Bill and Ginger Usher know how to throw a party like no one else and will find any excuse to have a fabulous event. Entertaining aficionados, the couple has a long resume of giving charitable and political fundraisers, birthday, and wedding celebrations in their home.
When the holiday season arrives, Ginger works diligently to turn their house into a holiday haven. And what an ideal setting it is for any gathering, whether it is for family or friends.
“We like to entertain and enjoy having our extended family with us, especially the children,” explained Bill. “The living room is the largest room in our home and was purposely designed for giving parties.”
Known as the entertainment zone, an open elongated area unites the adjoining dining room and front door entry divided into several conversational furniture groupings. A wall of distinctively designed custom cabinetry anchors one end of the salon. When not in use, a giant television screen and a wet bar are hidden by closed doors. An expanse of French doors frame the hearth and fireplace portion of the living room and afford views of the terrace, lawn, and golf course. Opening the terrace doors and using the patio, the Ushers’ guest capacity can easily be doubled in warm weather.
“Bill and I prefer to host sizable buffet get-togethers during holiday season,” Ginger related. “Guests can mingle in an easy atmosphere of convivial hospitality as they serve themselves. With festive food out in the open, the party starts with a ‘wow’ and spirits stay merry all evening. I try to plan an uncomplicated buffet menu full of appetizing items that can be made ahead of time. I like to enjoy my guests!”
Throughout the years, Ginger has collected a vast array of charming dishes, flatware, table décor, and cloth napkins by visiting local shops, flea markets and estate sales.
She is always eager and delighted to share her finds with her friends and family with her usual verve. “Besides my love of cooking and entertaining, shopping is something I do best,” said Ginger. “I am always on a treasure hunt for good bargains or sale.”
Eating, drinking, and sharing good food and conversation with friends is one of life’s little pleasures and should be savored. However, entertaining doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It is an art that requires skill and practice. The holidays are the best time of the year to entertain and the days are dwindling down. So get busy! Enjoy!
P.S. A hostess gift is not required of any guest, but might possibly ensure your name on the guest list next holiday season. Wrap several strands of beaded wire together (may be purchased at the craft store) around the neck of a bottle of wine. Add a simple tag with a handwritten note to complete the festive look of the season. Is this not more personal than a pre-made bag?
Ginger's Party Menu
4 lb. ground beef
3 pkgs frozen chopped onions
2 pkgs frozen chopped green bell pepper
2 cans 28 oz. diced tomatoes
1 can 15 oz. tomato juice
1 large can mushrooms sliced
2 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
Brown ground beef in a little olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onions, peppers and sauté until veggies are limp. Add tomatoes and juice. Cook until most of liquid is reduced.
Cook 1 pound of flat noodles. Drain and add to meat mixture.
Seven Layer Salad
For the salad:
2 large heads of iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
2 large bags of unthawed frozen peas
6 bunches of sliced green onions (plus tops)
8 sliced hard-boiled eggs
3 pkgs bacon pieces
4 cups finely shredded sharp cheese
For the dressing:
16 oz. sour cream
16 oz. mayo
4 pkgs. dry Ranch dressing mix
Small bottle Ranch dressing (used to thin mixture a bit)
Begin with lettuce and add peas. Mix in a large bowl enough for tossing. Salad must be done a day ahead. Combine ingredients for dressing. Layer first 6 ingredients, refrigerate, and seal to prevent browning of lettuce.
Southern-style Green Beans
1 industrial size can green beans undrained
1 large peeled onion, quartered
6 (6 oz) smoked hog jowl, available at local Farmer’s Market
6 cups water
Place ingredients in a large covered Dutch oven.
Set oven at 270 degress and cook all night and next day. Check liquids occasionally. A bag of crowder peas may be added during last three hours.
Champagne & Cranberries
6 dried cranberries
¾ cup champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
Place cranberries in champagne flute. Pour champagne or sparkling water over berries.
Serve immediately. The fruit will dance in the glass when you serve this drink!
20 grape tomatoes
20 basil leaves
20 mini slices mozzarella
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Toothpicks, for serving
On each toothpick, place a grape tomato, basil leaf and slice of mozzarella.
Arrange on serving dish and drizzle with oil and balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper lightly.
Sister Schubert Frozen Rolls
2-3 pkgs Sister Schubert frozen rolls
2-3 sticks of butter
Allow rolls to thaw with softened butter on top. Spread butter when softened as though icing. Cook according to package directions.
Note from Ginger: Buy desserts from a bakery. I recommend Kirchhoff's...I can't make anything that good!
Ginger’s Hostess Tips
- For a buffet centerpiece, think big and dramatic. Stagger the heights of your serving dishes.
- Set out a variety of cocktail glasses and show guests the self-serve bar.
- Fill several colorful bowls or small trays with different snacks arranged in various gathering areas so guests can mingle and munch in more than one spot.
- Greet guests at the door with a smile to create a welcoming environment. Always introduce guests to each other and keep an eye out for those that are quiet. It’s a hostess’s job to help make the environment friendly. Get ready early. Your guests came to see you, so stay present and help conversation going throughout the night.
- Have a plan. A time for cocktails, serving buffet, and time to say good night!
- Have a timeline for party preparation, see below.
Party Planning TimelineDay 30
Send out party invitations
Purchase liquor and wine
Plan buffet centerpiece, menu, and make grocery list
Check linens/barware/serving pieces
Buy all staples and ingredients for make ahead dishes
Cleaning day: Time to get the house in order.
Day 5 Set up buffet table by placing serving bowls/trays alongside serving flatware
Clear space for guests’ coats and make salad and Johnny Mazetti
Review your plan of action
Day 1 Cook green beans
Day of party Thaw rolls with stick of butter on top of each batch, freshen bathrooms and memorize Rotor Rooter’s phone number! Enjoy your day and evening!