You're So Invited: Panic Less, Play More, and Get Your Party On!
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You're So Invited: Panic Less, Play More, and Get Your Party On!

by Cheryl Najafi

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From her rural Missouri beginnings decorating tables with cherry-tree branches to her current and much-anticipated dinners and parties that always include a "cherry on the top" surprise for her guests, Cheryl Najafi teaches others to break the rules of "proper" entertaining.

With her signature wit and



From her rural Missouri beginnings decorating tables with cherry-tree branches to her current and much-anticipated dinners and parties that always include a "cherry on the top" surprise for her guests, Cheryl Najafi teaches others to break the rules of "proper" entertaining.

With her signature wit and creativity, Najafi inspires hosts to infuse their own personal style, humor and whimsy into any occasion. Most people put all of their efforts into celebrating big events, but she believes that it's the little things in life that nurture us, making moments matter--and memorable. With You're So Invited, she shares her fresh approach to entertaining to get you planning your next--or maybe your first!--party without fretting or fussing, so you can relax and have as much fun as your guests!

An inspiring book for novice and experienced entertainers alike, You're So Invited features ten beautifully photographed parties--from a chic surprise birthday to an irreverent going-away roast to an indulgent tween spa party. Every page is loaded with playful ideas that will get you thinking outside the party-planning box:
--The Bar Exam: How much food and drink to have on hand for parties of 10, 20, or 30 people
--Takeout's In: 10 no-fail crowd-pleasing dishes you can order in (and spruce up)
--Blue-Sky Thinking: 5 foolproof tips for outdoor entertaining
--Decorating the Set: 15 ideas to take your table settings from fancy to unforgettable
--Turning Bites Into Delights: 20 quick-and-easy no-cook appetizers
--How-To-Go-To's: Fun how-to projects like how to dress up a present, build a bountiful cornucopia, host your own Scotch tasting, and much more!

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You're So Invited

Panic Less, Play More, and Get Your Party On

By Cheryl Najafi, Lisa Romerein

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2012 CherylStyle, LLC.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-1785-2


Going-Away Roast

"Nothing makes the Earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes." — Henry David Thoreau

It's bittersweet when a friend heads to another state or a colleague switches jobs. But there's no need to be all down about it. Instead, use this opportunity to throw a lighthearted roast that celebrates the fun times you've had and the new ones yet to come. At this party, bubble wrap is your new best friend, while a muted cardboard-box palette lets you work in bright hits of color, like red flowers cascading out of a festive centerpiece of packing material, paper plates, and plastic forks. All as if he were packed up and ready to move, and we had all dropped by to say good-bye. Parting doesn't have to be such sweet sorrow after all!


Think packaging supply store meets picnic: beige napkins secured with Fragile stickers, and recyclable plastic plates, bowls, and utensils. Cork place mats add subtle texture (the ones I used are from Ikea, but you could also buy cork at a crafts store and cut pieces out yourself). Each setting features a large envelope with postage markings; you can send some to yourself to get the official "stamps." (If someone's moving to another country, decorate with foreign stamps.) Print or write each guest's name on This End Up stickers, available at


If a friend is moving to Spain or has a penchant for Spanish food, say, include a cava toast and serve tapas. Place a nice notebook on a table for guests to write phone numbers, addresses, and farewell words. Consider printing out the person's new address on small pieces of paper for everyone to put in their wallets. You can also have guests write notes on postcards and later send them to the honoree's address for a pleasant surprise once he gets to the new location.


Roasts, if done well, can be so poignant. What makes it a hit or a flop? Think of it this way: poor roasts make fun of people's weaknesses, while great roasts compliment the person's good qualities in a funny way. The idea is that you're showing the honoree how much you love him by making light of his "flaws," but there's a difference between affectionately mocking and brutally shocking. The best result is when you almost touch the line but don't cross it–make him squirm, but just a little bit. Here, ten strategies for throwing a roast your guest of honor will remember–rather than try to forget.

1. Keep the surprises for another party.

Bring up the idea of a roast to gauge the guest of honor's reaction. Tell your roastee that he'll get a chance to counter-roast–this is payback time when he gets his turn to have the last word.

2. Compile a varied guest list.

When you have everyone from colleagues and cousins to old friends and new neighbors participating in the roast, you'll get a broad view of the honoree and an insight into his various walks of life.

3. Emphasize short but sweet.

Instruct your roasters to keep their speech under two minutes. Jokes that go over best are ones that have a setup and punch line in a sentence or two.

4. Play it safe (perhaps).

If you're concerned that the guest of honor may take offense at certain comments, ask everyone to e-mail you a copy of their toast. If something seems suspect, ask the person to tone it down. If you want to keep it strictly PG-13, ask guests not to say anything they wouldn't say in front of their children, mother, or boss.

5. Make it personal.

Once I threw a party for my friend Stephanie, who always wears black and white. I asked everyone to come dressed as she dresses. Everyone showed up in black and white. Her mom even came dressed in Stephanie's white prom dress. They just nailed her.

6. Serve dinner before the roast–and dole out the drinks.

In case the roast goes longer than planned, you'll want to make sure guests are well fed and a tad tipsy to encourage raucous laughter.

7. Bring those who can't attend in on the action.

Have them send in funny stories that you can relay. Tell them to think about quirky anecdotes and funny stories that will make everyone think, That is SO him. The best jokes are the ones that everyone in the room gets, so keep it general enough for the mix of people in the crowd.

8. Be the master of the roast, keeper of the zoo.

To kick off the festivities, get up there and poke fun at yourself to make the roastee feel like he's not the only one feeling the heat. Start with a harmless joke: "It's actually really nice to talk to you today, Jeff, considering I've been talking behind your back for years."

9. Bring on the props.

Use a gavel or noisemaker to put an end to out-of-line or snooze-worthy speeches, or toss a beach ball at him when you're telling the story of when he lost his trunks in the ocean.

10. But seriously ... end on a high (touching) note.

As roastmaster, wrap it up by saying something you truly love about the guest of honor and emphasize how much he'll be missed.



To prepare it, you'll need:

1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar — the finer the better so that it melts easily
1½ ounces gin (equal to one jigger)
Club soda
Slices of lemon and lime


Fill a Tom Collins glass (or any tall thin glass) with lemon juice and sugar; stir vigorously. Add gin. Toss in enough ice cubes to fill the glass. Stir, then top off with club soda and garnish with lemon and lime.

Fix It and Forget It: 5 Cocktails to Serve from a Drink Dispenser

(These are measurements for one drink, so just multiply by the number of guests, and figure that each guest will have at least 1½ drinks.)

1. Mai Tai: 1 ounce dark rum, 1 ounce Amaretto liqueur, 3 ounces orange juice, 3 ounces pineapple juice, 1 dash grenadine syrup. 2. Cable Car: 1½ ounces Captain Morgan spice rum, ¾ ounce orange Curaçao, 1½ ounces sour mix. 3. Gimlet: 2 ounces gin, 2/3 ounce Rose's lime juice. 4. Americano: 1½ ounces Campari, 1½ ounces sweet vermouth, club soda. 5. Sex on the Beach: 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce peach schnapps, a splash of grapefruit juice, a splash of cranberry juice.


This is a gorgeous salad that's so flavorful and extremely easy to make. When you roast beets, the skins act as a sealant, holding in the juiciness as well as the bright color. I rub olive oil and sea salt on mine before cooking.


1. To make this pop-of-color salad, you'll need two baby beets per person. (If you can only find large beets, figure one per person, and quarter them after roasting so that they're easier to eat.) 2. Wash the beets well and cut the stalk so that it's about a half-inch long. (The stalk is edible and delicious, and it gives the salad a more rustic look.) 3. Keeping the skins on, wrap each beet individually in tinfoil–this allows for faster cooking and sweats the skin so that you can easily peel it off. 4. Place beets on a baking sheet and put in a 350°F oven for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until the beets are tender when poked with a fork. Let cool for 15 minutes. 5. Rub beets with your fingers to peel the skins off. Slice each in half lengthwise (straight down from the stalk). You can marinate the beets if you want, but they're really sweet when roasted like this, so they don't need much doctoring. 6. To make the salad, mix together baby spinach and sprigs of wild thyme. Toss the beets onto the greens, and add a simple dressing of lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper.


Don't be afraid to serve basics — those tried-and-true dishes that make guests feel comfortable. People really go crazy for the simple things, like chocolate pudding they haven't had for 15 years — it reminds them of being a kid. With a garnish and a pop of color, a simple dish can morph into something fun and unexpected.


1. Buy a large tub of chocolate pudding or make it yourself from a box. Carefully spoon pudding into each wineglass or, for less mess, use a piping bag. (If you don't have one, create your own by cutting one corner of a plastic baggie.) 2. Fill each cup two-thirds with pudding, then top with a dollop of whipped cream and half a strawberry. For other garnishes, try blueberries, raspberries, slices of banana, chocolate shavings (use a cheese grater), sprinkles, candy, almonds, cookie crumbs, or vanilla wafers. 3. Wrap the bottom of each glass with perforated packing paper, tucked inside itself to secure. Stick FRAGILE and THIS SIDE UP stickers on a box fitted with a glass-divider insert. Place glasses inside. The guests then unpack their dessert!

how-to PROJECT

Set a festive mood for your guest of honor with this homemade throne.


Start with a large shipping box and use packing tape to make the side flaps stand up. Place a bubblewrapped chair inside the box and fill gaps on all sides with packing material; secure it all with FRAGILE tape. Use a generous piece of inflatable packaging as the seat cushion and tape a small box to one side as a cup holder. Voilà!

Party Highlights


• Keep food cold by putting bowls of ice underneath–use a dish that's slightly larger than the one you're serving from but the same shape.

• Camouflage a garbage can behind a plant or put a garbage bag in a pretty vase, planter, or urn. Play to your theme; if you're having a luau, wrap a grass skirt around the pail.

• Cover food with mesh domes to keep flies away; you can repurpose colanders or strainers.

• Scatter citronella candles around the yard to ward off insects. Incense sticks have worked well for me, too.

• Place votive candles in paper bags (filled with a bit of sand) to block the wind.


Fill a big cardboard box or oversized vase with foam peanuts and have guests guess how many are in there.


Give each guest a big sheet of bubble wrap and tell them to put it on the floor in front of them. At the count of three, everyone has to jump on it and start popping — the first to pop all their bubbles wins.

Happy Accidents

STICKY SITUATION: One of the people giving a toast starts to get nervous, bobbles his words, and freezes.

HOSTESS RECOVERY: Grab the bubble wrap, start popping, and say, "This is a bubble-wrap pause. Does anyone else need to pop some bubble wrap?" And, of course, a few guests will. With the attention off, the speaker regains composure and finishes up with a laugh. Now the party will really get popping (sorry).

STICKY SITUATION: The roastee is visibly offended by something someone has said.

HOSTESS RECOVERY: Use your noisemaker to cut off the toast, and get on up there. Start pulling out your most heart-felt, honest feelings about this person. Soon, the guest of honor will be touched, and so will the audience. A truly memorable affair, indeed.


BREAK THE TAPE ESCAPE: In this case, the retiree is breaking through crime scene tape as the host plays detective to find out "who done it." The guests arrive and check in by being fingerprinted. The buffet table is loaded with evidence and evidence-gathering tools. The signature drink is the Dick Tracy (you'll be talking to your watch!), and tables feature photos of the retiree who has been "framed"!

HE'S LEAF-ING!: Sometimes going-away parties are about moving on to a new stage in life, like this one for a recent graduate. This outdoor celebration features the planting of a young tree in the grad's honor, and giving seedlings to the guests so they can watch their tree grow along with the graduate.

HE'S A KEY'PER: Take inspiration from this revved-up guy's birthday party set in a garage and adapt it to a going-away party where you wish you could key'p the guy around — around the garage, that is! This celebration's ignition switch is a mechanic-themed buffet and place setting, plus fun-filled remote-control car races in the driveway.


Yen-for-Zen Garden Get-Together

"The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it." –Ralph Waldo Emerson

In our hectic day-to-day lives, there's something to be said for stripping away all of the noise, surrounding yourself with those you feel most comfortable with, and really getting back to basics. That's exactly what this party is all about: creating a warm, inviting atmosphere with breathe-easy decor that mixes backyard finds; simple, rustic pieces; and classic china-cupboard staples. A table adorned with textured objects that beg to be touched makes people feel instantly comfortable–like they're not going to mess something up or have to behave themselves. And decorating with personal pieces gives guests a snapshot of your world. We're all a combination of various elements–why not put your favorite pieces together to give your guests a sense of what really makes you tick? Prepare to be enlightened.


Experiment with mixing and matching different objects around your home. First swing open the cupboards and dust off that china. Most of us pick our china and wonder years later, Why the heck did I choose that? It doesn't reflect who I am today. But it's china — you're not going to get more just because it doesn't reflect your current style — you get it once and that's that. Try complementing it with newer items that represent how you've evolved. Mariel inherited floral Limoges from her grandmother and silverware from her beloved grandfather. They were resonant with stories — but even though they don't necessarily represent her style today, they do reflect her family's past.

The items that truly speak to her now are more clean-lined and simple, so we used these Zen-inspired pieces to bring her own sense of style to the table. The result is a unique combination of colors and textures, and a seamless transition between old and new. To make the varied mix feel cohesive, use a crisp background: here, we used a bright orange table runner to tie all the other colors together and give the raw wood table a shot of adrenaline. Another tip: When setting the table, take into consideration the food you're serving. When poured into the turquoise bowls, split pea soup offers a gorgeous blue-on-green color explosion. Below are a few more mix-and-match tableware tricks:


The key is to keep one main color consistent, then train your eye to look for similarities between seemingly disparate items. On this table, the flowery, feminine china and spare turquoise bowls don't immediately feel like they match, but look closely and you'll see they're both trimmed in gold, and that the blue bowl picks up the color of one of the flowers in the china.


Square and oval trivets break up the roundness of dinnerware and teacups and give them a little edge.


Shiny glass looks exquisite on a rough-hewn wood table; polished silverware really shines on top of nubby napkins.


Excerpted from You're So Invited by Cheryl Najafi, Lisa Romerein. Copyright © 2012 CherylStyle, LLC.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

CHERYL NAJAFI attended Arizona State University, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Communications and learned to share her personal "lifestyle lens" with others. Her website offers original twists on party themes, invitations, room decor, table design, and place settings--all with the goal of making guests feel special. She lives in Phoenix.

Cheryl Najafi attended Arizona State University, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Communications and learned to share her personal "lifestyle lens" with others. Her website offers original twists on party themes, invitations, room decor, table design, and place settings--all with the goal of making guests feel special. She lives in Phoenix. You're So Invited is her first book.

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