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Are you in need of some Party Tips?  I know it’s just passed, but hey, that means it’s fresh in our mind.  Let’s use the biggest party of the year as an example – The New Year’s Eve Party.

Wanting to throw a big New Year’s Eve bash can cause high expectations.  Ever since I was a little girl, I watched my parents as they walked out the door all dressed up to go celebrate New Year’s Eve at what I only imagined was the fanciest and most elegant & fun parties around.  I stayed with Nana and Popop who were awesome in their enthusiasm to make it a fun night for me.  We’d watch movies, eat ice cream sundaes and blow up balloons, stringing them across the living room, we’d wear silly hats and toot sillier horns.  As the clock neared midnight, my grandparents would turn the t.v. on to Dick Clark’s New Years special and we’d count down to the new year – popping all the balloons and making lots of loud ruckus.  What more could a kid want right?  It’s just that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the party my parents were at was something magical like the parties we watched in the movies.

I am now an adult and for some unknown reason, I still hold onto the belief each year that the New Year will bring about some magical, amazing soiree that beats anything I’ve ever seen.  In reality, New Year’s Eve parties are often a let down for many people.  Nowadays, we pay exorbitant amounts to get into an overly crowded club or the fancy dinner that leaves us so sleepy we fall asleep before the clock hits midnight.  Instead, we say throw your own shin dig.  Evite your friends and tell them you’re going to throw a sassy soiree or even a Wii New Year’s Eve party.  This past year, we rang in 2010 with a small group of friends playing silly Wii games, drinking Kir Royales (see my signature cocktails for this recipe) and noshing on yummy appetizers.  It had the magic of fun and friends and was super fun because there was no pre-New Year’s Eve party hype.

Here are a few tips to ensure your party is fancy enough to be worthy of New Year’s Eve without breaking the bank:

1. Evite/Call. There are two ways to go about this, 1) invite more people than you think your pad can handle, or (2) invite just a small group of close friends.  It all depends on what you’re going for.  Want that sassy soiree?  Invite as many people as you know.  Remember not everyone will show up, but even if they do, it’s okay to have a crowd – it adds to the festive atmosphere. Plus, people may very well, come and go – a stop in on your party often becomes the party where everyone stays or ends up because it’s much more fun than the alternative plans.  Wanting a more low-key affair, maybe you have kids and just want to keep things casual and fun?  Invite people you know will get along and have something for everyone to do – no Wii?  That’s okay, break out the board games or deck of cards.

2. Tiny Bubbles. The Right Way to Imbibe on a Budget Bubbly is to drink the classic New Year’s drink.  While it can get a little pricey, we have some options that won’t leave your pocketbook screaming, “Uncle”. One option is to ask everyone to bring a bottle of the bubbly.  But, if you’re remiss to go BYOB, we suggest going with good, inexpensive bubbly. One of our favorites is Cristalino. At a price of around $6.00 per bottle, you’re pocketbook will thank you. Cristalino is made in the French tradition and is a beautiful sparkling wine at a reasonable cost. If you want to go all out and give your guests something to remember (but not quite on a P.Diddy celebrity scale), our choice is always Veuve Cliquot. It is a lovely French Champagne at a price around $35 per bottle.  Another option is Cava; it is Spanish sparkling wine also made in the French Champagne tradition often without the hefty price tag.

To keep costs down, limit your liquor to this one alcohol, but give your guests many options by creating a Champagne Bar.

Put all your bubbly on ice and create a champagne bar – include many mixers especially liqueurs like crème de cassis (blackberry currant) for Kir Royales, chambord, and juices in pretty carafes. Set out items the guests can add to their glass to make it festive:

  • colored sugar for the rims of glasses: put sugar in a plastic bag, drop or two of food coloring – shake shake shake. Rim glass with lemon juice then dip in the sugar. You could also use crushed graham cracker mixed with crushed chocolate, or peppermint candy 
  • candy canes to hang from the rim, or cinnamon sticks 
  • and fun fruits skewered on sticks as well as fruit in bowls – dried cranberries, lemon/lime wedges
  • you could even freeze ice cubes ahead of time with pieces of fruit inside for those who aren’t drinking champagne but want their drink to be festive too

3. Nibbles, Noshing & Festive Feasting.  

Festive Feasting doesn’t have to mean a full dinner, but can certainly be Elegant.

When it comes to nibbles, keep it simple and elegant. To make it look like a catered event, cut everything into bite-sized pieces and line up the items in a sort of diaganol row on pretty platters. You can purchase a plain cheese pizza and ask them to not cut it. You can then cut the pieces yourself into bite sized pieces and to make it more gourmet, add a few fancy ingredients to the pizza. For example, buy goat cheese and add a dollop to each bite sized piece along with a little chutney on top.  Do you have a local soul food restaurant near you?  Call in and order a tray of fried mac n’cheese balls.  They are delicious, bite-sized and filling.  Or, make your own mac n’ cheese balls by baking them in mini-muffin tins (add some chopped jalapeno peppers to give them a little zing), then for pretty presentation, place each ball onto a white Japanese soup spoon and top with fresh ground pepper.

To dress up a cheese platter, buy a round of goat cheese (or even cream cheese) and top with a raspberry bbq sauce or chutney. Place champagne grapes along with crackers on a nice wood cutting board. On a smaller board, place gorgonzola cheese along side a pot of honey that you’ve poured into a pretty container.  Be sure to include the proper amount of utensils/cheese knives for each cheese.

Buy a couple of olive dishes and use one for olives and the other for a mixture of nuts and cranberries.  Sprinkle some of the nuts and cranberries on the meat and cheese board too.

4. Festive Décor.  By all means, do not spend a lot of money on décor! This is the party that is all about socializing and being silly, so place a few of the tried and true items in a basket and let your guests be the festive decorations.  If you’ve done your job right, your food should be plenty of pretty presentation for this evenings events.  One New Year’s Eve, we went on a cruise and they handed out all the fun paraphenalia that goes with New Years.  Things like feather boas, hair bands with feathers, noise makers, hats for the guys, and horns all placed in a basket or two when the guests entered the dining room.  It was super fun.  And, if you’ve seen our About Us page, you can see me with my fun pink wig ringing in the New Year on that cruise with my Mom.  Don’t bother turning on the t.v. during the party (unless of course you’re doing the Wii party) – you don’t want your guests focused on the t.v., you want them to mingle. Instead, put together a background mix of music and play your iPod (or cd). As the ‘Witching Hour’ approaches, turn on the radio or even the t.v. to a station you know will be doing the countdown, refill the champagne glasses and enjoy the last minutes of the year!

5. Parting Ways.  I wonder if there’s ever been a study of the day when most people sleep in? My guess is that New Year’s Day would probably top the list. To help alleviate any of your guests morning after blues, send them home with mini care packages of cellophane bags with ibuprofen, Vitamin C powder, our favorite – FRS chews (or drinks) and soothing ginger tea bags.

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