How to Have a Great Halloween Party

Now that another Thanksgiving Day is behind us, Canadians have Halloween to look forward to at the end of the month. Have you had a Halloween party recently? They can be extremely fun, not only when you are having them, but also when you are in the planning stage and getting them ready.

Here are some tips that will help you plan your next terrific Halloween party:

Make some cool invitations

Use your artistic skills (or ask an artistically inclined friend) to come up with a suitably gruesome, but fun, design for your invitations. Try to incorporate the theme of your party. For example, if zombies are the theme, make sure that is reflected in the invitation.

Create a food and decorations list

Choose food and your drinks that reflect the season. They can also be indicative of your overall party theme. For example, if vampires are the theme, serve a drink that is red and frothy like blood.

Decorations should suit the theme, while also reflecting a Halloween look and feel in general. Choose some decorations that will only be used this year and others that you can reuse for later Halloween celebrations. That way, your planning will be partially completed in advance.

Buy or create a costume

There are many excellent costumes on the market, though you can also create your own. This approach will make it more uniquely individual and all-around you.

Think up some Halloween games

You can rely on old standbys like bobbing for apples, or even create all new, fun games that reflect both your guests’ tastes and the theme of the party.

Be spontaneous

Once the party starts, the planning stops. Go with the flow, monitor how your guests are enjoying themselves, and adjust accordingly. But most important of all…never forget to enjoy yourself!

TIFF 2017 is Just Around the Corner

Toronto is truly one of the world’s capitals when it comes to movies. We have a great selection of theatres showing a terrific range of both old and new fare, as well as dedicated audiences who enjoy a wide range of movies.

The crown jewel, however, is the Toronto International Film Festival. Cannes may be the best known fest, but few are as widely respected as TIFF. Every September, a stunning array of movies and directors/stars converge on Toronto and patrons from all over the world enjoy some of the best of what cinema has to offer in high-tech theatres.

This year’s TIFF runs from September 7th through the 17th. The line-up offers the usual cross section of movies and genres from around the world. If you are interested in attending, and plan to see as many movies as time permits, it is always a good idea to buy a ticket package, rather than risk missing out on films you were looking forward to.

Highlights this year include George Clooney’s black comedy SUBURBICON with Matt Damon & Julianne Moore; I, TONYA, a Tonya Harding biopic starring Margot Robbie; THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US with Idris Elba & Kate Winslet; Darren Aronofsky’s thriller MOTHER! starring Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem; BATTLE OF THE SEXES with Emma Stone & Steve Carrell as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs; DOWNSIZING, another Matt Damon vehicle, this one co-starring Kristen Wiig; Guillermo Del Toro’s macabre thriller THE SHAPE OF WATER; Paul Rudd in THE CATCHER WAS A SPY; Jessica Chastain’s latest WOMAN WALKS AHEAD; James McAvoy & Alicia Vikander in SUBMERGENCE; Benedict Cumberbatch & Tom Holland in THE CURRENT WAR; Daniel Craig & Halle Berry in KINGS; Jake Gyllenhaal in David Gordon Green’s Boston Marathom Bombing thriller STRONGER; and Gary Oldman as Sir Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s DARKEST HOUR.

See you at the movies!

Julianne Moore and Matt Damon in SUBURBICON. Courtesy Paramount.

How to Plan a Retirement Party

After someone has worked for many years and has decided to call it a day, it is customary for their current co-workers to throw a retirement party. These can be tricky because you want to find the right tone for the get together: you are sad to see them go, but also want to celebrate their accomplishments and their entering into a new phase of life.

Here are some ideas to help you plan a retirement party:


Ask people who have worked with and known the person for years to celebrate their achievements. While you should encourage the speakers to talk about whatever they like, it helps to have a good balance between the comedic and ones that genuinely laud the person’s accomplishments. A little genuine sentimentality can be nice, too.

Party Theme

There is nothing wrong with making reservations in a nice restaurant or booking a hall for the party. However, if you want to try something more ambitious, think of a theme for the party. For example, if the person loves golfing, arrange a day at a local golf course, followed by a meal and drinks in the club’s restaurant. Find out what the person really loves to do and then judge whether it is do-able from a cost and planning standpoint.

Go for a Broad List of Attendees

Don’t just invite people from work. Reach out to the person’s friends and family and encourage some of them to be among the speakers. This way, everyone gets a broad overview of the person’s life and accomplishments, and not just how they performed on the job.

Provide a Way to Stay in Touch

People often lose touch with old work colleagues. Make sure that everyone has the person’s contact info. You can also set up a social media account for them and encourage the attendees to “friend” it.

Boots and Hearts 2017 Coming in August

Held annually in Oro-Medonte, a lovely lakeside area near Barrie, Ontario, Boots and Hearts is a major country and western music festival that attracts many people of all ages to the area each year.

For those not familiar with Boots and Hearts, it’s a three-day festival (running August 10-13 this year) where you can camp out for the duration or come on a daily basis.  You can choose from $100 single-day tickets or $220 VIP passes.

The star-studded line-up always includes a cross-section of Canadian and American talent. Keith Urban is probably the best known of the 2017 headliners, who also include Brantley Gilbert and Luke Bryan. Among the other confirmed acts are Brett Eldredge, the Eli Young Band, Dan + Shay, Frankie Ballard, Chad Brownlee, Jess Moskaluke, and even veteran actor Kiefer Sutherland (see the full line-up here).

Keith Urban is among the headliners at this year’s Boots and Saddles festival in Oro-Medonte, Ontario. By Craig ONeal (Keith Urban World Tour) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
While I’m not a big country and western fan, but Boots and Hearts has a great reputation as a fun place to be and meet new people. Friends who have attended in the past have very positive things to say about the experience. I don’t have tickets yet, but am thinking seriously about it.

If you can’t afford the ticket price, you also have the option of being a volunteer for the three days. You can camp for free on the property as a volunteer, though you do need to bring your own camping equipment. Over the course of the festival, you will need to work a minimum of 18 hours. I’ve volunteered at festivals before and it was a real pleasure, with only a few negative moments caused by rowdy behavior.

For more information, visit the festival’s official website.


How to Plan a Child’s Birthday Party

OK, you have now successfully planned a party for adults, so you have the experience and battle scars to plan your first children’s party. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, though if you have ever participated in kiddie birthday parties before, you know that there is no such thing as rest: you have to be on and alert from the time the first child arrives to the second the last one heads out the door.

OK, let’s get started:

Pick a Theme

You can stage any old birthday party, but having a theme tends to make the kids more engaged. It can be anything under the sun, though you should definitely involve the main child in the decision making process.

How Many Guests?

Logistics are key here: how many adults will there be to supervise? Don’t allow so many children that you can’t adequately keep a handle on things. Have at least one adult for every five children.


If you are doing an activity like bowling or going to a movie, you might want to book some form of entertainment. Decide on what kind as soon as possible and book immediately; that way, if there is a cancellation, you can find someone else.

Plan the Day

It can be tough to have little children following a schedule, but do your best to plan the day so that everything happens in its proper order at an appropriate time. For example, you don’t want to be opening presents right when the clowns arrive.

Make Sure Everything is Ordered

Have you ordered the food? What about the party favors? Napkins, hats, and other things for the table? Don’t forget the cleaning supplies!

Children’s birthday parties can be pretty trying, but they can also be great fun and very memorable moments in the life of your child. If you have everything well planned in advance, chances are it will come off without a hitch.

How to Be a Good Party Host(ess)

Party planning is a major part of the challenge, so the actual party is smooth sailing, right? Well, it can be, if you keep a few things in mind.

Here are some tips that can help ensure that your party is the success you’re hoping for:

  • Keep a level head. It’s impossible to plan for every possibility at a party; let’s face it, spontaneity is fun! Also, if you’re serving alcohol, there is always the possibility that someone might start to enjoy themselves a bit too much. If something like that does happen, keep cool! Don’t get mad. Anger does not help get things back on track.  Also, if you are too anxious, that doesn’t set the right mood either. Try to do something relaxing before everyone arrives and hold on to those vibes for the rest of the evening.
  • Stick to your strengths. Do you have a dish that tends to go over well with people and you are very comfortable making? Choose that over one that you have never tried before. If you want to experiment with your cooking or designing skills, choose a small scale affair first, not the party where you’ve invited your boss and mother-in-law.
  • Choose the right music. You don’t want to bore your guests with Muzak and you don’t want to blow out their ears and their conversations with heavy metal. Try and find music that falls somewhere in the middle ground and reflects the tastes of most of your guests.
  • Mingle! Remember, you are the host(ess): people are here to see you, too! Hanging around in the kitchen or spending a great deal of time with one set of friends comes across as being rude. Get out there, talk, and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.
  • Be flexible. It’s great to plan things out, but the timing does not always jibe. Don’t interrupt a rewarding group conversation because it says in your schedule that it’s time for appetizers. Play it by ear and imagine that you are among the guests; when does it seem right to you for the next stage in your evening to occur?

Dealing With the Aftermath of a Party

I recently discussed party planning and how some people find it quite difficult. Well, congrats! I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you have had your first party planning experience and I hope it was terrific.

Another less than great aspect of parties is dealing with the mess afterward. Yes, it’s a necessary evil that no one likes, but we all have to do it, so why not do it the right way? Here are some tips on how cleaning up after your party can be less of a soul-sucking ordeal:

Deal With Those Spills and Stains
Before you do anything else, tackle the various “oopsies” that occurred during the evening. I’m guessing you already attacked the ones you noticed during the event, but there are always ones left over that we don’t see until the morning. The longer these sit, the worse they are to deal with, so get cracking.

Collect the Trash
OK, you can now advance to garbage patrol. Pick up all of the cups, napkins, bottles, food leftovers…everything that is not supposed to be there. Recycle anything you can.

Dishwasher Time!
If you didn’t use paper plates (and good for you if you didn’t), start putting your cups, glasses, and plates in the dishwasher. Depending on how big your party was, this might take several loads.

Dust and Vacuum
Lots of guests means lots of traffic, so dust was no doubt stirred up or tracked in from outside. Dust all of your surfaces and vacuum the rugs. If you had to soak some areas of a rug to remove a stain, hold off on this step until the area has dried sufficiently.

See? It’s actually not all that difficult, especially compared to planning a party. However, it’s always good to have a system as that makes the task more efficient and less time-consuming.

Quotes on Party Planning

How is the party planning coming along? As a follow-up to my last post, here are some fun quotations about parties and party planning that will help to make you smile while making all of those preparations:

“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.”
― Ron White

“I’m gonna party, see how intoxicated I can get and how many rules I can flaunt. That’s my motto.”
― H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream

“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.”
― Criss Jami, Killosophy

“Partying means drinking. It also means playing records by Lou Reed and Chicago, which I thought was a city but is also a band it turns out.”
― Ron Currie Jr., Everything Matters!

“It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope

“I always think the opening moments of a party are the hardest, before everyone has had enough to drink.”
― Stephanie Clifford, Everybody Rise

“Nudist Colony Halloween parties are especially scary. They give the word “moon” a new cruel meaning.”
― Ray Palla, H: Infidels of Oil

“The easiest way to be the prettiest girl at a party is to rig the guest list.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

“Friends will always be there for the party. REAL friends will be there after the party…”
― Bray Love

“I can party like a twenty-four-year-old but it takes me almost a week to recover.”
― Amy Poehler

“When you’re the most happening person at the party, it’s time to leave”
― Kelly Cutrone, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You