Thursday, October 29, 2009
Halloween cocktails can add just that right bite to your ghoulish gathering and party pours. Just remember to drink and serve responsibly and if you imbibe, don't drive!
Although not strictly reserved for Halloween, this drink will make guests howl with delight.
6 oz. tomato juice
1 1/2 oz. of vodka
Juice of one lime wedge or 1/2 tsp. of lime juice concentrate
Salt and Pepper
Celery stalk, lime wedge and/or a slice of fresh red bell pepper
Pimento-filled Spanish olive halves, wholes or slices
Pour the tomato juice and vodka into a tall, ice-filled glass. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and a dash of Tabasco sauce (to taste). Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Stir and garnish with a celery stalk, lime wedge and/or a slice of fresh red bell pepper. For the creepy-crawlies, float a couple of Spanish olive slices or full olives so that it looks like your drink is looking back at you.
For the Virgin Mary version of this drink for tee-totalers and designated drivers, just skip the vodka.
With the proliferation of vampire movies, books and TV shows, why not try a Bloody-tini. Similar to a martini, this will appeal to "blood-suckers" in your group.
2 oz. acai spirits (VeeV makes an excellent brand)
1 oz, acai juice
1/2 oz. of fresh lime juice
Champagne to top the drink
Lime slice or acai berries
Combine the first three ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain and pour into the glass. Garnish with the lime slice or acai berries.
About the Acai Berries
The chocolate-tasting berries that look similar to a blueberry or cranberry comes from the acai palm. You can often find these in your natural food store but call ahead to make sure they have the berries and juice in stock.
BLACK CAT COCKTAIL
Superstition says that if a black cat crosses your path you're going to have bad luck. Not with this cat. You and your guests will be lucky to enjoy this tasty drink.
1 oz. cherry brandy
1 oz. vodka
Pour the cherry brandy and vodka into a tall ice-filled highball glass. Top the glass with equal parts of cranberry juice and cola. Add a little flair to your bartending skills and double-hand it by pouring the cranberry juice and cola at the same time.
Now what's a Halloween without a glowing orange drink!
1 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. pineapple juice
2 oz. lemon-lime soda
1 oz. Coconut rum
Fill a short highball glass with the chilled juices and soda and slowly slide the rum into the drink just before serving.
Remember, friends don't let friends drive drunk. Take their keys. Call a cab. Take them home. Put them in the guest room. You want your Halloween party to be memorable for the fun not because of an accident or tragedy.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Remember, too, that the outfit you choose should always be not only politically correct but sensitive to your co-workers and fellow citizens alike. So stay away from costumes such as a homeless person or an illegal alien (masks of which were recently pulled off of shelves).
Here are some ideas that will work well for office/work costume attire or for a quick change for a post-work party.
One of the best "office" attire costumes I ever saw was worn by Denzel Washington's lawyer character in the movie "Philadelphia." He wore a business suit with a lot of legal documents attached to it and went as a "law suit." Clever!
There are some very witty t-shirts available. I saw one once that said "This is my costume."
You also could easily wear a tropical print dress or shirt and when it's time for the party, add a lei and a beachcomber hat.
Western attire (denim and a plaid shirt) would work fine for the office. Then you just need to add a cowboy hat and boots and you're all set.
A pirate or fortune teller outfit is also easily attained with a flowing blouse and a peasant skirt which is perfectly appropriate for an office. Then just add a ton of beads, bracelets and a head wrap. The guys can wear an eye patch for a pirate and change into what was a great funny bit on a popular "Seinfeld" episode – a puffy shirt.
A team jersey can easily be worn over a pair of slacks. Wear a team hat, smear on team makeup colors and you can go as the ultimate fan.
Add an apron and pearls to a shirtwaist dress or a skirt and blouse and carry a rolling pin and you're Martha Stewart, Julia Child or Betty Crocker! For that matter, a man or woman could add a chef's jacket and hat and go as a chef.
Add a tool belt to a t-shirt and jeans and you are all set as a carpenter, handyman or plumber (butt-crack is NOT acceptablel).
Dig through your t-shirt collection and find one from a favorite amusement park or area attraction. You can wear this with your office pants or with a pair of plaid or khaki shorts (if they're acceptable attire in your office), sunglasses, sandals, a fanny pack, and a baseball cap. Hang a camera around your neck and stuff an amusement park brochure or an old airplane boarding pass into your pocket and go as a tourist.
Jeans, a white t-shirt and a denim or leather jacket is perfect for a '50s biker look. If you want, you can put on some temporary tattoos. While women can easily wear a full or pencil skirt and a sweater set with pearls for another version of a '50s character.
A lab coat and stethoscope will make anyone a doctor. Or wear a red-paint splattered (or fake blood available at any costume store or by mixing red food dye and light corn syrup) to a lab coat or long, white apron and carry a plastic knife. With that outfit you're either a butcher or with a mask, a psycho killer. Of course, these would be completely unacceptable if you're in the healthcare, law enforcement or life insurance field!
Add a pocket protector to a white dress shirt and tape up the center of an old pair of glasses and you're a nerd - computer or otherwise.
Dress all in black for work and then add a witch's hat and a wide belt for a not overtly sexy witch.
Remember, it's fun to step out of your own skin and take on a character. Just make sure that it's a character's costume you can defend when it comes time for your next job review.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The fun starts before the football game with your tailgate party. Whether it's flag football, pee-wee, high school, college, semi-pro or pro, sitting in the stands is an exciting way to spend an afternoon or evening and your tailgate party will get the gang ready to cheer.
Use your computer to create a ticket with all of the party information or send a football-shaped pre-made invitation. And if it's a last-minute party plan, then get on the phone, text the information or shoot out an e-mail to invite your gridiron gang to the game.
Here are some tips to make your tailgate party a success.
- Arrive early to ensure a great spot. Many stadiums have special tailgating sections.
- Ask your guests to bring along their own chairs.
- Help friends find you by flying a special helium-filled balloon display or hang up a custom banner.
- When tailgating plan a menu of food that can be prepared ahead of time and transported in insulated containers, are partially prepared or can be cooked quickly at the game in front of your guests.
- Pre-cut foods at home and keep in separate sealed plastic containers or tightly locked plastic bags. This will not only help in preparation and cooking but will keep any meats and side dishes from contaminating each other.
- Be sure to bring along all the cooking essentials that you'll need including tongs, corkscrews, cutting knives, folding tables, tablecloths, meat forks, serving utensils, disposable or unbreakable containers, cups, flatware and plates. Don't forget about can openers, lighters or safety matches, charcoal or gas needed for your grill and anything else you might need to cook and serve your meal. Make a list and be sure to check off all of the items as you load up your vehicle. For greater game style, buy some football-designed party ware.
- Pack foods in reverse order so that the first items to be eaten are the last ones to be packed.
- Keeping things cold is going to be essential for drinks and food so buy or borrow enough ice chests and get enough ice to ensure safety and dining enjoyability.
- For ease of eating, cut foods to bite size so knives aren't required or make sure you create a "no utensils needed" menu of finger foods.
- Don't forget snacks for guests to munch on while they're waiting for the meal.
- If kids are part of your party picture, bring along games, toys and snacks specifically for them.
- Encourage guests to come in football attire or team colors. Or bring along some football-themed accessories (hats, pom-poms, noisemakers and such) to keep them in the spirit.
- Swap recipes and food with nearby tailgating neighbors.
- TV or lap trays are helpful for kid and elderly guest dining.
- For large groups, regular gatherings and cost-savings, create a potluck party or assign guests to bring along specific items such paper goods, flatware, ice, soda, side dishes, games, coolers, football decorations, alcoholic beverages, buns, snacks and so forth. You supply the main dishes and cooking apparatus and your guests will bring everything else. This will make it easier on you and won't be a financial burden on anyone.
- Light up the party at evening games with spotlights, twinkle lights or festive football novelty lights.
- Don't forget clean-up. So be sure to pack wet wipes for sticky fingers and faces and plastic bags for proper trash disposal.
Whether your team wins or loses, your guests will cheer as you win the "Most Valuable Tailgate Host" award.
(For links to purchase italicized football-themed items, click here.)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
If you live in a colder climate, this is one of your last chances before winter sets in to enjoy the outdoors and the spectacular visual glory that Mother Nature has provided. And with that kind of scenery, who needs a lot of décor!
And if you live where it's warmer, like me, then use these ideas to pretend that you are enjoying all of the autumnal glow of the season.
So gather the gang and enjoy this fabulous fall fete.
Start with a fun invitation. Write your party facts on a fall leaf or cut out a leaf form on autumn-colored construction paper. Or send a more traditional invitation affixed with a leaf (real, silk or preserved) or roll up your invitation and tie it with raffia and a cinnamon stick.
If you live in apple-picking country, head to a local farm and pick apples. Or head to a pumpkin patch to choose your jack-o-lantern or gourds .
If fall produce isn't readily available for picking, just go out to the local forest, woods or your own backyard and gather leaves, pine cones, acorns and other fall foliage.
Not that into nature? It is, after all, football season and chances are there's a local team – high school, college, pro or semi-pro – that will provide an afternoon or cool evening of excitement. And if the weather isn't cooperating, there's always a televised game on or you can rent a football-themed movie.
Golf courses are an explosion of seasonal color. Can you think of more enjoyable weather to get out on the links?
If you're the crafty type, choose leaves to press into scrapbooks. Or use a food dehydrator to dry out apple slices to string with cinnamon sticks to make a garland. If you don't own a food dehydrator, place thin apple slices on a cookie tin and bake in a 200-225 degree over for two to three hours.
Do you like to bake? Why wait for Thanksgiving. Dig out your favorite recipe and make a pumpkin or apple pie. Or how about making some apple, nut or cinnamon muffins. Doesn't a baked apple sound delicious?
On the other hand, as I said before, I'm lazy, and I pretty much don't bake. While the taste might not be as good, a frozen pie cooking in the oven will still fill your home with a tempting aroma. And once covered with a scoop of your favorite ice cream (how about maple or cinnamon instead of the usual vanilla), no one will notice that the pie wasn't made from scratch.
Heat up cider or serve spiced tea or hot chocolate with a cinnamon stick stirrer.
If you want to serve something more hearty, put up a slow cooker filled with a hearty stew or chili. Then when you get back from your activities, dinner will be ready. Just add cornbread or a savory loaf of pumpernickel and a seasonal salad of field greens, dried cranberries, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese and a cranberry vinaigrette and you'll have a stick-to-your-ribs meal that everyone will enjoy. If you're in a hurry or this is a last-minute gathering, dig out that pressure cooker and by the time you've set the table, your meal will be cooked.
If you want to add some seasonal style to your home, tie colorful ears of Indian corn to your chair backs with autumn-themed ribbon or raffia.
Fill a cornucopia with leaves, nuts, and fruits. Or, make a free-form centerpiece down the center of your dining or back yard picnic table with leaves, nuts, mini pumpkins, gourds and fruits.
A word of caution here. To ensure that you don't ruin your table's finish or get sap on your favorite tablecloth, put down a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap or a flannel-backed plastic table runner as the base of your arrangement. For evening events, you can light up your décor with candles in heat-resistant containers that's kept away from your flammable display, or better yet, highlight your arrangement with battery-operated tea lights or pop lights.
Again, for those of us in the warmer climate, preserved or silk leaves will work well and most supermarkets carry the autumn produce. Or use plastic or ceramic decorations. (After all, it's not really autumn for us. We're just pretending so we can pretend that the fruits are real too.)
So don't wait for an autumn holiday. Just plan your fall fete.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Hire a professional planner. You'll be happy to know that through the discounts planners get and their wide range of contacts, you will likely find a planner more affordable than you realize and you and your overworked staff, won't spend precious time on a company celebration. To find a planner near you, visit the website for the International Special Events Society at www.ises.com or drop me an e-mail at PartyPlansPlus@aol.com and I'll be happy to forward a suggestion or two for a qualified planner or vendor.
However, if your money is truly tight, organize the more social staff members into a committee. Not only will they give you input for party ideas, but by making them part of the process, you can guarantee there will be less grumbling about the plans made. Give them your budget and let them decide where best to spend the money allotted.
LET'S GET OUTTA HERE
If you normally hold your company party surrounded by equipment, computers, desks, store merchandise, ringing phones and piles of work to be done, it's tough for your staff to get into the holiday spirit. Move the party to another, more festive site. However, if you don't want to go the hotel or restaurant route, think outside the box and reserve an ice rink for the afternoon, a couple of lanes at the local bowling alley or choose another non-traditional locale. Or pile the gang onto a chartered bus some weeknight, serve drinks and snacks-on-the-go and tour your city's holiday light displays.
If your company is small, hosting the party at your home will really drive home the point that you feel as if your employees are like family. Plus, it can be an affordable alternative to a catering venue.
If you must keep the party at the office, try to move it to your lunch room or conference room that's been appropriately decorated. At the least, invite employees to toss inexpensive, festive tablecloths over their desks so that they're not looking at their workload and turn off the phones or direct them to your answering service.
IT'S THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
Most people like to give to charities during the holiday season. Make it easy for your employees to do so by setting up an area at the party where they can donate non-perishable food items, clothes, and unwrapped toys. These then can be gathered and donated to a charity or two in your area such as the "Toys for Tots," Salvation Army, United Way or Red Cross programs.
Or, if you know that an employee or two are suffering financial hardship due to medical problems, a spouse losing their job or other setback (in fact, you may choose a valued former employee that you had to lay off), have the gifts anonymously delivered to the employee's home by a friendly, non-employee "elf."
Remember, not everyone on your staff may be a Christian. It's best to avoid a theme that is strictly Christmas-related. Instead opt to choose a generic winter, "Fantasy in Frost," "Winter Wonderland," or "Snowman Soiree" theme.
FIDDLE WITH THE FEAST
OK, so booking a catering hall for a lavish dinner is out of the budget this year (and possibly politically incorrect if you've had to do lay-offs and cut benefits), but that still isn't a reason to ditch your dinner altogether.
You can serve a lunch buffet, host a late afternoon dessert array or even let everyone have fun with a "build your own sundae" display. Just remember to offer vegan/vegetarian options.
WHEN THE MUSIC MOVES YOU
If you can't afford to bring in a live band or DJ, at least provide a quality sound system with a multi-disc player. Ask your employees to bring in their favorite party or holiday music CDs, set the player on random play and then put someone in charge to periodically change the albums to ensure a variety of music. Many areas have radio stations that feature seasonal music exclusively during the holidays.
Another viable option for entertainment is the use of your "in-house" talent bank. Musical, comedic or theatrical genius may dwell within your employee ranks. At the least, hold a sing-along of holiday ditties.
PEACE ON EARTH AND AT HOME
When the party is held in the afternoon, it's understandable if it's an employee-only affair. However, if it's an evening event, allowing your staff members to bring their spouse or a guest will go a long way to keeping peace, at least in their home.
If you are hosting a family event, be sure to plan extra-special activities, refreshments and gifts for youngsters.
Family events will be appreciated by all. Employees will have an opportunity to spend time with their families and family members will surely enjoy seeing their spouse or parent in their environment and with the co-workers they hear about so frequently.
Provide festive and delicious non-alcoholic drinks for tee-totalers or designated drivers. Depending on the circumstances, it's possible that you might find yourself liable if an employee is involved in an accident while driving home intoxicated from your party.
If you do serve alcohol, limit consumption, provide employees with a ride home, or set up a designated driver car pool.
For a true cost savings, forgo the open bar and serve a festive punch, a variety of wines and soft drinks or create a specialty drink for the celebration.
IT IS BETTER TO GIVE…REAL GIFTS
When selecting a guest gift or take-home favor, avoid an item emblazoned with your company logo. No matter how attractive or useful, it still serves as an advertising specialty rather than a true gift. A perfect present is one personalized with the name of the guest or, at least, one that has been specially selected for that individual.
Of course, cash bonuses for employees are always appreciated as well as gift cards to local supermarkets or department stores or a coupon for a turkey or ham so that they can feel a little less pressure off of their own holiday budget needs.
Finally, this time of year affords you the ideal opportunity to reward your employees with a festive break from their daily pursuits. Your special occasion also can be a time for them to not only mix and mingle with each other, but perhaps with customers or clients as well. Your warm, friendly and fun gathering will be remembered and appreciated by your guests until the next holiday season and you can do it all without blowing your bottom line.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
If you don't have the time and you do have the money, I'll be happy to share the name of some party pros to put everything together for you. Just write to me at PartyPlansPlus@aol.com and tell me what type of party pro you need and where you live and I'll send some recommendations.
However, if you do have the time and only a little money and are a DIY person, let me give you my thoughts on what you can do.
My FAVORITE store for all things affordable for Halloween or any party is Dollar Tree. There's probably one near you but if there isn't, you can go to http://www.dollartree.com/ to order their products.
I can spend HOURS in that store and find all sorts of things that I can use to create a great party. And best of all, since everything is a buck it's very affordable (and, no, I'm not getting paid to advertise for them, I just think they're a great resource).
Since it's getting a little late for sending invitations, an e-mail or phone invitation would probably work best. And there are services like http://www.evite.com/ that can add a little atomosphere to your invitation.
Let's get to the party.
There is no rule that says a Halloween party has to be strictly about a haunted house. In fact that's why we came up with our "Halloween Terror with a Twist" page which you can find at http://www.partyplansplus.com/partyplansplus.com/holidays/hallowtheme.htm.
The great thing about the ideas you'll find on that page is that you can incorporate party props from other celebrations you may have had in the past such as a western theme party, luau, beach party, '50s, '60's, '70s, fiesta or other theme party. Remember, recycling is good for the planet and your budget.
But let's say that you want to do a haunted house, here are some ideas to try.
Have a ceiling fan? Cover it with spider webs and suspend lightweight spiders from the blades and set it on low.
While you're at it, cover almost everything - especially corners - with spider webs. You can suspend with them straight pins. The pins will leave virtually invisible holes and won't damage your walls like many tapes will.
You can buy gauze fabric and tea-dye it, sheets from a thrift store, rolls of black plastic sheeting or drop cloths to cover your furniture. Or cover your dining chairs in oversized black leaf bags. Not only will it add to that haunted mansion look, it will help keep your couches clean.
Light your home entirely with candles - just be sure to keep them in places where they won't touch anything flammable, can't be jostled and keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
Don't have enough candleholders for taper candles. No problem. Just fill a glass or container with sand, kitty litter or pebbles to hold up the taper.
If you don't want to use all candles, colored light bulbs are affordable and will add an eerie effect. Or drape lampshades with a fabric or scarf to give a subdued glow.
Tuck holiday string lights behind furniture and behind curtains for a unearthly glow.
Dig through your family photo albums and find pictures of your great or great great grandparents. The way they took photos of unsmiling family portraits can be pretty creepy. Blow these up on a copier in a sepia tone and replace your artwork with the photos. Or dig around the Internet for uncopyrighted creepy photos.
Now for the food!
Make bony fingers by cutting finger shapes out of whole wheat bread. Cover in peanut butter and strawberry jelly. Use slivered almonds as finger nails.
Make hard boiled eggs. Cut them in half lengthwise. Add a slice of a green pimento olive to the center yolk and you have eyeball eggs.
Guacamole served in a cleaned out pumpkin or gourd will look like Pumpkin Puke. Grizzly but yummy!
Lady finger cookies with red fruit rollup finger nails will be a bloody sweet treat.
Red velvet cake with green icing decorated like a giant bug will have guests screaming for more.
Use dry ice in your punch bowl and trim the rim of the bowl with gummy worms.
Make diagonal slits in hot dogs and fill the slits with relish and ketchup to look like slithering snakes.
With just a little preparation and a few dollars you can host a Halloween party that will have guests talking about for years.
Hope it's a boo-tiful party!
OK, maybe we haven't met but I will just think of you as a friend I haven't yet met. And since I love to share ideas with friends, that's what I'm going to do with this blog.
I'll admit it, I'm not Martha Stewart. She's terrific and obviously very successful and people love to read her magazine and watch her show. But to tell you the truth, I don't have the time (or money) to do half the stuff that she and her staff come up with and that's where I hope to help you.
Think of me as the lazy Martha Stewart.
That means that I'm going to share ideas with you for parties, holidays, weddings and more that you can EASILY and AFFORDABLY accomplish and that will give you great results.
I'll share recipes, decor ideas, etiquette tips and just a bunch of ideas that we've dreamed up or have seen and adapted to a more easily accomplished and/or be an affordable alternative to things you might have seen on TV or in a magazine.