Spicy Jalapeño Martini #carnivalcocktail

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Spicy Jalapeño Martini

In the spirit of the circus/carnival party I had recently, I decided to include a themed cocktail for the festivities. I was eating some nachos with cheese sauce piled high with pickled jalapeños at my party when it hit me that I didn’t come across jalapeño cocktails all that often. Probably the most common kind is a jalapeño margarita but outside of that, I’d never really heard of one. I’m sure they are out there, but I decided to see what I could some up with.

I started with a standard dirty martini recipe and replaced the olive jar juice and olives with jalapeño juice and slices of jalapeños. It turned out really good! If you like a little spice and the flavor of pickled jalapeños, you’d probably love this drink.

Spicy Jalapeño Martini


  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1 oz. pickled jalapeño juice from jar
  • 1-5 drops hot sauce (I used habanero hot sauce)
  • 2-3 slices pickled jalapeño


  1. Put all of the ingredients, except the sliced jalapeños, in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake hard about 4-5 times and strain into a chilled martini glass.
  3. Garnish with several jalapeño slices.

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Step Right Up! It’s Shane’s Circus/Carnival Party

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Last year when American Horror Story: Freak Show debuted I got the idea to do a circus party at my house. While having a creepy party in the same vein as AHS: Freak Show is definitely my cup of tea, I decided a kid/family friendly one would be more popular with my friends.

I began by creating an invitation. I scoured the internet for some inspiration and settled on a design. When you’re having a party as big as the one I was creating, it’s hard to get all the pertinent information on the invite without it turning into a book!

Circus/Carnival party invitation

I broke the party down into three areas: circus, sideshow, and carnival. The circus was set up in the living room, the bathroom became a sideshow, and the carnival was in the backyard.

I love to decorate and make things, so putting on a party like this was a lot of fun but a ton of work. Here’s how each area of the party turned out.

The Circus: Under the Big Top

Circus party decor

I wanted the living room to have the suggestion of a circus tent so I bought a stack of dollar store plastic tablecloths and got to work. I tied a couple whites and a red one together on one end and attached them to the center of the room. Then I opened them out towards the wall and stapled them up. I continued like this around the room until about half of it was covered. I added another tablecloth from the ceiling to the floor to finish the sides of the “tent.”

DIY Circus marquee sign

The marquee was the other “big thing” I made for living room circus decor. It’s made from foam core board, poster board, string lights, and ping pong balls! I have a full tutorial here if you’d like to see how it was made.

Circus party food table

The last area of the circus was the treat table I put up in the dining area. I had popcorn, candy, cupcakes, peanuts, etc. laid out everywhere! I also decorated some animal toys to look like circus animals for some extra flair.

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Circus/Carnival Cupcakes

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cupcakesThe circus/carnival party I had was a great success and I wanted to share the cute cupcakes that I made for it. For more details about the party head over here. Below, learn about how to make carousel horse cupcakes and clown cupcakes.

Carousel Cupcakes – Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream Frosting



After I found this cool cupcake carousel stand I couldn’t pass up making some cupcakes to go in it. To make the cupcakes look even more like they belonged on a carousel, I wanted to add some carousel horses to them. I found these really cute carousel horse cutouts for paper straws and I cut the straws in half so they could be cupcake toppers.


For the cake on these I used this delicious Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate cake recipe. The batter was incredibly runny and they didn’t rise very much, but they were moist and tasty. I only made a half batch for this party and shared my buttercream with the clown cupcakes below. If you make a full batch, use the frosting recipe below.

Make a batch of Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, but instead of the vanilla substitute peppermint extract. The peppermint goes so well with chocolate!

You’ll also be using this frosting for the clown cupcakes.

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D.I.Y. Circus Marquee Sign {Tutorial}

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This past weekend I had a circus/carnival themed party at my house. When I first started planning the party, I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of money to spend on decor, but I needed to have some big spectacular pieces if I wanted my house to look anything like a circus.

Luckily, a trip to the dollar store for some plastic tablecloths fixed my circus tent situation, but what is a circus without its sign?!


Marquee letters and signs can range anywhere from $30-$40 per letter and into the hundreds for whole signs! I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t going to spend that much on a decor item for some silly party I’m having for friends. It’s just not going to happen.

As I do with many things I can’t afford, I make them. While oftentimes making an item can end up costing more than the store bought item, in this case, it’s just the opposite!

Most of the items for this project can be found around the house or easily bought for little money.

Supply List

  • Poster board
  • Letter stencils
  • Foam core board
  • A string of LED lights (length depends on how many letters you make)
  • Ping pong balls
  • A drill with a bit
  • A box cutter/ X-acto knife
  • String
  • Pencil/pen
  • Glossy spray paint
  • Hot glue gun/ hot glue sticks
  • Masking tape
  • Ruler/yardstick

First you want to make the letter stencils. Find the right font for your sign and print the letters out at the correct size for tracing onto the foam core board. I used Freak Show font because it had fat wide letters that would be easy to fit the ping pong balls into and it looked like a circus font. Just remember, if you use a fancier font like I did, this project will take longer to edge with the poster board.

If you want your letters to be bigger than a sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper you can use blockposters.com to break your letter image onto other sheets of paper and then cut and tape them together.


Once you have your letter stencils cut out, trace them onto the foam core. Since my sign was relatively small, I only needed one sheet of foam core. Cut out the letters with a sharp X-Acto knife. A sharp craft knife is important because you won’t have to push down as hard and the edges will be smoother. Also make sure to put something under the foam core such as a self healing cutting mat or a piece of cardboard, so you don’t cut into something you care about.

At this time, use your drill to make 1/4″ holes in the foam core where you want the lights to push through. If you need larger holes, you can use a larger bit or stretch the holes by pushing a thick pen or marker through the hole. I had to use the pen trick, because I didn’t have any larger drill bits!


Next, cut 3″ strips of poster board. I just cut one long strip and then cut it down as I figured out the lengths I needed. I also drew myself a guide line about 1″ in on one side so that I knew where to glue the strip to the edge of the foam core.IMG_5457

To measure the lengths of poster board, take a piece of string and run it along one continuous side. Cut the string to the correct length and then measure the string for the length to cut the poster board to.

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The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Just in Time for the Finale! #review #giveaway

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a Mad Men fan for years. As difficult of a time as the 1960s (and now ’70s) were, Mad Men has always made this decade seem so sexy and cool. I’ve had a long time love affair with mid-century decor and watching Mad Men is like TV porn for me.  The costumes are so specific and structured, the sets are so stylistic and unique, and although the food of the ’60s isn’t featured on the show as much (outside of alcohol, so, so much alcohol), the food of the ’60s was also very interesting.

When I find a cookbook from this era, I get really excited. The colorful, yet desaturated photography of the time made the food look almost plastic, and in some cases unappetizing, but I still feel a sort of whimsy when I see the recipes from so long ago.

One book that captures both the recipes of the time and the show Mad Men is The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin. This book delves into the food and drink that appears on the show. Featuring recipes from some of the restaurants and bars mentioned on Mad Men, and cookbooks of the time, The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook gives us a nice sample of of the cocktails, entrees, and desserts of the ’60s. Many of the recipes are paired with a show reference, history of the dish, or a suggestion for a character from the show. This is a cookbook that informs you of the past while teaching you the recipes. I love that!


While there is a lovely section of full-color pictures from some select recipes, this cookbook is more focused on print information than photographs of the final products. What that means is the book is packed with more than 70 recipes that represent mid-century eating and drinking and the stories that go with them. Speaking of drinking, over 25 of those recipes are cocktails alone, which isn’t a surprise when you consider alcohol is one of the most consistently prevalent things on Mad Men.

One of the recipes I tried from the cookbook was the Manhattan. I love Old Fashioned cocktails, just as Don Draper does, but since I’ve had those before, I decided to try the Manhattan. It’s a similar cocktail, using whiskey and bitters, but with less ingredients and not nearly as sweet.



  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Maraschino cherry, for garnish

Pour whiskey, vermouth, and bitters into a mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry.

**recipe reprinted with permission

This version of the cocktail is from the Oak Bar on Central Park South in New York where Don and Roger Sterling stop for an after-work drink in season 1 episode 7.  One thing that makes this cookbook unique, especially for a Mad Men fan, is that it points you to the episode that the drink or dish appeared, or could have appeared, in the show.

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