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

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

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

Post-Party Stress Disorder

FightingWindmills has sent me the following question in support of my NaBloPoMo effort:

 “Okay–I want to know how to deal with after party laziness and letdown. How, as a host, do you deal with cleanup and avoid over-analyzing your party’s level of suckiness/success?”

 After a party, post-party stress is common, as is total disorder in the house.  From the disastrous dining room to the unkempt kitchen, you are sure to feel overwhelmed.  You just cleaned your house, and now, only a day later, it’s a mess, and you have to do it all again.

First, you probably have one definite advantage over me:  Your party was likely on a Friday or Saturday.  As a musician’s wife, all my parties are on Sundays, which means work the next day.  So the mess will sit a while. Eww.  Now, we have a disastrous dining room, and unkempt kitchen, and putrid party platters.

So here’s what we do:

1.   Share, freeze, refrigerate, dump, or compost your leftover food, if there is any.  I prefer to share, since I am probably tired of looking at the stuff by the time end-of-party rolls around.  Please remember that not all leftovers are salvageable.  Sweaty meats and cheeses are best tossed, as is macaroni salad, potato salad, sour cream dips, etc.

2.  Rinse your serveware to get all chunks off.  This is best done with a glass of wine in one hand.

3.  Hit the hay. Or the couch.  Or the bath.  Or something.  If it’s Friday or Saturday night, you have an entire weekend ahead of you.  You’ve just thrown a fantabulous bash.  You’ve done quite enough for one evening.

4.  Next morning, after breakfast, start washing.  If you’ve got a dishwasher (that your serveware fits into), great.  You’ve got another advantage over me.  If you, like me, live in the world of analog dishwashing, start with the largest items.  The sense of accomplishment you get from clearing off half your counter space by washing only 3-5 items is immeasurable, and will make the rest of the task seem less daunting.  (Note:  Hopefully, you have been able to use at least some disposable serveware.  There are some very nice, inexpensive plastic platters and bowls that caterers use that you can toss post-party.  A store like Smart & Final is a great place to start.)

As to FW’s question about how to avoid over-analyzing the success or failure of your party, that’s a little tougher.  If people leave happy, you’ve done great.  If they come back, you’ve done fantastic.  If no one wants to leave, you’ve done too well, and need to tone it down.  Or start handing out dishtowels and aprons. 🙂

Im my opinion, one entertains for their own pleasure.  You should never entertain to try to impress someone else or please someone else.  That only leaves you with paranoia, wondering whether you did well enough.  So, if you entertain because you want to, and because you enjoy it, and you are happy at the end of the party, you have had a successful party!

November 2, 2007 Posted by | after the party, entertaining, food, Tips | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our Fourth of July Party Was A Blast!

This year, I wanted our annual Fourth of July party to be something worth reporting to my devoted readers.

 

So I approached the party as though I were helping someone else simplify his or her own party.  (Although I tend to really practice what I preach, I do have moments where I really overreach – anyone remember the homemade gnocchi from our Christmas party a few years back?)

 

First, I considered the starting time.  Fireworks are legal where we live, so the party tends to run late.  In previous years, we started pretty early, as early as 1:00, so people tended to leave before the fireworks got started.  In addition, I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to not only get everything prepared, but to relax before the party.  A long shower, time to put on makeup and style your hair, all go a long way towards being a relaxed hostess.  So I decided that this year, we would start at 5:00.  I had plenty of time, and nearly everyone who came stayed for fireworks. 

 

 

As in many other families, our Fourth of July party is a barbeque.  However, depending on what you are cooking, that tends to put a lot of burden on the griller.  This year, I wanted to take that pressure off Dear Husband, so he could be freer to socialize.  So here’s what we did:

Our main courses were sloppy joes and Italian sausage sandwiches.  (We also did hot dogs for the chilluns.)  The sloppy joe mixture (5 batches, recipe from Cook’s Country, October/November 2005) was cooked the night before and the morning of the party, and stored in zipper bags in the fridge (the fewer dirty dishes, the better).  About an hour before the party, I nuked each batch to take the edge off the cold, and tossed them all into a crock pot, set to low.  Done!

 

For the sausages, I precooked them almost, but not quite, completely, by steaming them with a little white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper.  I held them in the fridge, and all Dear Husband had to do was finish them on the grill.  Then, he’s free!

 

As for the side dishes, which I adore making, devilled eggs are a must.  (My favorite recipe:  Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1999, Better Homes and Gardens Books.)  The eggs can be boiled well in advance.  Then, make the filling the day before, and store it right in the pastry bags you’ll use to pipe the filling into the egg halves.  Don’t forget to cover the tip of the pastry bag, and clip the top shut.  Easy, right?  My tip for a upper smooth filing:  put the yolks through a potato ricer, rather than mash them with your fork or a pasty blender.

 

 

For a BBQ, chips and dip are simple enough, and sure to be eaten.  A fruit plate is easy, if you buy very nice looking pre-cut fruit.  Pile it on a plate, and you’re finished!  Olives are also always easy – buy and dump.  Just be sure to get a nice quality olive.  Try them from an olive bar (like at Bristol Farms or an Italian deli).

 

I have a cheese plate at every party, whether it’s the Fourth of July party, Christmas Brunch, or Bachelor Sunday.  (More on Bachelor Sunday in another post.)  Cheeses are great, if you get the right ones.  If you are planning to leave the cheese out for a long time, such as all afternoon during your BBQ, forget cheddar and jack.  They will start to sweat, and become oily and unappetizing.   Try soft ripened cheeses, like brie, which typically become better as they sit out.  A great soft-ripened cheese to try (if you can get past the barnyard aroma) is epoisses.  If it’s properly ripened, it will simply “melt” as it sits out.  Blues are also great.  Try Saint Agur, a nice gorgonzola dolce, or a Stilton.  Use water crackers – you want to really taste the cheese.

 

M&Ms are fun – I purchased some custom printed ones this year.  They are expensive (about $12 for 7 oz), but of course custom printing isn’t necessary.   Nibbles like bar snacks or trail mix are great.

 

Keep your beverages simple.  A few juices are great for kids or as mixers.  Vodka, tequila gin, scotch and rum are good spirits to have around.  We also like some more “exotic” ones around, for fun, such as Hpnotiq, Midori, and Sambuca.  Don’t forget beer, sodas, and plenty of water, for a summer party.

 

 

I serve dessert and coffee with the fireworks, and I keep it pretty simple.  This year, my sister made a beautiful red, white and blue trifle, and I purchased a sugar-free angel food cake, and topped it with sliced, macerated strawberries.  Both were simple, elegant and tasty.

 

All in all, our simplified bash was a ton of fun.  Nearly everything was finished before the first guests arrived; the only remaining task was plating a few items, which we all did together.  And, most importantly, I had plenty of time to spend with our guess – and isn’t that what it’s all about?

July 22, 2007 Posted by | 4th of July, barbeque, BBQ, entertaining, Family Parties, fireworks, food, Tips, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment