Sunday, December 29, 2013

Anatomy Of My Annual Party

For the past few years, I've thrown a party for myself.

It started out as a birthday celebration, but honestly, all that self-directed attention made me a little uncomfortable so I'm attempting to rebrand the event as simply an annual party. Call it whatever you will, I just like the idea of inviting everyone I know who lives within a sixty-mile radius to drop in and spend the evening with me.

Hosting a party can be intimidating. Growing up, my family entertained only my grandparents so the whole process of having people over was shrouded in mystery for me. Every stereotype of gourmet hors d'oeurves, fancy cocktails, and orchestrated games of charades filled my head and the thought of trying to meet those expectations terrified me. 

Over the years of my adult life, I've learned to push past those silly self-imposed boundaries. With this annual exercise of my hostessing muscles, I've put together a party plan that works well for me and my guests.

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^ Let's be honest. Every gathering I've attended since 1993 has featured a plate full of crisp vegetables and a sauce for dipping. Veggie trays are not exactly the cutting edge of party food. But darn it, the colors and textures of the fresh produce are just so bold and interesting that I can't resist. And given that this is always one of the first dishes to be demolished, I'd say my guests can't resist the classic veggie tray either.

^ Along with the crunchy crudités, I usually serve a variety of toasty bite-size morsels: egg rolls, pizza bagels, meatballs and such. But for my family and my guests, pigs in a blanket draw top raves. My daughters help me wrap up a big bunch of them ahead of time, and I keep the hot piggies flowing from the oven to my guests' awaiting fingers all night long.

^ "What can I get you to drink?" is my favorite way to greet a new guest at the door. And besides offering a variety of beverage options, I really enjoy setting out a hodgepodge of mismatched glasses so each guest can choose one to suit his or her fancy.

^ From what I can tell, my guests mostly like to stand around and chat. And I'm down with that. But I've also noticed that if I leave little amusements here and there - a tower of Jenga blocks, a few decks of cards - someone will often put them to good use. 

 ^ Since I hold my party during the last week of December, the style of decor is straightforward. Christmas trimmings still deck my halls and lend just the right sparkle and flair for my celebration. This not only saves me the trouble of a Pinterest-induced guilt headache for not making a dozen giant party pom-poms, but also gives my guests the added fun of peeping around all the corners of my house to see what little holiday surprises they might find.

^ Candles, candles, candles. I'm always a fan of their happy glow, and they lend such a festive warmth to a party. Taking care to keep them beyond the reach of my littlest guests, I stash them aggressively around the house and appoint a daughter or two to replace and relight them them as they wear down over the course of the night.

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With food, drink, amusements, and decor all in place and ready to go, I've also learned to sit down and enjoy the last few minutes of quiet before the doorbell starts to ring. Because as soon as my guests arrive, I will ride the wild wave of excitement and conversation and attention to their needs that will carry me through the evening. And that crazy, exhilarating rush is what hosting a party is all about.

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Here are more stories about my annual shindig:

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More Anatomy Of posts for your dissection pleasure:

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