Thursday, September 2, 2010

Party Down - Eco-Style

Party Prep
Perhaps it was because I recently discovered Starz Network's brilliant-yet-canceled series Party Down, but I realized that it had been a long time since I'd had a party. And I like parties. I like to host parties, and I try to take a very Zen view toward hosting: don't concentrate too hard on the party, and it will happen.

I decided to hold a "Back to School" Happy Hour, even though I no longer go to or work at a school. And because I have this little green project, I wanted to make it as green as possible without getting all unZen about the whole thing.

Remember, back in the day (well, most of us don't really remember) when people used to send their manservant (Giles or Rupert) over to friends' houses with a hand-lettered cardstock invitation to their country dances or dinner parties? Yeah, neither do I. But of course, no trees need die for invitations anymore (actually, some paper used to be made from rags. Cool, huh?). For this party, I used I like it because the invites are cute, although I have to say that they have a new beta version that I didn't love.

Regular readers of this blog have probably realized that I'm a little obsessed with food stuffs and their origins. Luckily, there are lots of yummy party foods these days made from organic ingredients. I particularly love Cheesy Girl products, made right nearby in Sealy, TX. They make vegetarian goat cheeses (no animal rennet) and their Hottie style spread, with jalapeno, is deee-licious.

I included lots of fruit and veg with the party food, and guess what? It all got eaten up as well as the bad-for-you nosh.

For the beverage menu, I planned Betty Draper's Mint Gimlets and Joan's Lovely Lavender Lemondrops (recipes to follow in the next post!). It meant a little preparation two days in advance. The gimlets required mint simple syrup. Regular simple syrup is made with high-fructose corn syrup, but it's so easy to make there's really no reason to buy it at the store. Just take a cup of organic sugar and mix with a cup of water. Then boil. Let it cool and stick it in the fridge. To make mint- or ginger-infused simple syrup, chop up a good handful of mint or ginger, and put it in the simple syrup. Keep it in the fridge for a couple of days, then strain (or don't).
Homemade simple syrup is often a light golden color, instead of clear like the fakey-fakey-fakester store-bought stuff -- just to warn you.

Here's the mint simple syrup, infusing away in the fridge.

Bathroom Break
So ... awhile ago I stopped buying paper towels. In general, this has made no difference in my life once I adapted to using rags for cleaning. Since I was being so Zen about my party planning, I didn't realize that my guests would have nothing upon which to wipe their hands. My friend Kelly uses washcloths as hand towels, so I decided to do so as well. I created a little sign telling guests where to discard their towels, and voila! The restroom was ready for guests.

Don't Give Up the Zen
Listen, it would have been more eco to use my china plates and cups. But honestly, I didn't want to wash them, and I had a whole bunch of paper plates and napkins left over from prior parties. So I decided to use those. Who cares if they didn't match. At least they weren't going to waste.

Yep. Those are Christmas plates. So what?

What are your favorite party planning secrets?

Next: 3, 2, 1 ... Cocktails! Get the recipes for sweet Mad Men-style cocktails.

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