Down To The Wire & Behind the Scenes, It’s Party Time!

It’s 4:30 Pm, New Years Day. Friends will be arriving in 30 minutes for a New Year’s Day dinner party and suddenly a long list of things still needing to be done starts playing through my head: Mix up the champagne punch, pop the appetizers into the oven and get them onto a tray, put out the cheese and crackers, light the candles throughout the house and on the porch.  How did it get to be 4:30 so fast?! Yikes! Time to throw it into high gear! 

I love balloons so I added a few to the mailbox. It’s a fun way to help those folks who have never visited your home before, know they are at the right address. I got a little nostalgic bringing these home in the back of my SUV. It reminded me of all the times I did that for birthday parties when my son was growing up. (sniff, sniff)

New Year's Balloons for the Mailbox


I managed to take some hurried pics for you in those last few breathless, can-I-get-it-all-done moments. I shared this table setting in the breakfast room yesterday, so if you missed it,  just click on yesterday’s post for more details. I’ll share the one in the dining room for the next Tablescape Thursday.

New Year's Day Winter Party Tablescape 1_wm


Wish I had thought to take a photo after the desserts were all out on the sideboard. Party guests brought yummy pies and cookies. I decorated the sideboard with my Swarovski Snowflake and Star ornament collection. I’ve been collecting these for 20+ years, one per year. I have room for 5 more on these two silverplate trees. Not sure what I’ll do after that, will have to get creative for fitting them onto the branches.

Sideboard Before Party


Waiting in the refrigerator was a Cranberry Trifle.

Cranberry Trifle


I usually make this trifle during the Christmas season. Though this was a New Year’s Day party, I decided to make it anyway since it’s one of my fave desserts. And, guess what I learned? Finding fresh cranberries 6 days after Christmas is the equivalent of looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack! Seriously! All the cranberries in the entire world cease to exist, falling off the face of earth at the stroke of midnight on Christmas day. They become as rare and scarce as Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage!

Publix didn’t have any, fresh or frozen. Kroger didn’t have any, fresh or frozen. Next I headed to Harry’s, a local fresh market/farmer’s market grocer. They didn’t have any in their produce department, either. In fact their produce section was the emptiest I’d ever seen it. That’s when I really knew I was in trouble because Harry’s always has everything. It’s the store you head to when a recipe calls for some exotic spice or food you’ve never used or even heard of before. I kept thinking, “Geesh! It’s a mere six days past Christmas…how can all the stores be totally out of cranberries?!”

In one last-ditch effort, I checked out the frozen section at Harry’s. The heavens parted, the light shone down and AAAAAAHHH, there they were, packages upon packages of frozen cranberries.

Cranberries for a Trifle


I’ve never used frozen cranberries when making this dessert and wow, are they huge! The biggest, fattest cranberries I’ve ever seen! The trifle tasted just as it always has, so frozen cranberries do work just as well as fresh.



Most trifles have some type of alcohol in them but this one doesn’t. It’s a mixture of cranberries, pound cake, brown sugar, freshly grated ginger, vanilla extract, and real whipped cream. It’s topped off with homemade candied orange zest, made with organic oranges. You’ll find the recipe here: Cranberry Trifle You may have to wait until next year to make it, though…unless you have a store that stocks frozen cranberries near you.

Cranberry Trifle


Didn’t get a picture of the appetizers once they were served, but I did snap a quick picture while they were heating up in the oven. I was really happy with this sampler appetizer platter I ordered from Whole Foods and my guests seemed to enjoy it, too. It was just $29 for 30 big appetizers.What you see here in the oven was only half of the tray, I could only get half of the appetizers onto the cookie sheet. Later in the evening I heated up the other half. This tray included Spring Rolls, Egg Rolls, two kinds of Tamales, three kinds of Quiche (mushroom, cheese and spinach ) Spanakopita and Potstickers. It also included a sweet dip for the egg rolls.

Sampler Appetizers from Whole Foods


Champagne glasses were decorated with nonpareils for a festive look.

Champagne Glasses with Nonpareils 1


In the past I’ve used the larger nonpareils. When I saw these teeny, tiny ones several months ago, I bought them thinking they would work better for the champagne flute rims than the bigger ones. Well, it turns out I like the bigger ones better. The teeny ones shown here, tend to kind of clump together and they just don’t look as cute as the larger ones. I think I’ll go back to using the larger nonpareils when I make this punch for New Year’s or birthday parties, etc…

Champagne Glasses with Nonpareils


I served my fave champagne punch…recipe can be found here: Champagne Punch for Christmas or New Year’s

Insanely Awesome Champagne Punch


These next two pictures were taken late that night after everyone had left. I was just about to blow out the candles and turn off the lights when I thought to take a few pics. I didn’t do a lot to the porch since it was still mostly decorated from Christmas. The porch table was decorated with a lantern surrounded by fresh magnolia leaves. I had taken the holiday pillows in but I put them back out on the swing for the night. I knew it was very unlikely anyone would want to sit here on the porch (it was 48 degrees out this day) but since the porch is visible from the kitchen, family room and even the powder room, I thought it would be nice to dress it up a bit for the party.

Screened Porch at Night Decorated for Party


I love candlelight so I placed another lantern on the garden seat at this end of the porch.

Screened Porch at Night


I wish you could have been here in person…then it would have been a real party! I know you would have been blowing the party horns and throwing the confetti! Right? 🙂

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  1. Molly Tilson says

    Everything looks so fun and festive! The trifle looks delicious. Apparently pumpkins disappear the day after Halloween too! My daughter and her husband looked high and low for a mini pumpkin to put a sticker on to announce “their little pumpkin’ in 2014” to me and my husband. They finally decided to just buy a pie pumpkin. They went to a bakery for
    dessert and on the register was a mini pumpkin. She asked to buy it. The clerk said “it isn’t for sale” My son in law quickly said “we need it to announce my wife’s pregnancy” The clerk smiled, gave it to them and said “I am sure the owner will never mind!” 😉 So sitting on my secretary shelf is a darling mini pumpkin with a bow of twine and a round kraft color sticker on it saying “our little pumpkin….July 2014” ! Wonder how long it will keep?

  2. The table looks fantastic. And I had to nod in recognition…how do those last few moments before guests arrive seem to evaporate so fast? And no matter how organized you are, there is always a list of last minute things to do!


  3. You’re right Susan! Not only would I have been tooting the horns and throwing confetti, I must might have been dancing on that table on the porch! Just kidding! Everything looked very festive-no wonder your friends come to your house for New Year’s Eve! I’m sure all of you had a blast welcoming 2014!

  4. Gloria in Pgh says

    Oh Susan, I wish we lived closer together so that I could have saved you all the time running from store to store for cranberries! I have bags and bags of them in my freezer and would gladly have shared with you!! I started stockpiling cranberries some 16 or 17 years ago when the cranberry crop was very bad. I didn’t know there was a problem so I didn’t stash any cranberries when they first appeared in the market. Then LONG before Thanksgiving, when I make and freeze my cranberry sauce for the holidays, the cranberries disappeared! None anywhere!! So I had a year without cranberry sauce. It was awful! So the next year ( and every year since), I make sure to buy and stash at least six bags of cranberries in my freezer for the NEXT year’s sauce. They keep beautifully and the fact that the berries are frozen does not affect the quality of my cranberry sauce. I always keep a couple extra bags in my freezer to use in other recipes through the winter. Your trifle sounds wonderful. I may have to give that recipe a try!

    • Thanks, Gloria…I would have taken you up on that! Apparently, cranberries can be a challenge to find some year…never knew that before! You’ll love this trifle…it’s awesome!

    • Gloria, I loved reading that you stock up on cranberries too! We love them mixed with apples for crisps all year long but you do have to act fast and get them in the autumn. I’ve never managed to see any for sale already frozen here so I will continue to do what you do!

  5. Peggy Thal says

    Looks like a beautiful and fun party! I am always running around like crazy too before friends come. Sometimes a glass of wine helps!

  6. I’d forgotten about the scarcity of cranberries certain times of year until you mentioned it in this post. I once searched in vain for cranberries for a grilled turkey dish that had a fresh mango & cranberry chutney on it. Alas, I wasn’t able to find the cranberries so I passed on making the dish. I also was unable to find fresh turkey cutlets. ….Everything looks lovely as always but one thing I’d probably change is the tinsel in the wine glasses. Pretty to look at but a mess to clean up. I suppose if you had “poppers” & confetti for ringing in the new year, a little tinsel to the mix wouldn’t matter though….. I really enjoy your ideas & look forward to seeing them on Facebook which leads me here. I especially love all the photos you include. I’m a visual person so it helps to see what you are describing. Great as always. Happy New Year!

    • Thanks, Laura! I was chasing tinsel for a while! lol It cleans up pretty quickly though. I didn’t buy poppers but I almost did. I had them in my buggy at the party store but just as I got to the counter, I started imagining the clean up and chickened out. I sort of wish I had thrown caution to the wind and gotten them though. 🙂 I think I’m going to do what Gloria mentioned and buy a bunch of bags of cranberries to just keep on hand. I love them so I know they’ll get used. Gotta get ’em while you can apparently. Happy New Year to you, too!

  7. Beautiful post!!! Love the table in the breakfast room and will go look at that now too. Saving the recipe for tyhe trifle too!!!! Happy New Year!!! I swear, if you lived closer I would hire you to come her and give me lessons on blogging and how to do SO many things!!!!

    • Pinky, you are so sweet! I’m sore today…had to take Advil. I used muscles I hadn’t used in a while cleaning every nook and cranny getting ready for the party! I think this weekend I’m going to take it easy and relax a little. Having a party right after being out of town all week was def a challenge, but I like a challenge. 🙂

      • I had 2 parties back to back last weekend, Sat. had 16 and Sunday had 8. I am WAAAAY too old for this:):) But I do enjoy entertaining and being surrounded by friends and family!!!

        • You go, Girl! I did that a few years ago, had a party one day and book club meeting the next. I figured why not, house was already clean and decorated. 🙂 I love it, too Pinky! I bet you guys had a blast!

  8. Happy New Year, Susan! Everything looks so pretty and festive. Hope your Christmas was nice and here’s to another year of blogging with you.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 🙂

  9. Hi Susan:
    Happy New Year! Your tablescape looked beautiful. Hope your party went well. I can’t believe you are blogging 30 minutes before people arrived. You crazy girl. I would have been too stressed to do that.

    We had about 12 people over for Christmas dinner, but these folks are all equestrian friends. They are pretty much just meat and potato folks. I made them Steak-in-a-Bag, baby carrots, scalloped potatoes, roasted tomato soup, grilled pear salad, with pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. For the appetizers, I like Giada’s pea crostini’s and we warmed up the Brie with marlmalade sauce and a little apple brandy. We served Sandra Lee’s Santini, but my husband had to really tone that down for me.

    Anyways, Happy New Year to you and take care. I love getting your posts to see what you are up to next.

    Take care dolly.

  10. My refrigerator certainly does not look like yours, especially if I am having a party – do you have a separate frig just for photo shots?

    • lol Ellen, you made me laugh out loud! No, just one refrigerator. I had to clear out a big bag of apples from that shelf to put in the trifle but that’s all I had to take out. I keep my fridge fairly tidy. It’s filled with leftovers now, though.

    • Oh, just remembered, I also had the butternut squash soup on that shelf but by the time I took that photo right before folks started arriving, the soup was out and back on the stove. I may have already taken the tea out, too. My MIL used to kid me about how clean my refrigerator always looked. I give it a good wipe down about once a month or immediately if I notice a spill, so that probably helps, too.

  11. Susan, everything looks just wonderful!! I am always rushing around last minute no matter how much I plan and do ahead. Honestly, I am in awe and a little jealous of your sparkling clean refrigerator:-) I’m sure I cannot take a photo of anything in mine right now.

  12. Several years ago we had the same problem. We drove to umpteen stores. No one said there had been a crop failure, they just let us drive around wasting our day. Since then we alway stash for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Your party looks wonderful. I am sure your friends are delighted to be invited to your home.

  13. I am sure the party was a hit! You are the perfect hostess I ‘m sure since coming to your blog is like coming to a party everyday. Lucky guests!

    Ditto to all the clean refrigerator comments. I should get up from the computer and go clean mine. *hangs head in shame*

  14. Susan, did you ever see Oprah’s Book Club Luncheon? I never read any of her recommended books; subject matters just too heavy for my taste. But one time, I happened on her show when she gathered a small (4-6 maybe) group of readers for a luncheon & discussion of the most currently read book? Can you see where this is going? 😉 Have you ever thought about that sort of thing with your “loyal & dedicated followers”? I’d certainly make the trip to Atlanta for a luncheon or dinner with you! Please tell where you found your beautiful New Year’s Eve horns! Looks like you also celebrated with Waterford flutes & your champagne punch. That’s now my go-to party punch; even if the party is just my husband & me as it’s always been for New Year’s Eve. For Spring, think I’ll try it with orange juice instead of cranberry juice. Have you ever tried the punch with any substitutions? Can’t wait until we can see your dining room next Thursday! Don’t forget to take time for you in 2014!

    • I never saw those either. I think she was doing that when I was still working full time outside the home, so I was never home when that came on. Wouldn’t that be fun!
      I found the horns in Party City. I don’t know if those are everywhere or not but there’s one a few miles from my house. Yep, brought out the flutes for this party. I love that punch, too Paula…it’s just not Christmas or New Year’s without it, to me. I used the tiny nonpareils this time around the rim but I think I like the larger ones better. The little ones just look too clumpy. If you make it with orange juice, let me know how it is. I bet it’s will be great! Isn’t that how a Mimosa is made, champagne and orange juice. Wonder how the cloves and cinnamon will taste with orange juice.

  15. Linda Page says

    How lucky it must be to be one of your dinner guests. Everything looks divine and my mouth is watering over the cranberry trifle! You are definitely a Pearl Mesta junior…..The hostess with the mostest!!!

    • Linda, I just looked up Pearl Mesta, had not heard of her and that’s a big compliment! Thanks! Now I want to learn more about her…sounds like a fascinating woman!

  16. Norma Bethea says

    Everything looks so lovely and delicious!

  17. I wish I could have come. I’d have definitely been blowing one of the horn. Looks like all the ingredients for a great party! Thanks for hostng us & Happy New Year! Cherry Kay

  18. Hi Susan! I had the same problem one year trying to find cranberries after Thanksgiving to make cranberry sauce for Christmas dinner. There were none to be found-anywhere! Now I buy a few extra bags at Thanksgiving and store them in the freezer so that I have them for Christmas. I’m glad that you were able to find some for that beautiful Trifle! It looks delicious! Happy New Year!

  19. I loved this post! I don’t feel so bad about never having enough time (or fore thought) to take pics when I host a real live dinner party when a TRUE tablescaper such as yourself also forgets! You have mentioned all the circumstances I find myself in as well from a LONG last minute to-do list to scrambling for unavailable ingredients! I’m sure your dinner guests were very appreciative and from the pics you did take, I can tell the party was a huge success!


  20. Your cranberries were my “red doily’s!” NO one had them…I searched Party Stores, Grocery Stores, etc. Finally ended up cutting Christmas wrapping paper…which actually turned out pretty cute!! 🙂 franki

  21. Juanita in OH says

    This was such a beautiful and fun way to start the new year off. I can taste the appetizers, mmmm. I swear, if I ever went to your home you would never be able to get me out, lol.

  22. Sara Pilger says

    I faithfully read your blog and love your ideas. Where did you get the silver Christmas trees for your star and snowflake ornaments? They are beautiful! I am also searching for you Easterbunny magic compass!
    Thank you

    • Thanks, Sara! I found the first silverplate tree in a Ross-Simons store in Atlanta one year. Then years later when I needed another one, they had them online. You may want to check to see if they have them again this year. I think it was around Christmastime when I purchased the second one online. You may want to google for silverplate ornament tree, too. I found the magic compass while antiquing but they were online as well. Several of the BNOTP found them online. You may be able to find them closer to Easter, if they are still being made.

  23. Denise Lamb says

    Susan: We had cranberries in a store here on the 27th of December.
    I saw them and stopped to look at them. It was in a bag that had spices
    etc in with the cranberies and you were supposed to put them all in
    the microwave and cook your cranberry sauce. Just left tem in the
    case but now I am wondering how good they might have been.

    Love your beautiful table and decorations. We used to host my youngest
    sons birthday on New Years Day. This year he asked if we could have it
    on January 5th. He wanted to go out with friends on New Years Eve.

    Love your blog.


  24. Susan you breakfast room table is so pretty and that trifle looks fantastic. I can attest to your Champagne Punch’s awesomeness. I have used your recipe and yes it is awesome so I am sure the trifle will be great.
    I know you and your guest had an awesome time.
    Happy New Year, Ginger

  25. Dorinda Selke says

    As long as you would have kept your delicious punch flowing, this Yankee girl would have had her hat on and her horn blowing all night long !!! I was trying to reach into the computer for a few of those delicious appetizers – they looked so amazingly yummy ! I am now very interested and will report back to you if I see any fresh or frozen cranberries in my two usual supermarkets this weekend when I go shopping. I always liken it to being here up north in about a week, don’t try to look for snow boots in the stores, but if you want to find flip flops, they will have them in every color of the rainbow – LOL Gotta love it Hugs, Dorinda

  26. Susan, never thought that there would be a run on cranberries..they were pretty prevalent in my grocery store..the table, the drinks, the trifle…everything looked beautiful…What a way to usher in the New Year with great food, drink, gorgeous table cape, and great company!….Happy New Year!

  27. Sounds like a great party…and great food and drinks! Parties are a lot of work…but I really think they are worth every bit of effort! I would’ve been tooting a horn for sure! Happy New Year Susan! 😉

  28. Everything looks fabulous!!!!

  29. Everything looks wonderful, as usual!!! The trifle, can’t wait to try that!! Wish I had some of your boundless energy, you do so much, I’m in awe!!!
    As to the cranberries, years of experience has taught me to keep bags in the freezer. I like the sauce with ham and pork also, so make it often.
    Pearl Mesta??? Oh, my gosh, the hostess with the mostess!!! She was an icon for years and years, we all doted on her articles and columns…………she thought of everything!!!
    Wishing you a very happy new year….

  30. Linda Louise S. says

    I know what you mean about the cranberries. I make fresh cranberry sauce around the holidays but can’t make it any other time of the year since you can’t find them. I read an article that cranberries are one of the only fruits that can be frozen and come out pretty much like fresh. So now around the holidays I always buy some bags for my freezer. Love your New Year’s celebration.

  31. Susan, HELP! I need some help on taking wallpaper down, for my granddaughter and husband! They have bought their first house in Mt. Brook, AL. The den has outdated wallpaper, and so hard to take off! They have been using a steam machine, but working good. They have even thought about painting over it, but I don’t think that is a good idea. You seem to know all the best ways of doing things. Can you suggest any thing that really works….they need HELP!!! Thanks Liz Hamrick

  32. Love your post…looks like a fabulous party ! One resolution is to start a blog so I can join in Tablescape Thursdays…Am with you with the cranberries and now do as others do and stock up the freezer when they are on sale early in the season. Really liked the “before the guests’ post…love to entertain and feel that is you have everything set before the doorbell rings you have a better time at your own party. Hosted a brunch the Sunday before the holidays for college friends and their spouses. Loved the table setting ( I have the discontinued Pfaltzgraff Christmas Heirloom – and plenty of it, since I went to the outlet when I heard it was going – and love it because like your pattern it is not so Christmasy that you can’t use it in the winter months) and found little “JOY” ornaments at the Dollar Store. Put one on each place setting for guests to take home ( in red, silver, or gold) and was SO pleased when friends started commenting on other favors from the past ( we all know each other for 40 years now….OMG!) and which ones they still have and use ! Also had a little cellophane bag of cookies tied with a holiday ribbon in a basket for each guest as they left…The whole day was a huge success ( like you, too, I tried a new recipe..what the heck!) and I am so glad I made the effort. But I have to say – I am really enjoying the January cold and snow and just being in my house with a fire and a good book ! PS…loved your porch – it looked wonderful. We have a smaller screen porch off the breakfast area and use it from May until the end of October here in PA…then I take all the furniture and store it ( because right now the porch is covered with snow…it blows right through the screens !) and I have a little tree and a sled to make it look nice from the nook. The day of my brunch it was an unseasonable 68 degrees….people kept taking drinks outside and I thought WHY did I not just keep the furniture out this year. The next few days it was in the teens and I remembered why ! Thanks for a great blog and wonderful ideas…Happy 2014 !

    • Ann, isn’t that the way it always goes. If you had kept the furniture out, it would have been a blizzard every day. 🙂 One year I had a Christmas party and it was about 42 degrees out and all my guests were going in and out on the porch. The door stayed open almost the whole time of the party, so cold didn’t deter them. This group of friends didn’t have any interest in the porch so you just never know. I so agree about enjoying your own party. I love to have as much done as I can so I can party, too! 🙂 Your parties sound wonderful!

  33. The Quintessential Magpie Blog says

    I love all the party things, Susan, and that tifle looks great! Yes, I would have blown the party horn had I been there, and so would have Mr. Magpie. We spent a quiet New Years here, together, as he had to work. We were both tired, too.

    Happy New Year!



  34. Funtime from ours to yours, Susan.

    Everythings looks perfect and that champagne drink must a try. A friend of mine brought a Brut from Florida. She a United Airline’s flight stewardess and her route is Stockholm. I will pretty open that bottle on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, I hardly drink. I am a non-drinker but I drink if I feel like it. Or else, I fall asleep. Can’t take the alcohol better. The cranberries is to drool for, again (sounds I am complaining) I am on a diet LoL* I am pretty sure I will gain 5 kgs of baking the yummy triffle. Will do that on VD too.

    Hope you had a great time and have a blessed 2014, more blessings, good health and long life.

    Greetings from D´Box,
    /CC girl

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