3560 updated post view 2775

How To Improvise & Host A Last Minute Birthday Dinner Party Without Sizzling Your Pocket!


One of the life-long lessons I continue to learn and diligently work at applying in my life, is being practical and not wasteful. My parents have taught me to eat everything on my plate in consideration for those less fortunate than ourselves. I didn’t understand it much as a child, but now as an adult, I have a deep-rooted sensitivity to those in need and unable to enjoy the simple, yet lovely things life has to offer.

Perhaps it explains why I’m frugal. Very frugal. I’m a A-list  bargain shopper, in and out of the shoe department. I’m even a great negotiator, so when I see something I like or need, a way will be made to acquire it. I like to call that the art of  bartering. It works every time.

Grocery shopping is no different. I look for great deals. I’ve not gotten to the point of cutting coupons, but I finally broke down and got a membership to one of those warehouses offering great values on large packages of food and other amenities. It’s been good so far.  And, I’ve been visiting farmer’s markets more frequently (the only thing stopping me until recently was the distance). Shopping there and and other places like IKEA, where kitchen gadgets and party wares are on the high end of inexpensive, make it very easy to placate the need to entertain.

That means that when I’m idle enough to come up with an impromptu dinner party for a good friend, it takes me no time to whip something together. Well, almost no time.


My dear friend “A” celebrated his 35th b-day last week. Much to my surprise, my new good friend Christina from the blog MeleCotte (whom I made the initial acquaintance at STIR IT 28) came by and kindly dropped off an amazing homemade carrot cake for him. I knew she was coming, sort of. After a short Twitter conversation about the icing being a major #fail, I wasn’t expecting her to show up with what “A” and I agreed has been the best carrot we’ve both had, to date. Succulent, great balance of flavor and the detail to hand designing the carrots on the side and top of the pastry, were just beautiful.

(You can see a quick photo of the cake here.)

It brought smiles to all of our faces, on such a lovely Tuesday evening.  To top things off, the cream cheese icing was so good I couldn’t even wait to cut the cake.

My wheels started spinning and I decided to host a very last minute dinner party last Saturday. The first thing I decided, was that I was not going to cook anything. I’ve learned that some friends just don’t appreciate the time and effort that goes into homemade food, and after 15 bottles of wine and 4 Patron varieties piling up in my sink, I’m left to do all the cleaning–alone.

My approach was going to be very different this time. It was going to be Chic, Classy & Delicious, notwithstanding the lack of time and a huge budget. The guest list was limited to 20, 12 of which I knew would show up.

The theme: GAME NIGHT. This means, the intention is to play games and not focus too much on the food. A great thing about game night parties is that you get to explore and observe everyone’s suppressed personality, when under pressure and on the spotlight.

So, on Saturday, after a laid back and gorgeous afternoon, I had 2 hours to do all the shopping, set up and put my hostess with the mostess face on. “A” was still around at 6 pm and did not get the hint that it was time for him to go!

I perform well when under pressure, but two hours to do all of that was really pushing it. Fortunately, I was hosting at my place.

Once he was out, I hopped in the shower, half way did my make up, and mentally made a note of the 3, and ONLY 3 stops I had to make:

  1. Warehouse
  2. Aldi (my new go to packaged foods store)
  3. Farmers’ market (fortunately, walking distance from my place)

The plan of action was to hit up stores within a 4 mile radius. I already had all the party decór essentials: cocktail napkins, cocktail plates, stainless steel looking flat-ware (thanks to store No. 1 above) and a plethora of bowls, vases, table settings and layering pieces.



Warehouse stop was for candied dried mango, lightly salted Kettle chips and a delicious mango salsa. Aldi bore the majority of the goodies with a variety of home style cookies including choco chip, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter; vegetable and whole wheat crackers and vegetable chips. The farmer’s market was for garbanzos to make garlicky hummus, a variety of olives, fresh celery and mint.

I was done within 40 minutes, leaving me plenty of time to set the table, trim week-old flowers & repurpose them to look fresh in a different vase, make hummus, light the snowball tea candles and finish applying my make-up.

Having faithful friends that will offer to make or pick up last minute treats, is always a blessing. My sweet and dear “M” brought some fresh strawberries and made a homemade whip and marshmellow dipping cream, fresh to serve & to offset all the savory treats.  She also brought additional wine glasses, seeing as though I only have enough for a party of 4 (working on changing this).

Christina showed up with 18 gorgeous and delectable cupcakes ranging from red velvet, strawberry, key lime, oreo cookie, double fudge, and butter cream, each having 2″ of the softest icing. I quickly plated those on a vintage glass cake pedestal I haven’t used in over 10 years.


For drinks, we had an arrangement of white wines, sweet dessert wine from Spain, beer (no thanks to my purchasing) some unfathomable carbonated drinks and bottled water.

What made this impromptu dinner setting so special was the repurposing of what would otherwise be considered “serving platters.” Most everything went into glass or copper vases I’ve saved from receiving flowers (ie, the strawberries and cream below); and rustic wire bread baskets given to me by a local bbq joint.  The napkins that lined the serveware were from Ikea or Chipotle (and some wax paper for the mangoes)–you know the brown and recycled paper napkins makes this a green party and I all simply did was fold the napkins inside out!

I used square tempered glass blocks and old bricks I painted gold, to give the cake pedestal and other plates some height.


At 8pm on the dot, guests arrived, lounge and Latin music filled my place and “SURPRISE” was boringly yelled. Yeah, we do this a lot. But not on this dime.

Total cost of my friend’s last minute dinner party for 12: $45. And, of all those groceries purchased, 2 bags of chips, 1 jewel case of strawberries, 1 box of crackers, 1/2 pack of candied mangoes and 6 cupcakes were not even touched! See, the theme of game night kept everyone distracted!

“A” was surprised, very happy and his team kicked mine in Tabboo!

That’s how you do a party!


The recipe for the garlicky hummus is here. Enjoy!

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

Follow the sexy & delicious fun on


follow Bren Herrera on Pinterest

Don't forget to check out my debut cookbook!

66 thoughts on “How To Improvise & Host A Last Minute Birthday Dinner Party Without Sizzling Your Pocket!

  1. I prefer homemade meatballs to store-bought ones so I will make and freeze extra. Will use the store-bought in a pinch. I like to get chips on sale BOGO or better yet B2G3. Like you, Bren, I own a variety of vintage plates, platters and bowls. A jar of marinara sauce makes a great dip for a variety things or can be used with a loaf of Italian or French bread to make bite sized pizzas. And there’s always cookie dough in my freezer for a little something sweet.

  2. Only $45 spent for a party and enough beer, wine and liquor to go around—I can dig it!

  3. Wish I could have been there, but your way of describing (and presenting it) made me feel I could almost taste it. Loved everything, mostly the beautiful presentation – I’m a fool for how food is presented to me, and I can see you did a great job, as usual. And, at $45?!!! You can’t beat that. I wonder who you get it from …although I think I know 😉

  4. Hey girl! I loved the veggie chips and the hummus, a most have recipe. Lets do it next time at my place so little man can get some sleep. Love you guys.. by the way, I will be looking for Christina for Niko’s Birthday cake/cupcakes. yummy….

  5. We had so much fun! And, everything was beautiful! Can’t wait until the next time…:) (Your pics are fabulous!)

  6. Wonderful 🙂 I loved it. Hey don’t worry I’m always the nice one at peoples houses who washes the dishes 🙂 they say “no no it’s okay I can do it” out of kindness and humbleness but deep down inside they are saying “oh yes! thank goodness!” lol.

  7. Norma: You must let me know next time you’re in Atlanta. You’re welcome any time!

    AJ: isn’t it great to get creative on a dime! You don’t have to get all crazy to have a delicious and sexy time. Plus the vintage and repurposed elements add character.

    Dullah: Oh, and we dug it!

    Papi: Oh you know exactly whom I got it from. La fruta no cai muy lejos de la mata.

    Rosa: It was fabulous and super simple! I loved it!

    Simone: Girl, thank so much for helping and being on time! Tu sabes come son la gente y come me vuelve loca!! We did have a great time and we’ll have to do it at your house, which as way more space!

    Jason: Indeed! It’s okay to get fussy when the time is right and the budget allows, but when it’s limited, you have to creative, which I’m really good at!

    Chris: GIRL, you rock. It was such a blast! I had a strawberry cupcake today and it was all that. So much icing!!!

    Nathan: Gracias! Haven’t seen you in while. Welcome back. I say that, too, when they offer, but no one ever does. I keep telling myself Imma stop entertaining y despues vamos a ver quien me llama pidiendo me que alga algo! lol. I really don’t mind, pero ofresiendoce would be nice! 🙂

  8. Hey Lady Bren Loving the new website sister, glad and proud to see you progressing. In answer to your question on Latinos don’t support you: “Mira no puedo pienza para othra persona y gente” tal vez ellos celos !Question do you know Daisy Martinez? “Daisy Cooks” Food Network ? Contact her she’s real !I used to work with her brother and she use to be the private Chef for the owners of the company I work for (SShhh…The Tish Family Loews Hotels)They just open a new one In Atlanta ! ok yo habla despues, Cuiadado

  9. Sometimes the best soirees are the ones that are conceived on the fly. You threw one heck of an event and it was staged just perfect!!

  10. You crack me up with your painted Gold bricks!! They do add a special something that I can’t put a name to. Party looks like it was a blast! I’m sure A had a great time. Budweiser chica needs to hook a brotha up!! HELLOOOOO.. O and some red velvet cupcakes please 🙂

  11. Yesssss, on a DIME! We know all about squeezing the most out of every dollar, especially considering how much we do parties for people. Way to make it work!

  12. and it’s fairly obvious you are enjoying your new camera. love the pics, i at least notice a get difference (better) in the photos.
    on a dime is right….that’s why i love my IKEA. now if we could just get all-clad to go into IKEA we’d be all set. mmmm’k?

  13. oye hija eso quedo precioso y esos copcake se ven que dan ganas de comerlos todos sin pensar en nadie .la decoracion quedo bella felicidades te la comiste besos mami

  14. Meeta: Girlie, it was so much fun and extremely easy to put together!

    ChefMED: well you haven’t been here in a while.. site was redesigned last Summer 🙂 But, glad to see you here. I hear what you’re saying on the lack of Latino support. I’m far from trippin’ over it. It’s just something that’s jumped out at me. Email me.

    Lys: Yes they are! We all had a such a great time! I work really well under pressure!

    Jonathan: maaaaan, those bricks are gold! i looooove them! the work in a lot of different situations. Budweiser chica is not returning my calls… i’m about to lose my mind!

    DuoDishes: I’m kind of happy about it all. so much so, just might do another one. lol

  15. Painted gold bricks…fun idea. Lovely i bet.

    Taking a break from cooking is nice. And still it came out great. And you moved AGAIN?? Gosh. Well the good thing is yes you say you are now near the Farmers Market. Big plus!

    Reading this i totally felt i was there, really. Sure yall had a blast. 🙂

  16. When are you coming home? And I haven’t forgotten your cookies. Been crazy busy with orders and tinkering with flavor combos. Would love to do an impromptu party with you when you come home. Mix it up Cuban and Southern Style. A friend makes a killer sweet tea we mix with a mojito. It’s our version of a Moteato.

  17. Vanilla Sugar: D, I’m so glad you’ve noticed that I have a new camera! I’ve not really announced it in any of my blog posts; but I’m thankful it’s notable. You know it’s only going to get better! I love cam–thank God for generous friends/clients! 🙂 Ikea is the place to really go to to entertain on a budget… There are also so many different crafty and repurposing things I do to keep costs low… I should do a post on that! LOL! Hugs!

    Mami: verdad que si!!?!? te voy a traer no solamente los cupcakes pero tambien los chocolate decadence que hace Christina. Duri esubo muy contento!

    Miesha: Girl, we had a blast! You know I had moved… back in Sept. And yes, a HUGE plus that I can literally walk to the farmer’s market. I looove it. Had to go there this morning.

    AJ: Sometime in May. I’ll let you know in FB. That mixed drink sounds interesting!

  18. Great post! Those cupcakes on the first shot are totally calling my name. And I’m the exact same way about saving and not wasting. A little obsessively so – I think it drives Michael crazy at times 🙂

  19. I heard about that wonderful party!”A” was surprised! Maybe next year you can throw me a “$45” party. I use coupon’s too,& always looking for bargains.Let’s get together sometime and “bargain shop”!!!!

  20. 72423 12759thank you dearly author , I located oneself this web site really valuable and its full of superb healthy selective information ! , I as properly thank you for the great food strategy post. 702054

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Theme developed by TouchSize - Premium WordPress Themes and Websites
Show Buttons
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Youtube
Hide Buttons