitely stop in.
Hogtown Vegan: We went here for lunch and it was delish! There are two locations to choose from. The food was really good and the atmosphere was cuteeee.
We dropped off our car and headed out for shopping and more in Kensington Market. It’s a super cute area – definitely more hipster with street art, vintage, shops, record stores and breweries. We went to way more than this, but some of my faves places were: -The Cocktail Emporium – SO CUTE. Great prices and unique stuff for making drinks. I tried to find some of the stuff on Amazon when I got home and couldn’t. -Space Vintage -Kensington Brewery -Bungalow -Blue Banana Market -Sonic Boom Record Store (a little bit further down)
We went to Gusto 101 for dinner – really good pasta and pizza. I would recommend making a reservation. Then got drinks at Bovine Sex Club – a divey bar with live music.
DAY 2: LESLIEVILLE + DISTILLERY DISTRICT
I realllyyyyyyyy wanted to go to The Crazy Doll House in Leslieville so I built our morning around this. So first stop – the house! It’s weird and cool and very Atlas Obscura.
Allan Gardens Conservatory: We drove over here next for some free plants! You can walk around the whole thing for free and it’s warm.
After a fairly atypical morning, we jumped back on the tourist wagon and went over to the Distillery District. It was all dressed up for Christmas. There are a ton of shops, restaurants and places to get drinks here.
We started off our day at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Definitely a must-visit, especially if you need indoor activities. We stopped at the Half House – another Atlas Obscura find – a house that looks like it’s cut in half!
Next up, we had lunch at Maker Pizza (the Downtown location). We love Matty Matheson so we had to give it a try and it didn’t disappoint! It’s mostly a takeout place, but they do have tables if you want to get a box and sit down.
In the afternoon, we headed over to the Ossington area. We got drinks at Bellwood’s Brewery and walked around taking in all the shops and cute streets. We stopped at Grasshopper Records and then got dinner at Hello123. Hello123 was very good. A little bit pretentious, but the food was fresh and all vegan! They had cute drinks that were on special. We then got some more ice cream at Bang Bang Ice Cream.
Toronto in the winter is definitely cold, but also definitely very COOL 😉
I love everything spooky and wanted to incorporate that into my big 30th birthday party!
I kicked off the party with a girls only candle making session! I hired a local occult specialist, Pentacle Path, to come over and teach us how to make our own magic candles. It was honestly a perfect way to start off a new decade (in my life and 2020 for the rest of the guests). She taught us how to set intentions and more. We built our own candles – each color, crystal, scent, flower and herb meant something and aligned with our intentions. She focused the session on starting new/setting goals for a new year.
Then our husbands/boyfriends came over for cake and sparkly margaritas. I got a ghost meter as a gift and we tested it out around the house.
We then went over to the most haunted bar in Detroit, The Two Way Inn. The ghost meter was off the charts at that place!
We went up to Traverse City to see some leaves and drink some beer! Make sure you check out leaf projection maps before going up north. It’s hard to catch them at their peak! I think planning a spontaneous trip is the easiest way to see some color. We did not do that, but did get to see a little bit of yellow and orange.
DAY 1: OLD MISSION PENINSULA
Before heading up to Old Mission, we stopped at Brewery Terra Firma. We’re trying to go to all Michigan breweries (if it kills us!) and like to cross off as many as we can while we’re in different cities. We then went over to Hickory Hills and did a trail to some awesome views.
If you’re going to Old Mission Peninsula, I recommend driving all the way to the tip and back. Jump out for all of the photo opportunities! There are tons of wineries and breweries along the way. A lot of people rent buses and go on tours here. It was a little bit rainy so we did the drive and had dinner at the Peninsula Grill. Then got some drinks at Rare Bird Brewery.
DAY 2: SLEEPING BEAR DUNES, GLEN ARBOR + LELAND
Since our first day was rainy, we packed a ton into our second (sunny) day.
Sleeping Bear Dunes: We went to the infamous National Lakeshore for some views and photo opportunities. You can walk a quick path to the a pretty overlook of Lake Michigan and the dunes. It’s about a 40 minute drive from downtown Traverse City.
Glen Arbor: Our favorite city – where we got married! It’s super small, cute and walkable. We did all the typical stops: Cherry Republic, Art’s Tavern and all the cute shops in between. We got married at the Glen Arbor Town Hall in 2016!
Leland: A fish town that’s about a 20 minute drive from Glen Arbor. See an old town with shanties, a bridge overlook and lots of water views. You can charter boats out of here if you want! Be sure to try a sandwich at the famous cheese shop.
Grand Traverse Lighthouse: This pretty lighthouse is right on the water and has a small beach.
Mitten Brewing Company + Hop Lot: Two more brewery stops! Hop Lot is one of our all time favorites! Try their pumpkin beer if you’re there in the fall. They have a ton of outdoor seating with fire pits and more.
Haunted Traverse Ghost Tour: This was super fun! We toured the haunted Grand Traverse Commons area and woods. You learn about each location and why it’s haunted. And get to use a bunch of ghost hunting equipment!
DAY 3: FAIRY TRAIL + DOWNTOWN BREWERY TOUR
We started the morning at The Village of Grand Traverse Commons. We wanted to see it in the daylight! There are tons of shops and restaurants. We got coffee at Higher Grounds Coffee Shop.
Then we went over to the Fairy Trail behind Historic Barns Park in the Grand Traverse Commons. You can walk this trail and see little fairy houses and doors! We went deeper into the trail to see some leaf views.
Okay now to the beer. Here’s the route we took. We usually stop in each place for a flight glass and maybe a snack: -Filling Station -Silver Spruce -Monkey Fist/Middle Coast -Mackinaw Brewing -The Workshop -7 Monks
After that long day, we got some snacks from the Oryana Community Co-opthat was right across from our airbnb. It was so cute and had a lot of vegan/vegetarian options.
Gastown: We started off our day in this tourist haven! We went early in the morning so it wasn’t TOO crowded yet. There are a ton of cute stores, bars and restaurants here. Don’t forget to get a picture with THE gas clock itself.
Alley Oop: Stop here on your way to the Art Gallery. It’s a perfectly Instagram-able pink alley!
Vancouver Art Gallery: We really enjoyed this museum and would recommend a stop here. We walked through pretty quickly and were only there for 1-1.5 hours.
Stanley Park: My favorite part of Vancouver! This was so fun and I’m glad we spent the majority of our day here. We biked around to a lot of the main stops: -Totem Poles -Lumberman’s Arch -Prospect Park Lookout -Hollow Tree -Third Beach
The whole thing took us a few hours because we stopped and took a lot of pictures. I think the actual biking part was only like 45 minutes, BUT some parts are VERY uphill. We were struggling hard. Make sure you look at the map before plotting out your points if you aren’t super into biking. We rented bikes through Mobi. There are a few stops around the park – make sure you map out your route because you can only rent them for a certain amount of time. It did add up a little bit, but we preferred this option over renting a bike for the day from somewhere else.
Malkin Bowl: We were lucky enough to attend a Death Cab for Cutie show at the Malkin Bowl in the park. If you have a chance to do this – do it!! It’s such a laid back and small venue. There was no stress finding/keeping your spot or getting drinks. Everything is clean and super organized. I was so impressed! The venue is surrounded by trees. It feels awesome listening to your favorite music in nature like that.
DAY 2: LYNN CANYON, GRANVILLE ISLAND + BEER
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge: We got up early and drove about 30 mins to this bridge. It’s the less touristy one in the Vancouver area and in the morning, it wasn’t too busy. You walk across the bridge over water and it’s kind of scary! On the other side there are lots of trails with stops along the way.
Granville Island: We drove back and went straight to this island. It’s very touristy and was crowded. Don’t try to park here! We regret it. The area is super cute though – lots of shops and things to do. We got a sandwich and some ice cream and sat by the water to eat.
Then we did a little mural and brewery tour! We used this map to pick out some cool murals to see in between breweries. We tried out: -Main Street Brewing -Brassneck Brewery -R&B Pizza -Faculty Brewing -Red Truck Beer
After two days in Vancouver, we hopped in our car and went south to Diablo Lake in Washington. And it was worth the detour! There’s a route you can drive to see some awesome views. We stopped at the smaller lower lake first and then made our way up. We got some beers and snuck over to a large rock area next to the viewing platform and enjoyed!
Then we made our way to Seattle. We stopped at the Black Sun statue really quick (while listening to Soundgarden and Death Cab for Cutie) and then got our favorite dumplings at Din Tai Fung. We discovered them in Taiwan and were so excited to try them here! They have vegetarian options and are super efficient in how you order/get your food.
At night we checked out the speakeasy bar The Hideout. They have a drink called The Andy Warhol and it comes with a Polaroid!! Obviously ordered that immediately. We then went over to the touristy Unicorn (where Macklemore filmed the Thrift Shop music video) and it was pretty overrated – wouldn’t recommend unless you’re a bachelorette party.
Now for our one whirlwind day in Seattle. My husband had never been so I wanted to hit all the biggies in one day.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop: We stopped here, it’s on the water and near Pike Market. It’s pretty small and touristy. I honestly wouldn’t recommend making this detour away from Pike Market.
Pike Market: We had to do it! We waited in line at the original Starbucks and it was worth it. We then walked around the market and saw fish, flowers and more. They had bouquets of flowers that you could take on the plane and I was so tempted!
Gum Wall: Another must stop! We had to scramble to find some gum, but it’s a Seattle tradition.
Museum of Pop Culture: This is my favorite museum! It covers all the bases of my husband and I’s favorite things: science fiction, horror, 90’s grunge…what else could you ask for? The horror exhibit was my absolute favorite since I LOVE SPOOKY.
Space Needle: Then we walked over and got some pics of the Space Needle. Going up or into it isn’t worth it in my opinion.
Fremont: Then we went over to Fremont to check out the troll and get some lunch at Red Star Tacos. There are a bunch of cute shops and artsy things to do over there.
We got dinner at Momiji – it’s a super chic sushi place. Not TOO chic though where you feel uncomfortable. I would make a reservation so you don’t have to wait. Everything was super fresh and delicious. Lots of vegetarian options.
Every year we go on a couples trip somewhere in Michigan – this year it was the St. Joseph area. One of my favorite parts of the state!
DAY 1: DOWNTOWN ST. JOSEPH+ BENTON HARBOR
Mason Jar: We got lunch at my favorite restaurant in the area, The Mason Jar! It’s so cute and everything is very fresh and organic. Their lattes are super good and you can get them to go. It’s always super busy in there and they don’t take reservations, that’s the only downside.
The Livery: Next up we got some beers here and sat outside on their patio. They have live music at night, we wish we went back!
We explored the rest of Benton Harbor, there are some shops and art galleries to check out.
Next up, St. Joe proper! Lots of up north-y type shops, ice cream places, candy shops, you name it!
Silver Beach: We walked down to the beach. Yes, it’s walkable from downtown. I feel like that’s so rare! If you park at the top of the stairs, its free/cheaper. The beach itself charges for parking. We walked down and stopped at the carousel (must do) and then sat in the sun for a while. A great lunch/dinner option is Silver Beach Pizza that’s right on beach. It does get super crowded, but you can get it to go.
Silver Harbor Brewing Company: We grabbed some beers here. They have a great selection. We’ve eaten there in the past and the food is really good. Lots of healthy and vegetarian options.
The house that we rented was in New Buffalo so we headed that direction and stopped at Ghost Isle Breweryand Beer Church. Beer Church is one of my favorite breweries in the state, I think! We went there when it first opened and it was just one super small room up front. Now it’s a whole building and an entire outdoor patio! The building is an old church with a big steeple. It’s just so cute and their branding is on point. We ate dinner there and it was soooo good.
DAY 2: WARREN DUNES STATE PARK
We started the day off at The Peasant’s Pantry, which is a few minutes from the beach. They were SO cute and accommodating. Everything was so fresh and delicious. I called like a psycho and asked them to save a table for us (I get nervous traveling in a group of 10!!!) and they did it! The put reserved signs on a big table for us. They have a little shop connected to the restaurant with snacks and Michigan products.
We then went over to the beach! Warren Dunes State Park is my preferred beach in the area. We’ve camped at the campground and it’s very nice. There’s a smaller chunk of the beach on that side that’s really quiet and has a more isolated/nature vibe. We went to the main section of beach this time and it was a little bit crowded, but much less so than Silver Beach. There’s also a small beach in New Buffalo as another option.
After changing and napping, we went over to Bentwood Tavern. It was walkable from the house we rented. It’s a little bit away from downtown New Buffalo and you can make reservations. We got two tables outside – right on the water/in the marina! It’s a little bit fancier, which we enjoyed!
DAY 3: BREWERY TOUR
This area has so many breweries and wineries, we had to try them out! We rented a bus from Grape and Grain Tours to take us around for the day. Our driver WAS so nice! She took pictures for us and gave us the inside scoop on each place we went. Our schedule was:
Greenbush– this place has a great outdoor space with games to play.
Round Barn– one of my favorites! It’s literally a huge white round barn. That alone is cool for me. They’ve really expanded over the years and now have wine, beer and spirits. There’s a lot to do there so you could spend a whole afternoon just at this spot. They do charge you to get into the venue. And it looks like they have a bus policy – so check that out before going.
Dablon Winery– this was our least favorite. They don’t allow buses and have other strict policies. The service wasn’t great and our driver told us some not so great stories about the place. I would skip next time!
Transient – this was many people’s favorite stop. The inside is very woodsy and cute. They are known for their unique sour beers!
Tapistry– Right across the street from Transient, this is a great standard brewery!
WaterMark – my personal favorite! They have a huge outdoor area and just a chill vibe. That night they were having a luau with decorations, music and more!
After that long day, we just got pizza for dinner and Oink’s Dutch Treat for dessert! I would definitely recommend the St. Joseph area for a couples or group trip.
Every year we host a beer olympics party! Here’s how we do it.
Figure out teams. Send out an inviteand see how many people you can get to commit. This is a hard party to throw because you need 100% commitment and people never want to give that to you. Depending on how many people you have, decide on a team size. We usually do two people teams and it’s easy because we have a bunch of couples. I think 3 would be the max size that I would do. Four gets too crowded.
You can choose the teams or have people pick their own (that’s hard when not everyone knows each other). I wouldn’t have all men or all women teams. If you do have an all women team, give them a few bonus points.
Urge each team to pick a team name and have a uniform. This will earn them points! You can pick a theme like countries, colors, etc. I usually let people do whatever they want. Some teams we had this year: -Camp counselors -Cats -Tourists -PBR lovers
Decide on a points system. We do:
Scoring (per game): First Place: 3 points Second Place: 2 points Third Place: 1 point
Bonus Points: Team name/uniform: 3 points
We get a poster board and write down it all down so everyone can read it at all times.
Formulate a plan/choose your games. This is the hard part! You need to choose which games you want to play, how to play them and in what order. We usually do around 6 games. I think this can be adjusted for how many total people are playing.
Things to keep in mind: -People are going to need to be wrangled in between each game. You need to get them quiet and explain the rules. Remember that for timing and for picking how many games you want to play. -You’ll also need time to set up each game. Set up as many as you can beforehand, but a lot will require the same space/items. -Make sure you have enough room to play the game with the number of people attending. -Try to choose games that don’t leave people standing around – everyone needs to be playing at once (or at least one team member from each team). -Make sure the order of games has balance and is fluid. Don’t do two chugging games in a row, etc. -Have the rules written out in a legit document and print it out. You’ll need it to quiet down arguing people. -It’s really hard to host and play at the same time. I do it every year, but it’s hard and we always lose because of that (I think). It might be nice to be the ref only or have someone else be the ref. -Don’t be afraid to make up games! -Make sure you have lots of snacks and water available throughout the event. We serve a grilled lunch during beer pong since its the longest game and people are sitting/watching.
Here’s what we did this year!
Opening Ceremony (we announce all the teams, explain the overall day and take a mini shot of beer and all cheers)
Three Legged Race
Survivor Flip Cup
Beer Pong // Serve hotd ogs
Closing Ceremony (we announce the winners and award trophies)
Game 1: World Cup
All team members get 1 ping pong ball. Cups are set up with beer on long table. One person from each team on each side.
Everyone stands behind the line and shoots their ball, trying to get it in a cup. You can pick up any balls that you find to keep shooting.
Once you get a cup, you must run to the table, remove your cup and chug the drink. Step aside with your cup. You are safe for that round and stay out of the game. Last two people remaining’s teams are eliminated. Rounds continue until there is a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams. Eliminated teams must help retrieve balls.
Game 2: Three Legged Race
Each team will tie their legs together with a ribbon. Each team member must chug a cup of beer before taking off towards the finish line.
Two rounds of games = 2 first places, 2 second places.
Game 3: Survivor Flip Cup
All Team Members will participate in this event. Teams split up on each side of the table – one member on each side.
The first two competitors begin to chug the beer in their glass and then they sit it right side up on the edge of the table with a portion of the cup hanging off the table and hit it with the finger so the cup pops upwards and flips in the air. The goal being to get the cup to land and stay upside down.
Each person continues to flip their cup until they have successfully landed it upside down. The next team member can’t go on until the first person’s cup has been flipped upside down. A game will finish when all members of one team have completed in proper succession flipping their cups. The first team to do this is the winner of the game.
After you’ve initiated a flip and the cup is in the air you may not interfere with it in any way. Do not reach towards your cup until it is at rest on its side, then you can grab it and try again. Do not interfere with or attempt to assist any other player in any way while they are flipping their cup.
After one side wins, the losing side must eliminate a member of their team through voting. Top 3 people winning represent the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams.
Game 4: Beer Pong
All Team Members will participate in this event. Bracket single elimination play except for third place bracket.
House rules apply. Bouncing results in 2 cups removed from table. Girls can blow and guys can finger balls from cup. Sinking a ball in a cup of beer an opposing team member is holding results in 3 cups removed from their rack. Knocking over your own cups during a swipe (to block bounce) or re-rack results in those beers removed from your rack. You get 1 re-rack.
See bracket page.
Game 5: Puzzle Time
4 teams play at once. One player on the team must always be turned away from the table chugging beer, the other player works on the puzzle. Players can switch roles at any time.
Players must complete the puzzle as quickly as possible. 1st place winner in each round.
Game 6: Quarters
All Team Members will participate in this event.
Teams line up around the table behind the first player who is seated. Two sets of shot glasses/quarters will go around. If your seated player loses, the next player comes to the table. This continues until the team is completely eliminated.
First place is final team remaining.
Once you have been eliminated, you may cheer on and offer words of encouragement or technique assistance to other team members, but you may not physically assist or help them in any way. This means you may not touch their quarter, shot glass or cup. For example, the quarter bounces off the table and they must pick it up – you cannot help.
Get supplies + make trophies. Here’s what we usually get. You can also decorate with an Olympics theme (vs. just beer) as well. –Cute colored solo cups –Beer hat OR this hat –Beer glasses –Beer headband -Trophies – I glue together cans/bottles and spray paint them gold/silver/bronze. Add stickers or glitter! -Banner – I usually make a banner that says something inspiring using my glitter letters -Ping pong balls -Shot glasses -Quarters -Poster board for scoring
Every summer we try to take a Saturday and drive the 2-ish hours over to Lexington. It’s a small town in the Thumb of Michigan right on Lake Huron.
Everything is walkable so you can park your car downtown for the day and set out.
– Lexington State Harbor: we usually pack a cooler full of food and some beers and start our day here. It’s a nice beach and has a walk way down out into the water. There is a park right there that sometimes has fairs/festivals or little food stands.
-Then spend some time walking around downtown and going into the shops.
We have stayed overnight a few times so we could enjoy a few more drinks ;). You can take a few back to the harbor and watch the sunset. We like the Inn the Garden Bed and Breakfast. It’s still walkable to downtown and very cute! The owner is super nice and breakfast was delicious.