July 31, 2009

Anatomy of an Invitation

An Excerpt from Party Confidential: New Etiquette for Fabulous Entertaining by Lara Shriftman and Elizabeth Harrison.

The first step for any party planner is to send out invitations. Easy to do, right? Well, we all remember to include the basic who, what, when and where information, but its easy to overlook the small details that can make a big difference. Make sure your invites communicate all the important information clearly so that guests won't hesitate to RSVP, yes! to your next bash.

Who: The Host & Guest of Honor

When you send out an invitation you never want to forget to include the name of the host or the guest of honor.

- If your party is all about a guest of honor be sure to let invited guests know so that they can plan accordingly.

- Don't forget to put your name down as the host of the event. Since you're planning the party you will be the go-to person for any questions guests may have.

Time to Party: What's the Occasion?

Make sure you explain the purpose of the party. Is Dad turning 50? Or is it your daughter's 5th Birthday?

- Be specific about the occasion and the person being honored so that guests will know what to expect--the last thing you want to do is mislead your guests.

- Also, be sure to let them know if they should arrive armed with a gift, prepared dish, or simply ready to party.

Date: When's The Party?

One of the most important parts of an invitation is the planned date of the party.

- I always suggest including the day of the week to avoid any possible confusion, although the way the date is written generally depends on the type and degree of formality of the event.

- An informal invitation can read: Wednesday, August 1, 2008.

- A more formal approach spells out the date: Wednesday the first of August, 2008.

Time: When Should Guests Arrive?

Including a detailed time on your invite helps your guests as well as you.

In general, be as specific as possible about timing. The more explicit you are, the less likely it is that guests will arrive too early or stay past their welcome.

- If you know from past parties that some guests are more likely to arrive late, include a bit of a schedule for them. For example write, "Come for cocktails at 7PM" or "Dinner will be served at 8PM." By doing this you allow guests to plan accordingly.

- If you're hosting a surprise party inform guests as to when the guest of honor will arrive. Nothing blows a surprise party more than when the birthday guy or girl arrives along with tardy guests. Putting an acceptable time down will allow delayed guests to arrive safely without ruining the surprise.

- The invitation is your line of communication, so choose your copy carefully. For example, for a seated dinner, let your guests know that fashionably late won't fly. Be polite, but don't be afraid to use a pointed adjective like 9 o'clock "sharp" or 9 PM "on the dot." This is especially important if you are working within a strict time frame (e.g., you only have your venue for two hours). I like to be very specific, so I spell the time out saying, "8 o'clock in the evening."

Location: Where's the Party At?

Generally, the name and address of your party venue will do the job, but in some cases you may need to go a bit further.

- If the location is a bit more hard to find be sure to include directions or small map.

- Or, if you are hosting an in-suite soiree at a hotel, state the name of the hotel, and the specific room or area where the party will take place, in addition to the street address.

Attire: What Should Guests Wear?

Always specify the dress code if an event demands certain attire.

- Think "black tie," "cocktail casual" or "pool ready."

-Specifying the preferred dress will save you and your guests time and grief. Guests appreciate guidance, so instead of saying business casual, consider a specific directive like "no denim" or "jackets required." Trust me, you don't want to spend you precious party prep-time fielding fashion inquires from panicked couture-conscious attendees!

RSVP: How Should Guest's Respond?

Always remember to indicate how you would like people to respond as well as by what date.

- You can ask everyone to let you know whether they are accepting or declining your invitation, or you can opt for "regrets only" to respond.

- Just be sure to provide a contact number or e-mail address regardless of your method.

- I prefer phone calls instead of e-mail as it makes it more personal, but if your preference is email be sure to always bcc (blind carbon copy) so that you don't give out everyone's personal e-mails.

The Final Step: Proofread

Always be sure to re-read your invitation thoroughly before sending them out.

Remember to double check:

1. Spelling
2. Grammar
3. Dates
4. Times

July 30, 2009

Diner-style french fries!


High-quality (like stainless steel or cast iron) 8-quart kettle or pot OR a deep fryer with adjustable temperature settings.
Candy thermometer (if not using a deep fryer)
2 paper towel-lined plates (plus extra paper towels)
A wide metal slotted spoon or spatula
A large mixing bowl of ice water
A very sharp chef's knife


1 lb. Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean but not peeled (try to keep them small enough to fit in the palm of your hand to make sure they're easy to cut)
Freshly-ground pepper (optional)
48 oz. canola or peanut oil

Carefully cut potatoes vertically into 1/4" slices.

Divide stack in half with the flat surface of the potato on the cutting board and carefully cut potatoes into 1/4" fries (you may need to remove the round top slice and then cut that part later if you find it's slipping while you're trying to cut the potatoes).

Toss any pieces that are too skinny--they'll just burn when you're cooking--and trim down any extra-large pieces. Place cut potatoes into the bowl of ice water and repeat with remaining potatoes. When finished, pour the entire bottle of oil into the pot/kettle/deep fryer and bring to 325 (keep the candy thermometer in there the whole time) over medium-high heat. When the oil is about 310-315 degrees, drain the potatoes so they'll be ready to go into the oil as soon as it's hot enough.

When oil reaches 325, turn the heat all the way up to "high." Place 1/2 of the potatoes into the hot oil and stir frequently for 5-6 minutes, or just until they're starting to show signs of being cooked. Remove from the hot oil and drain on one of the paper towel-lined plates.

They look a little grim. You may be doubting me. You may be doubting yourself. Fear not! We're not done yet.

Bring the oil back to 325 and then fry the second batch of potatoes. You know the drill--stir frequently, remove after 5-6 minutes, drain on paper towels.

Now...this is where things get fun. Bring the oil up to 375. When you're there, add the first batch of fries back to the oil and fry for 1-2 minutes. They'll get brown and crispy fast, and they'll continue to brown a little after you remove them from the oil, so as soon as they start getting brown enough, get them out of the oil and drain them on the paper towels. As soon as they're out, give them a very liberal sprinkling of salt while they're still very, very hot.

Bring the oil back to 375 and fry the second batch of fries, following the same directions. Who's super excited? I'm super excited and these aren't even on my (or my thighs') radar right now...

Fry Sauce

1/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2-3 tsp. chopped dill pickle
Combine and serve with homemade fries or onion rings.

Recipe from: http://www.ourbestbites.com/

Shhhhh! It's a surprise party!

Before planning a surprise party, ask yourself: Is the occassion appropriate for a surprise party? If it's a brithday, a graduation or an anniversary then go for it but if it's something more formal like an office party or a retirement party i don't think it's a good idea.

A surprise party is a big trick and the most important thing is to make the guest of honor come to the surprise venue without any suspicions!

First thing you should do is set a date! Schedule the surprise party around something that's a routine for the guest of honor so he/she wouldn't suspect anything out of the ordinary.

Make a list of the guest of honor's closest friends and family. You can add some old friends that he/she would be excited to see. Send out detailed invitations and emphasize that the party is a surprise!

After you set the date and invite the guests, you should now plan for the actual party. Set a dress code; keep in mind what the guest of honor will likely be wearing and tell your guests to dress accordingly. Make sure that guests would arrive 30 minutes before the guest of honor and tell them to park out of sight! Purchase party supplies that will enhance the surprise like noise makers, colorful streamers, balloons and masks.

Remember that this party is not about you, it's about the guest of honor so include activities that he/she might like and focus on serving his/her favourite food.

As the surprise moment approaches, turn off the lights, tell your guests to hide and make sure that everyone is quiet!

One more tip: Never make a surprise party for an elderly, a pregnant woman or a sick person with a heart condition or something.. you don't want to be surprised yourself :)

Back to action!

Finally arrived from the holidays and back to action with lot's of new and hip ideas..

July 5, 2009

What kind of hostess are you?

Are you known for your attention to detail and lavish spreads, or are casual, last-minute gatherings more your style?

Find out whether you're a high-end hostess or better suited to host more casual affairs with this quiz from Martha Stewart's website...


July 2, 2009

Serve your drink in style!

This drink dispenser is a must have!

I love the idea; it's perfect for summer bashes and garden parties. Just toss in fresh sliced fruit, pour in the beverage and voilĂ !

No more spills, no more sticky pitchers and your guests will love it!

You can find this item in Pottery Barn:



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