Princess Edamame\’s Parties

You CAN have a great party – just learn from my mistakes!

Having a Large Party in a Small House

So, you want to have 60 people over, but don’t have much room for them?  Parties where your guests are belly to belly and butt to but are the best!  Here’s how you do it.

First, be sure this is realistic for your house.  You want a lot of people, not a safety hazard. You know your house better than I.  If you decide you think you can, then…

Turn on the AC well before the party, and drop it a few degrees lower than you are comfortable.  It’s gettin’ hot in here, but you don’t (necessarily) want to be takin’ off all your clothes.

People congregate by the food.  So set your main food items in one room, but set up snack foods (nuts, trail mix, M&Ms) in other rooms.  I put snacks in my small front parlor, the appetizers and small foods in the dining room, beverages and main dishes in the kitchen, and more snacks in the family room and patio.  It helps that our house is L-shaped, and each of these rooms leads very well to the next without strange hallway navigation.  Setting your food up in this way will help encourage flow throughout the house, and encourages mingling from room to room.

 If possible, open up the great outdoors.  Even a small patio will give guests the opportunity for a breath of fresh air.

Don’t worry about having a seat for each guest.  We do well with seats for about half.  To help with this, serve foods that are easy to eat standing up.  No knives (yes, this is a mantra of mine).

November 13, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Appetizers

Appetizers are a great way to welcome your guests and let them know you are ready to party.  They show tha you have put an extra touch of effort into the evening.  They not only stimulate the appetite, they stimulate activity.  Since guests will always gather around the food, they help to break the ice at a small party with guests who don’t know each other well.  Appetizers also give your guests something to do while getting settled.

But appetizers do not need to be complicated.  You can put out some nuts, or chips and salsa.  If you want to keep it super easy, but super tasty, here are my two favorites – no cooking required:

  • A cheese plate.  There are myriad ways you can put a cheese plate together, and none is wrong.  Try a sheep, goat, and cow.  A brie, a blue, and a hard cheese.  Use water crackers or mini toasts – if the cheese is good, it’s carrier doesn’t need much flavor.  My favorite carrier for cheese – my hands.
  • Sliced bread with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Use the best quality of each you can afford.  Chop one clove of garlic very finely, and mix with olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a dipping bowl, or individual dipping bowls.  For an extra-special presentation:  pour the oil. vinegar and garlic into a small prep bowl. put a small plate over hte top of the bowl, and invert them together, so the plate is sitting on the table, the bowl is upside down containing the mixture.  When you remove the prep bowl in front of your guests, of course, the oil and vinegar will come spilling out.  Practice a bit first, and don’t let it sit for too long, lest the oil and vinegar seep out from the bottom of the bowl.

November 11, 2007 Posted by | entertaining, food | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dining Al Fresco?

Tonight, we have tips about having casual parties outdoors.

Keep your food simple.  In fact, this should be your entertaining mantra.  But it is particularly important if you intend for your guests to be outdoors.  Why, you ask, would it be particularly important?  Logistics:  Do you really want to be in the kitchen cooking while everyone else is outside drinking all your rose and prosecco?

Try grilling (obvious, I know).  Most grilled food can be fully readied in advance, then slapped on the bbq.

Keep beverages in a cooler outside.  Or a cute galvanized bucket with ice.  Again, you don’t want to be running back and forth inside the house to get drinks.  Also, your guests can help themselves as needed.

Don’t forget the tablecloth weights, napkin holder, and some sort of cover for food that’s outside.  Citronella torches and candles are also important, unless you prefer to hire someone to fan the flies from your delicious food.

Of course, a back-up location for bad weather is essential.  Remember that “bad weather” doesn’t  include only rain.  Dining outside in the cold, the wind, or the unshaded hot sun can be just as unpleasant, if drier.

November 10, 2007 Posted by | barbeque, BBQ, entertaining, food, planning | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theme Parties

I thought that today I would throw out a whole mess of suggestions for those of you who are looking for themes for your parties.  Kind of a brainstorming thing.  I’ll probably take some of my favorites and expand on them later.  If you have a theme you want to try, but aren’t sure how to pull it off, post it, and I’ll see what I can come up with!

  •  1970s
  • 19780s
  • Worst Bridesmaid Dress You Ever Had to Wear
  • Halloween (okay, that was a gimme)
  • Renaissance
  • Princess 
  • Pirate
  • White Party (Black party, red party… – thanks P-Diddy!)
  • Wine Tasting
  • Coffee Tasting
  • Chocolate Tasting
  • Cheese Tasting
  • Literary Theme (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Jane Eyre…)
  • Pajama
  • Ethnic
  • Poker/Other Card Game
  • Football/Baseball/Basketball/Auto Racing

I’m sure to be adding to this list as I lay in bed tonight thinking “I can’t believe I didn’t list that – what a dork!”

Can’t wait to hear your suggestions!

November 9, 2007 Posted by | entertaining, Tips | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Holiday Party Update

I’ll admit it – this isn’t a late-night post.  I missed yesterday.  Sometimes the real people in your life simply have to take first place in your plans.

I wanted to give you an update on my personal holiday party procrastination – I have now ordered my invitations through a website called Tiny Prints (www.tinyprints.com).  I’ll let you know how my experience with them turns out.  I really liked their selection – they had some very nice eclectic designs.

My theme has also been chosen – it will be a candycane-tini wonderland!

November 8, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, entertaining, holidays, planning | , , , , | Leave a comment

Shake That Turkey!

I have been asked by fellow blogger Mrs. Metaphor (see Blogroll) to share tips on shaking up a Thanksgiving feast.

I have thought about this a great deal since receiving this request, and must confess, it’s a stumper.

The thing that came to mind most often was serving non-traditional food – flavoring Tom Turkey with Moroccan spices, for example.  Or serving a meat other than turkey.  If your family is adventurous, I’d say go for it.  Make exotic side dishes.  Skip the ambrosia salad.  But in my personal experience, changing up the food doesn’t always make for a memorable gathering, at least, not necessarily in a good way. 

Every time I thought about sexing up Thanksgiving, I came back to the fundamental part of the holiday – giving thanks.  I’m not sure that this is something that needs sexing up.  I really feel that Thanksgiving is the kick off of a season which features appreciating others at its core. 

 So perhaps the best thing that one can do to “shake it up” is to begin cementing traditions.  Have everyone write on a cut-put paper leaf what they are thankful for, and put them in a bowl.  Everyone can pull one leaf from the bowl, read it aloud, and guess who is thankful for that item.

 Have your traditional turkey carver carve the turkey together with a younger family member.  It’s a great photo op, and a great way to pass the knowledge of turkey carvery.

And perhaps the best tradition I can think to start?  Turn off the Game!  Enjoy the company of your loved ones – even the dysfunctional ones!

November 7, 2007 Posted by | Blogroll, entertaining, Family Parties, food, holidays | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stop Procrastinating and Get to the Good Stuff!

I made a promise to give tips on combating pre-party planning procrastination, so here goes.  I should be planning my annual Christmas party right now.  I should be ordering my printed invitations.  I should already know what I’m going to serve.  I should know how many people I’m inviting.  I should know what this year’s theme is.  I don’t.

 

I’m not sure if my latenik-i-ness stems from experience, or if it’s just because I’m busier than I used to be.  But it must be overcome at all costs.  The best party is a well planned one.

 

The urge to procrastinate planning your party may be because you feel like it will be to big a project.   To that I must say, simplify!  Are you thinking that you must serve a homemade hand-carved prime rib, or it just won’t be Christmas?  How about ordering that roast pre-cooked from a local gourmet shop like Bristol Farms (or whatever is in your area)?

 

Do you feel that you are simply too busy to plan it out?  You may be surprised that it probably won’t take as long as you think it will.  Sit down one evening after everyone else is in bed, and grab a cocktail, your most trusted cookbooks, some sticky notes and a notepad. 

 

First, take a sip and decide on a theme.  Don’t make it too complex:  Italian, retro, whatever.  Just something that can unify your choices.  If you have several cookbooks in a particular style, sit down with those, instead of the one Indian book you have.  Having a lot of choices will be helpful – you won’t feel stuck with anything, and will have a bit more freedom.

 

Second, take a swig, and decide whether you want to serve all appetizers and tapas, or whether you want to serve the components of a proper meal (such as salad, veg, a starch, a meat or vegetarian entrée, and a dessert.  (I never do a sit down meal for a large party.  It just doesn’t work for me.)  I like a mix – meal components, tapas style.  Everything bite size.

 

Next, start flipping through your books and tagging anything that looks good.  Don’t filer it.

 

Now, look again at the tagged items.   

 

  • Remove anything that takes more than a day to prepare. 
  • Remove anything that doesn’t have at least one make ahead component. 
  • If you have marked items that use many of the same ingredients (3 kinds of cheese puffs, for example), choose one, and remove the rest.
  • Remove anything that requires a knife to eat, if you are not having a seated meal, and people will be eating and roaming, cocktail style.

 

You should now have a variety of items that should nicely make up your meal.  I like to make sometimes 10 to 12 items.  I don’t recommend this, unless you thrive on driving yourself nuts.

 

Sending invitations is the one thing you really shouldn’t procrastinate on.  They must be sent at least 3 weeks in advance.  Make inviting everyone easy on yourself.  If you have everyone’s mail address, use a service like Evite.  If you mainly have mailing addresses, don’t make extra work for yourself by gathering everyone’s email address.  Order inexpensive pre-printed invitations online, and mail them out.  Some services will even do the mailings for you for a fee, if you provide a mailing list.  For my parties, I order pre-printed invitations, and have my guest list saved in Microsoft Word in label format.  It’s the best of both worlds.  (I prefer snail mail invitations to Evites for my own parties.  I think it’s great to receive party invitations by mail; it makes it a little more special, in my opinion.)

 

I think that’s it for now.  I’m off to order my Christmas party invitations…

November 6, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, cookbooks, planning, Tips | , , , , | 6 Comments

Procrastination

I’m currently suffering from a severe bout of procrastination planning this year’s holiday party.  I’ll tell you about it, and how to try to overcome it, tomorrow.

November 5, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, holidays | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cookbook Recommendation, Part I

Okay party people, I have only 13 minutes left to post in order to prevent missing a day, so here’s a quickie for you:

I have to give a great big ShoutOut to Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country for their foolproof recipies.  I have a dozen of their cookbooks, and I subscribe to both magazines and keep every issue.  I have cooked many things from them, and every single thing has turned out perfectly, as promised.  Even if I screw it up, which I tend to do.  If I break my rule of not trying a new recipie for a party, it is only with a Cook’s Illustrated recipie.  Buy the magazine, the cookbooks, and/or subscribe to their websites. They rock.

You can find them at:

http://www.cooksillustrated.com

http://www.cookscountry.com

November 4, 2007 Posted by | cookbook clubs, cookbooks, entertaining, food, Tips | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hostess Gifts – Bring ’em On

If you’re like most people, you may often wonder when it is appropriate to bring a hostess gift when going to someone’s home for a meal or a party.  Here’s my position:  Bring it on.

The host/ess is going to some measure of trouble to have you over, whether it’s a small affair or a large event.  You should in turn show your appreciation for his or her efforts with a small but thoughtful gift.

“But what?” you ask.  This is where it gets fun.

Everyone knows the usual:  a bottle of wine or flowers.  A bottle of vino is always nice, and I always appreciate it.  But please don’t be offended if the host/ess doesn’t open the bottle that evening.  The wine may have already been carefully chosen, and what you brought may not go well with what is being served.  But please know that your gift is appreciated.  A note on flowers:  It is a good idea to bring a small arrangement that does not smell too strongly, and that does not require being put into a vase.  An arrangement that it already in a container is fantastic, because your host/ess is busy enough; don’t make her stop what she’s doing to find a vase, snip the flowers, and arrange them. 

 But how about something more unique?  Here’s a quick list of some favorites that I have either given or received (or would love to receive – hint hint):

A package of novelty cocktail napkins.  I’m of the belief that you can’t have too many cute cocktail napkins.  And as proof, I have over 30 different unopened packages that I can’t wait to get through.

I once hosted an eat-on-the-floor Japanese dinner, and my guests brought a basket containing a variety of Japanese snack food, and a pair of long cooking chopsticks (which came in handy that very night).  It was adorable, well thoght out, and relatively inexpensive.

A low-maintenance house/outdoor plant.  One friend brought a pointsettia to my Christmas party.  We kept it outside after the holidays, and it grew up beautifully.  It was a nice reminder of this guest, and his thoughtfulness, every time I saw it.  He’s invited every year.  My grandmother brought a chrysanthemum (my birth-flower) to one of my parties many years ago, and it is still thriving to this day.  She’s invited every year as well. 😉

Cookbooks!  If you know the type of food being served, you could theme your choice.  A book about a favorite region would be nice as well.  Perhaps you are of a different ethnicity of than your host?  How about a book featuring the cuisine from your native land?

November 3, 2007 Posted by | entertaining, Family Parties, food, hostess gifts, Japanese Dinner, Tips | , , , , , | 1 Comment