Party with the Kids

The fireworks on the Strip are still free, but with all of the economizing being done out of prudence or necessity, it’s a good bet plenty of people will be ringing in 2009 at home tonight. And that most of those parents out there will be celebrating with their kids.

Oh, stop it. You can have a good time, without resorting to slipping them a little champagne and sending them off to bed early.

If you’re celebrating as a family, the key is to involve the kids in the celebration and make it fun for them. And that’s easy to do, even at this late date.

Chef Maggie Pallan of Two Chefs to Go personal chef and catering service regularly plans events that will involve kids, but she has plenty of personal experience thanks to her own three, ages 11, 7 and 6. One simple thing will really set the mood of the evening, she says: "They love it when we set the table."

You probably do that for family dinners, but make this one a little special. Bring out the flowers and candles, maybe, and the extra forks and water glasses.

"If you set the table up fancy, it automatically makes them feel special," Pallan says.

If you have time, Pallan suggests getting party poppers, which can be found in specialty shops around holiday time. When the kids pull the ends of the poppers, there’s a good sharp "crack" sound and trinkets, little party hats and other items drop out.

If your budget or schedule preclude that, Susan Livziey, recreation leader at the city of Las Vegas’ Johnson Community School, suggests making something similar. Take scrap paper — maybe homework that’s no longer needed, or magazines or newspapers — tear it into strips or bits (or use a hole-puncher to punch out dots), put it in empty toilet-paper tubes, wrap with decorative paper and tie with ribbon. At midnight, the kids can tear the ribbon off of the tubes and toss the confetti.

Another idea from Livziey: Recycle newspapers to make hats, which the kids can color with markers.

"Kids love balloons and they love streamers," Pallan says. "They love curling ribbon."

While you’re drinking Champagne, don’t forget the kids. Give them plastic champagne glasses, Pallan says, but fill them with something a little softer.

"Sparkling apple cider’s always a good choice," she notes. "Trader Joe’s has different-flavored ones, like cranberry and blueberry. Also, they have sparkling lemonades that are fun."

Sherry Alexander, coordinator of Las Vegas’ Cimarron Rose Community Center, suggests Triple Red Shirley Temples for a little bit of festive fun.

As far as food, Pallan says to remember that kids like anything that has to do with sandwiches. If time permits, she suggests going to a bakery or bread store and buying a whole loaf of bread to be sliced Pullman-style, or lengthwise. Then cut off the crusts and use the large expanses of bread to make sandwiches with kid-friendly fillings such as peanut butter and jelly, strawberry cream cheese or chicken salad, and cut into finger shapes or triangles. Or use metal cookie cutters to cut them into flower or other decorative shapes.

Livziey suggests covering the table with a tarp and letting the kits toss their own pizzas, readjusting, if necessary, before putting them in the oven.

Cookies also are a big hit with kids, she says, as are mozzarella sticks and fruit dip.

Alexander has the kids make a "blessing snack," which is a mixture of Bugles corn snacks (representing the trumpets heralding a new year), M&Ms (representing colorful confetti), peanuts, pretzels, Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s Hugs, Goldfish crackers, raisins and gold-foil-covered chocolate coins. Put in a bag or jar and attach a New Year’s blessing.

Or have the kids make noisemakers, Alexander suggests.

"Have them create a time capsule that they can open the next year, with pictures and things like that," she says. "Because so much changes."

Another idea is to sit down together and create a family wish list for the new year of places they’d like to go, different foods they’d like to try, books they’d like to read, she says.

"It’s something you can do as a family and then work on through the year," Alexander notes.

Livziey suggests having a traditional "out with the old, in with the new" theme, perhaps working in a recycling focus as part of it.

And be sure to end on a sweet note, to launch 2009 right. Pallan’s partner, pastry chef Malinda Kolias, suggests a white-chocolate fondue. Melt white chocolate chips with a little vegetable oil in the microwave on 50 percent power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring until it’s melted, and dip skewered fruit such as strawberries or other berries, or maybe cubes of poundcake from the freezer section.

Whatever you do, try to be creative, and don’t forget the evening’s focus.

"With New Year’s Eve," Livziey says, "you’re supposed to let go of the last year, go into the new year."

PIZZA TOSS PIZZA

Pizza dough (homemade, store-bought or use a mix)

Pizza sauce

Shredded cheese

Pepperoni

Olives

Sliced green peppers

Mushrooms

Other toppings as desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw or otherwise prepare pizza dough. Place in the middle of a table covered with a tarp or cloth (something that can get messy and be washed or thrown away). Spread the pizza sauce on the dough.

Let the kids toss the rest of the ingredients on the pizza. "Kids love this, but watch out if they don’t like something, as it tends to miss the table completely."

Place the pizza in the oven for 14 to 18 minutes.

— Recipe from Susan Livziey

SLURPING SLUSHIES

1 can frozen orange-juice concentrate, thawed

1 pint pineapple juice

3 ripe bananas

1/2 cup strawberries or other fruit

Place all ingredients in a pitcher; stir. Then freeze until the mixture is slushy.

Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons or more into a party glass and add cold ginger ale or 7-Up. To make it really festive, buy some champagne flutes at a discount or dollar store.

— Recipe from Susan Livziey

TRIPLE RED SHIRLEY TEMPLE

1 ounce grenadine syrup

6 ounces cranberry juice

4 ounces cranberry ginger ale

1 paper umbrella

3 maraschino cherries

Orange slice

Ice (optional)

Mix the syrup, cranberry juice and ginger ale in a tall glass. Open the umbrella and slide the three cherries onto the handle. Balance the umbrella on the glass rim in front of the orange slice. Serve with ice if desired.

— Recipe from www.familyfun.com

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.

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