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How to throw a Cocktail Party!

Cocktail Party 101

The cocktail party is a perfect way of entertaining for occasions as diverse as a casual after work get-together to a New Year’s Eve extravaganza. Even though these types of parties are a throwback from the 50’s they are still popular and a staple in the hospitality industry. A perfect adult event that can be fun and rewarding.

Taking advice from caterers as to how they plan on the amount for drinks and how much to buy for cocktail parties, they use a formula that roughly estimates 10 people will consume 20 drinks at the average cocktail party. Make that 40 drinks if it’s a full evening affair, usually including dinner. This is based on a typical 1.5 Ounce shot of hard liquor.

So, how many drinks can you get out of a bottle? A 750 ml. bottle will yield about 17 cocktails. A liter bottle will yield 22. A 1.75-liter bottle will yield 39. For a party of wine drinkers, plan on stocking 5 bottles (750 ml) for 10 people. You should get roughly 5 servings per bottle. For beer drinkers, stock 5 six-packs for ten people, based on a twelve-ounce serving. If you have the budget and inclination, you can stock a full bar. However, a more economical idea is to offer a selection of cocktails that can be made from one or two primary types of liquor or to limit yourself to a wine and/or beer party.

If you do want to stock a full bar, you could go wild purchasing all kinds of exotic liqueurs and alcoholic concoctions, but most people’s imbibing needs can be met by having the following on hand: Vodka, Rum, Gin, Scotch, Bourbon, Blended Whiskey & Tequila. The mixers necessary for these alcohols will depend on the cocktails you plan on offering. I would suggest Juices (Orange, Grapefruit, Tomato Juice), Club Soda, Tonic Water, Cola, Lemon Lime Soda, Ginger Ale. Make sure you have Lemon and Lime slices and Olives available. Always have bottled water on hand.

If you’ve still got budget and want to offer more cocktail choices, consider choosing 5 of the most popular creations (maybe one’s your friends ask for) and stock ingredients to make them. According to bartenders 5 of the top sellers are Dry Martini (flavored one’s too), Old Fashioned, Margarita, Manhattan & Daiquiri.

Now that we have covered what to drink, how about some food? Most Cocktail parties are short and include snack food. Choose one recipe that requires cooking, add one or two that only require simple assembly. The rest of the snacks can be store-bought. And look for recipes that you can make in advance. A platter of crudités is always a good idea along with bowls of mixed nuts & pretzels. Oh, and skip the cheese board—it’ll just get messy. If you want to put out one nice cheese, though, go for it with some nice crackers and maybe some olives and salami. A nice finishing touch to an evening of cocktails is a dessert buffet and selection of coffee and teas. (btw if you need a large coffee machine we have them for rent!)

Enjoy Hosting!

Cake Baking Tips!

Here are some great tips for better cake baking.

Always preheat your oven at least 12 to 15 minutes before baking your cake. To ensure an easy release coat your pan with cooking spray and flour. For an extra smooth top cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the pan, grease the paper too. Bake on the middle rack and do not crowd if if you are cooking multiple pans.

It is a good idea to bake your cake a day in advance, fresh cakes can be to soft to work with. You can freeze your cake up to three months in advance if you wrap the cooled cake in a layer of plastic and a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Defrost completely in your refrigerator before frosting.

To cut a baked cake into a shape, use a serrated knife in a gentle sawing motion. To prevent the cake from slipping while you frost it, dab a little frosting onto the platter or cake board before you place the cake down. For a crumb-free frosting, crumb-coat your cake. To do this, spread a very thin layer of frosting on the cake, then refrigerate it. When the frosting is hard, frost and decorate the cake.

For a standard smooth frosted cake always start on the top with a straight-edged metal spatula. Begin with a pile of frosting in the center and spread to the sides. Next, frost the sides of the cake, working from the top to bottom. Smooth the frosting by dipping the spatula into a glass of hot water and running it at a slight angle across the top and sides. The trick is to use a single motion across the cake, rather than several small ones.

If you are adventurous, I am including two fun cakes that you can try your hand at. The first is a Hot Dog and Fries cake. Make this by using a baked loaf pan cake. Cut out the center of the cake and place two Twinkies in the center. Frost them with red frosting (mix red and brown together to make hot dog red). Add a squirt of mustard (yellow frosting) and some relish (diced gumdrops or fruit slices). For the fries cut off the outer brown edges of the loaf cake and use the reserved center piece you cut out for the Twinkies. Slice into French fry pieces and brown on all sides under a broiler. After they are cooled drizzle them with ketchup (red frosting).

Another fun cake is a Sleepover cake. Bake a 13-by-9-by-2 cake. Turn the cake upside down and slightly frost it. Cut Twinkies in half lengthwise and place the tops cut side down on the cake bed. Frost a pink sheet on the top third of the cake. Place a marshmallow at the top of each twinkie and flatten (pillow) then position a vanilla or chocolate wafer on each pillow (faces). Frost a light pink blanket over the Twinkies and use gel icing or sprinkles to decorate the blanket. Let the party goers decorate their own face using gel icing (hair) and mini jawbreakers (eyes).

Enjoy and have fun baking!

Shangri-la-de-da Adult Pool Party

PoolPartyCollage

As an adult we all have some memory of a sun-drenched beach, tropical cocktails and feeling like we are at some exotic embassy party. Whether it was a cruise you took, a foreign vacation or just pretend at your own pool. Here is an opportunity to have some adult fun, without the kids. Time to enjoy friendships and the sultry summer weather.

Invite your friends to your Shangi-La-De-Da Pool Party. The event will start in the late afternoon with some swimming and sunning, perhaps some light pool games and plenty of Tropical Drinks and/or Punch. As the sun sets your guests will change into something linen and cool, ready for a meal and some socializing and entertainment.

The best part about being at the pool in the evening is the foreign, luxurious atmosphere. Create this by putting small lights in trees around the area. You can use mini Christmas lights or the big round bulbs available in many stores summer sections. Load up on floating candles and place them in the pool. Purchase and place tiki torches or freestanding candle lanterns around the area. Make or buy Luminaries to place around the pool and walking areas. Buy inexpensive three tired vegetable and fruit baskets and hang them from the outer branches of trees that are further out, place a small glass container with a candle set in sand on each tier. You might consider using battery operated candles for less maintenance during the night. If you have room (and it is legal in your community) build or purchase a ready made open fire pit.

For Food and Beverage service use unbreakable colorful glasses and plates. Discover an abundance of these at the dollar stores during the summer. Just mix and match whatever colors makes you happy. However, use your best linens and silverware to make the affair elegant. If you don’t have them, rent some Umbrella Tables for around the pool with linens and some Bistro/Cocktail tables with linens for people to stand at. For the buffet area bring out (or borrow) some house plants to place on the table with some up lighting. Sprinkle with flowers. Place trays of cut fruit and vegetables for the afternoon, along with some small cakes. Purchase some inflatable buffet ice trays that will keep the food cool. Dinner is grilled (on your own BBQ) Panini Sandwiches. Choose from beef, turkey, ham or even fish; find recipes and “how to’s” here https://www.cooking-outdoors.com/make-panini-sandwich-grill/  Have a tray of sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and served with fresh basil and slices of mozzarella. Make a seasonal salad with lots of fresh greens. A cool refreshing Dessert is Gelato (Italian Ice).

Entertainment easily consist of putting together a playlist of your favorite beach tunes. XM Radio and Pandora both have stations during the summer called Yacht Rock. It is soft rock hits, perfect for this type of gathering. Have a clear area by the pool set aside for dancing. Enjoy the evening and your friends and family! Happy Summer!

Summer of Love Party

Summer of Love Party

The Summer of 1967 was a turning point, a funky juncture where innocence converged with disillusionment. Music got a little edgier. The music of 1967 beautifully captured the spirit of the Summer of Love, that is what this party is all about. A sampling of the titles that were popular that year are as follows (I got chills just writing this list, the music and Artists are so timeless);

All you Need is Love–The Beatles, Light my Fire-The Doors, Whiter Shade of Pale-Procol Harum, I’m a Believer–The Monkees, The Letter–Neon Rainbow, San Francisco–Scott McKenzie, Dedicated to the One I Love–Mamas & Papas, I Think We’re Alone Now-Tommy James & the Shondells, White Rabbit-Jefferson Airplane, Carrie-Anne-The Hollies, I Can See for Miles–The Who, The Beat Goes On-Sonny & Cher, Let’s Live for Today-Grass Roots, I Had to Much to Dream Last Night-the Electric Prunes, Society’s Child-Janis Ian, Here Comes My Baby-The Tremeloes, Happy Together-The Turtles, Let’s Spend the Night Together-The Rolling Stones, Nights in White Satin-The Moody Blues. Other Artists Popular in the late 60’s were; Janis Joplin, Canned Heat, Buffalo Springfield, The Grateful Dead, The Byrds, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Association, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Sly & The Family Stone. Make sure you put together a playlist of this great music to play in the background and to dance to during the party.

Use the “words of the day” in the invitation like; Groovy, Far Out, Can you Dig it, Hang Loose, It’s a Gas, Heavy or That’s Boss! Remember to tell your guests to dress the part. Decorating can be a lot of fun. These ideas can be used indoors and outdoors. If you don’t own them, Rent Black Lights, Strobe Lights and any other Multi Colored Rotating Lights. Colored Christmas Lights work well too. Brightly Colored Paper Lanterns, Peace Signs, Plenty of Cut Out Flowers and Smiley Yellow Faces can be hung about (walls, trees, fencing Etc.). Go to the thrift store and try to find some albums (Vinyl) from the era and use them to decorate the walls also. Place Daisies in Mason Jars for the tables & serving areas. Along with having enough tables and chairs for guests consider getting lots of pillows and blankets to throw on the floor or grassy areas. You can sew slip covers for the pillows out of random fabrics or pick up pillow cases from the thrift store and Tie Dye them.  Decorate with 60’s Theme Foil Balloons and Brightly Colored Latex Balloons, helium and air-filled designs can be used both indoors and out. Have some large 3ft Air-Filled Balloons laying around for guests to bat back and forth.

If you can find Glow in the Dark body paints or Neon Paints, have a table set up with paper plates & brushes for your ‘Hippies” to adorn themselves with drawing! Have some Peter Max art photos lying around for inspiration. You can set out temporary tattoos also, find them for this theme at party stores. If you have your black lights on in this area everyone will glow under them. Include some coloring books and crayons for doodling as well. This table will, for sure, be a favorite. Fill some wading pools with water and set some garden hoses in case people want to get crazy and wet. Learn and teach your guests popular dances from the 60’s, Examples; Loco-motion, Twist, Swim, The Mashed Potato, The Shimmy, The Hitch-Hike, The Monkey, The Jerk or the Watusi. Play a Trivia Game using the Popular TV Shows from that Era, Examples; Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, The Munsters, Bonanza, My Favorite Martian, Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch (just to name a few).

Food for this party should be towards the natural side. Raw Veggies, Variety Cheeses, Nuts, Chips and Guacamole, Fruits and maybe a yogurt bar with Granola and other toppings and a Burrito Bar. For a special dessert make sure you make some Brownies (whether you spike them or not is up to you and your guest list,,,,shhhh).

Family, Friends or School Reunions

Summertime is a perfect opportunity to plan a reunion since the kids are out of school and many people plan vacation time during this season. Whether it be a Family Reunion, Friends Reunion, School Reunion or Old Neighborhood Reunion an event like this calls for special planning. It is wise to ask for help from someone who lives near you. If the reunion is going to be large, more assistance will be needed, setup in committees. One group to arrange lodging for out-of-towners, one to organize and shop for food and beverages and one to organize activities and decorate.

After making the “List” of people to invite, send out e-vites or letters well in advance so guests can make their plans around the date. Now the committees come into play. Together decide on what type of party you are going to have. Picnic, at a Venue, Potluck, Catered, On a Riverboat, at a Park, at someone’s home etc. Figure out a budget and let each family know how much they will need to donate to get this done, don’t take on all the financial burden yourself!

Decorations will definitely need to include photos of everyone. You can invite guests to bring photo albums to place about for others to view. You can create a photo wall/table or a family tree using each member’s photo. String photos on a twine line or banner and hang over drink tables and buffet tables. If it’s a sit-down affair put the photos at each person’s place setting. If you have photos from past events make sure you place those prominently with notes describing the memory. If you have had losses since the last get-together create a memorial table honoring them. Balloons are always a welcome décor idea, better indoors than outdoors; but if the event is held outdoors Balloon Garlands (as pictured) or Clusters do well. You can tie them to fences, awnings, poles, trees and the like. Avoid helium filled decor because, more then likely, they will just blow around into peoples faces, not a pleasant experience. Ask a professional to help.

Most adults usually spend much of their time catching up on news while the kids run off and play but a few structured activities can bring everyone together. Have an awards ceremony after the meal, with prizes or small trophies for the reunion member who; traveled the farthest, is the oldest, is the youngest, arrived the latest, drove the biggest car, has the largest family or any other milestones you can think of. Ask the oldest member to share a story of their life, this is always special for the little ones. Set up a photo booth for everyone to capture memories and share the next time! Make up Trivia cards with information from guests. Send a questionnaire ahead of time to collect facts for the cards. During the gathering, split the group into several teams—the size of the teams will depend on how large the group is. You can do this Jeopardy-style or take turns asking each team questions like in traditional trivial pursuit. Enjoy your time together and cherish every moment!

Moving Away Party

Going Away Party

In this highly mobile society, we all see a lot of friends come and go. The best thing to do when old friends, colleagues or family leave our lives is to throw them a party they’re not likely to forget.

A “moveable feast” or “progressive dinner” is a great theme for a moving away party. Ask three other guests to help host the party by having part of the progressive dinner in their homes, and then divide the evening into quarters. Begin with drinks and hors d’oeuvres at one house, and move on to the next house for soup and salad. Allow plenty of time for everyone to eat their fill, but warn people not to eat too much because there will be two more stops. Go to the third house for the main course, and wrap up the evening at a fourth home with dessert, after-dinner drinks, and coffee. Be sure to plan your feast with three hosts who live near one another so there isn’t too much travel time. Car pool if possible, to keep the party full of energy and to allow friends to continue their conversations. If alcohol is going to be served at any of the stops. Ask your guests to select designated drivers before the party begins – or hire a limousine to transport your guests from house to house. If you know a particular cuisine that will be at the guests of honor new location use this for the theme of the courses. Or mix some of his/her favorite local food with some of the new food at the new location. For the dessert see if you can have a cake made in the shape of the new state/country!

Ask your guests to send or bring some memorable photo from past events-the ski weekend, the camping trip, or the yearly Halloween party-then put the photos in an album, write some funny captions, and present it to the relocating guest during the party. Ask each guest to bring the name, address, and phone number (and a photo, if possible) of someone they know in the guest of honor’s new city. The lucky “mover” will than have several new contacts!

Decorate by making a centerpiece containing items that symbolize the area the guest of honor is moving to. Use a ten-gallon hat for Texas, a variety of cheeses for Wisconsin, or a bowlful of pasta for Italy. Joke gifts are fun too-a rubber worm in an apple for New York City, for example. Make place settings from flags representing the new state or country your guest of honor is moving to, and use the state or country colors for balloons, tables covers and tableware. Look up the Flower that represents the state or country and use it in arrangements for the tables. If your guest of honor’s destination suggests any particular type or piece of music, play it in the background during the party. For example-Zydeco for Louisiana, Western Music for Texas, Show Tunes for New York, Hollywood Movie Themes for California- do some research online for artist and music genre popular in the area. Pick up travel brochures and guide books for the new home area and scatter on the tables for everyone to read.

Give the guest of honor a “survival kit” full of stationery, Cookies, Crossword Books, Coloring Books and Crayons, a mug with a saying about Friendship, Water Bottles, Wet Wipes, Tissues, Tums, Aspirin, Bandages, Gum and notes from their friends and family about how much they will be missed. Add an address book with all the guests addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. Give them a one-year subscription to his/her old newspaper to help ease the transition from one place to another.

Patriotic 4th Picnic Party

The Independence Day holiday is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the warm weather. Planning a Fourth of July Picnic is a perfect excuse to get everybody together. A cute invitation idea is to mail paper lunch bags with the party details written on them. Ask each guest to decorate the bag with a “patriotic” theme and fill it with some favorite munchies to share at the party.

Decorating in customary Red, White and Blue you can make an inexpensive garland out of plastic table covers; simply cut into strips, and tie them to a string of lights, ribbon or rope. Another great fence decoration is Organic Balloon Garlands, you can hire someone to create these or try it on your own (search You-tube for some DIY videos). Create a classy canopy and mood lighting by tying Red, White and Blue streamers onto big-bulb outdoor lights; hang this above a picnic area or a grassy dance space. Make sure you buy plenty of assorted sized American flags to decorate with and to pass out to guests.

Use Red, White and Blue Bandanas for Place Mats or Napkins. You can wrap the cutlery in Bandanas, ready for guests. Use two colors and sizes of paper plates (Red and Blue). Nest the smaller inside the larger like a charger. The 4th screams BBQ! Make up a Hot Dog and/or Hamburger Bar with a wide array of toppings so guests can customize their own “Bodacious Burgers” or “Humungous Hot Dogs”. Sprinkle Red and Blue Tootsie Pops on the buffet table for a Patriotic Treat! And this is the most patriotic drink I have ever seen! A mix of Cranberry Juice, Blue Gatorade and 7-up over ice cubes – see the recipe here https://www.bigbearswife.com/independence-punch

Play a John Philip Sousa marching CD for background music. Have your guests share what they like about living in America. Have each person talk about some unusual or out-of-the-way place in America he or she has visited. Place Picture books around for guests to browse through, one’s that show scenic areas of the country. Book’s like “The Most Scenic Drives in America”, “Off the Beaten Path” or “Roadside Americana”; If you don’t own any, check them out from your local library. You might consider buying a couple books to use for Door Prizes.Whatever your plans this Holiday, remember to say a quiet thankful prayer for our “Freedom”!

Favorite Stuffed Animal Party

Stuffed Animal Party

All children love stuffed animals, and all adults have had one when they were kids. We can all relate to the comfort and even support these animals gave us. So, having a themed party (birthday or just because) around the idea of stuffed animals is a great way to celebrate.

On your party invitations, invite your guests to choose their favorite stuffed animal to come with them. This gives each child a sense of participation even before the party.

When your guests arrive, sit them all down in a circle and ask each child to introduce his or her stuffed animal. Ask them to share a story about their favorite Stuffed Animal. My daughter lost her “Bear-Bear” when we were out shopping one day and we made up “Lost Posters with a Reward” and put them up all around the area we lived. We put an ad in the paper and posted notices up at all the stores in the mall. She was finally reunited with her Favorite Stuffed Animal. Stories like this will bond the children and let them share something very special.

Then get the kids to make name tags (ID Tags) to tie around the animal’s neck with a ribbon. Have the children cut shapes from poster board in different colors and give the kids crayons or fine-tipped Sharpies to decorate the tags and write their animal’s name.

Another craft can be making sleeping bags for their Favorite Stuffed Animal. Before the party prepare several different sizes of bags. Make them from a simple muslin or felt fabric for decorating. At the party have all sorts of paints, buttons, glitter, sequins, patterned duct tape, etc. so the children can personalize the sleeping bag.

Set up a place with a collection of doll clothes and accessories. Let kids dress up their animals and then show them off in a fashion show.  Award prizes for things like cutest, funniest, prettiest, silliest etc. Make sure you have enough categories so everyone can win a prize.

You can either make a cake in the shape of an animal or buy one and place tiny plastic animals on it. After the cake eating, let each child choose one of the little animals. Or consider making cupcakes with an animal on top each cake, and the choosing will be done right away!

The love of stuffed animals brings children together. It is one of childhood’s great common denominators. And a party like this one involves all the guests in participating to make the party fun and creative.

Have a Doll Shower Birthday!

Many little girls love their dolls, and if your daughter happens to be in the stage (eating, sleeping and talking dolls), organize a doll shower for her next birthday party. Invite her friends to bring their favorite dolls for lunch where the “moms” and their “babies” share the party. If the little mothers come dressed up like their moms, this role-playing party will be even more fun.

Make the invitations in a baby bottle shape and attach to a rattle. Announce that: We’re having a shower for all our dolls to celebrate…….. add to come dressed as your mom! Rent child size tables and chairs if you don’t have some already. Set up tables for guests and for the dolls. Decorate with bright colored table covers, doilies, Tea Sets, Mini Baby Bottles filled with jelly beans, Candy Necklaces for the children and Doll Jewelry for the dolls. Have a basket filled with baby toys (pacifiers, teething rings, rattles etc.). As the children arrive, have them choose an item from the basket. Have that matching item at the place setting on the table (for guest and doll), this will be where they sit. Decorate with colorful Baby Shower balloons. Tie a balloon to each chair or create centerpieces. Build or hire someone to build a Pacifier Arch as the guests enter.

As a craft and take-away item have the children make a Yarn Doll. Fill the craft table with assorted colored yarns, cardboard for building, child scissors, glue or double-back tape for gluing on eyes and other additions. Fill a basket with Buttons, Beads, Google Eyes, Felt pieces and Cloth pieces for making eyes, facial features and clothing. You can see instructions for this project here https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=qoqbsMeMQ8Q

The menu can include Tea Sandwiches (kid friendly Peanut Butter, Tuna Salad, Cheese, Ham and/or Turkey), Blueberry Scones with Whipped Cream, Cupcake Cups filled with Goldfish Crackers, Fresh Strawberries, Punch or Hot Chocolate.

Send your Graduate off with “Aloha”

GradAlohaCollage

Graduation season is upon us. A cool way to send off your graduate to college is with a Luau party to say “Aloha”! With the warmer temps take your party outdoors! Have your local Balloon Décor company decorate with some awesome creations like the Palm Tree above and the cute Flower Centerpieces. If you have a pool or the venue you are using has a pool party area hang large letters “ALOHA” along the fence banked by lots of air-filled colorful balloons flowers. You can do this to a backyard fence too! If you have a tent or rent a tent hang colorful paper lanterns around and use luau colored tablecovers. Make sure you decorate the cake or gift table in the new college colors! If you are looking for some games the classic limbo will always make for some laughter. Enjoy the celebration and send off your graduate with an event to remember!