by Allison Deutschman
The new year inspires people to make life changes.
With the stress of the holiday season behind us, suddenly we see an opportunity to start over and embrace new beginnings.
Less than a week remains before 2015, but do not wish 2014 away too quickly. Be sure to reflect on the best memories of this year, both within your home and the Western New York community.
We have some great suggestions for hosting a new year's party of your own that not only celebrates what is yet to come, but also acknowledges the wonderful moments we are leaving behind.
Search for photos that capture some of the highlights of 2014. Fill balloons with helium and hang them from the ceiling with ribbon tails attached. At the ribbon ends, staple or tape the photos.
It will be nearly impossible to reflect negatively on the past year with so many positive reminders hanging in the air. People will bond over shared prior experiences, making them excited for all of the fun times that lie ahead.
Sip kiddie "mocktails," swap stories and make a bucket list while waiting for the ball to drop at midnight.
One fun drink concoction involves cotton candy in a glass: Pour sparkling grape juice or Sprite over the sugary treat and watch it vanish. Adults can enjoy this drink with champagne.
For another beverage option, equally as sweet, combine equal parts apple cider and cranberry juice. Pour into martini glasses and coat the rim with a mix of cinnamon and sugar. Put a stick of rock candy in the drink to take it to the next level.
For the rest of your drinks, consider freezing ice cubes, adding edible glitter and refreezing them. These sparkly drinks will be hit.
Make sure the house is just as shimmery and party-ready by utilizing remaining tinsel and wrapping paper from birthdays and holidays to decorate for the party. The glittery and festive decorations encompass happy memories, ringing in the new year with help from the old. Wrap the tinsel on headbands and use metallic pipe cleaners to make crowns. You also can wrap the tinsel around a cardboard circle to make a new year's wreath.
Use a shredder or rip up small pieces of colored construction paper so that it looks like confetti. Add this to your wreath or tie off the ends of small strips of wrapping paper with leftover ribbon (rolled into tube shapes, keeping its form with a toilet paper tube), and stuff the remaining homemade confetti inside. At midnight, pull the ends of the wrapping paper firecracker apart to form a safe and fun colorful explosion. Start a new tradition your children can look forward to each year.
Learn about various cultures and educate others on how you all celebrate the coming of the new year in different ways. The Chinese calendar, for example, refers to 2015 as the year of the sheep, but this "new year" does not actually begin until February. Hang red lanterns and other red decorations or enjoy some dumplings on New Year's Eve as a way of acknowledging this Chinese tradition.
Did you know your ethnic or religious background might influence when you take down your Christmas tree? Some groups of people have a tradition they must keep their tree decorated until New Year's Day for good luck. Others argue the tree must be taken down before New Year's Day or they will have bad luck for the remainder of the year.
Regardless of when you dispose of your tree, consider covering some of the branches with peanut butter and birdseed to give birds a treat to enjoy.
Weight loss remains the No. 1 New Year's resolution, but that does not mean the food at your party has to be bland. Make a fruit, vegetable and cheese tray in the shape of a bell to celebrate ringing in the new year. Serve dips in martini glasses for even more of a party feel. Form reduced-fat Pillsbury crescent roll dough in the shape of mini "2015" shapes. For dessert, provide a small tray of sugar cookies, frosted to look like clocks, champagne flutes and stars.
On New Year's Day, stay active! Go ice skating, tubing or skiing. Do some "change of season" cleaning. Set goals and give yourself credit for those you have already met.
From all of us at Niagara Frontier Publications, have a happy, safe and healthy new year.