Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Me, 35 years ago today!

Check out more Wordless Wednesdays here and here!

Also, enter my GIVEAWAY here!

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter House Party

After the much lauded Domino's American Legends Pizza House Party I threw this summer, I was very excited to get a chance to host another party through the House Party website. This time, it would be sponsored by I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. No joke! How does one have a party based around butter (or "non-butter" as the case may be)? Well, it actually took the form of a bake sale planning party. What a cool concept! As President of my daughter's school's PTO, this opportunity fell into my lap at just the right time. Our PTO is launching some new programming and events, and a bake sale was a good start to fund our efforts.

The party pack that came in the mail contained enough material for 15 guests. My party ended up being much smaller, so there was plenty of stuff go around. Each guest got a tote bag with the ICBINB logo (and another one tucked inside the bag, too), a refrigerator magnet/notepad, a recipe booklet, 6 $1.50 coupons for ICBINB sticks, and entries for a sponsor-related contest to use and to share with friends. To this, I added $1.60 Nature Valley Nut Clusters coupons that I had received from Pssst... that I was supposed to share with friends. I also added a pen (that I got free from CVS with all of their back to school shopping deals!) to go with that fridge magnet list, and a Zobmondo coupon and AMC theaters popcorn coupons that I still had leftover from the Domino's House Party. Not a bad little reward for people coming together to plan a charitable bake sale!

I gave the guests a baking-related word search to do as people arrived. I also had a jar of chocolate chips on display for the guests to study and make a guess as to how many chips there were in the jar. EVERYone who took a stab at it guessed in the mid-300's. Well, except for my three year old who guessed that there were FIVE chocolate chips (we need to work on those counting skills, sweetie...). In reality, there were 700 chips in that little jar. The guest with the closest guess won the prize, which contained two coupons for free ICBINB and an ICBINB butter dish from the sponsor's party pack, and a candle holder with season-appropriate scented candles for it and hand lotion... you know, to moisturize after all of that baking and washing up. The supplements were things that I pulled out of the stash of things I've gotten for free with deal/coupon shopping.

In the midst of the bake sale planning, we enjoyed some light refreshments - cheese and crackers, chips, chocolate chip cookies the size of your head (!) and lemon squares. To make things interesting, I prepared one batch of lemon squares with real butter and one with ICBINB. I asked my guests to take part in the butter vs. ICBINB taste test, just for grins and giggles. My guests actually uttered the line "I can't believe it's not butter!" afterwards. And so, yeah... maybe I prompted them just a little to actually say the line... but the consensus was that the lemon squares I baked with ICBINB were better than the ones I baked with real butter!

In the picture, the ICBINB batch is in the foreground, real butter batch in the background. And now, a few notes about my baking experience. Working with ICBINB was just the same as using real butter. The real test was tasting the crust of the lemon squares. The ICBINB crust allowed easier removal from the baking pan, but the real butter crust actually crumbled less when biting into the squares. One guest thought the lemon flavor was more enhanced with the real butter squares, but she still preferred the ICBINB batch. I'm the type of gal who buys what is on sale for most things, which includes ICBINB from time to time. I was glad to have done a side-by-side comparison for this product.

And while we didn't actually set a date for our bake sale yet, we did talk about a lot of school related projects and camaraderie was enhanced. We have some details to check on and some avenues to pursue, and we'll be well on our way to having our "better bake sale." What fun!

While you're here, don't forget to enter my Giveaway for a Premium Account at MyPunchbowl! I reviewed MyPunchbowl here. Check it out!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Punchbowl Party Planning Site - GIVEAWAY!

Not too long ago, I posted about my in-laws' 40th anniversary, and how I used Punchbowl to do all of the party planning. I have exciting news for you, dear blog reader... the very cool and upbeat folks over at Punchbowl have generously offered 2 lucky Shin-dig-it readers a year-long upgrade to a Premium account! The regular price for a Premium account is $39.95, and offers you more design choices and other party planning amenities. If you use Twitter, you can also receive updates from @Punchbowl. They are always able to supply you with a reason to celebrate!

To enter the contest, you need to leave a comment on this post with your email address (only so that I can contact you if you win) and your name. And while you're at it, let us know your favorite reason to celebrate! All entries must be received by 6:00 PM EST on Monday, October 6, 2009. Two winners will be picked by random number generator and will be notified by email. If no contact is made within a reasonable amount of time, I reserve the right to choose another winner.

Good luck!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shindiglet: Family Movie Night & Bedtime Moments

Shindiglet - Like a grand shindig, only a much smaller to-do. There are times, when even a small group of people getting together creates an occasion for celebrating with a theme. And if it is within my power, I always try to make that happen.

A family movie night, for me, is such an occasion.

On weekends, my little family unit (the four of us) likes to kick back and relax and enjoy some family entertainment on the ol' boob tube. Lately, we've been watching the Pink Panther cartoons that I remember watching as a kid. I'm loving the fact that my kids think they are hilarious! My memories take me back to when I was young and I went with my family to the drive in. Before the movie started, we would be treated with a cartoon, sort of like an appetizer. All of us kids (there were always so many of us in one car... never failed!) used to guess which cartoon would be shown. Would it be Tom & Jerry or The Pink Panther? And which exact one would it be? The beach episode of Tom & Jerry where Tom tries to impress that sleek white girl cat? The Pink Panther episode where PP wants everything painted pink when the man is obviously a fan of the color blue? The occasional Ant & the Aardvark? Ahhh, those summertime moments of anticipation! So fast-forward many... ahem!... a few years later, and I get to see my kids rehashing the simple plot lines that make the Pink Panther so timeless.

All of this reminiscing has gotten me all nostalgic. In my ritualistic, daily blog hopping earlier this summer I landed on a contest over at that focused on special bedtime moments between parents and children. I guess that sentimental mood back then got me thinking about special bedtime moments, and how our children just grow up so darn fast (second grade already!!). It hit me that these are the days my children will remember when they're my age, and hopefully they'll look fondly upon them. I want to give my kids those Pink Panther memories! I want them to drift off to sleep in a home where they have fun and bond over family time! Goshdarnit, I want tons and tons of special bedtime moments!

Did I mention that I won that contest over at No? Welllllllllllllllllllllll... let me tell you all about it! Mir, the very pretty blogger over yonder had partnered with GoodNites to sponsor this contest. All I had to do to enter was to write about a special bedtime moment I had experienced. I recalled the bedtime story "Love You Forever" and how it always makes me emotional when I read it. You can get the details at and spare me the blubbering from rehashing it now. :) I cannot tell you how excited I was to learn that I had won! When the prize arrived in the mail, I was like a kid at Christmas, going through all of that loot! Included was a beautiful LL Bean tote bag, a nice, warm, fuzzy throw blanket, two Moleskine journals, a $50 gift card for Borders, and a $100 gift certificate. Wowee!! Family movie night just got cozier! To top it all off, won a sub-contest with GoodNites as the blogger who generated the most entries to the GoodNites website's Special Bedtime Moments contest. With that win, Mir earned $1,000 worth of bedtime books that she had donated to her local county library system's outreach program. Having even the tiniest part of getting books into the hands of people who can appreciate them is just plain delightful.

To bring us back full circle, I'm currently planning a shindiglet for an upcoming family movie night. With a subtle nod to and GoodNites... I think we'll watch 'Bedtime Stories.'

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

40th Wedding Anniversary Party

I had the great honor to organize and implement a 40th wedding anniversary party for my mother and father-in-law this summer. My sister-in-law is busy planning her own wedding, and so I donned my party planning hat and started thinking about themes!

My research quickly uncovered the fact that the 40th anniversary is the Ruby Anniversary. My in-laws just weren't the types that desire to be lavished with rubies, so I figured out ways to play up '40' and used 'ruby' as a color accent instead.

In order to get the event off the ground on relatively short notice, it was imperative to do the invitations electronically. Fortunately, I had just been given the opportunity to upgrade my account to Premium at Punchbowl. If you are not familiar with, it is a great resource for party planning from invitations, to managing what dishes your guests are bringing, to posting pictures of your event when it is all over.

The first order of business to give Punchbowl a whirl, was to design the invitation. I could choose from plenty of very pretty designs and styles, with good prompts for all the necessary information. Previewing the design was simple, and editing my information was just as intuitive. I had a lot of fun tweaking the details of the design, too. My in-laws' wedding colors were yellow and light blue. I added a splash of red to the design, too, remembering that this was the ruby anniversary after all! Having gathered in my research (thank you, Google!) that the Nasturtium is the 40th anniversary flower, I added a photo of a pretty yellow Nasturtium to the invitation. Wow! I was so pleased with the look. It was pleasant and classy, which is just the impression I wanted to convey.

When I was satisfied with the design, I moved on to discover more of the features Punchbowl offers. I was thrilled with the option to add a potluck contribution manager. Since this party was just for family, and was to be held at my in-laws' backyard during the summer, we opted for a cookout celebration. The guests would be bringing dishes to share. I had already envisioned the menu. We would be grilling marinated chicken breast and steak for steak sandwiches, as well as having pulled pork. I also made spaghetti dill salad and deviled eggs. My sister-in-law made a fruit salad, brought the celebratory cake (decorated, once again, with yellow, blue and a splash of red) and supplied the beer and soda. Based on the number of guests, I selected the type and number of other dishes that the guests could choose to bring. I was really impressed with this feature! I did have to play around with it a little before I figured out that you need to remember to click "submit" or it won't save the numbers or prompt the guests to look at this section of the invitation online.

At last, I was ready to send the invitation. Punchbowl allows you the opportunity to add a specific message to all of your guests, just one, or a different message to each guest - whichever way you want. This is helpful if you want to suggest to your aunt to bring her acclaimed baked lima beans dish, and your uncle to throw a couple of folding tables in the back of the truck, too. Very cool! As the RSVPs came in, I was able to edit the online invitation to update the number of guests expected on the potluck page. Again, I had to play around with this feature, but finally realized you have to click up in the "Note" section to update this information.

An easy to manage to-do list is another great feature on this site! This was very handy for me, as I was planning this event the same time I was planning my Dominos American Legends Pizza House Party.

The party itself went swimmingly! Everyone contributed such great food, and it wasn't your run-of-the-mill cookout. I wanted my in-laws to feel special, and I think they did. My in-laws have three children (my husband being one of them). To pay homage to their 40 years of marriage, their three children and I each made a list of 10 things we love about them, totaling 40 things. The list ran the gamut from touching to funny, the youngest citing such things as "You never gave me a curfew." And one that I contributed was that "Our kids love coming to visit them, and that it was only partly because there is a playground next door." My husband tugged the heart strings with things like, "By loving us and showing us that you care, you proved that love is truly the light of the world and we are all meant to carry it on to others." My sister-in-law remarked on all of the family vacations they had made over the years, and how the family time would be cherished forever.

But that wasn't the only tribute that we paid to to their anniversary. In the week leading up to the party, my husband scanned the pictures from their wedding album and enhanced them with a photo editing software. Some of the photos had been damaged in a flood many moons ago, and some had yellowed over time. They looked great, and were viewed in a wonderful slide show presentation at the party set to the music of their song. My mother-in-law in particular was truly touched by this gesture.

As a final tie-in to the 40 theme, the children each gave the couple of honor a $40 gift card for someplace meaningful to them. And although I didn't think of it at the time, I later thought a gift card to Ruby Tuesday would have been appropriate!

Later, in a thank you note, my mother-in-law said, "Thank you ever so much for the special anniversary celebration. The food was so good, our wedding pictures put to music was wonderful, and your things that you admire in us were so touching. We truly felt special and so loved. As we grow older, we find that having family is our greatest blessing."

When all was said and done, I was proud to be involved in the event, and glad to have shown such a wonderful couple that they have done well in their life together. And... I can't wait to throw a Golden Anniversary party for them!