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(Pretend it’s December.) ‘Tis the season to be everything to everyone, singer to Santa, shopper to wrapper, baker to candlestick maker and now you need to host a party? There’s got to be an easier way to do this. We go through it year after year, and for some of us it never gets easier.
Here’s help. Yes, it will take time in the beginning to get it all together - that’s why we’re talking about it now - but once you do, you’ll find that holiday entertaining, and hosting buffets in general aren’t so bad after all. You might even have time to enjoy your party, rather than be a slave to it.
There’s no such thing as carefree entertaining, but there is one thing you can create that will make your party giving less stressful: The Prop Closet.
Party Tub: made of everything from ceramic to aluminum
and acrylic, excellent for icing down and serving drinks.
Plates: clear or white will go with everything. Coordinate salad plates for dessert, or be eclectic and mix and match old plates from various sources.
Napkins: collect these throughout the year, taking
advantage of out of season sales. Use cloth napkins for more formal occasions or if you don’t mind doing the laundry the next day. Cloth is much more inviting.
Flatware: Be on the lookout for forks and teaspoons that are available by the dozen. Organize your flatware in baskets or acrylic containers on the buffet table.
Wineglasses: These are good for many purposes - from
serving iced tea or punch to the finest wine. These are also great for serving ice cream or layered parfait desserts.
Cups and Saucers: Coffee is always welcome. Accumulate a
nice selection of both cups and saucers or moderately sized mugs. Make sure they are dishwasher safe saving time at clean up.
Votive candles and candleholders: Accumulate these by
the dozen to use everywhere during your parties. Guest rooms, lavatories, buffet table, coffee table, etc.
Serving pieces: Black or white platters are excellent serving pieces. Glass bowls are attractive additions to buffet tables. Don’t go for the largest - stay moderate in size. It’s better to have two bowls of the same food (one on the buffet, one waiting in the fridge to go to the buffet) than to have one large bowl that cannot be refreshed.
Beverage containers: Ice bucket and tongs are essential. Pitchers, wine carafes, and the like are always needed. A large coffee maker is the ultimate entertainer tool. For larger functions, it’s worth renting if you don’t want to purchase one.
Centerpiece materials: Virtually anything can become a
centerpiece. Holiday and theme parties may require special seasonal props, but don’t forget a beautiful display of fresh flowers and candles are always welcome. You may wish to fill a jardiniere or tureen with seasonal fruit or vegetables, or use bedding plants or small houseplants on the table. Topiaries draped in satin ribbon always make a stunning appearance.
Fabric: Watch for sales on fabric that repeats the colors in your home. Purchase a few yards to cover your table and to disguise your buffet lifts. Check out those decorator fabric remnants in your local cloth store. You can find some beautiful pieces! No sewing is really necessary here - just turn selvage edges under and press for a finished look. A swirl of fabric on a buffet table is a magical touch.
Lifts and props: A good buffet table has scale and height. You can accomplish this simply by planning your layout in advance and propping your food dishes at varying heights. A paint can stacked with an inverted clay pot makes a stable prop for a platter of food. Use fabric, greenery, mosses and floral sprigs to disguise the lifts. In between your prop items, add flowers and candles for interest.
Where to Shop for Props: Find interesting dinner plates at antique stores, mass merchandisers, consignment shops, garage sales and restaurant supply stores. Restaurant supply stores sell tableware, glasses, plates and some serving pieces by the case. Import stores are another good source, but be aware that some items found in these stores are not intended for food service. Read all labels carefully!
Simple or elaborate is your choice. Well stocked with these essentials, you will save money by eliminating the need to rent most of your items. Disposable plates, napkins and utensils are another choice, but are surprisingly expensive when purchased often or in large quantities.
Remember, not everything has to match - but it should reflect your own personal style. Most of all - enjoy!