(The following post is about our New Year’s Eve sit-down-dinner party in correlation with my #6-10 Commandments. You can read Part I here.)

One of my favorite parts of planning a larger party is the day before, when it “all comes together,” and the table is set. Starting with my favorite garage sale dishes (C #6), we used thrifty, low-cost ideas, as Hoppi and I went to the dollar store, where we chose items to make our table look festive, but not too busy. We used small, silver picture frames (6 for $1) for the place cards (that we kept changing around for every course), and we had on hand a large wicker basket of starched white linen napkins.

When all 17 of us sat down for our first course, I realized it was going to be tight. We really were crammed in like a bunch of sardines around the table. But instead of apologizing for this, (C #7) I chose to make light of it, and everyone just went with the flow.

The beauty of entertaining is you can have your own style (C #8). I definitely have my own way of doing things, and I love being a guest at other homes where they have their own unique flare. To be content with myself, and about how my dinner parties turn out (I always gage mine not by the food that was consumed, or raved about – but by the conversation that took place!) I should never compare my events with anyone else’s. Why even waste the energy or time?

I chose to serve for dessert a very old recipe from my friend Michelle B. In fact, I believe I first had this apple cake with hot custard sauce at a New Year’s Party she held years ago! I wanted to make something that I could prepare earlier in the day, and which would be easy to serve. I even made the custard the night before, so it was ready to be microwaved. For this size dinner party, I never would have cooked a brand new recipe without trying it first (C #9). So pulling this recipe out of the archives worked for me!

Every time we meet with our friends around the table, we have life-changing impact (C #10). Anymore, we just expect it. Our conversation takes us there – we seem to strip off the things that weigh us down, by going deep with one another. We listen, we empathize, and we offer advice when asked.

It’s beautiful – this thing called friendship!!

And what in the world happened to the kids during this 4-hour time, you might be asking? Well, Commandment #11 (just kidding) is about what to do with the kids during a dinner party.

Keeping it simple, one of the moms brought 7 pizzas. Others brought snacks, drinks, and desserts for the kids. We have a fairly large-sized garage (heated too!) where the kids ate and played ping-pong. They also enjoyed video games, movies, Legos, hot tub – after which we even saw teens jumping into the swimming pool (brrr)! They mingled together, and even little four-year-old Perry joined in, as the older ones each took their turns holding and playing with him. (Age range was from 4 – 15.)

In the past, when our kids were younger, we organized Pictionary, as it would involve all of the families. This year we made it family friendly, but changed it around, if you know what I mean (not including the kids, but not excluding them either!)

Here is a little nugget regarding hosting lots of kids: We’ve learned in the past to not get over-involved. Kids will hang with each other and have a great time. If they don’t, we don’t take responsibility for making everyone happy! We supply a fun house, and we rarely ever hear, I’m bored – so it’s not up to us to create their happiness.

We’ve also included our kids in setting up and cleaning up! And at the end, any lingering friends just know that we all get involved and help out.

At this party we asked a couple of kids to play music for our main course entertainment -Abby on the violin and Hannah on the piano. This is another way to break up the “norm,” by bringing the kids in to perform – and the adults love it!

We’re already thinking of fun ways to change it around next year. We’ll see what we come up with!

(A Talent Show, involving all the kids, is another fun way of adding entertainment to your dinner party. We have done this with outdoor entertaining, where we had more space to spread out. You can read my “Kids at Dinner” post here.)

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