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Delicious Party Details

Make even the simplest affair sublime with these finishing touches from entertaining expert Amy Atlas. Amy Atlas with sons Zach (left) and Josh


Don’t get the wrong idea: Amy Atlas may count Kelly Ripa and Brooke Shields among her clients, but this New York City event planner insists that a celeb-size budget isn’t the main ingredient for an unforgettable bash. Atlas’s true essential? Ingenuity. “It’s the small, thoughtful moments guests remember,” she explains, “and those rarely cost much.” Her new book, Sweet Designs ($27.99; Hyperion), brims with savvy hosting advice, including the affordable moves here. Among them: the shockingly cheap secret to pretty favor bags, a no-fail method for stunning table settings, and what just may be the cutest cookies ever. Plus, you can download free candy labels like the one on page 68 at countryliving .com/labels. Consider that the icing on the cake.

➤ 1. Blah brown sacks can bear fruit, beautifully. All you need to transform paper lunch bags into chic little cherry carriers is a pair of scallop-edged scissors—though a bit of baker’s twine never hurts! (Fiskars Scallop Paper Edger Scissors, $2.25;

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Written by Jourdan Crouch

➤ 2. Set a buffet that rises to the

occasion. Sure, flat platters and trays

will serve food, but they certainly won’t display it. Atlas ups the visual drama by varying heights—note the footed compote and cake stand at left. The party planner also filled this picnic basket with books that function as risers. “When I’m really in a pinch,” she adds, “I’ll whip up a pedestal by covering a block of Styrofoam or a shoe box in wrapping paper.”

3. A scrappy use for old fabric: custom goody bags. Just fill cellophane

pouches with candy, then fold cloth or paper over the top and secure with glue dots or staples. Tack the treats to a bulletin board so guests can help themselves. (Cellophane bags, $5 for 100; 3" x 5";

➤ 4. Turn premade pound cake into

chichi petits fours. “People will swear these are from a fancy bakery,” says Atlas of this tempting shortcut. To follow her lead: Use a serrated knife to cut the crust off a pound cake, then slice the cake into one-inch squares. Place them on a cooling rack with parchment paper underneath, pour icing over the squares, and let set for an hour. Atlas’s 60-second icing recipe? Mix four tablespoons of water to two cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar. Tint the mixture by stirring in a bit of gel food-coloring.


or see page 134 for a chance to win one of five copies of Sweet Designs.


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➤ 5. Give ordinary cookies an

extraordinary twist. Here, Atlas relied on a bread slice–shaped cutter to create sugar cookies that pose as sandwiches. You can fill them with anything—from frosting to actual peanut butter and jelly. Gingham tissue paper enhances the picnic-in-the-park appeal. (Bread-slice cookie cutter, $12.95; Tissue paper, $5.75 for 12 sheets; 20" x 30";

6. Trim bowls with nifty notions.

“I love the way rickrack dresses up ramekins, glasses, even the rim of a platter,” says Atlas, who keeps the ribbon in place with glue dots.

➤ 7. Dapper tags add apothecary flavor to self-serve favors. Elevate bulk

candy by decanting it in handsome jars wearing old-school labels. Download our PDF of six different labels, including this one, at country Print onto card stock and cut out the labels. Then use an X-Acto knife to create slits, as shown, and slide a ribbon through the slits for hanging. (For similar jar, $7.44; for stores)

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