Host Your First Hol­i­day Party With Kids!

For­get ev­ery­thing you know about throw­ing par­ties. Jenny Rosen­strach, the mom be­hind the pop­u­lar blog Din­ner: A Love Story, breaks down the rules for hav­ing a suc­cess­ful bash that in­cludes the kids.

Parents (USA) - - Contents -

Yes, it is pos­si­ble. So send out your in­vites, cu­rate the color pal­ette, and set up the snack table. It’s time to cel­e­brate!

BE­FORE I HAD chil­dren, my hus­band and I threw the best hol­i­day par­ties. We’d head out on field trips all over New York City, where we lived at the time, to hunt down fin­ger foods and fes­tive gar­lands. Weeks be­fore the big night, we’d have menu-plan­ning ses­sions and dis­cuss press­ing is­sues: knishes or em­panadas? Pinot noir or Châteauneuf-du-pape? Store-bought pita chips or home­made ched­dar-gruyère crack­ers we’d read about in that gourmet-food mag­a­zine? (Un­think­able to my cur­rent mother-oftwo self, the freak­ing home­made crack­ers won out.)

When we tried to throw our first party post-kids (“Hey! And bring your kids too!” we told ev­ery­one), we didn’t have the en­ergy or the time to do any of that, and as a re­sult, it was a disas­ter. In­stead of end­ing the night with our cus­tom­ar­ily glow­ing post­mortem, “I’m so glad we do that ev­ery year,” we looked at our tod­dler dec­i­mated house and said, “Welp! Never do­ing that again.”

We took a few years off. Then, as par­ents are wont to do, we came back with a plan of at­tack, which is bro­ken down into the fol­low­ing 16 rules and four slam-dunk tricks, but which can be sum­ma­rized in this sin­gle phi­los­o­phy: Dial it back and re­mem­ber why you’re do­ing this—to cel­e­brate with the peo­ple you love most.

RULE 1 Choose your own ad­ven­ture.

You can have a hol­i­day din­ner party with four of your clos­est friends and their kids. You can have a party where you in­vite 15 to 20 peo­ple and limit it to neigh­bor­hood friends (or work friends, fam­ily, or what­ever crew seems man­age­able and the­mat­i­cally co­he­sive). You can also move all your fur­ni­ture to the perime­ter of the house, throw the doors wide open, and in­vite ev­ery­one on your Face­book feed. Pick your party style, then em­brace it, keep­ing in mind that when there are young kids in the mix, there’s a fine line be­tween “good en­ergy” and “to­tal may­hem.”

RULE 2 Com­mit!

Send out the in­vi­ta­tion one month be­fore the date, and don’t spend hours on Evite or Paper­less Post shop­ping for the best de­sign. This is where the con­cept of “First idea, best idea” comes in: Don’t over­think color scheme or the lyri­cism of your words. Make sure you have the cor­rect date, time, and ad­dress, and be done with it. The im­por­tant thing here is the act of com­mit­ting—you are sign­ing a con­tract with your fu­ture self and that fu­ture self now has no ex­cuse.

RULE 3 Try not to be too proud.

When peo­ple in­evitably ask you “What can I bring?” take them up on it. Be spe­cific (“A bot­tle or two of pinot noir would be amaz­ing”), be strate­gic (“You got a punch bowl?”), be grate­ful (“YOU ARE A GOD­DESS!”), and keep track of the of­fers so you know what to buy and what to skip come shop­ping time.

RULE 4 If it can be done ahead of time, do it ahead of time.

That doesn’t mean just food. And that doesn’t mean just an hour or two be­fore guests ar­rive. It means pick­ing up cock­tail nap­kins when you’re in the su­per­mar­ket any­way. It means pulling out a few serv­ing plat­ters dur­ing nap­time one af­ter­noon the week be­fore, wash­ing them, and fig­ur­ing out which de­li­cious thing will be served on each. It means emp­ty­ing bath­room trash cans and bring­ing out the coat rack the day be­fore the party. It even means fill­ing a bunch of sippy cups with wa­ter and stash­ing them in the fridge, be­cause it’s just eas­ier to say “in the fridge” than “on the sec­ond shelf above the dish­washer be­hind the juice glasses.” The point is: If you chip away at your tasks, you’ll be much less likely to wake up on party day with the urge to walk out of the house and never re­turn.

RULE 5 Pick a two-color pal­ette.

And make sure one of those col­ors is gold! It is the color to in­fuse your house with a fes­tive feel­ing, whether you plan to dec­o­rate a lot or a lit­tle. The color re­stric­tion will tar­get your shop­ping and min­i­mize agita.

RULE 6 Cre­ate an in­stant party vibe with string lights.

Hang them around door frames and win­dows. Do it right after Thanks­giv­ing to kick-start hol­i­day spirit—and half your party dec­o­rat­ing is done.

RULE 7 Clean only the rooms that peo­ple will see.

Why ex­actly are you scrub­bing the tub in the mas­ter bath? I love you and I’m here for you, but that’s cray-cray.

RULE 8 Pick places to be fancy.

No one is go­ing to think less of you for us­ing dis­pos­able plates and forks, es­pe­cially if they are biodegrad­able (I like both Earth’s Nat­u­ral Al­ter­na­tive and Bam­boodlers), but there’s no faster way to up the party’s grown-up-ness quo­tient than by rent­ing two items: wine­glasses and small plates for snacks. (Bonus: Many rental agen­cies don’t re­quire you to wash the dishes be­fore re­turn­ing them.)

RULE 9 Hire a sit­ter.

Ear­mark some cash for one teenage babysit­ter for ev­ery eight to ten kids. It will be the dif­fer­ence be­tween your grown-up guests hav­ing a great time and their say­ing to each other on the way home, “Why did we bring the kids again?”

RULE 10 Out­source, out­source, out­source.

Some foods will never taste as good home­made no mat­ter how much time and ef­fort you put into them. This is where you be­gin to com­pile your “what to buy” list. Pigs in a blan­ket and mini quiches from Costco? Yes, please! Present them on a pretty plat­ter, and don’t look back.

RULE 11 Choose snacks that are good at room tem­per­a­ture.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be some warm things, but a hol­i­day party menu when kids are in­volved should be de­signed with the idea that you prob­a­bly don’t want to wear oven mitts with your new dress the whole night, and you don’t want to ob­sess over buzzers and timers and gougères that go from golden to charred at the very sec­ond you are greet­ing your best friend at the door. Psst ... It’s yet an­other rea­son to con­sider a snack board (see page 110).

RULE 12 But if you’re turn­ing on the oven, go big.

One hot dish is not go­ing to over­tax you, es­pe­cially when it’s a melted-cheese-cov­ered crowd-pleaser and de­li­cious even when it cools from hot to warm. No in­di­vid­ual canapés here. In­stead think: queso fun­dido or hot ar­ti­choke dip.

RULE 13 Raise the bar!

I like to come up with a themed make-your-own ap­pe­tizer bar, which ap­peals to a range of tastes and takes very lit­tle time to put to­gether. Two ideas to try: Or­der latkes from your fa­vorite deli and fill dishes with minced red onion, ca­pers, ap­ple­sauce, sour cream, smoked salmon, shred­ded horse­rad­ish, and, if you’re feel­ing fancy, caviar; or lay out a pile of cros­tini bread with top­pings like ri­cotta and roasted toma­toes, smashed white beans with rose­mary, and pâté. I gen­er­ally start a few for peo­ple so they get the idea but avoid as­sem­bling ev­ery one caterer-style.

RULE 14 Empty the dish­washer.

So you (and your loyal helpers) can clear as many dirty dishes out of the guests’ line of vi­sion as pos­si­ble and pre­vent the Jenga-like slag heap of sauce- and choco­late-smeared plates. (FYI: I find this rule is as ap­pli­ca­ble for a small din­ner party for eight as it is for a 100-per­son hol­i­day keg­ger.)

RULE 15 Make sure it gets doc­u­mented.

Hire a teenager or tell your friends to take as many pho­tos as they can. Take it from some­one who has watched all the neigh­bor­hood chil­dren go from singing “The Wheels on the Bus” to driv­ing ac­tual ve­hi­cles: You’re go­ing to want to re­visit those hol­i­day me­mories with neigh­bor­hood fam­i­lies and friends a thou­sand times down the road.

RULE 16 Record and re­flect.

The next day, take the morn­ing to bask in the high of your party, then start writ­ing down ev­ery­thing that worked and didn’t work so your next year’s self will be ahead of the game. (Put your notes right in your dig­i­tal cal­en­dar.) Give that fu­ture self a few words of en­cour­age­ment, i.e., “I know you are dread­ing this, but trust me, it will all be worth it.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.