Thursday, December 31, 2009

We Wish You a Happy 2010

Boy, Pompey, Sock Monkey, and I wish you the happiest, healthiest, and most prosperous 2010!

Photo by Boy Fenwick

It Takes An Army To Throw A Party

A successful party for a large group of guests requires planning, practice, attention to detail . . . and staff.  Boy and I have thrown a sufficient number of large parties over the years that we pretty much have it down. It has been many years since either of us have found ourselves nervous about or unprepared for a party, whatever its size. We understand what is required, we're set up, and we know whom to turn to for support.  We are particularly fortunate in having developed a good, collaborative working relationship with an excellent, thoughtful, and professional caterer--the key element to successful large-scale entertaining, in my view.  Contrary to what you see on reality television, when throwing a large party you can't do it all yourself, and you shouldn't attempt to do so, for it will inevitably lead to disappointment, if not disaster. Behind every successul host is an army of service and support providers. 

At our party we had nine people staffing the inside of the house, all provided by the caterer. When I say "the caterer," I am referring to a husband and wife team that own and run an excellent restaurant in a nearby town that specializes in serving food made with ingredients sourced from sustainable farms within the Hudson River Valley, much of it heirloom or artisanal.  Fortunately for us, in addition to their restaurant they also selectively take on catering assignments such as ours.  At our party the husband ran the kitchen as chef, supported by two assistants, and the wife oversaw the running of the party and the house staff of bartender and four waiters. We required this many servers because almost all of the food at our party was passed.  According to the caterer, our guests consumed approximately 1,500 hors d'oeuvres during the party, including 250 oysters flown in from Maine that morning. Outside we had three off-duty state troopers taking care of valet parking.  As I have written in previous posts our house is in a village setting, so it is most efficient to provide valet parking when throwing a large party.  Not only does it allow that our guests are well-taken care of on a cold winter's evening, but our immediate neighbors are not inconvenienced by a confusion of our guests' cars.  We have also found that having state troopers perform the task obviates complaints, too...

Thanks to the marvelous skills of our service providers our party went off without a hitch, smoothly executed from start to finish.

Here are some of the photos that I took leading up to the party: 

Rental glassware and boxes of votive candles

An advance drop-off by the caterer of wine coolers and shot glasses

Pompey guarding the Prosecco and Muscadet prior to it being loaded into our cellar party refrigerator

Wicker baskets to carry wine bottles up from the cellar; our supply of 12 waiter's jackets in various sizes

The table in our kitchen entry, prior to being dressed for the party

The table in its party wear, and Pompey in his basket

Looking across the table into the Dining Room; the fully dressed bar

Our caterers -- hail, hail, hail!

The waiter's jackets were a bit large for our diminutive lady servers, but appear to fit him just right

No problem with the jackets' fit with these two, either

The Master at work...

His two able supporters (note Pompey truffling for fallen treats)

The parking guys

The Dining Room table, with only minutes to go...

Photos by Boy Fenwick and Reggie Darling

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Darlington As Decorated As It's Going to Get, Part II

A footed bowl filled with old ornaments

I wasn't able to post yesterday due to the distractions of preparing for and throwing our cocktail party, which was a huge success.  About 75 people attended and a fabulous time was had by all.  We had a broad and diverse group of guests of all ages, backgrounds, and professions, and (most) people came stylishly dressed, with many of the ladies arriving in furs. 

Gold, silver, and green ornaments on the tree

As many of our parties end at Darlington, the evening wound down with a stalwart group of die-hard friends and houseguests sitting around the drawing room long after the staff had departed, drinking, telling stories, joking around, and talking about who and what had made the party such fun.

Here are selected photos of some of the interior decorations at Darlington. Tomorrow I will post photos of final preparations for the party.  Please stay tuned . . .

A bowl in the Drawing Room filled with ornaments

One of two urns in the Drawing Room filled with quince branches

 Views of each urn

The Christmas tree in our Dining Room

The Dining Room mantle

More Dining Room views

Reticulated baskets in the Dining Room, filled with ornaments

A nut- and dried-flower husk wreath hanging from a velvet ribbon in our Snuggery

The Snuggery mantle, showing the "Winter Wonderland" decorations

Black Forest carved bears and a flocked moose

A large urn in the upstairs hall landing, filled with quince branches

Photos by Boy Fenwick and Reggie Darling

Monday, December 28, 2009

Darlington As Decorated As It's Going to Get, Part I

At last we are finally fully-decorated at Darlington, or at least as decorated as we’re going to get. This is a two-part posting: Part I features a tour of the exterior and Part II features the interiors.  Enjoy the tour!

The front door and portico, with the wreath Boy made and the roping hung by Rich and Junior

The side (now main) entry, all bedecked with roping and a wreath

The door, decorated with a wreath from U.S. Evergreen

More views of the side entry porch

The light post, covered with roping, plus a balsam wreath on the workhouse door

The door to the small barn, decorated with a magnolia wreath

Although Boy prefers only white lights, I insisted that we cover the lilacs behind the small barn with big, red, old-fashioned Christmas lights this year

The lights at night -- Boy thinks it makes our place look like the village brothel

Photos by Boy Fenwick and Reggie Darling
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