Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Parties (Trina)

Trina's done a public service post. We're cross-posting it here.

New Year's Parties

I got back from the store this morning, put the groceries away, logged on and checked my e-mail.

If you wanted New Year's tips, New Year's Eve, how about some heads up?


Beer and wine are staples. If you're planning on making margaritas, remember you need a lot of ice for that. And tequila as well as margarita mix. You can buy the mix for that and Bloody Mary Mix and some vodka.

New Year's Eve (a) can be celebrated without alcohol and (b) doesn't mean your home suddenly turns into the bar at Applebees. You seriously can -- if you're serving alcohol -- just offer beer and wine. And guests can bring a bottle of their favorite hard liquor.

Candice e-mailed that she couldn't believe I didn't say a word about parties tonight (in my post last night) and do I even drink?

I'm Irish. What do you think?

What I will be drinking tonight is a Bloody Bull. That's half a glass of beer (I'll be using Heinkeken just because that's the beer of choice in this house) and a half a glass of tomato juice (although I actually bought V8 spicy for it because most of my in-laws -- who will be here tonight -- also love Bloody Bulls and we like them spicy).

In terms of snacks?

I got two vegetable trays at the grocery store (I was too lazy to chop my own -- again, all 8 kids are adults so, yes, it's a recession but my husband and I feel like we hit the lotto with all the extra cash we've had since 2007 or so), I bought several boxes of crab ragoons, several boxes of crab wontons, several bags of spring rolls, some old fashioned egg rolls ("old fashioned" means the kind you could have bought in the 70s, not the nice big ones today, those little mini ones) which I will serve with a mixture of catsup and mustard ('sweet & sour sauce') for my husband's great aunt who will be at the party. I bought bags of chips (Tostinos, Ruffles, Baked Lays, Cheetos and Doritos Taco Style). Most of my husband's friends will be eating the chips and only the chips. I bought pizza rolls (I actually need to go back to the store for more of those because I thought we had them in the freezer -- more of them -- but we don't). Popcorn. Sodas (for non-drinkers and for the kids -- If you're buying sodas remember to buy diet as well. We have several diabetic friends and we also have several friends who worry about the calories). I bought some pistachios and almonds. I wanted walnuts but they didn't have any. I bought the ingredients for queso dip. I bought spinach-artichoke dips and Trisquits and Wheat Thins.

I'm not suggesting you buy all the above. (When I go out later for more pizza rolls, I'll also be buying sweets.) We're going to have close to a hundred people.

How many are you going to have?

You need to realize that you're not expected, at a New Year's Eve party, to provide dinner.

There are exceptions, such as if you invite someone to dinner.

Equally true, if it's just you and three or four other people and they're arriving around seven or sooner, they may be expecting you to provide dinner.

But a New Year's Eve Party usually starts around 8 or after and most people know that means no meal. You're expected to provide snacks.

Pretzels are a fine place to start. (And I'll grab some when I go back out. I forgot all about pretzels.) (I need to make a list.)

Think about the age of your guests. Ages.

I wouldn't be doing those mini egg rolls, for example, were it not for my husband's great aunt. But that's New Year's to her. (I don't dislike the egg rolls, it's just most people will be eating the spring rolls.) Think about if you have an issue like that. Also think is some allergic to something, is someone diabetic. If you're not sure, you need to assume that someone will be diabetic. Better to have provided for it just in case than to have a party where even one guest is left uncomfortable because he can't really consume most of what everyone else is enjoying.

That's also true of non-drinkers -- some who may be in recovery -- and why you need to remember that your home is not turning into a bar for the night.

Vegetables and chips are good party food at this time.

I know those e-mailing are doing their first parties. I love cabbage rolls. I would never serve them at a New Year's Eve party. Guests will often be on their feet. Cabbage rolls are long and weak and will get on the carpet. You want foods like chips (which will still get on the carpet but they won't stain it) and vegetables which are stiff and easy to eat with the hands. I never put dip out in a standing area. Meaning, I have end tables, I never use them for dip. I put dip in sitting areas -- at tables, at the coffee table, etc. And even so, I know someone will be getting salsa or cheese dip or something in the carpet. I know that ahead of time and I'm not going to freak when it happens.

You need to realize that too and you need to realize that even if a glass -- a treasured one -- is broken, you are hosting the party, you smooth things over. Don't use things -- plates, glasses, etc. -- that you will be upset if they break. Because they will break.

Ruby is going to have cook dinner. She and her husband are having two couples over and they're coming over at six. Ruby, that means dinner. And they're bringing their kids at this time? That means dinner.

The only way out of dinner would have been to have told them awhile back, "I'm just serving snack foods."

You didn't, so it's dinner.

What I would suggest is you get the snack foods you outlined in your e-mail. In addition, you need dinner. Go to the store and buy two bags of salad. The Dole bags are easy and have all the ingredients except tomatoes and since you're doing tomatoes on your veggie tray for snacks, you can skip tomatoes and just do a green salad.

Go to the frozen section of the grocery store. You're getting lasagna. Why? It'll show -- even frozen -- that you cared. Marie Callendar (spelling?) has a nice one. If you get Marie's, get two for the amount of people you're having over. Stouffers makes a good one as well. If getting Stouffers, get the big one which is about $11. You will see on the package how you can cook some of it in the oven and some of it in the microwave and some --

Forget that nonsense. You're going to cook it for 55 minutes in the oven. Follow the directions, you won't burn it if you do.

Get some bread sticks in the frozen section as well.

They're going to be there at six (someone will be early, someone is always early). Plan for dinner at 6:30. That way someone can be late and everyone's not rushing. Plan for dinner at 6:30?

That means the lasagna goes into the oven at 5:55. That means it's done by 6:50. (55 minutes cooking is what the package says, I believe. )

At 6:30 dinner starts and starts with salad. Allow 15 to 20 minutes for guests to finish their salads. They can have more if they like, throughout the meal, but at 6:50 you take the lasagna out of the oven and by 6:55 it's on the table.

You're not going to transport it from the carton to some tray or dish. There's no point. You're going to serve it in what you cooked it in. You can (and should) put a platter or cutting board beneath it (so it doesn't burn the table).

You can cut it into squares before you take it to the table. You should take a pie server/cake server to the table. It makes it easier to scoop up the lasagna.

I would serve (unsweetened) tea with dinner. Let guests add sugar if they want (thereby taking into account diabetics and dieters).

That's the adults.


Ruby should start their meal at 6:25. That way they've got their food. Ruby doesn't have room for all of them at the table (with their parents). Sit them in the living room then. You can put in a DVD they'll watch. I would go with pork-n-beans (unheated -- no one burns the roof of their mouth that way). I would also go with corn dogs. Plan for 2 per child but know they may want 3. That's how you'll know how much to buy. I would also buy a bag of baby carrots and put those on the kids plates with some ranch dip. And, no, you don't put 2 or 3 corn dogs on a plate. You put 1. And you're hosting the party -- which includes the kids as guests -- so you're not only responsible for the dining table, you're responsible for the living room (where Ruby will be using the coffee table). So you will be going in with more corn dogs (and to check on them).

For future parties, start them at 8 or 9 or tell the guests that you'll be serving snack foods only. You really cannot invite guests over at 6 and not have them expect a meal.


The Common Ills year-end coverage included C.I.'s "2011: The Year of the Slow Reveal," Ruth's "Ruth's Radio Report 2011," Martha and Shirley's "2011 in books (Martha & Shirley)" and Kat's "Kat's Korner: 2011 in music." In addition, community coverage of 2011 also included Ann's "2011 best in film (Ann and Stan)" & Stan's "2011 in films (Ann and Stan)", Cedric's "Barack finally gets something right!" & Wally's "BARACK BEST 2011 MOVE!," Rebecca's "best of fall tv 2011" and Trina's "New Year's Parties."