Throw a Party--and Look Like a Pro While Doing It

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Entertaining ideas for the party-planning faint of heart

So we went looking for instruction. At a bookstore near our apartment, we spent an entire Saturday searching through shelf after shelf of how-to-entertain books—yet we came away disappointed. The books we found either had dauntingly elaborate instructions that didn’t seem doable for two girls with day jobs, or advice so frustratingly vague that we wondered if crucial pages had been ripped out. On how many people to invite, for instance, one book advised that the "room should not feel empty, and at the same time not feel over-crowded." But what does that mean, exactly?! What we were after was something more concrete—a recommended number of guests. But it was nowhere to be found. Then there were the books that assumed that we had lots of money and time to waste: "Paint the room red for a dose of instant sultriness." You call that instant?! Worse still were the books that drew us in by promising to help make throwing a party quick and easy. Unfortunately, the advice they contained rarely reduced our stress, it just made us roll our eyes. No time to cook? No problem, one book assured us. Just spruce up takeout food by "sprinkling it with the petals of edible flowers." Oh sure, those are a cinch to find!

We craved a book—even just a chapter or two—whose advice would feel down-to-earth and doable for people like us. We're capable cooks, not trained chefs or caterers. We're enthusiastic cocktail drinkers, but by no means professional "mixologists." We have full-time jobs, not full-time staffs. And we host our parties not in a mansion but in a Manhattan apartment with room for two people in the kitchen if they suck in their stomachs.

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