• Cure Clock: 1/2 week remaining
• Assignment: Read Chapter 11, pps. 222-236
• Give your home a good cleaning
• Prepare for your party
• Curees: 900!
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Welcome to the home stretch, the party is about to begin! If you're like me and have a bit of perfectionist in you, your home is probably not exactly the way you want it to be, even after eight weeks of curing, cleaning, editing, and rearranging. However, put your OCD tendencies in the outbox for the time being, and realize that this is not the time to obsess over miniscule details, but rather a time to welcome in good company to celebrate what you have accomplished during the past eight weeks. Whether it's having one friend for an intimate dinner or throwing a swank soiree with a host of companions, your newly cured home is about to be inaugurated in style, and these are a few tricks to keep the party planning effective AND enjoyable...
Before you begin planning the details of your party, pour yourself a glass of wine, and slowly take yourself on a tour of your home envisioning how you'd like each space to be used when your guests arrive and trying to envision it through their eyes. For example, starting in the entryway walk to the place that you've designated for coats, bags, etc., next move to the space where you will be serving drinks, then walk to the bathroom, next walk to the kitchen, and then end at the dining table.
As you tour, look out for "obstacles" that you might overlook from the day to day perspective, but that may phase a guest. For example, in our last home we had a tricky bathroom faucet that we had to maneuver with a bit of force to turn off. My husband and I had grown so used to the trick that we didn't think twice about it until we had a big bash, and had at least three embarrassed friends seek us out during the course of the party for help turning off the water —yikes!
Prepping Your Home for Guests:
It's the little mundane details that always frazzle me at the last minute when I'm getting ready for guests, so I find that getting them out of the way before I start thinking about the fun details like candle displays and hors d'oeuvres arrangements makes for a much more pleasant planning experience.
• empty all trash cans
• unload the dishwasher
• clear the counters of everything that you won't be using for the party
• take out all the serving dishes that you will be using and put them on the dining table for the time being
• give the bathroom a good cleaning (do this if nothing else, it's important!)
• put in a new roll of toilet paper. If you're having a large gathering, place a basket of extra toilet paper in an accessible place.
• tidy all rooms of the house: make the beds, pull the shower curtain closed, puts books back on shelves, clear console and counter surfaces, etc.
I love to cook and I love to eat, so getting the food right for a party is always important to me. However, picking the perfect recipe can be overwhelming, especially if you aren't used to cooking for other people. Here are a few of my go-to, fail-safe, one dish recipes that can easily be adjusted to accomodate a large gathering or a small dinner group. They also require minimum time away from guests so that I can enjoy their company as soon as they walk in the door.
Martha Stewart's Roast Beef with Shallots and New Potatoes
• small red new potatoes
• shallots, peeled and trimmed, and halved lengthwise
• olive oil
• eye-of-round beef roast (I've substituted a number of different lean cuts to delicious effect)
You can adjust the quantities based on the size of your group.
Find the complete recipe here.
Traditional Ecuadorian Ceviche (shortcut version)
• 1 red onion, sliced into very thin rings
• 1 large tomato, cored and diced
• 1 medium avocado, diced
• 1 lb. cooked shrimp, tails removed
• 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (you can substitute flat leaf parsley for the cilantro if you prefer the taste)
• 1/4 cup lemon-lime seltzer (my mother-in-law uses Sprite instead)
• juice from 1 medium orange
• juice from 4 limes
• juice from 1 lemon
• 1/2 tsp. cumin
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil
• 1/4 cup of ketchup (or vegetable cocktail, like V8)
• splash of Tabasco sauce (optional)
-place thinly sliced red onions in a bowl, toss with enough salt to cover the onions completely, and chill for a minimum of 20 minutes
-combine ketchup/V8, seltzer, orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, and tabasco (if using)
-when onions have been chilled rinse off all the salt and add to the liquid mixture
-add the rest of the ingredients, stir lightly, and let chill (20 minutes will do, but the longer the better to let the flavors really blend)
• group items in the way they will be used. For example, glasses next to the drinks, and small plates or cocktail napkins next to each tray of hors d'oeuvres.
• spread out snack stations throughout the room. People tend to gather around the food or drinks, so spread out the options. For example, having a cheese and cracker platter on the coffee table, a hummus and veggie platter on the console, and a bowl of nuts or olives on the side tables will invite people to sit down and and enjoy the conversation rather than hovering over a crowded snack counter.
• if you can avoid it, don't set up food or bar stations in the kitchen because you will most likely need to do a few minutes of food prep before serving the main meal, and you want a clear space to do so.
The Party Item Shopping List:
• fresh flowers
• candles for the table, the bathroom, and anywhere else you want them. Personally, I think it's nearly impossible to have too many candles.
• grocery items that you need for your meal and hors d'ouerves
• arrange your flowers. I like to place simple flower arrangements— single gerber daisies in individual vases are one of my favorites— on the dining table as well as on the console, and the coffee table. They are usually the first thing I notice when I walk into a room.
• set up your candles. As I mentioned before, there is no such thing as too many candles :) I like having candles lit in the bathroom, on the dining table, on the mantel, and along window sills.
• set the table. A basic, traditional place setting includes a plate in the middle, a fork on the left of the plate (two if you prefer one for salad), a knife to the right of the plate, a dinner spoon to the right of the knife (if necessary), a water glass above the knife and spoon, a wine glass to the right of the water glass, and a dessert spoon above the plate.
• Position yourself nearest the kitchen so you can easily slide into the kitchen if you need any last minute items.
I think the cocktail hour is one of the most important parts of a get together — and not just because I like to drink. It sets the tone of the evening, and if you are able to converse, relax and enjoy this time, so will your guests.
When guests compliment you on your hard work and house accomplishments, accept their compliments graciously — a simple "thank you so much" works beautifully — rather than going into apologetic detail about how it's not really done or perfect yet. I have to constantly keep this point in mind myself as there always seems to be something I feel that I could have done better. Being a gracious host is one of the nicest things you can do to make your guests feel at ease.
Just for Fun: I will forever be a thirteen year old girl when it comes to quizzes— I simply can't resist their allure— so if you too are so quizically-inclined or just need a distraction, check out the What Kind of Hostess are You Quiz from—who else—Martha Stewart.
(Images: 1: top left: Martha Stewart, top right: Dorthe Alstrup via Ruby Press, lower left: House Beautiful, lower right: Real Simple, 2: Domino, 3: chottomotto via flickr pool, 4,7, 9 (of Samantha Friedman's Urban Elegance Design House Dining Room): Leah Moss, 5, 6, 8: Martha Stewart, 10: Atlanta Bartlett )