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I love to throw a good party, especially at home. But sometimes entertaining outside of the home is the best solution for a celebration. In addition to offering convenience for you (no clean up!) and your guests it can be an economical choice, too.
My past “out of house” party venues have included a pumpkin patch, an IMAX theatre and of course, local eateries.
Recently two coworkers and I hosted a baby shower for a fellow coworker. We knew we wanted an “Alice in Wonderland” theme, so a tea party seemed ideal. We were able to find a local English gastro pub that featured daily high tea. Because high tea is a prix fixe (fixed price) menu, we were able to work out a group rate that was about what we would have paid for food and beverage anyway.
Luckily, the mother-to-be favors a pink and brown color scheme, and the restaurant had brown and white linens. Adding touches of pink was a cinch with balloon bouquets for each table, pink butter mints sprinkled on the table and pink and brown gift bags at each place setting.
Although the bags look extravagant, they were relatively inexpensive to put together. We found tea infusers online for a couple dollars each, then added a custom blended tea that we called “Lavender Lullaby” from a local tea shop. I printed bag tags with my color printer in just a fe minutes. Filling individual tea bags took the most time and patience! Then it was just a matter of setting up an assembly line of bags (from www.nashvillewraps.com) and dropping in tea bags, the infuser and a brochure about tea (free from the tea store), then topping them off with some pink tissue from my local Party City store.
Because high tea is served in courses, it kept the afternoon on track and we could skip the shower games. Instead, we opted for “new mom advice cards” that every guest filled out. This also encouraged conversation at the tables. Later we organized all the cards into a photo album.
Guests stayed briefly to chat and wrap up the party after the gifts were opened. We paid the bill and were free to go. The guests appreciated the central location of the restaurant and the abundance of parking, which can sometimes be an issue at a private residence.
It was a very satisfying hostess experience!
Besides leaving the clean up for the restaurant, entertaining in a restaurant provides a certain finality to the festivities—no guests lingering on your sofa until the wee hours. And you can always leave, even when the last guest refuses to go. (Anyone who’s had the person who just won’t leave when all you can think about is going to sleep because it was a really long day/party knows what I mean.)
Here are some tips for entertaining in a restaurant:
Pick a theme and a color scheme; it simplifies decisions about decorations.
- Coordinate with the venue’s colors where possible.
- Keep the favors simple and easy to transport.
- Use ice breakers or other devices to encourage table conversation.
- Keep the menu simple; work with the venue for a prix fixe menu.
- Split the cost and the responsibilities with other hostesses.
- Confirm what time you may arrive to decorate and set up, and see if restaurant staff is available to assist.
- Confirm the number of tables you will need, including a gift table, and any special requests.
- Many restaurants have private dining rooms for parties at no extra cost.
The next time you’d love to have a get together or a celebration, consider saving yourself a lot of time and effort and look to entertain outside the home.Read More
It’s a throwback to more formal times for sure, but using placecards to seat your guests at Easter dinner is a fun way to encourage conversation and add some color to the table. Here are three super easy creations.
Dyed egg: Write the name or initial of the guest on a dyed egg (you already have them on hand; why not use them?). Place the egg in an egg cup or, as here, a liqueur glass. Or, look for paper egg stands where you purchase dye kits.
Candy carrot: Cut orange tissue paper into 8 inch squares. Place a scant handful of jelly beans or chocolate candies in the center of the paper, gather into a loose cone shape and tie with green curling ribbon. Cut a piece of green paper and a piece of velum into leaf shapes; write the guest’s name on the velum leaf. Layer them together, punch a hole and attach to the ribbon. Curl the ends of the ribbon for carrot tops!
Bunny buddy: Who can resist a solid chocolate bunny on Easter? Simply write the guest’s name on a white tag (available at office supply stores) and tie the tag to the bunny’s neck with curling ribbon. Your guests can take their treat home to enjoy later, or indulge (ears first, of course!) right at the table.Read More
Creating a tablescape for a buffet can set the tone for the party (good or bad!). From candles and flowers to creating varying heights for your serving pieces, you know how to decorate a table for a cocktail party or holiday soiree.
If you’re hosting a hungry crowd this Sunday for “The Big Game,” you may consider skipping decorating your table. After all, it’s a casual event — no big deal, right? But remember, no matter how big or small the party, thoughtful table decor makes your guests feel appreciated, like you went the extra mile (or yard, as the case may be) for them.
Here’s an idea that uses a few craft supplies you may already have on hand to create a simple yet fun and effective tablescape for your game day feast. Cover the table with a simple green tablecloth (this one is from my Christmas stash). Use white ribbons to create yard lines, as many as you like. Here I used white adhesive-backed felt letters (about $3 to $5 at craft stores) to spell out football-related phrases. Touchdown, Go Team, Go Fight Win, Sack Em, Play, Kick, Pass, Rush … you get the picture. (Or, you could put numbers by the yard lines, beginning in the middle of the table with 50 and working your way to the ends in increments of 10. ) Here I added a couple of “flags on the play” with yellow napkins in lieu of flowers.
All in all, it was easy to pull together in just a few minutes and I think it looks quite cute.
When planning a sit-down dinner — whether for a holiday, a dinner party or a festive celebration — a beautiful table setting makes the perfect foundation for a memorable evening.
On any given holiday, one of my tasks was to set the dining room table. Setting the dinner table every night was so often a chore for me, but holidays were different. We ate in the dining room. We used the china, the real silver silverware, crystal glasses, miniature salt and pepper shakers, and even individual china ashtrays (it was the 1980s and smoking was still “in”.)
I would gleefully open my mom’s china cabinet and sit on the floor, pulling out all the china plates and serving dishes, quizzing my mom about the menu so I could select the right silver utensil to serve each of her creations.
And then, without fail, I had to reach for “the book.”
My mom had a beautifully illustrated book entitled Table Settings, Entertaining, and Etiquette by Patricia Easterbrook Roberts, and on holidays it was my guide. I had to get the book to remember how exactly to set the table for a formal dinner (or at least more formal than what we were used to every day). I would flip through the pages, admiring the well-appointed tables and dreaming of dinner at the White House, until I found the place setting diagrams. Below, I’ve recreated what I would call a semi-formal place setting which has become my standard for holiday dinners.
Here are a few reminders when setting your table:
- Lay utensils in the order in which they will be used from the outside in. (Think about the scene in “Pretty Woman” where the hotel manager is teaching Vivian how to eat like a lady.) In the above diagram, the place is set for a soup course, followed by a salad course, the main course and a dessert course. Alternatively, the spoon could be used for a palate cleanser in between a salad course and the entrée. The spoon is generally on the outside, regardless of the sequence in which it is used.
- Knife blades should face the plate.
- The above diagram uses a charger plate under the dinner plate, and a simple, folded napkin. You could also use a decorative napkin ring or tie the napkin with ribbon or twine and place it on the plate.
- The water glass or goblet is placed at the tip of the dinner knife, and the wine goblet next to the water glass.
- Place a butter knife on each bread and butter plate. One of my trademarks is to use different butter knives at each place, since I collect antique silver butter knives.
- For the dessert service, I prefer the European tradition of placing a fork and spoon at the top of the plate.
- The utensils should be placed one inch from the edge of table, and each place setting should be evenly placed around the table, and directly across from one another.
Here’s the secret of busy hostesses: set the table at least the night before the dinner. I suggest this practice if you are using a formal dining room or you won’t need the kitchen table for meal prep (but I don’t know one cook who doesn’t use the table for something). If you can’t set the table in advance, get all the plates, napkins and utensils ready to go and stack them on one side of the table and cover them with a towel. This will make setting the table a snap on the big day.
For more smart solutions for busy people for gift giving, holidays and decorating, go to www.smartsolutionsforbusypeople.com.Read More