Thursday, May 6, 2010
Roper stresses fun with entertaining
By SUE WATSON
Tips on easy, yet elegant entertaining, were abundantly supplied with lots of laughs Thursday at Jennie’s Flowers and Gifts in Holly Springs.
Patty Roper brought smiles and fun as a way of showing ladies how to prepare great foods and to decorate for parties the easy way.
Roper signed copies of her latest book, “Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations.”
She related how she began writing her popular column “Easy Does It” which has been featured in Mississippi Magazine for the last 16 years. Her husband, Richard, is the publisher.
He praised Holly Springs for its quiet beauty and history and said even he can prepare the easy recipes his wife has collected over the years.
Roper said she was a school teacher nine years before she was gradually, and steadily, hooked into working and writing for Mississippi Magazine with her husband 28 years ago, first while he was owner, and then in his capacity as publisher.
Early on she answered the telephone, assisted with layout and then was worked into editing when one of the magazine’s editors took time off to have a baby.
The magazine was always in need of extra stories, so Patty began writing school stories, easy party stories and tea party stories.
When someone suggested she write a “Garden by the Yard” story, Roper learned afterward that a reader claimed ownership of the idea and headline.
“Ideas, I came to find out, are not our own and they are remembered,” Roper said.
Then she launched into a string of simple decorating and food ideas - all the how-to’s that any hostess wants to know.
“We love those easy articles and easy food,” her readers told her.
“So, every issue I would tell people how to do something easy,” she said.
Eventually her editor asked for an easy cookbook, which became her first.
Roper said she wants her new book, which includes tips for party planning and etiquette, to be “that spark of inspiration that gives any hostess the confidence she needs to step out and try something new.”
Her previous books include “Easy Hospitality” (1996), “Easy Does It Entertaining,”(2004) and “At the Table with Patty Roper” (2006), and “Easy Recipes.”
Her presentation at Jennie’s included elements from all her books.
“Anytime we get people together, it’s a party and it’s about entertaining people and doing a little extra,” Roper said.
Tips for entertaining include:
• not waiting until your house is ready and everything is perfect to have a party. People will notice what is on the table, not the things that a hostess did not get around to doing, she said. Small, unusual details are what guests remember long after the party is over.
• pick a color scheme and then use those colors and different shaped food items to match the color scheme.
• learn from your children. Roper, who has a flair for fashion, learns from her daughter. She said her daughter came home from a party and told her the hostess servied brownies. “And they cut them in squares!” her daughter said.
• organize ahead of time.
“Think from the time of the invitation to when they walk in the front door,” she said. “Do something neat and different each time. Add something special to what you have. Use every space in the house. Put desserts and coffee in the back room.”
• enjoy preparations.
“Love the process of getting it ready,” Roper said. “Let your friends come over and help make things. They need to come over and learn.”
• mix old china with new, and expensive with inexpensive dishes. Roper uses her mother’s best china with plates bought from WalMart and Target or bought from a thrift store.
• make interesting place mats. Roper displayed a place mat made with a circle of men’s ties from a thrift store and an iron-on center.
• include neat party favors on functional items like napkin rings. She makes unusual napkins from bow-tied fabrics and adds a vintage pin as a party favor.
Hostess Irene Strickland was elated with the community response and turn-out for Patty Roper and her book-signing event.
“I think it is really important for us in Holly Springs to recognize our assets,” Strickland said. “We have fabulous opportunities here and we all need to expand on them.
“We’ve got to showcase our town and, at the same time, enjoy the privilege of hosting a person of this caliber.”
Dreaming big and expecting a positive answer was the thing that got the Ropers to Holly Springs.
“Betty (Burch) just picked up the phone and called,” Strickland said. “Everyone in town was invited and Patty stayed from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. She demonstrated ideas she had included in her cookbook as well as in her articles in Mississippi Magazine.
“She’s such an excellent example of Southern grace and charm, in my opinion - so knowledgeable about entertaining. She has a flair for using thrifty ideas. We are so fortunate to have so many amenities here that we need to spotlight - mainly the small town atmosphere, friendship and camaraderie.
“We want people to come and feel welcome and to expect to get what they want.”
Betty Burch, co-owner of Jennie’s Flowers and Gifts, Betty Burch, agreed.
It was her daring that got the Ropers to agree to visit the city.
“It was just a fun afternoon for all the ladies,” she said, “something not available in Holly Springs every day. When it came out in Mississippi Magazine that the book was about to be offered, I said, ‘we could get her to come to Holly Springs.’ ”
The Ropers were busy last August and put off answering. Soon it was Christmas, then January and Roper didn’t call, so Burch said she called her again.
“I said, the ladies in Holly Springs would just love it if you would come. She said, ‘Let me think about it.’ ”
Soon both the publisher and his editor had agreed to come to Holly Springs.
Burch said she believes Holly Springs can attract guests like the Ropers.
She wished the book signing could have been offered at a time when more women could have attended.
“She was really good - entertaining,” Burch said. “After you talked to her a while, you felt like you had always known her.”
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