I live in a small house. It’s about 1100 square feet, about half of that taken up by bedrooms. So, when I decide to host a party for the 24 relatives who live within five minutes of my house, it takes some consideration. Here are things I’ve learned:
- When your combined kitchen/dining room is one of the two rooms available to guests, plan a menu that allows you to put the food out and stack the dirty dishes for later. No matter what your mother says, you do not need to serve a menu that includes multiple roasts and vegetable sides.
- Borrow extra chairs and card tables if possible. Serve foods that can be eaten while seated but not at a table.
- Place food and drink buffets so that traffic does not crash in on itself. There should be a way of getting from the end of the line to one’s seat that doesn’t involve the food line backing up to let you through.
- Skip the music, there is too much noise anyway. For warm weather parties, you can experiment with it, but when everyone is trapped inside, it doesn’t really work.
- If you’re using plastic cups, put out one that says “Your Name” on it, and stick some permanent markers inside. Everybody will get the idea and you won’t go through nearly as much soda.
- Invite specific people to park in your tiny driveway. Nobody wants to be the one to do it, but somebody should and they will if specifically invited.
- Decide in advance where coats will go and post a little note in the entrance way to that effect.
- If you have a sun porch with glass windows (as we do), and it is possible, try to heat it for the event. This was our first time hosting anything since we finished construction, and the extra space made a huge difference. I can’t wait to host Wolfie’s birthday party this summer.
- When you have enough vegetarians and health nuts in a family, you can never have enough salad. Have refills ready in the fridge.
- I personally think the best dessert is gourmet ice cream. For Zoe’s baptism on Sunday, I served icream and a very simple banana cake from The Barefoot Contessa “How Easy Is That?” book. The ice cream was from the local parlor that only serves organic stuff with 14% butterfat. The good thing about eating anything this delicious is that it makes dieting easier. All the store-bought ice cream tastes unworthy and nobody can afford to eat this stuff everyday. (I mean financially…it’s $28/gallon. Obviously if you could afford to eat the love child of whipping cream and butter every day you wouldn’t be dieting.)
- I think it’s nice to use real china, but that’s because I am fortunate to have a vintage set with an extra 15 dinner plates (27 total). It definitely made the lasagna seem classier. If you want china, or want more dinner plates, consider older sets on eBay. My set is from my mom, who spent a total of $200 on it. I like vintage china because it has a warmer look to it than most of what is available new today. If you have a complete set of new china, consider getting extra dinner plates that coordinate but don’t match.
- Don’t feel guilty about tossing leftovers. Does anybody really want to eat pasta that has been cooked, allowed to sit out for several hours, and has been breathed on by everyone? If you want to conserve food, try keeping the things that are cool/room temperature divided into smaller containers and just refill the serving dish as needed. Warm stuff that sits out probably won’t make it.
- Make an effort to check on the bathrooms every now and then. It’s amazing what people will do in your bathroom, and you’ll be embarrassed that half of your guests think that you didn’t bother to clean the toilet before the party. :/ On this note, change the hand towel on the hour, or get disposable hand towels for the day.