As you may know, I’m a loyal participant (and team captain) of our city’s bocce league. I met Katie, many years ago, through bocce. Our shared enthusiasm for an all-ages sport that revolves around sportsmanship, community and great food, made us fast friends.
Katie and I throw the end of the year Bocce Chili Cookoff each bocce season. From the four years we’ve been hosting it, it’s grown from two teams and five competitors to fifteen teams and thirty competitors.
Katie is one of the most creative and organized hosts I know. She knows that the way to help your guests have fun is to have fun yourself. Last week, I asked her some Party People questions to find out more about her style.
What’s your favorite song to turn up loud and dance to at the end of the night?
That’s a tough one, it would depend who I’m partying with and how much we’ve had to drink. You can’t go wrong with 80’s pop, and radio safe hip hop. If Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer comes on, I’ll be singing the loudest.
Tell me about the most memorable party you’ve thrown.
Memorable for me or for my guests?
I really feel that I can’t take full credit for any of my parties as I always have help from other people from the planning stages to the tear down, but my most memorable party was my 30th Birthday Kickball game. I picked the day, the activity and invited my friends and family hoping for enough people to field two teams. The turnout was so touching, not only enough people for two teams but fans to watch as well!
Two of my dear friends (great party planners as well) stepped up and provided some great decorations, team shirts, and even a pinata. The kickball game which incorporated adult beverages was a blast bringing out the inner child of all those not only playing but watching. Being the rule follower I am, I did my homework and found the one park in the area that allowed alcohol consumption and not only got a permit but reserved a picnic area, while I’m sure people get away with it all the time, I didn’t have to worry that we would get a fine or show up to the park on that August day and not have a place to play, it was some piece of mind well worth the reservation fees.
The simple meal of hot dogs and chips and other simple snacks provided necessary calories to keep up the strength of those stellar athletes, and required little preparation, utensils and headache.
My favorite part was a “mistake” that ended up making one of the most memorable moments…when my friends were ordering the t-shirts for the teams, they asked what to do about sizes. Not knowing what teams would be or who would actually be there, I recommended ordering all men’s medium t-shirts, they may run a bit small on some guys, and large on the women but should do the trick.
The t-shirt shop misunderstood the order and got all women’s mediums. God bless my friends! Every single one of them, man, woman, big and small stretched and squished into those shirts while shedding tears of laughter. It was a party that people still tell me they loved, and one that I am ready to repeat any day!
Do you have a signature drink or party snack? Mind sharing the ingredients?
I am known for my Jell-O shots. They started off as a bit of a joke and have become a tradition for all things Bocce and beyond. The simplest recipe involves making Jell-O out of the box and replacing one of the cups of cold water with a cup of cold liquor (flavored Vodkas and Rums make unique blends with the Jell-O). Adding a dollop of whipped cream to the top when serving also adds a delicious touch.
For those more interested in a challenge, I have made actual cocktails and used unflavored gelatin powder to then turn the cocktail into a jello shot. This takes a bit of practice as the gelatin may react differently with certain juices, alcohols and mixes.
Give me one word to sum up your hosting style.
Delegation (It’s much harder to do it all alone, and when people ask “How can I help” or “What can I bring” most of the time they mean it. Know your strengths and pass off the things that aren’t, or that you just don’t have the time to do. Have a few things like cheese plate, green salad, dessert, or ice ready to pass off to those who offer. All tend to be simple, somewhat inexpensive and require little preparation.)
What’s your least favorite part of hosting? How do you deal?
Trying to get it all done and failing. I hate when I have a really good idea for an extra dish, or a decoration, or a gift or a game that requires a little extra time, and just can’t get it done amid the rest of the necessary planning and preparation. Pretty much I just cut my losses and move on, hoping to plan a bit better the next time, or to pass it off before it’s too late.
What was your biggest party mistake? What did you learn from it?
Ordering a keg, ever. I can’t think of one party where I’ve ordered a keg and haven’t regretted it. Either it was competing with a very full bar and returned half full. Or we made the huge mistake of ordering it from a different elevation from where it would be consumed, foam city!
Or we didn’t know that one of the guests was dating a frat guy, who happen to call all his friends and it was killed in under an hour. Bottles and cans might be a little more of a hassle when it comes to trash/recycling, but you can provide more of a variety, and any leftovers won’t go to waste.
What’s the most important party ingredient?
Group dynamic can make or break a party. Be very wary that your guest list is fitting of the type of party you are throwing.
Just because it’s your birthday it may not be the best idea to send the evite to your entire address book. Remember that if you are the only person that knows everyone, some people may cling to you more than you want them too, making it difficult for you to mingle with all your guests. Just because you enjoy eating lunch with your coworkers, doesn’t mean that they will get along with your college friends at your Holiday Cocktail party.
Really think about the people you are inviting, will everyone enjoy themselves and will you, or will you be worried someone is feeling left out, your enjoyment is just as important as your guests.
What’s the last thing you celebrated? How?
Well New Years, but we went out.
Before that, The Tipsy Moonshiners, my bocce team, got together for a super fun holiday get together last December. (Has it been that long, time for another party!) We all came together to make it happen.
As in the year prior, each girl was asked to bring an appetizer and something to drink. We learned the first year that appetizers may not be enough of a meal so this year we provided some lasagnas and salad as well to make sure that we were “responsible”. (Given that we live in the Napa Valley our spread was nothing to turn your nose up at.) Wines from some of the finest wineries in the valley, gourmet desserts, tasty nibbles and even some roasted fois gras. These delectable bites accompanied a killer white elephant gift exchange, some sparkling conversation and a night that makes us all eagerly await the start of the bocce season in the spring.