With Halloween coming up next week, what a great excuse to get families together and have some fun. I love this time of year for outdoor autumnal events. And a pumpkin party can be carried out beautifully without too much work or expense. Here are my ideas for a picture perfect pumpkin party.
Party Details: When I throw this party I like to do it in the late morning, really it can be held at anytime of day, but daylight hours work best. Make it BYOP (bring your own pumpkin). Ask each guest to bring a pumpkin for carving.
What You Will Need For Carving:
- Carving Knives -You can buy carving kits and knives at most craft stores.
- A large knife or two to cut off the pumpkin tops.
- Large spoons to scrape out the pumpkin insides.
- A few large bowls to collect seeds for roasting. Let the kids help separate the seeds from the pumpkin.
- Some folding tables to carve on dressed with paper or plastic throw away table cloths.
- Trash bags
Setting the Party Scene: Decorate with some painted mini pumpkins. You can paint them with simple thick silver and black stripes some with silver and black polka dots or however you wish. And/or you can just buy a bunch of mini gourds to decorate with. Add some hay stacks, a scarecrow, corn stalks and some larger pumpkins for decoration. Carve some of the pumpkins ahead of time to set the scene. Get creative, go beyond a Jack-A-Lantern face, and consider carving a black cat, a ghost, your last name (if it is short enough) or the first initial of your last name. Draw it out in bubble letters and carve away or use a stencil. Use coordinating orange, black and silver table clothes, plates, napkins and cups. Target and Party City both have some great Halloween serving ware. Bring out your speakers and create an IPod Halloween Mix.
Planning the Menu: Keep it simple. There are so many great foods whose flavors and scents exude fall. You can make it even easier by mixing a few homemade goodies with store bought ones. Here are some ideas.
If it is in the AM: Orange & Black M&Ms, Candy Corn, Cider Donuts, Apple Cider (hot, cold or both), Coffee, Pumpkin Muffins, Tray of Pretzel Nuggets, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.
If it is in the afternoon: Consider replacing the coffee with Pumpkin Ale, the Pumpkin Muffins with Pumpkin Bars and adding Spiced Rum to the Apple Cider and topping it off with Whipped Cream.
May the Best Pumpkin Win: Make it a pumpkin carving contest. Line up the finished pumpkins on a table and number them. Hollow out little pumpkins (to use as bowls) and label them with categories. Let people cast votes for the most creative, the most beautiful, the scariest, the most intricate, whatever you come up with. The winner for each category can receive a wrapped caramel apple on a stick (super easy to make) or a small bag of Halloween candy wrapped with black, orange and silver ribbon.
The “Pumpkin Patch”: Create a fake “pumpkin patch” scatter mini pumpkins throughout the yard and let the kids each “pick” one. Lay out a big blanket(s) on the ground with markers and stickers that they can use to decorate the pumpkins.
- You can have it prepared and ready to go for when everyone begins to arrive.
- It keeps you from running around mixing a bunch of different things early in the evening.
- It can be a cost effective alternative to accompany wine and beer. You don’t have to go all out and buy many different kinds of alcohol for an evening but you can still offer another choice to wine and beer by serving one or two specialty cocktails.
- A drink of the night offered when guests first arrive can help set the tone for the evening. The Wild-Hibiscus Champagne cocktail pictured here is often my go-to cocktail for an upscale, elegant evening.
You can make your drink of the night as simple or as complex as you wish. One thing to remember, if your evening or event has a theme, try to keep your cocktail fitting with the theme. If you are serving Mexican fare, you may wish to start with some sort of margarita, Spanish cuisine – a sangria, Italian maybe a Campari and Soda with a splash of fresh orange or a Bellini. The options are limitless. There are so many fantastic drink recipes out there, investigate and come up with some you love to add to your repertoire.
Here’s a great idea for your dessert table. Pick a color scheme and go from there. Desserts look even more attractive, the presentation can be dramatic, you can add interest to simple foods, and it’s an easy way to pull a few desserts together. Pick a color or colors. Decide what you may want to make to fit within your scheme. Go to the store and see what fun things are available in your scheme. You can keep it simple, fancy, or mix fancier or more complex desserts with simple ones.Pick interesting containers and displays for your food – just make sure they don’t interfere or distract from your scheme. Another essential part to pulling this off is to vary the heights of the items on your buffet. You can also use table clothes, flowers, candles, and pictures to decorate and accentuate your buffet table.
Last weekend we had a few friends over for cocktails after dinner. Since my guests were arriving after dinner I figured most people wouldn’t be too hungry. I laid out a few appetizers to munch on and some desserts. It was a very casual get together but I wanted to offer some things to graze on while we sipped cocktails. Since the desserts were being kept simple I decided to go with a monochromatic color scheme for all the desserts. This achieves a few things – it can be a dramatic presentation, add interest to simple foods, and makes it easy to pull a few desserts together. Since I didn’t have too much time that day I mostly bought the food to put out. The only thing I made was the cocktails, one appetizer and mini cupcakes and I filled in the rest. My goal was that all the food be finger food and easy to munch on. I chose the autumnal color orange for the entry of fall. I decorated the table with mini pumpkins, I placed orange M&M’s in little glasses, I made chocolate – orange cupcakes with an orange tinted Grand Marnier cream cheese frosting, and I bought some orange cookies and orange wedge jelly candies. It was so cute! You know how I love a theme!
For inspiration, check out Amy Atlas’s site. She is an event planner in New York who is known for her gorgeous dessert color themed tables. I love them. One of my favorites is the the Mod Dessert Table in Yellow, White and Black.
As you probably guessed, I love to entertain. Sharing good wine and scrumptious food with friends and loved ones is one of my favorite things. At many of these gatherings, I am often asked how I prepare. One word. Planning. After I have figured out the guest list and type of event, I will then decide on a theme. I love to plan around a theme, however loose. It just helps bring everything together. A theme aids in mapping out the menu, choosing a featured cocktail, pairing the wine, etc. Have fun with it and use it only as a guideline. I often will pick a dish I want to make and devise my theme around that, or seasonal cuisine, or type of cuisine, really, whatever you wish.
Once you have your guest list, type of event and theme defined, you can start laying out the menu. Usually, I try to go over my recipes to see how long everything will take, figure out what I can make in advance and how I can multi-task my cooking and then devise a rough time table for myself. Often, I will even pull out the serving dishes I want to use in advance. This makes it easy and quick to transfer the food to serving ware without last minute decisions and having to pull out everything in my cabinet to get to the one dish I need while chatting with my guests.
Another thing I have learned to do is be dressed and ready to go well ahead of time. Once I am ready, then I do the last minute things: Lay out the appetizers, prepare the drinks, lighting, music and any last minute prep work for dinner. I aim to have all this completed before my first guest arrives – it keeps me from running around in the kitchen at the last minute and I can instead spend that time when my guests first arrive socializing with them.
I try to prep as much as I can beforehand. Always attempting to include as many dishes as possible that can be prepared or mostly prepared in advance. This way when your guests arrive, you can spend your time relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Your attention can be focused where it should be – on your guests.
Planning is part of the fun and ensures a great event whether you are throwing a party, having friends over for dinner, hosting a brunch, or even a small luncheon on the patio.