Party Newsletter – January 2012

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January 2012
In This Issue…

Winter Wonderland Party Ideas

Winter Wonderland Party IdeasGet out of winter’s chill and enjoy the beauty of the season indoors with these fun winter wonderland party ideas.

  • Make an ice sculpture and set it up on the food table. You don’t have to be DaVinci. Simply buy an inexpensive 3-D mold (cake and candy supply stores are great for finding these — make sure the mold has a perfect seal), fill with water and freeze. Take out just before the party.
  • Decorate in white, silver and other "snowy" colors (very light blue for ice, etc.). Cut out paper snowflakes or re-use snowflake ornaments from Christmastime and hang from the ceiling. Use a white disposable tablecloth and white disposable plates, cups, napkins and cutlery.
  • Have a fireplace karaoke session. Host a sing-along with friends; choose lots of winter tunes. Many are about the season rather than Christmas specifically; you have loads to choose from. How about Winter Wonderland, Frosty the Snowman, Baby It’s Cold Outside, California Dreaming and Frank Zappa’s Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow?
  • Host a winter foods potluck. Everyone should bring a food that’s reminiscent of winter in some way. Ice cream and frozen treats are the obvious choice and are very easy. How about packages of Hostess Snowballs? Funnel cakes sprinkled with snowy white confectioner’s sugar? Encourage guests to get creative with this idea…yum!
  • If you live in a warm weather area, have an “indoor snow party.” Keep the thermostat off and start a fire in the fireplace. Serve foods that are frosty, like snow cones, drinks from glasses that you’ve iced up in the freezer and whipped cream specialties. Decorate with white batting to imitate snowdrifts.
  • Invite guests to an Ugly Holiday Sweater Party. Give little awards to the guests who wear the gaudiest and most tasteless winter sweaters. At least this means they got to wear them twice.

Winter really is wonderful, so enjoy. Before you know it, the white stuff will be all gone and you’ll have a whole new season to celebrate.

Fun Outdoor “Family Time” Ideas for This Winter

Family Time SleddingWhen it’s chilly outside, don’t sit around indoors having the doldrums — get out and play! There’s so much to do in wintertime that you can’t do at any other time of year. Here are some of our favorite ways to have fun in the snow. These can be incorporated into winter parties (our suggestion), or set aside a special day for your family to do one or two of these.

  • Host a snow day at your house. Ask guests to wear gloves, hats and boots and to bring a towel to dry off with later. Set up a hot cocoa and cookies/brownies bar in the driveway and invite guests to make snow people, have a snowball fight and if you have some room and a bump or two, plastic “turtle” sleds. Yes, this is a great idea for adults too! In this case, serve coffee and warm cider.
  • Have a sled race at a local park. Make sure sleds are allowed at the park of your choice and that there’s a nice hill in the area. Get guests together and have them race, two by two, on their sleds. Time each winner, then have a faceoff with the two speediest sledders. The grand prize: a gift certificate to a cozy spa with a sauna.
  • Take your kids for a winter nature walk. Make sure you’re in an area where you’ll find evergreen trees or shrubs, berries and winter birds. Point out the secrets of winter your kids may never have thought of, such as: “See that tree? I’ll bet there are a dozen squirrels sleeping in there right now, waiting for spring.” This can be an educational experience along with being fun for all of you.
  • Make “snow candy.” You’ll need to have at least some experience in candymaking for this activity. Choose a candy you’ll need to heat to temperature, and that then requires cooling to harden and form a shape. Collect bowls full of VERY FRESH snow; pat with clean hands until the snow is packed well. Have a grownup pour the heated candy on top of the snow in swirls and twirls. It should cool quickly. Now let kids peel off their creations and eat.
  • Have a snowball fight. Need we say more? This is by far one of the most fun activities anyone can have in the winter!

Be sure you bundle up warmly in water-resistant clothes before starting any of these activities. When you get back inside, take off your outer clothes immediately — sweat from the indoor warmth combined with snowy outerwear can cause a chill. Settle down with some cocoa (see below for recipes) and toast a great winter day!

Make a Cake Pop Bouquet for Valentine’s Day

Cake Pop Bouquet for Valentine's DayIs the idea of giving your sweetie a traditional box of chocolates just not doing it for you this year? Then get in on the cake and brownie pop trend with a Valentine’s Day cake pop bouquet.

Everyone loves cake pops…they’re not only delicious, they’re cute, and they’re fun to eat. (Mmm.) Don’t have a cake pop pan? No problem! You’ll be making cake “crumbles” with icing in this easy recipe.

This idea is great for children, but can also be a very fun, romantic way to tell your special other, “I love you.” Here’s how:

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole baked, unfrosted, cooled cake, white or pink in color, from any standard boxed cake mix
  • 16 oz. pink frosting (canned from the store is fine, or use your favorite recipe — this must be a fairly thick, standard cake frosting)
  • 8 oz. pink candy meltable wafers/candy melts
  • 8 oz. white candy meltable wafers
  • 8 oz. chocolate candy meltable wafers
  • decor such as sprinkles, piped icing, nuts, etc.

You will also need:

  • double boiler or microwave-safe bowls
  • cookie sheet
  • lollipop sticks
  • wax paper
  • plastic wrap/cling film
  • piece of ribbon
  • disposable non-Latex gloves
  • long piece of Styrofoam

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, break the cake into pieces, then into smaller pieces so you have crumbles of about even size.
2. Add the pink frosting to the cake crumbles in large scoops. Put on gloves and begin mixing the cake crumbles and frosting by hand. Keep adding frosting until you have a moldable mixture that forms and stays in balls on a cookie sheet. The mixture should feel “thick”, somewhat like a truffle mixture.
3. Line cookie sheet with wax paper. Roll mixture into 1″ balls and place on cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, until the icing has hardened up within the mixture.
4. Melt your meltable wafers by color, either one at a time in a double-boiler (clean inside pan between each color and dry thoroughly — any water in the mixture will change the consistency), or in a microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between.
5. Take the chilled balls out of the refrigerator. Insert one lollipop stick about ½” into each ball on the slightly flattened (bottom) side.
6. Dip balls one at a time into the various candy melt mixtures, or dip, then cool completely and double-dip in a second color for an interesting look. Drip above pot for a few seconds to make sure the excess comes off.
7. Before the candy melt outsides are firm, decorate with sprinkles or nuts. If you’ll be piping icing or another wet accent onto of the melted candy outsides, cool the dipped pops completely in the refrigerator before adding the piping.
8. Insert the sticks of the finished pops into the Styrofoam so they are standing up and the candy coating isn’t touching anything. Chill completely.
9. Before giving the gift to your sweetheart, wrap a bunch of sticks together with a pretty ribbon, and you have your “bouquet” finished and ready for presentation.

Mmmm, sweet…in so many ways.

Delicious Hot Chocolate Recipes

Delicious Hot Chocolate RecipesMmm! There’s nothing like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold day — or on any day, for that matter. (Can you tell we love hot chocolate around here?) But don’t be stuck in the old and boring; try some new flavor twists for this wintertime favorite…like these:

Basic Coca Recipe

Use this recipe as your starter base for the additions listed below. (If you want to speed things up, simply use packet cocoa instead.)

  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. sugar (or use sugar substitute in equivalent sweetness amount)
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir cocoa into cold milk until dissolved. Add sugar and vanilla. Over very low heat, or in the microwave in 30-second increments on High, heat cocoa until warm and slightly thickened. Serve. Makes two servings.

Peppermint Cocoa Recipe

  • Basic Cocoa Recipe
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 2 peppermint sticks

Add 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract to the Basic Cocoa Recipe (do not omit vanilla extract). Pour into cups and place a peppermint stick in each.

Extra Creamy Cocoa Recipe

  • Basic Cocoa Recipe
  • 2 tbsp. liquid heavy whipping cream (NOT pre-whipped cream)
  • fresh whipped cream, enough for 2 cups
  • garnish: raspberries or mint leaves

Add 2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid heavy whipping cream to the Basic Cocoa Recipe after the cocoa has been dissolved into the cold milk. Stir very well. Add the remaining ingredient and continue cooking per directions. Top with fresh whipped cream and one or two raspberries or mint leaves for garnish.

Snowy Cocoa Recipe

  • Basic Cocoa Recipe
  • 1/4 c. plus ? c. white chocolate chips, divided
  • 1/8 c. shredded sweetened coconut
  • whipped cream (make your own or buy pre-whipped in can or tub)

Use clear cups/mugs. Over double-boiler or in microwave in 30-second increments on Medium, melt 1/4 c. white chocolate chips. Meanwhile, make the Basic Cocoa Recipe. When Basic Cocoa is done, drop 1 tbsp. of the melted white chocolate chips into each cup; stir only once or twice to get a swirled effect of brown-and-white in the cup. Top each cup with whipped cream. Sprinkle the remainder (1/8 c.) of the white chocolate chips on top of the whipped cream, dividing evenly. Sprinkle coconut on top. Serve.

“I Made it Myself!”: Pine Cone Bird Feeder

Pine Cone Bird FeederCute + easy = we are so there! Here’s a great winter craft for your kids. What makes a pine cone bird feeder so rewarding is that any birds that stay in your area in the winter will show up, reminding you and your family that this time of year really can be beautiful.

What you’ll need:

  • a large pine cone
  • peanut butter
  • bird seed
  • a piece of string, 12-18″ long

Instructions:

Dab peanut butter all over the pine cone using a spoon or a plastic knife. Sprinkle bird seed on top; the peanut butter should make it stick, but if not, dab the bird seed into the peanut butter slightly with your fingers. Tie the string around the very top of the pine cone. Hang outside near a window.

As the bird seed gets eaten, add more. (Please note that your feeder will also attract squirrels and other animals once they’re out of hibernation, so if you’d prefer not to have furry critters outside your window, take the feeder down in early spring.)

TIP: This idea is great for a party craft too! It’s so easy, even very young children can make this craft. Host a fun “It’s Winter — Celebrate!” party in January or February, times that are notoriously low on partying. This fun activity will brighten the season and make everyone smile.

Theme Party of the Month: Host a Super Bowl Party

Super Bowl XLVISuper Bowl party planning begins in early January, even before we know which teams are playing in the big game. That’s because the teams are really superfluous to a fun party.

The Super Bowl is an EVENT. So much so that if you and your friends don’t much care about it, you can get married during Super Bowl weekend and enjoy savings of 50% off your typical bill at resorts, caterers, photographers and event venues.

We’re not among that group — after all, who WANTS to miss the big game? If you too are a fan of super Sunday no matter who’s on the roster, here’s how to get in on the action and throw a fantastic Super Bowl fete at your house.

Good Eats and Tasty Treats: Party Food

Hot Cheese Dip

No party is complete without this artery-clogging treat. Made even more ridiculous by its number one ingredient: Velveeta!

Microwave 1 giant brick of Velveeta with 2 cups of your salsa of choice. Keep warm in the crock pot and serve with tortilla chips.

Spinach Dip

We honestly have to recommend going to Costco and buying their spinach dip, because it is sooooo good. But, if you want to make it yourself, mix 1 block of frozen spinach, thawed and drained, with ½ cup of fresh grated parmesean cheese, 1 cup of sour cream, 1 block of cream cheese, and 3 cloves of garlic, chopped. Bake until bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips or crusty croutons.

Seven Layer Dip

On a large platter, spread one can of seasoned refried beans. On top, spread 2 cups of guacamole. (Make your own by peeling and mashing four avocados, stirring in one finely chopped onion, two squeezes of lime juice, ¼ cup sour cream, three chopped garlic cloves, and one chopped tomato.) Mix one carton of sour cream (14 oz) with one packet of taco seasoning and layer on top. Next, sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top. Add a layer of olives, topped with a layer of chopped tomatoes, and finished with chopped green onions. Yum!

Continue Reading tips on planning a Super Bowl party

Sales and Coupon Codes for Online Party Merchants

Celebrateexpress.com -20% off all Football party ware – use coupon code PLAYOFFS20 Products eligible for the 20% discount are denoted by a FOOTBALL label. Discount is applied before taxes, shipping or duties, and can not be combined with any other offer. Use coupon code at checkout. Good through February 3, 2012

– OR –

Celebrateexpress.com – coupon code STOCKUP30 – Save $30 off $150 worth of any party supplies. Discount is applied before taxes, shipping or duties, and can not be combined with any other offer. Use coupon code at checkout. Good through January 22, 2012

Shindigz.com – Save up to 50% off on selected football supplies. No coupon needed!

Next issue in early February. See you then, and may the best team win!

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