Painting some picture with paintbrush

Have Fun, Make Art: Enjoy a Paint and Sip Party

Looking for a night out but tired of your usual haunts? Ever wanted to learn to paint, but couldn’t get up the nerve? Now you can let out your inner artist through a paint and sip party, where you discover creativity goes great with a good bottle of wine.

Today, there are entire businesses dedicated to paint and sip parties, which represent one of the fastest growing segments of the entertainment market. Some are held in art studios, while others are special events at bars and restaurants. Search for them online, and you may be surprised how many are in your neighborhood.

Expert Instruction

Many people who attend these events haven’t picked up a paintbrush since grade school, yet they come home with a respectable work of art. Each painting event is led by a skilled instructor who walks you through every step. It’s very much like The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, except without the happy trees. You follow along while support staff wander the crowd, providing additional guidance and answering questions.

stylized artwork of wine bottle and glassesThere’s no pressure to create a masterpiece. Designs are fairly basic so no one struggles with complicated techniques. The primary goal is to relax, let go of insecurities, and enjoy creating art no matter what your skill level.

Traditional art classes require participants to bring their own supplies, which gets expensive. Painting parties provide everything you need, including canvas, paint and brushes.

Enjoy a Glass at Your Paint and Sip

It’s easy to say you’re going to unwind, but it can be quite a bit more difficult to actually do so, particularly if you’re trying something for the first time. That’s why there’s the “sip” in “paint and sip.”

Some venues offer their own bar where wine, beer, and even food is available for purchase. Others encourage participants to bring their own food and drinks. No matter how it’s done, adding a little alcohol to the mix is part of the point. Lowering inhibitions helps you be less self-conscious, sit back, relax, and create something fun.

Private Parties vs. Public Events

Many studios offer private parties as well as public events. Don’t worry about disturbing strangers as you chat, laugh, and otherwise enjoy a cozy evening while enjoying the creative process with a glass or two of your favorite drink.

Paint and sip parties merge the worlds of art and alcohol into an enjoyable and relaxing night. Whether attending alone or with a group of friends, you’ll find these events nurturing an artistic side you might not know you had. Check out your nearest location, and see how much fun these events can be.

sisters playing Pokemon Go

Turn Pokemon Go Into a Great Party

Pokemon Go is already a phenomena. If your friends or kids have a love of the game, why not turn it into an enjoyable event?

First, you’ll need someplace worth playing. Some areas are loaded with Pokemon, others hardly at all. Good places are generally high traffic locations like downtown areas or locations of cultural significance. You can use PokeVision (when it’s running) to see how many creatures are spawning at a specific place. Then check it out in person. You may find Pokemon there are spread more or less far apart than they looked on-screen.

If this is for children, safety is an issue. Are the children old enough to not wander into the street while looking at their cell phones? Consider how much supervision these children will need in public and make arrangements with some of the other parents.

One drawback of Pokemon Go is it’s difficult to eat or drink while playing. At the very least, you should plan breaks where players can get drinks. You may also want to plan for a meal. This gives everyone time to recuperate and regain energy to keep playing. If it’s particularly hot out, it also gives everyone a respite from the heat.

Adults sometimes turn Pokemon parties into pub crawls. Players will wander the streets catching Pokemon and duck into bars for a drink. Besides merging two things many people love, there’s also a good possibility of meeting like-minded individuals. Just be safe about it. Pub crawls generally happen at night, and that offers complications. And public intoxication is a crime even if you are playing Pokemon.

Children playing Pokemon Go at a PokeStop
Group of smiling children posing at urban street with mobile devices

There are a few benefits of planning a group outing. One, people can coordinate to find more desirable Pokemon. Two, it’s a social outing like any other. Three, lures are amazing,

Free lures are rare, but you can buy them for less than a dollar. Drop one on a Pokestop, and Pokemon are attracted to the location for the next 30 minutes. It gets really fun if two or three Pokestops are close together, and you can drop lures on all of them. People just sit down, hang out, and gobble up Pokemon.

Active lures are visible in the game from some distance, so a great way of motivating people to keep moving is to keep dropping lures ahead of the group.

Critics have complained that Pokemon Go interferes with socialization. Instead, players obsess over a game on their phones. In fact, people can do both. Plenty of people, adults and children, play the game in groups, and there’s lots of goofing around in between Pokemon catches. It’s a hobby like any other, and lots of people plan parties around common interests. So why not Pokemon?

Friends Having a Party in an Apartment

Throwing Parties in Small Spaces

You’d love to throw a party, but you think your small apartment can’t possibly accommodate it. Think again! All you need is a bit of creative management to throw an event in just about any space.

Clearing Space for the Party

First thing to do is determine which spaces are off limits to guests, such as your bedroom. Then, relocate everything  you aren’t using for the party into that space. What’s left will largely be tables and chairs, which you move against the wall. That retains maximum seating opportunities while opening up the center of your entertainment space. You can even throw pillows on the floor for more seating.

For the dining room or kitchen table, removed the chairs and push the table against a wall. That will open up more space. You’ll also likely want to set up those chairs somewhere more convenient as seating.

Food and Drink

If you’re going to throw a party in a small space, you’re going to have to utilize every surface you can. Get all your food preparation done ahead of time so the entire counter space can be used to hold food and drinks.

If you’re going to use your refrigerator for drinks, clear it out as much as possible. Just remember that an open refrigerator door takes up a lot of space, so it might make sense to store drinks elsewhere.  Coolers are one option, but they clutter the area. Consider dumping a bag of ice in the sink and let drinks chill there.

Serve similar foods on a single platter. Every dish you don’t use frees up space for other items.

If possible, put the food and the drinks in separate locations. This will keep people moving rather than hovering in one place. Don’t be afraid of putting the food in a couple different locations as well, such as the dining room table and the coffee table. Keep all of these locations away from the entrance so people can come and go without fighting their way through a crowd.

If cups or glasses are being used, encourage guests to reuse them. This means offering markers to label plastic cups, charms for wine glasses, decorative stir sticks for mixed drinks and so on. This keeps your precious horizontal spaces free of abandoned cups and glassware. It also saves you clean up time after the party.

The Great Outdoors

If you have access to the outside such as through a balcony or patio, make use of it. Leaving the door open will help circulate air which can get quite warm in an apartment full of people, and it will encourage people to meander outside. If you are using a cooler, this can be a great place to put it.

Classy Intimate Party
Friends drinking white wine and sharing cupcakes at party at home on couch

Adding a Bit of Class

If you want to add a bit of class to your party, throw tablecloths or even plain fabric over your tables. Also, you may want to add decorative centerpieces to the tables. Just remember to keep them small since space is such a premium.

Trim the Guest List

You’re not going to pack 50 people in your apartment. Consider the ultimate purpose for the party and invite those best suited for it, guided by how many people you think your space can reasonably accommodate.

Respect Your Neighbors

You have neighbors who live very close to you. Respect that. If you’re going to have music, keep it low. Remind your guests to respect your neighbors as well. Also be aware of noise ordinances for your locale. After a certain time, usually around 10pm, people are expected to remain much more quiet. Police can ticket you for violation of those ordinances and break up your party. Your landlord may even have grounds to evict you.

Small spaces such as apartments pose unique challenges to hosting a party. However, it’s absolutely doable to host a sizable gathering in such homes. It takes some creativity and planning, but the result can be an enjoyable evening for all involved.

Teens Partying With Beer

Play It Safe: Navigating Parties, Alcohol and Teens

Teenagers are in an awkward phase of life. They desperately want to have the freedoms of an adult, and you want them to learn the responsibilities of adulthood. But you can’t have one without the other. The only way an independent teen is going to accept responsibility is if there are benefits that go with it.

The result is a constant tug-of-war between teens and parents as teens push for independence and parents rein them in. But parents have to decide when they’re going to loosen the leash, and one potential issue is alcohol.

A lot of argument can be made for hosting a party for your teen which provides alcohol. A majority of teenagers drink at least occasionally behind their parents’ backs. If they’re going to be drinking, they’re safer under your supervision, right?

It might be philosophically sound, but it leaves you legally liable for a lot of unpleasantness. First, providing alcohol to minors is illegal. Like, potentially a year in jail illegal.

Teens in a Car with BeerSecond, if something happens to those minors while under the influence, you may be held liable for that as well. And you can’t depend on a policy of barring intoxicated individuals from leaving. Teenagers lie. Teenagers sneak out when no one’s looking. Some of them probably sneaked out to your party in the first place. You can’t risk it.

But what if they brought their own alcohol? Then you’re not providing it. Sorry, doesn’t work. Providing a space for minors to drink is against the law, even if you aren’t handing out the liquor.

What about providing alcohol at a party with both adults and teens, with the understanding that teens will not be drinking? Still not enough in some states. Your alcohol, your responsibility. If the teens sneak off with beer and crash a car, you might be held accountable for property damages and medical bills as well as criminal charges.

Teaching Your Teen To Avoid Alcohol at Other Parties

Teen saying no to beerHow do you get around the great fear of teens drinking in places outside your home? The first answer is education. Have them understand the dangers of drinking. Also, make clear you have zero tolerance for underage drinking, and carry through on threats if rules are broken.

Second, if your teen is going to a party, be in contact with the host parent. If your kid doesn’t show up (because he’s sneaking off elsewhere), have that parent tell you. If a parent won’t be in attendance, don’t let your teen attend.

Third, make your teen understand that you will always pick them up from a party if they feel uncomfortable. Maybe a friend is driving, then subsequently gets drunk. It can also come into play if your driving teen drinks but realizes he shouldn’t get behind the wheel. Even if it’s three in the morning, make it clear you will be there if needed.

Dealing with alcohol at parties where teens are present is an important topic. Besides the obvious safety dangers posed by inebriated teens, there is also considerable liability involved for you. Play it safe. Don’t involve alcohol when teens are involved, and make sure your own teen knows the importance of avoiding alcohol and those who have been drinking.

man playing guitar with peple dancing at party in background

Hiring Entertainment for your Party

Entertainment is a major facet of a party, whether it’s a toddler’s birthday party or a 200 person wedding.  Large gatherings almost demand professional entertainment.  Smaller gatherings can go either way.  However, if you do not hire entertainment, you’ll probably be providing it personally one way or another, such as organizing games for the kids to keep them occupied.

The first step is to decide what kind of entertainment you’re looking for.  For large, adult gatherings, DJs and bands are commonly employed.  Stand up comedians and improv actors are also sometimes perform. For children, you’re probably looking at magicians, clowns and people dressed up as characters children will recognize.

Kids and a clown at a partyStart looking early.  Good performers can book up months in advance.  You’d hate to have to settle with mediocrity because you waited too long.

Ask for suggestions.  These people live off referrals from previous clients.  So rather than picking them randomly off the internet, see if you can find someone who has employed the type of person you’re looking for and get their feedback.

Meet the entertainer in person if at all possible.  You should be signing a contract with them, and it’s better to get that out of the way ahead of time.  If they show up the day of the party and offer a contract you’re unwilling to sign, you’re suddenly out your entertainment for the day.

When you meet with the entertainer, things to discuss should include:

  • The price, including what all the price includes.  Get a good sense of what the performer will be providing.  This is particularly important for children’s parties, as kids quickly grow bored and will want to move on to new things.
  • How long will the performance be
  • Cancellation fees and deadlines
  • Your own preferences for what is performed.  Perhaps you want a DJ or band to stick to certain types of music, or perhaps you promised your kid there would be balloon animals.  Don’t presume anything.  Discuss it with the entertainer.
  • Whether they have liability insurance
  • Whether they belong to any industry organizations such as a guild of magicians.  Such membership helps indicate their level of commitment to their profession.

Sound board for DJ at weddingYou’ll also need to discuss the space needed by the entertainer:

  • How much space will he need?
  • When does he need access to the space for set up?
  • Does he need electrical outlets or other features for the space?
  • Does the space need to be a certain height?
  • How does he want the audience arranged around his space?

While it does take a little time and effort to make arrangements for a great entertainer, the results will be worth it.  Come party time, you can sit back and enjoy the show just as much as everyone else.

Happy people with drinks in hand

Party Hard, Get Home Safe

In 2014, drunk driving killed almost 10,000 people in the United States. Many victims were innocent bystanders; over 1000 of them were children.  They might be in a car struck by the drunk driver, be pedestrians, or be passengers in the drunk driver’s car.

There’s lots of reasons why people get behind the wheel drunk.  Some don’t realize their own condition.  Others feel they have no other way home other than behind the wheel of their car.  Some think they’re only risking themselves.

Tired man with drinkThere are always options.  Taxis, for one.  In the era of smart phones, you can privately look up a local company without asking your host.  Hitching a ride with a friend is another possibility.  Simply waiting is also an option.  If you’re not sure if you’re drunk, give yourself another hour to see how you feel.  Don’t be fooled by claims that things like coffee will sober you up faster.  They don’t  The only thing that sobers you is time.

At worst, you may have to ask to crash in a spare bedroom or on a couch.  You might find that embarrassing, but it’s not nearly as embarrassing as a DUI, which can lead to a revoking of your license, thousands of dollars of legal fees, and even jail.

Providing Safety as Party Host

It’s an uncomfortable situation when a party host has to cut off a guest’s drinking or claim their car keys.  However, you owe it to your friends to keep them safe, even when you’re protecting them from their own poor decisions.

Alcoholic drink and car keysLuckily, more options are being made available, not just to drivers but also to event hosts.  UberEvents allows you to prepay for rides.  You hand out promotion codes to your guests, and you’re only charged for the number of rides redeemed.

At the very least, this allows you to easily provide a ride to someone past their limit.  And if you’ve given the promotion code ahead of time, your guest doesn’t have to make a show of getting assistance when it’s time to leave. He arranges his own ride, punches in the code, and goes.

UberEvents also allows you to pay for rides to the event, so your guests don’t have to fear leaving their vehicle behind if they use the Uber service later.

There’s nothing wrong with having – and providing – a good time.  But drunk driving is a national epidemic, and it’s absolutely preventable.  Do your part by being a responsible party host.  No matter how you do it, don’t let your guests become statistics by getting behind the wheel drunk.

Who’s Coming, Part 2

I’m suddenly in charge of invitations for my 20-year high school reunion.  The contact list has not exactly fared well over the last two decades, although several of us have been working to verify and update contact info.  Now we all have our separate lists in multiple formats.  Just the thought of typing 200 addresses into any system makes my hands cramp.

Importing Email Addresses

Someone with a sign for help buried under paperLuckily, Invitecast lets me import addresses from all sorts of places.  For example, I have a bunch of email addresses in my Gmail contacts.  Invitecast shows me how to export my contacts to a CSV file.  I can edit that file in any spreadsheet program, so I end up with exactly the people I want.  Then I upload the file to Invitecast.

Some of my friends helpfully put their updated lists into spreadsheet form, so I can easily upload those as well.  There’s no limit to the number of uploads.  So, even if the lists are really scattered, I can quickly get everything in one place.

Other friends, however, just typed email lists into the body of an email.  Luckily, I can copy and paste text and Invitecast will isolate the email addresses and add them to my invitation list.  I can do this to the class’s online directory as well, which will save me huge amounts of time.

Invitecast even stops me from inputting the same address twice.  No one’s going to get multiple invites, so I’m not going to get multiple replies from the same person.

Managing Responses

So I send out the invitations, and I’m getting a little nervous.  Theoretically, I’m going to get 200 responses, and I’m going to have to do something with all of them.

Thankfully, everything is contained in Invitecast.  Nothing goes to my inbox, so my personal emails aren’t going to get swamped by replies.

Besides offering lots of organizational features based on the type of reply given, Invitecast also allows me to create an infinite number of #hashtag filters.  Invitecast tallies how many people I’ve assigned a specific #hashtag to, and I can view a list of just those people.

Insanity/Sanity SwitchI can also grab the emails of just the people currently being listed and paste them into the To: field of my email program.  So if there’s some segment of the class I need to get a hold of, it’s easy for me to sort and contact them.

Mousing over a person’s email shows me when they last viewed or responded to the invitation.  So I know if they’ve been interacting with it, or if I’ve perhaps sent it to an inactive email account.

Suddenly, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  I can get this reunion together with my sanity intact.

Little girl at pink themed birthday party

Your Party Should be Yours

People’s first impression of an event often comes from the invite.  The colors, the designs, the fonts, everything works together to paint a picture of what guests should expect.  You can tell whether you’re being invited to a birthday, a wedding or a graduation before you actually read the invite.  But what if design could say more than that?

Birthday invite with lots of clip art
I think I remember receiving this card in 1982.

So I find myself an online invitation service.  I look under birthday parties, and I’m offered a handful of canned graphics of balloons and birthday cakes.  Take it or leave it, that’s what I get to work with.

I mean, that’ll do in a pinch, but this is the 21st century and the Internet.    With everything at my disposal, shouldn’t my invitation be more personal than a picture of balloons that has already been sent to represent a thousand other birthday parties?  Shouldn’t I be able to have more of a say?  Shouldn’t the invite represent my party, not just a party?

Invitecast agrees.  It gives me templates which I can totally customize.  Don’t like the background?  I can substitute another from right off my computer or the Internet.  I can also use a solid color.  If the template offers a featured image, I can replace that too.    You know, like maybe a picture of the person celebrating the birthday!

But it’s not just pictures.  I can change the font type and color and restyle the RSVP button.  I can even add music.  So, in just a couple minutes, I’ve made an invite that’s uniquely me.

An invite isn’t supposed to just be functional.  It should be an expression of yourself and crafted with family and friends in mind.  So don’t be told you have to make do with canned balloons and birthday cake.  There are online invites for the 21st century.

Bappy Birthday

Young caucasian woman holding a blank letter in pink envelope

Party 101: Who’s Coming?

When I was growing up, party invites were always on paper.  They might be handed out in person, or they might be sent through the mail, bit it was always a nice card in an envelope.  It was always one invite per household, and we’d indicate how many people were coming through the RSVP.

But I’ve grown up, and times have changed.  People now keep a far closer eye on their inbox than their mailbox.  They’re willing to immediately respond to an email, but they drag their feet when it comes to filling out an RSVP card and walking it out to the mailbox.

A bunch of services now let you send event invites over the web, but the formality of paper invitations doesn’t translate well.  I want to invite Matt and Ashley, who are married, but I can’t simply send the email to the household, as I can do with a paper invite.  Do I just send the invite to Matt and expect him to speak for the both of them?  Not if I want Ashley to continue speaking to me!

So I email an invite to both of them, and both RSVP for two.  Presumably they both mean they’re bringing the other, but I can’t tell that to the invite service I’m using, so now I have reservations recorded for four people, even though it probably should only be two.


Invitecast gets around this problem by letting me organize invitees into groups.  When Ashley goes to respond to the invitation, she can see if Matt has already responded, and they can both respond for one another by name rather than as an ambiguous, unnamed guest.  I can also invite their children by name, even if the kids don’t have email addresses, and the parents can respond for them as well.

And rather than having to keep a spreadsheet of responses, Invitecast tracks them automatically for me.  Besides letting me know how many chairs to set up, it also lets me send follow-up emails based on replies.  That let’s me give a nudge to those who haven’t responded at all or a note of thanks to everyone who’s replied they’re coming.  No need to pick out emails individually; a couple quick clicks tells Invitecast which group of people a message should address.

Invitecast hugely simplifies party organization.  I can invite someone without having an email address for them (such as in the case of a child), and I can send an email to someone who isn’t invited (such as the parents of children invited to a birthday party).  People can be organized into groups so every member of the group can see what has already been submitted, and they won’t be able to double-up responses.  The result is a far more accurate RSVP list, letting me more easily plan my big event.