Friday, October 30, 2009

Natural Halloween Outdoor Decorating

 Photo by Matthew Benson for Country Living

     Plastic wrappers, flammable streamers and polyester spider webs: all the traditional trappings of outdoor Halloween decor. Couple these with off-gassing PVC masks and costumes and fog machines, and you've got one horrible mess of toxicity melting down. Consider the All Hallow's Eve hangover of a trashpile on November 1st. The items that frightened and delighted your trick or treaters will haunt us forever in the landfill! That's pretty scary!
     The photo above from Country Living showcases the most perfect, eco-friendly vignette I've ever seen. By using natural materials that can be composted (or heaped for next year's crops of pumpkins, gourds and squashes), you will avoid rampant consumerism and have a more tasteful display.
     I particularly like the candles in Kerr jars with candy corn to stabilize. After Halloween, you can take the spooky bits out of your decorations to have something to tide you over till after Thanksgiving when the big guns come out!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tips for Holiday Invitations: You'd Better Get Busy Now!

I've been griping about the merchants foisting Christmas upon us before the leaves have dropped here in Indiana. It is such an anti-Zen way to live, shifting our consciousness ahead two and three months at a time. But if you read Shindigs & Soirees, I can only assume you are a doer and a planner, and there are, after all, numerous events creeping up on your calendar. That said, I know you'll forgive me for instilling holiday panic before you've even picked up your Halloween candy!
I was the party planner for our family business until Hubbs retired. At that time, my father in law (may he rest in peace) was still the CEO and our holiday extravaganzas included an employee party, a separate formal dinner dance for employees and clients/associates, a Santa party for our employees' children (complete with wish lists granted for 25-35 kids), client gifting, correspondence, and our personal family gatherings. Needless to say, my holiday planning began with our annual Halloween rager at my house and ended with me horizontal in a fuge state on a sofa by the fire by 3 pm on Christmas Day.
I abdicated my duties about 5 years ago, but inherited all of the Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve cooking. Not a bad trade, considering all the work that went into the season. In those days, internet commerce wasn't as prolific, and I had yet to discover the blogosphere. I'm not entirely sure there was much content yet, anyway. That meant the week before Halloween, I had to scour all of the stationery shops, spending hours pouring over catalogs and invitation samples. The schlepping alone drove me nuts.
Despite the options and convenience of the web, etiquette time tables still apply. Formal invitations for Christmas and New Year's Eve really must go out 6 weeks prior: people should be receiving theirs right after Thanksgiving. Anything later, and you're really pushing it because of the rush and rigmarole of the season!
Start by thinking backwards. Figure out the date of your event, subtract 6 weeks plus 10-14 days for processing and shipping, and you'll know when to get started. Whether you order from your local shop or online, you can do your address labels while you are waiting for your products to arrive. One advantage to having your invitations printed locally is the occasional opportunity to take your envelopes with you while the cards are being made. If you choose to print your addresses on labels, choose clear for colored envelopes. In my case, my boss insisted all invitations be addressed by hand. This usually took me every bit of a week to accomplish, but the results were very personal.
Your invitation should set the tone of your party. Often, I would come up with the theme by finding a super cool invitation. We celebrate Christmas, but not everyone does. That's why I usually crafted my text to read something like "Celebrate the Season With (Our Company Name)." The corporate tradition was to send a Harry & David ham to our clients, but when I took over we began ordering turkeys instead. Not everyone appreciates pork - including myself. Definitely something to consider in a culturally heterogeneous business world!
Here are some ideas to get you started. There is nothing I love more than poring over stationery, and though I consume far, far less of it these days I am happy to daydream of the parties that might be as well as the soirees that have been. Feel free to drop me an email ( or a comment if you want to pick my brain while planning your own winter wonderlands!

Holiday Classics personalized Business Greeting Cards. Save 50% off Holiday cards until 11/25.

I don't normally send Thanksgiving cards because everyone I want to greet is usually at my house eating free range turkey and organic cranberry chutney, but if your business is food oriented, you'll make a big impression on your clients before the deluge of December mail rains upon them!

Note: The designs below were handpicked and captioned for you by Kitty. They are posted in a "shop" format for your browsing/my posting convenience. The links are clickable if you need more information or you want to order anything. In that case, you will leave the Kitty website.
While browsing invitations all afternoon, I was inspired to begin planning my own holiday social schedule. Among the pending get togethers, I'm penciling in an afternoon tea for some yoga friends to kick off this season's Innerspace Yoga Seva project, a wild girls' night out, Thanksgiving for 3-23 people, an intimate cocktail party at home, Christmas Eve White Elephant, and of course Christmas Day. Whew! I've worn myself out just thinking of it. More on these projects as they develop - Please check back!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Best Halloween Treat Ever

A friend asked, "Do you ever wonder about candy from China?" I try to minimize my consumption of Chinese products (it's really, really hard) because I try to maximize my American purchases. My mother-in-law is very strict about candy and toys not being from China because of lead content and the pet food scare a few years ago. Fine by me. That means my Easter baskets and Christmas stockings are loaded with domestic chocolate.
Behind in my blogging, I just found this adorable Halloween banner this evening. You totally have time to have some of these delivered in time for your favorite trick-or-treaters. They're fun to make and fun to give. I am actually going to click over and get some for my nephews as well as some of the NFL varieties to give to my son's football coaches as a thank you. Go Jets!

Make any event special with personalized MY M&M’S®

*Note: (Wed) I don't know what happened to the super cute orange and black banner I had posted; here yesterday and gone today. If you click on the ad, it will take you over to M&Ms, and you can see the Halloween variety there. Thanks, Kitty.*

Friday, October 9, 2009

FTC Compliance

This morning, Liberty Post pointed me to a new FTC rule. Because I care about lawful compliance (although, I like to think I can discern for myself what is and is not malarkey in the media, and likewise I strive to be honest in everything I publish), I am posting the Advertising Policies for the entire domain.
"Innerspace OMnimedia publishes a variety of blogs and electronic magazines celebrating and supporting conscious lifestyle choices." That's the mission. Here are the facts: We are a privately funded corporation. We want to bring sustainable culture to people in many ways, from traditional news features to essays and yes, advertising. We like to think we are uniting cool people with cool stuff when indeed our editorial content is appropriate for "stuff." The companies featured throughout the domain demonstrate an aspect of sustainability, whether they are purveyors of organic clothing, natural cosmetics, or yoga products. Whatever.
Innerspace OMnimedia chooses our advertising partners with discernment; sometimes a brand is featured because we ourselves use and endorse the products, and sometimes we feature ad banners from the aforementioned partners simply because we like the graphic effect. We pretty much do what we want when we want and we believe our readers are astute enough to know media is supported by advertising.
When a customer clicks on these visual elements, she might or might not be taken to a place with further product information or the ability to purchase said item. If she buys the item, Innerspace OMnimedia is given a commission. It's called "affiliate marketing." It's an aspect of media in the digital age.
During the holiday season, we sometimes run Seva Projects which take those commissions and distribute them to Indiana children's charities. During the rest of the year, those revenues keep the Mothership up and running. When readers' buying sprees go to charity, we are very explicit about run dates for the project, as well as who will receive portions of our revenues. In other words, you'll know about all the love you are about to spread by buying cool stuff!
As for consumer reviews (particularly on Kitty channels), your Kitty personally buys the products in question with her own funds, tests the products on herself, and gives a "transparent" and honest review. We do not review swag or samples. Your Kitty does not review anything she has not paid for herself; products posted in clickable links may or may not generate revenue, and exist mainly for the readers' convenience. Now you know. Thanks.
Update 11-16-09: If you're a blogger and you want to learn more about the FTC's Endorsement guidelines, you might find this montage of videos helpful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Candy for the Cure

My M&Ms

Send a bag of these special candies to your favorite survivor today! Personalized M&Ms are a huge hit. I've been pleased with the bags I have ordered, and these are especially cool because they raise money and awareness for breast cancer. Now through October 31st, M&Ms will donate 10% of your purchase of "Promise Blend" pink and white candies to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. You can even personalize your bag with your own text. When I use personalized M&Ms, I buy in bulk and have them individually wrapped in smaller cellophane bags at a local candy boutique. A huge hit with peeps of all ages! A nice touch for any ladies' luncheons you may be planning this month.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

You Totally Have Time to Plan a Halloween Party

You Totally Have Time to Plan a Halloween Party!
10 tips for a successful soiree:

1. Find some invitations & get them in the mail ASAP (preferably by the 10th to 13th-ish).

I love tiny*prints; their quality is amazing, and the selection is enormous. Many of their choices are eco-friendly, and they recently began selling a "studio" line which is less expensive. Whereas they used to make you order a minimum of 25, you can now get just a few if need be.

2. Determine a budget and stick to it. Party expenses, like hamsters, tend to multiply when left unchecked. Don't go to the party store with vague ideas; you'll end up getting a bunch of crap you won't end up using and that's just a big fat waste of time and money.

3. Make a list (and check it three times every day until the day after the event) of food and activities, then figure out how many and which serving pieces you'll need. Please see my previous posts regarding biodegradable/sustainable plates, cups and flatware.

4. Unless small children are going to be present, consider serving drinks in actual glassware. Brown bottled root beers are soooo autumnal! Rather than offering multitudinous beverage choices, consider one or two types of communal witches brews, served in creepy cauldrons or a spooky punch bowl. You'll save yourself the work of sorting and hauling all the recyclables afterwards!

5. One trick I use when entertaining at home is to actually lay the table the night before, as well as the serving area. I note which food will go into which dishes, so I'm not faced with any unpleasant surprises. I put candlesticks in the freezer overnight; this stops them from dripping all over the place.

6. Designate recycling tubs and put the trash nearby. Make it easy for guests to party sustainably.

7. Leave a few rolls of recycled paper towels on the counter in your kitchen. That way, guests can clean up their own minor disasters without bothering you and feeling embarrassed.
You might include a liter of club soda nearby for spills.

8. Heap some old costumes, props and masks somewhere in case guests arrive without festive attire. They can help themselves to the pile.

9. Polaroids or instant digital photos always, especially on Halloween!

10. The day before is also a great day to round up ice. I prefer to make my own, since my freezer water is filtered. If I start bagging it a day or two in advance, I have plenty.