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• Assignment: Read Week 8: Throwing a Party
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Can you believe it? It's December already, and the end of the Cure is upon us. Time to party!! Of course, the "housewarming" at the end of the Cure is intended not just as a chance to celebrate and share all the work you've done, but also as an incentive to help you plow through any remaining tasks and address areas where you may have fallen behind. No doubt some of you are still working hard to meet your goals. Rest assured, it will be worth it when your guests arrive to toast your achievements!
It's true, too, that this is a difficult year to think about entertaining. Most of us are dealing with compromised budgets, and after spending for the Cure itself, you may find you have little left over to throw a party. But of course, there are many ways to celebrate your Cure progress without breaking the bank. Even a very small gathering of a few close friends will be rewarding, especially since those closest to you were likely familiar with your home in its pre-Cure state.
Then again, with the holiday season arriving as well, you may be planning to host a larger bash. Here are a few ideas for how to welcome a big group without over-spending.
• Consider a brunch. Entertaining early in the day means you won't have to allow a large budget for alcohol. Even if you serve mimosas, a few bottles of an inexpensive sparkler (like prosecco) is all you will need. Fresh-baked goods like muffins contribute to the homey atmosphere you've created and are cheap and easy if you make them yourself. Mini-muffins are good for a large group; try this recipe for Mini Blueberry Lemon Muffins from the Kitchn.
• Decorate with found natural materials. Instead of buying flowers, cut plants from your garden for your table. This time of year, you don't need showy blooms; greenery and branches are perfectly elegant. If you don't have a garden, see what you can find on a walk around the neighborhood. Fallen leaves, pinecones, acorns, branches, and stones can make a lovely centerpiece. Try this post for more ideas. To bring in color, you can supplement with a single economical bunch of blooms from the supermarket, or use produce, like the citrus that's so plentiful this time of year.
• Try prosecco cocktails instead of hard liquor. If you don't want to spend a lot on hard alcohol but want something a bit more festive than plain old wine, try a little self-service bar with the fixings for sparkling wine cocktails. Prosecco and cava are cheaper than champagne, and perfect for mixing. Serve with bitters and a few special liqueurs like elderflower or cassis. If the liqueurs are too pricey, go with fruit purees, which are easy to make yourself from good quality frozen fruit. (Check out the blog Married ...with Dinner to see how the experts set up a bar like this. They even put up a cheat sheet for guests to show them how to mix the drinks.)
• Serve soup. This time of year, soup is a welcome addition to any party, and it's also an inexpensive way to feed a lot of people. You can serve it in mugs or tea cups so guests can carry it around and mingle.
What a fun and easy idea for a party!
• Limit your menu. Even at an evening party, there's no need to serve enough food for a whole meal, especially if the party starts at a later hour (say, 8pm) or at cocktail hour (5:30 or so). Consider a dessert party, which is festive but less demanding than a full dinner. Or set up a self-service bar that provides a single, hearty dish, like make-your-own panini with a couple of panini grills, bread, meat, and cheese.
Maybe an easy dinner for four is all you need to celebrate the end of your Cure!
As you're planning your end-of-Cure celebration, it's important to remember, too, that this is a celebration for you as well as for your guests. You've worked so hard in the last eight weeks, and this is your chance to relax with friends, so try not to plan a party so elaborate that you'll be stressing until the last guest leaves. Here are a few favorite tips for making your party easy on yourself:
• Serve cold or room temperature food. If you plan to serve hot food, you'll spend the whole party in the kitchen (with the possible exception of self-serve soup... see above). Try easy dishes that can be made ahead and served at room temp. Make a frittata and cut it into little cubes. Try a great classic like deviled eggs. Design a nice cheese or antipasti platter. This post from the Kitchn has more great ideas for make-ahead foods. What are some of your favorites?
• Serve one-bite hors d'oeuvres. If you're serving finger food and you want to use cocktail napkins only instead of plates, stick to hors d'oeuvres that can be consumed in a single bite. This will make for less mess to clean up later on, and it will make it easier for your guests to eat without spilling.
• Make a list and designate party prep chores. Post a list of party prep chores on your fridge and assign them to members of the household. Even if you are the only one doing the chores, this will be helpful! Write out your whole menu and the tasks involved with each dish. As you know from the rest of the Cure, it will be extremely satisfying to cross off these chores as they're completed!
• Set the table the night before. For a dinner party, set your table the night before, and for a cocktail party, get out all the dishes and serving pieces you will need. The last thing you want is to be scrounging through cabinets in the hour before the party. You can even take it a step further and make a little post-it for each platter or bowl designating them for specific dishes. That way when the time comes, all you need to do is snag the appropriate piece from your buffet.
Of course, all these tips and tricks aside, the most important thing for you to do at your post-Cure party is have fun! You deserve it, after all the hours you've put into making your home a welcoming place for yourself and your guests. So enjoy!
TODAY'S COMMENT QUESTION
What's your favorite budget-friendly party idea?
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