Not ready for big groups? Ideas to punch up your pod party

NEW YORK (AP) — Thanks to the vaccine, more people are coming together this holiday season. But not everyone feels comfortable congregating in large groups just yet.

If you’re planning a small party for your pod instead, or even want to have fun as just one, there are ways to stay festive.

Colette Goodman, an event planner whose company, Beautiful Mountain Events, serves the New York City area, says many clients are looking for reasons to gather.

“I’ve gotten so many phone calls, ‘I wasn’t going to celebrate my birthday, but I feel like I should. I just want to get together with my family and my friends,’” Goodman says.

Most of her clients, however, have cut their guest lists to keep things safer, even if they’re hosting a get-together at an event hall or restaurant. Whether you’re going out or staying home, Goodman says, you can still host a memorable event with special touches and fewer people.

For example, consider the portable igloo or tent. Many restaurants offer them for outdoor seating, and you can rent them for your backyard too.

If it’s cold, set up a portable heater or provide blankets. Goodman suggests decorating the inside with inexpensive items from Party City or Home Goods, or perhaps silk flowers. Food can be ordered in from a local eatery to support a local business.

If you want to stay indoors, she says customized food stations are all the rage: a pancake bar, say, a sundae bar, even a milkshake bar.

“Get your favorite ice cream, a little bit of milk, blend it together,” said Goodman. “You put some cake icing on the rim of a glass. Roll it in either crushed graham crackers or your favorite cookie or some crushed candy. Top the milk shake with whatever your heart desires. There’s cotton candy, Twizzlers, candy canes, lollipops, and cake and cookies. And it’s so much fun doing that with your friends. And then everybody gets what they like.”

Another great way to pass the time, she says, is to encourage guests to make vision boards for the new year. Provide poster boards, magazines and newspapers for guests to thumb through and choose photos and words to manifest their goals for 2022.

A few other ideas and items that could up the wow factor of your home party:

If you’d like to offer a variety of cocktails but your bartending skills are lacking, the Bartesian could be right for you. It began as a Kickstarter campaign. Think of it as a Keurig or Nespresso but for cocktails. You fill the machine with liquor and water, but the company offers capsules for a variety of drinks including an old fashioned, lemon drop, amaretto sour, mai tai and margarita. Set down a glass, pop in a capsule, choose your alcohol strength, hit mix and voila — you’re a mixologist! The machine can also make alcohol-free spirits with its capsules. The Bartesian itself costs $349.99 and capsules are sold separately.

If you don’t have room for a countertop machine, a Michigan small business called InBooze makes infused cocktail kits that are a fun, easy way to provide mixed drinks at your soiree. For $18 a kit, InBooze provides a pouch with dehydrated fruits, vegetables and spices made for a variety of spirits. Just fill a container with alcohol, add the kit and allow it to sit for at least three days. The result makes 8-10 cocktails. Once infused, the mix lasts for up to six months. Flavors include a hot toddy, cranberry sauce, spicy margarita, and a Michigan Moscow mule, made with apples from the state and Traverse City cherries.

A portable bonfire could also be a real crowd pleaser. City Bonfires offers a small, manageable 4-by-2-inch fire pit that can be used just about anywhere outdoors (and only outdoors). Made in Maryland, the product was created by two dads whose jobs were affected by the pandemic. It has a burn time of three to five hours. You can enjoy the ambiance and make S’mores without having to light a big fire. A single portable fire pit costs $24.95.

If you want to keep the party indoors but S’mores are still your jam, consider a portable maker. There are a variety of brands and styles out there, but one by Nostalgia comes with an electric, flameless heater, roasting forks and compartments for graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows. They’re sold at various retailers and cost $35.

Up your menu with a food order from Goldbelly. The site facilitates food orders from restaurants across the country. Deep dish pizzza from Chicago? You can order it. Lobster rolls from Maine? Also doable. Barbecue from Austin? Yes. Just scroll through the site and pick food by type, region or restaurant. The eatery will ship and send the food with instructions on how to serve it. Prices vary, just get your order in early to allow for shipping time.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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