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Shoestring loves a good party — especially a good theme party. Call it a staycation soiree if you must, but a good theme party, incorporating the food and feeling of a faraway time or place, is a great way to leave the worries of the world behind without leaving the comforts of home (or the confines of your budget).
Read on for some clever examples and cool expert tips to host your own staycation soiree (and make Shoestring proud):
THE TRUCK STOP BREAKFAST
Brunch is an eternal pastime for both the elegant and the egalitarian, the difference between them simply a matter of venue (and possibly dress). Nothing says road trip rendezvous, however, like the basic breakfast delights of a greasy spoon diner — the best kind found tucked away in a good, ol' fashioned truck stop.
To recreate this experience without the driving or the expense, Tyler Balliet and Morgan First, hip young Boston power couple and proprieters of the "snob-free" wine magazine The Second Glass, invited about 20 of their closest friends over to their apartment in the shadow of Fenway Park for a pretense-free (and pretty cheap) homemade brunch.
"Some of our friends had recently started holding different home parties — our French friend did a crepes party, our cheese-obsessed friend did a cheese party — so we decided to do a "truckstop breakfast" because...it was Sunday morning, and if people were going to get out of bed early on a Sunday, we needed something to make them happy," First said. "Truckstop [food] is usually super cheap — in a fun, kitschy way — so we thought it would be a great but yet an affordable way to have everyone over."
First and Balliet decided upon a simple menu of coffee, eggs, several varieties of pancakes, and hangover helpers, like Miller Lite Mimosas (a recipe borrowed from a friend's local restaurant, called The Savant Project) and a make-your-own bloody Mary bar. "People got pretty creative, and we had like salads on top of drinks," First said.
They kept the decorations simple: a single, truckstop-inspired board upon which they scrawled the menu — plates with tongue-in-cheek names like "Morgan's Morning Routine" and "Tex-Mex Tyler" for the combos and "Bay State Blueberry" and "Chocolate Chip Chuck (Norris)" for the pancakes.
First and Balliet named their "diner" after their canine companion and office mascot, Josie, and kept the truckstop theme going by "rolling with the typical mismatching plates and cups deal of diner by using whatever we had, and then asked people to each bring their own cup for coffee since that was the one item we did not have enough of!"
As for the results, First said that the whole kit and kaboodle cost them just under $100 for food and booze. "I think it was more like a getaway for our friends, a way to eat out without actually having to pay for eating out," she said. "It was really fun to see our apartment transformed into a totally different space."
HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS
Jennifer Sbranti knows how to throw one hell of a successful soiree. Her ideas for a "London Staycation" landed her a full-page spread in last year's holiday issue of People magazine, and as both founder and editor in chief of Hostess with the Mostess, a online resource for entertaining ideas, and a professional party planner based in San Diego, Jenn knows how to party.
We sat down with her earlier this week to get her expert advice on how to take your theme party from just rockin to feeling like a real vacation.
Here's our full Q&A with Jenn:
What's the first thing any host or hostess should do when planning a staycation party?
Pick your theme, then head to the web and do a little research on that location. Make sure it will be easy for you to find the elements you need for that destination. If it starts to seem too pricey or difficult, you might need to switch to an alternate theme.
How do you pick a staycation party theme?
Start by thinking of places that you'd love to visit! If you need inspiration, browse travel websites for popular destinations. Pick a location that you’re excited about so that that you enjoy the planning process — but make sure to also consider your guests, and try to stick to something that you think they’ll enjoy as well.
What are the essential elements of any staycation party?
You'll definitely want to offer guests the same style of food & drink that's popular in the destination you're recreating at home. I'm also a big believer in creating a unique party atmosphere, so using colors and decorative elements associated with the location is important, as well.
What makes a staycation party special?
Everyone loves a vacation, and everyone loves a good party, so the pairing of these two concepts makes for a [winning] combination! Staycation parties also provide an opportunity to be very creative and provide a totally unique party experience for your guests.
How did you come up with the idea (and the details) for your London staycation party, featured in People magazine?
I was assigned the location, so the first thing I did was my homework. I researched the popular food, drinks, music, landmarks, and cultural icons associated with London, and checked out a few travel websites to see what types of info and recommendations they had for London tourists. That's another great thing about staycation parties — you actually learn a lot in the process!
Details and authenticity don't always come cheap. What's your best advice for keeping a staycation party on a budget?
Keeping your party costs under control is really all about making smart choices and thinking creatively. Choose food and drink options that fit with your budget. Is the most popular full-course meal associated with your destination too pricey? Time your party before or after dinner and serve light, themed appetizers instead, or search for alternative menu ideas.
When it comes to décor, don't underestimate the effectiveness of checking out discount stores or eBay to pick up cultural-inspired items on the cheap. Also — think big impact, low cost. Hang posters of your destination, frame photos from an inexpensive wall calendar based on the theme, or use large paper lanterns to add big splashes of color at minimal cost.
What are your favorite staycation party ideas for summer?
Summer is all about warm weather and being outside, so I love the idea of hosting staycation themes that naturally lend themselves to an outdoor gathering, such as The Bahamas, Costa Rica, Jamaica, or the Mexican Riviera.
What else should we know about throwing a staycation party?
Just remember to have fun with it! This is your chance to "vacation vicariously" though your party, so definitely play up the elements that would be the most exciting to you — whether it's a specific activity, landmark, or flavor of drink.
Last, but certainly not least, tell us a bit more about Hostess with the Mostess?
Of course! Hostess with the Mostess is an online resource for hip, modern & approachable entertaining ideas. We feature cool product finds, recipes, entertaining tips, and lots of different party ideas — from our own conceptual themes to the "Real Parties" created by our blog readers. The goal at HWTM is to provide inspiration for all different types of celebrations — from bridal showers to first birthday parties — and to help alleviate some of the stress associated with party planning.
For more staycation party ideas, check out the Party Themes & Ideas section on HostessWithTheMostess.com.
Copyright 2009, Shoestring LLC. Photo: iStock