simple holiday party

Want to throw a party but find yourself short on time, strapped for cash, or “not very creative?” (If I had a nickel for every time someone offered that as their excuse!) I’m going to run you through a super-simple party plan in case your calendar has a miraculously empty spot on Christmas afternoon or New Year’s Eve, a spot begging to be given a little something special to do.

tray with brown paper, gold circles, wine glasses

Buy as little as possible.  Start by decorating something you already have.  Above, I took a white melamine tray that has a garish red-and-black floral design on it and cut a circle of brown paper to fit the inside.  Then, in a whimsical mood, I painted gold spots on the paper.  You could use wrapping paper for this, or even lay out a pretty napkin or piece of fabric from the scrap pile instead.  And don’t worry about whether the stemware matches or whether people will think you’re weird for serving port in shot glasses.  (They won’t care.)

For at-one-with-nature texture, I gathered milk weed pods and pinecones on walks through the park.  I plopped the milk weed into an empty vase and heaped the pinecones on a little serving dish, nothing fancy.  Better than glittery plastic “branches,” no?

milkweed and pinecones

Now for food.  On the coffee table in the living room I set out a big bowl of fruit and two juice glasses filled with pretzel rods.

pretzels and paper bowl of citrus

Most of the food stayed on the dining table, which was covered not with a tablecloth but with a flat sheet folded in half.  If you don’t have either of those to match your party decor, explore your other textiles.  Is there a scarf you could use as a table runner?  A handful of placemats or trivets you could put under your serving dishes for a unified look?

The rules are: there are no rules!  If the size and colors look nice together, objects are what you make of them.  Cups are candleholders, plates sitting on vases are cake stands, and so on.  This cheese platter features four types (cabra al vino, edam, iberico, and manchego) labeled with pixie signs made of cardstock, toothpicks, and scotch tape.  I rest my case.

four cheeses, labeled with toothpicks on a cake stand

Next to the savories sat a heap of sweets–brownies made from a mix, cut into bite-size pieces and jumbled up instead of tidily arranged.

full spread--crackers, cheese, brownies, wine

I “splurged” on homemade crackers.  If I’d been busier the day before this party, I’d have had no qualms about opening a sleeve of store-bought crackers, but I had time to make mine.  These are extraordinary, and it’s not my recipe so I can say that.  I made half of them with sesame seeds and salt, the other half with crushed rosemary and shredded Parmesan.  SO good!  I had to hide them so there would be some left for company.

A couple bottles of wine were the “big” expense here (less than $20 total), but a 7Up/juice cocktail or even the standby pot of coffee would do.  The thing to remember is that as long as your guests are people you like and not just people you want to impress, they’re coming over to be together.  They like to have a drink in their hands; they appreciate a delicious something-or-other to nibble on, but above all the point is to make them feel at ease.  So put down Martha Stewart Living and come to the table.  Enjoy your friends, your family, and your stress-free self!  Therein lies a joyful freedom that no designer can coerce.

Merry Christmas to all!

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silky sweet

I promised to show you how we capped off that New Year’s Eve feast.  Let’s start at the very beginning:

That’s two large dark chocolate bars broken up in a pot with half a bag of marshmallows.  Mmm…but it gets better.

Then half a cup of milk, a little medium heat, some stirring, stirring, stirring, and…silky dark chocolate sauce.  It sits in the fridge to cool, then you stir some more (and more and more) to incorporate a tub of whipped topping.  All of it.  And you get so much glorious, dark, chocolaty filling that it almost mounds over the edge of its crust.

Chill it some more, then share it with friends.  If you scraped the pot clean and licked the spatula, they’ll never know…just pretend that you’ve been altruistic about this “I’ll bring dessert” thing all along.  They’ll be too blissed out to question it anyway.

ringing it in!

kung pao {pork bkgnd} sat by MFahrenholtz
kung pao {pork bkgnd} sat, a photo by MFahrenholtz on Flickr.

We launched 2012 with great friends and delicious food. Behold, the Kung Pao chicken, Broccoli with Garlic & Ginger, and Sweet & Sour Pork that joined a table also loaded with Sesame Beef, Everyday Green Beans, and Cool & Tangy Cucumbers. Oh me, oh my!