Top 10 ways to have a rockin' new year

Five, four, three, two one ... Happy New Year!

With New Year's Eve not far away, have you started to practice your countdown yet?

No? Well, have you at least figured out all the ins and outs of your New Year's Eve party? If you're opting to spend the evening entertaining some of your friends and family at home, then you're probably hoping to host one of the best parties to kick off 2015.

Here are 10 simple ways to ring in the new year by making a memorable party for all your loved ones:

1. Choose a style

Is your party going to be formal where everyone has to get all dressed up or is it casual? The first step to creating the perfect party is choosing the atmosphere. From decorations to food to drinks, figuring out the theme of your party early will allow you to plan out all the other key parts to your shindig in a more organized fashion.

2. Decorations

Whether your party is going to be casual or formal, when it comes to decorations two words come to mind — be creative. There are many small tricks that can be done to really jazz up those ho-hum decorations. Put the balloons away and think outside the box.

For a classic look, you can create quite an ambiance through reflections. Simply place some small mirrors, which you can find cheap at any craft store, onto the table with the mirror side facing up. Place a candle on top of each of the mirrors. The reflection of the flame in the mirror will add warmth and class to your party. Also, to add a little more depth, choose a color that goes with your theme and scatter a few glass rocks or some shiny beads in that same color around the mirrored surface. This will tie in with your other decorations, but also will add even more depth and another reflective surface to your candle piece. Side note — the best candles to use for this are those that are either the small tea lights or ones that are in clear glass containers so that the wax does not drip all over your mirror or table.

To create a more casual-themed party doesn't mean that your party has to look cheap. No, you don't need those red plastic cups to make it seem less formal — although this is a sure way to make your New Year's Eve party look more like a frat party. Rather than thinking casual, think comfortable. Create an atmosphere where it is warm and inviting and the minute your guests arrive they feel like they are home. If you have a fireplace, get a fire going before your guests arrive. Burn some seasonal candles or incense, too. If they are strong smells, I recommend burning them the morning of, but blowing them out before the guests arrive. The pungent scents will have time to settle and dull down, but will still be present by the time of your party.

3. Food

When it comes to food, there are many options for a host, but I recommend having more finger foods that your guests can pick at all evening. If you are able, I would go to a large warehouse retail chain such as Sam's Club to pick up some finger foods. From mini quiche to pigs in a blanket, they have many options and are fairly inexpensive. If you aren't a member of a wholesale warehouse then I recommend you try and make a majority of the food yourself. There are many easy-to-make items that look like you spent hours slaving over a hot stove. Just be creative. For example, take some regular pretzel rods and turn them into gourmet treats by dipping half of the pretzel into a little melted chocolate. Mix things up by then rolling them in sprinkles or peanuts or maybe by drizzling peanut butter over the chocolate. They are fairly easy to do, but are a big hit and guests can eat them easily.

Also, make sure that you are considerate of the guests you are inviting. Create options for those who may be vegetarian or allergic to common foods such as nuts.

4. Drinks

What sort of party would it be if there weren't any cocktails? Remember, those college days are behind us. So, rather than getting that keg of beer or having a full bar that would leave your wallet empty, why don't you create a few signature party drinks that you can make ahead of time and have pre-made and ready for your guests. I have found that martinis are good because you can make them so many different ways and the different types can please a larger group of people. Whether it is a traditional martini, an appletini or even a chocolate martini, give some options to your guests. The Swank Martini Company's Web site, www.swankmartini.com, is a great resource to explore the many martini combinations available. They have a large list of different martini recipes.

However, don't forget that for the countdown, champagne is usually the drink of choice. To make the Happy New Year a little different from the rest of the night, have a few bottles of champagne chilled and on hand to raise a glass and ring in 2015. Remember though that not everyone is a drinker. You may want to provide some nonalcoholic beverages for your guests and maybe some sparkling cider as an alternative to the champagne.

5. Music

Music is a great thing to have at any party as background noise. Try to find some music that is easy on the ears. Avoid going for extremes such as hard rock, hip hop, pop or country. Since conversations and interactions between your guests are the main noise at your party, try to go more toward music that just cuts the background silence. Instrumental music with an upbeat tone is something that can easily work. Plus, if you go with instrumental music you can just go buy one CD and have it playing on repeat all night. It will be harder for your guests to pick up that it is the same music when there aren't any actual words being spoken.

6. Ball drop

In past years, I have spent my New Year's Eve in Yellow Springs to watch the ball drop — no, not the one in Times Square but the town's very own ball. This idea of a ball drop got me thinking that anyone can add something unique to their party by having their very own ball drop. Nothing is more exciting then crowding around your loved ones and counting down the new year. All you need to do is take one of those generic balls that you can find in at any toy store, and then spray paint it using a silver metallic paint. Before it dries, sprinkle silver glitter all over the ball to add some shimmer. To add some more sparkle, decorate the ball by gluing on some sequence or other flashy, reflective items.

To make the ball actually drop, glue a decorative ribbon around the entire ball — but don't use hot glue because the ball may burst — and tie all the ends together at the top of your ball. Place a standard hook on your ceiling and then simply place the ribbon into the hook. When the time comes, lower the ball to countdown the year.

Also, to make the ball drop complete, you can make a container for the ball to land in. Simply spray paint a bucket to match your color scheme and maybe even glue on some of those wooden block numbers that you can find at a craft store. Paint and glitter them to match your color scheme and then the whole ball drop experience will be complete. Just make sure and practice the drop before your party. You don't want to be fixing all the kinks with only five seconds until 2014.

7. Noise makers

Making a little noise to celebrate 2015 is a necessity for any good New Year's Eve party. If you go to any paper party store you can find a ton of different noisemakers. Just make sure to get enough for everyone (and also a few extra in case a few of them turn out to be duds or in case a few unexpected guests arrive). To ensure that you have a variety to choose from, go shopping early. From my own experience, waiting until the last minute to find noisemakers is a near impossible task. The shelves are usually bare and finding any sort of variety in noisemakers is rare. For the best option, I recommend going shopping at least a week or two before New Year's Eve.

8. Party favors

When it comes to party favors there are many things you can do for your guests. I recommend simply giving 2015 calendars as party favors. Not only is it appropriate considering what the celebration is all about, but it also is something that your guests can actually use throughout the year and remember the good times from your party. As a reminder, you can even mark your party for next year on each calendar. You can give a variety of calendars, but I think it would be better to give a general calendar that anyone can use. You don't want your macho body-builder friend to end up with a cute kitty cat calendar do you?

9. Resolutions

Part of every new year is the hopeful goals and aspirations of each of us — yes, that's right, the New Year's resolutions. Why not incorporate these goals into your party. Create a Wall of Resolution where your guests can write their resolutions for the year on a wall. Just place some poster board on the wall with a marker attached. If you want it to look even more decorative, find a large, inexpensive picture frame and place the poster board in that. Just remove the glass and your guests will have a fancy way to display their goals. If you want something a little more private, on your computer you can create small papers that allow each person to write down their goals for the year. You can either have them out for the guests to take at the party or you can include them with your party favors by attaching them to the front cover. This way, your guests will be reminded all year long of their goals. Who knows, maybe they will even keep them this year.

10. Be safe

Encourage everyone to drink responsibly. Keep an eye on your guests, monitor how much they drink and provide options if they can't drive themselves home.

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