Friday, December 25, 2015

Ugly Sweater Holiday Party


I kind of started a tradition among friends and then I guess they liked it so much that they kind of expected me to do it every year. It started as a Swag Swap gift exchange to clear out things accumulated during the year.  Last year I didn't do it because the one I did 2 years ago after the Ice Storm was extremely difficult and kind of burnt me out.  Last year a few of my friends got together at my friends place to do a gift exchange and that was nice.   This year I wasn't going to do it because I have had a bad financial year and it costs me a couple hundred dollars to do these parties with the food, decor and gift bags etc.  After deciding that I needed to do some de-cluttering after accumulating a lot of things after a year of food events and generally spending too much time moving things around my small space to make them fit.  Every time I have a party I spend a few days afterward trying to tuck things back into their place.  Because of blogging and my shopaholic tendencies I had accumulated so much stuff I didn't know what to do with and since this year more than others I couldn't afford to go out and buy my friends actual new gifts I decided to have a Not So Secret Santa Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.  Yeah I decided to hop on the Ugly Sweater bandwagon.  Comfy and fun.

Not so Secret because I was the Secret Santa giving gifts of things I didn't need anymore to my friends.  I asked them NOT to bring anything to exchange and told them I didn't want anything I had to store somewhere and the point of this party was to clear my space, get together with my friends all at the same time and give them gifts I can't go buy right now.  Most of the things were things like T-Shirts that aren't my size from events I attended.  Some of the housewares that I didn't have room to store or haven't used, homemade treats and some of my impulsive buys that never got used.  I gave one of my friends a small makeup case and a whole bunch of makeup I got as samples or stuff I never used and she was really excited about it.  For me the makeup kit was too small to use Professionally and I didn't have the space after re-organizing my makeup kit.  For her she was thrilled to try new makeup that she couldn't afford to buy.

One of my friends just moved into a new place so I gave her an orange serving tray and placemats and other stuff for her.  She is also a blogger and we always need new things to style out photos.  Turns out she didn't have a tray and I have like 4 so it will be used instead of moved around here.

What I did was wrap up different things and some had specific people that I thought would like it and a few things could go to a few different friends.   I passed out the gifts and gave them the option to trade for something else once if they didn't like it.  I got down to the last 3 girls and I couldn't decide who to give what to so I let them choose and then let the group decided if they could keep it.  It made it a bit more fun.   As it turns out nobody wanted to trade for anything else.  The only one that traded was one of my friends afterward wanted a candle holder instead of a large book box.   No problem.  The point is that I somehow managed to choose things I didn't need anymore that were new gifts for my friends.  Yes they all knew the plan.  They know I am not working steady and can't buy gifts and the fact that I had all kinds of food at the party and they didn't really have to do much made them pretty happy.

I only asked for them to bring a few things that they could choose if they wanted to bring something for the party like Wine, Pop and salads.

This was the first year that I was running behind and didn't have everything set up before my friends got there so I had one of my friends help set up a cheese and charcuterie board. I actually didn't have time to even take a photo of it but here's the board with some cheese.

I also had some entertaining food from winning a Sobey's gift basket and also St. Hubert Poutine bites that I had to blog about that I knew I couldn't eat by myself so I thought it was perfect for a party.

For the Food I made the Poutine bites which were what they call "insideoutpoutine".  They are mashed potatoes stuffed with cheese and gravy and coated in breadcrumbs.  All you have to do is heat them for about 15 min in the oven and serve.

Even my friend's 1 year old daughter tried one and I think she was a bit confused trying to figure out what it was.  She just started eating regular food so it's all new for her.  The tiny bites were huge in her little hands.

My friend somehow also managed to find time to bake the most amazing Gingerbread Bundt cake in a Jewish Star Mould. Unfortunately everyone was so stuffed that not everyone had room to try it but I did and loved it.

I had 3 bottles of BBQ sauce in my fridge so I decided to make meatballs and since I didn't have a lot of time I just bought some store bought ones.  Unfortunately not a big hit as they weren't very good.  Homemade is always best so next time I skip the meatballs.
I also made both Mac and Cheese and Vegetarian Lasagna the same time that morning.  Now I know how Chefs feel juggling dishes.  The Mac and Cheese was ok but the Lasagna turned out fantastic.  I used some no cook Molisano noodles that I haven't tried before and they were great.  I will buy them again for sure.  I mixed frozen spinach into ricotta cheese with grated parmesan and that was my veggie bonus layer.  The rest just tomato sauce and cheese.  I still have some left in my freezer.  Yes I always make too much food.  I never know what will turn out and what won't and who can eat what so I make more just in case.  I also wanted to have the leftover lasagna for myself because I don't make it often just for myself.  My friend lent me her Pro Catering Chafing dish that took up a lot of space on the counter but freed up my oven at least to make other things.

As part of a Gastropost Mission Challenge I had to make something with Walmart Canada's Brownie Mix and Wine Gums so kind of as late as I could make it I decided to make a Mocha Coconut Ugly Sweater Brownie Cake.  I had it at the party but didn't serve it up because I baked it too long and the bottom was a bit burnt so it was kind of dry.  Nobody was hungry anyway since I had so many other treats but it looked nice.

Along with the Ugly Sweater Cake I had an Ugly Sweater Contest where I encouraged my friends to dress very festive and I had a prize.  My friend Fabian won with his handmade sweater decor and his festive socks and slippers.  He was determined to win.
He won a Starbucks Ugly Sweater Gingerbread Men cookies, Dufflet's Cigar chocolates, Smores and chocolate crisps.  He was very happy as you can see. Oh and also a little ugly sweater ornament.
I made a whole assortment of sweet treats like Chocolate Chip cookies, chocolate covered apricots, Peppermint bark, Coconut macaroons, cinnamon roasted almonds and my friends mom's cookies, and there was lot's of chocolates too.

One of the things I made that I will make again was Ricardo's recipe for a Cheeseball.  It was so easy and it was so good.  Only a few ingredients,  Cream cheese, sharp cheese like cheddar, jalapeno and green onions.  It's all blended and rolled into crushed pecans.  I sampled it at a get together with Ricardo and liked it and I will make it again maybe next year and skip some of the other cheeses.

It was a lot of fun and for the first time I still had energy at the end of the party.  For me that's a successful party and my place wasn't a huge mess of wrapping paper everywhere this time.
As you can see some of my friends ditched their ugly sweaters before the party ended and I was the only one left wearing the Ugly sweater, although I was smart and most of it was just pinned on so I eventually took off the pins and just had a red cardigan and now it's just back to a regular sweater.

My place is all cleaned up again and feels a little less cluttered.  I want to encourage you to think outside the Shopping Mall and rethink Holiday gift giving.  Some of my friends did bring me gifts but mostly gift cards and a Starbucks mug and some other small things that will get used up.

I had to rethink my budget, and in the process helped the environment I think.  I want to make 2016 a year of less waste.  Less wasted money, food, stuff and time.  I hope I have inspired you to do the same or at least have an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party next year.

From me and my friends may you have a Very Happy Holiday and a Fantastic New Year!


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