By Donna Cornelius
Holiday parties should be merry and bright for the hostess as well as the guests.
That’s the message two experts in entertaining shared with guests at “Holiday Traditions Inherited, Invented, Inspired,” a lunch-and-learn event Oct. 13 at Bromberg’s in Mountain Brook Village.
Capucine Gooding, Juliska’s founder and creative director, and Annette Joseph, Traditional Home magazine’s lifestyle and entertaining expert, presented holiday entertaining ideas using pieces from Juliska, a leading casual dinnerware line.
Ricky Bromberg, president of Bromberg and Co., welcomed guests to the luncheon.
“This is our first Holiday Traditions event,” he said. “We’re thrilled to be selected as Juliska’s only holiday event in the U.S. in 2016.”
He introduced Gooding, who with her husband, David, started Juliska in 2001, and Joseph, who is the author of a book called “Picture Perfect Parties.”
Gooding said Bromberg’s “has been an incredible partner for Juliska.”
She and Joseph used two beautifully set tables, one inspired by Thanksgiving and one by Christmas, to illustrate their tips. But their advice included not just decorating ideas but behind-the-scenes preparation. Joseph said every hostess needs a party pantry stocked with essentials for entertaining.
“The way to enjoy Thanksgiving or any party is to get organized,” Joseph said. “I do this with what I call props. I go into my party pantry and get creative.”
She said items in her party pantry are a mix of plain and fancy.
“I have basic pieces, and then I sprinkle them with fabulousness, like Juliska pieces,” she said.
“Your props should reflect your personality.”
She also advised treating your party pantry like your clothes closet.
“Get rid of or donate things that you don’t use,” Joseph said. “Toss out things that are chipped. Edit and then buy what you need. Decide what you want to collect and what you want to add to your collection.”
Gooding said dining and entertaining are “about family.”
“Tradition brings us all together,” she said. “Sometimes you have familiar traditions – we always put cookies by the fireplace for Santa – and sometimes you create your own.”
Her family is starting a new tradition this year, she said.
“We’re having a ‘friends-giving’ the week before Thanksgiving and will test our recipes so I can poison my friends and not my mother-in-law,” she said, laughing.
She held up a pretty Juliska glass jar when she told the guests about another of her family’s new traditions.
“We started a wish jar,” Gooding said. “Put it on your mantel. During the year, tear out photos and ads of things you want or write down things you wish for, from fuzzy bedroom slippers to a trip to Paris. If David’s mother calls and asks what to get him for his birthday, I can reach into the jar and pull out a wish.”
Children might enjoy a jar they can fill with “wishes for the world,” such as peace and an end to hunger, she added.
She showed guests what she called a “gratitude banner.”
“Each season, I go to Home Depot, buy a big canvas and a Sharpie, and scrawl ‘Gratitude’ on it,” she said. “We hang it in our entry hall. Guests can write on it whatever they’re thankful for. Children especially enjoy this. The banner can be as casual or as decorated as you want.”
Gooding said many Juliska pieces can do double-duty, including small gift trays from the company’s Forest Walk collection. Each has a different word such as love, friendship, family and gratitude in its design.
“These can hold condiments for parties,” she said. “Or put a homemade cookie on a tray and give it as a gift.”
Ramekins and small bowls can hold tiny violets, potted herbs, nuts or home-baked goodies for hostess gifts, she said.
Joseph suggested another use for small bowls.
“Fill them with a little mound of moss, stick a toothpick in and put a place card on top,” she said.
Joseph said there’s an easy way to really light up parties.
“You can put clementines and ivy down the center of your table and then add different candlesticks,” she said. “The glow is very dramatic when guests walk in.”
When they’re not holding candles, Juliska’s tiny tea lights can be turned upside down and become small vases, Gooding said.
Joseph said her party pantry includes “lots of vases.”
“You can fill them with fresh flowers, but you also can use non-fresh things like pinecones and feathers,” she said. “Start picking up acorns every day, and by Thanksgiving you’ll have enough to fill a vase.”
Gooding said colorful napkins are “another good thing for your stash.” She showed Juliska’s Forest Walk napkins, cheerfully decorated with leaves, seeds and feathers.
“These will go with so many things and will add color to your table,” she said. “And just so you know, most napkins are large enough to double as hand towels that you can give as favors.”
Among other tips:
• Have some statement pieces in your party pantry, Gooding said. For example, Juliska’s crystal Christmas tree “is beautiful on the mantel, in the entry hall or on the dining table,” she said. “You put a statement piece out, and it does the work for you.” She said another statement piece is a charger, which can double as a platter. And because chargers are larger than dinner plates, they can come in handy during the holidays. “We use these as our plates at Thanksgiving,” Gooding said with a smile.
• Gooding and Joseph said they like place cards, especially at large events. Joseph said she hates going to a wedding and “wandering around with a plate full of food asking, Can I sit here?’”
• Gooding said Juliska products can go into the dishwasher for easy clean-up. “Our Bohemian glass is made in the Czech Republic,” she said. “Each is mouth-blown by a team of two to three master blowers. Every piece is hand-signed – but it goes in the dishwasher. It’s not crystal; it’s glass.”
• At parties where guests don’t know each other well, ask those at the table fun questions like, “What’s the worst Christmas gift you ever got?” or “What’s the worst vacation you ever took?” to help break the ice, both women said.
Entertaining is about thoughtfulness, Gooding said.
“It’s making someone’s favorite dish or putting their favorite album on,” she said.
Joseph said the best parties start with a relaxed hostess.
“You shouldn’t be working when your guests arrive,” she said. “Allow enough time to enjoy a breather before the party starts. You should have a cocktail in your hand and greet each person, show them in and spend time with them. Guests can sense if something is amiss, so be relaxed. The secret to a fantastic party is making each guest feel special.”