Hosting a birthday party for the first time (Part I) – Party Prep

I have always loved the idea of hosting.

In my ideal world, I will have a large kitchen and a pretty dining area, and every weekend I will host brunch/tea/dinner parties for all my beloved friends and family, complete with a nice menu, flowers, matching plates, place mats and whatnots. And everyone will dine and mingle happily with lovely jazz music in the background. How nice would that be!

Alas in reality, my hosting dreams are often restricted by a messy (unfit for guests) home, busy friends, and generally, a lack of occasion for a full scale party that I envisioned in my mind. This February however, an opportunity finally presented itself! Being CNY and all, my house was sparkling clean (for the first time in forever..). And two of my favourite friends are February babies (surprise party alert!)

With all factors in place (clean house + occasion), there is no reason for me to postpone it any more. And so, the party planning commences!

First, the theme of the party:
To keep things simple and manageable (it’s my first time hosting a party after all), I decided that the decorations will be simple and elegant. Nothing over the top, and nothing that is going to burn a hole in my pocket. Armed with ideas from Pinterest, and upon deciding that the party will be in my favourite colours, I got down to searching for suitable decorations and making the birthday flag banner.

DIY Birthday Flag Banner: Triangle cut-outs from coloured paper, alphabets hand-written on circle template, assembled and strung together with twine

DIY Birthday Flag Banner: Triangle cut-outs from coloured paper, alphabets hand-written on circle template, assembled and strung together with twine

Pompom ball decorations: http://www.pretapartysingapore.com/

Pompom ball decorations: http://www.pretapartysingapore.com/

Next, the food:
I was initially obsessed with the idea of having a crepes party – a self-assembly crepes station with 3 kinds of crepes and many different savoury and sweet toppings to choose from. In fact, this was very much a part of my plan till a week before the party, while I was laying out the food prep timeline, that I realised it is never going to work out.  Me being me, there must be a huge variety  (go big or go home right!); and seeing that I would be the only one cooking, it felt like an impossible feat – a disaster in the making. And so, after much contemplation and finding inspirations from my favourite food blogs, the crepes party idea was shelved, and a new menu was created.

Party menu

Mains:
1) Shakshuka (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/04/shakshuka/)
2) Roasted mushrooms (http://www.thekitchn.com/quick-dinner-recipe-roasted-mu-114796)
3) Roasted sausage, peppers and onions (to please the carnivores)
4) Pumpkin, walnut, spinach salad – topped with feta & lemon dressing
5) Sunny-side up (made to order)
6) Cedele bread

Dessert and drinks:
1) Strawberry raspberry crisp (http://joythebaker.com/2013/07/strawberry-raspberry-crisp/)
2) Sweet potato cake with rum glaze (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2013/11/sweet-potato-cake-with-marshmallow-frosting/)
3) Mint lime tea cooler (http://bakedbree.com/mint-lime-tea-cooler)

Teaser of the food

Preview of the food

Last but not least, the planning of actual day party prep:
To ensure that everything goes as planned, I worked out a draft timeline for the party –

A week (or two) before the party: –
1) Finalise the menu
2) Make the decorations and visualise the set up
3) Purchase all party needs (deco, disposable utensils etc)
4) Do a thorough clean of the party area
5) Send out reminders to attendees
6) Test out the recipes
7) Annoy friends (with exception of birthday ladies) with endless excited chatter about party

3 days before the party: –
1) Bring out all the serving plates and bowls
2) Decide on party music
3) Do some grocery shopping

2 days before the party: –
1) Bake the birthday cake
2) More grocery shopping

1 day before the party: –
1) Food prep (washing and chopping the ingredients)
2) Bake the Strawberry raspberry crisps
3) Prepare the mint syrup for the drink
4) Make the cake glaze
5) Roast the pumpkins for the salad
6) Put up the decorations
7) Final clean of the party area

On the day of the party: –
1) Make the base of the shakshuka (without the eggs)
2) Prepare the drinks
3) Roast the mushrooms and sausages
4) Put together the salad (Baby spinach topped with roasted pumpkin, feta and toasted walnut. For the dressing, whisk together equal parts of lemon juice and EVOO, season with salt and pepper)
5) Warm the Strawberry raspberry crisp
6) Set up the food table

To prevent everything from being too overwhelming, I started on the party prep early. Weeks before the party, the pompom balls and disposable utensils was purchased and received. On weekends, I tested out recipes that I was not confident of. The banner was completed bit by bit after work each day, same goes for the grocery shopping. By the night before the party, I actually felt pretty well-prepared.

Decorations are up!

Decorations are up!

A whole lot of mushrooms!

A whole lot of mushrooms!

IMG-20140215-WA0004

Eco-friendly cutleries and plates: http://www.ecou.com.sg/

Eco-friendly cutleries and plates: http://www.ecou.com.sg/

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