This drab, seemingly eternal winter could use some color, and Mardi Gras is the perfect excuse to celebrate. You don't have to be in New Orleans to have some Carnival fun -- grab your closest friends, a mask and some king cake and have a party.
Mardi Gras 2015 technically falls on Feb. 17, but the revelry has already begun in the Southeast United States. Bring some of the craziness to your home with these 15 party tips.
Prep your place with decorations: 1. Tell attendees to wear purple, green and gold. Use tablecloths of those colors, as well. 2. Buy lots of beads. If your Mardi Gras affair is being thrown together last-minute, Amazon offers one-day shipping. Here are 72 necklaces for $13.71, or here are 144 for $19.95. 3. Set up tea light candles, real or electric, all over the room. HGTV recommends putting them inside glass votive holders painted gold so they'll glitter or renting candelabras. 4. Make it feel like you're in Louisiana by hanging famous street signs. You can get signs for Bourbon Street, St. Peter Street or Decatur Street for $2.99 a pop on eBay. 5. Scatter Mardi Gras doubloons all over for an authentic feel.
Plan a killer food and drink menu: 1. Make muffuletta dip by mixing together olives, salami, parmesan cheese, peppers, provolone, celery and olive oil. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour and serve with crostini. 2. Cook a big pot of shrimp gumbo. You'll need a pound of shrimp, a cup of okra, tomatoes, pepper, celery, onion and a lot of seasonings, but it's worth it. Serve over rice. 3. Fry beignets. If you've got some time, you can whip up a dough, but Pillsbury's pizza crust works well in a pinch. Heat vegetable oil in a pan, fry for two minutes on each side and let drain on paper towels. Then sprinkle confectioner's sugar all over them and eat while warm. 4. Mix up a New Orleans Hurricane with rum, passionfruit syrup, Sprite and lime juice. "It starts out calm, but it gets stormy toward the end!" writes one allrecipes user. 5. Serve the Ramos gin fizz, which was invented in the 1880s and requires a lot of shaking. It contains gin, simple syrup, lemon and lime juice, egg whites, cream, club soda and orange flower water. See the recipe here.
Gather 'round for these activities and games: 1. Hold Party411's simple treasure hunt. Before your guests arrive, hide beads and coins around the yard. Give the players small gift bags and set them free. Whoever gathers the most wins the title of Mardi Gras King (or Queen). 2. Set up a make-a-mask station. Buy feathers, sequins and glitter in bulk from Michaels and let your friends go to town on cardboard with tacky glue. You can event print out mask patterns here. 3. Everybody loves trivia. Write up questions and answers about Mardi Gras on index cards, split people into teams and let the contest begin. Fun Trivia has a great list of facts to get you started. 4. Blast some jazz music and have a dance party. The Cheat Sheet recommends queuing up "Goin' Back to New Orleans" by Dr. John, "When the Saints Go Marching In" by Louis Armstrong and "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino. 5. Play the "Who's got the baby?" card game -- it's just like old maid. Check out the rules and a printable here.