Sophistication with a Helping of Humor - The Esquire Party Book

While packing up my cook books, I ran across a copy of the Esquire Party Book. Originally published in 1935, it's the lesser known companion to the popular Esquire's Handbook for Hosts.
My edition is from 1965 and is replete with illustrations by the legendary Seymour Chwast. The art direction - also by Chwast - is a humorous tour de force that draws you in with its charm and irreverence.

The content is equally as diverting. It's chock full of great information on entertaining from sun-up to sun-down, including drinks, recipes, party games, decor, even music and wardrobe suggestions!

The recipes tend toward the haute side, with entries like Crown Roast of Lamb, Artichoke Leaves with Roquefort Dip and Shrimp Viennoise En Casserole. Not everything is complicated, though. There are simple recipes for things like Cocoanut Chips and Olives in Bacon.

They're all organized into menus for parties that have whimsical themes like "On a Polynesian Beach" and "For Old School Ties".

Here's their recipe for stuffed pineapple:

2 medium sized pineapples
1 box strawberries
1/2 lb seedless grapes
1 cantaloupe - cut into cubes or balls
1 honeydew melon - cut likewise
1 lb pitted black cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup liquor - curacao, triple sec, brandy, fruit brandy, rum, white wine, port - what ever your liquor cabinet is willing to donate

Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise, being careful to leave each half of the green tuft of leaves attached. (A serrated knife does the job well.) With a grapefruit knife, remove the fruit from the skin, leaving a thin shell (1/2" thick). Remove the eyes and the core from the fruit and cube it. Mix the pineapple with the other fruits (which have been washed, sliced, and otherwise prepared), add the sugar and the liquor and stir gently. Pile back into the four pineapple halves and refrigerate until dessert time. Serve with pre-scooped balls of lime ice on top. You can use any other fruits you have on hand that marry well with pineapple, but be sure to add lemon juice or ACM to fruits that darken upon waiting: apricots, peaches, apples or bananas.

It sounds like a delightful dessert for summer entertaining, doesn't it? If you like entertaining with a sophisticated flavor to it, I suggest finding a copy of Esquire's Party Book. They're available on sites like Amazon and eBay.


Kitschy-Fun Craft Project From Guest Blogger Margot Potter

With me up to my eyeballs in moving and renovation I asked my friend Margot Potter to be a guest blogger this week. She's come up with a fun decoupage project I know you'll enjoy. Thanks Madge!

Hello, people!

I’m Margot Potter, a.k.a. The Impatient Crafter™, but my friends call me Madge. My gal pal Brini is knee deep in renovating her fabulous new flat, so I’m stepping in for her today. What fun!

Brini and I both worship freely at the Temple of Kitsch and as soon as she asked me to create a post I immediately thought of my Donny vs. Bobby purse. It’s a Teen Idol smack down! In one corner, we have the cornfed, baby faced heartthrob from the Midwest, Donny Osmond. In the other, the slightly older and more experienced stud muffin from southern California, Bobby Sherman. Who will emerge victorious? Let the battle begin!
To make your own teen idol purse select images of your won personal favorites! Will it be Humperdink vs. Jones? Reynolds vs. Namath? Greg vs. Keith? The mind simply reels! After you’ve settled on a suitable pair, remove the handle and hardware from a blank wooden purse. Apply two layers of acrylic paints in burnt orange on one side and avocado green on the other and let dry. Cut out your images, eyes and text and adhere using a decoupage medium. (I used images and text from vintage magazines.) Don’t fret if the images bubble up, they’ll relax after the paper dries. The final touch is a smattering of crystals applied through a heart shaped stencil.
That’s all you need to have a simply adorable purse in a flash! You can show whichever side tickles your fancy on any given day.

I can’t wait to see the magic Brini is making, can

(PS: You can find more kitschy ideas at my website and my blog


Renovation Hell = Blogging Purgatory

Hi people. Sorry for my radio silence this week, it's been a busy one! We started renovation on the apartment - tearing out walls, putting up new ones, plastering, hanging doors... I've been shooting all of it, so look forward to some new episodes in the not too distant future!

I'm afraid I haven't been able to post new blog entries on Wednesday or today because everything is at sixes and sevens - my craft and cook books are packed up, as are my crafting supplies. I thought I'd share with you a link to the past. It's my companion page for the Renovation Hell episode of my show for the Style network - perfect for my state of mind! Just click here for all my tips, ideas, recipes and photos from the episode. Incidentally, you can explore all 26 episodes of the show in the same way. Just click the pull-down menu and choose an episode.

I'll do my best to get back in the blogging saddle (hmm, that sounds a bit questionable) next week. Thanks for your patience! I'm also sorry it's taken me so long to approve comments. I'll try and get to those earlier in the future.


The High Cost of Moving - Cutting it Down to Size

I've been madly packing, getting ready for my move. Being the frugal lass that I am, I'm appalled by the cost of packing material! Boxes, wrapping paper, tape, it all costs an arm and a leg. I have some solutions that I'd like to share with you, though.

When it comes to boxes you don't need to contribute to the deforestation of the earth. Repurposing boxes is a great way to save the earth and save a buck at the same time. Finding boxes is as simple as asking for them. Liquor stores are more than happy to get rid of their boxes and the ones they give you are perfect for packing books! Supermarkets, big box stores, even your building super are great sources for boxes. Just ask!

A move is always a good time to purge yourself of unnecessary belongings. One of the things you can get rid of is financial records older than 7 years (according to my accountant). Keep your actual tax documents, but all the support documents - bank statements, cancelled checks, old bills, receipts, etc - can be gotten rid of. Don't just throw these documents away. They need to be shredded, preferably by a cross-cut shredder.
I had documents dating back to 1986! I spent evenings for a few weeks sitting in front of the television running these documents through my shredder. After shredding them, I put them in big bags and set them aside in anticipation of my upcoming move. I've been using the shreds to pack my breakables!
It's a great, free source of packing material for me and works perfectly to fill out the boxes and pad the china and glass. I wouldn't use them to ship your eBay sales for fear of identity theft, but they're perfect for moving and storage.

Moral of the story? Don't let the cost of moving deplete your renovation and redecorating budgets! A little creativity will cut those expenses in half.


Nibbles for Trying Times - Scramble

When you're life is in upheaval - as mine is with my pending move - it's hard to keep an eye on nutrition. Eating takes on a catch-as-catch-can quality to it. It's a good idea to prepare some things in advance that you can munch on. Here's one of my favorite munching recipes - Scramble.
It's a good thing to make up in large batches and have on hand. ...lots of good nutrition in it and it tastes good too!

2 lbs mixed, salted nuts
1 12 oz package small shredded wheat
1 10 oz package Cheerios
1 6 oz package of rice chex
1 7 oz package of pretzel twists
1 6 oz package of small pretzel sticks
1 4 oz can of pretzel bits
2 cups salad oil
2 Tbs worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs garlic salt
1 Tbs seasoned salt

Mix all ingredients together in a large pan(s) and bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours, stirring gently, so as not to break up the cereals, every 15 minutes. Yield - 9 quarts.

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Making Moving Glamorous - The Art of Photography

I have moving on my mind, what with my new apartment on the horizon. I've been going through all my things, deciding what to take and what to sell. The process has been fun and daunting. I've been in my place for 15 years! While going through my books I found some gems. The Time Life Library of Photography. I decided to keep two of the volumes: Color and The Studio. In the latter title is a photo essay on putting together a studio style photo shoot on location and the subject is Moving Party (!). It's interesting to see how they put it together, so I thought I'd share it with you today.
Here's the space before setting up. It's a parlor floor apartment in a brownstone in Park Slope Brooklyn. The photographer, Rudy Muller, rented it for a day.
Here they are setting up. The model playing the hostess tries on her hostess gown. and the studio lights are placed for the single shot they need to get.
With her gown hung up, the model touches up her makeup.
Here's the final shot. Notice how the wine is placed front and center. The final photo was used in a series depicting different types of parties for a wine company. Somehow I don't think even I could pull off a real moving party as glamorous as the one depicted, but I could certainly pull off a photo shoot of one like this - especially for a barrel of Piper Heidsieck!

Some of my copies of the Time Life Library of Photography books are up for sale on Etsy right now. Have a look!


The Big Move - Brini's New Apartment!

Hi people! I've been a little bit distracted of late because of very good news... I'm moving to a new apartment! I'm very excited about it. It's a darling new place. It's going to need a lot of work, but when it comes down to it, that's really the fun part, isn't it? I hope you'll come along for the ride! Here's a look at the new place.
This is the foyer. I love the little railings.
Here's the living room - southern exposure, so lots of light and nice windows.
We're going to open up the kitchen to the living room so you can see me cook!
Here's the dressing room. It has two closets in it.
The bathroom needs quite a bit of work, but has good bones and a large window. There's also an entry hall with another closet, and I'm going to put a big closet in the living room as well. I'm planning on doing a retro renovation for the place. I know we'll have a lot of fun!

It's in a beautiful 1930's building with a courtyard garden and lots of my friends live there. All in all, it's a great change! Look for more posts and videos on it soon!


Box of Cuteness - Ruch Chier Rosen Mini Cookbooks

I have several very cute, tiny little cookbooks by an author named Ruth Chier Rosen. They're just darling and come in little boxes that have the same graphics as the book covers. I discovered them through my friend and publicist, Jennifer Cohan, who had one called Entertaining Snacks After Dark (1962). A few years ago that book became a tiny little obsession - a perfect match for the tiny little books! I made "Ruth Chier Rosen" a watched search on eBay and waited to pounce on the book when it came available. While I waited I had the opportunity to pounce a few more times on some of her other mini masterpieces. I acquired Having a Ball - Party Menus & Recipes for Every Occasion (1959), and The Big Spread - An Encyclopedia of Hors D'oeuvres and Canapes (1953). So now I own three of these cute little books.
Aside from their cuteness and Ruth's penchant for titles that have a slightly risque double entendre (the chafing dish book is called "Wick and Lick"), the books have some fascinating recipes in them. Between the covers of The Big Spread, you can learn how to make Strawberries Marquisee, which are faux strawberries formed from chopped liver and rolled in bread crumbs that have been dyed red with food coloring and Beet Sticks, which are, basically, borscht popsicles.

These oddities aside, she has a charming recipe for Cheese Straws - one of my favorites:

2 t salt
4 c flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening or lard
12 oz grated sharp cheddar
3 T butter
Dash cayenne
1 egg
1 T sherry

Combine the salt, flour, 1/2 cup butter, shortening or lard and water to make pastry and chill. Blend cheese, 3 T butter and cayenne until smooth. When chilled, roll out pastry into a large rectangle and spread the cheese mixture on it. Fold the pastry in thirds and roll out again and refold. Do this twice more for a total of 4 times. Chill again. Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Re-roll and cut into long narrow strips. Beat the egg with the sherry and then brush it on the strips. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake until golden brown and puffed.

These books won't provide you with every day fare, but there are some nice recipes in them and their size and the novelty of the matching box make them perfect gifts for the historically epicurious. If you're mother appreciates ironic vintage recipes, why not give her one for mothers day? They can be found on many used book websites and eBay.

Speaking of Mother's Day... Also in the picture above is our Gillian Napkin from Felix Populi. They make a charming gift as well!