January 7, 2014 – Celebrate!

Let's get this show on the road!

Let’s get this show on the road!

GET THE (2014) PARTY STARTED:

3 Fun & Unusual Celebration Ideas.

As we snuggle into the last half of winter, the start of 2014, most of us say ‘goodbye’ to the season of celebration and holidays and ‘hello’ to another twelve months of opportunity and mystery. Involved in those unknown plans, somewhere among the holidays and birthdays, one would hope to find time to spend with friends and family outside the boundaries of structured events.

For instance, my husband’s family (and, by adoption, mine ) has some deeply integrated traditions revolving around Easter. There’s usually a hefty gathering of cheery folks, barbecuing or smoking of some large portions of meat, too many desserts to be counted, board or card games, naps, lots of communal television watching (a bonding experience for some), and the inevitable giving out of the stuffed bunny-donned Easter baskets to the “kids” (which means the full-grown yet still youngest generation).

Other families may have similarly engrained traditions around birthdays, anniversaries, Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, et cetera.

Not counting oddity-days, like Middle Sister Day and Left-Handers Day, both of which I should quietly celebrate, holidays make up a very small portion of the total time we have available to spend with those we love. In light of that little fact, Mountain Owl would like to start you off right.

Here are three creative and unlikely ideas for bringing you and yours together this year:

Host a Pizza-Making Party.

It’s no question that pizza is the major go-to food for gatherings (ranking somewhere in there with buckets of KFC). People love pizza. But the logistics of ordering a variety of pizzas to fit the tastes, diet, and allergy restrictions of those in your close circle is SO HARD. What if that half pizza of “no onions” wasn’t enough to fulfill the appetites of the onion haters? What if the two “extra meat” pies weren’t enough for the famished foursome of fellows who (you didn’t know) skipped lunch?
Pizza-making party to the rescue! As host, you can supply the sauce and a variety of individually sized or full-size pizza crusts (Boboli is an obvious choice or, Mountain Owl’s favorite, Mama Mary’s, which comes in gluten-free). Dish out responsibilities for cheese and toppings to guests. My favorite thing to do (since my gatherings are usually quite modest) is to supply crusts, cheese, sauce, and pepperoni, allowing my guests to “bring your favorite topping to share”. Then, set out all the ingredients, buffet-style, and let your guests have at it!

Making pizzas at home not only provides a meal which satisfies your guests’ individual tastes, but you’ll find unique toppings your guests bring are great talking points. (Tabasco infused pepperoni? Sriracha sauce? Artichoke? Sure, why not!) Plus, the anticipation of waiting for those little meals to bake leaves room for mouths to start watering and conversation to blossom all the more.

And, if you’re tired of pizza or want to go a healthier route, switch it up for mini-casseroles, salads, sandwiches, or parfaits, and let the food fun begin!

Throw a “Crappy Needs” Trade-Off.

(OK. So I literally just made up that name—Crappy Needs—but it puts into two words the utilitarian and curious purpose of this event theme.)

Everyone has crap sitting around. And some of it might be perfectly usable crap, but you can’t think of a use for it or, simply, just don’t like it. A Crappy-Needs Trade-off takes advantage of those useless household gems and puts them up for a friendly swapping. It’s like a mini-garage sale for you and your friends!

Take a specific area of the house—the kitchen, for instance—and have guests (including yourself) pull from cabinets and pantries things they won’t or haven’t used and don’t want. Maybe someone scored a 3-for-1 deal on a new brand of cookies that the kids aren’t too hot about and they don’t know what to do with the two unopened bags. Maybe you accidentally purchased the jar of beets with HFCS, instead of the one without, but you don’t want to be wasteful and throw it away. Maybe you have an overload of cleaned plastic butter tubs that the mom of a kindergartener could use to store toys and crafting supplies. Maybe your neighbor will conveniently bring an extra wire wisk when yours just went kaput. What unexpected salvation!

A Crappy Needs Trade-off can be adapted for any type of crowd, even though at first glance it may sound like a girly, homemaker kind of event. For outdoorsy/garage-y people, it’s easy enough to do this by trading duplicate screwdrivers, extra yards of wiring, spare kitchen tiles, or that package of brand new blades for that jigsaw you don’t have anymore. For crafty folks, swap leftover fabric or the near-full spool of apple green thread you only used for Little Jimmy’s frog Halloween costume five years ago.

Holding a trade-off event will inspire guests to get creative, reinvigorate neighborly giving, rid your home of the useless clutter that’s been piling up and (best of all) replace it with things you actually will use. (Note: Be sure you check expiration dates and overall condition, especially if swapping things like pantry goods. Nobody wants a snack that’s half used or stale!)

Organize a Game of Flag Foot(or un-foot)ball.

Sound complicated? Not really. The beauty of a casual game of flag football is that:

1. It only requires a small field or backyard. Unless you’re a stickler for the rules (in which case you’re better off joining a local league or YMCA team), you can use any open space as the playing field.

2. Flag belts can be constructed using duct tape. No need to seek out a specialty sports store. Do an internet search for “duct tape flag football belt” and you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of different construction methods and the sheer volume of videos and instructions you’ll find at your disposal.

3. A game can be held with only six people. You don’t need a big group to have fun with this. Also, since there’s no hard play or tackling involved, both kids and adults can participate. Do a kids against parents, boys against girls, or family against family game. The kids will enjoy duking it out with the grownups, and the grownups might be surprised at how hard those little guys are to catch!

4. You can actually go un-football. That’s right: you don’t really need a football (unless you’re a stickler for the rules, that is). For fun—and for those of us fearful of hard projectiles coming at us from great distances—you can mix it up by substituting a standard football for a (more kind and harder to catch) bouncy ball, a small “toss” pillow, or a sacrificial teddy bear. Players can giggle as they run trying to rescue the “hostage” from the other team!

5. It can be organized at the drop of a hat or be integrated with a more lengthily planned gathering. It doesn’t require that players know a whole lot about sports, either; rules can be easily adapted (or adopted) to fit the setting and the teams.
6. Finally, it takes the party out of the house, onto your feet, and into the fresh air. And that’s something we all can be excited about.

Whether you think these ideas are silly or insightful, 2014 is special and worth celebrating with family and friends.

Why so? Not because of certain laws going into effect. Not because of some astrological blessings shined down upon us from the heavens. Not even because it’s new, because to claim something is special just because it’s “new” is ludicrous (so was the 2009 strain of H1N1 virus, but you didn’t see anyone celebrating that, did you?).

It’s special because it’s HERE. 2014 is NOW. Maybe you consider one, three, ten years ago as your “best year”. But, did you know…

• Thriving on the past can INDUCE ANXIETY?
• Living in the present can actually IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH?
• Living for the present, and not the past or future, can STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS?

That said, 2014 is special, and very much so. And Mountain Owl would like to wish you a year of happy, continuous, silly, healthful celebrating… starting today.

Happy Celebrating to You!
Jessi MOI

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