Party planning should be fun and easy, so get things done in 15 minutes or less.

The 15-Minute Party Planner's blog breaks down basic party-planning tasks into simple actions that take 15 minutes or less. We're not here to make you the next Martha, we're here to help you be crafty quickly!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kitchen equipment for easy entertaining

Now that you know how to stock the perfect party bar, it's time to evaluate your entertaining equipment. All you need are a few handy kitchen gadgets and some serving dishes and you'll be ready to entertain at the proverbial drop of a hat.

In addition to kitchen basics like can openers, cutting boards, and corkscrews, keep a few of the following gadgets at the ready. Doing so will allow you to whip up quick party dishes and drinks that make you look like a culinary genius and won't take more than a quarter of an hour. If you don't have lots of kitchen storage, choose items that can do double duty (such as a heavy-duty food processor in place of a blender and a food processor).
  • Blender
    Not only can you blend boozy concoctions, but a blender is also a quick way to whip up puree or quick soups, and if you've got a substantial blender you can even grind coffee beans or crush ice.

  • Dishes
    Lots of folks keep paper products on hand, but it's just as easy to invest in a set of durable, lightweight Corelle dishes -- pretty dishes that are unlikely to break and won't take up much space. Investing in a dozen or so Corelle plates will pay off in the long run, doing away with the need to continually buy paper plates and proving to be much better for the earth, since there's no waste! Corelle also offers everything from simple white dishes to bold geometric designs and everything in between.

  • Food processor
    A food processor can do most everything a blender can do, and more. Throw a handful of olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and oil, for instance, and you've got yourself a delicious tapenade in about 2 minutes. Want to top dinner with freshly-shredded herbs or dessert with chopped nuts? Toss them into the food processor and let the machine work its magic. In less than five minutes you can prepare everything from hummus to salsa.

  • Pepper grinder
    A good pepper mill will only set you back about $20, and it's $20 well-spent. Grinding pepper not only looks pretty, but tastes better than the flaky pepper you buy in the grocery store. A pepper mill also allows you to use fancier peppercorns (like foodie-favorite pink peppercorns). You can do the same with a salt grinder, and can try a variety of sea salts. (This set from Amazon will get you both a pepper and salt grinder -- with refills! -- for less than $20.)

  • Serving platters
    Yes, you could throw food on dozens of mismatched plates when you're expecting guests, but why? Buy a few large platters and make them work for you. Rather than pulling out (and washing!) multiple dishes, choose large platters and use them to hold all aspects of a specific dish. Instead of using a bowl for dip and a few plates for veggies, grab a large platter and stick a bread bowl filled with dip right in the middle, surrounded with fresh veggies and crackers. Plate a dozen ingredients for antipasto on a single platter as well, by rolling up prosciutto and salami, popping piles of olives and artichoke hearts around, and stacking cubes of cheese. Keep a few lunch-tray-sized platters on hand and you'll be party-ready in minutes. Two the 15-Minute Party Planner likes? This adorable Peggy Karr Happy Hour Platter and this super-functional 18-Inch White Porcelain Platter.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stocking the perfect party bar

It's much easier to be a 15-minute party planner when you have the appropriate tools and supplies at the ready. This article on stocking a party-ready bar is the first of a three-part series on the supplies every prepared party planner should have on hand.

Alcohol
There are hundreds of beers, wines, and spirits out there, but what you stock for booze is a matter of personal preference. Keep just a few basics on hand so that you're always ready to party.

The 15-Minute Party Planner recommends:
  • A few bottles of white wine
    Chardonnay is the most popular white and Gew├╝rztraminer is an pleasingly aromatic white and something your guests may not have tried before.
  • A few bottles of red wine
    Merlot and Cabernet are red wines that are likely to please any guest.
  • Gin
    Combine gin with dry vermouth and you're on your way to a basic martini!
  • Vodka
    Vodka mixes with practically everything. Try a flavored variety for a little pizazz.
  • Tequila
    Nothing says summer like a margarita, and nothing says margarita like tequila.
  • Beer
    This is a matter of personal preference, but keeping two different kinds of beer on hand will keep you party-ready (and you can always use a bottle or two to dress up recipes).
Mixers
Keep a few of these on hand to mix up cocktails in no time.
  • A citrus soda (like Sprite)
  • Cola
  • Fruit juices (try orange or cranberry)
  • Grenadine
  • Seltzer/tonic
Garnish
It's easy to keep simple food and non-food items in your cupboards and refrigerator to garnish drinks. A little garnish turns a simple drink into a fancy cocktail. For food items try cherries, lemon slices, lime wedges, mint, olives, orange slices, etc. Non-food items you should stock include swizzle sticks, drink umbrellas, and sword picks.

Tools
You've got the liquids and garnish out of the way, but what about the tools? If you have an official bar area at home, feel free to go fancy. Otherwise, you can certainly keep the basics in a simple container.
Accessories
Having the appropriate glasses and bar paraphernalia will set you up to look classy. Try having a variety of the following items on hand:
  • Coasters
    The 15-Minute Party Planner loves these, since they make a great conversation piece!
  • Cocktail napkins
    Keep a few different kinds on hand from classy to quirky to themed.
  • Highball glasses
    You'll use highball glasses for most cocktails.
  • Martini glasses
    Martini glasses also make cute dessert dishes!
  • Old-fashioned glasses
    These short, wide glasses are meant to hold any drinks ordered "on the rocks".
  • Wine glasses
    There are differently-shaped glasses for different kinds of wine, but something like these are multi-purpose.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A-tisket a-tasket: a well-planned bathroom basket

Whether you're hosting a party at home or in a banquet hall, try to anticipate the needs of your guests. Visitors may find themselves in need of supplies like band-aids, breath mints, and tissues, but might not have them on hand. You'll prove to be something of a clairvoyant hostess if you arrange to have the necessary items waiting in bathroom baskets.

Bathroom baskets provide your guests with thoughtful necessities. You'll find many of the necessary supplies at home and can pick up the rest at a dollar store. Simply find baskets large enough to hold your supplies (but not large enough to be in the way), and fill with them with incidentals your guests would appreciate. If you're hosting a party at home, one basket should do it; if you're out at a banquet hall, however, consider putting a basket in each bathroom and customizing baskets for the men's and women's rooms.

Recommended supplies for bathroom baskets include:
  • Antacid (such as Rolaids or Tums)
  • Band-aids
  • Breath mints
  • Combs (you can get a dozen plastic combs for $1 at the Dollar Tree)
  • Cough drops
  • Dental floss
  • Earring backs (especially helpful at formal parties)
  • Eyeglasses repair kit
  • Hairspray (and extra bobby pins or hair elastics)
  • Lint brushes
  • Lotion
  • Nail files (and clear nail polish for stocking runs)
  • Pain relievers (try to have a variety of options, so that people who can't take one kind of pain reliever can have other choices)
  • Q-tips
  • Sewing kit (or at the very least, safety pins)
  • Spray deodorant
  • Stain remover (such as Shout Wipes or Tide to Go Sticks)
  • Static cling spray (or dryer sheets!)
  • Tampons or pads
  • Tissues
  • Toothpicks
Feel free to customize your bathroom baskets based on the needs of your guests and type of event by leaving some items out and adding in others. Depending on the venue, you may want to add bug spray, for instance, or hand sanitizer. You could even throw in a few AA batteries for those whose cameras have died.

Can you get everything together in about 15 minutes? Chances are yes. Raid your closets for travel-size lotions, tissues, and hairspray. Check out the pantry for gum, breath mints, or toothpicks, and find dryer sheets and static cling spray in your laundry room. You can track down the other necessary items by hitting the travel and toiletry aisles at a local dollar store; by limiting yourself to two aisles, you're likely to get in and out of the store in mere minutes.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Get your bathroom party-ready in 15 minutes

Whether you're simply busy with other aspects of party planning, or you find yourself suddenly expecting guests, getting your bathroom clean enough for company should take a mere 15 minutes. Here's how to do it:

Gather supplies. (2 minutes)
Grab disinfecting wipes (the 15-Minute Party Planner likes Clorox-brand wipes), a toilet brush, clean linens, a candle, and a basket of some sort and bring them to the bathroom.

Remove unnecessary items. (2 minutes)
This includes dirty towels and bathmats, extra magazines, and any medications or supplies you don't want to hanging around during the party. Put the extra supplies in the basket and throw the laundry in a hamper.

Clean the toilet. (2 minutes)
If you use a toilet brush with a disposable head (again, the 15-Minute Party Planner prefers Clorox Toilet Wands), clean up is quick. Plus, the head includes a disinfectant and it can be thrown away after use, doing away with the need to keep a drippy toilet brush stored in your bathroom.

Wipe down surfaces. (4 minutes)
Disinfecting wipes are quick and easy for cleaning. Simply wipe down all the surfaces in your bathroom: the mirror, counter tops, sink, door handles, toilet (top, handles, exterior), tub, and shower curtain (if it's not made out of fabric). You're not deep cleaning here, you're simply killing germs and making the bathroom look presentable.

Air out the bathroom. (1 minute)
Crack open a window and light a candle. You don't have to leave the window open long, nor the candle burning all night, but both will help to freshen your bathroom.

Replace linens and supplies. (2 minutes)
Hang new towels and replace the bathmat if necessary. Make sure soap dispensers are full. Replace any close-to-empty rolls of toilet paper. It's also nice to leave additional toilet paper and tissues where they are easily accessible for party guests.

Stash the clutter. (2 minutes)
If you'll be returning magazines and prescriptions to the bathroom after your guests leave, simply stash the basket of extras in a closet until the party is over. Then, you'll have easy access to everything once everyone leaves. You'll also want to empty the trash, so that the room is fresh when guests arrive.

Voilà! A clean bathroom in hardly any time at all!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Save time by shopping for party supplies at Etsy.com

You've chosen your party's theme, you have an idea of what you'd like for decorations, but the thought of hopping in the car and driving to a party store (only to spend hours plowing through the luau and graduation decorations on the way to your real destination) drives you mad. Worry not! Armed with your credit card (or a PayPal account) and 15 minutes you can find everything you need at Etsy.com.

Etsy is a crafty online marketplace, connecting world-wide crafters with buyers. The site's mission "is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers." Party planners will find everything from party hats to pinatas and banners to bachelorette decor.

In less than 10 seconds, a search for "pirate party" returned 526 results. Etsy offers pirate treasure chests (perfect for holding party favors), invitations, pirate skull cupcake toppers, and even pirate wedding cake toppers. All can be ordered with the click of a button and delivered within days, saving you a trip to the store and supporting crafters and artisans.

Etsy will also allow you to search the site for local artists, returning the 100 most recently updated shops in your area. By buying from these shops you're participating in locally sustainable business practices and supporting local artists.

So whether you're searching for bachelor party invites or edible cake toppers, check out Etsy. You'll save time and support an entrepreneur -- nothing better than that!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

15 party favors you can make in 15 minutes

  1. Chocolate-dipped spoons
    First, melt milk chocolate (chocolate chips work great). Then, remove the chocolate from heat; the chocolate should be melted, but thick and cool enough so that it doesn't melt the plastic spoons. Dip spoons into the melted chocolate just past the base of the spoon and add toppings if desired (crushed bits of toffee, candy cane, or sprinkles are good choices) before the chocolate on the spoons begins to chill. Then, lay the spoons on wax paper (wax paper on a cookie sheet is the easiest way to transport the spoons) and transfer to cool in the refrigerator. When finished, store spoons in Ziploc baggies, cellophane, plastic wrap, or the like. Tie bags with ribbon to decorate.

  2. Organza gift bags full of candy

  3. Sachets filled with potpourri
    Buy lacy handkerchiefs and loose potpourri. Spoon a bit of potpourri into the center of each handkerchief, draw up the ends, and tie closed with a bit of ribbon.

  4. Take-out containers full of fortune cookies (or whatever you like)

  5. Bath salts
    Mix combination of about a cup of Epsom salt with a 1/4 cup of sea salt and a couple of tablespoons of baking soda. Add a few drops of essential oils (try lavender or eucalyptus for a soothing spa-like scent). Stir until all ingredients are blended, then spoon the mixture into glass jars like these. Finish the glasses with pre-printed labels or write "Lavender Bath Salts" (or what-have-you) on the top of the jars with a skinny permanent marker. You can batches of bath salts that are as small or as large as they need to be to accommodate all of your party's guests.

  6. Votive candles wrapped in organza circles

  7. Personalized candy bar wrappers
    Buy candy bars that come enclosed in silver or gold foil, covered by paper wrappers. Remove the candy's original paper wrapper, and make your own, using patterned scrapbook paper or colored paper embellished with stickers or stamps. Then, simply fit the personalized paper over the candy bar and secure with a piece of double-sided tape.

  8. Candy in paper cones

  9. Embellished picture frames
    Buy simple flat-front picture frames and embellish them with 3-D alphabet stickers that spell out the names of your guests, the year of your event, or simple messages like "Hope" or "Faith".

  10. Mixed CDs (with songs that match your party theme)

  11. Recycled crayons
    If you're hosting a party for kids, you can make custom-shaped crayons as party favors. Preheat your oven to about 150°F. Sort old crayon stubs (paper removed) by color family. Then, line mini-muffin pans with foil baking cups (or use shaped pans like these) and add sorted crayons. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crayons have melted. Let cool.

  12. Chocolate-dipped pretzels (or cookies or whatever)

  13. Candy Cane Reindeer
    Getting ready for Christmas? Glue two googly eyes and a red pom-pom nose onto the curve of a candy cane. Then, shape a brown pipe cleaner into "antlers" and twist around the top of the candy cane.

  14. Small vases (or bottles or cans or what-have-you) of wild flowers

  15. Suncatcher
    Buy clear glass Christmas bulbs with removable tops. Remove the tops, fill with multicolor glass beads (or any tiny trinket that will catch the light). Replace tops and attach a brightly-colored ribbon or suction cup for hanging.