Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

Photo: Susan Reimer

Photo: Susan Reimer

I’d love to meet you next month, during a special class I’m hosting for the University of Denver’s Enrichment Program in conjunction with the Central City Opera Guild.

Every year the Guild’s L’Esprit de Noël Holiday Home Tour kicks off the yuletide season with a tour of historic Denver homes decorated by some of the city’s leading table and floral designers. Have you ever toured those elegantly appointed homes and wondered, “How do they do that?”

Home for the Holidays: Secrets to a Memorable Celebration
will be held on two consecutive Saturdays. The first session is Saturday, November 16 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at my home. During this workshop,  you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how those designers take simple objects and transform them into elaborate yet tasteful decorations.

First, we’ll cover the planning process, starting with tips for creating a noteworthy invitation and steps to conceiving the perfect mood for your event. You’ll enjoy a cooking demonstration and get expert advice on creating a delicious yet easy to accomplish menu, compliments of cookbook author Eliza Cross. We’ll talk about décor and how to create a beautiful holiday table, and floral designer BJ Dyer of Bouquets will lead you through a variety of ideas for stunning floral arrangements and holiday decorations.

The following Saturday, November 23rd at 10:30, you’ll enjoy a docent-led tour of the 2013 L’Esprit de Noël Holiday Home Tour in the old Crestmoor Park neighborhood. You’ll see firsthand how these impressive techniques are used in some of Denver’s finest homes. Discover the designer secrets for your own memorable and beautifully decorated holiday celebration.

The cost for the two-week class is $95, and Central City Opera Guild members receive a 10 percent discount. To register, visit http://www.universitycollege.du.edu/enrichment or call 303-871-2291.

I hope to meet many of you in person during this fun, festive event!




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Surprise Party at MauryAnkrum.com

"SURPRISE!!" Photo by Ubo Pakes

If you were to research “Surprise Parties,” you would find that virtually every article addresses how to throw one, but not whether or not you should. The advice given carefully lays out tips and suggestions on time frames, communication, parking, alibis, and even back-up plans, yet every article ignores the most important question:  does the recipient want or even like surprise parties? Given my ten years of practical party planning, I strongly recommend considering this. A surprise party likely has four possible scenarios that will play out:

  • The first: “Surprise!” – you pulled it off – he/she is genuinely astonished and happy about it.
  • The second: “Surprise!” – you pulled it off, but the recipient is not happy.
  • The third: “Surprise!” – no surprise – he/she was on to you and despite appreciating your time and effort, you’re frustrated and disappointed.
  • And finally the fourth: “No Surprise!” – he/she knew in advance, isn’t happy and neither are you.

So what you’re left with is a 50/50 chance that all your hard work will be worth it in end. The fourth scenario is what played out when I tried to throw my husband a surprise 35th birthday party. We spent the better half of twenty minutes in the car arguing before putting him up to making a halfhearted appearance. Needless to say, it was the last time I did that. Reflecting back weeks later, I realized that the failed surprise party was my fault, not his. I like surprises; I love the attention and flattery that comes with it. That’s not him.

So the point is, before diving headfirst into planning this type of venue, find out whether or not this person likes surprises of any type, if he or she likes being the center of attention and if the guest of honor handles spontaneity well. If you’re uncertain, the odds are you may want to probe a little further or consider another type of party.

On a personal note, I still love surprising my husband, but now I do it with surprise trips, surprise themes (to a party he knows is going to take place) or simply surprising him by having doughnuts delivered.

For tips on how to pull off a surprise party–if you’re brave enough to go for it–watch for next month’s entry for my tips and advice on planning a surprise party.

As always, I would love to hear your stories or thoughts.


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Throw a great picnic with Celebrated Gatherings

I love dining outdoors, and with 300 days a year of sunshine in Colorado we try to take advantage of every opportunity to share a meal al fresco. The key to enjoying a great picnic is to give the occasion a little forethought and planning. Here are my favorite tips for hosting an unforgettable outdoor meal:

1. Pack or purchase a beautiful picnic basket. Organizing a dedicated bag or basket with unbreakable plates, cutlery and servers, cups and glasses, salt & pepper shakers, a corkscrew and napkins will make spontaneous picnics a breeze. Just add the food and drinks and you’re good to go!

2. Consider your location ahead of time, and arrive early to set up. An area with big trees will provide both shade and sun for changing weather. If children are coming, a picnic area in a park with a play structure gives kids something to do which may in turn make the picnic more relaxing for adults. An on-site picnic table is ideal, and I like to cover it with a colorful tablecloth and arrange soft, folded blankets on the benches. In a pinch, you can spread a waterproof tarp on the ground and top it with a blanket.

3. Choose food that keeps and transports well like salads, sandwiches and finger foods. (Here are some fresh picnic menu ideas from the Food Network.) Prepare everything ahead of time (cut up the ribs, slice the watermelon, etc.) so you can relax at the picnic site.

4. Chill out. Pack everything in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice packs, and set up the picnic in the shade. Or freeze water bottles the night before, and they can serve as ice packs, and later, drinks.

5. Games like Frisbee, croquet and badminton can easily accommodate varying ages and groups of people.

6. Don’t forget bug repellent. If it’s especially buggy outside, you may want to pack citronella votive candles to place on the table.

7. Bring trash bags, paper towels or cloth dishtowels and disposable wipes or damp washcloths packed in zip-lock baggies for cleaning up after the picnic.

Are you picnicking this summer? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.


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As the saying goes “Everyone’s a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” and who wouldn’t want to be part of one of the world most fun-loving and spirited holidays of the year?

This year, I recommend skipping the bars and opting for a beer tasting bash at home. Similar to a wine tasting party, serve up some of Ireland’s finest stouts, ales, and porters and let your friends taste the nuances in flavor and style. Pair the brews with a St. Patty’s Day meal rich in tradition- corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and Irish soda bread.

Epicurious created this comprehensive list of beers made in or inspired by Ireland. Here are a few favorite beers I pulled from the list, and any of these would be perfect for the party:

  • Beamish Irish Stout
  • Boulevard Irish Ale
  • Diamond Bear Irish Red
  • Finnegans Irish Amber
  • Georg Killian’s Irish Red
  • Great Divid Saint Bridget’s Porter
  • Guinness Pub Draught
  • Harpoon’s Celtic Ale
  • O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale
  • Murphy’s Irish Stout
  • O’Hara’s Irish Stout

Finally, here are some tips on “How To Taste Beer” with advice on pouring, appearance, aroma, first sip, mouthful, finish and styles.

Have a happy, healthy holiday!

Slán leat (goodbye),


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On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…..

  • 12 Drummers Drumming
  • 11 Cousins-a-Bickering
  • 10 Lords-a-Leaping
  • 9 Kids-a-Shouting
  • 8 Maids-a-Milking
  • 7 Aunts-a-Meddling
  • 6 Brothers-a-Quarreling
  • 5 Golden Rings
  • 4 Sisters Prying
  • 3 French Hens
  • 2 In-Laws-a-Ranting
  • 1 Drunken Uncle

…and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!

Ahh, nothing says “holidays” like a good, old -fashioned family feud. The holidays can be tough, and not every gathering is grand –or even peaceful, for that matter. The added stress of stretched finances, packed schedules (more…)

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The old saying “don’t mix religion and politics with friends” — while not always an absolute — is pretty good advice when you’re throwing a party. Nothing kills the festivities faster than a heated debate that can never be won. I can think of very few more sensitive and personal topics that can result in hurt feelings and create potentially permanent rifts between friends and family. This is not to say that these are not valuable conversations to be had — or that in the right place and time they can be anything less than educational and enlightening — but rarely can this happen with a large group. (more…)

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A party is a great opportunity to expand your social network by getting to know new people and reconnecting with those near and dear to us. It is also a chance to cultivate new friendships among your friends and family by allowing them to get to know each other better.

No other factor may be as important to the successful outcome of a party as the people you invite.  No amount of decorations, enticing entertainment or appetizing food can or will save an event if your guests don’t mesh, mingle or play nice with one another. So here are a few tips to ensure you gather a diverse and intriguing grouping of friends and family for your next affair.

The occasion for the party largely stipulates the majority of the guests. Reunions, baby showers, and birthdays are just a few events in which you may have limited control over the attendees. However, you’re not totally out of luck. My husband’s birthday party is a great example; my in-laws have a hard time relating to most of our friends, so we have a dinner party with the just the family, and later have a themed party with friends. This is also true of parties in which colleges or co-workers need to make up to majority of the guest list. Knowing that shoptalk is inevitable, I would spare certain friends the discomfort of attending.

With that said, the remaining tips are for the events in which you have control over who does or does not come.

Select the size of function you are comfortable with. Over-extending yourself is a near guarantee of undue stress and probable disappointment. The original rule of thumb is that one-fourth of your guests will not be able to make it, so send out extra invitations in anticipation of this. In all my years of planning parties, I have never seen that rule play out. Who you invite, the type of parties you host, and the time of year the party is planned for — these are the largest determinators of attendance. My Halloween parties over the years have taken on a life of their own. Regardless of how many invitations I send out, it is rare to get even one decline. This is largely because there are very few adult Halloween events, and with school back in session, fewer people are traveling. The opposite is true of Christmas parties, where you are competing for a three-week window jammed with festivities and travel plans. My advice is to look at every event individually, taking these factors into consideration. Never invite more people than you could possibly handle.

The type of people you include is the second most important consideration and often what causes the most stress.

First, do not invite people who all share the same career, background or set of beliefs. Bankers rarely want to talk to other bankers in their leisure time. Invite people who are lively and engaging, and who will contribute to conversations. However, avoid inviting those who are so dominating or adversarial that they could intimidate other guests. Likewise, steer clear of those who become obnoxious when they have had too much to drink. Realize that most of us want to hear or be heard by those with different interests and perspective.

If possible, try to include a lawyer or a doctor. Everyone loves a little piece of free advice! Other interesting guests include:

  • Someone involved in restaurants or entertainment, as everyone loves gossip or ideas on dining out.
  • A realtor as they are often well versed in trends of different neighborhoods and changes to schools and government policies.
  • Someone in investments, as these individuals usually know a lot about the economy and a variety of industries.
  • Entrepreneurs, as they are risk-takers and usually have grand ideas and ambitions.
  • A stay-at home mom, as they are often more knowledgeable in a variety of subjects than people expect and usually have a couple great stories or anecdotes up their sleeves.

Second, don’t invite those who clearly will be uncomfortable, such as your ninety-year old grandmother to your Indy 500 party, your only Democratic friends to your Republican candidate’s victory party, or anyone you feel would be so out of place that they are likely to have a miserable night and you are likely to continually try saving.

Third, don’t waste much time worrying about the male to female ratio. You’re not hosting a dating party, and therefore don’t need to match people up together.

Fourth, don’t worry about excluding people (this may not be the case for family get together or smaller venues). I do not try to hide or excuse the fact that I do host functions that not all the same people are invited to. People don’t expect to be included to a dinner party for your new neighbors, your boss’s retirement party, and your 8-year old’s pool party.

Finally, have faith that your friends will enjoy each other and get along. If you find redeeming qualities in them, trust that they will find those qualities in each other. (If they don’t, make a mental note to reconsider them for the next time!)


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