Sunday, July 31, 2016

How to play: Clue the Party Game

We wanted to encourage our guests to mingle and get to know each other since we were mixing various social circles at our Clue themed party.

Guests were greeted with some "instructions" at the front door and an envelope with their "name" on it, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, etc.

 I staged the game and nametags in vintage suitcases from my grandmother. All the stacks of envelopes, name tags, markers, pens/pencils and solution folio all fit nicely inside.

Each envelope contained a name tag and a set of cards. Every character type had the same cards, so each Miss Scarlet knew the same facts, each Colonel Mustard knew different facts which meant to "win" you HAD to talk to at least one person of each character.

The welcome letter outlined the rules and gave an example:

The letter reads:
Please create your character card (nametag). You can also choose to
join in a live game of Clue loosely modeled on the classic board game:
OBJECTIVE: Interview & share clues with other guests to help you
deduce who the killer is, where the murder occurred, and what weapon
was used. 
Select an envelope of clues that matches your character. If your
character is more creative than one of the classic 6, you may play at any
one of the characters. 
Collect clues from different guests – each character should have the
same clues (i.e. every Miss Scarlet will have the same clues).
Approach a character & postulate a hypothesis of who, what
weapon, in what room. The character then shows you all the matching
clues they have in their hand. 
For examples:
< Colonel Mustard approaches Mrs. Peacock. >
Colonel: Mrs. Peacock, was it Mr. Green in the lounge with the
If Mrs. Peacock has cards for Mrs. White, the Lounge, and the
Revolver, she shows both the Lounge & Revolver cards.
Record the clues on your notepad until you’ve deduced the killer, the
weapon, and the room. 
When you believe you have solved the mystery, return here to check
your solution in the envelop labeled “Here’s what really happened” and
collect your prize.
Happy Sleuthing, Mr. Boddy 
I made cards like you'd have for a game of Clue.
I also made little tracking sheets for guests to keep tabs.

How did it work? Splendidly! It got people talking and gave people another reason to mingle, and an opener into conversation.
Photo courtesy of Kirill Buryak

Once someone thought they'd solved it, they could check the Folio marked "...but this is how it really happened," a reference to the movie's multiple endings, thank you very much.

Guests could then wear a Case Closed sticker, printed on the extra name tag pages, for bragging rights.

Setting the Scene for a Clue Party

The Food!

This party I wanted to enjoy being out with guests and not catering. I set up a smaller amount of food, focusing on the theme-appropriateness or ease. A chaffing dish made a huge difference keeping hot appetizers hot throughout the night.

A few standouts made me really happy on the food front:

Stabby Cupcakes

These were incredibly easy and so much fun. I ordered cupcakes from the local grocery with white icing. I brought them home and made them stabby with the addition of a small amount of red decorators gel, then inserting Wilton's Meat Claver Royal Icing decorations

Panna Cotta "Monkey" Brains

The movie Clue had a bit in it about how they all ate monkeys brains, so naturally I had to find a way to work that into the theme for the hardcore fans like me!

I was inspired by Alton Brown's Panna Cotta Brain with Cranberry Glaze, but I made mine in mini-brain moulds using raspberry couli and rather than going for "mad science" I tried to make them look like haute cuisine serving them in coupe glasses. They were amazingly tasty and on theme.


For the Clue party, each room of the house loosely references a different room in the game/movie.

(Toy) Weapons! 

These helped set the mood and gave people props for photographs. A toy pistol, and a "trick" knife whose blade shrinks into the handle were easy. A length of rope and a not-lead-pipe were real and inexpensive. The wrench we already had, and the candlestick I borrowed from my parents.


I created a giant buffet on the dining table, using borrowed red damask table clothes to create drama. I added black jeweled candelabras for a spooky mansion effect.

Since we're riffing on fancy/haunted mansion a bit, I was able to re-use some items from previous parties like the silver tray and some old crystal decanters from Peter's grandmother.


I hate drapes or curtains in everyday life, but to create ambiance, I draped light thin satiny fabric on either side of the couch in the living room lounge to create a curtain-effect.

A great photo backdrop was created in the dining room with black curtains. I found brocade-patterned curtains on clearance at a discount store. I hung black lace fabric across the window, then framed it with the drapes since they were too small to actually span the window.
The professors' Plum posing for a group shot
Things I'd fix before before doing it again - I'd decorate our mid-century light fixtures and cover our quirky art collection with printed portraits, maybe of Clue characters.

Themed signage

I used a variety of vintage and borrowed picture frames to serve as signs labeling each room. Using a classic Clue font, signs labeled each room as one from the game/movie


In this party, the TV wasn't an eyesore. We moved it to a corner of a large room, and left it playing the movie Clue with captions and the sound on mute.


The soundscapae is critical to creating ambiance, and making the first few guests feel comfortable. We created a playlist of appropriate music, stuff from the movie soundtrack and other period music we liked.

How to throw a Clue themed party

So, we did it again... I didn't know if I could top my 1920's Speakeasy themed costume party, but I was sure going to try for Halloween! And I might even say our Clue party exceeded my expectations.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, in this case it was a peacock blue peplum costume dress burning a hole in my closet, combined with a deep love of Clue the movie and wanting to pay homage to our 1920's era home.

I've done some thinking and, I'd say a few key elements to a great themed party include:
  • Picking a theme that people are familiar with so they can get excited, 
  • Thoughtfully utilizing the theme enough that guests don't feel strange or self-conscious being dressed up
  • Creating enough structure or guidance to help guests get excited into the theme, and
  • A broad enough theme that people can be creative
This party hits all those notes.


I designed these e-invitations referencing the Clue game cards, including the actual Clue font. Thank you internet for answering which fonts those were.

We had to know in advance that I was to be Ms. Peacock, and Peter picked Colonel Mustard. Invites placed an emphasis on coming in costume, since we devised a game that required you to play a Character.

The rest of the invitation read as follows:
Crack open your closets & find your best Clue-themed attire. We hope many Miss Scarlets, Professors Plum, Colonels Mustard, Ms. Peacocks, Mrs. Whites, Mr. Greens will be in attendance. Maids, butlers, cooks, and detectives are also welcome characters! Even T-shirt tuxedos or trench coats can do in a pinch.

Appetizers, desserts, and drinks will be served.

For those Clue movie fans and those who haven't seen it before - we'll be showing the movie later in the evening.

- SOs, kids, are all welcome - even MORE welcome if they're in costume.
- Close to Caltrain (easy bike ride or walking distance if you walk a lot)
- We have some over-night guest accommodations, please let us know if you'd like to stay with us.

I also included links to a Pinterest board I created with Costume Ideas to inspire guests, and a link to Rare Clue characters wikipedia page so signal we were inclusive of a broad range of ideas.


People did NOT disappoint on the costume front. We saw everything from sexy Miss Scarlet's, a dapper Professor Plum in top hat, quite a few Colonel Mustard's - even a Dr. Brown and a Mr. Gray from Cluedo in the UK.
Photo courtesy of Kirill Buryak 
Photo courtesy of Kirill Buryak 
Even the kids & our dog got into it. One of our youngest guests wore a custom hand-drawn "Revolver" card themed t-shirt. Dr. Watson played the role of the butler, Mr. Body in his tuxedo.

Name Tags!

For this party, we were intentionally inviting a LOT of people from many different social circles. Being terrible at introductions and bad with names, I find it's nearly always a good idea in larger groups to wear name tags. Bonus if they're IN THEME like these!

Photo courtesy of Kirill Buryak 
I did a play off of old Clue game cards printing them vertical, with the character name below in a frame and room to write in your name above. They read [Blank space for your name] Starring as... Professor Plum in the style of the old cards.

If you're going to do this, I suggest buying the "peel away design"name tags by Avery #25395. You can print them on the 8.5x11 sheet, then each name tag + backing separates from the sheet so you're left with individual stickers with their backing.

Play Clue in real life!

 We knew not everyone would know each other, and that there would be a good number of introverts in attendance. So we devised a large-scale group party version of Clue, more details in a different post.

Photo courtesy of Kirill Buryak

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We're engaged!

This morning my wonderful boyfriend Peter proposed with a paper prototype engagement ring! We're using the prototype ring to get feedback on the concept [grin], and put it through some user acceptance & social network testing prior to making the big investment in a real engagement ring. So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive!

The ring is hand made, with letterpress banding and text that reads "Temp Ring" along side an impeccably crafted paper diamond. It's perfect, and especially fitting for someone in User Experience like myself. My fiancĂ© worked with Cast Iron Design Company and their work is impecable - credit to Peter for such a charming idea.

Monday, May 28, 2012

How to throw a 1920's party - Food & Drink Menus

My favorite part of any party the doing the food & drinks! Here was my process of devising the proper menu for our Roaring 20's party.


I had a lot of fun researching in-theme menu items. It turns out at a lot of "fancy" food in the 20's involved aspics and loafs which are less than appetizing so instead I ran with the fact that Italian cuisine was new & adventuous in the 20's, and went with classy appetizers. It turns out appetizers like deviled eggs were common even back then.

Drink Menu

Perhaps our favorite part of planning the party was carefully devising a prohibition era cocktail menu. We wanted to provide a range of cocktails for people, using a range of period liquors and a range of flavor profiles.

The Bourbon Manhattan

Manahttans are fairly common cocktails these days, but it's all in how you make it & your ingredients. So I'll be very specific:

1.75 parts Bulleit Bourbon
1 Dolin Sweet Vermouth
Dash of cherry syrup from Bada Bing Cherries (undyed cocktail cherries)
Dash of angostura bitters

Stir with ice. Strain & serve with a cherry. We served it chilled in a big mason jar dispenser.

Note: Those freakishly red marashino cherries are terrible, overly sweet with little flavor or good cherry texture. We found Bada Bing Cherries from Tillen Farms at BevMo and will never go back. 

The Bee's Knees

A Gin cocktail incorporating honey and lemon juice to balance sweet & tart flavors. Very refreshing.

3 Gin, we used Beefeaters
2 Freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Honey

Shake with ice, strain & serve. We served it chilled in a big mason jar dispenser.

Blood & Sand

A totally era-appropriate cocktail, the Blood & Sand was named for the 1922 Rudolf Valentino movie Blood & Sand. An alluring mix of fruity & smokey, I adore this more obscure scotch cocktail & have my own special recipe for it.

1 Scotch
1 Orange juice (original called for blood orange juice)
.75 Brandy (The original calls for cherry heering, I also like to use Luxardo)
.75 sweet vermouth

We mixed this in a pitcher & served it chilled & added ice.

Food menu

It's OK to use prepared foods like this cake,
just make sure they're delicious
To keep folks satiated and moderately sober, I devised a heavy enough menu to help absorb the prohibition era cocktails. Here is my menu for a "heavy hor d'oeuvres" 20's party:
  • Spinach & turkey lasagna
  • Ceasar salad
  • Marinated red pepper poppers stuffed with fresh goat cheese
  • Deviled eggs*
  • Mini cheese souffles
  • Roasted pancetta wrapped asperagus*
  • Herb & roasted garlic cheve spread* with crackers
  • Mini soft-rid cheeses like camembert and brie with crackers
  • Cucumber rounds topped with hummus and roasted red pepper*
  • Florentine cookies
  • Salted caramels and assorted chocolates
  • Layered chocolate mouse cake
Only the items with * were things made by me. Balance is key when planning a party menu: hot vs cold, salty vs sweet, veggie/healthy vs fatty or meaty.

Death to the crudite platter!

I am clearly not my mother's daughter... it's standard operating procedure at every family function that there be a "veggie tray" with raw brocolli, baby carrots, etc. They even sell them now at Safeway organized into sections with that insipid ranch dip inserted into the center. I don't mind a veggie tray at easy gatherings, but I didn't want to go there for this party out of habit.

I'm now on a mission to provide tasty veggie snacks that are a departure from the crudite platter - my first attempt: Cucumber rounds topped with hummus and roasted red pepper.

These were inspired by the recipe for Cucmber Slices with Chickpea Puree and Thyme at Whole Living.

My recipe:
  1. Slice seedless or english cucumbers, lay out on a paper towel and sprinkle lightly with salt to draw out moisture, add another paper towel on top.  After 20 minutes remove paper towels, refridgerate until ready to top.
  2. Slice jarred roasted red peppers into thin strips.
  3. Top with hummus (I used Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Hummus) and a red pepper slice. If you have time to get fancy, sprinkle tiny fresh thyme leaves on top.