Friday, October 23, 2009

Charity Challenge Builds Great Kaiser Team

Yesterday a Kaiser Permanente team came together to do some philanthropic team building with TeamBuilding Unlimited. Half the team was from Southern California, while the rest were from Northern California. They wanted to bond over a philanthropic team event.

To begin the event and get into the mood of the children who would be the recipients of this philanthropic teambuilding, the teams were challenged to some fun competitive children's games. These included jacks (a favorite), building the tallest tower out of Tinker Toys (one team actually built a tower that touched the ceiling--a first), and several other interactive team games including the suitcase relay.

After prizes were awarded to the teams, individuals then stuffed a variety of animals from bears to unicorns to monkeys. Each person also designed a t-shirt for the animal. Thrive, Kaiser's motto, appeared on several tiny t-shirts, along with hearts and rainbows. The bears and animals were donated to Children in the Oakland Hospital. To end the day on a sweet note, Frank did a chocolate tasting with the group, an added bonus to their day.

A great time was had by all, and we accomplished our clients' goal of getting together, having fun, teambuilding and contributing to the community.

Here's what our contacts wrote:

Thank you both for your work in ensuring that everyone had such a great day. What a treat it was to be able to get together as a team and just relax and have some fun.
--Laurie Williams, Medicare Operations Program Manager

Thanks for allowing Frank to host our Team Building Event. He was great. Everyone enjoyed the activities. I loved the Jacks the best. Frank provided us with great conversation and showed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm.
--Vernicko Seraphin, Project Analyst

Charity Challenges are great for the holidays or any time of year. There's always a need. Groups donate to shelters, fire stations, police stations, hospitals, and specific charities. Giving back to the community is special.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Team Building Culinary Halloween Parties

TeamBuilding Unlimited/Murder on the Menu offers an array of Halloween Parties to fit every budget. What could be more fun than a company Halloween party. Great reward and teambonding event.

TeamBuilding Unlimited Culinary Halloween Events


Teams work together to design, build and decorate the best Haunted 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 Haunted House that reflects the raison d'ĂȘtre of your group.


What could be more tempting than building a Haunted House completely from Chocolate? In this case, chocolate and chocolate related foods. TeamBuilding has never been so Sweet!
Group will be divided into teams and provided with all kinds of chocolate based foods that might include chocolate-covered graham crackers, M&Ms, chocolate Gummy Bears, Hershey bars and anything you can think of that is made of chocolate. We go for different shapes, sizes, and textures.

Teams then compete to build their own Chocolate Haunted House. The result has to stand up on its own and, except for the white cardboard base, has to be completely edible. Teams are given time to design and build, and then they have to present the results.


Using the diversity of sights, sounds and materials of a city of your choice (San Francisco, Napa, Carmel, New York, Chicago?), teams will compete as they comb through the essence of the area's core to provide the winning touch to an exciting scramble related to the company, the group, HALLOWEEN and "The Bar to Bar to Bar" Hunt.

What are the most important three basic food groups? Caffeine, Chocolate and Alcohol! This Scavenger Quest is not for the faint of heart. The HALLOWEEN Bar to Bar to Bar Quest is for great team building and team bonding. There is an emphasis on fun, creativity and enjoyment.

Teams must visit and bring back proof of the visit—electronic, paper, product or otherwise—from a place that serves or sells coffee, a place that serves or sells alcohol, and a place that sells or produces high end chocolate that has specific Halloween-themed products.


This is not just Icing on the Cake... Teams design and decorate cakes to reflect their team, their company, and Halloween.

Each person designs and decorates a chef's hat with their team name. Then the real fun begins. Each team is challenged to create and decorate a cake that symbolizes the team itself, the company, and Halloween. Spiders? Ghosts? Vampires?

Each group will be given a large sheet cake that can be carved or left as is. With a variety of cake design supplies, tools and assorted cake decorations, the group will turn their concept into reality. And, in the end, participants will enjoy their creations. You can have your cake and eat it, too!

Contact TeamBuilding Unlimited for more information on these events. Make Your Halloween a Howling Success!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Halloween Parties: Fun & Easy & on the Cheap

If you want to have a fabulous Halloween Party, hire Murder on the Menu to do a full blown Interactive Mystery Event. But if you want Halloween on the Cheap and are doing it yourself, I have several ideas. All it takes is time and ingenuity!

Chocolate: I have a blog called DyingforChocolate, so be sure to check later this month, so you can make your own cool Halloween cupcakes and candy! It will save you money and be lots of fun! I have several recipes up from last Halloween, and I'll have more Dirt Cupcake Cemeteries and DyingforChocolate recipes later this month. Speaking of food, pumpkins make great decorations, and you can always use the pumpkin to bake with later.

Decor: Because I have a mystery event company, I have lots of Halloween decor. I collect it all year because I just love Halloween. Target and Walmart have great stuff, but to be thrifty, you might want to wait until after Halloween and buy stuff on sale for next year. I shop the White Elephant Sale in Oakland (benefits the Oakland Museum) in February. Lots of Halloween--and other decor-- at budget prices. However, if you need it now, you can always use black fabric, candles, candelabras and votives. Holiday lights add ambiance, and you can drape your mirrors with black fabric.

Drinks: Not so cheap, but great for the adults.
Check out Special Halloween Cocktails from

Spider’s Kiss
1 oz. Midori melon liqueur
1 oz. vodka
Squeeze of fresh Lemon
Grenadine (optional)
Chocolate syrup

Draw a chocolate web into a cocktail glass. Place in freezer and chill. Shake Midori, vodka and lemon juice and strain into glass. For a blood effect, drizzle grenadine down the side of the glass. Garnish with a chocolate-dipped orange slice.

If you want to spend a little bit of extra for great visual impact: Creep out your guests by serving a blood-red punch out of a dispenser that looks like an IV drip called In My Veins Drink Dispenser. Remember punch is cheaper than mixed drinks.

Drink of the Week
has also put together a collection of dastardly Halloween drinks, murderous martinis and creepy cocktails! There are links to Halloween Punch Recipes, Glowing Drinks and more!

So here are a few ideas to get you started. Great for office parties, home parties, children and adults.

More theme ideas to come!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where to get rid of leftover event stuff?

What to do with all that left-over event and exhibit stuff? Even before this age of recycling and reusing, I always felt it was a shame to see leftover decor in the trash or even the recycle bin (although that's sometimes o.k). I spend a lot of time finding things for my events for TeamBuilding Unlimited at fleamarkets and in the dumpster. Yes, the dumpster.

Terri Hardin had an article in on just this topic, and she offers many ideas for what to do with your left-overs. I have a few more suggestions. I welcome comments.

First, many charities accept donations.

Food: In the Bay Area, Project Open Hand, the Alameda Food Bank, and several other organizations welcome your uneaten portion of food & beverage. Be sure and contact these groups before your event, so there will be a smooth transition. Some places will not accept food, and you need to know that in advance. You might have to assign one of your staff to take the food there, but if you have a lot, some of the organizations will pick up.

Exhibit floor displays and furniture: Many non-profit and not-for-profit organizations like schools and churches accept tables and chairs. In Oakland, the Oakland Museum's White Elephant sale organization will accept donations and for large items can schedule a pick-up. You can also ask the meeting venue or the local CVB (convention & visitors bureau) for a list of charitable organizations.

Leftover Decor. If you're like me, you don't have anywhere to store most of this, even though you're 'sure' that you'll reuse it within the next 10 years. If you have the time or staff, you can try selling it on eBay or Craiglist but here's a useful site for Event Planners: Make sure you can arrange this in your area.

Florals: Hopefully your florist has taken these away and will reuse them. Maybe the attendees took them home? But if not, check with the venue about their composting policy. If you have a lot of plant material, contact a local composter. Again, the venue or CVB should have a list.

We at TeamBuilding Unlimited have several Green TeamBuilding Events in which we use recycled materials, so feel free to contact us with your leftover goods. Our motto is Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose, Recharge. Have a look at our Green Art Challenge and New Green Product Invention.

So before you throw away all those leftovers from your event, check out your options for recycling and reusing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Halloween: Amusement Parks are Tricked out

I love Halloween. Shouldn't come as any big surprise since I run Murder on the Menu. So over the next few weeks or so, I'll be giving some info about places to go for a fun Halloween event--for your company or your family. I'll also be giving you links to recipes and other ideas for the holiday--and a link to mystery novels set during Halloween.

I saw a great article in today's USA Today about Amusement Parks that are tricked out for Halloween. Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is having "Terror Behind the Walls". Six Flags in various states will hold a "Fright Fest". Universal Studios in both Universal City and Orlando will have "Halloween Horror Nights". Even Hersheypark will have "Hersheypark in the Dark." Read the entire article here.

If your local park isn't on the list, check them out online. They may be doing a Boocrew or Howloscream or at least a Haunted House!

Live in the San Francisco Bay Area? Check out the Haunted Bay website. Calendar, lists of haunted houses and pumpkin patches.

Want Murder on the Menu/TeamBuilding Unlimited to provide entertainment or team building for your Halloween party? We can do a Monster Mash Murder or any theme you'd like, as well as a delicious "Have Your Halloween Cake and Eat it, Too!" team building event. Now that's a major treat. You design and decorate cakes for Halloween and either eat them when you're through or take them back to the office. Great idea for a Halloween party!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

World Chocolate Masters: Chocolate Challenge

TeamBuilding Unlimited/Murder on the Menu does a Chocolate Challenge that's a lot of fun and pretty scrumptious. In this team challenge, each team must build a structure entirely of chocolate or chocolate related products. I've seen great buildings, hospitals, palaces and castles from different teams at Genentech, Hitachi, and PDL BioPharma and other companies.

Taking this competition a step further and having nothing to do with us: :-), the World Chocolate Masters competition invites Chocolatiers from all over the world to enter a similar competition.

The finalists of the World Chocolate Masters 2009 work within a limited time of 11 1/2 hours. Each of the contestants has to create a complete range of chocolate items:
- a chocolate showpiece to the theme of "Haute Couture"
- a moulded and a dipped praline
- a chocolate pastry
- a gastronomic chocolate dessert
- a decorated "Haute Couture" hat

It's the hat that's the building part of the competition. Talk about a Chocolate Challenge!

The objective of both the National Selections and World Finals is to "provide a high interest format to promote the best artisans around the globe and support the best chocolate practice."

Lionel Clement, the French born chocolatier and the head chocolatier for the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel, is the U.S. Candidate at the World Chocolate Masters competition. He topped four other pastry chefs at a daylong competition in NY last November. In the structural part of the competition he used several layers of chocolate to produce a silhouette of a woman's face, with long hair and a fancy hat. That won him the chance to compete in the world competition.

Clement will face chocolatiers from 12 other European countries, China, Japan, Thailand, Russian, Canada and Mexico. The showdown will be in Paris. Clement has been practicing for four months with his flavors, four months designing and developing his show pieces and 4 months practicing, so he'll be able to get everything done within the 11 1/2 hours at the biennial culinary competition that starts October 14. The judges will judge competitors on a roughly 25-pound showpiece, as well as two identical layered cakes to serve eight people, a gastronomic chocolate dessert, two different pralines and the decorated haute couture chocolate hat.

"It has to be unbelievable, and at the same time you've got to be able to make it because otherwise it's not going to work," said Clement. "It's not only how to make and build master showpieces, it's also about flavor."

The competition is serious even if its participants wield only sweets; a prize of euro 75,000 ($109,000) is on the line including a euro 20,000 package (roughly $29,000) for the winner. The competition is organized by Barry Callebaut, the Switzerland-based cocoa and chocolate manufacture. The large showpiece has to be made almost entirely of chocolate or cocoa-derived products. They stay together with cocoa butter or melted chocolate.

Another amazing part of the competition is that each competitor works alone in hauling and assembling their piece and is also judged on how clean their workspace is 45 minutes after they're done. Clement said, "During the whole competition, it's only you and yourself — that's it."

At TeamBuilding Unlimited, nothing is singular. We encourage our teams to work together to build their showpieces. Everything we do at TeamBuilding Unlimited is customized to include the theme of the meeting, goals and objectives, jargon and buzzwords. In the Chocolate Challenge, we supply the chocolate materials and usually give you about 1-2 hours to complete the project. We have prizes, too, but not monetary! After all, the goal is to work together as a team in a fun challenging teambonding way!

To read more about the World Chocolate Masters, go Here.
The Participants
The Jury

To read more about the Chocolate Challenge at TeamBuilding Unlimited, go here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Barrango: The Perfect Holiday Venue

I thought I knew most of the more unusual venues in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I was wrong. Recently I had a tour of Barrango in South San Francisco, and I was stunned. Barrango is a bit of Toyland and Candyland mixed with huge holiday displays plus more--and it's all behind a secret door. As I wandered through the incredible lifesize and supralifesize displays, I felt like I had fallen down the rabbit hole.

Barrango is the perfect venue for a holiday party--or any time. It's always a Winter Wonderland there, with a nod to the tropics in a few places. Barrango, known for their quality manufacturing and designs of seasonal decor since 1906, as well as fully working carousels, has created several very unique event spaces for holiday parties, weddings and other events in their showplace. Barrango can hold small intimate board meetings, seated events of 5 to 150, or large cocktail receptions of more. There are also several imported antique bars in the space that are just fabulous. Read the history of Barrango here.

I can't wait for Murder on the Menu and TeamBuilding Unlimited to work at Barrango. What a terrific place to do Trikes for Tots or Bears that Care! Bring your holiday party to Barrango!