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Throw the Perfect Summer Party

 Posted by on July 16, 2013 at 12:07
Jul 162013


We enthusiastically agree – weeks in advance – to make an appearance at a party, only to wake up on the day of the party and spend hours brainstorming believable excuses to flake. But in a world where some fun is – in fact – mandatory, why would we ever run full speed and arms flailing away from optional fun?

Some reasons I’ve entertained for flaking include: I won’t know anyone aside from the hostess, and she’ll be busy; I couldn’t find a babysitter; I had nothing to wear; I was trying to lose weight and knew the chips and queso would be too tempting; and – the best nine month excuse – pregnancy. But how annoying is it when people flake? As a hostess, I hate it, which is why I try not to bail on a party unless something does truly come up – unfortunately motherhood comes with a world of legitimate excuses, so sorry to anyone I’ve stood up in the last 2 ½ years.

For all of you hosting a party in these dog days of summer, boost the “curb appeal” of your party to discourage flakers, and pay attention to the party trifecta: atmosphere, sustenance and company to keep your guests hanging around as long as you’d like.

Curb appeal

Yes, I know that curb appeal refers to the appearance of your home from the street, but I’m going green and recycling it. Very simply, if your party sounds exciting, guests will want to come. If there are too few details, or the available details make your party sound like a snooze-fest, it’s likely that you’ll receive a flood of text messages the day of the party with excuses ranging from, “My kid is puking,” to “My husband might be calling from Afghanistan sometime in the next 48 hours, and I don’t want to miss it.”

Whether through a formal invitation or word of mouth, keep guests in the loop. Let them know where you’ll be – indoors or out, what you’ll be eating and drinking, who will be there – including kids or no kids and what you’ll be celebrating – even if that reason is just because it’s Saturday (again). Be enthusiastic when inviting your guests; it’s contagious.

The perfect party trifecta

Atmosphere. The atmosphere of your party doesn’t have to scream, “I wasted a month’s salary on cheesy decor.” If you enjoy it, decorate to your heart’s content; just consider using what you have on hand or purchasing decorations you’ll reuse. But all the decorations in the world can’t make a successful party. Building the right atmosphere can be – gasp – free!

  • Create a playlist with music you already own, or tune into a free, customizable Internet radio station. Keep the songs upbeat and recognizable. If you have kiddos in attendance, watch out for those sneaky cuss words.
  • Arrange seating to encourage conversation between guests and between you and your guests. If you’re cooking and your kitchen is closed off from the rest of your house, prep ahead of time to limit your time away from the fun.
  • Have activities available, but avoid the child’s birthday party-like scheduling of games – “Gather ‘round! It’s time for pin the tail on the donkey!” Games should be optional and readily available in case guests get bored.
  • Make guests feel comfortable! If you tell your guests to make themselves at home, you better mean it! But constantly checking on everyone is exhausting, so if you’re a lazy hostess like I am, make sure everyone knows where to find food, drinks, games and, yes, the bathroom on their own, so that everyone feels comfortable.

Sustenance. If you want a room full of people to turn on you, just deprive them of food and drinks. Even party guests who aren’t especially hungry or thirsty tend to reach for hors d’oeuvres – more commonly called “chips and dip” at my house – and a drink just to occupy their hands and give them something to do if a conversation starts circling the drain. Food and drinks are like a security blanket at a party, and if you’ve ever tried to take an actual security blanket away from a child, you know you’re in for an apocalyptic tantrum.

So what do you give this hungry mass of people? It’s hot during the summer; do everyone a favor and don’t touch the oven. Instead, reach for seasonal fruits, veggie trays, cold dips or other finger foods. If you plan on serving a meal, fire up the grill. It’s already hot outside, so what harm could a little extra heat do?

Be sensitive to special diets – a meat buffet does not a happy vegetarian make. And remember if you’ve included kids on your guest list, they are notoriously picky and messy eaters – barbeque sauce at your own risk. And, if you think you have enough food and beverages, buy more because if you’re planning on your guests hanging around beyond mealtime, they will get hungry again before they leave.

Company. This is simple; invite those people you truly want to be there. Avoid drama by excluding people that bring it with them. People always feel more comfortable when they arrive with someone – it’s weird, but true. If you can, allow guests to bring a date or a friend if they ask; it’s just the nice thing to do.

Kids dramatically change the vibe of a party. As a mom, I can vouch that this isn’t necessarily a good thing or bad thing – it’s just a fact. Accommodate kids by having kid-friendly games, toys, food and drinks on hand. If you are throwing an adults only soiree, say so, and be blunt – don’t expect guests to pick up on subtlety.

Make your parties the ones that people look forward to versus look forward to leaving. Make sure your guests enjoy themselves, and that you have time to kick up your heels and relax, too. Isn’t that what the lazy days of summer are all about?

Are you THAT neighbor?

 Posted by on October 1, 2012 at 08:00
Oct 012012

Are you THAT neighbor?

Staff Blogger Melissa


Everything we need to know about being a good neighbor we learned in kindergarten. So why are there still stories about “horrible” neighbors? Sometimes we all forget that military housing and the surrounding communities are giant melting pots of different cultures from all over the country and even the world.  So some people may not know that their perceived “not-so-neighborly” behavior has become the topic of conversation among their neighbors.  Here are a few standard guidelines that we should all follow in order to “keep the peace” and be a good neighbor.

Keep party noise to a reasonable level.  I promise that I am not a stick in the mud, but I do like my sleep.  So “party it up,” but unless ALL your immediate neighbors are at your party, please keep the music and noise at a respectable noise level. Just because quiet hours may not start until 11:00 pm doesn’t mean that you should blare your music or be loud just because you can.

Maintain that lawn. If you live on an installation where the lawns are maintained for you, that is great (and I am jealous)! If not, try not to let your yard look like a “mysterious jungle” that begs to be explored by local children and inhabited by critters. Rule of thumb: if the grass or weeds are above your ankle, it’s time to bust out the lawnmower.

Doggy doo-doo is a don’t. Why do I even have to mention that you should clean up after your pet if they go “number two?” As much as you may not want to carry a baggie of doggy doo-doo back with you on your walk, I can guarantee the people who think of that yard as part of their home don’t want to do it either. And they don’t want to accidentally step in it!

Live in an apartment or share a wall? Be mindful of your noise. Surround sound systems are great! Nothing compares to having a movie theater system in your living room to make you feel like you’re right in the action on screen.  Imagine how your neighbors might feel hearing your movie through the wall, but not being able to see the screen. That would be frustrating. I also have a friend with a “shared wall” neighbor whose child would continuously bounce a ball off their common wall. She said the constant thumping noise drove her mad. Be thoughtful and aware of your noise level…just like you would want them to be.

Be respectful of your neighbor’s property. Don’t let your children run through and play in your neighbor’s yard unless they say it is ok. If trash from your yard blows into your neighbor’s yard, pick it up. Would you want them to leave their trash in your yard? Be respectful of the boundaries. I remember one time at 10:00 at night lying in bed and hearing a truck in my backyard. Yes, a truck. No, there was not a road or driveway for the truck.  My neighbors had decided to pull their truck through my yard and park it next to their fence so they could load it for their upcoming move. I had no idea this was going to happen and I was stuck trying to repair the tire tracks in my yard.

Be a polite parker. This can be quite the hot topic if you live in a home without a driveway, like a duplex or apartment building. A common complaint is people parking in spots designated for others. Learn the rules of your community and respect them. After all, you don’t want to come home with a car full of groceries to discover that your spot has been filled by someone else.

I have found that if you have an issue with your neighbor you should simply address it with them first before running to the housing office or local law enforcement.  A polite conversation about the issue can go a long way. Do not have an angry or threatening tone because that will not solve anything. Usually the neighbor will have had no idea that their behavior was causing a problem or concern.

In short, just remember the “Golden Rule” of doing unto others as you would want them to do unto you.  So if you plan on having a party, give your neighbors a head’s up. Have a dog that likes to leave droppings on your nightly walk? Don’t forget the baggies to clean up the mess. A little bit of consideration goes a long way. Be the type of neighbor you want to have.

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.