Posts Tagged ‘household hints’

When my guests walk in the door, I want to greet them with a hug and a smile, great smells of the meal to come and some low-key but always memorable music. We all have different tastes: top 40, rock and roll, oldies…you name it. There’s plenty out there. In our family we love most everything (okay, we do draw our lines in the sand, but I won’t cover those here). All of my brothers play an instrument or three, as do my sisters Amie, Della and Dee.

But if your parties don’t have live music available, your MP3 player can be your best friend. I make iPod playlists, but I also have stacks and stacks of CDs, so whatever suits me the day of my party works.

When I go to a party at my sister Hellen’s, the musical gamut is run because she has lots of younger folks in her house, so you can hear a Sublime CD right after Emmy Lou Harris, Tom Petty following Lyle Lovette or Robert Plant’s newest–all super choices, although they can get loud. My brother Sonny will get you anything from Motown to George Jones to Lightnin’ Hopkins. Della has introduced me to some super music, so you never know what you’ll get at her house, but you can bet it will be good.

Laurie leans toward classic Ella Fitzgerald but is always sensitive to her guests and the style of the party. Me? I’m fairly eclectic in my musical tastes, but for a party, I’m pretty stuck on my background music choices. If it’s my annual Wisteria Tea, I usually have Stephan Grapelli and Django Rheinhardt playing. If it’s a dinner party, you can often hear a mix of Grapelli & Rheinhardt, Charlie Bird, Eartha Kitt and Billy Holiday.

So instead of a recipe today, I’m giving you some jazz essentials for a dinner party. Music that is timeless and almost everyone enjoys; even your teens can find some redeeming qualities in it (OK, maybe it’s only my teen friends; I must admit to being thrilled when my 12-year-old niece Liv asked for a copy of an Eartha Kitt CD).

Great music for a dinner party.

So here we go:

Eartha Kitt – Miss Kitt to You or the Legendary Eartha Kitt
Billy Holiday – Jazz ‘Round Midnight (but there are plenty more!)
Charlie Byrd Quintet – Du Hot Club de Concorde
Miles Davis — Kind of Blue
Dave Brubeck – Time Out
Ella Fitzgerald – Dream Dancing is my favorite but you can’t go wrong with the Cole Porter Songbook or the Gershwin Songbook, but, really, the list of great Ella recordings is endless!
Django Reindhardt — Djangology
Nor can you go wrong with Great Ladies of Jazz and Great Ladies Sing the Blues, both compilation albums, and every song on them is a winner. These picks are all timeless and fun and most everyone will enjoy them.

Add to it with a few modern(ish) albums. I love Cover Girl by Shawn Colvin, Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis, Rosanne Cash’s Somewhere in the Stars and The Mavericks Music for All Occasions.

You can mix up your music, as I did for a Bunco Night fundraiser for 100 with a five-hour playlist to please every age, or you can tailor it to your smaller group. It is lots of fun making playlists but a lot harder to make a compilation that pleases everyone.



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Our youngest sister, Margaret (if you’ve read About Hazel, you know that we have a lot of sisters), likes to say coolly, “We do not pay retail.”

Well, we do pay retail occasionally. But we don’t like it. We are indefatigable bargain hunters. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes it’s not quite as fabulous as we might like (as in: shoot! they’ve only got three of these napkins that I love! I need at least six). But we’ve ended up with a nice array of tableware and linens suitable for any occasion–without paying astronomical prices.

When I go out for tea, I always want the tea room’s so-so china to be my bone china. I collect most anything with roses on it–and Royal Doulton on the underside. I’m told the reason aliens don’t land their flying saucer on my lawn is because I’ll go out and flip it over to find out where it was made.

So when I host a tea party, I get to use a lot of my pretty rose-patterned porcelain. But

Tea Cups Courtesy of ebay!

if you find yourself with that so-so china, don’t stress. Ask your guests to bring their favorite place setting. I’ll bet you’ll find everyone has a tea cup and saucer that a grandmother or aunt gave her, and she’ll have a sweet story to tell about it too. You can also hit up an antiques store or eBay; that’s how I started. But I should warn you that, once you start, it’s hard to stop–collecting china’s worse than crack!

Our hostess for the tree-trimming tea party, Mary, has a whole set of Christmas Lenox, which she’ll happily show off for the season. It is lovely but a tad over my budget. I always prefer the fabulous at a discount.

There are some great deals on linens at antiques stores too. You can find four or six and sometimes as many as 12 matching damask napkins for a reasonable price. Incidentally, antique or vintage linens are, as a rule, far better made than many sold at high-end stores today. Napkins seem to be the best bet but tablecloths are plentiful too. Because tables tended to be smaller back in the day, if you’re looking to cover a 120-inch table, you’ll probably need a contemporary tablecloth, which can often be purchased at a nice discount at Ross, Marshalls or TJ Maxx. Why not take advantage of bargains when you can?

Don’t worry about old stains too much; lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide are miracle workers. Hairspray and toothpaste can be your friends too. Did you know you can polish your silver with toothpaste? And don’t get me started on the other things you can do with toothpaste! As I said, I prefer the fabulous at a discount….


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