Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chari-Tea Bunco Cause Party

Recently multi-platinum, Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter, Ashanti teamed up with Johnson's Body Care to launch a new charitable program that enables real women across the country to support local charities through simply hosting get-togethers with friends.

I was given the opportunity to host one of these "cause parties" where I could kick back with my girlfriends, pamper ourselves with Johnson's new line of lotions and body washes and help raise money for a local charity.

Lucky for me, it happened to be my turn to host our monthly Bunco so I decided to partner these opportunities together and host a Chari-Tea Bunco night at my house.

My guests were asked to bring monetary and/or food donations to support the St Joseph County Food Bank. Everyone also agreed that the winnings would be given to the food bank instead of divided among ourselves for the event and Johnson's gave us $100 to start the charitable pot for our charity.

By hosting this event with Johnson's they gave us the money to put towards the food and drinks for our event so I truly got to pamper my girlfriends in style because no one had to bring a single dish to share.
I still kept to a thrifty budget, but tried to add some special touches for our group. Our centerpiece was a bouquet of flowers displayed in a teapot with a variety of special teas in my china teacups for our table. These beautiful bouquets of flowers were purchased at Sam's Club for less than $5.

Here are some pictures of the great food that we got to eat. I wanted to stick with the tea party food and dishes that would be easy to handle while playing our game.

I got a huge croissant sandwich tray that served 18 for $32 at Sam's Club. I cut these sandwiches in half and then added colored toothpicks to hold them together so people could sample different varieties of sandwiches and to make them a little more bite-sized.

For side dishes, I purchased two huge vegetable trays for $9.87 each that were prepared by Sam's Club. I made a delicous pesto pasta salad from my new favorite cookbook, "The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen," which you must check out! I then bought a variety of fruit and made fruit kabobs by skewering them for our guests out of pineapple, grapes, and strawberries. These fruit kabobs were thrown into a pretty wine bucket for everyone to grab.

For dessert, I purchased two boxes of mini creme puffs that I served on cake platters with a decaf coffee to finish out the meal.

The star of the party though was the Bunco punch that I made that was a delicious summery drink to go with our food. We also had a box of the Black Box Cabernet which was another surprising hit with many of my friends who had not had the pleasure of trying boxed wines before. Sam's Club had the best price on this with a box that was equivalent to four bottles for only $18.32. I have to say, these boxed wines are an affordable way to entertain on a budget.

On my lower level, we had a little welcome desk where my guests could sign in and my coffee table got taken over by all of the great food donations.

Each guest got to take home a really cute reusable bag filled with Johnson's products to sample and share with their friends as a thank you for their charitable efforts. Each bag contained their 24 Hour Moisturizer, 24 Hour Moisturizing Body Wash, & their Be Radiant Cocoa & Shea Butter Lotions. These products were just for us, not for our kiddos, and they smell and feel great. My favorite is definitely the Be Radiant Cocoa & Shea Butter Lotion- it smells divine!

We had the biggest turn out for Bunco ever with seventeen great women in attendance and we were so excited about all we could do for our community. With the donation made by Johnson's plus our own donations, we were able to donate $205 to the St Joseph County Food Bank and an entire car full of food donations for the cause.

With the job loss in our area, our food banks and shelters are in critical need right now and if you are able to give anything at all, I encourage you to take the time to do it.

Here are some of the items the Food Bank of Northern Indiana critically needs:

Cereal -- hot and cold
Meat, chicken or tuna
Mac/cheese, dry pasta
Potato flakes
Spaghetti O's, stews
Pork & Beans
Chicken Helper
Family-sized soups
Dry soup mixes
Juice boxes
Beans -- baked, refried
Pancake, waffle mix
Plastic containers

Individuals, clubs, churches, civic groups and local businesses can all conduct food drives. Donated food is a much needed commodity in their fight against hunger. They accept donated food between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday, at their location on 702 S. Chapin Street, South Bend, IN. If this location is not convenient to you, there are many other drop off points including all of the Martin's Supermarket grocery stores. For more information please visit The Food Bank of Northern Indiana to find out how you can help.

Throwing a cause party was such a fun girl's night out and I encourage you to do the same with your girlfriends! It is a fun and easy way to give back to charities in your community and I am so thankful that Johnson's helped us support such a great cause in our own community!

Here are the star recipes from our fabulous Chari-Tea Bunco night that you could replicate for a charity night at your house!

Pesto Pasta Salad (courtesy of "The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen") and you can visit The Farm Chicks Blog too!

3 cups bowtie pasta (about 8 oz)
1/4 cup pesto (Sam's Club has pesto for really cheap, if your garden isn't ready for pesto-making yet)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (about two medium)
1/2 cup halved pitted black olives
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)

Cook pasta as directed. Drain and rinse under cold running water and let cool. Place in a salad bowl. In another bowl, mix the pesto and sour cream together and add to the pasta, tossing to coat. Add the tomatoes, olives, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts and toss to mix. Serve.

Bunco Punch

Orange slices
Lemon slices
Lime slices
Maraschino cherries
Cherry juice or red food coloring
Metal ring mold

SIMPLE SYRUP (Prepare ahead) :
3 c. water
3 c. sugar
Combine, boil and cool.

Simple syrup, chilled
4 c. chilled cranberry juice
3 c. chilled bottled lemon juice
2 c. chilled orange juice
2 c. chilled unsweetened pineapple juice
2 qt. chilled ginger ale
16 oz. rum or vodka or wine or champagne

Create your ice ring by throwing in the citrus fruit slices and then pouring in the jar of cherries (juice and all) Top the bundt pan off with water and then freeze overnight.

To serve: Unmold ice ring into punch bowl; add juices and liquor; add ginger ale.

This makes approximately 30 (6 ounce) servings.

What are some fun charitable activities you do with your friends and/or family? I would love for you to share how you make charity a priority in your house?

Related Links:

Good Cheap Fun: Bunco

Retro Housewife Bunco

Kentucky Derby Bunco

'70's Bunco Style

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Day 19: '70's Bunco Style

I seriously cannot imagine missing a month of Bunco, but knew that I would have to sit out this month with the No Spend Challenge.

My girlfriends would not hear of it though and said that they would let me keep my money if I came to play with everyone. My concern was that everyone would feel like I was the charity case, but no one wanted me to sit out. They had all sorts of reasons to justify the spending ("Isn't Bunco as important as paying the mortgage and phone bills?"). With everyone's sweet insistence, I decided to throw in my $5 to play and hoped that I would win it back so no one would have to pony up my money for the games.

The disco ball for our Bunco night was something that had been gathering dust in my basement for the past five years. I brought it to a White Elephant Gift Swap for my mom's group and soon realized that my White Elephant in my house was one of the more sought after prizes. My friend Jessica won it and put it to work for a '70's Bunco night.

The delicious fondue pot and dippers.

The hot '70's attire. Mine came courtesy of my closet, others found their great finds at Goodwill!

The utter relief that I won my money back fair and square so no one had to pay for my Bunco money. Phew!

My amazing Bunco Babes who wouldn't think of letting me not join them for a fun night out!

Thanks to my Bunco Babes, I was still able to enjoy a fun No Spend night out with the girls!

Related Links:

Kentucky Derby Bunco

Retro Housewife Bunco

Wedding Bunco

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kentucky Derby Bunco

Good cheap fun...that's what Bunco is! I blogged about our fabulous wedding party and my retro housewife themed Bunco that turned out to be a blast. This month's Bunco theme was the Kentucky Derby so we all donned our fabulous hats and our high heels for a fun time.

I had to borrow a hat from girlfriend so here are some pictures before I got my hat on. Ethan & Emily think it so cool when mommy dresses up for these events so they wanted to get some pictures with me before I left. The kids kept touching my dress and smelling me....hmm...I wonder what they are trying to tell me?

Just call me Sandra Lee, as I was running short on time with a ton of appointments and events going on that day. I found a Suddenly Salad in my pantry and used up what was left in our fridge to make my dish. This is their classic pasta salad flavor with a few of my own additions- romaine hearts, tomatoes, sliced black olives, and narrow slivers of pepperoni to dust the top. Despite it being convenience food (bought deeply discounted, of course!), I thought it turned out really good.

This was our lovely hostess, my friend Jessica. Jessica is also the one who taught me how to knit so I especially love her right now! She has been to the real Kentucky Derby so she wanted us all to have a taste of the food that we would eat there. She served us Kentucky Hot Browns, Cheesy Grits, Derby Pie, Mint Juleps & Mimosas. We all agreed that the food was great, but the Mint Juleps were extremely um...refreshing, but tasted horrible.

Here we all are with our hats on! We are all wearing our very best summer dresses and it is about fifty degrees outside. We all wished we were in Kentucky for this shot, but we were enjoying some derby fun in Indiana!

Gotta love a good Bunco theme and this one was GREAT!

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Retro Housewife Bunco

This month, I got to host our Bunco group, and I was so excited about my retro housewife theme. The best part about this theme was that I could display my apron collection and I could make all my friends wear aprons too.

The downfall with entertaining is that my home is a smaller space. It just means that I have to be a little more purposeful with clearing the home of clutter and finding more inventive ways to display and share all of our good food, but I did my best.

I cleared all of the shoes and coats from our entryway and replaced them with a handful of my favorite aprons from my collection. A couple of the girls said that they didn't have an apron (I know, *gasp*) so I thought they could borrow one of mine from one of our hooks when they walked in. It also helped to tie in the theme!
I love to look for benches for my house because it makes great instant seating in any room. Even an old and ugly bench can be recovered and made to look more modern with a new fabric or coat of paint. I pulled my benches into a seating arrangement that I thought would make it easy for groups to sit together and would make it easier for people to chat. These are also narrow enough that they make good seating for homes with smaller spaces.

We had a delicious retro supper prepared. I made my favorite Sloppy Joe recipe and I got mini-kaiser rolls to make it easier to eat while we played. These were served with tater tots and Rice Krispie treats for dessert. I could prepare everything ahead of time and just had to throw the tater tots in the oven before everyone arrived. I planned to serve slushies, but everyone brought a beverage to share instead so this made it easier for me.

I love to serve our food on cake stands and the covered ones are great for keeping bread from drying out and they help to create a display. If you are short on space, elevating the food can make more room for lower dishes to rest. If you don't have cake stands, you can use an inverted bowl and rest a plate on top to create a cute cake stand. Hunt at the thrift stores and you can find elegant china plates and cups or bowls to create cute little cake stands.

Coolers can get in the way when you are trying to entertain and can be difficult to hunt for just the right drink. I plugged one side of our double sink and filled it with ice. I tucked the drinks inside of there and then took a ribbon and looped a bottle opener through the ribbon and around the spout. It made it much easier to drain (just have to unplug the sink) and it also saved on space in my fridge and freezer.

What retro housewife would ever serve her guests dinner on paper plates? We kept our party green and wallet-friendly by using cloth napkins and my favorite white dishes to serve on. I had seven guests so it only equaled one fast load of dishes and everything was cleaned.

Isn't this scorekeeper so handsome? Ethan got home from grandma and grandpa's and was immediately intrigued by what all these crazy women were doing. He was so good to help keep score and even got to throw dice a few times with us.

Thank you to all my Bunco Babes who allowed me to live out one of my little fantasies. It was so fun to have a retro night with all of you!

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Good Cheap Fun- BUNCO!

I don't know if any of you participate in Bunco or any other fun game like this, but I joined a Bunco League that has been an ultimate blast for me once a month.

This past week's was probably the most fun yet because our theme was so great! The theme was "Weddings" and we all were told to wear our wedding dresses or favorite bridesmaid dress to the event. Considering how much people pay for these dresses, any opportunity you have to wear this more than once seems like a great idea to me!

I borrowed a dress from a girlfriend, who has been in her fair share of weddings, and got all dressed up for the event. My husband got a big kick out of me dressing up like this, complete with warm socks and snow boots. Considering the freezing Indiana temperatures, I wasn't about to brave it in a sexy pair of strappy shoes.

Our host went all out with a Polish Wedding Buffet complete with a wedding cake, made by her aunt. The food included homemade Polish sausage, herb-buttered noodles, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and lots of yummy appetizers. We stuffed ourselves silly and then played Bunco by the light of her Unity candles.

In our league, the cost is $5 to play and a booby prize to be given to the person with the most losses. I eat more than $5 in food and sometimes I win my $5 back (or more) at the end of the game. For an entire evening of great fun and good food, it is totally worth the investment.

The booby prizes were a hoot and many people graciously passed on their ugly wedding gifts that they got from their own weddings. It was hilarious to see the gifts that were given and the hideous gifts that people got.

Each person went home with a wedding favor of chocolates wrapped in netting. Every detail went into the event and we all had such a blast dressing up and hanging out. Much thanks to our hostess for the evening for making the night so special!

If you are thinking of starting your own Bunco league, you can get more information at this website. I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for some good cheap fun. Best of all, it is a great way to build friendships and get away from the kids for a night.

Sound Off:
Do you do a game or activity regularly with your friends? What are some cheap ways that you have found to socialize?

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