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:
- Aldi (my new go to packaged foods store)
- 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!
HOW DO YOU DO HOST A LAST MINUTE PARTY, WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK, LIGHTING YOUR STOVE AND STILL MAKE IT SEXY!
The recipe for the garlicky hummus is here. Enjoy!
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.