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Holiday Entertaining

As if perfectly
planned, it snowed on the streets of Owensboro last year at Christmastime, a festive
and unforgettable sight that RiverPark Center partygoers remarked on as they boarded
the trolley to the next stop on their route.

In the business
of making holiday party memories for others, RiverPark Center wanted to create
some of its own. So its annual company Christmas get-together turned into a progressive
holiday trolley party, with stops for cocktails and appetizers, entrée, and dessert
at the homes of several board members.

"We spend
time hosting other people’s Christmas parties and making others’ parties wonderful
and nice," says Executive Director John Bolton. He helped planned the party
for the management staff and crew members of the RiverPark Center, Owensboro’s
center for the performing arts. "We didn’t want to have our party at the
place where we’re at all the time-that seemed too much like work. We thought a
progressive party would be a way to get everybody out of the building and to other
peoples’ houses for a chance to socialize and get to know each other better."

"The trend
has been toward holiday entertaining at home," notes Lisa Raterman, who owns
an event management company in Ft. Wright. "And this season, because of the
events of September 11, we’re going to see a lot of home entertaining. People
will want to open their homes to family and friends."

Raterman says
that while the lavish or extravagant parties of the past may be off the holiday
entertainment circuit, inviting company and companies over for seasonal good tidings
is going to be very important.

"The whole
focus is going to be about celebrating with friends and family-not about what
side of the plate the fork goes on. It’s going to be about a more relaxed, casual

Charlcye Hawk
couldn’t agree more. "In Kentucky at Christmas, we like to gather in old
friends and family for an evening of good food, good music, and Southern shenanigans."

Last year, Hawk
and her husband, Jim, hosted a cocktail buffet and carol singalong at their New
Castle home, and the guests couldn’t have cared less about proper fork placement;
they were too busy chuckling over the family’s holiday high jinks.

"My brother,
David, tucked his trophy elk head into the covers of our downstairs bedroom. We
simply told our guests that it was so cold one guest had already crawled under
the covers. Everyone had a good laugh and some clever people used the antlers
for a hat rack."

Humor is a handy
ingredient that can add spice to any holiday party. The guest list is another.
According to Hawk, the secret to any successful gathering is inviting "wonderful
people who will participate in whatever you may be planning for the evening."

Organization also
helps the hosts keep the party moving along-and in the direction in which they
want it to go-and keep a sense of humor.

"If you intend
to sing carols, make sure you have included lots of people who love to sing and
perhaps a few good voices," suggests Hawk. "Supply either music books
or copies of carols so everyone can follow along."

Guest lists and
flow charts aside, the Hawks genuinely love to put out the welcome mat. Their
holiday buffet is laden with traditional Kentucky foods like country ham on biscuits,
cheese straws, hot pepper jelly on creamed cheese, and different family members’
recipes for baked oysters, cheese balls, and cookies. New dishes, like bacon-wrapped
dates and apple-mince pie, destined to become traditional favorites, wedge their
way onto the buffet. Holiday décor is a harmonious blend of Hawk’s heritage, which
includes English, German, and French Huguenot ancestors.

"From the
English, we Americans inherited the tradition of decking the halls with greens.
I use pine, holly, boxwood, rose hips, sumac, ivy, and magnolia leaves. The Germans
forced spring bulbs for Christmas so on the buffet table I decorate with silver
baskets of holly and ‘paperwhite’ narcissus. The fragrance of the spring bulbs
feels luxurious but this is actually very inexpensive."

"You can’t
beat sprigs of holly, especially the holly with red berries," adds Mary Riney,
board member and treasurer at RiverPark Center. "You can place the holly
in any room. I use this every year since I have several holly trees in my yard.
Arrangements can be done at the last minute or ahead of time and they’ll look
nice for several days."

Riney and her
husband, Ed, hosted the RiverPark party entourage for the main entrée, a catered
feast headlined by Lemon Chicken Parmesan. In addition to a profusion of holly,
Riney annually trims her home with silk poinsettias perched in brass planters
and a collection of fragrant candles.

Clean and inviting
scents, always an important element in creating ambiance in the home, become even
more significant at Christmastime. Hawk feels her home simply isn’t ready for
the holidays until the aroma of cedar permeates the air.

"A childhood
memory of my dad gathering a cedar tree from the farm for our Christmas is a precious
one. Cedar is so fresh and smells green. I remember one year my mother made a
paste of Lux soap powder snow to cover the branches. That was magical to a small

"Rely on
your personal memories and your family’s traditions to inspire you."

Riney agrees.
One of her favorite holiday recipes was inspired by the first cookbook she ever
owned, bought some 34 years ago when she "first set up housekeeping."

"It’s a recipe
for miniature pecan pies that was submitted by a Mrs. Catherine Booker in a book
called Cooking Favorites of Daviess County Homemakers," she says.
"I have had guests ask me if I will be making the pies for the party."

Riney says having an anticipated favorite food is one way to make a home feel
warm and comfortable, which in turn makes the guests feel relaxed and welcome.

"I love using
our fireplace when entertaining for the holidays for this reason," adds Riney.
Her other suggestions: "Have music set at an easy-listen volume. Have plenty
of food, especially snack-type foods, in various areas within easy reach. Have
everything ready when your company comes, so you can enjoy the party as well.

Hawk’s best tip for hassle-free holiday entertaining
and unharried hosts: "Just keep in mind that no one ever notices those flaws
or inadequacies that you, the hostess, can so quickly catalog. Wonderful people,
delicious food, and lots of laughter create the spirit of the season."

Decorations to Emphasize Easy Elegance

Kathy Roesel,
an agent with the Kenton County Cooperative Extension Service, says that food
has become a key focus in gift-giving and in decorating.


Take large
glass brandy snifter or other glass vase and fill one-third with water. Add
fresh cranberries. Place small floating candle in the middle of the cranberries.
Trim stem with greenery.

Floral Ice

Freeze water
between two nested bowls (can be glass or metal). After partial freezing, remove
from freezer and gently remove smaller bowl. Lightly press flowers into semi-frozen
water and return to freezer. Serve seasonal fruit or other cold item in bowls.

Boughs of

Gather holly,
pine, ivy-whatever is available from your yard or farm. Drape the greens behind
mirrors, around windows, over pictures, and in vases. Tuck bows in holiday colors
into the greens.

Glass Mix

Try giving
premixed food gifts this holiday season. Layer the dry ingredients for a favorite
cookie, brownie, muffin, or other baking recipe in a glass container (i.e.,
flour, oatmeal, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking soda,
and cloves for an oatmeal cookie recipe). Print the recipe on holiday card stock,
roll up, and tie with a ribbon. Trim the jar with ribbon and recipe.

Favorite holiday recipes

Mini Skyline

1 box Jif cornbread

1 can Skyline
chili or other chili

8 oz. shredded
cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Prepare cornbread
mix according to package instructions. Pour batter into small mini-muffin pan
and bake as directed on box. Remove from oven and immediately push a thumbprint
in the middle of each muffin. When ready to serve, place a teaspoon or so of
chili in thumbprint and cover with shredded cheddar cheese. Heat in oven or
microwave until cheese melts. Add a dollop of sour cream and serve.

Lisa Raterman, LA Raterman Event Management

Pecan Pies


1 cup plain

1 (3-oz.) pkg.
cream cheese

1 stick butter


1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup light
brown sugar

Mix all ingredients
for crust. Roll into 24 balls and press into miniature muffin pans with fingers.
Drop a few chopped pecans in each crust. Add one teaspoon of filling in each
pie and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Mary Riney, RiverPark Center board member

Cheese Pate

8 oz. cream
cheese, softened

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 cup Parmesan

2 chopped green

2 Tablespoons
real bacon bits

1 teaspoon parsley

Cayenne pepper,
to taste

Paprika, to

Cream together
cheeses, mayonnaise, onions, bacon bits, and parsley. Spread in a baking dish
that has been lightly sprayed with oil. Top as desired with cayenne and paprika.
Bake at 300° for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm with your favorite crackers.

Marilyn Mills, RiverPark Center board member

Rueben Dip

1 small jar
or can (16 oz.) sauerkraut

8 oz. Swiss
cheese, grated

1 cup Thousand
Island salad dressing

2 (3-oz.) pkgs.
corned beef, chopped

Combine all
the ingredients in a baking dish. Bake in 350° oven for 30 minutes. Serve hot
with rye crackers or small party rye bread slices.

Marilyn Mills, RiverPark Center board member

White Chocolate
Party Mix

1 lb. white

3 cups Rice
Chex cereal

3 cups Corn
Chex cereal

3 cups Cheerios

2 cups stick

2 cups dry roasted

1 (12-oz.) pkg.
M&M’s plain candy

Slowly melt
white chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water. Combine cereals,
pretzels, peanuts, and M&M’s in a large bowl. Slowly pour chocolate over
mixture and stir evenly to coat. Spread the mixture on wax paper to cool. Break
into small pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Marilyn Mills, RiverPark Center board member

Party Planning 101

Lisa Raterman,
owner of an events management company in Ft. Wright, offers these tips for planning
a hassle-free holiday party:

*Plan early.
Decide what mood you want to set for the evening. Will the gathering be formal
or informal? Is there a theme? Planning early is especially important if the
hosts will seek outside support for music, food, decorations, etc.

*Know who your
guests are so you’re not serving beer and cheese to the duck a l’orange group.
Also, make sure guests are compatible.

*Develop a time
schedule for preparing the food. "You can’t make everything the day of
your party and expect to have a clean house," says Raterman. "Know
what you can prepare ahead and freeze. As much as you can get done in advance
is good."

*Provide an
atmosphere that is about enjoying the holidays and the spirit of the year.

"The important
thing is that people come, relax, and enjoy themselves. That’s why it’s important
to know who’s going to be at the party, what you want to accomplish, and what
you want your guests to walk away with-and that’s a sense of really having enjoyed

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