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Have a GIVING TREE Party

How to Throw a Fabulous Party -- and you won't go mad or break the bank!

A 'Giving Tree' is a little idea I thought of adding to our Annual Holiday Party, a few years ago, so our guests could bring a Gift for a Needy Child (and hopefully a Food Item from their Cupboards, too!!) to put under our Tree. Then we took all the Gifts and Food down to the Children & Family Charitable Group. They had a whole list of Needy Families in our own Community, so we knew everything was going to the right place. There were 38 Families on their List, and we had enough to give something to everyone. Great idea, eh?? Simple, and it is really effective.

The 'Giving Tree' worked out really well -- we've given Baskets & Baskets of Toys & Gifts to charity, and a whole lot of Food Items for the Food Bank, too! How about doing that at your own Party, or your Office Party? Just think of all the Gifts (or Food or Money...) we could give if we all did this at a Holiday Party! Together we could all raise a tremendous amount of stuff that would make everyone's holiday that much better.

Don't wait 'til Christmas to add a Giving Tree to your Party -- be creative and change up the theme to suit the occassion... Easter Baskets at Easter time, Hearts Full of Hope at Valentine's Day (I know, that one sounds a bit hokey, but you've got plenty of time to think up something considerably better...!), or just 'Baskets of Hope' at any time of the year. Anything to add a wee bit of something for those in need, since need doesn't go away after the Holidays.

When everyone gives a wee bit, we end up with a whole lot of help. (Is that the sap I hear running from the trees, already, or is that just what I wrote?? ha,ha! Ah, well. This stuff does sound a tad pollyanna-ish, but it's necessary until the Governments have decent programs for all people to adequately Feed, House and Educate everyone in the society. Until that day comes, and I believe it will, we'll just have to band together to bridge the gap. Plus, you can have a Cheers for me at yer Party, so that'll be fun, right?!

So here's how to do it --

Set up your Christmas (or Chrismakah...!) Tree before the Party, and put some nice Baskets underneath the Tree. If you are using Laundry Baskets (technically, my favorite kind of Basket!), just put a Table Cloth or some nice material over the basket to brighten it up.

Put out a Few Baskets for the Toys & Gifts, and a Few Baskets for the Food Items. If they fill up during the Party, you can run and get more baskets, or just put the Toys around the Tree and use the Baskets for the Food. (Now that everyone knows we have a Giving Tree at our Annual Holiday Party, we get too many Gifts to put in the baskets, so now we just have our Guests place their gifts right under the Giving Tree, and I load them into my van after the party. Oh, I love a Generous Guest!!)

Tell Your Guests in Advance that you'll be having a Giving Tree so they have time to pick something up. When you send out your Party Invitations (I just e-mail mine -- who has time to write an actual letter these days??), be sure to include a line that says something like,

"We're having a Giving Tree Party! If you would like to bring a Toy, Gift and/or Food Item to our Party, we would love your gift! All the Toys and Food will be Donated to a Local Charity after the Party."

Your Guests will respond very well to this, and I always write it so that it is completely optional. We love a good bottle of Gin, don't get me wrong, but we can buy that for ourselves, so we love it when our Guests bring something for someone who really needs it (toys & food, not gin! ha,ha!)-- that way we all will have a much nicer Holiday Season, right?

This year, I'll be able to tell our Guests from Last Years Party how much stuff we were able to Contribute to our Local Charity -- what a great group of Friends we have! And I'm guessing that you, too, have a fabulous group of Friends and Co-Workers ... people who would be more than happy to Give to a Good Cause.

It'll literally take me a couple of weeks to get the House all set up for the Party, but it'll be worth it because it's always so much fun! Looks like we'll easily have over a 100 people, so we should get a lot of stuff to go under our 'Giving Tree' and in the Food Baskets to take down to our Local Family Charity.

I am really hoping to get the word out on that Party Idea. Just think how much stuff we could all donate if we took one item to a Party. If you are thinking about having a Party this Holiday Season, or already have one planned (or have been Invited to one and you know the Host or Hostess well enough to ask them if they would try that too...!), please consider Adding a Giving Tree to the Event. Staff Parties, too -- there must be a million Staff Parties at this time of year! Wouldn't that be a huuuge amount of stuff for needy Families?? There are all kinds of Groups in need of stuff -- the Fireman's Fund, The Salvation Army, Women's Shelters, Food Banks, Homeless Shelters, Churches...all sorts of Groups you can donate your 'Party Goods' to -- wouldn't that be sooo great! Then we can really enjoy the Holiday Season!

How to Throw a Great Informal Party:

The most important thing to know about Throwing a Great Party is that it's not as hard as it sounds. People like to Mingle and Talk, so really you just need to provide a Warm and Welcoming Place where Everyone can come and have some fun.

Here's what works well for a Winter Party -- it's all very Festive!

Everything is set up so your Guests can choose to have a Non-Alcoholic Drink, or Add a Wee Something to the Mix. It's very 'Family Friendly', and there's lots to choose from for the Designated Drivers in the Crowd.

Hot Apple Cider in a Giant Pot, Electric Wok or Crock Pot. Spiced Rum and Vanilla Rum on the Side!! Tastes like a Hot Apple Pie! Yum! (It's just Apple Juice heated up with Cinnamon Sticks thrown in for Flavor.)

A Great Big Bowl of Punch, Non-Alcoholic. Vodka or Rum on the Side. Float some Sliced Fruit in the Punch -- looks lovely! (Punch is really easy to make -- use a Frozen Punch Base, then add the required Water, then Add Gingerale or Sprite -- any light Pop -- and then add in Any Pink or Red Pop -- like a Cranberry Pop or Grapefruit Pop. Slice the Lemons, Limes, and/or Oranges and let them float on the Top of the Punch. Add in some Ice Cubes, and you're all set!

Have a Coffee and Hot Chocolate 'Station'. Baileys or other nice Liqueur that goes well with Coffee or Hot Chocolate on the Side. I just make a Big Pot of Coffee, then have more Filters with the Coffee in them, all ready to go if you need to make more... and Two Kettles Set up So people can make themselves a Hot Chocolate or Tea, if they are so inclined. Set out Hot Chocolate, Tea, Cream, Sugar and lots of Teaspoons. You can use Throw-Away Cups, or Regular Mugs, if you have lots of them.

Have a Wine Bar -- I just Set out a Nice Variety of Wine and Lots of Glasses. You know what is the most popular Drink at our Parties (next to the Hot Apple Cider, where I hang out!)? My friend, Steve, calls it 'Sody Pop Wine', so now I do, too, and it's aptly named, since it's pretty much like tasty pop all liquored up! ha,ha! It comes in about a million Fruit Flavors (yes, I am exaggerating, but only to keep myself amused as I write this...), and you can get it at any Liquor Store. It's generally under $7.00 a bottle, so you can pick up quite a variety of Flavours. Black Current and Strawberry are the most popular at our Parties. Sadly enough, we buy this by the Case, now! It's light and deeelicious!

Have a Bar Stocked with Hard Liquor. Mix on the Side -- Coke, Pepsi, Gingerale ... and remember to have the Diet Versions of each of those Drinks to offer to your Guests.

Lots and Lots of Ice!

Tons of Finger Foods -- Treats of All Sorts, like Cookies and Cake Squares, Cheese & Veggie Platters, Shrimp Rings, Tortilla Chips 'n Salsa, Regular Chips ... whatever appeals to you. Save yourself a whole lot of time by just buying these already made -- I swing by Costco and M&M's before the Party to pick up a nice variety of Bars and Finger Foods, then it's just a matter of cutting and putting them on Platters. You can use regular Plates (Small and Large) to present the Cookies & Cake Bars -- just place them in a circle on the plate, and then go up one or two more layers, getting smaller with each layer. I use Cutting Boards for the Cheese & Crackers -- fast and easy.

Optional: Some 'Real Food' -- I like to Serve Chili & Rolls. This year, I'm going to skip the 'Real Food' thing. Our Big Holiday Party is always during the day (From 2:00 - 7:00 pm), so providing a 'Real Meal' isn't really necessary). I do keep the number for the Pizza Place handy in case anyone stays late, or I'll whip up a big batch of Pasta.

For the Kids (we like 'Family Friendly Daytime Parties...), I set up their Treats and Drinks Downstairs. I've found that Individually Wrapped Treats -- Chips, Chocolate Bars, Candies -- work out well. I set out a big box of Chips -- the ones you get for the kids' lunches. Beside that I have a few cases of Pop, all different Varieties. It's much easier for Kids to help themselves to what they like, and you don't have to worry about germs being spread in a big bowl of Chips. Set up the TV so they can Watch Movies on the Big Screen (and have them all ready to go...), set up a Games Area with a few good Games, and have some Music available, too if you have Older Kids at your Party.

That's about it! Not too hard to put together -- lots of nice Decorations, Napkins, Glasses, 'N All...Don't worry too much about Your Party. Your Guests are there to see you, chat with each other, and maybe get in a wee dance, if you happen to go down that path. It'll all work out, and if you have a Giving Tree, you'll end up having a great time and have lots of great stuff to Donate to a Local Charity, too! See, it's easy shmeasy!

Now, these are specific to Our Parties...

Our Pool Table is Downstairs, so I would imagine there will be a steady group of Men (mostly...) playing Pool for the good part of the day, so they can keep an eye on the kids!! YaaHoo!!

Treats for the Children are best if they are individually wrapped, to cut down on any 'cross-contamination', and if you know or have any kids, I think you'll know just what I mean ...! Ha,ha,ha! So Chips, Canned Pop, Small Chocolate Bars (they're eaten before they melt!!) ... it's easy and the kids will love it. Although, one year, we did have an 'incident' where one small child actually ran their hands all covered in chocolate along the carpet -- hard to believe. And the parents didn't say a word, which was unpleasant, so think about who your guests are before you put out the chocolate! And don't be afraid to 'alter' you Guest List for the next party, if you want to maintain your sanity at any Future Parties!

So the big key to the Success of an Informal Party is to have everything pretty much 'Serve It Yourself', that way even if the Host or Hostess has had 'the Mostest', if you know what I mean, the Party can still go on and everyone will have a great time. It's just a whole lot more relaxing for everyone if people can just mingle around freely, and eat and drink whatever they like.

You know a good name for this kind of Party?? A Mingle and Jingle Party! Ha,ha,ha!

So, pass this Giving Tree Idea along to your Friends, Neighbors, Pastors, Teachers ... the more people we get in on this, the more stuff we can give! Hey, we can all take pictures of our Giving Trees, and then I can post them on my Site! Then we can all check out your Living Room, too! Now, that'll be fun!

Christmas & Holiday Shopping

Get a Wristband -- -- This is a new Company I'm doing business with, and they have all sorts of cool wristbands -- pop in to see what they have for Christmas & Hannakuh.... I know fer sures they have Tour de France (Lance Armstrong) and Napolean Dynamite Wristbands... and you can customize them with your favorite Player or your School... or your own name -- you get the picture! These Wristbands are great, because you can get them in so many styles, and you can Support a Good Cause at the same time.

Party On, Baby! Ailsa

Make sure everyone who is drinking at your Party has a Designated Driver. We have a lot of Neighbors who can just walk over, so they're the lucky ones! I always make sure I have lots of great drink choices that are non-alcohlic so everyone can have fun, and everybody stays safe.

Personal Breathalizer Enter Code AILSA for a Special Discount for My Readers!So here's a great thing to get for yourself or for someone you care about to let them know when they've reached their limit with Alcohol at your Party or wherever you (or they) find themselves out Drinking. This one little device could save many, many lives and countless injuries, not to mention preventing someone from driving under the influence and getting a D.W.I. (D.U.I. in Canada).

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I love, love, looove Free Stuff! And why not? They want to give it away to you, so why not enjoy that, hmmmm??

Get some Music for yo' Party!

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