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Archive for August, 2011

Locating great party supplies is something of a hobby for us. Though I really don’t love to shop, I do manage to find lots of cool stuff for parties. There are plenty of places to find neat decor–the hard part is recognizing it when you see it! You know us: we may love the fun stuff, but we hate to spend big bucks on it.

Michaels always has a vast array of possibilities, although it can also damage your budget, so keep an eye out for the chain’s 50 percent off coupons in your local paper, or, while you’re in Michaels, sign up for their email list; they’ll send you extra coupons. Watch for sales of items that have “centerpiece” written all over them. And, honestly, you never know what that might be, so keep an open mind (and imagination).

Floral Supply Syndicate with its very limited hours is open to both the wholesale trade and the public, but remember the prices are different. If you don’t have a resale number, don’t be disappointed if the cash register price is different from the one you saw on the shelf. The selection is astonishing, and even the retail prices are pretty reasonable. I’ve never been able to walk out with less than $50 on my invoice. Okay–there have been the few times that I’ve run in for just one item and have stuck to it, but it’s a rare day!

And what a fun place Moskatels is, not just for floral stuff but way more!There’s an array of vases that goes on for many aisles. They have all the stuff Michaels has and all the stuff FSS has and then they throw more at ya! This is fun store chock-full of great ideas and party decor galore, give yourself plenty of time to explore this one!

It’s not a huge chain, but I’m madly in love with Tai Pan Trading Company. The company is based in Utah and seems to have just five stores–two in California: one in Costa Mesa and one is close to me, across from the Ontario Mills. This store is gift-hunting heaven and a must destination for your tabletop. Their plates are priced reasonably enough that you can actually set a table for four or six with brand-new plates for less than $20. They have an enormous selection of silk flowers–not inexpensive but the silk floral rarely is. On the other hand, their glassware is incredibly reasonable.

Then there’s Stat’s & Fishbecks in Pasadena (and two other locations)– this store is just too much fun. Do not go in the door unless you’re feeling like you need to spend, spend, spend. But, oh, what fun you’ll have!

If you have a Saturday morning free, I highly recommend just meandering the area around LA’s floral mart. Between the garment district, the fabric district and the floral district, there are dozens of stores with the oft-mentioned reasonably priced décor. From sparkly items to fabric to use on your tables, to vases and other glassware, you can easily spend the whole day on a shopping death march. Bring a few bottles of water, cash and one of those rolling carts you see the bag ladies pulling so diligently. Trust me, they’re on to something. Oh yeah, bring a girlfriend to talk you down off the ledge when you think it will be your only chance to ever buy that perfect glass/fabric/vase/box again.

Hazel

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Good food, of course, is the most important part of any picnic, but you need a way to carry it to your destination and something to eat it from. Nothing wrong with a sack lunch of course—but it lacks a certain celebratory quality.

I found these pretty tin plates, with their own handy tin container, at Restoration Hardware. My corkscrew always gets a good workout at a Hollywood Bowl picnic--I'm amazed at how many people forget to bring one and need to borrow mine.


For our Hollywood Bowl picnics, here are the items–other than food–that I consider essential:
Acrylic wine glasses
Salt and pepper
Corkscrew
Plates
Napkins
Tablecloth
Trash bags
Serving implements
Eating etensils

Portability is a major consideration. You see these adorable wicker picnic baskets with matching accoutrements—but I have found that they’re not very functional. I have an insulated rolling cooler that I’ve used for six seasons now. It’s getting pretty battered, and I’m starting to keep an eye out for a replacement. There’s quite an array available online. This one, from Keep Your Cooler, looks pretty handy.

Along with portability comes food safety. I have an assortment of freezer gel packs that I use instead of ice. (All Hollywood Bowl attendees know that you will inevitably hear two things at the Bowl: the national anthem at the beginning and, at the end, a heartfelt announcement over the PA system asking people to not empty their ice chests in the aisles.) My favorite is a wrap-around ice cube thingummy purchased at Target a few years ago, but I’ve been eyeing this nice wine bag at the Hollywood Bowl store. Obviously the folks who buy for the Bowl store know a good thing when they see it. They stock a beautiful rolling cooler–but it is $175.

I like to pack most food in ziplock bags, which don’t take up a lot of space—but crushable food should always go in hard containers.
I prefer reusable plates and linens rather than disposable ones, though I fully understand that using these things once and tossing them lightens the load on the way home—but it doesn’t lighten the load at our landfills. Smarty Had a Party has a wide selection of biodegradable disposable napkins and plates, if you’d like to feel virtuous about your trash.

My acrylic wine glasses came from World Market.
I like them a lot—you cannot tell that they’re plastic until you touch them. They are surprisingly clear. The only drawback: I haven’t been able to find acrylic champagne flutes that I like as much, only the old-fashioned thick and chunky ones. Feh. The search continues.

One more thing: coffee for dessert (you know how important dessert is to me!), served in our seats at intermission. We always bring our own. Hazel likes to have her thermos filled with Starbucks decaf on her way in. It’s not that you can’t buy coffee at the Bowl; you can. It’s terrible. Terrible. And you have to stand in line for 20 minutes to get it, thereby adding insult to injury. For some reason Hazel has taken my bargain 99 Cent store paper cups in dislike–yeah, yeah, so they seep a little, big deal; just double them–and recently she announced that she would be bringing good paper cups. Okay, fine. I left the bargain cups at home–and Hazel forgot to bring hers. Fortunately, we discovered that those acrylic wine glasses work just fine for coffee too.

Picnickers need to be prepared, but they should also be flexible.

Laurie

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Grilled Game Hens – A Picnic Pleasure.

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As we’ve mentioned, we spend the summer doing picnics, cooking outdoors (because we really don’t want to heat up the kitchen if we can avoid it) and throwing our summer parties. This is a simple, simple recipe inspired from a Giada DeLaurentis baked chicken recipe. I still make hers in the winter, but here’s one of my summer Bowl picnic recipes that I love. Instead of chicken pieces, I use Cornish game hens. They grill and transport well, so they’re perfect for a picnic.

Grilled Game Hens with Vinaigrette

Ingredients
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Hop Kiln Orange Zinfandel mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Cornish game hens
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs of your choice. (I had fresh rosemary and thyme, so that’s what I added.)
Montreal seasoning to taste

Directions
In a large baggie combine the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper and squeeze to blend. Add two game hens whole, seal the bag and turn and lightly squeeze to coat. Press as much air out of the bag as possible and refrigerate, turning the game hens occasionally, for at least two hours and up to one day. Hint: Game hens have sharp parts and can often puncture a baggie. I always place the baggie in a bowl so I don’t have a refrigerator mess to clean up the next morning.
Heat the grill to 250 (if yours has a thermometer). Remove game hens from the baggie and arrange on the grill or a spit. Sprinkle with Montreal seasoning and grill the game hens until cooked through, about one hour (you want your meat thermometer to register 155 degrees at the thigh without touching bone). Split the game hens in half longways with a large knife. You may have to rock it sIightly to get through the back bone but they’re really easy to cut. Wrap them in foil and place them in a fresh baggie.

They will continue to cook a bit longer while wrapped, so I usually undercook a tiny bit. Keep them warm by transporting in an insulated bag.

Hazel

I picked up this cute insulated bag at Home Goods a couple of weeks ago. They had a huge selection with great prints and very reasonable prices (less than 10 bucks–yay!).

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