Photograph by Istock.com/aldomurillo
How is it possible that the biggest party season of the year is already knocking at my door? This was the year that I was going to be prepared. I had planned ahead, and I even had a secret weapon!
For months, I had been watching the fascinating mini documentaries starring Kelly Ripa. In these series, she manages to pull off amazing entertaining feats in 30-second intervals, and glides through a hectic schedule with a smile and a twirl while tossing chew toys to the dog and gummy bears to the kids. How does she do it all and still have perfectly maintained roots? And then, I discovered two common threads: Electrolux appliances and 4-inch heels. If I had those two simple elements, I too could give a rousing motivational speech, jog home with two bags of groceries, effortlessly pop a roast and macaroni into the oven, and still find the time to throw Petey and Tina Belle a chew toy while cleaning the stemware for my dozens of guests that are soon to arrive! This would all be a breeze, and I would be a shoe-in as a guest hostess on Live with Regis and Kelly. Then I woke up, and it was November 9th.
I have no game plan, and my heart races at the thought of holiday cheer, hors d’oeuvres, and chestnuts. I also don’t have a gourmet kitchen full of new Electrolux appliances, but I do have my 4-inch heels! There is hope, and my quirky shortcuts below may be ones that even Kelly Ripa has yet to discover.
It’s virtually impossible to satisfy everyone’s dietary preferences, so give up the dream. Offer a simple array of finger foods and then ask your pickier guests to bring one of their favorite dishes to share with the crowd. Sure, you may not touch the pickled tofu rolls, but your finicky guest will feel honored that you thought so highly of their delicacies, and the pressure to please all will be off of your shoulders.
Key words: finger foods. After 12 years of annual holiday bashes, we’ve learned from our crowds that no one wants to sit down to eat at a party, no matter how formal the event. There’s just something about slowing down the festivities to sit down with utensils and napkins that are too reminiscent of taking time out of a childhood afternoon to take a nap.
Create a culinary theme. Build your menu around a particular subject and ask guests to bring their favorite dish that fits the bill (example: Mexican, Italian, comfort foods, the options are limitless!). This year, we’re doing a “Favorite Things” theme, which brings me to my next point…
Not everything has to be homemade! Our theme will be a collage of foods that are famous in each of the cities where we’ve individually lived during the past 25 years and we’ve invited some of our guests to join in on the fun. This year, our table will proudly offer bite-sized Maryland crab cakes from cbcrabcakes.com; Stewart’s hot dogs from Huntington, West Virginia; Snyder’s of Berlin potato chips; and Berger cookies from Baltimore. The food will all be prepped, frozen, and shipped to arrive the day of the party. Fifteen minutes in the oven, and we’ll be good to go!
Incorporate an edible table centerpiece. I hosted a baby shower recently and following my previous finger foods rule, I created a cupcake station with an array of flavors and colors instead of serving a traditional cake. I invested in a 3-tiered porcelain cake stand to display the selections, and then set the stand on 2 yards of pink faux silk fabric that was set casually in the center of the table. When the cupcakes were gone, we were left with very little cleanup, and the cake stand serves as a functional piece that we’ll use for years to come. Fortunately, my husband overheard guests talking about the charming centerpiece and realized that everyone initially thought that it was a faux food prop. Good thing they realized, or we would have been having cupcakes at our house for weeks!
Personality trumps perfection. I wish I could take the credit for this quote, but alas, I read it in a magazine somewhere, and I found that it summed up my approach to both interior design and life so beautifully, that it has now become my mantra. You can build the “perfect” holiday party with the “correct” food, place cards at each seat, and have rehearsed toasts, but why take a social event and turn it into work for youself and your guests? I find that these are the gatherings that I dread the most each holiday season. Instead, try to be the facilitator of memories, and set a stage that allows your guests to eat, drink, and mingle effortlessly. With this, your party is sure to be the soiree of the season, and the bearer of loads of great memories, for years to come.
So, I’ve now concluded Phase I of “Being Kelly” and I am feeling optimistic! I’ve simplified the logistics of the dreaded holiday party, mastered the art of the twirl when tossing treats to the dogs, and still have time to narrow down my Ipod party play list while I schedule a root-ectomy on my natural blonde locks before I slip into a sizzling little black dress! Now I can focus my attention on the perfect 4-inch heel… strappy, peep-toe, metallic, patent, platform, stiletto, BCBG, Jimmy Choo, Christian Siriano for Payless? Ugh, this is a job for Gelman!
Written by Jamie Kern
President of Design Theory Interiors, Jamie Kern is a licensed NCIDQ Registered Interior Designer with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Design and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and Business Law. Kern brings to her clients a comprehensive background including 15 years of experience in the financial sector of corporate business and another 10 years of award-winning interior design success with a focus on hospitality and residential interiors.
As a specialist in hospitality design, Kern offers knowledgeable guidance in the fundamental and often complex components that converge to form a functional and aesthetically pleasing hospitality environment. Kern's body of work has been recognized by the American Society of Interior Designers for design excellence and is featured as case study material in the interior design textbook "Beginnings of Interior Environments" for the education of up-and-coming interior designers. Her work will be featured in the upcoming hardback publication "Modern Design: The American Collection", due on the shelves in 2009.
Kern's portfolio illustrates glimpses of the past with a unique and modern interpretation. Kern leads a team of professional independent consultants who come together on projects as needed to pool knowledge, resources and skill sets. While Kern maintains a hands-on approach, the team, comprised of architects, interior designers and CAD deisgners, acts in partnership with a collective goal of arriving at the best possible solution for our clients.
For more information and to contact Jamie Kern:
Design Theory Interiors
585 Idlewood Dr. NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30327
Phone: (404) 843-3086
Fax: (404) 843-3092
Cell: (404) 660-9391