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It's Time to Celebrate!
December, 2006 - Issue #26
Classic Christmas
by Gina Madden

Think of Norman Rockwell paintings, then start decorating. Classic Christmas is all about tradition, even starting new ones. The idea is to celebrate the season with people you love who bring out the best in you.

Trim that Tree

It's the most wonderful time of the year to host a party. This year, why don't you consider hosting a Tree Trimming Party with all the trimmings? String the lights on your tree in advance of the party and then set out all the decorations for your guests to use - beaded garland, classic Christmas ornaments, strings of popcorn, tinsel and the like. Set the mood with a fire in the fireplace and serve your guests hot apple cider or hot buttered rum while they decorate. Be sure to have plenty of finger foods at the ready - tree trimming is hard work. Set out plates of warm mini quiche, prosciutto-wrapped melon, asparagus dip with crackers or pita and don't forget a smashing gourmet cheese and cracker tray. Put on the Christmas music and have a ball. At the end of the evening give each of your hard working guests a beautiful ornament as a memento of the fun time you have all just enjoyed.

<strong>Berebi Champagne Flutes</strong><BR>La Via Bella, 661-222-7006<BR><BR><strong>Champagne</strong><BR>All Corked Up, 661-799-7979<BR><BR><strong>Linens</strong><BR>Celebrate, 661-259-8611
Berebi Champagne Flutes
La Via Bella, 661-222-7006

Champagne
All Corked Up, 661-799-7979

Linens
Celebrate, 661-259-8611
<strong>Iron Angel</strong><BR>McKenna & Green, 661-296-0935<BR><BR><strong>Florals</strong><BR>Antique Flower Garden, 661-255-0255
Iron Angel
McKenna & Green, 661-296-0935

Florals
Antique Flower Garden, 661-255-0255

Consider a Classic Cocktail Party

Invite your friends to join you for a cocktail party in its truest sense. Ask your guests to dress the part in classic cocktail attire. That's what that little black dress is for, after all. Serve martinis and cosmopolitans and offer sophisticated hors d'ouevres like cheese crisps with creme fraiche, and caviar, crab mousse and roasted baby pears with goat cheese. Play some jazzy Christmas music (think Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald) and swing the night away.

Gourmet Holiday Potluck

Choose a Sunday afternoon early in December when most of your friends and family will be available. Give yourself a reasonable span of time, say four hours, for guests to drop in. Be sure your home is decorated to the nines and then invite your guests to try to outdo each other with their most interesting, exotic or unique dishes. Make it a true competition and provide cards for guests to vote for their favorite dish. Offer culinary-inspired prizes for the most creative, best tasting or most bizarre dishes.

Hit the Ice

We may not have snow in Santa Clarita, but that doesn't mean we can't still go skating. Have your friends join you for a fun few hours of skating again like they did when they were kids, then have the gang back to your house for a big bowl of homemade chili served in sourdough bowls along with hot chocolate (try adding a little Grand Marnier - yum!), cappuccinos and lattes.

Jingle Bell Rock
by Gina Madden

The non-traditional among us need not feel trapped by tree trimmings and overly-formal attire. Rock the party with these unique ideas.

Christmas Costume Party

Choose a theme like "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Santa's Workshop" or "Winter Wonderland." Encourage your guests to dress the part by offering prizes for the best costume. Offer an array of appetizers, desserts and drinks to keep everyone happy. Keep the mood going with upbeat Christmas music and watch Santa really cut a rug.

<strong>Florals</strong><BR>KaBloom, 661-799-7993
Florals
KaBloom, 661-799-7993
<strong>Fresh-baked Gourmet Breads</strong><BR>Abbey Lane Cafe, 661-254-3090
Fresh-baked Gourmet Breads
Abbey Lane Cafe, 661-254-3090

Just Desserts

Hosting a party doesn't mean you have to serve a multiple course meal to your guests. Host a desserts-only party and bring out everyone's sweet tooth. Include something for everyone: a decadent chocolate cake with warm chocolate sauce, a fresh seasonal fruit tart with creme anglaise, homemade chocolate truffles infused with your favorite liquors, chocolate-covered strawberries or even a chocolate fountain with fresh fruit, marshmallows and caramels. Play the part of the barista and serve up foamy lattes, peppermint hot chocolate, cappuccino and a whip cream-topped caramel mocha. Send guests home at the end of this delicious evening with a little package of chocolate candies and hot cocoa mix.

Holiday Jam

Know a bunch of talented musicians? Invite your friends to bring their musical instruments with them to a rockin' little Christmas jam session. Be sure to get the sheet music ready to play some of the traditional Christmas carols, too. Even if you don't have musically-inclined friends, you could still make it a musical night with a good DJ or karaoke machine.

<strong>Candle Gift Boxes</strong><BR>Celebrate, 661-259-8611
Candle Gift Boxes
Celebrate, 661-259-8611
<strong>Invitation</strong><BR>Celebrate, 661-259-8611<BR><BR><strong>L
Madalian, 661-799-7983'>
Invitation
Celebrate, 661-259-8611

L'Italica Glassware
Madalian, 661-799-7983

Retro Nightclub Party

Think of those swanky '50s nightclubs with big bands, a crowded dance floor, ladies in satin gowns and feather boas, gents in suave dinner jackets. Everyone drank martinis then. Hire a cigar roller so your guests can feel like Mr. Big. Sexy little appetizers finish the scene perfectly.

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Gina Madden is a professional party planner and the owner of Extraordinary Events. Reach her at 478-1106.

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Happy Hanukah
by Lori Parkinson

No matter what the occasion, holiday parties should be about two things: getting together with the ones we love, and a theme. From decorations to invitations, set your tone (Casual? Formal? Funky?), choose a theme, select your colors and let the fun begin!

Kids' Cookie Party

Children are often forgotten when it comes to formal festivities. Multi-generational Hanukah get-togethers will benefit from setting up a kids' area complete with pre-cooked sugar cookies in a variety of themed shapes (cutters shaped like dradles, menorahs, etc. can easily be found online). Cover a work surface with craft paper, create several "stations" for the kids, put out all the cookie-decorating accessories (sprinkles, frosting and small candies) and let them enjoy and exercise of tasty creativity. Go the extra mile and please the parents as well by providing aprons and lots of wet wipes or napkins to prevent gooey ingredients from spoiling their festive attire. Of course, this can be adapted to include the "kid" in all the adults, too!

<strong>Favors and Invitation</strong><BR>The Crafters Connection, 661-297-4005
Favors and Invitation
The Crafters Connection, 661-297-4005
<strong>Wines</strong><BR>Vino 100, 661-294-6886
Wines
Vino 100, 661-294-6886

Easy Gift Giving

For larger parties where guests might not be entirely familiar with each other, gift giving can seem awkward. Prevent uncomfortable moments by requesting that guests bring a wrapped bottle of their favorite spirit or a music CD. Guests can select a number out of a bowl and then choose a gift in that order. The gift exchange will go quickly and the unique selections will spark conversations between guests.

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Lori Parkinson is an event consultant and owner of The Big Chill. Reach her at 209-1810.

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What's a Wassail?
Celebrate with the Oldest Christmas Tradition
by Myra Harbour

Most of us have heard the song, "Here we Come a Wassailing" but don't actually know what a wassail is. Norse for "be in good health" is an old toast and the origin of the word. Wassail is a drink consisting of ale or wine sweetened with sugar and flavored with spices. This brew is traditionally served in a large "wassail bowl" garnished with small roasted apples and ladled into serving cups.

Wassail Recipe to Serve 10
10 small apples
10 teaspoons brown sugar
2 bottles dry sherry or dry Madeira
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 cloves
3 allspice berries
1-inch stick cinnamon
2 cups superfine sugar
1/2 cup water
6 eggs, separated
1 cup brandy

Core the apples and fill each with a teaspoon of brown sugar. Place in a baking pan and cover the bottom with 1/8-inch of water. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until tender. Combine the sherry or Madeira, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon, sugar and water in a large, heavy saucepan and heat without letting the mixture come to a boil. Leave on very low heat. Beat the egg yolks until light and lemon-colored. Beat the whites until stiff and fold them into the yolks. Strain the wine mixture and add gradually to the eggs, stirring constantly. Add the brandy. Pour into a metal punch bowl, float the apples on top and serve in 8-ounce mugs. Eggs can be omitted if preferred.

And for your toast, here is the song...

Here We Come a Wassailing
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a wand'ring,
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you a happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.


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Myra Harbour is a professional party planner and the owner of Celebrate. Reach her at 259-8611.
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