How to get festive fast

It’s Dec. 31, and the clock is ticking toward 2004.
If you’ve found yourself without party plans, have no fear.
Just call a few friends, make a quick grocery store run, and get ready
to throw
the perfect last-minute party
Wednesday, December 31, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:46 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Maybe it’s a recent break from your significant other that changed your plans, or perhaps the temperature outside is just too low. Maybe Aunt Louise broke her leg or your best buddy ditched you to take a Hawaiian cruise. Or maybe you didn’t have any plans at all.

No matter what the reason that got you here, just because you’re home on the 31st doesn’t mean you can’t ring in the new year with style. True, you may have to pass up some of your traditional ceremony and cobble together an unusual guest list, but a party is still a party. After all, this is the season of fellowship, and what better way to celebrate the passing of time than to share it with the ones you love?

As a change from formal entertaining centered on traditional dining, last-minute festivities can try going for a more casual atmosphere: Offer interesting, homemade food and let guests serve themselves.

Maybe even forgo the usual entrees and multiple courses. Put together a savory menu made up of appetizers and hearty nibbles, to make a feast of small bites followed by an assortment of potluck desserts.

This way, you can benefit from the combination of giving guests a crowd-pleasing party and having more time to enjoy it, with no last-minute cooking.

A guest-friendly “grazing” menu might be made up of platters of good cheese and olives, bowls of toasted pecans, and baskets filled with bread. Plates of sliced smoked meat and fish would make easy, no-fuss anchors for the meal. Add to these stationary items a few uncommon, homemade finger foods which can conveniently be passed around, and the menu is complete.

Strategically placed food and drink energizes a party because it creates a comfortable flow through which everyone can move and mingle.

The Associated Press and Missourian staff contributed to this report.

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