Here at Above & Beyond, we love a great party–especially when it’s party that’s easy (and maybe even fun) to plan. And we don’t know anyone better at making everyday events a celebration than Julie Hartigan. That’s why we’ve asked her to write a new column called Make it A Party. We’re excited to have her here to inspire us to celebrate a little more often.
I’m Julie Hartigan and each month I’m going to share easy, seasonal, and just-for-fun entertaining ideas with you. Don’t worry–emphasis on “easy.”
I’m a recipe developer, food writer, and teacher (including right here at Above & Beyond). I absolutely love what I do and I particularly enjoy sharing what I’ve learned about food, cooking, and entertaining with others. Over the years of party hosting I’ve picked up lots of tricks, ideas, and shortcuts to make it easy for you too.
I’m all about simplifying party prep, menu planning, and hosting so you’ll have at least as much fun as your guests (if not more). The key is a combination of up-front organization, clever shortcuts, make-ahead dishes, and an easygoing fun-loving attitude. I’m going to show you just how simple it can be to throw parties big and small, pre-planned and impromptu…and that there’s always a reason to celebrate!
Where did my party loving attitude come from? Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’ve always loved any excuse to throw parties, and to take everyday moments and turn them into a party. After years as an engineer by day (that’s where those organizational skills come in) and a party thrower and aspiring chef by weekend, I decided to go for it: I went to culinary school. After attending culinary school I interned at food magazines and cooking shows, taught cooking classes, held cooking parties, and continued to throw parties of my own.
Throwing parties is especially gratifying for me because I get to bring my favorite things together: menu planning, music, cocktails, decorating, friends, family, and fun. I’ll give you a few recent examples:
Sweden Sendoff: When my close friends were moving back to Sweden I happily offered to host their going away party…on the menu? Swedish meatballs, gravlax, and Swedish fish, as well as all their favs from our hometown of Hoboken, NJ (fresh mozzarella, Italian cookies). To up the fun-factor we had plenty of Swedish vodka drinks on hand, Swedish Chef and Frank Sinatra videos streaming, as well as an Abba, Ace of Base, and Swedish House Mafia playlist on. The lesson here? Get creative around a theme; in this case “Hoboken to Sweden.” It can help pull everything together…and don’t be afraid to do a mix of purchased and home-made dishes to make your job easier.
Lose Your Shoes Margarita Tasting: As a bridal shower gift for a “friend who has everything” I decided to give her a juicer with “The Ultimate Margarita” recipe. How to determine the ultimate? An impromptu margarita tasting of course! I mixed up a few varieties, pulled out some chips and guac, invited the neighbors over, and let the fun begin. After attempting to scientifically sample about 5 different margarita recipes things got a little, um, un-scientific. The winning recipe was my now-infamous “Lose Your Shoes” Margaritas. Why “Lose Your Shoes?” So delicious yet sneakily potent, they caused my friend’s husband to walk home barefoot. Heed the warning, but try them! (link to recipe) The idea here? Impromptu, less-planned, get-togethers for any-old-reason can sometimes be the most fun of all.
Little Cookie Monsters Party: My friend’s son was obsessed with cookies (hey, what kid isn’t!) so I helped her host a cookie-themed party for his birthday. The kids mixed up some batter to bake, and while they were baking, went to town decorating piles of pre-baked cookies. They also decked out simple craft boxes into “Cookie Treasure Chests” to take home their creations. The takeaway: Try making the party favor part of the party vs. a separate goody bag, thus killing two birds with one stone. Also, have a plan to keep those kiddies busy! Here I used plain store-bought cookies vs waiting around for their home-made cookies to cool.
Those are just a few examples of the kind of party ideas I’ll be sharing with you in upcoming posts. This month, let’s start with with the blog post that inspired this column: An easy, anytime, anyone, anywhere party–brunch!
Everybody loves brunch and it’s the perfect casual “starter party”. In this article I show you how to Get Your Brunch On: Easy as 1-2-3 You’ll see classic Julie party-planning style: Pre-plan a bit to get yourself organized, seek shortcuts and make-aheads, factor in the fun, and above all else, be sure to enjoy yourself and your guests.
Stay tuned for future “Make it a Party” posts and let me know if there are specific types of parties you’d like me to concoct ideas for. Remember, there’s always a reason to celebrate!