Cathy Riva at UCLA with Professor Marc Stern

I was the guest speaker for a class at UCLA yesterday and it was amazing. I loved the students and learned a lot from them. I wish them all the best.

If you are interested in having me speak at a college near you please email me at

Re-create one of your happiest moments at the dinner table

In today’s fast paced culture our lives are so connected to technology we don’t take enough time to really connect -in person- with one another. Take this day as an opportunity to share laughter and conversation at the dinner table with someone you love; it can be your significant other, family member or best friend.

My first tip is to unplug. Turn off your televisions, blackberries, video games, and cell phones- anything that distracts you from one-on-one conversation.

Transport yourself out of your environment by recreating one of your happiest moments, or take tonight to create a new adventure, with these simple tips using household items, a quick trip to the grocery store and a stop at a kitchen accessory store like Kitchen Couture or Bed Bath and Beyond

Did you spend your honeymoon on a beach? Have fond memories of a fabulous ski vacation? Or do you dream of traveling to Italy? Here are three themed table ideas I hope you can use to create an impromptu thoughtful Valentine’s celebration.

Tropical Beach Theme
To recreate the beach feel play music that fits your own personal experience: For example, Reggae for a Caribbean feel. Something classic like Mozart’s “Forever by the Sea” also conjures up a beach feeling. Set the stage with a great smelling aromatherapy candle like’s Aroma Natural Relaxing with hints of tangerine.

To transform your table choose a fun tablecloth in a yellow or a sand color. Paper clothes from the grocery store work great here, because it’s a “one time use” event and you can throw them away.

On top of the table create a beach scene. Build a mountain of sand by using household table salt. Two containers of Morton’s salt work perfectly.

Place one or two pineapples on top of the sand.

Use limes as tea light candleholders. Carve out the inside of a lime and insert a tea light. Then place four or five of these on the sand.

Roll up white paper towels or napkins and tie off with a piece of raffia or twine.

Concoct a specialty tropical drink like Pineapple Nutmeg Punch (1 part Cruzan Estate Dark Rum, 2 parts pineapple juice, 1/2 part lemon juice, 1 part simple syrup, 1/4 part ground nutmeg. Garnish with a festive drink umbrella, colorful straw and tropical fruit.)

Use your own flatware, plates and glassware.

For an added twist I suggest ladies wear something exciting that you wore on vacation and men wear a Hawaiian shirt.

Bring out photos from your trip and spend a little time on memory lane.

Winter Escape

For an Apr├Ęs Ski theme table start with a simple solid tablecloth like dark grey or white. Use candles and candlesticks for your centerpiece-finally a time to get out those wedding gifts!!! Keep the taper candles (the tall ones) a single color that compliments your tablecloth. In this case, white or silver work really well.

You can find plastic charges at your kitchen supply store- I recommend choosing the silver colored ones they really look great when you have a white plate to place on top.

For this meal, mix things up by serving bite size portions in mini spoons that you can eat yourself or feed to your partner.

Pull the outdoors inside, use bark from a tree to lend to your winter table.

Uncork a great bottle of wine, or open up a rich bottle of scotch, served in a Ridel stemless glass.

Put some relaxing music, on and -voila- you’ve checked in to your new favorite ski lodge.

Italian Getaway

Looking for an Italian Getaway? Start by creating the dream at home.
Your base tablecloth should be a nice medium color red. Stop by your local mom-and-pop Italian restaurant and offer a few dollars for a sheet of their restaurant paper to place on top of your red tablecloth for an authentic Italian feel.

Use a cutting board as your centerpiece topped with cheeses, grapes and bread.

Mix things up by serving dessert first. A yummy Tiramisu is a great way to start the night, if the dessert idea doesn’t work I have an amazing recipe for a Tiramisu cocktail that is divine: The Ultimate Tirimisu 1 part Starbucks Coffee Liqueur, 2 parts Absolut Vanilla Vodka, 1 part Almond-Flavored Liqueur. Serve in a rocks glass and top with whipped cream. For more great drink recipes go to

I hope these ideas inspire you to create your own personalized holiday to share with the people you love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cathy Riva

CSI Science Theme Birthday Party for Children

I receive a ton of requests for details from the CSI Party we did for Will in New Jersey on "Party Girl". On this episode we hosted a child's birthday where our "goody bags" were stolen and the kids had to solve the crime. Each child was sent to CSI training where they learned how to read clues which would later help solve the mystery.

Things you will need:
ID Card
Find any template on the computer to make an official ID card for the kids
IZone camera for small 1x1 photos for ID Badge
Lamanating machine to cover ID card
Lariats to use to hang ID cards around your neck

Finger Print Clue
Charcol Powder for finger prints
Packing Tape
Clear plastic cups

Foot Print Clue
Any kind of kid friendly paint in black
Old shoes
White paper

Secret Code
Construction paper
Alphabet Coded to corresponding numbers 1-26 (A-Z)
Invisible ink pen
black light to read ink

Goody bags "Evidence Bags"
ziploc bags
any dollar store decor for kids
Sticker or label paper from office supply store
on microsoft word print out a template that will fit on your label paper- ours was:
Glen Ridge Investigative Team (in Yellow)
then in a new box: Evidence -then about 5 lines of detail with time/date/info/location/size etc

Ransom Note (you can make your own)

Teach the kids how to find the clues you place through out your home. After each clue they must bring back the evidence to our Evidence Board. When they have found all the clues they come back to the evidence board to solve the crime.