Party planning should be fun and easy, so get things done in 15 minutes or less.

The 15-Minute Party Planner's blog breaks down basic party-planning tasks into simple actions that take 15 minutes or less. We're not here to make you the next Martha, we're here to help you be crafty quickly!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Easy New Year's Eve party ideas

New Year's Eve is a great night for parties, but with the rush of Christmas, many folks forget about the New Year until the last minute!

If you're one of those folks, don't worry! There's still time to plan an informal gathering with friends. Here are some easy New Year's Eve party ideas that won't require much prep work.
  • Host a board game night.
    With the TV on in the background (so you don't miss the dropping ball!), you and your guests can entertain yourselves with a variety of multi-player games. For game suggestions, check out two related articles: The best board games for a game-night party and The best card and tile games for a game night.

  • Get a thumb workout with a video game party.
    Maybe you prefer a more 21st Century gaming get-together. Invite your friends over for a night of partying with the Playstation or working out with the Wii. Consider leaving out some handheld games as well, so that people can have some solo shots at games like 20Q, Hangman, and Simon.

    Another helpful hint? Ask friends to bring extra controllers with them so more people can play at once. And if you have access to more than one TV, you can even borrow another gaming console for twice the fun.

  • Class up the joint with a cocktail party.
    Have your friends dress up in their finest and invite them over for cocktails. You can serve a signature cocktail or a variety of drinks and nosh on bite-sized treats. Party prep is easy with the 15-Minute Party Planner's guide to Buying booze: easy drink calculations.

  • Extend Christmas with a "regifting" party.
    Maybe you got two copies of the same DVD this Christmas and your vegan friend received a sausage and cheese gift basket. Tell guests to re-wrap a present that was less than a perfect match; when they bring the gifts to the party, everyone can participate in a Yankee Swap. Who knows? You may receive a new treasure!

  • Get funky with a crazy hat/ugly sweater/color-themed party.
    It's easy to host a bash with a wacky, but simple theme. Have your guests come wearing their favorite (or most outlandish) hats, ugly holiday sweaters, or all black (or other color of choice). Set up a corner with a fun backdrop, themed-props, and encourage people to document their goofy outfits on camera.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

8 instant Christmas centerpieces

Everyone wants a festive centerpiece for Christmas -- here are 12 ideas for centerpieces you can "create" in an instant.
  1. A beautifully wrapped poinsettia says 'tis the season!

  2. Grab a large clear-glass bowl from your cupboard. Add a variety of brightly-colored Christmas ornaments for a sparkly centerpiece.

  3. Maybe you won't have chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but you can certainly display them on your table. Line the bottom of a bowl with chestnuts and add fresh cranberries on top for color.

  4. Everything looks good in a group of three. Find a trio of favorite Christmas figurines (angels, snowmen, Santas, etc.) and place them in a group in the center of your table.

  5. Were you baking up a storm this season? Decorate the table with a gingerbread house or a tower of Christmas cookies.

  6. Candles make an easy centerpiece for any occasion. Grab a few pillars or tapers in holiday colors and arrange them on a festive tray.

  7. Fill a hurricane vase with pine cones, holly berries, and other natural signs of the season.

  8. Cover a tray or fill a bowl or hurricane vase with seasonal candies and foods. The color and shine of peppermints mixed with oranges and walnuts makes a good-enough-to-eat centerpiece that is worthy of any Christmas table.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to make overnight guests feel welcome

If you're hosting overnight guests this holiday season, there are a few simple touches that go a long way in making guests feel welcome. You don't need a fancy guest room to be a good hostess; you just need to make sure that your guests feel comfortable and taken care of.

Sleeping arrangements
Whether your guests are sleeping in the guest room, on an airbed, or on the sofa make them feel comfortable with easy access to the basic necessities:
  • Leave your guests a nightstand or other surface on which to gather their jewelry, books, etc. (If guests are sleeping on a mattress or airbed on the floor, consider leaving a large tray next to the bed, instead of a table.)

  • Make sure guests have easy-access to an outlet so that they can charge cell phones and other electronic devices without hunting for a plug.

  • Ideally, guests should be able to turn off the lights without getting out of bed. If your guests are staying in the living room or other shared space, be sure to provide them with lighting that is close by, and consider using nightlights in the hallways and bathrooms so that guests don't stumble in the dark.

  • Tell guests where they can find extra blankets and pillows, and keep the extras nearby.

  • Providing an alarm clock is also nice for guests. A combination radio or iPod alarm clock also gives guests the ability to listen to music during their stay.
The bathroom
Organizing supplies before your guests arrive will ensure that everyone has the towels and toiletries they need.
  • Leaving a set of towels and washcloths on a guest's bed gives them the freedom to bathe in the morning or evening without having to ask for linens.

  • Consider creating a bathroom basket with travel-sized toiletries and items guests may have forgotten, such as toothbrushes, combs, and hairspray. You may also want to create a small basket for the guest room with things like cough drops, earplugs, an inexpensive eye mask, and other things that will help your guests feel at home.

  • All homes have quirks. If the knobs in your shower are backwards or you have to jiggle the toilet handle for a proper flush, be sure to warn your guests in advance to prevent embarrassing situations. It's also helpful to point out where to find extra toilet paper or a plunger, should anyone need them.
Living spaces
Providing a comfortable place for visitors to read, watch television, or hang out is a necessity, as is showing guests where they can find food or drinks when they need them.
  • Leave a basket in a common area with games, magazines, and other forms of entertainment and encourage your guests to help themselves.

  • Orient guests to the kitchen and show them where to find snacks, water, coffee, dishes, etc. (This is especially important if your guests are early risers and you like to sleep in!)

  • Provide guests with a channel guide for the television, instructions to work the remote controls, and maps or local guidebooks if your guests will be doing any exploring without you.
In addition, it's nice to have a space set aside for your guests' belongings while they visit. If you're lucky enough to have a guest room, you're all set, but even if guests will be sleeping in the living room, try to make sure that they have access to some privacy and a place for their things. Consider cornering off a section of living space with a small privacy screen and a luggage rack for guests, or clearing out a closet for guests belongings. A little effort goes a long way!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The 5 best Christmas albums to play this season

Need an easy playlist for your Christmas celebrations? Pick up a few of these classic and contemporary Christmas albums and you've got an easy mix of tunes perfect for parties.
  1. Bing Crosby's White Christmas
    Start things off with a true classic when you purchase Bing Crosby's White Christmas album (for only $3.99 on Amazon, you can't go wrong). The disc is full of classics like "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "Silent Night", and the title track "White Christmas", you'll have just over a dozen songs to get you in the holiday spirit.

  2. Barenaked Ladies' Barenaked for the Holidays
    Aside from the snooze-worthy version of "Jingle Bells" that kicks off this disc, the Barenaked Ladies' holiday album is a must-have. A mix of both quirky and sentimental Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter songs make up this wonderful collection. The disc also features guest appearances by Sarah McLachlan and Michael Buble. ("God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" featuring Sarah McLachlan is especially beautiful.)

  3. Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Eve and Other Stories
    What did we do before the Trans-Siberian Orchestra came around? Christmas Eve and Other Stories showcases 17 Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs and includes fan-favorite "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24", (often mistakenly called "Carol of the Bells") which is an instrumental medley of "Carol of the Bells" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen".

  4. A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Sound Track Recording Of The CBS Television Special
    If you can get your hands on a copy of the original soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas, you are very lucky indeed! The original has the music just as we remember it (without the bells and whistles added to more recent releases). Playing this disc at a Christmas party is sure to invoke nostalgic memories of the season.

  5. The original A Very Special Christmas CD
    Though there are now half a dozen A Very Special Christmas compilations circulating, the original is the best, featuring Christmas songs sung by '80s superstars. From Run D.M.C.'s wonderfully cheesy Christmas in Hollis to U2's rocking Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) and Alison Moyet's hauntingly beautiful The Coventry Carol, the album features contemporary hits and proceeds from the sale of the album benefit Special Olympics.
Tune in to one of these albums for a very special Christmas of your own!