New post coming soon!  I promise.  I’m sorry I’ve been so neglectful. 😦  As most of you probably know, with exactly 2 months to go from today (!), I’ve been kinda busy planning this event thing happening in May. 😉  But I’ll try to post something here very very soon.

In fact, one post I’m waiting on putting up is a result of all this wedding planning … while good things can come out of it – like finding amazing vendors (Joe, Deb, Ron F, Em, Stephanie, Carol, etc…), bad things also do too – like finding not-so-amazing vendors (ahem, Kay’s!).  So I’m waiting on this particular situation to FINALLY come to an end … but when it does, oh boy, believe me, you will get to hear all about it …

In the meantime – planning a St. Patrick’s Day party this year?  Check out my post with some very clever ideas to help you host a lucky event. 🙂

This week, I wanted to start off with a big congrats to newlyweds Jo and Darrell on the birth of their daughter, Emma Grace!  She was born on Saturday, October 18 after a very long labor (you’re a tough one, Jo!).  We are very excited about Emma’s birth and can’t wait to see the new little one.

Starting to plan your Halloween party but don’t know how to start?  Don’t forget to check out my earlier blog post with some fantastic party planning tips.

And now, without much further ado, let’s check out the culture scene:

CULTURALLY SPEAKING, for October 21, 2008:

  • Take a break from the craziness during the work week at Sunday brunch at the Beehive in Boston’s South End.  The mimosas are a little pricey at $10, but almost all of the delicious, filling brunch food is under $13 and there’s great jazz to keep you entertained.  (I was just there to enjoy their smoked salmon egg yumminess this weekend with Mark, Colleen, Todd, Melyssa & Jeff.)
  • Want to see Boston back in 1903 but can’t afford a time machine?  Check out this cool video here.
  • Ooh la la – Architect Zaha Hadid’s traveling Chanel Pavilion made its U.S. debut Monday in New York’s Central Park. The structure is designed to display art that was inspired by Chanel’s 2.55 handbag. (courtesy of Culture Monster)
  • Looking for a women’s mag that’s maybe not so glossy?  Check out Bitch Magazine, a cool, slightly feminist reaction to the media.  It puts a new spin on what we see and read everyday while being funny & empowering.  And it’s a zine, not a standard magazine, so picking up a copy is a great way to help support the strong writers out there who can’t always make it to the mainstream.
  • Another nod to the indie scene: the CMJ music fest kicks off tonight in NYC.  Pay bottom dollar for hip, upcoming top rate bands.  Who knows – you could catch a great live act like Black Eyed Peas before they hit it big (it happened to me in ’97!).
  • New book about Fred Astaire!  The NY Times review is not too favorable, but the second to last line about the amazing dancer is a good reason why picking up a classic Astaire flick like Top Hat will bring a smile to anyone’s face, especially in these times: “But in [Astaire’s] total disregard of the hardship and squalor of the ’30s, he let it be known that art need have nothing to do with life. That’s where “Citizen Kane” betrays itself. It is heavy-handedly about “America.” “Top Hat” and the others are strolls through Arcadia. “

What are your plans for Halloween?

Easter is this Sunday, April 23, and it’s not too late to plan a party!  Whether you want to celebrate Easter, or the arrival of spring, or just want an excuse for hosting a gala, here are some theme ideas to help you throw the event of the year:

March-ing and Spring-ing Into Party Planning, Part II-B
Easter Party Themes:

  • (Playboy) Bunny Bash: When you think Easter, you think bunnies, and what bunnies are more iconic than the Playboy ladies?  Have guests come dressed as Playboy bunnies.  Purchase large pom-poms and safety pins so you have spare “tails” available.  Guys can come as Hugh Hefner in their bathrobes and slippers if they don’t want to wear a bunny suit.  Rent episodes of Girls Next Door and play for inspiration. 
  • Easter Cooking and Baking Themes:
    • Easter cookies – Pick up Pillsbury sugar cookies with Easter designs and pink frosting for a baking party
    • Chocolate lollipops – Buy chocolate lollipop molds from iParty or a craft store, sticks, and dark and white baking chocolate pieces.  Melt the chocolate according to the directions on the package, and use a few drops of red or yellow food dye to color the white chocolate pink or yellow (or both!).  Pair with wine for a fun twist on the typical wine and chocolate gatherings.
    • Easter egg dyeing – Hard boil white eggs and host some friends over for Sunday brunch to decorate them.  Use crayons to decorate before dyeing the eggs.  You can find ingredients and fun decorating suggestions here.
  • Rebirth of YOU!: One of the reasons Easter is celebrated is to acknowledge the rebirth of Jesus.  But what about your own rebirth?  Nothing says spring cleaning like a makeover.  Stock up on makeup samples from Macy’s and sale products from CVS and host a makeover bash.  Go to a spa with a few friends.  Or throw a standard party and have wigs, masks and eyeglasses of all shapes and colors for guests to try on.
  • Easter Egg Hunt: Purchase cheap, plastic eggs and host an egg hunt!  Be creative – fill the eggs with candies, nips, fortunes pulled from fortune cookies, coins, rolled up dollar bills, little plastic prizes from iParty . . .
  • Funny Bunny: Host a bunny-themed movie marathon.  Suggestions?  “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Donnie Darko,” “Harvey,” “Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” “Watership Down,” “Velveteen Rabbit,” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
  • April Fool’s: It’s a little early for April Fool’s Day, but then maybe therein lies the prank.  Hire an X-Rated hypnotist to entertain your party.  Or a kids’ magician, but on the stipulation that he must pull a rabbit out of a hat.
  • Spring (But Don’t) Break: Go for anything and everything springy and bouncy.  Set out Slinkys and miniature trampolines for guests to play with (or rent a large one if you have a big yard).  Prepare foods like spring rolls and curly fries, and adorn drinks with curly straws.  Play ska music (bouncy tunes), Bruce Springsteen, and theme-friendly songs like Vanessa Carlton’s “Spring Street,” Tori Amos’ “Spring Haze,” or Nina Simone’s “Another Spring.”
  • Surprise Egg Drop Contest: If you’re looking for a totally different idea, throw an egg drop contest but don’t tell your guests about it until they arrive.  Ask them to bring 5 – 10 items they own but don’t want anymore, such as empty cereal boxes, mismatched socks, old textbooks, etc. (and have tape on hand to help them out).  Break them into teams of two to build creative holders for a raw egg.  Pick a high spot like a ledge, top of the fridge, or table, and take turns dropping the contraptions onto the ground.  Whichever holder keeps the egg from breaking is the winner!  Give out chocolate bunnies or Peeps for prizes.

I hope these ideas help you throw the ultimate party.  But remember the golden rule of parties – a great party is best defined by its guests.  If you’ve got the right mix of people, you can turn any event into the highlight of the (spring) season.  Happy hosting!

St. Patrick’s Day falls on March 17 every year, and it’s the most popular holiday in March.  Most partygoers head for the Irish pubs on this day; however, if you are planning on celebrating at home, I’ve come up with a variety of themes to make your party that night’s “lucky” destination.

Here’s a quick history of St. Patrick’s Day from the History Channel: The modern secular holiday is based on the original Christian saint’s feast day also thought to be the date of the saint’s death. In 1737, Irish immigrants to the United States began observing the holiday publicly in Boston and held the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City in 1766. [MK note: Way to go Boston, my current city of residence, and NY, my former home!]

March-ing and Spring-ing Into Party Planning, Part II-A
St. Patrick’s Day Party Themes:

St. Patrick’s Day
Date: Monday, March 17, 2008
Best days to celebrate: Friday, March 14; Saturday, March 15; and Sunday (brunch), March 16

Traditional Theme

  • Description: Standard, by-the-rules celebration – lots of Guinness, “I Love Ireland” shirts, “Shipping Up to Boston” on repeat
  • Decorations: iParty or Party City
  • Attire: All green, all over
  • Food: Everything green (of course!)
    • Sugar cookies – use a roll of sugar cookie dough and add a few drops of green food coloring before you bake them in the oven, or cover with white frosting and green sprinkles when they’re done
    • Green M&M’s, jelly beans and Skittles – handpick from the bag or select from specialty candy stores like Dylan’s Candy Bar
    • Irish soda bread
    • Lime flavored Tostitos and lime salsa
    • Green veggies & dip – cucumbers, broccoli, and green peppers with ranch dip
  • Drinks: Guinness, Bass, and Killian’s.  To make a festive punch, in a large bowl pour 1 gallon of Hawaiian Punch Green Berry Rush, a few splashes of Absolut Raspberri, and a splash of Absolut.  Add ice.  Slice a lime and float the slices in the bowl.
  • Music: Make a mix of Irish favorites – the Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, the Corrs, U2, Elvis Costello, the Cranberries.  Rent a Michael Flatley “Lord of the Dance” DVD and have it play in the background.
  • QUICK TIP: Go to a fabric store (such as Joann Fabrics) and buy a few yards of green fabric.  Many places will have a sale bin or shelf with marked down fabrics.  Hang the fabric sheets on any large, empty wall for a quick splash of color.  If you use blue painter’s tape between the wall and the fabric, it won’t damage the paint or wallpaper when you remove it.  Fabric or craft stores may also sell long strands of green or shamrock-accented beads that you can hang in doorways.

“Get Lucky!” Theme

  • Description: Festive St. Patrick’s Day party with a hint of flirtation
  • Attire: Ask guests to wear their sexiest green threads.  Have them bring 1 lucky item to wear or carry with them (see Quick Tip below).  Purchase green Hawaiian lei’s and drape on guests as they arrive so they get “lei’d” the moment they walk in the door.
  • Decorations: iParty or Party City standard decorations work fine.  Buy giant cardboard or paper clovers or print them out from a Google image search and hang them with string (or floss, on a budget!) in doorways to pose as festive mistletoe.  Buy fake lucky rabbit’s feet and spread them around tabletops or hang them around your home.
  • Food: Same as “Traditional Theme.”  But add lots of Lucky Charms cereal!
  • Drinks: Same as “Traditional Theme.”
  • Music: Same as “Traditional Theme.”  Toss in romantic crooners like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Marvin Gaye, Michael Buble, and ballads by U2
  • QUICK TIP: Set out ice breaker games to set the mood, like poker (a great game that sticks with the lucky theme – you can even use the Lucky Charms marshmallows for poker chips)!  Recruit one friend to be the judge to determine whose lucky charm is the most original.

Dubliner’s Brunch Theme

  • Description: Who says it has to be evening to drink?  Brunch it up in the way do it in ole Baile Átha Cliath!
  • Attire: Cable knit and isle sweaters, lots of scarves.  Have a little fun and pick up some red wigs for guests to wear.
  • Decorations: Think comfy Irish pub.  Set out large pillows for extra seating.  Set up large white pillar candles in different heights around the living room.  Add woolen blankets & pick up some Celtic crosses from a party store.
  • Food: Go traditional.  Corned beef & cabbage, bangers & mash, and shepherd’s pie.
  • Drinks: Irish coffee and Irish-blend coffee.  Set out Guinness & Killian’s if you’re feeling up for it at that hour.
  • Music: Classic Celtic tunes.  Check out a CD from your local library or download from iTunes.  Or put on a Frank McCourt (“Angela’s Ashes”) or James Joyce novel on CD.
  • QUICK TIP: Rent a classic Irish flick like “The Secret of Roan Inish,” “Waking Ned Devine,” “Circle of Friends,” or “In America.”  Get books on Irish poetry to set out and have guests write their own limericks

Up next: Spring Equinox and Easter party ideas. . .

Throwing a party in March and looking for ideas, suggestion, or themes?  In this two-part series, I thought I’d share some tips for hosting a fantastic bash.  Part One will consist of handy advice and suggestions that I’ve picked up from others or from experience.  Part Two will be specific theme parties for March, with ideas for decorations, food, and more.

I absolutely adore hosting events, especially theme parties.  Some of my past celebrations still live in infamy.  There was the 1920’s Great Gatsby-themed garden party in 2005 which is still raved about today.  Or the Halloween event of 2006 which still has people referring to other attendees by their costumes, even almost two years later.  Or the summer luau of 2007, where we hung a 6 foot inflatable monkey outside of our window which is now frozen in time on Google maps . . .

The tips below can help with any event at any time of year, with any number of guests.  It is mostly aimed for parties you would have at your home.  Let me know if you want to read tips for parties at public areas or other houses (like a shower or surprise birthday party), and I’ll be glad to create a Part Three.

March-ing and Spring-ing Into Party Planning, Part I
Golden Rules to Remember:

  • Create a theme!  A theme is a great incentive for people to attend.  Plus, if you suggest guests come dressed in easy-to-find costumes or accessories, then it will increase the interest level. 
  • The Half-Guest Rule.  For all of the guests you invite, half will attend.  This rule is harder to follow for parties under 10, but is pretty much true for parties at 15 and above.  If you want 40 people to arrive, invite 80.
  • Cleaning.  This is key, but if time is an issue, then only clean the main rooms people use – the kitchen, bathroom, and living room.  Make sure to focus on the areas most popularly used at parties, such as the kitchen counters, the kitchen and bathroom sinks, the toilet, and the fridge.  Throwing a party is a great incentive to clean out your fridge; you want to make sure you have plenty of room for guests to put the beverages & perishable snacks they bring.
  • Keep the kitchen the cleanest.  For some unknown reason, regardless of the size of your place, everyone gathers in the kitchen at parties.  Make sure this room is in tip-top shape – you don’t want to scare off guests with your pasta crumbs from last week’s dinner!
  • Prepare all elements.  Pretend you are a guest.  Or think of the best and worst parties you’ve been to.  Start from arrival to departure – what did you need as a guest?  Or what was in place for you that worked?
    • Details count to make guests comfortable.  Especially if you are blending groups that don’t know each other well.  You want them to be at ease as soon as they walk in the door.  Consider the weather, too.  Make sure there is a place for coats, boots, and purses or overnight bags.  Lay out plenty of garbage cans and a place for empty bottles.  Stock up on toilet paper and water bottles.  Set out multiple bottle and wine openers.  Ask your guests to take their coats and offer them a drink as soon as they walk in the door.
    • Be easy to find!  Give out details about finding your place, nearby parking, and significant landmarks (basically, anything they won’t get from Mapquest).
    • Set out ice breaker games.  Invest in basic, fun games like Taboo, Apples to Apples, UNO, or even regular playing cards.  It’s a great way to have guests who don’t know many people at the party interact.
  • Music is crucial.  If going with a theme, then make half of the playlist related to the theme (Irish jigs, Dropkick Murphys and the Pogues for a St. Patrick’s Day party, etc.).  It’s a good idea to make the other half of the playlist well known, mid-tempo Top 40 songs.  Your best shot?  Use songs popular the year that your guests graduated high school and/or college.  (Wikipedia offers some great lists if you need song ideas.)
  • Get yourself together.  If the party start time comes faster expected, make sure to get yourself ready first.  Then finish setting out food and cleaning.  Especially if you have a theme, you’d hate to be half dressed when guests start arriving.  If you’re ready but still slicing veggies, you can always recruit them to help.  It will make them feel more comfortable as the first arrivals, too.
  • Go cheap and creative!  Colored plastic tablecloths help with easy cleanup and add a quick splash of color.  Don’t be afraid to use them on side tables or to cover air conditioners.  Other suggestions:
    • For a luau theme, turn a kids’ inflatable pool into a cooler.  Use a hollowed out watermelon to hold candy & treats.
    • For a SuperBowl or other sports themed party, do a Google image search and print out colored images of the team logo.  Cut out the logo and plaster your walls with the images.
  • Keep an eye out.  Monitor food and drinks.  As the night wears on, refill food dishes and chip bowls, and toss out empty bottles and containers. 
  • Go for the unusual.  For maximum guest attendance, choose a less popular holiday, such as Presidents’ Day, an awards show, or a random summer weekend for a luau or fiesta.  Try to avoid major holidays and their corresponding weekends where you would run into serious competition, such as Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s.
  • Avoid duplicates.  For every guest that asks what they should bring, tell each one a different item.  This will help avoid having 10 bags of the same flavor of Doritos (though they are always a guaranteed party hit, they can get tiresome!). 

Stay tuned for Part Two . . .