Food & Party Parties

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    The 4th of July is all about freedom, and declaring your independence from cooking over a hot stove will actually make Uncle Sam smile! After all, it's a day off for (almost) everyone ... so take it! It is possible to enjoy a cocktail (or three) with your guests if you do some prep work and use your Crock-Pot.

    Here are seven delicious, make-ahead Crock-Pot recipes that your friends and family will savor on America's favorite holiday ... and, believe me, these easy dishes will be your savior come party time. You'll look like a put-together party hostess with the mostest. Now that's a July 4th celebration to look forward to!

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    If you had to throw a summer backyard party, what would be your top five menu items. Ack -- are you drawing a blank? Trying to remember that stuff you had that one time at whatshername's place? Trying to think of something you actually feel like eating when it's hot outside? (So maybe not that artichoke spinach dip you've been eating all winter ...) Well we've got you. Here's a collection of go-to summer party appetizers that are easy to whip up and serve. We've got treats for all kinds, adults and kids.

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    Summer is just a few short weeks away, folks, which means: summer parties are right around the corner! There's nothing quite like taking the festivities outdoors and providing your guests with delish food, drinks, and entertainment in a natural setting. And, in keeping with the season's easy, breezy, laidback attitude, you absolutely need to memorize a few good summer party hacks that will keep the good times rollin' and cut your party prep time down to nearly nada.

    From tips on how to create unique party refreshments to great decorating ideas, here are 8 hacks that will make your life easier and your party grander so that you, too, can actually enjoy the amazing bash you've thrown.

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    Far out, season 7 of Mad Men premieres this weekend. Lay it on me, man! Are you ready? If you're plannin' on jammin' with some friends while you watch, we've got your scene right here. Dig it: Nothing too complicated, just groovy munchies and tunes. Here are some recipes and suggestions to make your Mad Men viewing party outta sight! Do you want me to stop talking this way? No way, Jose! Okay, fine. Here's your party guide. 

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    Nine out of 10 times, I really hate when my child gets a favor from a birthday party she has attended. But at this point in the game, party favors are expected, and when she or her peers leave a soiree without something, they feel cheated. But why do they have to be so cheap and cheesy? Personally, I'm especially tired of those bags of junk that we have received multiple times with those tiny plastic tops, little bright-colored slinkies, and random stickers. Seriously, the kids spend like one minute playing with them and then they just end up as under their bed or in the trash.

    As a public servive, we have put together a list of 5 party favors that won't annoy fellow moms and won't add to the clutter in our homes. You're welcome!

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    Want to get blotto on on screwdrivers but don’t want to shell out for vodka? Here’s an elegant solution: Hand sanitizer. A Pennsylvania man was arrested for stealing hand sanitizer from a hospital -- 12 bottles which he intended to mix with orange juice for cocktails, as you do. Did I say elegant? I meant revolting. Here’s the saddest part. We’re not even talking about some sneaky, underage teenager. No, this is a 51--year-old grown-ass man, perfectly capable of walking into a liquor store and purchasing a bottle of whatever.

    I’m sure he knows about all the really cheap vodka out there. And yet, he went with the hand sanitizer. You almost have to admire such an undiscriminating palate. I wonder if he’s considered any of these alternatives?

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    With six fewer shopping days in the Christmas season this year there's no doubt plenty of us will be taking it down to the wire. I know I will certainly be one of them.

    The not-so-great news is that the pickings will be slim.

    Most of the retailers that have been keeping marathon hours since Thanksgiving will be dark on the 25th.

    Still, that doesn't mean we're out of options. 

    Here are a few spots to score some last minute cheer.

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    (Target, $17.99)If you're still searching for the perfect hostess gift, then look no further. Over at The Prowl, we know that small gifts can go a long way when you want to show the hostess your appreciation. That's why we rounded up some of the prettiest and most affordable hostess gifts, which all cost $20 or less. These may be wallet-friendly gifts, though they look anything but cheap. It doesn't take a lot of money to buy something chic that the hostess will love. 

    Check out this preview of affordable hostess gifts, then head to The Prowl for even more chic gifts under $20!

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    (Party Bucket, Pottery Barn, $129)Busy holiday planning is in full swing right now. If you think you might lose it if you have to walk down another toy store aisle, don't! We have cocktail essentials and holiday entertaining must-haves to take your mind off all that kid stuff. So don't think about all those unwrapped gifts right now. Instead, get holiday party-inspired!

    Over at The Prowl, we rounded up the niftiest cocktail tools so you can make drinks like a pro for your guests. Then, when it's time to sit down for dinner, give your cooking the presentation it deserves with a fabulous tabletop. Hosting a holiday gathering is a lot of work, even if you go the potluck route -- however, with the right entertaining gadgets and serveware, playing hostess can be fun!

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    While everyone else is busy gluggling the gluhwein and spiking the eggnog, a few people might want to abstain from all alcohol this holiday season -- and I'm not just talking about kids. You don't need booze to enjoy a fun holiday beverage. We've got plenty of mocktail ideas for anyone at your New Year's celebration, no matter their age. Hope you love bright, refreshing flavors!

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