Does entertaining thrill or scare you?
Last Saturday I had my birthday party. I organised it jointly with another Fiona and with some help from good friends we had the time of our lives. It made me sit back and think, what is it that makes a party really go with a swing, and enjoyable even when you are the host?
My Essential Guide to Partying:
1. Plenty to Drink
We over bought and friends kindly brought a bottle too, but I would rather that than run out any day. People relax and enjoy themselves if the wine is flowing. Farmer Nick was the perfect host all night, no one was left holding an empty glass!
2. Plenty of tasty food
Everyone is hungry when there is a good spread of temping food, and let's face it you need food when your glass is being topped up all night! I have gone for hot food and cold in the past. This year I decided on cold sliced meats, which I could cook the day before including our very own home cured Parma ham, a whole cooked salmon, baked potatoes, garlic bread and a huge variety of colourful and tasty salads. With around 6 puddings and 2 cheese boards there was plenty to go around and even the children had a chance to come down and tuck in too. On balance I would say this is easier than hot food where you really need to serve people.
3. A good theme.
We decided on Hollywood glamour. The idea was from the MADs awards night. It gave a focus to decorating our kitchen for the evening and a dress code for the night. I was sorted; my lovely Littlewoods outfit from MADs would have another airing! It doesn't matter if the theme is sensible or dressing up, a dress code is a talking point and creates the party mood.
4. Accept help.
I used to think if I was hosting a party then I had to do it all. Now if someone offers I gladly accept. I shared my party jointly with my good friend going by the same name of the same age. We brainstormed the theme together, agreed the invite list and shared out the food. It made a real difference. I also had 2 friends spend all day helping to decorate the room. We really went to town with old Hollywood stars around the room, A Hollywood sign outside and even a red carpet and photo call for everyone as they arrived, which was then projected onto a white sheet for the evening, people always like to have a giggle at photos of themselves. The beautiful baked salmon was also cooked by one of my friends, and anyone who asked if they could bring something I asked for a pudding. No way could I have managed all this alone on a busy changeover day at Coombe Mill!
5. A decent music system and good music mix.
I have fallen short on this one in the past testing the volume in an empty room and thinking all was well, then rigging up the music on the night only to discover in the throng of people chatting you couldn't hear anything, no one is going to find their dancing feet if there isn't a good beat calling them! Think about a good play list too, we had softer music to chat and the start and during the meal, then stepped up into disco music from the 1969-s to today on a random mix. This really worked a treat with everyone guessing the song and the artist and bopping on down regardless.
6. Add a little fun
A silly game, quiz or such like adds fun to the evening. I did some Hollywood style awards with silly little presents for things like best dancer and best dressed man, it was just a bit of fun and providing an excellent way to publically thank those who had helped me. This was the first time I had tried anything like this and I would definitely weave a fun game or something into a party evening again.
7. Make provision for the children
Mine are now beyond the age of going to bed before a party starts and love to sneak down and join in too. Provided they are behaving and being charming rather than a nuisance I am happy to encourage this, it helps them develop their social confidence too and realize it is not only them who can enjoy a party! Mine took it upon themselves to raid their wardrobes and the dressing up clothes and improvise to be in theme. They also had a couple of friends round whose parents were here too, so when they were fed up they could all play together upstairs or go to bed (some hope) without moving beyond the charming phase!
Guy and Jed dressed as Humphrey Bogart from the photo behind them! They charmed the guests for the first hour or so then disappeared upstairs as the grownups became boring (loud and under the influence)!
I have spent too many parties in the past worrying about everyone else and just stopping to sit down and chat only to find everyone thanking me and leaving! This time with a combination of all the above factors and the confidence of my lovely dress I enjoyed every minute and had my fill of chat, drink and food!
My best party moments captured on film
So what next for partying at Coombe Mill?
The next few events are family ones to share with our Coombe Mill guests and friends.
I will be challenging my children and those staying on the 31st October to prepare their houses for trick or treating with dressing up of the house front and the children all part of the fun. This year we are also looking to deck out an old property as a haunted house with some fun inside for the children.
Coombe Mill Bonfire Party
Held this year on November 4th, the evening includes a BBQ with plenty to go round and drinks for all,
the most amazing bonfire which is already in building with of course a Guy Fawkes made by our children and finished with a magnificent firework display thanks to Farmer Nick. It all runs from 4.30 to 6.30 so as to fit in with bed times for our younger visitors. Last Year's was amazing; this year's bonfire is going to need some building up in the next week but I know Nick will pull it off again (no pressure)!
For those staying over Christmas we have a lovely open house supper on Christmas Eve. This is a family occasion and starts after the local Church nativity service for as long as people want to stay. I have grand plans to use our new indoor BBQ hut in the garden as a Santa grotto where Farmer Nick will be sizzling sausages. There will be more fun and food in our party kitchen with plenty of Christmas music to excite the children even more!
Our kitchen was humming again at the party last year!
Come and Party with us at Coombe Mill
If you are tempted to get away for any of these occasions we do still have some availability and are now taking short breaks too. Come and help me party, and if you can't be with us, best of luck with your party season, remember relax and enjoy yourself!