Catered Corporate Thanksgiving Parties!

Taking the Stress Out of the Office Party

by: Stefanie Rose Miles

There’s a growing holiday trend among businesses of all types--from the newspaper office around the corner to the national headquarters in a high rise downtown.  The All-American Thanksgiving tradition has extended beyond home and family and become a cause for celebration at the office.  For many, this is the new occasion for the annual, corporate holiday party.  It’s not a rejection of Christmas; in fact, it may be more out of respect for all of the December holidays of faith celebrated across the country.  In keeping with the true tradition, corporate Thanksgiving parties provide an opportunity for everyone to come together and commend the contributions of each for the benefit of all.  And at the heart of every celebration—the ritual that brings people together—sharing a meal. 

So, you’ve decided on a Thanksgiving party at the office this year.  Don’t make one of the most common mistakes and assume that using a caterer couldn’t possibly be something you (or your company) could afford. If you haven’t organized or executed a similar type of party, then planning and budgeting for such an event will be a challenge, to say the least.  And if you’re trying to piece the party food together, well that’s just the beginning. There are logistics from start to finish, plus other things you’re likely not to think of until you realize you don’t have them. Now put a number on all that.  If you understand the notion that “too many cooks spoil the broth” then consider how too many co-workers, expected to fully cater, could end up costing far more than just hiring the pros.  Can it be done?  Yes.  But plan on multiplying the unknowns, adding the forgotten items, and tacking on chaotic coordination.  Feeling stressed?  It’s not even the Christmas season yet!  For these reasons (and more) we will share in this article why a catered, corporate Thanksgiving party is the way to go.  It can be done for all types of businesses with a wide range of budgets. 

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CATERER

A good caterer will work with you to tailor party fare to suit all your guests.  Perhaps late afternoon is slow at your office, making hors d’oeuvres and cocktails the best choice. Or maybe breakfast is a better time-- before the demands of the day get in full swing and everyone’s running in and out and in all directions.  Will it be traditional turkey?  You may need ham as an alternative.  Don’t forget your vegetarian friends!  The best caterers can do home-cooked, comfort food just as easily as they can do cutting edge, fusion gourmet. 

Something you may not have considered is that generally, caterers do/can provide barware, tableware, and silverware; but they usually offer provisions for these needs in disposable and/or recyclable options.  They show up, set up, keep things warm (if needed) and replenished while they serve it all up.  Then they clean up, pack up, and not only make your and everyone else’s lives easier, they allow you to be a gracious host and everyone to have fun during the party.  

Ok, so you got it, you’re sold on how a catered corporate Thanksgiving party makes the most sense, but you just can’t stretch the budget to cover the per person cost you want, even with the most basic menu.  Share the idea with co-workers and see what the overall response is.  If you can offer to cover half the cost per person, that shows your appreciation for them and your desire to celebrate that in an exceptional way.  Far and away, employees are more than happy to pitch in around $10 for an office party with good food they don’t have to cook (and all that goes with that) and to get to knock off a couple of work hours.  If you and/or others feel something is missing by not having that potluck participation, the perfect compromise is leaving dessert for the office bakers extraordinaire.  Get them in on the act by giving them ownership of this tasty task by having them coordinate a dessert menu.  They can choose the items and organize who’s doing what. 

DOING THE THANKS

You’ve checked off the biggest and most important item on your party list—the food.  You’re doing it up right, now you want to make sure you have maximum participation.  Be sure you’ve chosen the best location to provide adequate seating, plenty of space for the food, and for any and all other things/activities you wish to have during the party.  Set the tone and expectations and get everyone excited about the bash by sending out fun invitations (we recommend the easier, less formal email invites) that reflect the tone and style you envision.   Include all pertinent information, necessary details, and request an RSVP by a set date.  Most all caterers require a final, close-guess number of guests before your event date.  

You’ve chosen your party space, now you should plot and plan all tables, chairs, special party activity areas and plan your decor.  Depending on your event and budget, your caterer may provide tablecloths.  Alternatively, you may want to choose and purchase disposable table covers that correspond to your chosen theme and colors.  Traditional Thanksgiving decor can be both easy and elegant.  Collections of colorful, autumn foliage with squashes, pumpkins, and/or Indian corn make great centerpieces and accents.  For a little twist and sophistication try oversized, decorative, glass containers of varying heights and group them in clusters.  Fill them with cinnamon sticks and a variety of nuts in their shells (e.g. walnuts, pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and/or buckeyes.)  Integrate dried or real, whole cranberries and maybe some pine trimmings or fresh mint for color.  We also like decorating with magnolia leaves, white candles or votives, apples of any kind, pomegranates (whole or cut open), and oranges or tangerines pierced with whole cloves.  Just be aware of leaking juices if you pierce and display citrus fruits.

Active appreciation is a must for every company Thanksgiving party.  What you choose to do or offer, should be determined by the time of day of your party, your venue accommodations or limitations, the number of guests, and their collective, anticipated level of engagement.  One popular thing many companies do is to ask employees to write one or more brief thank-yous to other co-workers on post-it notes and display them on a “Thank You Wall” in a central location or high-profile area within the party.  For something similar, we suggest asking each co-worker to write what they appreciate about the others on slips of paper, or if there are too many people, have everyone draw names.  Have a small decorative box or some receptacle labeled with each co-worker’s name, and ask everyone puts his/her notes in the corresponding boxes.  Everyone has a party favor of, personal, appreciation notes. Still too many people?  Make a power point, and on each page put one or more names with something that is uniquely appreciated about them, either written by you or others and play it on a loop on a big screen during the party.

DOING THE GIVING

Ask everyone to email you a favorite recipe—Thanksgiving or otherwise, and you can print and distribute or compile and send digitally as a book or recipe document.  Maybe you want to do a community service project and have everyone bring non-perishable items to donate to a food bank or request coats for a winter coat drive.  You could kick off the holiday season and invite everyone to choose an angel from an angel tree for whom they will purchase a holiday gift.  Another idea is to assemble care packages during a designated time.  Many VA hospitals see patients on a daily basis who are there for a full day of appointments, to be seen by numerous doctors. These veterans often are unable to get lunch due to these schedules, so care packages with some non-perishable snacks are in need and most appreciated.  There are also plenty of opportunities to make and send care packages to various branches of the military across the world.

A fun game or two is always a hit among co-workers.  Do you remember MadLibs?  Have someone creative write a very short story about the office, then pick out keywords to replace with a blank, requesting the corresponding type word (i.e. noun, verb, adjective.)  You may even want to get a bit more specific with those generic requests just to add humor.  Read it at the end and let everyone vote for the best answer for each of the blanks and then read the story in its entirety, filling in the blanks with the winner words.  

No party is complete without music.  You can kick off the season with a compilation of holiday songs to play throughout the party or at least during the meal and social time.  if you’re not quite ready for full-fledged sounds of the season, have fun with it and make a party playlist of your own.  If you’re going with a “Thank you” theme, we can get you started with some of our favorite tunes:  Thank You (Sly and the Family Stone), How Sweet It Is (James Taylor), Thank You (ZZ Top), Kind and Generous (Natalie Merchant), Thank You for Lovin’ Me (Bon Jovi), Thankful (Kelly Clarkson), and Thank You for the Music (Abba).

This year take time to enjoy and share in the appreciation of not only family but your work family and associates also.  If you’re looking for corporate Thanksgiving catering in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, we’ve got you covered!  It would be our honor to deliver a delectable culinary experience for you and your guests. We are especially grateful for all of our valued clients, and send our best for this season of Thanksgiving. 

Unique Dining
You Need a Corporate Caterer. Here’s why.

By: Elesha Piper

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Want to pull off a successful event? Get the catering right. The perfect catering selection will have guests raving about the food, but get it wrong and they’ll be underwhelmed, disappointed and you’ll likely have complaints headed your way. As the event planner, you’ve poured hours and hours of work into creating a great experience, do you really want to leave catering up to chance trying to do it yourself? 

Hiring a professional caterer takes the stress out of menu planning, saves precious event planning time and helps you create the right first impression!

Here are 6 reasons why you shouldn’t DIY and instead hire professionals to cater your event:

1. Save time

It’s no secret that event planning can be super stressful. As the event planner, a key to managing your time effectively is to outsource as many tasks to professionals as possible, rather trying to do everything yourself.

Hiring professionals not only saves time, it lifts the overall standard of the event. Catering is no exception. You don’t want to be running around with shopping lists buying up groceries to put on a lunch for your guests. Hiring a professional caterer to take care of this important part of the event means you can let them do the work while you focus on other aspects of the day.

After briefing us on the type of event, number of people to expect and special requests you can sit back and relax as we design a menu that will take care of your needs.

2. Create the right corporate impression

When hosting a corporate event, all aspects need to reflect the brands professional image and message, including the food. The perfect catering selection and presentation can create an amazing first impression for your guests and your boss! On the other hand, get it wrong and it will leave people feeling underwhelmed and disappointed. As the event planner, you’ve put in a lot of hard work leading up to the day, you don’t want to be let down by unimpressive, DIY catering options. Researching and hiring the right professional caterer takes the stress out of the crucial first impressions moment! We know how important this is and we offer the perfect selection of Executive Lunch Boxes  to impress guests at your next meeting. 

3. Keep up with food trends and variety

You don’t want guests to be bored by lack of catering options. A delicious variety of on trend catering is a sure way to impress your guests.

When hosting a large group for corporate or social events, hiring professional caterers is definitely the best way to go for advice on the most current foods trends and incorporating variety into the menu, especially for large groups. Self-catering multiple food options for large numbers can end up costly and as we pointed out above, the  effort it takes for a non-professional to coordinate a single menu is time consuming enough, let alone a variety of choices.  We’re mindful of new food trends which means our menu stays exciting and relevant. Our menu offers Global Sensations and Unique Dining Experiences to tailor the culinary experiences for your guests.

4. Make healthy catering easy, not boring  

Gone are the days when mini meat pies and deep fried spring rolls can be the only option on finger food menus. Healthy eating is a priority for many guests and as the event planner, it’s your job to cater for the health priorities of your guests and make sure the menu reflects this. Fresh food and foods low in unhealthy saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar should be an option included on every menu. This doesn’t mean health conscious guests will be limited to the boring lettuce / tomato combo salad! We know how to make healthy foods delicious with our enticing range of salads including Vegan Delight, Sautéed Salmon and Grilled Steak.

5. Simplify outdoor events and picnics

When the warm weather rolls around, Pig roasts, BBQ's and Picnics are a great way to celebrate any summer event in Minnesota. Outdoor events are fantastic but they do bring a new set of challenges for event planners, such as limited onsite catering facilities and weather. As a planner, you can’t take for granted access to things like power, water and extra equipment when dealing with the great outdoors. There’s not much you can do about an unexpected storm but you can minimize catering hassles on the day by hiring professional caterers to make sure you have all bases covered. For outdoor events we can set up and provide the buffet tables for you. Our deluxe lunch boxes are also ideal for picnics, with the meal all wrapped in one easy to-go box. Keep it simple and stress free for your next picnic!

6. Cover all dietary requirements with personalized menus

With an increase of new diets and food allergies on the rise, never have dietary requirements been more important or more in demand than they are today. Special meal requests are now commonplace and as the event planner, you must be able to offer guests catering to suit different requirements, even for the most low key meetings or social events.

Rigid and inflexible menus are out, personalized tailored menus are in! Complying with the dietary restrictions of everyone is easier when a professional company is handling the catering. You simply need to communicate to your caterer the dietary requirements of your guests in advance and on the day food can be labeled or set apart for ease of identifying.

Trying to navigate specific, sometimes complicated dietary requirements with DIY catering can be disastrous, you never want to have a guest go hungry because you haven’t catered properly. Or worse, need to deal with a guest with a severe allergic reaction because you got the ingredients wrong.  We’re here to create the right menu for your event and that means diet specific meals will be inventive and enjoyable, not just a few slices of lettuce!

Unique Dining
The Holiday Office Party Nobody Wants to Miss…

and Five Cool Reindeer Games for the Company Christmas Festivities

By: Stefanie Rose Miles  

When it comes to the holidays and work parties, people either really enjoy them or they dread/avoid them like the plague.  Let’s face it, if you’re going to be hanging out with people from work not doing work, it should be fun.  And if you’re the employer footing the bill, you don't have to go in the red to make the office Christmas party spectacular.  This may sound very “ba humbug-ish” but if employees are asked to attend on their own time or even during work hours, it should be extra special.  Employees should also appreciate anything extra that an employer does—no one has to do more than sign the paychecks. Business owners shouldn't feel as though they have to fork over some serious dough.  Something as simple as taking a couple of hours of work time to collectively serve at a soup kitchen and then have the rest of the day off can be as appreciated as dinner and drinks at a five-star restaurant downtown.  Know your customers and know your employees. 

Something “special” would also be something different, possibly unexpected, definitely decadent, and maybe extravagant.  If the party is a similar, annual tradition by preference or design, incorporate something new or unexpected.  Try a different theme, live music, a photographer, or show a fun video of the year in review with plenty of feel-good and happy, recent memories.   If the event simply cannot be at a different venue than the workplace, have the celebration in a different space or at least transform the area with the decor.  Merely rearranging furniture and changing or adding lighting can have a dramatic impact.  Add food and some merry music and you’re rockin’ around the Christmas tree. 

If you choose a place and time away from work, consider sharing more of an experience. Attend a sporting event or a comedy club show, go bowling or caroling, or hire a bus or limo to go light-sight-seeing.  These ideas make quite cool office outings.  Be sure to allow for room and time for everyone to visit, adding to the experience.  Guests invited to participate in something out of the ordinary will be most excited to attend. Besides, an office, holiday party should never be mandatory; that simply would be poor party etiquette. 

The more formal, seated, dinner parties are not as popular as they once were, but if this is the chosen route, it’s wise to have a cocktail hour for mingling before guests are seated, and offer dancing or some activity after the meal.  Having a comedian perform during or after dinner is a unique alternative to music, although music should be a part of the event if only in the background for ambiance. 

A piano could make your next office party a huge hit—provided you have a willing and talented employee or hired-hand to play.  Designate a specific time (after a couple of cocktails, if adult beverages are served) and have everyone gather around for some light-hearted songs of the season.  Or maybe you can get things going with a little game of “name that tune.”  If your pianist or guitar player for that matter, takes requests, that’s a bonus. 

Most people can’t remember who won which Oscar or what they got for Christmas last year, but they can recall happy occasions and laughter.  It’s fun times people spend with others that far outlast all the ribbons, bows, and bonuses (well, for the most part.)  Liven up your work crew and make some mega memories playing reindeer games—holiday-related parties or fun activities.  Encourage everyone to play, but participation is another thing not to be required.  Below is a list of few cool holiday party games we refer to as Reindeer Games.

    ▪    North Pole Pictionary/Charades:  Play just like traditional Pictionary or charades, but come up with words and phrases associated with the holidays, not so easily drawn or guessed. The words, Christmas tree, present, and star are probably NOT ones to use for the Pictionary version. 

    ▪    Holiday Who’s Line is it Anyway:  Find and write down quotes from various Christmas/holiday movies spanning decades. Write them down with the name of the characters who said them.  Have a game host read them and teams guess or less formally, have whoever raises his/her hand first. 

    ▪    Yuletide Trivia (or narrow it down to) Christmas Movies and/or Carols Trivia:  There are actual games, ’Tis the Season Trivia and Christmas Trivia, but making your own questions with some added office humor is best.

    ▪    A Holiday Roast:  Choose one or more people who consent well ahead of time to take the hot seat.  Let all others know (perhaps by including in the invitation) and give them an opportunity to address the roast-ee in the old Dean Martin Roast-style, as long as it’s tolerated by HR.  This could make for an overall office Christmas party theme, especially if someone of prominence is retiring AND has the humor for it.  Another idea is a Roast exclusively for such an occasion as a retiree party or even a New Year’s Eve Celebration.

    ▪    Customized Night before Christmas or 12 Days of Christmas:  Have a few creative minds collaborate and write your very own, detailed, company’s or office’s version of one of these classics and have it read/sung during the party.  It might make a fun party favor printed for each guest or sent in an email, and must be captured on video. 

Whatever your business, whatever your budget, celebrate work and make your office holiday party an extra-special occasion this year!

Unique Dining
How to Make & KEEP Your New Year’s Resolution

By: Stefanie Rose Miles

The no-fail method for keeping your New Year’s resolution…resolve not to make a New Year’s Resolution this year!  No, that’s not fair, nor is it any fun.  Get in the spirit of a fresh start and begin now considering just what might be your New Year’s Resolution 2019.  With just a few practical suggestions you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goal, pioneering the trend of successfully reached resolutions. 

How many years have you resolved on January first to do SOMETHING of considerable significance only to have your resolve DISSOLVE by February?  If you answered “more than once” you are among the vast majority of adults in America.  We can all think of more than one or more things we’d like to change about ourselves or our lives.  Many of us well-intentioned optimists set ourselves up to fail before we even begin. The two most common resolutions that are far more likely to fail than to succeed:  1.) Lose weight 2.) Quit smoking.

The problems lie not within the admirable goals, but within the ambiguity and lack of support and/or detail with which they’re so boldly thrown out to stand.  The two most popular:  Lose weight, quit smoking. Let’s examine, the reasons for the repeated failures of those and all goals in general.

Be Specific.

Losing weight and quitting smoking are not easy undertakings for most people, compared to, for example, waking thirty minutes early every day.  Successfully losing weight or quitting smoking requires far more effort than merely setting an alarm clock every night.  One of the biggest problems is the failure to specify the goal.  How much weight do you want to lose?  What is a reasonable amount of time needed/desired to achieve this goal?  Obviously, regarding smoking, stopping is the goal. 

Take Time to Plan for the Short and Long Haul.

But another failure closely related to lack of specificity is lack of detailing a plan with marked milestones.  Medical advice would be highly recommended with respect to either of the goals aforementioned.  One or more professionals can be the best resources in helping you make both long term and short-term plans with tangible goals as well as serve as accountability partners.  Physicians, nutritionists, fitness specialists, counselors, life coaches, and reliable research information are good resources to consider and/or consult. If your resolution is less or not health-related, doing some basic research into best practices for meeting your objective is helpful.  Talk to someone who has accomplished your mission. 

Know and Have a Core Reason.

Why?  What is your motivation for your aspiration?  There may be multiple reasons or benefits but start with the very core, the force driving you.  Write it down, say it, keep it on hand as a constant reminder.  Be sure to list those additional reasons and/or benefits as well, and revisit them, particularly for the times you need a lift or some reinvigoration.  Your “why” initially may be (or have been) to fit into this dress for my high school reunion.  Unless you truly don’t care if you put back on the pounds the next day, then you need to expand your “why.”  Of course, the reunion can be a motivating factor, but if you want to maintain your new weight, your thinking needs to shift.  Let me give you a personal example. 

Find the Stick-To-It Stuff You're Made Of.

Several years ago my New Year’s resolution was to run a marathon.  I believed in my heart I could do it, I just knew that I needed a bigger “why” than just being able to call myself a marathoner or the added bonus of losing weight, which I didn’t, but that paled in comparison to all the benefits I didn’t even know I’d reap.  Would I give up running just for myself?  Maybe.  Would I give up if I were running for someone else who couldn’t run just a step for reasons having nothing to do with their desire or any self-inflicted?  Not a chance.  I needed skin in the game, and I got it.  I dedicated my training and marathon in honor of a little girl in my neighborhood with leukemia AND in honor of a childhood friend, also battling the disease.  I set a fundraising goal, let people know what I was doing, and let them know how they could support my effort and cause.  I had no idea how much keeping in regular touch with my honorees, hearing the gratitude in their parents’ and loved ones’ voices would inspire me.  As the dollars were adding up, as I looked at my honorees' photos next to my alarm clock each morning, I couldn’t hit snooze.  As I thought of how either of them would give anything to feel well enough to go for a walk, much less for a run, I had no choice but to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Consider the Unforeseen.

As you work toward your goal, life goes on and the world doesn’t stop--neither do deadlines, kids, viruses, or car trouble.  Of course, these things we mostly can’t help, but we can certainly try to plan for them.  Dream up a few most-likely-to-try-to-sabotage-my-goal items, record them, and make a plan for overcoming such obstacles.  I agree with those who say that you are more likely to get out of a good habit if you don’t do it for three or more days.  Too bad the same can’t be said for bad habits!

Be Semi-Flexible.

Just as unplanned life circumstances and events can get in the way, so can planned ones, so plan on it.  There should be times when you allow yourself a splurge or a random day off.  This is not the same as an earned one.  Allow yourself some acceptable exemptions, for example, you decide at the last minute to go out to a late movie Thursday night.  You know you’re going to get home late and you’ll be dragging Friday morning for work.  Give yourself permission to skip your morning workout but make it up after work Friday or one of the two following mornings you hadn’t planned to exercise.  It’s fine to make an occasional deal with yourself as long as you keep up your end of the bargain!  Set yourself a weekly goal so that by the same day each week you just know that you will have read at least seven chapters, eaten at least 21 servings of vegetables, or exercised four out of seven days, for example. 

Remember Life's a Journey, Resolutions are Too.

Resolve to make a New Year’s Resolution in 2019.  And whatever it is, set out to enjoy the journey of achieving your goal.  Don’t take yourself TOO seriously but seriously enough for success.  And once you’ve arrived, there are no rules that you have to wait until the next year to set another goal.  You can change the world one resolution at a time.

Unique Dining
Rock the Block: How to Organize an Awesome Neighborhood Block Party

Games, food, fun, oh my! Follow these tips for a rockin’ block party

By: Jessi Minneci

Whether you can remember it or not, there WAS a time people actually knew all of their neighbors! Families would get together to barbeque, and the kids would bicycle on the cul-de-sac until dark. Unfortunately, times have more or less changed since the early 2000s. 

Are you attempting (and so far failing) to meet the new neighbors on your block? Have your kids been begging you to host an epic egg-toss contest? Whether your goal is to swap family recipes with the local moms or set up a few potential playdates for your kids with the family down the street, bringing the neighborhood together for a block party is a great idea!

The block party offers a chance to bring together anywhere from 15 to 100 families (or more, we won’t set a cutoff!) and to catch up with those you haven't been able to get together with in a while. Not to mention, it can help create a homey feel throughout the whole neighborhood.

Start the tradition in your neighborhood and get that block party going! Here’s how:

Pick the hot spot

Before you can host a block party, you are going to need to set a concrete date and location. Choose a location that will accommodate a large number of people – particularly right on your block, but only if all of your neighbors are on board and if the town will allow you to shut down the street (for safety reasons). If not, you may want to look into moving the party to a more communal area, such as a local park that’s ideally within walking distance. Remember, you will have tables, chairs, grills, coolers, games, and more, so size and space are definitely factors.

You are also going to want to check the weather report. If you live in an area where it often rains later in the day, plan an afternoon get together. Depending on where you live, spring and fall are ideal months for outdoor block parties – but in other regions, summer is the best bet.

Once you figure out a date and a place, start planning ASAP. The further ahead your start planning, the more time you will give friends and neighbors to prepare and mark their calendars.

Make sure it’s legal

Going along with location, it’s more likely than not that your block party will be hosted on some type of public property. Check with your local city or town hall to learn if you need a permit or any other special certifications.

Many municipalities will provide street barriers that can be picked up the day before or of the party. Others may prohibit the use of a grill on public property and/or park grounds, so it's always best to ask beforehand to avoid any potential strife or fines.

And, once you know the laws of the land, it’s important that you spread the word to the families in your area. All potential block party guests should know the rules and regulations – both town mandated and general – such as making it clear not to toss trash into the barbeque or staying out of the yards of neighbors not attending the party.

Think up a theme

Setting a theme for your neighborhood get together gives the event direction and aids in planning the party. Maybe you’ll want to have each family wear a distinctive color to make members easily identifiable and to set each apart when it comes to neighbor vs. neighbor competitions (remember, the epic egg-toss). Perhaps you’ll want to decorate with leis, flowery umbrellas, and host a limbo contest with a Hawaiian theme!

A theme will help set the tone of the party, and then the remainder of the planning will branch off of that.

Flex your delegation muscle

Want to avoid stress? We feel you! Don’t hesitate to assign some of the party planning duties to the neighbors:

  • Ask one person to make an invitation flyer
    • Ask the kids if they’d like to stuff invitation flyers into neighbors’ mailboxes
  • Ask others to bring yard chairs and folding tables
  • Designate someone to manage the decorations
  • Ensure that a few people won’t mind donating some of their backyard games (like corn hole)

You may want to consider asking each family to bring their own beverages and/or ask every family to donate a set amount to offset the cost of the food, entertainment/activities, and prizes for the kiddies and entertainment.

Give them the grub

You can’t host a block party without providing some grub! Luckily, you have a few options here:

  • You can host a potluck block party. Ask guests to bring a favorite snack or side dish to share and ensure the party has a wealth of tasty treats. When neighbors RSVP, ask them if they’d like to prepare and share a dish. As the organizer, keep a list of what people are bringing to make sure you don't end up with eight pasta salads and no cookies.
  • Take the pressure off of each family (and off of yourself!) by getting the block party catered! After all, you’ve put so much time and effort into the planning of the shindig, you don’t want to have to watch everyone else have fun all day from behind the grill or buffet table. By delegating the food necessities to pros like us, you can ensure that you’ll sit back, relax, participate in the hula-hoop contest, and enjoy every bit of the block party just as much as everyone else! Opt to order a mix of hot and cold foods (such as salads, a sandwich platter, barbeque meats, and grill essentials) for the block party, and explain to your caterer any special needs or dietary restrictions. Then, let the pros take over and man the grill!

Serve up some fun

You can never go wrong with having some activities up your sleeve and the more activities the merrier! Encourage the kids to bring their bikes, skateboards, scooters or roller blades. Plan out an egg toss, water balloon fight, even enlist a piñata! The possibilities are endless when it comes to fun, and the entertainment at a block party doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg!

Remember, too, kids aren't the only ones who should be having a blast. Plan a few adult-geared activities geared at breaking the ice between neighbors from opposite ends of the block. Set up a volleyball net and serve up some fun.

Keep these key factors in mind when planning your block party and everything will unravel without a hitch! In fact, you may erven want to get a neighborhood committee together after the fact to discuss what went wrong, what went well, and what can be improved. Keep a record of names, contact information, civic departments, donations, costs, etc. Before you know it, you may have started a community tradition – and can begin planning for next year!

Lastly, be sure to acknowledge individuals and groups who donated their time, goods, and expertise to make the event a success.

Unique Dining
5 Mistakes Not to Make Hosting Your Son’s/Daughter’s Graduation Party

By: Stefanie Rose Miles

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Every parent of a high school senior has surely wondered where in the world time has gone.  If you’re currently that parent and you feel like the years have flown by, this last one at home will seem like it's ending nearly as soon as it's begun. The biggest mistake any party host can make is deciding to have one at the last minute.  With all the extra events to attend throughout these months, preparing for summer and your young adult’s next steps, there’s truly no time to waste. By avoiding these mistakes and considering our alternative suggestions, you can stay on track to make this occasion one of the most special and memorable for family and friends.

DON’T:

…forget to ask the guest of honor. You may want or be willing to, but neither means that you must or will.  Broach the subject casually (and early) with your child first.  If you feel strongly about hosting, let it be known that is something you’d really like to do (with his/her approval) or simply start the conversation by conveying that you’d be willing to host a graduation party.  Keep an open mind and really listen to your son/daughter and what his/her preferences may be.  If your guest of honor isn’t involved or included in the planning, you’re already off on the wrong foot. 

Your senior can be a tremendous help in so many ways, but particularly in the initial planning phase.  It’s always best to try to find out what others may be planning and when.  Sure, you can get a consensus from your friends, but your insider can get the scoop—what others’ parents may be thinking, as well as the students, themselves. 

…plan a party that doesn’t reflect your graduate’s personality/social preference.  If your son tends to be introverted and more comfortable with a small group of friends or just family, you shouldn’t expect that an open house (open to more than 30 guests, for example) with numerous people coming and going, would be ideal.  Conversely, if your daughter has never met a stranger, is friends with everyone, and/or involved in sports and numerous clubs, you don’t want to assume or your place is destined to be graduation party central.  Then again, she may have notions of some outrageous soiree that would be terribly fun and lovely, but would also be entirely over-the-top and unaffordable.

…go it alone.  Graduation is a busy and emotional time for not only the graduate but also the parents.  And this time in life is one of the more expensive.  Don’t lose sight of being reasonable and practical in the midst of all the activities, extended family, upcoming moving expenses, college, etc.  This is a time when asking and/or paying for some help is most acceptable and a worthy investment. 

Is your senior part of a close-knit group of other classmates in the same grade? Maybe he/she is one of a couple or more graduating neighbors who are friendly enough, that may make joining forces with a few other parents make really good sense.  By and large, it seems that there are either a number of parties and open houses (which can have students AND parents trying to drop into more than a dozen celebrations in one weekend) or there are one or two all-encompassing bashes.  Co-hosting with other parents can be a terrific solution, particularly in regard to saving each time and money and cutting down on the stress of trying to make the rounds and spending no real quality time at any. 

Another area of help many parent party hosts neglect or greatly underestimate is the food to be served.  Resigning to take this on yourself, as cook, set-up person, server (even if it’s self-serve, you have to replenish and do at least a bit of cleaning and clearing during the party), break-down and clean-up crew, is not the way to go.  If you plan to be a gracious and guest-involved host as well, you’re setting yourself up to fail, at least, at one of these roles.  Caterers are far more affordable than most people realize.  The vast number of extras or “unrealized” services they provide can be overlooked and greatly underestimated.  They shop for ingredients, prepare, deliver, set-up, serve, clean up, and pack up, saving you hours of time, work, and stress, enabling you to enjoy being both parent and host. If you just love to cook or bake and really want to contribute in this way, consider making one of your crowd's and/or graduate’s favorites.

…send party invitations too early or too late.  There is absolutely no harm in sharing your party plans as early as you like, especially with those you plan to invite.  It’s not necessary, or recommended, that you send save-the-dates, however.  Between graduation ceremony invitations, graduation announcements, party invitations, thank-you notes, and cards you and/or your graduate will be sending, you have plenty of communication to manage.  Three weeks prior to the occasions is sufficient to send the party invitations.  All information and directions should be as briefly and concisely included as possible.  The verbiage and style should reflect the spirit of the party—fun and casual or formal and sophisticated.  Request an RSVP date with enough time to follow-up with those from whom you’ve not heard by that time (if you must).  Unfortunately, the favor of a response to an invitation is not reliable. You will need to give your caterer a final count or close estimate at least one week prior to the event.

…miss the opportunity to express gratitude and share the importance of doing so with your son/daughter.  Nothing equates to or surpasses the sentiment of thanks like a hand-written note from the recipient.  It shows respect for someone who’s shown you generosity in some way, it’s a best practice in etiquette, and your words and effort will not soon be forgotten.  But an ungrateful receiver or a gift, gone unacknowledged, is far more likely to be remembered. Need some incentive for your grad?  Collect all gifts/money he/she receives and hand them over whenever the corresponding note is written and mailed. 

Now, dry your tears, celebrate, and also congratulate yourself on a job well done!

Unique Dining
Party Foul! Warning Signs Your Party Is About To Be a Disaster

Look out for these warning signs -> dodge them -> then host a swanky soiree

By: Jessi Minneci

Parties are fun, man! We all love getting dolled up and dapper for a much needed get together, celebration, or soiree – and when we gather friends, family, and coworkers together to eat, drink, and mingle, it’s generally easy to have a good time. But sometimes… it’s not.

Sorry, we’re not trying to scare you… but we are trying to be honest. Unfortunately, things can go very, very wrong. No matter the who, what, when, where, and why you are planning for your party, there are some potential disasters you may want to prepare for.

Before the food starts cooking and the drinks get pouring, here’s is what you should consider:

When guests decide to be no-shows

When you send out 50 invites, get 35 RSVPs, yet only eight guests show up… it can feel like a punch to the gut. There’s only one thing worse than the paid-for entertainment not showing up, and that’s your guests standing you up day-of.

A large room with a small amount of guests is intimidating. HOWEVER, this could really be your chance to step into the spotlight as an amazing host! Plan a few games or activities that would work whether you end up with a big or small crowd. Even if attendees don’t know each other, you can soon have them all mingling.

Let’s look on the bright side – fewer guests mean more snacks and drinks to pass around to the people who do attend!

But, to avoid this situation in the first place, consider checking in on your guests in the days leading up to the event: Create a Facebook event page where you can mass-reach out to attendees to keep the event top of mind. Depending on the type of event you’re hosting (like a charity or fundraiser), you may even want to consider ticketing it. After all, you can’t deny that people will have more motivation to attend because of the the financial ‘investment’ they have made in your party.

Dealing with the rain on your parade

Hosting a backyard barbeque? If you’re planning an outdoor party, it’s imperative to devise a wet-weather plan. No one wants to be chowing down on a burger on your lawn when, all of a sudden, it starts down pouring.

Wherever possible, it’s best to have a backup (indoor) location. If that doesn’t seem possible or within your budget constraints, it would be a good idea to at least enlist some waterproof overhangs and decorations.

  • Ensure there are waterproof coverings for any electrical equipment (such as a DJ booth)
  • Consider tenting your party
    • Tents can also be equipped with AC / heat so that guests will be comfortable no matter the outdoor conditions
  • When choosing décor, go for weather-proof options like wipe-down plastic seating
    • Avoid cushions that will soak up the rain
    • Avoid anything that could be easily blown away, like paper banners and streamers

Remember to check the weather report on the days leading up to your event, and make appropriate accommodations before disaster (or lightning) strikes.

This is not a Vince Vaughn movie; you don’t need wedding crashers

 On the plus side, you should be honored that your guests are so excited about your party that they’re hyping it up. On the opposite side, this means word of your party might leak beyond your strict guest list. Whether it’s suddenly having to entertain people’s friends and family, or having strangers turn up on your doorsteps, party crashers are a total buzzkill.

Remind your guests when an event is invite-only, and encourage them to ask if they want to bring along anyone new. Also, if inviting people over social media (via the Facebook event that we mentioned above), set the page to private to avoid uninvited acquaintances getting the wrong idea.

Forgoing food faux pas

When it comes to the food selection at your party, have you planned for a big enough selection? Do you know the food allergies and diet restrictions of your guests? Do you trust your oven to handle cooking portions for 50 people?

Despite our best planning, the menu may fall short in pleasing every singly attendee. To avoid guests going hungry or battling a nasty allergic reaction to the peanut-filled dessert table, make sure you include a request for this information on your invites. If you plan on serving food and drink, it’s your responsibility to make sure the fare suits the crowd.

To further take the burden off your hands, enlist the expertise of a caterer. We offer customizable menu options and you will be able to create a menu that satisfies the needs and wants of everyone on your list. Even more, the food definitely won’t end up burnt. Whereas it may if you were to attempt to keep watch of the 10 different things you’ve stuffed in the oven at once!

When it comes down to it, each of these potential party disasters is common, but keep in mind that they don’t need to be when it comes to your upcoming bash. Being aware of the potential party fouls that can transform from innocent slip-up to epic disaster gives you an opportunity to put in place measures to make sure that they either don’t go wrong, or if they do, that they don’t negatively impact the experience of you and your attendees!

Remember, the dictionary definition for party is “a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment.” Synonyms include celebration and festivity. Do those words seem to have negative connotations to you? We think not!

Sit back, relax, take a few deep breaths, and plan away, you party animal! You now can strategize accordingly, prepared with your fool-proof, party disaster prevention plan.

Unique Dining
9 Traditional Appetizers with a New Attitude

The Lowdown on Updated Old Favorites…

By: Stefanie Rose Miles

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Entertaining these days, whether for a fancier occasion or tailgating, is overall more casual, with preferences for mixing and mingling over formal, full-on meals.  Appetizers are big hits with guests who like to try different foods and flavors.  Serving appetizers also guarantees that even your most picky guests will find something they like.  We’ve chosen several, tried and true classics that have been updated, upgraded, and received two thumbs up from both hosts and guests of late. 

CHECK OUT CHEESE AND CRACKERS.

Take an old standby and think entirely out of the Ritz box.  This first creation is also a tip of the hat to the classic Fig Newton-- goat cheese and fig crackers.  Use plain, water crackers as the base, add a nice size dollop of goat cheese, and top with a few, fine slices of dried fig.  Done and delicious!

Top the same cracker with hummus and add a few slices of decadent, Sicilian olives and you've got a fast, last-minute appetizer that will not give that secret away.

For something a bit more substantial, mix cream cheese, fresh dill, salt, and lemon.  Spread a cracker with the mixture, top that with a small bite of smoked salmon, and garnish with a touch of leftover, fresh dill. 

In this day and time of trendy kale and quinoa, thank goodness one thing is always in good taste.   Bacon simply can't be beat.  Take your hip and cool kale, wilt it in the bacon fat left from frying your crisp strips of succulence, and drizzle maple syrup over the greens. Toss them so they are evenly coated and top your cracker with the coated kale and a hunk of bacon or some crumbles.

For a sophisticated, vegetarian alternative, mini mozzarella salads (Caprese on crackers) is an easy choice.  Slice plum tomatoes, top with mini bocconcini, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and finish with a couple of basil leaves.  Delectable!

FRESH FRUIT NEVER FAILS.

But we’ve kicked it up a couple of notches.  Strawberry bruschetta can be made easily by buttering French baguettes and broiling them for a couple of minutes.  Top them with sliced strawberries coated in white sugar and broil until the sugar is caramelized (three to five minutes more.)

Fig Brûlée with Barrata brings it.  Half figs and place them on a flame-proof surface and sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Melt the sugar until it bubbles, with a kitchen torch on medium-high flame. Put Burrata cheese on a plate, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on a bit of Kosher or sea salt and black pepper, then arrange figs around the cheese. It's easy, makes an impressive presentation, and it's scrumptious!

Watermelon salsa is off the charts sweet and savory when it's made with chopped onion, chopped and seeded Anaheim chile, balsamic vinegar, and garlic salt.

For a more streamlined and traditional fruit salsa, combine watermelon, pineapple, chopped red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, and toss all in lime juice.

Two of my favorite ways to serve sweet salsas are with homemade flour, tortilla chips and/or dessert taco shells. For chips, cut flour tortillas in triangular, pie slices, brush lightly with melted butter, sprinkle with sugar (or a mixture of sugar and cinnamon if preferred) and bake until they’re crisp.  For sweet taco shells, use wonton wrappers (sprinkle with sugar after frying if desired) to fill with fruit salsa. 

Bacon-wrapped dates or pineapple, prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe, and balsamic roasted grapes are all sweet and savory sensations, with recipes that can be found at www.allrecipes.com.

TOP SHELF VEGGIES TAKE CENTER STAGE IN A HIP, HOT DIP.

Spinach & artichoke dip became wildly popular 15 to 20 years ago and it remains so still.  It’s simply irresistible when served hot.  This recipe is perfect for parties because it's served on baguettes.  To keep the individual slices warm, serve in a covered, casserole-type dish. 

Another unique version of this classic is made with no mayo, but adding some red bell pepper, and feta cheese.  The mozzarella is our favorite, main cheese because it browns so beautifully.  Surprisingly, frozen spinach works much better than fresh.  This recipe is also a favorite because it’s chock full of spinach and artichokes.  All these dips, served hot or cold, look and taste terrific in sourdough bread bowls.  The no-mayo recipe can be found at www.cookieandkate.com. For something different, try stuffing shells, peppers, or mushrooms with spinach and artichoke dip. 

MEATBALLS…BRING BACK THE MYSTER, JUST NOT THE MYSTERY MEAT!

Meatballs have been a respectable fixture at gatherings for longer than we know!  Take a break from the typical recipes and wow your guests with rich and full-of-flavor, Swedish meatballs.  This recipe is heavenly, and the gravy is the heart of the dish.  We strongly recommend serving them in a heated container, maybe a crockpot.  The key secret ingredient in this acclaimed version is Worcestershire sauce.  For another dimension of flavor, try adding a tablespoon of cooking sherry. 

Another stick-to-your-ribs version uses a combination of ground beef, veal, and pork plus coffee in the gravy.  Nobody goes home hungry with these on hand!

FOR MANY GUESTS, IT’S NOT A PARTY WITHOUT WINGS.

If you’re going to serve chicken wings, why not make them the best any of your guests have had?  If frying, don’t trouble with fancy oils.  Vegetable, canola, or peanut work best since they don’t have any competing flavors. They also have a high smoking point which makes the skin crisp up perfectly.

No fry zone?  To achieve crispiness, toss wings initially with a bit of baking powder when you salt them.  Twice bake them to ensure crispiness.  Arrange wings on a rimmed cookie sheet filled with about a cup of water.  Cover with foil and bake/steam at 350 degrees until fully cooked.  Lastly, salt the wings after cooking, broil afterward for extra crispiness, then toss in sauce and serve. 

For a more sophisticated buffalo sauce, use your typical minced garlic and hot sauce, but replace melted butter with olive oil and lemon juice.  Add chopped, fresh basil to your ranch dressing for a more vibrant taste. 

Some of the most unique flavors of chicken wing sauces include wine wings (made with white zinfandel and cinnamon, and are acclaimed to be best when dipped in blue cheese), maple mustard (for sweet and spicy), garlic parmesan, sweet and spicy Sriracha sauce, and Coca-Cola sauce.  You may want to go Memphis style and dry rub your wings.  Start with a base of Cajun spice, ground mustard, paprika, and dash in whatever else your palate prefers.  Wing it on the international stage and try a Latin-Asian fusion glaze.  Sour cherry preserves, lime juice, and habanero meld to make a sweet, sour, and flaming hot sauce for grilled wings. Another Asian angle tosses wings with a green curry paste.  Or take it Italian with a creamy tomato sauce.  Roast plum tomatoes until very concentrated.  Blend with goat cheese and olive oil, then toss wings in the mix before broiling to crispy yumminess.

RAISE THE BAR…THE BURGER BAR, THAT IS.

Start with the best beef for burger-grilling available, as well as ground chicken or turkey and veggie patty options.   For toppings, build from the basic vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles.  Then consider grilled zucchini, roasted green chiles, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, jalapeños — whatever you can imagine.  Fruits like figs, pineapple, pears, and coconut can be delightfully daring, particularly when grilled.  Be sure to provide a variety of cheeses and don’t forget crispy bacon!

Condiments can be just as complex, just remember the ketchup, mustard, mayo, and relish.  Try BBQ sauce, Sriracha, salsa, bean dip, tzatziki, guacamole, pesto, pesto-mayo, and hummus.  Spreads like lobster or crab can be unexpected and sensational as well as jellies like red pepper, mint, and basic strawberry, grape, and/or raspberry.  Wooden, craft sticks are great for labeling—stand them right in the container and they can double as spreaders.

IT'S NOT ALL JUST RUFFLES, FRITOS, AND FRENCH ONION DIP.

Chips and dips have certainly come a long way, baby!  Handmade guacamole, salsa, tzatziki, and hummus will never disappoint.  To step up the onion dip, how about using caramelized onions?  Creamy horseradish and dill is an addictively, different spice combination. Hot Ricotta is a cool switch from queso.  Creamy smoked salmon with horseradish and dill is D-lish.  One of my favorite tea sandwiches also makes a simple and savory spread—cream cheese with sliced olives and crushed walnuts.  On rye crackers or bread, I could eat my weight in it.  To enhance most any dip, try adding a squeeze of lemon; use very sparingly to taste.  A hulled-out cabbage makes a gorgeous bowl for dips, especially for those served with crudités. These recipes and more can be found at www.realsimple.com.

A wonderful vegetarian option is the "no-cheese dip."  With fresh cashews, red bell pepper, water, lemon juice, Kosher or sea salt, and garlic, everything is soaked before blended on high.  Tastes like cheese! Find recipes here.

Chips can and should be just as varied as dips.  From handmade potato and sweet potato, with a variety of salts and seasonings, to pita, veggie straws, and squares of various breads grilled stove top in butter—the more to dip the better.

STUFF TASTES BETTER ON STICKS.

Skewers, kabobs-- whatever you call stuff on a stick, what a fabulous way to cook, serve, AND eat.  We’ve got some funky alternatives to the beef and vegetable or shrimp skewers we all know and love.  My absolute favorite from a presentation perspective (they taste great too!) are these tortellini skewers that look like flowers in a vase!  Try using spinach and tomato tortellini too, for more color.

A pasta skewer begs antipasto.  This crowd-pleaser consists of Italian-style chicken sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, artichokes, and basil.  Another stick-app that tastes just as good as it looks. 

Another skewer presentation that wows, is anchoring skewers of fresh, seasonal veggies with a large head of lettuce.  Load up the skewers and load up the lettuce head.  Finishing each skewer with dark olives as pictured, finishes the look and taste completely. 

Mini salads and sandwich sticks are as crazy cute as they are fun to eat.  Some favorite salad sticks are Greek, chicken Caesar, wedge, melon feta, and a summer salad made with a melon ball, two salami slices, and arugula leaves.  And how about quail egg salad sandwiches, BLTs, and brown sugar smokies? My favorite, not pictured and that is to die for-- powdered sugar-dusted Monte Cristos with warm raspberry sauce for dipping.  Most of these recipes can be found at www.allrecipes.com.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention skewered sweets.  It’s hard to eat just one of these mini pie pops.  Serve these cuties with individual, self-serve cups of warm vanilla and/or blueberry sauce.  And especially for the holidays, these Grinch skewers are loved by kids from one to 92.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3 with green grapes, bananas, and strawberries.  Cap the caps with mini marshmallows and it’s beginning to look a lot like Whoville! 

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS.

But he's not in these diverse, deviled eggs. Three favorites can be found at www.sheknows.com.  They are smoked salmon and dill, topped with caviar; feta and caper with chives; and curried with grapes. Love how they are displayed together randomly.  This adds to the intrigue.

Just when you think you've seen it all, think and see again.  These aren't your granddad's deviled eggs, but they'll be gobbled up with the same voraciousness.  Many appetizers are timeless, but they transform and translate, just as art and music.  Embrace your tastebuds.  Experiment, create and entertain others and yourself.  Eat well, live well.

Unique Dining
17 Thoughtful Gift Ideas For Graduates

By: Elesha Piper

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Graduation is a time to congratulate the new grad in your life on all their years of hard work! Whether you want to set them up for college life or give them something sentimental to cherish, we’ve got you sorted with one of these can't-go-wrong graduation gift ideas.

A duffel bag

A stylish duffel bag makes a useful gift for the college-bound student. Duffels take up less room than the traditional luggage set, making it easier to squeeze into compact spaces of a dorm. Great for toting items like linens etc. off to college and then used for weekend trips back home. Check out Travel + Leisure's range of the best rolling duffel bags and backpacks.

Noise cancelling headphones

Dorm life will be full of noise and distractions, making it a tough gig to study or just find some alone time to recharge. Noise cancelling headphone are the perfect solution for a grad to listen to tunes or study in peace, no matter how rowdy things are getting around them. Here are 2017’s best noise cancelling headphonesaccording to Techradar.

Monthly gift subscription box

Monthly subscription boxes have snowballed in popularity, you won’t be short on ideas to gift your grad a little surprise each month. Fun, practical or both, this will be a treat to look forward to. Popular choices from Cratejoy include Boomtown Box for lovers of the outdoors, My Reward Box for the gals and Hawaii’s Coffee Tour for caffeine lovers.

T-shirt blanket

Leaving high school means saying farewell to teams and clubs a grad has been a part of for years. It can be tough! Collect up all their sporting or club shirts and have a t-shirt blanket made. It’s a wonderful way to stitch all those memories together, literally, into a quilt for the dorm room. Just make sure you get their permission first, they may want to keep some shirts in 1 piece!

Inspirational print

Your grad can hang an inspiration print on the wall or prop it up on the desk. A beautiful way to brighten a dorm room, it’s also a daily dose of encouragement and a reminder to go out there at get ‘em! Behold, fabulous print ideas from Etsy.com.

Coffeemaker

Where would students be without caffeine? A personal coffee maker will be a welcome gift to fuel those all-night study sessions. Single serve coffee capsules are the easiest way to make a cup in the comfort of a dorm room. Paper due tomorrow? Let’s do this!

Yearly planner / organizer

College life will be busy. There will be a bunch of new activities and deadlines to keep track of. Help them stay organized with a beautiful planner to make jotting down important dates, goals and to-do list a pleasure. You can even gift a personalized planner.

Basic tool set

Super practical, this gift that will come in handy when assembling any flat pack furniture for their new dorm, saving them from having a #flatpackbreakdown.  We’ve all been there, it’s not pretty.

A small, handy toolset is also a budget friendly gift option.

Engraved jewelry

This classic graduation gift will never go out of style. Have a ring, necklace or watch engraved with the date of graduation or another sentimental note. Or give a piece of family heirloom jewelry for a truly meaningful congratulations.

Apple Watch Series 3

An alternative to the more sentimental watch, an Apple Watch Series 3  will help keep your grad healthy, organized and connected with a bunch of tech capabilities and apps. The Series 3 has a big focus on health and wellness tracking, perfect for a fitness lover or gym bunny.

Stocks

Give them an early sense of control over their financial health by gifting stocks. Stockpile makes giving stocks incredibly easy. Gift cards - printable, plastic or email versions - are available to gift stocks up to the value of $2000. A nice way to give your grad a financial head start and get younger investors excited about the markets.

Luxury linen

Beautiful bed linen will add a touch of luxury to a rough and ready dorm room. Add towels, face cloths and a linen basket to round this gift out for ultimate practicality with a touch of luxury. If your grad would rather choose their own, a Brooklinen gift card is the answer.

On campus gift cards

If the college your grad is off to has a store on campus, a gift card will come in handy for any college supplies once they arrive, food, coffee, books etc. or as a little extra spending ‘mad money’.

Money

Cash will always be a popular gift choice! Don’t just hand a wad of bills over- get creative and slip the cash (or a check) between the pages of a thoughtful book.  It could lean towards ‘self-help’ topics or something to complement their studies. If you're stuck for ideas, here’s the book that Bill Gates suggests every graduate read. Or take your pick of these 11 must reads for high school grads.

Diffuser and essential oils

Uplifting or calming fragrances can do wonders to help your grad get settled into a new environment. Gift a diffuser and selection of luxury essential oils, choosing scents that help with focus to study or relieve tension headaches are a great idea too. The VicTsing oil diffuser gets rave reviews and doTERRA is your one-stop shop for essential oils.

Laptop

If the budget will stretch for a big ticket item, a new laptop will undoubtedly be a hit for the graduating teen. Add a designer laptop sleeve as the cherry on top of this ultimate graduation gift.  Check out these sleek options from Elle.com for laptop cases every graduate would be happy to tote around.

DIY gift basket filled with essentials

Get creative and assemble your own ‘college care package’ filled with a bunch of stuff, practical and fun, your grad will love. As always, you can rely on Pinterest for a bunch of inspiration - check out hundreds of ideas of what to include in a personalized college care package and college survival kits!

Unique Dining
Turn in the Time Clock: It’s Time to Plan Your Retirement Party!

Let’s kick off your retirement with an epic celebration – here’s how…

By: Jessi Minneci

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the point in your life where you’re ready to throw in the towel (career-wise, at least), kick back, and relax a bit. Maybe you’ll take a vacation or two that you couldn’t fathom while you were on salary. Or perhaps you’ll make a permanent move – swapping your current home address for a quaint and scenic village. Maybe you’ll take up a new hobby. Hey, you might even decide to pick up some side jobs to keep the cash flowing extra when the regular paychecks stop coming in – whatever floats your boat.

The point is, you are about reach a huge milestone in your life – retirement. And whether you are indeed the retiree yourself, the retiree’s family, or a group of the retiree’s coworkers, you are likely beginning to plan the ever-coveted retirement party. The celebration’s about to begin and we’re here to help you with all of the planning…

Ride the wave of freedom, baby

Your retirement party plans are much like you now: F-R-E-E! Unlike some other functions, which traditionally have an appropriate time and place (such as a woman’s baby shower – usually a daytime brunch/lunch affair), a retirement party is pretty much whatever you wish to make of it:

  • An afternoon luncheon
  • A big gala on a Saturday evening
  • A sporting/outdoor event on a Sunday afternoon
  • After-work drinks and hors d’oeuvres
  • Dancing on top of desks in the office
    • **the above is definitely epic, but we suggest accompanying the dance party with an actually, planned celebration J

When it comes down to it, there are no defining etiquette rules when it comes to a retirement party. It can really be anything that suits the interests and personality of the retiree. After all, the greatest consideration is what the retiree wants. If you’re not one of the people throwing this bash for themselves, remember that this is not an occasion for a surprise party. You should ask the person who is retiring how he or she would like to celebrate their retirement and who they would like to have in attendance.

Remember the world is bigger than your office

Something to keep in mind while penning invites: the retiree has friends and family outside of the office. Too often, work is work and home is home – there is no mixing of the two environments. But some of the best retirement parties mix the guest list and allow both parties to come together for the occasion. This also provides a great opportunity for people to learn more about the person leaving the office.

If you’re unfamiliar with the retiree’s friends and family outside of the officer, ask him or her for a reliable contact that you can reach out to in order to coordinate and communicate between the two environments. Having this contact will also help plan the bash without having to bug the guest of honor every time one of their family members forgets to RSVP.

Serve up something delicious

Remember how we mentioned that you have freedom with the type of retirement party you throw? Well, same goes for the food that you serve up during the festivities!

  • If you opt for an afternoon luncheon, whether at a venue or in the office cafeteria, you’ll want to serve up something accessible and easy. Focus on grab-and-go items for those who aren’t able to hang around, but still want to commemorate the retiree: sandwiches, wraps, salads, cookies – these items are easy whether your guests decide to sit down and reminisce on the retiree’s days on the job or give a handshake and well wishes before returning to their own cubicle, sandwich in hand.
  • Hosting something a bit more exclusive? Consider holding the retirement party at a venue as opposed to the office, and on a weekend night as opposed to during the work day. When it comes to food, you have the liberty of choosing between a plated dinner or otherwise, but we think that a buffet dinner option will keep things fun and casual – especially while the retiree will most likely be making constant rounds about the room and might miss a plated dinner.
  • Outdoor/sporting event seem like the best fit for your guest of honor’s personality? Pair sports and sunshine with mouth-watering treats like a pig roast, whole roasted turkeys, ribs, burgers, dogs, and more! Is your mouth watering yet?!?! Nothing says par-tay like a full-on barbeque bash.
  • Hors d’oeuvres your thing? We suggest throwing a cocktail and hors d’oeuvre retirement party when the guest list will be limited to adults… oh, and don’t forget to plan a champagne toast!

Go along with the theme

When it comes to celebrating one’s retirement, you HAVE to make sure you decorate the party venue with images of the person of honor on the job. If for whatever reason there aren't many pictures available of the retiree in work settings, you can include pictures from his or her personal life. Just remember that coworkers and professional clientele will be in attendance – avoid embarrassing shots like… the retiree in a bathing suit.

If the party room has a projector and screen available, consider creating and running a slideshow as people arrive at the party. If not, display the pictures on posters or as table centerpieces.

Furthermore, amp up the fun (and total corniness) with a retirement themed playlist! Some suggestions to get your Spotify playlist going include:

  • “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen
  • “Working Nine to Five” by Dolly Parton
  • “Hit the Road Jack,”  Ray Charles
  • “When I am 64” by the Beatles
  • “Young at Heart” by Doris Day and Frank Sinatra
  • “Vacation” by the GoGos
  •  “The September of my Years” by Frank Sinatra
  • “End of the Line” by the Travelling Wilburys
  • “Happy Trails,” Roy Rogers
  • “Take This Job and Shove It,” Johnny Paycheck

Most importantly, keep in touch!

More likely than not, one of the hardest aspects of retirement will be saying good bye to coworkers, friends, and clients you see on a daily basis. Whether you are the retiree or the friend or family member planning the celebratory bash, help keep everyone in touch by:

  • Providing all of the guests with the retiree’s new contact information
  • Encourage the retiree to get set up on Facebook (if they are willing!) so that they can broadcast updates for friends and family
    • Encourage the retiree to also “friend” their colleagues
  • Include a guest sign-in book at the party where attendees can leave their name, phone number, email, etc.

Now it’s time for the real party. Sit back, relax, and enjoy that retirement, baby!!

Unique Dining