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Posts Tagged ‘theme parties’

I am notorious for losing my wine glass at a party. I put it down somewhere so I can pick up a platter of appetizers, answer the door or take something out of the oven–and it’s gone. All too often, I pick up a glass I’m sure is mine and Hazel says, “Unh-unh–that one’s mine!”

So we started using wine charms to identify glasses. They can get pricey, however. And we like them to

Custom-made wine charms for the Queen of Hearts party.

coordinate with the theme of the party. For the Queen of Hearts party, we wanted Alice in Wonderland charms. They are not to be had, not even for ready money.

Laurel wanted to try her hand at making some. She downloaded some images and sized them to fit on tags, which she bought at Staples, and then inserted jump rings. I picked up earring hoops at Michael’s and used my needle-nosed pliers to bend back one end of each hoop, so it would stay hooked. We slipped the tags on hoops and, voila! Cute, unique and theme-coordinated wine charms. And we didn’t pay twelve bucks for eight of them, either.

You can find great photos for the step-by-step process of making your own here at Not Martha, an always interesting site.
Laurie

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Party favors: When I provide them, I want them to be fun, unusual and–preferably–edible. Jordan almonds are…fine. Personalized M&Ms, potentially quite entertaining. Homemade truffles packaged to match the color scheme and theme of the party? Now we’re talking!

For the Queen of Hearts party, we began with these adorable little boxes from the Hortense B. Hewitt Co.. We were impressed by how well they were made. They fold into shape easily and squarely and they’re incredibly cute.

Party favors: Some assembly required!

Each box comes with a precut length of ribbon with a little hole in the lid to feed the ribbon through. And–somebody was thinking!–the tip of the ribbon is lightly and invisibly reinforced so it doesn’t unravel when you feed it through the little hole. The result: packages that don’t lose their ribbons.

Because this party has an Alice in Wonderland theme, we created little tags for each box that say “Eat Me.”

I’ve tried a number of truffle recipes over the years. You know what? They’re all good. And they are all easy. Easy! Good bittersweet chocolate, good cocoa and cream. That’s all it takes. You don’t need a candy thermometer; you don’t need to worry about tempering your chocolate or any of those daunting other candy-making techniques.

Here’s the recipe I used this time around. So far, it’s my favorite. It came from Gourmet magazine, about three years ago.

11 ounces bittersweet chocolate (56% cacao), divided
2/3 cup heavy cream
cocoa powder for dusting
Any additional flavorings that catch your fancy

Finely chop eight ounces of the chocolate and put in a bowl.
Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate, mashing any big pieces with a wooden spoon. Then carefully stir until the ganache is smooth.
Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to hold a shape, about one hour. Drop teaspoonsful on parchment-lined baking sheets, rounding them a little if you like them tidy like that. I personally don’t care–I think the irregular shape looks more truffle-like. If you’re in a hurry, freeze them until firm, about 15 minutes, or refrigerate them for an hour or two while you take care of other chores.

Melt the other three ounces of chocolate and smear some on your hand. Gently rub each chilled truffle to coat lightly with chocolate. The secret to a delicate coating of chocolate is to roll each truffle in a smear of melted chocolate in your hand. (The original directions suggest wearing a surgical glove, and I can see that it would make it easier and tidier to do it that way. On the other hand, I enjoyed licking my fingers when I was done.)

I can pretty much guarantee that nibbling either side of these "mushrooms" will make you larger. Happier, too!

Toss the truffles in unsweetened cocoa powder so they look like their namesakes, freshly dug from the earth. Shake the truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess cacao. Store them in the refrigerator.

I made two batches, for a total of about 50 truffles. I added grated orange zest to one bowl of cocoa and a teaspoon or so of espresso powder to another bowl of cocoa, and tossed half of the truffles in one bowl or the other. It gave them just a hint of additional flavor.

Hazel’s Saturday morning expedition to the Los Angeles flower mart yielded black-and-white polka dot candy papers for the truffles. I stacked two truffles in each little favor box, separated by a flattened polka dot paper. (I realized as I was tidying up after the party that some guests didn’t know there were two truffles in those boxes; a few people ate the top truffle and didn’t discover the one underneath. Hah! More for me!)

Laurie

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Posted by Mel

I won’t be throwing a Super Bowl party this year. But that’s no a big deal, since I never throw a Super Bowl party–or attend one, either. I’ve never had an interest in football, and I know nothing about it — though I am impressed by some of the technical features of the game as broadcast on TV. For one thing, how is it possible to put electronic markings on the field that the players can walk in front of?

There is sort of a festive air on Super Bowl Sunday even in Los Angeles, a city that has been without an NFL team since the Rams moved to St. Louis. Last year our next-door neighbor put an enormous TV set in his backyard and invited a crowd to watch and cheer and drink. The excitement was tremendous, and a good time was had by all — all in his back yard, anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did it again this year.

I am not against parties, but I prefer them with a theme other than football. For example, Laurie and Hazel will soon be giving a birthday party with an Alice in Wonderland theme for our friend Laurel. Laurie says she will try to think of a punch we can call Treacle and Ink (“Then fill up the glasses with treacle and ink,/Or anything else that is pleasant to drink”). We will certainly have mushroom soup (“one side will make you grow larger, and the other side will make you grow smaller”), among other Wonderland delights.

One year the theme of Laurel’s birthday was Mad Scientists, and many people came in costume. As far as I was concerned, the winner was a bearded guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt and carrying a coconut with wires trailing out of it. Glen was normally clean-shaven, so I knew it was part of the costume. Turns out he was masquerading as the evil Professor from the “Mirror, Mirror” episode of Gilligan’s Island. (If you don’t know why that is hilarious, find a friend who is a fan of the original Star Trek and ask him or her about the Mirror Universe.)

I also go to science fiction conventions, which are sort of like big multi-day parties. At these events fans, writers, gamers, and movie people get together to advertise, discuss, and otherwise get involved with stories that may include hobbits and unicorns at one end of the scale, and spaceships and giant robots at the other. Many members show up in costume and drink strange concoctions like blog. I know that these days a blog is a piece of personal writing, but before the Internet allowed everyone to be his own publisher, blog was generally a heady mix of alcoholic beverages — never the same twice.

Many years ago I met Laurie at one of these conventions, and she was kind enough to invite me a party she and her friends were hosting in their hotel room. Food at these events generally consists of chips, soft drinks, and canned dip. But being more interested in Laurie than in what she might feed me, I went. I learned that Laurie’s idea of party food was similar to what Ratty liked to serve in Wind in the Willows. As I recall, there were breads, crackers, cheeses, pickles, meats, spreads, and a variety of drinks, both alcoholic and non. This was my introduction to the wonders of Laurie’s entertaining.

Guys who go to football games and parties sometimes paint themselves blue or wear triangles of cheese on their heads. At a minimum they may wear the colors of their favorite team. And yet many of them make fun of people who wear Star Trek uniforms. I don’t see the difference myself. Why does it have to be either/or? You are a fan of the activity that makes you happy.

On Sunday, I’ll probably watch an old Star Trek episode or go to Disneyland instead of watching the Super Bowl. But please don’t hold that against me. I won’t hold football against you.

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One of the irresistible vendors at the flower mart is GM Floral. Its second-floor space is a dazzling sea of colorful, fun, unusual and lavish decorative items. Call it party planner nirvana. The ribbon–aisles of it!–gift bags, gift wrap and floral wrap would dress up any gift or flower arrangement. GM is open to the public, but be aware as you shop that the posted prices are wholesale. Retail is 30 percent more. We were so inspired by some of the things we saw, we decided on the spot that Laurel wasn’t going to have any say in the theme for her birthday party next year–we’ve already started shopping for it.

These huge bows at GM Floral caught our eye. They have the feel of the classic animated Disney Alice. We didn't buy them--because where would we store them after the party?--but we're going to borrow the idea.


Moskatel’s, across Wall Street, is a block deep and chock-full of what Barbara Hambly would unhesitatingly describe as “more weird crap” (that would be right before she ran amok among the shelves). We were watching our pennies, but we certainly found some things that had to come home with us: fabulous little gift boxes just the right size for a chocolate truffle or two (luckily, I have been tinkering with chocolate truffle recipes), darling organza bags–on a roll! Tidy, efficient and just begging to be transformed into something. One or two Christmas items for next year (80 percent off–what do you think? Are we going to say no? Hardly!).

The Floral Supply Syndicate has locations across the country; its mail order business is strictly wholesale, but on Saturday mornings the Wall Street shop does sell to the public. I was very taken with some lights, perfect–oh, so perfect!–for a science fiction themed party. Unfortunately, my budget precluded my buying them just now. Maybe next time. They carry a huge array of baskets, balloons, dried and preserved items and just about every handy tool you ever wanted and thought didn’t exist. I picked up a dozen 15-inch red tapers (because it will be impossible to find red tapers three days before Valentine’s Day) for 10 bucks. And it’s not really a problem that they’re not quite steady in my candlesticks because FSS also carries a product called Sure Stick Adhesive Clay. My candles will never wobble again. Heck, this product might even make them cat proof. If it does…well, Alice won’t be the only one in Wonderland! I’ll be stunned.

Laurie

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For some years now I’ve thrown a party for my friend Laurel’s birthday. She chooses the theme, and Hazel and I figure out how to execute it. The guest list has gotten smaller over the years but the parties have gotten more elaborate–despite the fact that each year we begin by saying, “Let’s do something simple.”

I don't think we'll have room for croquet--but we will certainly play games.

This year seems to be following that well-trodden path. Laurel requested a game night, with perhaps a dozen friends. We’ve done game nights for Laurel’s birthday before. They’re always fun. But because we have done game nights before, we’d like to do something fresh. You know, to make it more interesting for both the guests and the party-throwers.

Now, Laurel’s birthday is the day after Valentine’s Day, so it’s easy to slip into a habit of using hearts in the decor. And this time she said, “Maybe we could use the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland?”

Ah, the magic words that create the theme for a party: Alice in Wonderland. Hearts. Games.

We’re thinking hard. We’re finding inspiration everywhere–from the original Lewis Carroll books Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, from the Disney film, from a delightful website Mel found called Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland, from many other places.

On Saturday morning Hazel and I browsed through the floral supply houses that surround and supplement the Los Angeles flower mart, taking notes and photos and periodically succumbing to an irresistible item: fabulous ribbon, the perfect glittery hearts for a centerpiece, a couple of items that we will turn into the perfect invitations….

Somehow, when Hazel and I collaborate, we don’t do simple.

This is going to be fun!

Laurie

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