The Joys of Small Scale Entertaining

It’s really hard for me to throw a small get together these days. We have a big group of close friends. This includes friends from grade school, high school, college and two handfuls of great “work” friends acquired during professional life…plus everyone’s significant others…plus their kids in many instances. Even our family-only gatherings (not counting friends) creep toward 15-20 people many times.

So for big occasions, like holiday parties or kids’ birthdays, it’s not unusual to have 40 or 50 of the usual suspects here. We definitely don’t have seating for that many peeps and we’re typically breaking into “perch with a paper plate on your lap” territory. It also means I’m cooking for a crowd. Those special, sometimes expensive, menus I’d like to try for intimate dinner parties – you know, where I can fit everyone at the dining room table – are few and far between. 

We had 50+ guests (including 15 kids!!) at my oldest child’s first birthday party. It was crazy – fun, but chaotic – and he was in his element. He’s a big ham. But now, with a 3 year old and two kids birthdays  within two months of each other smack in the middle of the holiday season, I’m thinking more about ways to downsize and get the kids on an alternate year birthday party schedule.

The baby’s first birthday was the first attempt. We kept it just to family – 12 people total, which is small for us. It was a nice and simple menu (fueled by my Hungry Harvest box, which came with lots of great fall fruits and veggies): butternut squash soup with herb croutons and fresh pomegranate seeds, spaghetti with homemade vegetarian “meat” sauce and warm bread, all served family style.

I made sweet potato cupcakes – based on Martha Stewart’s candied sweet potato cupcake recipe – with cream cheese icing. This recipe is a family favorite, though my little guy was not into it (as you can probably tell from the skeptical look on his face). 

As an extra size-related bonus, 12 people meant I didn’t need to worry with doubling a cupcake recipe or making two cakes. Because of it, this was the first birthday party I’ve thrown in years where I wasn’t icing a cake as guests were arriving – a personal victory!

In the end, we spent less shopping for this party than usual (because we had enough of most of everything on hand – I think I only needed to buy cream cheese and an extra can of tomatoes), we had a great time and I actually had full conversations with my guests (which doesn’t happen at a big party when you’re hostin dozens). Clean up was easy-peasy…for my husband. Thankfully, that’s his job.

In 2019, my goal is to do more small-scale entertaining and explore the fun options when the focus is on just a few.

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