Wednesday, December 17, 2014

7 Wacky Ways to Ring in the New Year PLUS A Very Merry Party Manual!

Tired of the Times Square scene at New Year’s? Country Living checked out these US towns, where they drop something a little more unique at midnight than a crystal ball:

                -Mobile, Alabama:  A model MoonPie lit up by 1,200 LED bulbs
                -Vincennes, Indiana: 12 locally grown watermelons
                -Plymouth, Wisconsin: An 80-pound cheese wedge made of Styrofoam
                -Raleigh, North Carolina: A 1,250-pound copper-and-steel acorn
                -Pensacola, Florida: A 13-foot-tall aluminum pelican with 2,000 feathers
                -Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: A sheet-metal crescent wrench fit for a giant
                -Honolulu, Hawaii: A replica of a Smooth Cayenne pineapple, the state’s most
                                                  popular type


If you’re throwing a holiday bash of your own this season, you’re definitely going to want to check out Country Living’s Very Merry Party Manual! We’ve got top entertaining experts who share their brilliant decorating tricks, budget-friendly sources, go-to recipes, and more. From invitations to the perfect playlist, there’s advice everyone can use. Check it out, and then share your own holiday entertaining secrets.

How to set the scene:

“Wrap small bouquets in plain paper and group them in galvanized buckets, where they’ll serve as rustic decor and gifts for your guests.” –David Stark, event planner

“Select one affordable material and run with it. Right now I’m obsessed with burlap, using it to create wreaths and stitch up table runners.” –Libbie Summers, author of The Whole Hog Cookbook

“Rather than spend big on a fancy centerpiece, arrange inexpensive herbs like rosemary and mint in silver mint-julep cups, then line them down the center of a table.” –Lulu Powers, event planner

“Scatter tea lights everywhere to make an entire room glow. They don’t cost much but look magical.”  –Joanna Goddard, lifestyle blogger;

“At my New Year’s Day brunch, I fill vases with gorgeous bunches of collard greens!” –Virginia Willis, author of the cookbook Basic to Brilliant, Y’all

Start here for the perfect playlist:

Enter a single song into and you’ll be granted an endless party soundtrack. Our pros suggest beginning with these offbeat tunes.

John Denver and the Muppets, “Deck the Halls” –Mary Giuliani, event planner

Johnny Cash, “It Came upon a Midnight Clear” –David Guas, chef at Bayou Bakery in Arlington, VA
Bing Crosby, “Happy Holidays” (Beef Wellington remix) –Eddie Ross, style blogger;

Essential Party Props:

“ sells beautiful, inexpensive trays, lanterns, and dishes like gold-leafed bowls, terrific for holding candy.” –Lulu Powers (

“I stash a Votivo Red Currant candle in my powder room. Why? It looks pretty and smells divine!” –Tricia Foley, interior designer (

“Super-cheap wine glasses are more elegant, and eco-friendly, than disposable ones.” –Tricia Foley ( for stores)

“Prevent guests from having to dig through a mountain of coats by investing in a metal folding garment rack.” –Ted Allen, host of Food Network’s Chopped (

Always be prepared:

“If you’re able to fit it in your budget, pay for a cleaning service to come a few days before the party. That may sound extravagant, but it’s money well spent.” –Virginia Willis

“Clear any little accessories from your side tables, so guests have plenty of surface area to set down drinks.” –Libbie Summers

“Simplify your buffet prep by sticking Post-it notes on empty platters and bowls, indicating which finished dish goes where.” –David Stark

A relaxed (yet refined) approach to appetizers and drinks:

“Three words: pigs in blankets. The ones from Trader Joe’s [] are inexpensive and a surefire smash hit. I serve them on white trays next to ramekins filled with Dijon mustard.” –Joanna Goddard

“Vintage cookbooks can be fantastic resources for old-timey drinks, like the Apricot Nip, Raspberry Shrub, Currant Fizz, or Chocolate Highball.” –Serena Thompson, CL contributing editor and author of The Farm Chicks Christmas

“I go to so many parties where there’s no beer- and I’m a beer guy. Remember to stock up for folks like me!” –Marc Murphy, chef at Landmarc in New York City

“To whip up a quick dip: Defrost frozen spinach in a casserole dish, top with shredded Parmesan, and bake at 350 degrees until the top is golden brown.” –Mary Giuliani

“You can’t beat a country ham surrounded by a mountain of biscuits. And if you don’t want to make the biscuits yourself, just buy them from a local bakery.” –Virginia Willis

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