Inspiring Creativity Through Celebration

About Helen Jane

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201117August

Bean a good year

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201116August

Bean Triumphant

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201115August

Disciplined

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201114August

Behatted

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20113June

Everyday Treats, Party Person

As proprietress of both Everyday Treats and Frog and Snail, Roxanna shows the rest of us her impeccable taste. Better yet, she’s nice so that you forgive that face.

Follow her musings on Twitter at @miguelina for even more Roxanna love.

Roxanna generously shared some of her entertaining tips with me for the fourth Party Person featured on HJEntertains.com. I particularly agree with her opinion about a relaxed host “making” the party. Wholehearted agreement.
(Man, I love my Party People.)

What’s the last thing you celebrated? How?

The last thing I celebrated was the royal wedding. I didn’t throw the party, but who says guests aren’t part of a celebration?

The premise was simple — record the wedding and play it back for friends after we all did our respective school runs. It was so considerate!. What made it special is that my friend went all out — she brought out the silver, hired a caterer (!) decorated her home with royal wedding knick knacks, and encouraged us to wear hats. Some of the guests were in their morning workout clothes and others were dressed in 1980s bridesmaid attire (complete with hats!). It was so laid back and crazy and so much fun. Having an excuse to drink mimosas on a random friday morning didn’t hurt.

Give me one word to sum up your hosting style.

I can’t do one word, but I like things easy and elegant.
Yes, the two can co-exist.
In fact, I don’t think you can be elegant if you’re uncomfortable.

What’s your least favorite part of hosting? How do you deal?

When people don’t RSVP. Try as I might, I can’t read minds!

And don’t get me started on bringing extra people without asking first…
How do I deal? Directly. I usually follow-up, politely but firmly.

What’s the most important party ingredient?

A good mix of people and a relaxed host. Once you have that, everything takes care of itself.

Do you have a signature drink or party snack? Mind sharing the ingredients?

I always make cocktail meatballs. They’re easy and people love to have a hot appetizer.

You know the recipe:
Put frozen cocktail or swedish meatballs in the slow cooker.
Cover with equal parts Heinz chili sauce and grape jelly.
Get ready for the party, live your life.
After a few hours cut a bunch of cilantro over it and serve.

EASY.

What was your biggest party mistake? What did you learn from it?

My first few dinner parties I stressed about everything being perfect. My house had to be perfect, the multi-course meal had to be perfect, everyone had to look perfect.

I was miserable.

I’ve realized that most people are thrilled to be invited to your house for a fun few hours, and that no one expects perfection. Also, I’ve learned that things that cook in the oven are way superior than things that need your attention. I never sautee anything for dinner parties — it’s the oven all the way!

Thanks Roxanna! You’re the foxiest!
Want to be featured? Email me at helenjaneAThjentertainsDOTcom.
I have some questions for you.

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20119May

Heather Barmore, Party Person

Heather Barmore is a bloggy friend from waaaay back in the day. She’s gets politics in a way that’s inspiring to me. Despite her hectic travel schedule, she loves to entertain and answered a few Party People questions for me.

What’s your favorite song to turn up loud and dance to at the end of the night?
I Want You Back by Jackson 5. It’s so fun to play after an evening with the crew and have that turned way up. No one ever expects it but everyone gets right in. It was also played in one of my favorite party scenes on one of my favorite shows – The L Word. It’s a song that is truly timeless. (Also, how can you not love Jackson 5?!)

Tell me about the most memorable party you’ve thrown.
Last year my friend Alexa asked me to help her throw a book launch party before the BlogHer conference. We got a suite, cupcakes the size of my head, wine and thirty of our favorite people. It was a blast. The only stressful part being how to get many, many boxes of cupcakes from the Upper East Side back to Midtown while it was 90 degrees. Oh and with August in Manhattan humidity.

Ahh.

But it was so much freaking fun. I don’t really like large events – funny given my line of work – but this was the perfect size with a group of people who I happened to adore and happen to adore each other. That was my idea of the perfect party.

Nothing too crazy or lavish but a bunch of people who like each other hanging out in a lovely space and able to have actual conversations without yelling over the next person. Also a nice way to start a weekend of running around. At the end of the evening we did a little dancing to Mr. Biggie Smalls.

Good times.

Do you have a signature drink or party snack? Mind sharing the ingredients?
The French 75! le sigh

Pour into a shaker:
– 1 1/2 shots of gin
– 1/2 shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 1/2 shot simple syrup

Shake it all up.

Pour into a champagne flute (it is imperitive that one own champagne flutes)

Top off with champagne.

Garnish with a curl of lemon, or you can add a little lemon to the rim of the glass.

Drink up! But be careful. These things are mighty delicious and dangerous.

Thanks Heather! You’re the foxiest!

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20117April

Internet Party People

I am a big fan of Sandy Coughlin.
Her Reluctant Entertainer book and web site are beautiful expressions of hospitality at its warmest.

I am both awed by and a little scared of Jen from the Hostess blog.
It’s a lot of work to have that much fun.

I think you should visit Jordan’s site too.
She’s in France right now, and her events are legendary.

The internet is fun, right?

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201121March

Party People: Rick Webb

Rick Webb is an internet legend. (Trust me, I know my legends. He’s up there.)

He’s co-founder of the barbarian group, the kind of interactive agency that makes magic out of the internet. (Literally! With cloaks and wands and code and stuff!)

I attended their party at SXSW last week, only to find myself behind Michael Cera and his backpack when ordering a drink. I say this  to demonstrate the kind of party Rick can throw.

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite song to turn up loud and dance to at the end of the night?

New Order. Once things get going, you can play five New Order songs in a row, and the only people who notice will be PSYCHED. Mix it up through the years. Play Temptatio, then maybe Round and Round or Fine Time, then Blue Monday then Bizarre Love Triangle. It’s kind of crazy. Plus, everyone likes dancing to New Order whether they know it or not.

When I’m ready to kick everyone out, I usually play Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle’s “One from the Heart.” It sorta makes everyone feel depressed, but happy, and has an undeniable “closing time, lets sweep the floors” feeling.

Tell me about the most memorable party you’ve thrown.

I’ve thrown some great parties in clubs and bars – my company’s annual anniversary party is something like 500 people now, and my thirtieth birthday filled a club in Boston. But those are a different beast.

But home, my most remarkable party was probably back in 1999 or so. My house was just down the street from a popular night club in Boston, called The Paradise. We had a lot of afterparties there, and over time, like any regular party does, it started drawing more and more people you weren’t quite sure if you knew or not.

At the peak, the parties had a bevvy of shirtless men dancing on tabletops, random makeout sessions everywhere, and Star Wars showing on perhaps three different screens. Oh, man, thinking of it now, that sounds awful. The party was most memorable, however, because it actually spawned a pop song, by the band Freezepop, who sung about the party in detail, including the traumatic theft of a jar of Bedhead from the bathroom.

I take great pride in having a party immortalized in song:

One night he went out dancing
much too soon the night was done
so he asked some people over
they could keep on having fun
he said it’s cool, invite some friends
a lot of people soon stopped by
the house was filled with strangers
he let everyone inside
then things got a little crazy
a few more hours quickly passed
slowly people started leaving
he was up until the last
standing in his living room
he surveyed all the mess
he gave up and went to bed
declared his party a success
getting ready the next morning
went to put some product in his hair
reached over to the bathroom shelf
but the bedhead wasn’t there
he looked under the sink
blinked his eyes in disbelief
the bedhead was really gone
someone at the party was a thief
bedhead is expensive
that was a shitty thing to do
don’t drink someone’s elses beer
and then swipe their belongings too
i wrote a song about stealing bikes
you know it’s not entirely true
theft’s a lot less awesome
when it’s happening to you

Do you have a signature drink or party snack? Mind sharing the ingredients?

It’s evolved through the years. There was a period we made many custom drinks. There was “Blood,” which was Jagermeister and Coke. Then there was the “Manergizer”, which I believe was Jagermeister and Red Bull. The “merlotini” was merlot and vodka, and the “grape diet coke” which was white zinfandel and diet coke. We were also fond of “old smuge,” which was Smuggler’s Notch budget whiskey. It was usually consumed with diet coke.

Then for years it was Champagne. We threw a champagne tasting party that went through about 50 champagnes and came out with Nicolas Feuillatte as the affordable winner and Bollinger as the premium champagne winner. That stuck around for years.

These days, I prefer Fernet (a throwover from my SF days), or dry red wine.

Give me one word to sum up your hosting style.

I believe a great party is all in setup. Once the party’s going, you’re much more limited in changing things if they go wrong. A few of the things I’ve learned are vital:

– buy twice as much booze as you think you need. Buy some mixers, but don’t sweat it. If guests text and ask if they need anything, tell them to bring more mixers.

– buy twice as many plastic cups as you think you need. They always run out.

– Don’t worry too much about food – unless you want your guests to stay at your house till sunrise. Food is actually the mechanism for ending a party. The more food, the longer they stay. If you’re having a great time and want people to stay, order some pizza’s later. Consider it your “get out of jail free” card.”

– Introduce each person as they walk in the door to as many people as practically possible. Ask them the most pressing thing you’re curious about right away, because you might not get a chance to talk to them again until you’re all sloshed.

– consider flow – if your kitchen is not conducive to circular flow, put the booze in the living room.

– give up on no shoes, if you’re house is no shoes, and just plan on or arrange for mopping the next morning.

– hide the volume knob. Only move into dance mood if people are already sort of swaying. You can’t force a dance party on people.

– be considerate of your neighbors – invite them, warn them, or live where there aren’t any.

What’s your least favorite part of hosting? How do you deal?

My two least favorite parties actually have the same solution. I hate cleaning up after, and I hate the first 40 minutes when you’re alone or worried that no one will come. Both are mitigated by having a party at the same time you have a house guest, which also makes for a handy excuse to have a party.

What was your biggest party mistake? What did you learn from it?

Virtually everything bad that’s ever happened at a party has stemmed from inviting people while drunk at a bar, or making the invitation public. If a party guest doesn’t have a friend responsible for them, they’re a liability. You can tell your friends to bring friends, because then the friend will be responsible for them. But if you drunkenly invite ten people from a bar, no one wins.

What’s the most important party ingredient?

The people! always invite new people to keep everyone curious.

What’s the last thing you celebrated? How?

At my house, my last party was a going away party for a friend. This is actually great, because you a) only have to invite a subset of your friends (useful if you have more friends than house space) and b) you meet all the other friends of your friend.

Everyone wins!

Thanks Rick, you’re amazing.

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20117March

Party People: Katie H.

As you may know, I’m a loyal participant (and team captain) of our city’s bocce league. I met Katie, many years ago, through bocce. Our shared enthusiasm for an all-ages sport that revolves around sportsmanship, community and great food, made us fast friends.

Katie and I throw the end of the year Bocce Chili Cookoff each bocce season. From the four years we’ve been hosting it, it’s grown from two teams and five competitors to fifteen teams and thirty competitors.

Katie is one of the most creative and organized hosts I know. She knows that the way to help your guests have fun is to have fun yourself. Last week, I asked her some Party People questions to find out more about her style.

What’s your favorite song to turn up loud and dance to at the end of the night?

That’s a tough one, it would depend who I’m partying with and how much we’ve had to drink. You can’t go wrong with 80’s pop, and radio safe hip hop. If Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer comes on, I’ll be singing the loudest.

Tell me about the most memorable party you’ve thrown.

Memorable for me or for my guests?

I really feel that I can’t take full credit for any of my parties as I always have help from other people from the planning stages to the tear down, but my most memorable party was my 30th Birthday Kickball game. I picked the day, the activity and invited my friends and family hoping for enough people to field two teams. The turnout was so touching, not only enough people for two teams but fans to watch as well!

Two of my dear friends (great party planners as well) stepped up and provided some great decorations, team shirts, and even a pinata. The kickball game which incorporated adult beverages was a blast bringing out the inner child of all those not only playing but watching. Being the rule follower I am, I did my homework and found the one park in the area that allowed alcohol consumption and not only got a permit but reserved a picnic area, while I’m sure people get away with it all the time, I didn’t have to worry that we would get a fine or show up to the park on that August day and not have a place to play, it was some piece of mind well worth the reservation fees.

The simple meal of hot dogs and chips and other simple snacks provided necessary calories to keep up the strength of those stellar athletes, and required little preparation, utensils and headache.

Team Ballbusters

My favorite part was a “mistake” that ended up making one of the most memorable moments…when my friends were ordering the t-shirts for the teams, they asked what to do about sizes. Not knowing what teams would be or who would actually be there, I recommended ordering all men’s medium t-shirts, they may run a bit small on some guys, and large on the women but should do the trick.

The t-shirt shop misunderstood the order and got all women’s mediums. God bless my friends! Every single one of them, man, woman, big and small stretched and squished into those shirts while shedding tears of laughter. It was a party that people still tell me they loved, and one that I am ready to repeat any day!

Team Alcoballics

Do you have a signature drink or party snack? Mind sharing the ingredients?

Gelatin

I am known for my Jell-O shots. They started off as a bit of a joke and have become a tradition for all things Bocce and beyond. The simplest recipe involves making Jell-O out of the box and replacing one of the cups of cold water with a cup of cold liquor (flavored Vodkas and Rums make unique blends with the Jell-O). Adding a dollop of whipped cream to the top when serving also adds a delicious touch.

Bocce Jello Shots

For those more interested in a challenge, I have made actual cocktails and used unflavored gelatin powder to then turn the cocktail into a jello shot. This takes a bit of practice as the gelatin may react differently with certain juices, alcohols and mixes.

Fourth of July Jello Shot

Give me one word to sum up your hosting style.

Delegation (It’s much harder to do it all alone, and when people ask “How can I help” or “What can I bring” most of the time they mean it. Know your strengths and pass off the things that aren’t, or that you just don’t have the time to do. Have a few things like cheese plate, green salad, dessert, or ice ready to pass off to those who offer. All tend to be simple, somewhat inexpensive and require little preparation.)

What’s your least favorite part of hosting? How do you deal?

Trying to get it all done and failing. I hate when I have a really good idea for an extra dish, or a decoration, or a gift or a game that requires a little extra time, and just can’t get it done amid the rest of the necessary planning and preparation. Pretty much I just cut my losses and move on, hoping to plan a bit better the next time, or to pass it off before it’s too late.

What was your biggest party mistake? What did you learn from it?

WristbandsOrdering a keg, ever. I can’t think of one party where I’ve ordered a keg and haven’t regretted it. Either it was competing with a very full bar and returned half full. Or we made the huge mistake of ordering it from a different elevation from where it would be consumed, foam city!

Or we didn’t know that one of the guests was dating a frat guy, who happen to call all his friends and it was killed in under an hour. Bottles and cans might be a little more of a hassle when it comes to trash/recycling, but you can provide more of a variety, and any leftovers won’t go to waste.

What’s the most important party ingredient?

Guest list.

Group dynamic can make or break a party. Be very wary that your guest list is fitting of the type of party you are throwing.

Just because it’s your birthday it may not be the best idea to send the evite to your entire address book. Remember that if you are the only person that knows everyone, some people may cling to you more than you want them too, making it difficult for you to mingle with all your guests. Just because you enjoy eating lunch with your coworkers, doesn’t mean that they will get along with your college friends at your Holiday Cocktail party.

Really think about the people you are inviting, will everyone enjoy themselves and will you, or will you be worried someone is feeling left out, your enjoyment is just as important as your guests.

What’s the last thing you celebrated? How?

Well New Years, but we went out.

Before that, The Tipsy Moonshiners, my bocce team, got together for a super fun holiday get together last December. (Has it been that long, time for another party!) We all came together to make it happen.

As in the year prior, each girl was asked to bring an appetizer and something to drink. We learned the first year that appetizers may not be enough of a meal so this year we provided some lasagnas and salad as well to make sure that we were “responsible”. (Given that we live in the Napa Valley our spread was nothing to turn your nose up at.) Wines from some of the finest wineries in the valley, gourmet desserts, tasty nibbles and even some roasted fois gras. These delectable bites accompanied a killer white elephant gift exchange, some sparkling conversation and a night that makes us all eagerly await the start of the bocce season in the spring.

Are you a stellar host who’d like to be featured as a Party Person? Email me at helenjane@hjentertains.com and tell me what you got.

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201131January

Party People Aubrey Sabala

One of the features of this site is a profile of an internet someone whose entertaining style I admire.

The first victim of my adoration is my long time internet friend Aubrey Sabala, a wildly talented lady writing online as long as me.

Every month, Aubrey posts a music mix of her favorite artists. She doesn’t know that I use them as the perfect dinner party soundtracks. Because as someone without a lot of time to actively search out new music, I trust Aubrey to do it for me. Her elevated musical taste has since inspired loads of album purchases.

party people, aubrey sabala

Tell me about a fun celebration you hosted. What made it successful?

My favorite party of the year is my annual “White Elephant” party. I’ve hosted this annually for the past five years in San Francisco, and pretty much invite everyone I know, which leads to sixty+ drunk people squeezing in a living room fighting for such wonders as a Pogo Ball (with custom Pogo Ball playlist), meat socks (exactly what they sound like) and pasties. (Yep. I “won” those.) Some years, most everyone knows each other, but it’s a ton more fun when you add newcomers + alcohol + crappy gifts…let’s just say that debauchery has been known to ensue. (Apparently my kitchen is an aphrodisiac, and not just due to the proximity to the Two Buck Chuck.) I always end up standing on my coffee table in a Mrs. Claus outfit not fit for outside consumption hollering at people that they can only regift once. And to stop giving my dog booze. ‘Tis the Season, indeed.

What’s a party tip that might not be obvious?

Usually best for weddings, but people always screw up reply card. Create an excel spreadsheet and assign each invitation a number, and then in pencil (lightly) put the assigned number on the back right corner. That way, when Jane “Doesn’t Know Wediquette” Smith replies without letting you know if she and her sweetie are coming, you’ll know it’s her from matching it to the Excel spreadsheet. Then send her an Emily Post book.

Do you have a signature drink or party snack? Do you mind sharing the ingredients?

Oh, I do. It’s not classy, but damn, it’s tasty. And simple. Preheat the oven for 375 degrees and get out a pie plate. (The tinfoil type works.) Take one box of Philadelphia Cream Cheese and spread it evenly on the bottom of the pie plate. Open a can of Hormel Chili – No Beans (you can use Turkey Chili if you want) and spread that on top. Top it with a bag of shredded cheese (I use Kraft Taco Cheese), making sure it covers all of the chili. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve with nachos and BAM! Best taco dip around. Promise.

One word to sum up your hosting style.

QuicknEasy? Is that one word? No? Ok, maybe Auspicious. Or, Saucy.

What’s your favorite song to dance to at the end of the night?

Turn on “Milli Vanilli Radio” on Pandora and your soundtrack for the night is set. But have “Journey Radio” on backup. Just in case people stop believin’…

Thanks Aubs for being the first Party Person interviewed! If you’re interested in being interviewed, email me at helenjane@hjentertains.com and let me know!

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