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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

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The hostess-y arts come easily and naturally to some, and not to others. If you have to wonder on which side of the comma I fall, here's a hint: I went through a whole deck of 3 X 5 index cards between the day I marked my calendar "bday party" and the hour the first guests walked through the door.

For those of you who are similarily impaired, here's the playsheet.

Two weeks before:

Sent out invitations. I actually put the party on the calendar and started working on a guest list about a month in advance. I had to really work at not going overboard with it. Our house is small and my affections are wide. To keep myself from going crazy, I wrote myself a lot of rainchecks for future dinner guests.

I also had to keep from overthinking it. My criteria was simple: to spend my birthday with people who delight me. The minute I veered over into worrying if so-and-so would have anything to say to so-and-so, I shut it down. I think weddings and certain kinds of funeral gatherings are so memorable and special precisely because they throw unlikely people together.

If you can arrange to be married to a graphic designer in time for your party, I recommend it. Patrick is too modest to let me post the illustration he did of us for the invitations, but it was a hoot.

One week before:

I started making and hanging these pom poms. They are just giant Mexican paper flowers, layers and layers of tissue paper folded up like a fan and then trimmed and fluffed. If you grew up in the 70s, like me, you probably remember fluffing the Kleenex version of these for some older cousin's wedding or graduation.

The day before:

Cooked. In the past when we've staged large gatherings, they've always been potluck, b.y.o.b. This time, I really wanted to let everyone off the hook. I looked for finger-friendly recipes, and came up with this menu:

Romas and Goats. New favorite appetizer recipe. I made these with miniature Romas, halved and stuffed with the chevre and panko mixtures.

Onion Frittata Bites from Cooking Light (which I didn't—I used whole eggs instead of egg substitute, and there may have been heavy cream involved, but there are no witnesses)

Bloody Marys from Martha Stewart (as a rough guide —toward the end, I was just tossing a shake of this and a dash of that in a pitcher)

I did everything in batches of four dozen. The brunch menu was filled out with a spiral ham, fruit salad and miniature biscuits baked from frozen. And, of course, the birthday tower of five dozen Shipley's Do-nuts, chocolate glaze with sprinkles.

The night before:

I hung the rest of the poms, boxed the favors, arranged the furniture and put out all the serving platters and barware on the table and sidebar with sticky notes reminding me what food went with what piece. It was kind of Rainman-meets-Martha Stewart.

The morning of:

Everyone pitched in with cleaning house. Patrick picked up the donuts (ordered a few days in advance), and I stacked them on a big foil-covered cake decorators' platter with ribbon hot-glued around the edge. I had already worked out at what times and in what order everything needed to be heated (yes, there was actually a chart —my non-linearly inclined brain was stretched to its outermost limit), so from 9 am to 11 am, the oven was in steady service.

In between, I got dressed and finished decorating. All hands were on deck, except the Littlest Who, who slept late. When he woke up, he wandered through the rearranged furniture, flowers and poms-poms to find me outside, wrapping crepe streamers around the porch pillars.

"Mom!" he said, eyes wide. "Is all this for me?"

Of course I told him it was.

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Blogger Jennifer H said...

I can still make those Kleenex flowers - teaching my daughter to make them.

Love the ones you made. Sounds like it was a comfortable, lovely party.

1:01 AM  
Blogger ingrid said...

That sounds wonderful. I like the play by play. :P I do stuff like decorate immediately because it's what I like.

4:36 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

I'm completely stealing some of your ideas and recipes - you're about to become a Bolivian legend! :-)

We are related - I had sticky notes on all of my Thanksgiving serving dishes the night before, but they were in Spanish (incorrectly spelt "turkey" though).

I love it that you told the Littlest Who that it was for him...

6:23 AM  
Blogger lenniekat said...

Party-planning does take lots of focus, index cards, and a marathon of prep work. Don't let anyone tell you they just 'throw it together' - the difference is that you tell it all... makes me think it possible to host my own - hmmm...

9:05 AM  
Blogger nicole said...

OK, I am officially in the mood to party, and I'm craving Shipley's do-nuts like mad. Thanks for sharing your secrets, Miss K. "Is this all for me?" - too darn cute!

10:15 AM  
Blogger Geoff Meeker said...

Wow... I have been involved in events with a guest list of 300 that were less organized than this. You may say "Rainman-meets-Martha Stewart" but I think you could go to work as an event planner!

12:50 PM  

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