Warning: If you tend to be intimidated by parties where the napkins match the cake, which matches the invitations, which match the birthday girl's dress, “Kids Parties,” the latest book from Williams-Sonoma, is probably not for you.
The book (Oxmoor House, $24.95) is definitely for people who revel in tasks like tying ribbons around water bottles so they'll coordinate with the paper goods. But there are plenty of great tips.
The pizza party is full of fun recipes and activities, including a Popcorn Prize Bucket, which involves letting blindfolded kids dig through a giant bucket of popcorn to find small prizes. The first part of the book includes lots of ideas for cake decorating, many of them simple, but stunning.
‘At Home Café'
The nice thing about “At Home Cafe: Gatherings for Family and Friends” (Rodale, $32.50) is that it doesn't assume that “entertaining” always means dozens of guests, fancy linens and stemware.
Instead, author Helen Puckett DeFrance focuses on everyday gatherings with family and friends, which are often more memorable than big affairs. The 125-plus recipes in the book are organized around 17 party themes, from “Teen Taco Bar” to “Soup Around the Fireplace.”
Even parties that are holiday-related aren't tied so much to the big event – “Tree-Trimming Party” features casual fare for a mid-December get-together.
Most of the recipes aren't for calorie counters.