Gift Giving Etiquette

Every year all of us have the occasion to give someone a gift. By the very definition of the word, it’s not something that’s mandatory but a token of your affection for a person, appreciation of an occasion and is something you do from your heart. Never go into debt to keep up appearances because it’s not about what you spend but that you care. Cost should never been an excuse for not giving a gift at all. Even a small gift is better than none. Another alternative is pool your resources with another guest and combine your funds to buy a larger gift. But one rule of thumb of gift giving to remember is: “no go, no gift”. If you don’t attend a particular function you are not obligated to send a gift.

Re-gifting. Rather than to store or discard gifts that you can never use, spread the sunshine by giving them to someone who can enjoy and appreciate them. Once a gift is given to you, it belongs to you, it is yours to do with as you please. Caution: do not give the gift to someone even remotely connected to the person who originally gave it to you.

Giving cash. Cash is the usual ‘go to’ when you just can’t think of anything else. It’s a safe bet for teenagers who have very definite tastes and would like to do their own shopping and the elderly who may need the extra spending cash. It’s generally not appropriate to ask for cash as a gift for yourself. A way to make it seem more appealing to the gift giver is to specify that the cash will be used for a specific purpose. Saving to replace an old car, school tuition or a donation to your favorite charity. When the goal has been met then send a thank you note to anyone who contributed and they’ll have the good feeling of knowing they helped accomplish something real and meaningful.

Wedding gift registries. If the bride and groom are specific about wanting gifts from a particular store and from a set list of gifts try to stick to that list. If the items on that list are out of your price range, get a gift certificate from that store in an amount that you can afford and include a note saying that you hope they can use it towards the purchase of something they may not receive as a gift.

Gift cards. Back in the day it seemed impersonal and lazy to give someone a gift card. Today, gift cards are available for a never ending variety of items in-store and online. A generic gift card from a major credit card company is less personal than one chosen from a store that could provide something that the recipient would enjoy. Give it some practical thought. If giving a gift card to a specific store, consider their price points. Don’t give a $10 card for a store where they won’t be able to buy anything without adding their own funds to buy something.

Anniversary. Any anniversary is cause for celebration not matter the year. There are common gifts to give on certain years, but unless the invitation specifies ‘no gifts please’ you should bring a gift along for the couple. Many invitations will request that you do not bring gifts with a phrase like “warm greetings only” or “your presence is their present.”

Baby showers and Bridal showers. Baby showers are generally given before the baby is born to ‘shower’ the baby with necessities. Moms-to-be usually register at particular stores and it is highly suggested that you stick to what Mom requests on her registry. She knows what she needs and wants. The same holds true for a bridal shower. If the invitation specifies a particular theme, then the gift should be purchased within that theme because it follows the wishes and needs of the bride.

Retirement. Retirement parties can be given by employers or family members. Gifts can range from items that add to a hobby collection, a watch, gag gifts or travel gift certificates.

Flowers, flowers, flowers….it used to be more common than it is now, but the gift of flowers is a good old standby.

Just remember, gift giving is a way to show the celebrant of any occasion that you care for them. Don’t break the bank and give them what they want or ask for. Large or small the gift you give should be a cause for joy for both of you. You’ve given them something that shows your regard and they in turn know that you cared enough to give it.

Halloween Party Ideas for School Parties

It’s almost that time of year again to begin thinking about 25 or 30 little monsters in a room with games and sweets. Scary. Enjoy these classroom party ideas and please contribute any ideas and activities that have worked for you with the rest of us room-parents!

This year my son hits sixth grade, and probably does not want me in the classroom at all. Low key is the answer, and the party has to be a hit. But no pressure! I found ideas for all ages on this blog article page. I pulled one game from this article, which will work for all ages. I am going with a carnival theme for the games and will set up stations for the kids to rotate. They liked that last year. Here is my party recipe for 2012:

TryItMom.comtoilet paper pumpkin bowling game

 

 

  • Assign two volunteers to bring party treats (rice krispie treats and caramel apple bites will be suggested.)
  • Assign one volunteer for a gallon of apple cider, plus I will bring a pitcher for those who prefer water.
  • Assign one volunteer to bring in halloween plates, cups and napkins.
  • Ask a final volunteer, or several combined, to bring in enough small prizes for the class. Oriental Trading company type toy/gadgets. We will need about 75 for carnival game prizes. I am thinking bulk treasure chest goodies like the dentist gives out.
  • STATION 1: Prepare the ghost bowling game as pinned to Pinterest. Love this!
  • STATION 2: Prepare this witches hat ring-bag-toss game I saw on pinterest.
  • STATION 3: Charades with the clues tied into filled balloons. (Child must pop balloon to get his word. Terms are popular halloween costumes. Arrange orange balloons into a pumpkin shape on a board if you wish.)
  • STATION 4: Prepare a halloween ping pong ball toss by gluing three black plastic cups to a box so they stay upright. Give each child a turn to toss three ping pong balls into the cups. (A sharpie marker can turn orange ping pong balls into pumpkins, or white ones into eyeballs)
  • STATION 5: Snacks

Enjoy your party!

Wow! Rock Star Baby Shower

rock star baby shower
Amazing shower decorations captured beautifully by VickiLynnPhoto.com

I am so inspired by the beautiful photos of this rock star baby shower on the Hostess with the Mostess site. The colors, the photos, the decorations. They all rock.

If you are choosing to have a rock star theme baby shower (or decorating your nursery with a little rocker theme) your options for colors are completely open!

You’ll want to start with a color scheme. The orange, blue and green in this incredible example works great! For a girl, you could substitute pink for one of the colors, or just pull out the blue/turquoise to go with a unisex look. After you choose your date, location and colors, pick out some invitations. These should go out 3-4 weeks prior to the shower if possible. Be sure to include all information that will help your guests know what to expect and participate in the fun.

For those of us who are not so gifted in decorating, start with a list! This incredible shower (still lovin’ the pictures!) used the following basic elements to complete the decor:

  • Consistent color theme through table covers, decor, food, props and well, everything!
  • Colorful cloth table covers to add richness. (Does a lot more for effect than plastic.)
  • A clothesline. Included at many baby shower, the clothesline is often a gift from the hosts of the shower to the mom-to-be. Find several fun items coordinating with your theme in both color and style. The tiny clothing definitely adds the “awwww” factor. (This element can also be turned into a memory game by asking guests to write down as many items as they can remember from the clothes line after removing it.)
  • A selection of desserts. The dessert table is the new sheet cake. Offer a variety of theme-colored sweets: cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, candies. Let your beautiful desserts speak for themselves by arranging them on the table with props and cake stands so you can see them all from the front.
  • Visually coordinate the decor with ribbon, tags, or labels to create a uniform look. This shower used the name, and initial throughout and it works very well.
  • Go for height. Use theme props, gift-wrapped boxes, wall decor and hanging decorations to create a look from floor to ceiling. The big Martha Stewart paper puff balls that are in stores are an easy add for the top layer.
  • Labels for drinks and desserts, name tags, place cards, party favors, signs and centerpieces and are easy ways to add color to your overall look and pull the theme across the room.
  • People love pictures! A recent photo of the parents-t0-be and pictures of them as babies are always a hit. Use a frame in your theme colors, of course!
  • For a rock and roll theme, pull out any of these that you can get your hands on to add to the decor: Vintage rock album covers and posters, musical instruments, vinyl records, concert Ts, concert tickets.
  • Add rock and roll ballads and lullabies as background music at the shower.

Rock on!

Hosting a Wine Tasting

 

wine tasting invitation
Add a wine tasting to any special event where friends and family gather!

If you simply enjoy wine, or are a bona fide wine expert, hosting a wine tasting is a great opportunity to have some fun with friends while trying some new vintages. Planning is simple! Invite a few good friends, select a few varieties to sample, and your party is off and running.

Pair a wine tasting with a family dinner, or add a champagne tasting to your parents gold anniversary dinner. Wine works with all occasions! If you would like to add a sense of competition to the party, try dividing your guests into male and female groups and see which one does better in a blind tasting.

First decide what you want to taste. You could sample different varieties from a specific region, regional varieties from one type of grape, or simply wines that have the same color. Grocery stores now carry wines from around the world, but you may want to visit a wine store if you have any specific questions. Be adventuresome and select a wine you wouldn’t normally buy. Even blind tasting can be interesting. Cover all labels and price stickers before your guests arrive and test to see who has the best palate for knowing what wine comes from where or what the most expensive ones are just from taste and aroma. Be ready for some surprises! The best finds are the $10 bottles that drink like $20 vintages.

It’s not necessary for you to buy all the wine yourself. Send out the invitations and include whatever theme there may be and encourage your guests to contribute a favorite of their own.Let your guests know what you’re planning to serve to eat so they can select wines to pair with the meal. If taste testing from a specific region you can serve dishes that country is best known for. If you are not serving a meal, offer cheese samples from the wine region with crackers and fresh fruit.

Aside from having wine glasses for each guest, you will need to offer some light food to clear the palete between wines. Rinse the glasses between varieties. Offer some paper and pens for guests to rate and comment on the wine. If you wish to have a blind taste test, be sure to cover the labels before the guests arrive.

wine tasting cardAvoid having strongly scented flowers or candles near your tasting area. The strong fragrances will make it much harder to enjoy the bouquet of the wines. If not already well versed, learn a few wine basics before the tasting. This will help you to encourage discussion of the various aspects of each vintage: bouquet (smell), texture, color, mouth feel, acidity, and of course flavor. Savoring the wine from different aspects increases the enjoyment of the experience. A favorite book, Great Wine Made Simple by Andrea Immer, can give you the basics.

After the party you could send out an email that includes a list of the wines served and where they were purchased so that guests can buy a bottle of their own.

Beach Lover’s Baby Shower Theme

beach baby shower invitationsTwo beachcombers become three! Welcome the baby-on-the-way to the family with a beach-style baby shower! Whether you can host the shower on fine white sand or not, it is easy to make use of a beach theme for the shower. Try these ideas…

Set the scene with tropical sunshine by sending a beach theme baby shower invitation. Invite your guests to attend in beach-wear and flip flops! Greet them at the door with an “Aloha,” a floral lei or clip-on bloom and steel drum or ukulele music playing. If your guests are feeling playful, hand them a name tag as they enter with a fitting “title” added to it for conversation during the party.

  • Hula Teacher
  • Pearl Diver
  • Surfer Girl
  • Mai Tai Tester
  • Beach Comber
  • Scuba Diver
  • Professional Water Skier
  • Hammock Dweller
  • Bartender
  • Spa Massage Artist
  • Beach Bum
  • Coconut Artist

Have a tropical theme party favor at each table setting… like a small bag of chocolate covered coffee beans or fruit candies tied with a bright bow, or perhaps a sea shell bracelet.

Choose tropical flavors for your menu! It could include:

  • Fruit punch or a selection of juices
  • Frozen beverages with those little paper umbrellas
  • Fruit ka-bobs with mango, grapes, kiwi and fresh pineapple
  • Green salad sprinkled with nuts, dried fruit and a sweet-and-sour dressing
  • Shredded barbecue pork sandwiches
  • Pineapple upside down cake

Choose two or three colors as your palette and limit yourself to just those for a coordinated look. Tropical combinations can include any colors, just bright versions of them. If the mom-to-be has a nursery color combination, you could match that for the shower, or add tropical splash to classic boy and girl colors. Maybe turquoise and pink for a baby girl, or aqua, yellow and orange for a baby boy.

Your shower decorations don’t have to be complicated, just colorful! Make centerpieces out of small tropical plants. Add color by buying some cut flowers in your color scheme the day of the party. Trim short and poke flowers into the pots. Accent the tables with small objects such as a pair of baby flip flops, scattered sea shells, and toy buckets of sand with shovels.

Mahalo!

 

Vow Renewal Ceremony Ideas

Photo by Mary R. Vogt

While on vacation, we visited a Polynesian cultural center and learned about traditional Fiji weddings. The customs were complex, but the vows were very simple…the bride and groom promise to never leave one another. That’s it. Wedding vows, from a celtic hand-fasting to an lengthy wedding mass, are essentially saying the same thing. I promise to stay with you.

Recently we printed a vow renewal invitation for customers who chose to publicly renew their vows since they chose a simple civil ceremony years ago. This time they chose a church ceremony to stand up in front of their child, parents, friends and family and repeat their vows. It was a special gift to the bride from the groom to have the ceremony they had wanted. A celebration of love and family followed.

Your plans may include any traditions and ceremonies you wish, and special symbolism and messages unique to your relationship. After years together, this set of vows celebrates your history as a couple, the support and love you have shared and the future together.

Attire for your vow renewal ceremony can be as formal and public as you wish. Your vow renewal could be a private rite… just the two of you holding hands and stating your vows to each other on the beach. A small casual event may include a garden or chapel ceremony officiated by a family member or friend, followed by a luncheon gathering. A formal event may include a larger church service, formal attire, a photographer and a dinner dance. Unlike the traditional first marriage which often caters to the needs of the extended family, the canvas is blank. This event is yours to make it exactly as you wish.

Some ideas to include your history and personalities in your ceremony:

  • Write personal messages to each other that include a description of how you have grown together as a couple. These can be included within the vows or used for a toast during the celebration.
  • Include a thank you to the people who mentored or supported your marriage.
  • If you are having a vacation vow renewal, consider some of the local wedding customs to add meaning and color to your service.
  • Incorporate some cultural traditions your ancestors used to celebrate marriages, like a traditional folk dance, costume or music.
  • Make a ceremony of presenting your parents, or other relatives or friends, with a gift in thanks for their support of your marriage.
  • At the start of your ceremony, light a candle for each of your parents, or have your children light them.
  • During the exchange of vows, invite other couples to stand and repeat their vows to each other as well.
  • For the relatives just beginning their adult life, share short stories of how you weathered the good times and the bad, or a brief list of “why I would marry you all over again.”

If you are planning a vow renewal, perhaps to coincide with a milestone wedding anniversary, you may want to read our vow renewal planning article.

Whoa Lil’ Cowboy! Don’t miss these!

Horse-Chalkboard-Decal-L13713419Get carried away with your cowboy baby room! How cute would it be to have a large horse shaped chalkboard in the nursery? Kids and parent’s alike love chalkboards. This bold pony will also add a huge impact to your western-theme nursery, and work well into the elementary school years.

Babies love looking at dark contrasting edges, so this horse with it’s complicated edge will interest baby from the earliest days.

There are many cute bedding sets with a western theme. The boy versions seem to either be red and blue with brown, or baby blue with deep brown. If you prefer the bright tones, this crib set from Cassidy and Banjo is really fun. We found it on the Small In The Saddle site. The combination of red and blue paisley with warm tan instead of dark brown is very inviting, especially with the brick red walls shown in their photo. Another warm-tones bedding set which is very nicely designed is the Carson Baby Crib Bedding by Glenna Jean. We found it at babysupermall.com and show some of the coordinating items below.

If you prefer the blue theme, there are many options for baby bedding and room themes.  One of my favorites is the lighthearted design from Trend Lab offered at www.lilrodeo.com. The set is playful and interesting, all boy, and contrasts beautifully with dark furniture. The matching pieces are adorable.

Charming baby gifts for a cowboy baby shower will get ooohs and ahhhs at the shower and become part of the fun effect of the nursery. This horse security blanket is downright adorable. I found it at the www.lilrodeo.com site as well. Other fun gifts we found were rope wall art spelling baby’s name, burp cloth sets in western designs, diaper bags, and of course, western duds. Click any of these to see more!

cowboy theme baby shower invitations
Vector Files

Customize Your 50th Anniversary Invitations

50th anniversary invitationsIf you and your spouse have reached the milestone of fifty years together, you deserve a special celebration. You may have help from family and friends to arrange the festivities, but everything you do should be directed at making the occasion memorable. Don’t rely on cookie cutter sentiments and appearance for your 50th anniversary celebration. Make it personal!

In today’s culture, especially in the West, the milestone of half a century is celebrated with gifts of gold. These can be household items or personal items. A gold foil wrapped bottle of champagne is something that is a little bit outside the box. Between partners, jewelry and quality timepieces are traditional gifts. Most seniors today are trying to reduce possessions, and already have all they need. For this reason, it is common to see “no gifts, please” or “your presence is the only present desired” comments on invitations.

Many people approaching the milestone are happy to have friends and family available to share the occasion. Friendship is one thing you cannot have too much of! Creating and sending custom invitations is a must to clarify the details of the event and have your guests mark their calendars. Using an original picture of the bridal couple on the invitation is always fun to receive, especially in contrast to a current photo.

When preparing your 50th anniversary invitations, be sure to allow enough time for designing and printing. Check online sites for the information about lead times and shipping times. When you design your own notices, you can use all the creative ideas you can find online, or work with a design company that will help to capture the concepts that you want.

Save the DatesConsider sending save the date cards out early if you know the date of the celebration in advance. Invitations normally go out 4-6 weeks in advance, which requires getting the printing and list prepared a few weeks prior to that.

If you are unable to gather for your parent’s anniversary, due to health or distance, consider sending your parents a “card shower”. Send out invitations to friends and family letting them know of the impending event and request that they send personal greetings to arrive by the anniversary date. Receiving all the  cards and memories from friends and family is almost as wonderful as seeing everyone in person.

New Orthodox Cross Invitations

Patriarchal Cross Invitations
In Pink, Blue or Sage

Naptime Productions has recently introduced several new designs for baptism which include a patriarchal cross design used in Byzantine, Greek and Eastern Orthodox churches. With lovely results, their customers can now choose between “plain” cross versions and the more detailed patriarchal version.

The history is vague as to the symbolism of this double cross. It has been suggested that the two upper cross bars may have been meant to symbolize the secular and ecclesiastic power of Byzantine emperors, or symbolize the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The lower, slanted foot-rest is said to be slanted to represent the two criminals crucified with Jesus… one repenting and ascending to heaven, the other ridiculing Jesus and descending instead.

orthodox cross invitationThe letters shown with the cross, IC XC, are an abbreviation for “Jesus Christ” in Greek. The longer version, IC XC, NI-KA is an abbreviation for “Jesus Christ conquers” in Greek.  Be sure to take a look at these new designs when planning your baptism.

Also offered are gold versions to use when celebrating golden wedding anniversaries. They make a beautiful way to invite guests to celebrate the long-lasting marriage.

Naptime Productions offers fast turnaround, real people to talk to and actually read over your invitation. You will love their customer service!

50th wedding anniversary invitationGold anniversary invitaiton with orthodox cross

 

 

Three Great Traditions for New Years Eve

New years eve is quickly becoming one of our favorite family traditions. A pattern is forming, and all ages look forward to it!

First: we do not treat New Year’s Eve as an expensive, adults-only event. Not only does this save babysitting costs, it also is tons of fun and pulls the family together. Our multi-age new year party tips:

Fun with the dress up box and duct tape guitars
  • Don’t start the party too early. 8:00 works for us. Setup begins at 5:00. Some close family comes early to help set up and enjoy an easy dinner together.
  • Offer special treats for all ages… from popcorn to baked brie. Make sure the snacks are self-serve for the children, and at their level. If everyone agrees to bring a snack and a bottle of bubbly, you will be well equipped.
  • Set up a beverage station that even children can handle. Stack towels near it and everyone can do their own cleanup when spills occur. Adult beverages should also be self-serve, but up higher. 🙂
  • Include a sparkling cider or juice in your midnight toast so that everyone can participate. Set the glasses onto large trays prior to the party so they are ready to fill. Choose a different color or style of glass for the non-alcoholic option.
  • Make a ruckus at midnight! Bang pots and pans or have the kids run in circles in the yard with sparklers.
  • Have a quiet place ready to lay children down. If they “Crash” early, you can move them to the quiet area complete with a nursery monitor so their parents can hear them if they awake.
  • Check out this wonderful blog article for fun new years party activities.

Second:Include an activity table. Yours could be anything from decorating a new-years mask, making a new year hat out of newspapers, or using fabric markers on blank shirts. If the craft table is set up in advance, families can make use of it as it suits them, have something to create together, and create conversation pieces. Try to choose a craft that takes less than an hour to complete, and is ready to take home at midnight.

Third: Create a tradition. A few years ago my hubby decided to attempt creme brulé for new years eve. Since the kitchen is THE natural gathering place for parties, he has lots of helpers, and an audience when he torches the yummy creations. The children deliver the ramekins to interested guests. Our kids now look forward to this every year.

Years before we started a tradition making new years masks out of plaster cast material. Messy but fun. Creativity abounded!

A third tradition is the opening of the dress-up box. Funny dress up hats, boas, etc. keep the mood light and keep the adults and children interacting.

No matter what your tradition is… just keep it going! You will be surprised how much the kids (and adults) remember and anticipate the tradition.