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the little things 8 tiny touches that'll pep up your party
by Yee-Fan Sun
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So you're throwing your first big party in your new semi-grown-up pad. You've worked really hard to make your digs a nice place to live; you want all your friends to find it every bit as welcoming as you do. So you've sent out the invites (check), bought plenty of food (check), picked out some CDs (check), stocked up the bar (check). All the major requirements for a decent shindig are in place. Still, you're just the teensiest bit nervous: will all that be enough to ensure a supa-stylish fete that'll have folks lingering chez vous till the wee hours of the morning? Check out our tips on the subtle things you can do to ensure your parties are a step above the same-old same-old -- because sometimes, it's the little things that make all the difference in the world.

1 Flower power. While you're stocking up on food and drink at the supermarket or Costco, throw some flowers into the shopping cart as well. No need to spend a ton here. Go with big showy blooms like gerbera daisies and you just need a flower or two popped in a small vase (drinking glasses or recycled glass jars work dandy too), or floated in a bowl with candles. Inexpensive flowers like daisies, mums, poms and even baby's breath (who says it's just a bouquet filler?) also work well, as you can get a large bunch and divide it up amongst a few vases to scatter about the pad.

2 And there was music everywhere… Get a second set of speakers if your party space spills across multiple rooms. Having music in all areas of the house is one of those nice little touches that adds a lot to the ambience, though no one except a/v geeks will probably be able to point out why. In our last pad, the stereo was in the living room but our kitchen was a great big, beautiful open space, and people were generally as likely to spend time in there during get-togethers. If we nudged up the volume of the music so it was loud enough in the kitchen, it was inevitably deafening in the living room. The boy found a decent set of speakers for about $40 for the pair at an estate sale -- nothing terribly fancy, but a fantastic deal for the price. We popped the speakers up on the ledge above the kitchen cupboards, then snaked the speaker wire along the ledge, through a vent, and into the living room, where it was promptly hooked up to the receiver. Voila -- an inexpensive and easy solution to our music volume dilemma.

3 Get real. Forget about the plastic cups: use real glasses. Yeah, I know, I used to worry too that if I let folks use my nice stemware, I'd find myself cleaning up broken glass all night. But then I realized: what's the point of having all those pretty glasses if I'm just going to keep them cooped up all the time? If you're not already stocked up on glassware, thrift shops are an excellent and cheap source (don't worry about getting all matchy-matchy; deliberately eclectic can be très stylish). Alternatively, call around to a few party supply rental places and find out how much it costs to rent glassware for the evening -- I've seen places rent wine glasses for a surprisingly affordable $0.35 or so a glass.

4 Now serving… Transfer any ready-bought foods to proper serve ware. There's nothing wrong with cheating a little and buying the pre-made party foods, but there's no need to advertise the fact that your raw veggie platter came from Sam's Club. Please, please, take the time to take your store-bought food out of its ugly plastic container and onto real plates, platters and serving bowls.

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