Boy dressed as Darth Vader with red lightsaber

Ensure the Force is Strong in Your Star Wars Party

No movie series appeals to young and old alike as does Star Wars. Two full generations of Americans know what it’s like to watch these movies as children, making them both entertaining and nostalgic. As a party theme, it appeals equally to children and adults, and there’s lots of things you can do with it.

Costumes

Star Wars costuming is great because it can be very simple or very complex. Several characters can easily be represented by DIY outfits, while more industrious fans can create really masterful pieces.  There’s also a ton of costumes for sale.

Of course, the accessory everyone wants is a lightsaber. There’s a ton of them on the market, some only a couple dollar apiece. You can even make creating them a party project: pool noodles and masking tape work well.

The drawback to lightsabers is that everyone, young and old, wants to hit something the moment they get their hands on one. If your climate is mild, send your partiers outside for epic lightsaber fights. If you’re hiding inside from the cold, however, it’s best if there just aren’t any lightsabers.

Kids dressed up for star wars

Food

There is an unending number of quick food projects settings for a Star Wars party. Just a few include:

  • Using edible marker to turn marshmallows into stormtrooper helmets
  • Creating tie fighters by using icing to adhere marshmallows in between Oreo wafer cookies
  • Dropping a figure of Han Solo into a Jell-O mold, thereby encasing him in colorful carbonite
  • Dipping pretzel rods into candy melts or white chocolate dyed with food coloring to create edible lightsabers

Decorations

What Star Wars party is complete without a Death Star? Transform paper lanterns into these terrifying constructions by spray painting them gray, then creating details by gluing on construction paper and drawing with markers. Or do the same thing with a round piñata and let people take swings at it with a wooden rod painted to look like a lightsaber.

If you’re going to print anything including type, get hold of a Star Wars font to give everything the feel of that iconic logo.

Of course, Star Wars is on everyone’s minds this month, but a Star Wars themed party can be held year round. Whether as part of a birthday party or just an excuse to get friends together, Star Wars is something that calls to the kid in all of us.

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1920s themed party with men and women dancing

How to Throw a Roaring Twenties Party

Party themes turn get-togethers into something more unique. One theme is the decade party: choose a time period and plan the party around its style. The 1920s has its own distinct draws. For one, it’s exotic. None of your guests remember that time, or even any time in its vicinity. Therefore, the roaring Twenties is something to play-act, rather than something to relive. Second, there is the allure of danger and disobedience. All of America was sneaking around for a drink while watching the rise of the gangster and organized crime, which developed during this time.

Finding the Right Music

Any decade party needs appropriate music. For the 1920s, that means jazz, which developed during this time. Speakeasies steadily grew throughout Prohibition, and they turned to jazz musicians to for entertainment.

Be Creative in Your Locale

Speakeasies sprang up in people’s basements and behind secret doors, so if you can throw it somewhere other than your living room, do it.

Play up the adventure of getting to the destination. Consider not giving out the locale until the day before. If it’s at your home, ask people to use the back door. Challenge guests for a password upon arrival.

Woman in flapper dress for the 1920s.Period Costumes

Encourage guests to come in some semblance of a costume. For men, that’s suits, preferably pinstriped and with a vest. Fedoras are an easy addition to a Roaring Twenties outfit. For women, the flapper dress is the most recognizable outfit, and they’re easy to find in costume shops and online stores. Feather and sequin headpieces, often on headbands, make a great addition, as do long necklaces and feather boas.

Choosing Décor

Anything labeled “art deco” will fit the time period.

Drinks

The drink of choice during Prohibition was whiskey. If you want to get real authentic, go with Canadian Club, which Al Capone was well-known for smuggling.

But there’s no reason to drink it straight. The quality of Prohibition alcohol was often low: much if it was produced in backyard distilleries by people with no background in alcohol production. As such, a variety of cocktails developed to mask the poor taste of these products.

A little research can bring up an array of additional details you might want to add to your party. However you do it, keep in mind your party would have been illegal during your time period, and play to that reality. It’s a great way to keep that 1920s feel.

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happy volunteer looking at donation box on a sunny day

4 Things to Keep in Mind When Supervising Volunteers

When organizing large events, you are going to need assistants. Sometimes those people are employees, in which case the general rules of the office apply to the event. However, if you’re working with volunteers, that relationship becomes more complex.  Keep these points in mind if you’re using volunteers to staff an event.

Lack of Authority

In theory, you are the supervisor. However, that role is primarily one of guidance rather than discipline. If a volunteer is grossly inept, you can send them home, but that only makes sense if their presence is truly more of a detriment than their absence. But the disciplinary dynamics of the office don’t apply. Threatening repercussions, for example, will likely only encourage the person to remain problematic rather than work to find solutions.

What does that mean for you? Work for foster positive relationships rather than adversarial ones. You want volunteers to perform well because they are proud of what they are working on rather than out of fear of reprisals, which are largely non-existent.

Need for Guidance

People volunteer because they value the purpose of the event. If they don’t have the skills to perform their tasks, everyone gets frustrated. As the supervisor, it’s your duty to assign people to tasks they can perform and to provide training when skills are lacking.

 female personal assistant working at registration desk at corporate event. business and entrepreneurship concept.

Keep People Busy

I volunteered with the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina and got stuck in an overstaffed staging center. As such, my experience was seriously marred by a lack of work. Volunteers want to contribute to the success of your event. If you leave them hanging around without tasks, they feel their time is being wasted. Make sure everyone has something to do throughout their shifts.

Don’t Understaff

The flip side of keeping everyone busy is you don’t want to understaff either. Keeping volunteers on the run is stressful and often detrimental to your event overall as tasks are not addressed in a timely manner. Take time to consider every aspect of the event which will need volunteer staff and schedule accordingly.

One of the problems with scheduling is some time periods may need more volunteers than others. For example, large numbers might be helpful when vendors are loading in, but far fewer are needed once the event actually begins. You don’t need to use all your volunteers all the time. Schedule shifts so the right number of volunteers are in attendance during different phases of the event.

Of course, many of these points are relevant even when you are dealing with paid staff. Still, it is particularly important to recognize supervising volunteers is not like supervising employees. The relationship is considerably different, and that needs to be recognized in all interactions with them. Recognize their time and assistance is valuable and don’t take them for granted.

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man and woman sitting awkwardly on a couoch trying to start conversation

5 Ways of Dealing with Awkward Conversation

There’s no getting away from conversation at social events, and trying to escape may make others feel uncomfortable. However, conversation comes more easily to some of us than to others. There’s also the fear of getting into conversations where you expect there to be frictions. No matter what your concern, here are some ways of helping to negate them.

Come with Topics in Mind

There are things in your life worth sharing. There are also things in other people’s lives you might want to know. At the very least, there are things they want to share: how their kids are doing, a vacation they just took, a new job, something they’ve mentioned over social media, etc. Make a mental list of these topics and dive into them as needed.

Make It about Them, Not You

Open up the conversation with a question. “How are you doing?” works fine. After they answer, they’ll ask you the same. That’s the time to talk about yourself.  Keep things brief, unless they ask for more details. That lets the conversation more easily flow and not make one participant feel trapped into listening to a 20 minute story.

Upset relative in the middle of a couple's argument

Respect their Perspective

A general rule of thumb is to avoid hot button topics like religion and politics, but others may disagree. These matters are important to them, and dismissing them out of hand can be rude.

Vaile Wright, psychologist and researcher at the American Psychological Association, encourages people to tackle tough topics like politics around the dinner table. She underscores, however, that you have to respect the other person even if you disagree. If they feel disrespected, they’ll become adversarial, far more interested in defending their opinion than listening to yours.

There is, however, a point where you might have to walk away. Try to leave gracefully. “I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to disagree” may be the only way of extricating yourself if things get rough.

Avoid Judgments

There is a difference between voicing your opinion and throwing out judgments. “The football coach is an idiot,” may put people on the defensive. “Did you see the game? What did you think of the coach? I thought that play was really mishandled,” keeps the conversation more casual and invites others to participate rather than run away from the angry relative.

Be Polite

Whatever the situation, “be polite” is a rule that never fails. Respect those around you. If you cannot keep the discussion civil (even if it’s the fault of someone else), politely withdraw, ending the conversation. You’ll be doing everyone a favor: no one wants to hear people ranting, arguing and shouting.

If conversation is difficult for you, come with a plan. That includes a list of topics to employ and tactics for keeping conversation civil. Listen to the other person, allowing them to speak and making them feel respected. Above all else, be polite, and it’ll be much easier to survive uncomfortable get-togethers.

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cook panics over overcooked thanksgiving turkey in oven

5 Things to Make Thanksgiving Manageable

No holiday is America is more centered around food than Thanksgiving. Traditional Thanksgiving dinners are elaborate affairs which take days, if not weeks, of planning. While everyone else is enjoying the company of family and friends, you should not feel trapped in the kitchen. Here are five ways of making it easier to survive hosting a Thanksgiving dinner.

Get a Headcount Early

Send out invitations early and emphasize the importance of replies. They are vital if you want to make sure everyone is well fed without generating enough leftovers to last until next year.

Be sure to consider how many people can actually be fit around the table and whether you’re willing to relocate some to card tables or even to the living room with TV trays. Remember that tables and countertops are going to be full of food, so squeezing extra people around the table will be a nightmare.

Shop Early

Thanksgiving meal staples often sell out before the actual holiday. Buy non-perishable items early, and make sure there’s room in your freezer for a frozen turkey, which disappear from grocery shelves particularly quickly.

Cook Early

Not everything should be done Thanksgiving day. Consider what foods can be prepped or cooked ahead of time and then frozen.

Also, have a plan as to what order food will be cooked. You only have so many ovens and stove burners. Some dishes may need to be prepared and then set aside earlier in the day.

roasted turkey garnished with cranberries on a rustic style table decoraded with pumpkins, gourds, asparagus, brussel sprouts, baked vegetables, pie, flowers, and candles.

Consider a Potluck

Potlucks are a common way of assembling Thanksgiving meals without placing all of the responsibility on the shoulders of the host. Make a list of needed items and have guests sign up for them. It’s important to know who is bringing what. Otherwise, basic things may go missing while you have more mashed potatoes than you know what to do with.

No matter how you’re assembling the meal, keep in mind what sort of table space is needed to hold it all. This is particularly important if some food is going to sit in crock pots, which require access to electrical outlets.

Consider Catering

If all of this sounds incredibly taxing, there’s no shame in having at least some of the dishes catered. Turkeys can be purchased fully cooked from a variety of sources. They’re the most taxing aspect of cooking a Thanksgiving meal: they need to be stored frozen, thawed, stuffed and then cooked for hours which can be hard to predict. Farming out that task to experts relieves a ton of holiday cooking strain.

Just remember to put your order in early. Plenty of other people have the same idea you do.

The key to making a Thanksgiving meal a success is early planning. Find out how many people you’ll be cooking for, then collect and prepare as many items as you can before the actual dinner, freezing what you can. Having an attack plan for Thanksgiving itself keeps things flowing in the kitchen. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s from your guests or from professionals.

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a pottery decorator painting a ceramic tile with floral motifs

5 Parties To Encourage Creativity

Sometimes, people attend parties to sit back, relax and converse. Othertimes, people are interested in expressing themselves creatively, and a party host can be a great person to encourage that! Whether for kids or adults, these party ideas can bring out the artist in all of us.

Paint and Sips

Paint and sips are popular enough today there are commercial businesses dedicated to them. These formal paint parties are held in art studios where all paint supplies are provided and an instructor walks participants through the creation of a piece of art. Food and drink (including alcohol) are either welcome or for sale.

If you’re looking for a night in, you can still throw your own event. People will probably be working on their own projects, unless someone wants to step forward and be an instructor. However you do it, painting is a relaxing way of occupying oneself while sharing in good food and conversation.

Ceramic Workshops

Some ceramic workshops offer sessions to the public during which participants craft something from clay or glaze an already made object. In either case, the finished project is thrown into a kiln and is available for pickup at a later date.

Glass Fusion

Similar to a ceramic workshop, some glass artisans allow people to create objects by cutting and layering pieces of glass which are then fired. Also like working with ceramics, these projects can appeal to both children and adults.

Stitch ‘n Bitch

The term stitch ‘n bitch has been around since at least World War II to describe a social gathering of knitters. Since then, some other craftsmen such as sewers have also taken up the term. No matter what your art form, it’s easy to gather creative friends for a casual day of working on personal projects while periodically grabbing a snack or a drink.

boys and girls decorating cupcakes at a kitchen counter during a baking workshop for kids

Baking Parties

Generally geared toward kids, baking parties teach a valuable skill while producing tasty treats to enjoy afterward. Cookies and cupcakes are good projects since they are easy to pack up and take home.

Baking parties need some preparation. You’ll need to have an idea what each child will be responsible for. Otherwise, some may end up being left out. Every task should also be appropriate for the assigned child. Finally, think of ways to control the chaos of this party so your kitchen does not become a complete disaster area by the end of the day.

It’s easy for creative passions to be swallowed up by the details of everyday life.  Encouraging it in a social setting, however, allows people to enjoy the company of others while also setting aside time to be artistic. However, people should never feel pressured to create a great work of art. These parties should focus on the moment, not the end result. No matter what your interest and level of skill, you can transform a creative hobby into a great social event.

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table set for lunch outdoors in beautiful sunny autumn park. charcoal grill and picnic basket with baguette bread, sandwich, fruit and vegetables. cooking for bbq and grill party in fall.

Outdoor Parties: a Joy for Any Season

Spring and summer are the obvious times for outdoor parties, since the days are long and warm. However, you don’t have to pack up and head indoors just because the trees are changing color. Outdoor parties continue to have a lot of benefits over indoor ones, no matter what the season.

More People

There are only so many people you can comfortably fit inside your house, especially since people are going to be moving regularly to get food and drink or to start new conversations. Backyards, even modest ones, generally hold many more people.

Of course, it can get nippy in autumn, and the closer you get to winter, the more likely you’re going to encounter bad weather. But autumn parties can be held well into October, at least. Everyone just needs to remember to dress appropriately, which they need to do no matter what season it is. Sure, October is chilly, but remember when July was scorching!

Minimal Clean Up

Indoor parties require your house to be spotless with every object in its place. That level of meticulousness is unneeded when your guests are going to be outside.

Moreover, it’s much easier to clean up an outdoor party. Everything is likely disposable, so it can all be swept into trash bags. And if there have been spills, they are unlikely to cause damage, having simply hit the ground, a plastic table cloth or a picnic table which is used to such abuses.

Happy child having fun with autumn leaves

Separation of Kids and Adults

Kids are adorable, but you don’t need them hanging on you every second. Likewise, kids get bored if they have to hang out with grownups all day. Outdoor parties have the space to segregate kids from adults. Toys and games can be provided in one area to entertain children, leaving the adults to their own conversations.

Benefit of an Autumn Party: A Fire Pit

Fire pits are a wonderful addition to an autumn party that runs into the evening. They provide warmth and light, and food can be cooked over it. Kids, with supervision, often enjoy them, especially if they can cook hot dogs or make s’mores over them.

Remember Lighting in the Autumn!

The sun is setting earlier and earlier every fall day. In the summer, the northern American states see the sun until about 9pm. In October, it’s closer to 6pm.

Many homes have backyard floodlights for safety reasons, and these can certainly contribute to the lighting issue. However, the light is glaringly bright to anyone having to face it.

Consider stringing lights across the area. These can be attached to the house, trees, and poles erected for this purpose. This lighting is much more soft and even, setting the right tone while keeping things safe.

Just because we’re going into fall doesn’t mean we have to move indoors. Every season has its challenges. Consider what you have to work with to make sure your parties can extend well past the summer season.

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smiling friends outdoors by fire

How to Throw a Great Bonfire Party

Outdoor parties are popular in summer, but people pull up their stakes and head indoors as the temperature starts to drop in autumn. In fact, outdoor parties can potentially push well into winter. It just needs to be a different type of party. Bonfire parties are easy to organize and a great way for friends to spend a casual evening together.

Building the Bonfire

Of course, the most important aspect of a bonfire party is the bonfire itself. Many backyards can accommodate them, so long as they’re handled right. Portable fire pits are for sale in hardware stores with a wide variety of prices. You can also make your own by digging a hole and lining it with stones. There’s plenty of DIY lessons online. However you do it, be sure the area is clear of anything flammable.

You’ll also want plenty of wood, because the moment you run out, the party is dead. The bonfire is what is keeping everyone warm and may or may not be the primary lighting source of the party, so make sure it lasts all night.

cooking food at a campfire in the open air

Providing Food and Drink

Bonfire parties are casual, so no need to work yourself ragged providing food. A variety of snacks and drinks set on tables off to the side are quite adequate. You don’t want them too close to the fire, because people will constantly be shuffling around close to flames.

There’s also a variety of foods which can prepared at the bonfire itself. Hotdogs can be skewered and cooked over the flames. Marshmallows can be cooked for s’mores. Corn on the cob can be left in their husks or wrapped in tin foil and placed among hot coals. Popcorn can be popped in a pan.

Keeping Warm

While the fire is going to provide warmth, guests should also be dressed for the cold.  Even with the fire blazing, it’s not going to feel like a living room. Jeans and sweaters at the very least are likely a necessity, and the weather may well require coats, hats and long johns. Make sure guests know beforehand so they can come properly dressed.

Seating Everyone

Bonfire parties are intimate gatherings if for no other reason than there’s only so many people you can fit around the fire. Consider the size of your fire pit and how many people it can reasonably accommodate. People do not need to sit on the very edge of the pit. In fact, they shouldn’t, due to fire hazards.  But people do need to sit close enough to keep warm.

If you don’t have enough outdoor chairs, ask people to bring their own.  Alternatively, people can throw down blankets to sit on but, again, make sure everything is a safe distance from the fire.

Many people have never attended a bonfire party. That means it’ll be a completely new experience for them as they hang out with old friends. And these parties are easy to prepare for once you have a fire pit, which can be used again and again. Throw in some quick food and seating – both of which can be contributed by guests – and you can have a great outdoor party even as we head into winter.

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Group of laughing adults at a halloween party

5 Ways to Host a Safe Halloween Party

Halloween is one of the most fun holidays of the year, but that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down when it comes to safety. Keep these things in mind when planning a Halloween party.

Don’t Drive During Trick-or-Treat Hours

Ideally, host your party on a day other than Halloween. That allows parents to both take their kids trick-or-treating and attend your party. If they have to be on the same day, begin your party before trick-or-treaters come out in force, and have it end after all the kids have gone home.

Driving through a throng of kids is both dangerous and frustrating. Some kids get overly excited about the day and forget to stay out of the street even if they’re normally good about it. There’s also plenty of small kids who can be difficult to see. Finally, dark costumes can make children harder to spot as the sun goes down. Driving during this time is just a recipe for disaster.

Be Careful with Dry Ice

Dry ice creates a great spooky mist, but it’s also dangerous. Make sure it’s out of reach of children. If being used in a punch bowl, nest two bowls inside one another. The larger one holds the dry ice while the smaller holds the punch. Dry ice is not for ingestion or touching. It’s a chuck of frozen carbon dioxide, cooled to about 100 degrees below zero.

group of young people celebrating halloween party in costumes drinking beer

Keep Costumes Safe

Extravagant costumes can be gorgeous, but they also pose a lot of logistical problems. Urge people to avoid unwieldy costumes, including garments which can be tripped on, large costumes which can run into objects and break them, anything with a blade, billowing drapes of fabric which can catch on things or be ignited by candles, and so on.

If people are going to wear masks, ask for them to not put them on until they reach the party. Masks can significantly obscure vision, making it dangerous to drive and even to walk up to the porch.

Clear the Walkway of Obstructions

Lots of us decorate our lawns for Halloween, but make sure the walkway is given a wide berth. People will be negotiating it in costume and in the dark.

Use Artificial Candles

While real candles make a great touch at an elegant, non-costume party, they can be dangerous with a house full of people wearing awkward costumes. Not only might they ignite someone’s outfit, but a knocked over taper can burn carpet, curtains, furniture and more, leading to a potentially catastrophic fire.

Every party has its complications, and Halloween parties are no different. However, a bit of preparation and common sense can ensure you have a safe event on one of the most fun nights of the year.

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dark fine art grunge photo of a beautiful woman walking the halls of haunted horror in vintage vogue fashion

6 Ideas for a Classy Halloween Party

It’s pretty easy to throw together a traditional Halloween party: just stock up on plastic spiders, cotton cobwebs and plates with pumpkins on them. After all, the main draw of these parties is often to dress up. But it’s not the only way to celebrate Halloween. You can hold a very classy event that still embodies the spirit of Halloween.

Invest in Black

Halloween is a nighttime holiday, and the color black conveys a sense of real spookiness far more than plastic spiders. Black silk flowers, black painted pumpkins, black napkins, black candles and more can give a party a spooky yet sophisticated tone.

Of course, everything works best in moderation. Offsetting the black with some white provides contrast while keeping with the stark, barren motif.

Add Rich Autumn Color Flowers

Punctuate your black and white color scheme with colored accents: deep, dark reds; rich burnt oranges; and cool, dry browns bring the dying colors of autumn into your party. And these don’t have to be real flowers. Craft stores are selling plenty of these colors.

bronze antique candlestick with burning candles in darknessEmbrace the Past

Halloween is, in part, about what has come before (in the form of haunting spooks). Trade in electric lighting for candles. Ideally, set them in candlesticks which are either antiques or at least look antique. Other antique items also made great decorations.

Get Creative with Glassware

Is that vial full of poison or the host’s mystery cocktail? Prefill drinks in creative containers like stoppered vials and let guests serve themselves…if they dare.

Make Costumes Optional

Some people love making costumes. Some people hate even buying one from Party City. Let costumes be optional, but suggest non-costumed people come in black to keep the event both spooky and classy.

Or you can meet the two ideas halfway and ask for guests to wear masks with their black ensembles. Basic masks can be bought at craft stores for just a few dollars, and they can be painted and decorated if  desired. Fancier masks with paint, feathers, rhinestones and lace can be found online. You’ll probably want to keep a couple cheap ones on hand for guests who still show up without one.

Consider a Fire Pit

If you have access to a fire pit (either a literal pit or a portable one), a Halloween party is a great time to break it out. This is the time of year when being outside can still be pleasant yet a bit nippy without a heat source. Also, this again hearkens back to the days of old before electricity and modern furnaces.

Halloween is arguably the most playful holiday of the year. That does not mean, however, it has to be childish. Consider appealing Halloween motifs, and find ways of keeping them sophisticated: rich and dark autumn colors, emphasis on blacks, elegant costuming and more. The result will be a unique Halloween party guests are sure to remember.

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