I had promised to the comments in an earlier post, that I'd get the most awesome party planner (who happens to be my little sister) to write a guest post in this blog. Its finally here, after some major arm-twisting and serial-level emotional blackmailing. Do let us know what you think!
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I don't blog. I am a mom. I have a 7 year old and a 7 month old. So if I foresee 5 minutes of silence, I'd sip a cup of coffee or maybe read the newspaper, or paint my nails (sigh! The list is endless).
The only blogs I am able to follow belong to my sister and best friend. (Ok, ok.... I get browbeaten into following them too!). This post is the result of a sleep deprived promise that I made to a sister who was equally sleep deprived, on a guest post. So here goes....
My love to entertain is a result of years of gaping and gawking at some specially talented friends who took throwing parties to the next level. And then having sister who used to be a hotelier made it so much easier.
Planning an evening with a house full of guests and a mouthwatering menu be quite intimidating. Ofcourse, it usually ends up being a fun evening (for everyone else. For me, it is nothing short of a 1000 meter sprint followed by a round of kick boxing!).
Here, I have some tips which I learnt the hard way, and may be quite useful to save you quite a bit of trouble.
- I usually start off with a TO-DO list weeks (or months, if its a surprise) before
- I make 2 lists. One for me and and one my better half. (Yes, I am Hitler's first cousin) That way I don't nag him randomly for weeks. All I need to do is give subtle but frequent hints on 'the list'. He knows what his role is, and things get done on time. (Which means his TO-Do list would have date / time /store name and ..maybe even directions :D )
- The first and most important thing in the list is the When/Where/Who list. This will also tell you whether your guest list needs to be trimmed down based on space availability.
- Once you get that figured out, start with the invitations. Personally, I prefer taking the trouble to pick up the phone and call. Though its takes up your time, it is much easier and you will most likely get an immediate response. But then if you are inviting those busy friends who spend their life in conference rooms (or the ones who are easier to get on their smart phones ..... try evite)
- After you get a rough idea about the headcount THEN you plan the menu.
- Make realistic decisions on how much you can manage on your own. If its a surprise for your dear ones, I would definitely consider preparing a few of his/her favourite dishes on my own. And maybe order out the rest.
- Ofcourse, the food and drinks menu is a very important part of a party and it all depends on the occasion and who are the invitees and their preferences.
- If drinks are being served I prefer having lots of appetizers / snacks and a simple dinner menu. End it with a heavy, sinful dessert - people remember desserts more than any other course of the meal. (More on menu planning on later a later post, when I get another threatening call from dear sis again)
- A fizzy mocktail punch served in plastic glasses for kids keeps them away from the 'adult' drinks. This is why I love the Internet.You get all kinds of recipes and ideas for fruit punches. Add a splash of vodka and grenadine into it for the ladies and voila! you have a mini cocktail party going. (Men, it is observed, don't need too much prodding to discover and deplete the bar counter, so just make sure you have enough stock of various brands, ice, glasses and you're done)
- So anyway, once you have decided the menu (which would include starters, drinks, dinner and dessert), start a few days ahead and take an inventory of what you have and what you need.
- Shop for things like paper cups, plates, spoons, napkins, toothpicks, cocktail sticks etc. (anything that has a long shelf life) well ahead of time.
- Decide on what Serving bowls and cutlery you will use and whether you have adequate numbers. (Borrow instead of buying, in case you fall short - you obviously won't be doing this madness often! )
- Write down dates on your TO-DO list for the grocery shopping, cleaning up the house, pulling out hand towels, bed covers, cushion covers, tablecloth etc. (Rule : Don't wait for a golden jubilee to flaunt all that stuff you've been hoarding - these days there are stain removal processes that can restore beauty back into that gorgeous silk bed cover, if the kids stain it with chocolate!)
- A day before the party, move furniture around and set it keeping in mind the seating requirements, the room for guests to roam, the bar area etc.
- Don't forget to keep an eye on your spouse's to-do list too ..See how that's getting along. (This is about the time you can start nagging)
- A mini snack area for the kids a little away from the adults table is a life saver. Preferably a rug thrown into a safe corner, with board games, music and loads of finger foods. If all kids are of approximately the same age, a good cartoon movie and popcorn would be a splendid idea.
- The day before the party is also the best time to decide what each member of the family will wear. (Yes, you have to do that as well!)
- On the day of the big bash, get rid of the kids before you start (While I sometimes am tempted to take that literally, please don't quote me if you do so!) I mean, for a few hours let grandparents do the spoiling or maybe a friend who wouldn't mind having them over.
- Try to finish the cooking and cleaning at least 3 hours before the party. This gives you sometime to relax and dress up. (Just because you spent last night scrubbing the bathroom floor does not mean you ought to look that way!) This also ensures that your house won't smell like a restaurant when the guests walk in.
- And get your kids back (yeah! I know - that's the part that makes me cringe too) and get 'em showered and dressed ..... unless you've packed their party wear along with them.
- Don't forget to charge the camera batteries and delegate the pictures portfolio to a friend (Your spouse, in all probability, will be rushing out to complete something in the list the got missed out). Chances are you will forget all about picture in the mad rush.
- In the very end, set up the bar, put out some of the ready snacks like peanuts, wafers, vegetable batons, papad etc. (this will buy you some time to serve the hot appetizers), light those vanilla-cinnamon candles you have been saving for that special occasion, some fresh flowers in strategic locations, and some light music (you can play the dhinka-chika later, when everyone is drunk)..
- This would also be a good time to have that pep talk with your kids about some ground rules and how to behave when the guests arrive.
- Once that's checked off your list, pour yourself a glass of wine / cup of coffee. Put your feet up and Smile - you my friend, are about to be showered with lavish compliments!