The hostess with the mostest!

Me hosting a ‘cat party’ for Violet! ( She has turned two)

Me hosting a ‘cat party’ for Violet! ( She has turned two)

Hosting a party is my idea of hell.

My reputation as a crap housewife means I’ve never been one of those people who thrives on throwing people, alcohol, music and food together. When it comes to playing hostess, my nerves often get the better of me. Surprisingly my natural inclination is to be an introvert and I get my goofy energy from simply surrounding myself with my girls, my husband and cats.

However I’m not a party pooper and I realise that it’s impossible to totally opt out of entertaining, especially when you want to celebrate milestones with those that you love most of all. Over the years I’ve hosted engagement parties, christenings, birthdays, wakes, Halloween, Christmas and New Years shindigs.

Here’s eleven excellent tips for making your party sparkle

1) Play to your strengths. If cooking isn’t your thing, ask your guests to bring along a plate! Now is not the time to be polite, as it saves you any last minute meltdowns. Last Christmas was at our house and every family member had to bring along a course to lunch, understanding it was the only way to ensure enjoying a tasty meal. My youngest sister made the best trifle I have been lucky enough to savour, with layers of peach, nectarine, strawberry jelly, sponge cake and cream. All that was required of me was providing the festive atmosphere.

2) Decorate, decorate, decorate. I’m mad for a theme and I’ve learnt to compensate for my culinary shortcomings by featuring lots of kitschy talking points. For Christmas I put up our plush singing reindeer head onto the kitchen wall. This cheeky faux deer, that we’ve named Rudolph has inbuilt movement sensors so when someone of certain height (usually my husband) walks past it launches into a medley of carols. My daughters and I love it, along with our party guests. Shoved at the back of the garage waiting to join the party is a life sized reindeer; along with a miniature singing Santa Claus, and a bright green Muppet like Christmas tree that can sing along with Rudolph on the wall! Our garage also contains some other giant laundry bags full of props for other parties. Like the three black tinsel cats, plastic skeletons and giant furry spiders for Halloween.

3) Forget about getting out the fancy dinner service and silver cutlery. My sensible and sensational mother-in-law has introduced me to the joy of paper plates and serviettes when it comes to catering for any large functions. Choose ones with bright colours or cute slogans. It saves on the stress of wondering if there’s enough bread and butter plates to go around. Plus no one gets stuck with washing up at the end of a long day.

4) Silver foil BBQ trays are perfect for baking roasts, potatoes or cooking anything in the oven! Again it saves on the scrubbing plus it prevents the last minute scramble for baking trays. Once I was left in a panic with no clean baking trays, after discovering my one and only tray had some old baked potatoes congealed onto it’s jaded aluminium surface. I’d forgotten they where still in the oven! Remember I don’t often open my oven door as I’m more a hot-plate kind of girl.

5) Look for short cuts. Sugar is my soulmate and I can’t go past a pavlova when it comes to entertaining. Meringue is the taste of summer for me. Supermarkets have a variety of ready made pavlova bases, so all you need to provide is lashings of whipped cream and some summer fruits. Strawberries, passionfruit, mango and banana always shine on my pavlova. And I’ve recently discovered the delight of shavings of dark chocolate to complete this sweet sensation.

6) Lighting sets the mood for your occasion. Be sure to use the dimmer setting to take the edge of those unflattering bright overhead lights. Don’t overlook those battery powered tea lights (sourced from all good 2 dollar shops) to turn your party into a fairyland. We still use our tea lights that I used to decorate our driveway for my husband’s fiftieth birthday party.

7) Make sure you dress for the occasion. The older I get the more I’ve embraced Iris Apfel’s motto of ‘more is more, and less is a bore.’ I’ve always been a big fan of having an ‘outfit’- whether it be flashing earrings, Christmas tree glasses, sequinned skirts, glittering fairy wings or simply a slick of bright pink lipstick. You can always have some kooky glasses or hats for your guests to get in the party mood. Remember a glitzy get up will distract from any number of cooking fails.

8) Cheezels. No little or grown up person can resist a giant bowl of Cheezels.

9) Pick music that enhances the mood, rather than selecting a soundtrack that drowns out even the smallest of small talk. ABBA works for any occasion.

10) Hydrate your guests and make sure there is oodles of sparkling water, soft drinks and lemon cordial.

11) Love and laughter- nothing is more important at a party, or in life.

May all your parties be successful and sparkling!