Sunday, November 24, 2019

THE ART OF THE HOST by Alex Hitz

With Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years Eve bearing down upon us in rapid order, most of us have been racking our brains to come up with something unique and fresh for our events and festivals. Even with the help of our events planner and caterers, that's certainly the case around here and my nerves are slightly frayed. Even with tried-and-true recipes and decorations, there's always a way to tweak things so that the event will not only be successful but also different and memorable for our family and friends.

One of my dearest friends recently hosted a book-signing party for her long time pal Alex Hitz - "The very best host in the world" - according to the Wall Street Journal. And she was kind enough to send me a signed copy! Filled with exciting ideas for planning a party and complete with his best recipes, Alex even added a chapter called "The Art of the Guest" which I skipped to first thing, being that it touches my own world as a butler and how guests are theoretically supposed to behave.

Published by none other than Rizzoli International, you can see this sumptuous book and actually take a look inside at this Amazon link: The Art of the Host; Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining by Alex Hitz

Also, more than once in this blog I've recommended a book by the famous Washington DC hostess Sally Quinn. Full of gossip and hysterical from start to finish, Quinn's philosophy for parties was to always expect a disaster!

She didn't feel her events were a true success unless some famous Senator, Congressman or Hollywood persona fell over drunk in the floor and had to be escorted home. She describes what happened one time when her caterers got the date wrong and she had to order buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken for her fancy guests! And she goes on to call out other DC hostesses whose parties were a flop and why, which created no end to gossip and scandal! Also available on Amazon Books, here's a link to The Party; Adventures in Entertaining.

So, armed with Alex Hitz and Sally Quinn, how could I possibly go wrong with planning any event around here? (And then, why am I still so agitated?)

I hope your party plans are going smoothly! Whether it's a dazzling gala, a small cocktail buffet, or a traditional family dinner with beloved handed-down family recipes, I'm sure you'll make every effort to make it fun and memorable for all.

As always, thanks for dropping by this evening. I'm quite exhausted myself, but excited at the same time. We just have to plow on through, right?

Andrew   

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Winter Furniture and Mink Throws for the Rich!

With leisurely summer vacations and the autumn solstice now behind us, it's that time of year again to knuckle down and face the hectic Fall Social Season as well as the onslaught of holidays ahead. Except for the Pillsbury Dough Boy, I haven't seen any Christmas ads on TV yet. But as soon as Halloween is over you know very well that all hell is about to break loose. It's exciting to be sure, but scary as well with all the crazy work coming up!

Of course in major homes (like this one where I work) the house staff, secretaries, personal assistants and events planners get an early jump on all this, starting in mid-summer. We've already had our Christmas cards designed and printed, and they're going to the calligrapher in November as soon as we finalize the list - the usual fuss about who's in and who's out this year.

More importantly, we've already pinpointed the dates for a major fundraiser, two political cocktail buffets, and the annual Christmas gala for friends and family. All of which makes it easier for our events planner to schedule caterers, musicians, florists, house decorators, valet parkers and security, with plenty of time to design party invitations and save-the-date notices.

On my end, I have to keep up with all the gift shopping for the season and make sure that all goes smoothly and timely, especially for gifts that must be shipped overseas. Mercifully I have our personal shopper to lean on for most of the heavy lifting. But my other big task this month is to bring down all the winter furniture and trappings from the attic.

What? What's that you might ask?

I know, right! But it's true. While most of us have furnishings and accessories that suffice us year round in our comfy homes and apartments, not so for the super rich. There's such a thing as spring and summer furniture and fabrics, versus autumn and winter.

Lightweight breathable fabrics with airy light colors and floral prints are for spring and summer furnishings, of course. Heavier fabrics (such as wool, tweed, flannel and corduroy) with darker solid colors and plaids are for the autumn and winter months - providing a warm and inviting look on cold wintry evenings.This goes for bed clothes (sheets, pillow cases, bedspreads, duvets and shams) as well as draperies, curtains, furniture pillows and throw blankets. So we've got a lot of work to do in switching the house from summer to winter.

I have to tell you that in this house most of the throw blankets are made of genuine mink, although there's a big one in the Family Room made of Chinchilla. Which reminds me, I need to run get them out of cold storage where we send send them during hot summer months - along with the household furs. But in case you're curious, for more information about fur throws you might check out this website. They have many different furs from mink to rabbit to suit anyone's budget. Well, except for mine I guess. But I'm totally cool (which is to say warm) with my old-fashioned cotton quilts.

The whole subject of furs is intriguing and complicated. Certainly I'm aware of PETA's stance on animal rights and their objection to rich people wearing furs for the sake of glamour - and they have a point. Indeed, just this week California became the first US state to ban the manufacture and sale of clothing items made from furs. Prada has announced they'll eliminate furs in their future fashion lines. And a major world-famous department store, Selfridges in London, has announced limited sales of exotic skins.

But furs have been a part of human history since the dawn of time in keeping people warm - from cave dwellers in prehistoric days right up through British royalty and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. The argument is strong that with modern fabrics and manufacturing techniques the need for furs to keep humans warm is no longer necessary. So it becomes a matter of personal conscience, asethetics, and the passion for beauty that keeps furs in the picture. If Regina ever stops wearing those exquisite ermine furs when she's holding court at Buckingham Palace, then perhaps we'll witness a sea change in this social delimna. We'll just have to wait and see where all this goes. 

Sorry for straying so far off topic, but it's a fascinating and confounding subject. All of this assumes we'll even have a winter this year anyway, but with climate change and all, who knows, right? I guess the most prudent thing to do is to keep going on with traditions as if all is well and nothing is wrong.

I hope your plans for autumn and the holidays are going smoothly and that you don't have to break your backs dragging winter furniture down from the attic. And by all means, don't forget to grab your furs out of cold storage before the winter chill sets in.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening,
Andrew