Strega Nona Entertaining: Conjuring Creative Fun

From recipes to rituals, I will kindly divine the perfect celebration for you!

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A Sassy Solstice Soirée

Winter Solstice is a perfect excuse to wind down for the year. It is happily emphasized since I am on Winter Break for school– hibernating more and going out less. For the last seven years and counting, I have held some sort of Winter Solstice gathering for friends and sometimes family. I have hosted sit-down traditional dinners and the more informal drinks and appetizers only fiesta. We have mulled spiced-wine together, played an old parlor game entitled, "The Minister's Cat," and lit candles. One of my favorite theme ideas was putting a spotlight on the sun: I served spicy Indian food for snacks and the soundtrack featured all songs mentioning the sun. There are a seemingly endless supply of these to choose from.

This year, I am taking some advice from an Indianapolis food blogger, featured in the current issue of Midwest Living. Her article, "Holiday Party Tips From Annie Marshall: Eat Drink and Be Merry," is a great approach to a more relaxed get-together. From hanging treats on an "edible cookie tree," to her insistence on serving a signature drink for the event that you can make a nice big batch of in advance, Marshall knows her stuff. Here is her recipe for Cranberry Margaritas:

Stir up a pitcher of these rosy margaritas for your next holiday bash. The Simple Syrup recipe makes enough syrup for 30 margaritas but is easily halved or quartered.

1 cup cranberry juice

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 cup tequila

1/4 cup triple sec (or other orange liqueur)

3 tablespoons Simple Syrup


Coarse sugar for rimming (optional)


Combine cranberry and lime juices, tequila, triple sec and Simple Syrup. Stir well to combine. Serve over ice in glasses rimmed with coarse sugar or salt, if desired.

Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water


In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Transfer to a heat-proof pitcher and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes. (Can be made ahead. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 months.) Makes 2 cups. *This recipe whips up 3 and the drinks weigh-in at a respectable 220 calories per glass. 

You can make this a nice big apartment full of your favorite folks or keep it small and simple. Go a little nuts with the electric lights hung in the windows, the fire in the fireplace, the candles on the mantlepiece. If it is a smaller group, consider a spirited round of "Apples to Apples," or "Uno" for later in the eve.

Before guests head for home, have everyone gather around your living room table. Be sure there is a small votive for each of them. Red, white, or green would all be appropriate. For a circle around the table and light your candles. Hold hands together and share a little saying that has special meaning for your group. Or even sing a few lines of, "Here Comes The Sun," by the Beatles. Then make a warm toast to each other until you meet again.


Photo, "Winter Natural Background," by Vlado from

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Colleen DuVall has written articles, plays, short films, and a novel. Most recently, her work has been featured in her new blog, Off The Beaten Path for the Shepherd Express online (, and the Wisconsin Life radio show for WPR. She recently adopted a little grey and white cat named Tessa, after beloved 22-year-old Bootise passed on.


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