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1) Create the perfect ambiance:
Place a saddle, preferably well worn, and a colorful saddle pad decoratively on your porch, entry, or foyer. Set the mood with the captivating sounds of Spanish guitar. Try Rodrigo y Gabriela’s new CD titled: 11:11. Garnish your landscaping with mini clear/white string lights. Use traditional clear, round, bulb light strings criss-crossed over a patio, lanai, yard, or gathering area to create an authentic outdoor mercado atmosphere for dining, dancing, or general merrymaking (weather permitting). Illuminate your party with candles for festive ambiance and gentle lighting which casts every cowgirl in an enchanting glow.
COWGIRL Tip: Flameless candles made of real wax with LEDs that flicker convincingly like a live flame are now widely available. Use these as a safer alternative where revelers might upset lit candles. Do light traditional, scented votives (pillars might topple) in each powder room for freshness. To maintain a sophisticated presentation, use only flameless candles made of real wax and select those with undulating candle rims that mimic the natural melting pattern of their live- flame counterparts.
2) Food and drink:
Chips and salsa are a party staple. Dress them up by using fresh, hollowed out red, green, yellow, or orange peppers in which to serve the salsa. Pile fresh chips all around the peppers. A soft taco “bar” is an easy, yet satisfying entree option. Chilled items like shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, fresh lettuce, and pico de gallo can be prepared ahead of time. A buffet warmer, chafing dishes may used to serve tortillas, meats (pulled, shredded or grilled chicken or beef, pork or fish) and black beans. Or keep them in your warming drawer and replenish as needed.
Mix the perfect margarita! The trick is to banish the mixes and concoct your libation from fresh ingredients and quality liquors. Follow our fail-safe recipe for the ultimate cheer! Ask a trusted cowgirl to serve as the margarita mistress during the festivities to assist you in hosting! Set up a bar so that guests may help themselves to beverages. Make sure there is sufficient glassware, a wine opener, napkins, and non-alcoholic beverage options, including water. Add fresh, colorful citrus or cucumber slices to your water pitcher!
3) Be a charming host:
Dress the part to set the mood for your guests; add a dash of the theatrical for emphasis! Create fresh flower hair pins and boutonnières for guests to don as they arrive. Look for large, vivid red, pink, and orange blooms and place them in a large bowl of cool water by the door. Hire a salsa teacher for one hour to give guests a lesson or demonstration if your space allows!
Prepare ahead of time so that you can attend to your guests. Make introductions. Include something about each person you are introducing, so that comfortable conversation can ensue. Remember, the most memorable parties are not about you (the hostess), your home, your art, your horses, or your offspring; they are about your guests.
Avoid the “pot luck” and truly host your guests. Invite only the number of guests you can accommodate comfortably, whether that is two, twenty, or two hundred.
Sending an invitation or Evite is best. It can be a clever and clear way to set expectations of the host and guests. State the party start and end time clearly and stick to it. Use language that conveys your intentions (e.g. Festivities will begin at 7.30 p.m. sharp!). Be specific if a certain dress is requested (e.g. Each guest is asked to wear at least one item of Spanish sensibility). Ask for an R.S.V.P. by a certain date, to assist you in planning and purchasing party provisions. Diplomatically and explicitly state if children and/or pets are welcome.(Originally published in the January/February 2010 issue of Cowgirl Magazine).