Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bears That Care: Genentech Charity Challenge

Genentech was the scene of a Bears That Care team building event yesterday. 33 bears and assorted other animals were stuffed and dressed and packaged for needy children. After a series of children's games to put the teams in the 'mood' of childhood, 20 Genentech Rituxan marketing staff assembled the Bears, designed and executed stuffed animal t-shirts, made cards and packaged the Bears which were then donated to the Family Giving Tree.

what Sheri Hockaday had to say about this charitable challenge,
" I just wanted to tell you that we loved our build-a-bear event. Frank did a wonderful job, the games were so fun and ev
eryone really enjoyed themselves. It was a perfect way to end the year! Thank you!"

Bears that Ca
re is only one of the Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited Charity Challenges. Next week a different team at Genentech will participate in our Trikes for Tots--building tricycles and designing t-shirts for the children who will receive the trikes and a lot more.

What a great holiday season for Giving. Add an activity like this to your holiday party. Contact us
for more information.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gingerbread 'University" Building Competition

Twenty five insurance training/educators gathered together Friday at the Lodge at Tiburon to compete in a Gingerbread "University" building contest. Great ideas and great designs were the theme of the event, as each team of five put to use the best candy and gingerbread materials to build a 'real time' gingerbread university. It didn't matter that much of the company's training is done via webinar and internet. In addition to the structures, each team had to name their building and write and sing a song about it. The judges were hard put to choose the best. Each university was unique and spectacular. Prizes were awarded for first, second and third place. The Gingerbread universities then made the trek back to the company offices in San Francisco, hopefully without collapsing.

The real theme of the day was teambuilding/teambonding, and Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited delivered on that. Quite a fun event.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Arresting Detective

Peter Nachtrieb was Murder on the Menu's Arresting Detective at an evening dinner meeting for the Western Region of Carlson WagonLit last night at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose. Frank T. Lawman arrived to arrest several of their people at what turned into a riotous affair. Bottles of wine bearing photos of some of the 'perps' were given out, small gifts based on individual interests and 'dirt' were distributed, and a great time was had by all. Did the suspects go to jail? Certainly not. They need to be on the job for another day helping clients book their meeting space, arrange for special events, book travel and so much more.

The Arresting Detective is a great way to spice up a party or meeting. 30-45 minutes of comic fun!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

SFCVB Sets Sail

Only in San Francisco

The staff of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau set sail today on a Cruise to Die For.... Some may have thought they were going on a holiday Bay Cruise, but pretty soon they realized more was afoot. Something was up when odd characters offered a partnership with a unique new San Francisco product--"San Francisco in a Bottle." Drink and eat in a bottle. These bottles were going to capture the many neighbors that make up San Francisco--Chinatown Chardonnay, Mission Merlot, South of Market Sauvignon, Beach Chalet Burgundy, and the list went on. The premise was to offer a bottle to each member of the SFCVB, cases to meeting planners and travel agents, and maybe later have the bottles for sale at the SFCVB. But the afternoon wasn't all about this 'fantastic' new wine.

The company that proposed it had some skeletons in their closet, and before the ship docked there were five crimes committed. Joe D'Alessandro, head of the CVB and someone who loves red wine and everything Italian, wanted justice done. Could he be bribed with a bottle of NorthBeach Red--part red wine, some pasta, a little tomato paste and lots of garlic? As it turned out, he was one of the suspects. Murder on the Menu's Ace detective, Frank T. Lawman (aka Peter Nachtrieb) grilled many suspects throughout the cruise. He even brought wanted posters on lots of the well-known suspects and bureau staff. But all good -or bad--things come to an end, at least in Murder on the Menu productions. Each table became a team as they matched wits with Frank T. The solution to the dastardly crimes came to light as the fog shrouded San Francisco Bay. This customized uniquely San Francisco Murder Mystery could happen "Only In San Francisco," everybody's favorite city.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More Holiday Party Ideas

With the economy being what it is many companies are paring back their holiday parties. Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited has lots of ideas that won't strain the budget.

A full scale Murder on the Menu production is awesome, but if you don' t have the budget, consider hiring our
Arresting Detective. He breaks up your party and arrests 10-12 of your 'top' people for something great. Wanted posters, small gifts based on interests and foibles of the 'perps'. This is a good natured mini-roast. 30-45 minutes.

Want a new research lab but not sure where you'll find the funds? How about a Gingerbread Research Lab contest. We'll provide all the gingerbread, graham crackers, icing, decorations, prizes and more. Roll up your sle
eves and get in the spirit. Donate the Gingerbread Labs or Houses to hospitals or children's centers after the event.

Want to give back to the community instead of the usual holiday party?

How about our Charity Challenge?
  • Trikes for Tots is a great way to get into the holiday spirit as seen by children. After a series of competitive children's games, each team will build a tricycle and design a t-shirt that reflects your company and team. Trikes and t-shirts are then donated to local charities for kids in need.
  • Bears That Care is another Charity Challenge designed by Murder on the Menu/Teambuilding Unlimited. After a series of children's trivia and games, each participant will assemble a bear or another fuzzy animal and design a t-shirt for the animal. Stuffed animals will be donated to a local charity, police or fire organization.
Want to have the ultimate reward for your team? Consider a Chocolate Tasting. This luscious chocolate seminar guides you through the history and culture of chocolate and tastings of chocolate from 40% to 85% cacao. Like a wine tasting, only better... it's all about chocolate!

I'll be posting other options for you to do on your own. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Mysteries

Some of you may know that in my 'other life', I'm the Editor of the Mystery Readers Journal, a thematic quarterly review Journal. My other Blog: Mystery Fanfare is dedicated to the mystery community--reviews, events, books, obits, news and more. Yesterday I posted a list of Thanksgiving Mysteries, and I thought I'd direct you there.

Have a great Thanksgiving! --Janet

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Kendall-Jackson Mystery Night

Kendall-Jackson has great wine! That's a known fact. What's been a secret, at least to me, is that their Wine Club is made up of Great Members! Over 50 Wine Club and Wine Estate Club members came together at the beautiful Wine Estate in Fulton, CA, for an evening of murder, mystery and fun! Yes, this was on the Eve of the Election, and the audience quickly became invovled in the "Wine Party" and the next President of the United States on the Wine ticket. A bottle of wine in every household. No, two bottles of wine in every household.

Various members of the group made donations to the "campaign," signed on for cabinet posts and made promises they might be able to keep. Alas, the candidate, Carl Cork, was assassinated that evening. But that didn't cast a pall on the festivities as the Kendall-Jackson Wine Club members rose to the occasion with new candidates from their own ranks.

Murder on the Menu, California's #1 mystery company, perpetrated the mystery, but the evening was accompanied by an incredible three course meal from the private chefs at Kendall-Jackson, fine wines with every course. These three ingredients made for a night the Wine Club Members will never forget.

Gilead Sciences TeamBuilding in Half Moon Bay

Sam's Chowder House in beautiful Half Moon Bay was the setting for two events--one from Murder on the Menu and another from TeamBuilding Unlimited! Sam's Chowder House has great food, beautiful views and a terrific beach, so it's no wonder that Gilead Sciences' Analytical Development Group chose this location for their one day offsite. The weather cooperated, and it couldn't have been a better place for a day of fun and surprises and great teambuilding.

Janet Rudolph wrote the mystery "Analyzing Murder" specifically for this group. Murder on the Menu scenarios always contain information on the group--their goals and objectives, jargon and buzzwords and specific guests. Acted out during lunch by Murder on the Menu's talented team of actors, the mystery quickly involved the guests. Within no time, the guests became the stars. Each table was a team. There were four crimes to solve, and these research and development group quickly tried to decipher clues as they became involved in "the Crime of their Life."

As if this wasn't enough fun and intrigue, Frank Price from TeamBuilding Unlimited, the other half of Murder on the Menu, prepared a series of Wacky Gilead Games for the group. Sand and wind didn't seem to bother a soul as they competed in the 'Wacky Games.'

The Gilead Sciences group learned a lot about each other through both the mystery and the games. This was the objective, and the goal was reached. We didn't have to debrief this group. They got it first time out. Friendships were made, working relationships changed, as the group got to know each other on new levels.

Raj Kaur, the main Gilead contact, sums up the day:

"It was so much fun!! Everybody enjoyed the whole event: the food, the murder mystery, and the wacky games. They all loved the whole idea. We enjoyed every single game. Thank you so much for your services!! You ROCK!! I will definitely hire you for my future events."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bears That Care: Charity Challenge #2


Get in the holiday spirit as TeamBuilding Unlimited leads you in a Bears That Care Teddy Bear team-building event! This is a great way to bring your team together while providing comfort to needy children during the holiday season or throughout the year. The need is sadly always there.

Each team may compete in a series of children's games and challenges to earn team points toward the “purchase” of parts and accessories needed to assemble Bears That Care. The competition continues as each team builds Teddy Bears and designs special Bear T-shirts that represent their team and their company.

Once the bears are completed, they are presented to local organization: Shelters, Police, Fire, Disaster, Hospitals and more.

This Charity Challenge is fun and altruistic. It benefits your team and the children who receive the Bears that Care. It's a Win-Win Holiday party for your Team.

Peter Nachtrieb, Ace Playwright

Peter Nachtrieb, Murder on the Menu's 6'6' witty ace 'detective' extraordinaire, is also an award-winning playwright. Peter has a BA from Brown and an MFA from SFSU. Peter just announced his 2008/2009 season. He'll still be acting with Murder on the Menu

throughout the Fall and Winter, but you won't want to miss one of his shows. He's absolutely brilliant!
NOVEMBER: Washington, DC
"boom" presented by Woolly Mammoth Theatre
Directed by John Vreeke, featuring company members Kimberly Gilbert and Sarah Marshall, with Aubrey Deeker November 3 – November 30, 2008
Tickets and more info
“Sex to change the course of the world…” A grad student’s personal ad lures a randy journalism coed to his subterranean lab, where he studies fish sleep cycles for signs of the apocalypse. Will their “intensely significant coupling” lead to another big bang, or is mankind’s fate in the hands of someone watching from outside the fishbowl?"
(Peter will be there for performances Nov 5-9)

Seattle, WA:
"boom" presented by Seattle Rep, Directed by Jerry Manning
with Nick Garrison, Gretchen Krich and Chelsey Rives
November 13 – December 14, 2008
Tickets and more info
(Peter will be there Nov 13 or 14ish -19)

Cleveland, OH
"boom" presented by Cleveland Public Theatre
November 28 - December 20 2008
Tickets and more info

January, San Francisco, CA
Encore Theatre Company presents the world premiere of "T.I.C. "(trenchcoat in common) directed by Ken Prestininzi performances begin January 2, 2009 @ The Magic Theatre
More info TBA!!
On a summer devoid of friends, money and fun, a teenage girl starts a blog about her apartment building. Using photography, recordings, and research she begins to pry deep into the lives of those that surround her. The deeper she goes, the more secrets emerge, and what begins as a lark starts to become dangerous.

Los Angeles, CA: the LA premiere
"Hunter Gatherers" presented by the Furious Theatre Company, Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez
January 24 - February 21, 2009
(Previews January 21-23)
More info and tix:
The Los Angeles premiere of the 2006 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award-winner finds Pam and Richard hosting their best friends, Wendy and Tom, for an annual dinner get-together. An animal sacrifice kicks off the evening, followed by a little more sex, violence, deception, wrestling, and dancing than at previous parties. A darkly comic evening where the line between civilized and primal man is blurred, and where not everyone will survive long enough to enjoy the brownies for dessert.

March 2009, Lousiville, KY:
Anthology Show (title tba)
, Humana Festival of New Plays, Directed by Sean Daniels
Peter will be writer for the annual anthology performance by the apprentice company
Dates/More details TBA

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Spirits

Looking for that special Halloween drink tonight? Not afraid of spirits? Go to Drink of the for some wicked brew!

Want wine only? Choose some Halloween themed wines such as:

Vampire Wine
s. Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet, Merlot Rose, Pinot Grigio, White Zinfandel or Chardonnay.
Dracula wines: Zinfandel and Syrah (originally the grapes for this wine were grown on the Transyvlanian plateau, now they're made from Califonia grapes.
Poizin from Armida Winery in Healdsburg is a 'wine to die for'.... The wine, a zinfandel, comes in a great bottle with skull and cross-bones, and it's all packaged in a coffin.

For more fun Deadly Wines, go to Celebrate Wine. Other labels include Leelanau Cellars Witches Brew, Evil (updside down and backwards label), Owen Roe Sinister Hand, Toad Hollow Eye of the Toad, Zeller Schwarz Katz.

Want to give the personal touch to your Halloween wines? Add ghoulish labels or rebottle in cool jars with apothecary labels from Pottery Barn (or do them yourself). For a great article, go to Spooky Halloween Bottle & Glass Labels.

Don't forget some bloody toasts!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Chocolate Cemeteries

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. And, I'm always "dying... for chocolate."

These spooky Halloween cupcakes are fun to make and eat. Use any one of the following decorating ideas on its own, or put several together to create a tray of different treats. Easy to bake, you can use any devil's food cake recipe.

To make a cupcake cemetery, spread devil's food cupcakes with chocolate icing. Dip the top of each frosted cupcake in crushed chocolate wafers to create the look of dirt, then insert shortbread-cookie tombstones, piping them with scary messages like "Boo!" or "R.I.P." in royal icing.

Top more devil's food cupcakes with chocolate ganache and chocolate-wafer "dirt," make a hole in the center of each cupcake with your finger, and position half a gummi worm to look like it's slithering out of the hole.

Happy Halloween! Boo!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to Create your own Spooktacular Halloween Party

Murder on the Menu is in the business of creating super Halloween parties, but maybe you want to do something on your own. Here are a few tips. Your guests will be 'dying' to attend. You can adapt these ideas for kids or adults.

Invitations: Use a cool evite or send an invitation in the mail. Your invitations will let your guests know what to expect when they come to the party. What to wear, when to arrive, what to expect. Here's a cool site for invitations.

Costumes: Depending on the theme of your party, you can ask your guests to come as their favorite sleuth, Dead Celebrities, Monsters (doing the Monster Mash), Ghouls and Goblins, etc.

Decorations: Many choices available-- glow in the dark pumpkin lights to crime scene investigation scenarios, complete with blood and gore. I often use crime scene tape, keep the lights low, glow in the dark tape for the body on the floor. So many choices. Of course, it depends on the type of party you're planning. How about Mr. Body: stuffed pants in stuffed shoes (remember the socks) sticking out from under a couch or skirted table?

Food: I'll be posting my favorite ghoulish cupcake recipe soon, but there are so many great recipes on the web right now. Check out the Food Networks' Devilish Delicious Treats.

Drinks: Drink of the Week has put together a Halloween collection or recipes for dastardly drinks, murderous martinis and creepy cocktails!

Activities: Mystery Box Game, create your own or hire Murder on the Menu. The game of Clue with Multiple games available for larger crowd. Pumpkin carving. Bobbing for Apples. More Great Halloween Games.

Music: Spooky Halloween CDs. There are several CDs with themes from TV crime and mystery shows, too.

For more great ideas and tips, go to Cheryl Williams' website.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Pacifica Library Mystery Fundraiser

The Pacifica Library Foundation is having a fall fundraiser to celebrate and support the launch of Pacifica Connected. Enjoy an evening out at Pacifica's very own Castle, the Sam Mazza Castle, sampling sumptuous food and fine wine as you relax to the sounds of live jazz music. As the darkness of All Soul's Eve descends the atmosphere will change to one of intrigue as guests are thrust in the middle of a spine-tingling murder! Who can you trust, and who will betray you as you follow the clues to uncover the guilty? Theatrical entertainment provided by Murder on the Menu.

Additional entertainment at the event includes a silent auction and a raffle.

To order tickets for the Murder Mystery at the Castle ($125.00 per person), simply visit and click on the red "donate now" button on the bottom of the page.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Holiday Party ideas

Murder on the Menu / TeamBuilding Unlimited would love to work with you to make your holiday event a smashing success. It's not to late to plan your company party. We have lots of ideas to add spice and fun to your Holiday Party. We can customize any event for groups of 5 to 500. Anywhere in the World. Have no budget? Contact us, so we can suggest low budget ideas you can do on your own -- or with a little help from us.

All Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited events are customized to include information on your group, company, jargon, goals and objectives and more! All our events are interactive because they're all about you!

Murder Mystery: Our mystery events are customized, interactive theatrical presentations -- a welcome form of corporate entertainment. The spotlight of fun is on employees and friends as our actors bring out the corporate energy and unique creativity of your guests.

Delicious Designs: The Great Gingerbread House Competition
Teams work together to design, build and decorate the best Gingerbread House to reflect their company and/or their group within the company. All materials are provided including instructions, gingerbread, decorations, icing, candy, sprinkles and other goodies! You supply the resourceful creativity and dynamic energy. So roll up your sleeves and get down to food basics. Design a delicious gingerbread house which reflects the raison d'être of your group.

The Charity Challenge: Trikes for Tots
TeamBuilding Unlimited has added a special element to our teambuilding events. After a series of engaging, fun and competitive Wacky Games, participants will work together to build Tricycles for Tots. Enter into the Season of Giving-Year-Round.

We have lots of other ideas for holiday parties--The Arresting Detective, Elves, A French Knight, Hats Off to You!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Willi's Wine Bar Santa Rosa/Kendall-Jackson

We found ourselves in the Santa Rosa area the other day, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to finally eat at Willi's Wine Bar. Willi's Wine Bar delivered everything promised. The food was outstanding, the wine flights intriguing-the pairing and the wineries. Willi's Wine Bar offers small international plates, and we started off with a Soda Rock Farms Heirloom Tomato Salad, with whipped ricotta cheese & verjus vinaigrette which was on the Local menu. Our next plates were from the Mediterranean menu: Seared Scallops, with roasted Corn Sauce & Tomato Escabeche and Moroccan Style Lamb Chops with preserved Lemon Couscous. Of course, we needed to have Willi's Truffled French Fries from the French menu. Each 'small' plate was ample for two, and although we were stuffed, we couldn't pass up the dessert plates. We had an incredible banana chocolate croissant bread pudding and a lovely creme brulee with raspberries. We did flights of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Each dish was perfectly prepared and presented.

So if you find yourself in the North Bay for lunch or dinner, be sure and stop by.
Planning a special event: Willi's Wine Bar has patio seating for parties of 25 and inside the restaurant for buy-outs.

Kendall-Jackson Wine Center is just a bit north on Fulton Road, and it's always worth a visit. Not only can you taste fabulous wines, but there is a wonderful Food & Wine Pairing created by Kendall-Jackson's Executive Chef Justin Wangler. This is a seated tasting experience in which you sample from a plate of delectable food paired with the day's featured wines. No appointment necessary, and this pairing is offered throughout the year. Kendall-Jackson has a lovely culinary garden from which many of the ingredients are harvested.

Kendall-Jackson has accommodate large and small groups for weddings, meetings and special events. Murder on the Menu will be producing a mystery for the Wine Club on October 25. Open to the public. Reservations necessary.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mystery Fundraiser for the San Carlos Children's Theater

Here's another wonderful 'public' event that people in the Bay Area can attend.
October 17, 2008:


An event to benefit San Carlos Children’s Theater

in their goal of obtaining a long-term home

with class and rehearsal space and continuing to provide

outstanding children’s theater programs.

6:30-7:30 pm:Reception

7:30-9:30 pm:Plated Dinner/Dessert

9:30-10:30 pm:Prizes, raffle & more

Hotel Sofitel, Redwood Shores, CA

Arrive by 7:00 to be sure and get in on the Murder Mystery clues.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Habitat for Humanity Fundraiser 10/24/08

Here's an updated announcement for a Murder on the Menu® open to the public mystery event:

Habitat for Humanity of Santa Cruz County 20th Anniversary

To order tickets for the Chaminade event ($125 per seat) or sponsor a table (8 seats plus publicity), simply click on the appropriate Donate button to the left and follow the instructions. (You will need your credit card or Paypal account information handy.)

This (black-tie optional) event will be Habitat’s largest fundraiser of the year, and includes a reception, dinner, music, and dancing until midnight. At the reception charity donors will build a complete house by bidding on component parts.

Guests will also be treated to a murder investigation over the course of the evening with lots of “local” suspects, ending with the “arrest” of the “culprit.” Theatrical entertainment provided by:

To help raise funds for upcoming projects, Habitat for Humanity Santa Cruz county is seeking sponsors at the Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze levels.

In addition to enjoying a social evening of dining and entertainment, you and/or your organization will be recognized as one that gives back to our community at the event, and in all publicity following the event.

To inquire about sponsorships, please contact Cathy Wylie at (831) 469-4663 or by sending email to

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Smart Meetings

Just got the September issue of Smart Meetings, one of my favorite industry publications. Several great articles on teambuilding including one titled, "Team Building, Smart Meetings-Style" by Hunter Holcombe about Smart Meetings own team's teambuilding Scavenger Quest with our own Frank Price. Last lines: "what did we all learn from this experience? We certainly woke up the next morning feeling like we had the best team in publishing." That's what we like to hear. Our teambuilding events are about as much about team bonding as team building.

For great ideas on teambuilding and planning your next meeting, check out Smart Meetings magazine.

Venues: Waterbar San Francisco

Last night I was invited by the Long Beach CVB to a special evening at Pat Kuleto's new Waterbar. What a venue. What a view. What terrific food. Our event was in a lovely private room with its own balcony overlooking the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and the Bay. It would be perfect for a small party of 50 or less. I'd love to do a mystery event there, but any type of party would be great.

Downstairs, the Waterbar located on San Francisco's Embarcadero just south of the arrow has interior views just as spectacular as the exterior views. The two dining rooms hold up to 275. The menu is prepared under the direction of Chef Parke Ulrich who worked with Mark Franz at Farallon for the past 10 years. Great fresh sustainable seafood. Unpretentious but elegant.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Let's play two!

Let’s Do Two!

The great Hall of Fame baseball player, Ernie Banks, loved baseball so much that he said, "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!" Yesterday was a beautiful day, and I had two separate events at two different locations. It was a beautiful day.

The Promotional Event

The Hilton Hotel Family contacted Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited because they were hosting a special regional multi hotel HR department meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose, and they needed creative, interactive entertainment. Their budget was on empty. We were willing to showcase our creativity in a shortened promotional format. They will see the possibilities.

We wanted to grab their attention, sustain the energy and end with something that would make them remember our strong points. Customized and creative pacing, energy, and interactive entertainment, are all about who we are and what we do. Suspense in different forms creates a dynamic tension among the participants.

Three activities were selected, The Arresting Cop, the Wacky Mini-Olympic Games and the Chocolate Tasting Seminar. Each activity requires different types of preparation, presentation, timing and interaction.

The Cop enters the room armed with information, ideas and relevant gifts for the suspects. It’s a surprise. Tension begins to build as he walks slowly around the room. The impenetrable wrap-around sunglasses give him a slightly tough look. He asks for a specific suspect. The hush in the room is broken by a gasp and pointing fingers spotlight the female suspect who is unaware she is about to be given a customized running shoe with her San Francisco Marathon time on the label. The laughter begins. The woman wonders how the cop would know that information. Nobody else in the room, including the contact, knows this bit of running history.

The pace quickens when next the participants are divided into teams to take part in the Wacky Mini-Olympic Hilton Family Games. From the first activity to the last all of the guests are engaged and determined to win. The Duffle Bag Relay brings out laughter and their competitive nature. The culmination is when each member of the winning team accepts his or her own customized first place bottle of champagne.

Saving the sweet for last, the high end Chocolate Tasting Seminar gets them in a quiet place. I always wonder which chocolate will they like the most. They enjoyed it all.

In only one hour, I’m able to fill them with energy, knowledge, and great chocolate. I leave ready to start again.

I quickly pack my bags and head off to the SUN Microsystems campus for a murder mystery dinner for 115 World-wide Finance Team participants.

The Mystery Dinner

Setting up the sound and light, putting out the clues, rehearsing with the actors, coordinating with the catering staff, the contact at SUN, distributing the programs to the guests are just part of my excitement. Because we integrate the language and jargon of this group at SUN, we get their attention. Our contact gives me some extra last minute jargon, the actors use it and the mystery takes off. Guests read clues into the microphone and ask questions of the actors and accuse some of their fellow workers. Our detective, fedora, badge and trenchcoat arrives and the real fun begins. He has “secret” information about some of the guests, and he shares it with dramatic flare. The roar of laughter, the self-deprecating corporate humor gets everybody involved. The entire show builds throughout the dinner and ends when all of the crimes are solved. Corporate suspects take the stand and are found innocent of all crimes even though their peers believe them to be guilty. Another mystery solved by our special detective, Frank T. Lawman. The winning team receives prizes and the evening winds down.

I pack up all of the materials and equipment, and I am on the road again. It was a beautiful day…Let’s play two.

Perfect Venues: Thomas Fogarty Winery

Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited always loves working at wineries. Since our home base is the San Francisco Bay Area, we're lucky because we are close to several different wine growing districts. Over the years, I think we've worked at more than 350 wineries. Wineries make perfect settings for all kinds of team building events and entertainment from Wacky Games to Scavenger Quests to Murder Mystery dinners.

One of my favorite winery venues is Thomas Fogarty Winery located in beautiful Woodside, south of San Francisco. On Sunday I had the opportunity to actually attend a wedding there rather than work the event. Very interesting to see the 'other' side of an event. Thomas Fogarty Winery, with stunning views from San Francisco to San Jose, is one of the Peninsula’s premiere wedding and special event locations. Known for its award winning wines, Thomas Fogarty Winery is a breathtaking redwood and stone facility with three separate levels that "flow" down the mountainside. This warm and inviting facility is a great place to escape for that company offsite or perfect wedding, anniversary or special event. There are several different event/meeting spaces, and at the wedding I attended, the dinner was held in the Pavillion, a huge covered deck area suspended over the vineyard, and later we went into Hill House for dancing. These spaces were perfect for the wedding, but there is a conference room and several other spaces for meetings, including the intimate Redwood Room with its stained glass windows and redwood walls.

Thomas Fogarty also has award winning wines, so if you find yourself out and about on a Sunday afternoon, you can always stop by for a tasting.

Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited has been working at Thomas Fogarty since the mid-80s. We've done mysteries, Scavenger Quests, Chocolate Tastings, Wacky Games and lots of other customized interactive teambuilding and entertainment there. The staff is great, the vendor list diverse, and the ambiance terrific.

Thinking about a holiday party on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula? You might want to consider Thomas Fogarty Winery.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rehearsal Dinner with Cool Eatz Catering

What a weekend wedding whirl! Saturday night I coordinated Judie Siddall's son's rehearsal dinner. She chose the Baylands Nature Preserve in Palo Alto for her venue, and it's quite unique. We'd been sweltering through a heat wave, and this lovely Nature Preserve was a very cool/cool spot right on the Bay. Caterer was Cool Eatz, and although I had eaten at the Flea Street Cafe many times, I had never worked with the catering side of their business. Well 5 stars to Dee and Kasie for doing such a fabulous job! I came into the planning toward the end, but even so, I was amazed at how quickly every question was answered via email about room set up, linens, tables and chairs, buffet, hors d'oeuvres, drinks and timing. Originally the event was planned for family and out of town guests, but the rehearsal dinner guest list grew to 98 people from all over the world. Who knew that guests would come in from England, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, France and other places. The seating arrangement for dinner was tight, but Dee, the onsite coordinator, made it accessible to everyone. He was a joy to work with. Every detail was considered, adressed, and because of his talent and skill, it all ran very very smoothly.

And, the food! Did I forget to mention that the food was absolutely fantastic? From the hors d'oeuvres through the sumptious dinner buffet and the variety of desserts was incredible. CoolEatz uses food and wine raised, harvested, and produced sustainably and regionally. They support and use as many organic ingredients as possible--those produced without petrochemicals, artificial coloring, growth stimulants, antibiotics or pesticides. As their website reads and I witnessed, they are all about Sustainability. They take responsiblility for creating a healthy, sustainable system, in both their cooking and waste management.

I can't wait to work with Cool Eatz again soon, maybe a mystery event? They take the mystery out of great catering.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Wacky Mini-Olympic Games

California is sizzlin', and this may not be the last of the heat waves for the season. Now's the time to get out and go to the Beach! Energize your team with some Wacky Mini-Olympic Games or Sandcastle Building competition. Last week we did some Wacky Games in San Luis Obispo. Great Beach. Great teams. We integrated information on the group, their buzzwords, and company goals and objectives into the games. Frank Price who facilitated the games debriefed. Oh my, not all fun and games! Carefully disguised.

Too hot? Not near a beach? Wacky Mini-Olympics can be done inside an airconditioned meeting room or ballroom, depending on the size of the group. Last Spring we did a Wacky Games teambuilding event for a Japanese electronics company. Luckily we had a translator. 100 men and women in suits and dresses participated in the Games which were held on a tiny dancefloor. Guess that proves that our Wacky Mini-Olympic games can be done anywhere.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Public Mystery events

Murder on the Menu does mostly corporate and private mystery events, so it's always exciting when we have mystery parties that are open to the public. Usually our public mystery events are for fundraisers. In October we'll have two public events--October 24 for Habitat for Humanity and October 17 for San Carlos Children's Theater. Not sure all the notices are on their webpages yet, but I urge you to check with them and save the date. I'll also be putting pages on my website about each event. In the meantime, here are some particulars.

October 24, 6:30-11:30. Chaminade, Santa Cruz, CA. Dinner, Mystery, Dancing. Benefit: Habitat for Humanity.

October 17, 7-10. Hotel Sofitel, Redwood Shores, CA. Dinner and Mystery. Benefit: San Carlos Children's Theater.

And, here's a fun event open to wine club memers and the public! Join the wine club, get good wine and a discount on events!
October 25, 6:00-9:00. Kendall-Jackson, Fulton, CA

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Charity Challenge: Trikes for Tots

I wrote about our big Charity Challenge: Bikes for Kids event in at AT& T Park last week, but I thought I'd post a photo from one of our Charity Challenge: Trikes for Tots events. 25 meeting planners from CSUS met for a FAM organized by Toddy Isham, hosted by Krug Hotels and Conference Centers in beautiful Sonoma County. After being wined and dined and shown all the wonderful opportunities for meetings in Sonoma county, Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited were brought in to showcase our services. We did a series of short Wacky Games, Chocolate Tasting and Trikes for Tots. Rick Uribe from Catholic Charities took the trikes for the Family Support Center in Santa Rosa. Some trikes were given to children with birthdays and some will be used by all the children at the center. Before we even returned to our office that day, Rick had sent us a photo of some of the children riding the trikes. Very moving.

The Charity Challenge is a great event for companies who want to do teambuilding while at the same time want to give back to the community.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dying for Chocolate

Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited does an awesome chocolate tasting that I blogged about last week. We usually give our clients all the chocolate that's leftover after a tasting, and we bring bags to make it convenient. No sticky hands or gooey purses or pockets. Nevertheless, even though we do our best to give chocolate away, our office always seems to be filled with lots--from 40% to 90% cacao-- from many different chocolate companies and regions.

So yesterday I decided to make use of some of that left over dark chocolate. I found a very easy fantastic recipe for a flourless chocolate cake. Thought I'd share it. By the way, Murder on the Menu isn't a catering company or a restaurant. You have no idea how many people have asked that. Would you hire a caterer or go out to dinner at a place called Murder on the Menu. Who knows what you'd get. But that's another story.

Dying for Chocolate!

4 ounces (or more) fine-quality chocolate (not unsweetened, 70% cacoa or more)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.

Break chocolate into pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.

Dust cake with additional cocoa powder or powdered sugar and serve with ice cream or whipped real cream.

I used vanilla ice-cream and scattered fresh strawberries on the plate.
Unbelievable and so easy.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mystery Party Centerpieces

Murder on the Menu is often asked to suggest centerpieces for our murder mystery parties. Thought I'd share some ideas, so you can do this at your 'home' mystery party.

A great centerpiece is the Board from the Clue Game. On top of this you can place votives, floral arrangements, or weapons. Weapons? Yes, easy to make or buy weapons such as bombs, dynamite (covered toilet paper insert), noose, knife, pearls (strangulation). One client recently used the cards and the weapons and people from the game. Any of these items can be inserted into the flower arrangements or scattered on the Clue Board. Word of advice. Don't use cap pistols, water pistols or other guns. They're noisy and disruptive to the flow of your party or event. A few years ago, a Silicon Valley client had water pistols in their centerpieces. The guns were quickly removed and used by the group, shorting out the sound system.

Here's another idea: Flower arrangements filled with tea-stained mystery novels (I know, a sin to book lovers and to me, the Editor of the Mystery Readers Journal (see my other blog: Mystery Fanfare), magnifying glasses, Sherlock Holmes hats (deerstalkers), fedoras.

Other centerpieces could include mystery accoutrement based on motives, cops, detectives (different types of hats).

Other ideas to get into the mood. Name your tables after different fictional (movie, TV, book) detectives. Ask your guests to come dressed as their favorite sleuth. This is easy for the guys--a trenchcoat and fedora. Or, you can always supply the fedoras and boas (if it's a period piece) or other hats and small costume pieces.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Green Art: TeamBuilding Unlimited Goes Green

Everyone is talking about going GREEN. Well, we offer a teambuilding experience that not only talks the talk but walks the walk. The Ultimate Green Art Experience does just that!
I'm a big recycler, and I know many companies are, too. That's why Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited decided to add The Ultimate Green Art Experience to our list of teambuilding activities. We can bring in our own recycled materials, or we can use materials “found” at your worksite. Either way, this is a great way to build teams while being aware of and respecting the environment.

What is the Ultimate Green Art Experience? Utilizing Recycled Materials, each team will use communication, problem-solving and decision-making skills to create a customized, collaborative innovative Green Art Project. Each "masterpiece" will reflect the Company/organization, agenda, theme and the Team. This unique "green" artwork may be a new logo, trophy, banner, collage or some other work utilizing recycled materials.
The Green Art Experience is great for leadership development, new product launches, teambuilding, and strategy retreats-and is good for the environment. This activity is also great for fundraisers, special events, tournaments, and rehearsal dinners.

Key factors about your company will contribute to the success of every project. Each participant will take an active role during the pre-construction period and leadership during the construction phase. Each team will utilize many of the hidden skills and talents of the team's participants, to ask and answer the right questions and make intelligent suggestions to design and build a successful project.

Every project is unique and customized for your company. Whether it be centerpieces for your dinner, a banner for your company walls, a trophy for winning a competition or art to take home and share with others, we will work with you to choose the best recycled materials to select for your teams to fashion into an something creative for your company.

Awesome Chocolate Tasting for California Women Lead

Who doesn't like chocolate? Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited does Chocolate Tastings with Frank Price, our VP of TeamBuilding Unlimited. Frank spent three years in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) where he was upclose and personal with the growing and harvesting of cacao. Cote D'Ivoire is the largest growing cacao country.

California Women Lead recently hired us to do a chocolate tasting at their Sacramento Summer Networking event. We had 8 different high end chocolates from European and American boutique chocolate companies--each with different proportions of cacao, ranging from 40% to 85%. It was all about smell, sound, taste--mostly about taste-- as Frank and three other chocolate mavens answered questions and gave instructions on how best to taste chocolate. It's like a wine tasting... only better because it's all about chocolate!

California Women Lead is a nonpartisan, nonprofit or organization dedicated to providing leadership and campaign trainings, networking opportunities, and policy discussion forums for women interested in or who hold elected and appointed offices. Their motto is Engage, Empower, Elect. Maybe after this Chocolate Tasting, they'll add Eat, Enjoy!

Murder on the Menu does two types of Chocolate Tastings. One is seminar style (more like a wine tasting... only about chocolate) and the other features chocolate stations. It all depends on the type of event you're planning and how you like your chocolate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Corporate Holiday Party Ideas

It's never too early (or late) to plan your company holiday party. Murder on the Menu / TeamBuilding Unlimited would love to work with you to make your holiday event a smashing success. Here are a few ideas. Remember, all Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited events are customized to include information on your group, company, jargon, goals and objectives and more! All our events are interactive because they're all about you!

Murder Mystery: Our mystery events are customized, interactive theatrical presentations -- a welcome form of corporate entertainment. The spotlight of fun is on employees and friends as our actors bring out the corporate energy and unique creativity of your guests.

Delicious Designs: The Great Gingerbread House Competition
Teams work together to design, build and decorate the best Gingerbread House to reflect their company and/or their group within the company. All materials are provided including instructions, gingerbread, decorations, icing, candy, sprinkles and other goodies! You supply the resourceful creativity and dynamic energy. So roll up your sleeves and get down to food basics. Design a delicious gingerbread house which reflects the raison d'être of your group.

The Charity Challenge: Trikes for Tots
TeamBuilding Unlimited has added a special element to our teambuilding events. After a series of engaging, fun and competitive Wacky Games, participants will work together to build Tricycles for Tots. Enter into the Season of Giving-Year-Round.

I have a lot of other ideas for holiday parties--The Arresting Detective, Elves, A French Knight, Hats Off to You!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

ZS Associates Build Bikes for Kids at the Giants AT&T Park

Thursday dawned foggy and damp, but even the cool Bay area fog couldn't dampen the energy of 100 ZS Associates participants as they put together 26 bicycles at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The Charity Challenge: Bikes for Kids yielded 26 bikes for needy kids. Rick Uribe of Catholic Charities received the bicycles for Family Support Services in Santa Rosa. Some bikes will be given to children now, and some will be held for holiday gifts. But the day for ZS Associates didn't end there. Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited had also created some fun teambuilding games before the Game. It was a great day and the group was certainly up for the Charity Challenge!