This year, frugal is in vogue when it comes to holiday entertaining. If hosting an event or party is part of your season's celebration, but you opt to spend less or spend alternatively for a charitable cause, your fete can be accomplished with the help of entertaining experts and a local hostess.
Ruthie Steen, a Springfield homemaker, has been coordinating parties, receptions and events for several years. She cooks and decorates for many events at her church, St. John's Lutheran in Springfield, where the congregation sings her praises.
Jean Welch, director of music at St. John's, calls Ruthie the "Martha Stewart of our church."
"She does the cooking and decorating for our Advent concert series," Jean says.
The Advent "Soup & Song Event" takes place the first four Wednesdays in December, and Ruthie is known for making each week's celebration unforgettable.
"Everything is homemade - and she always creates ambiance. I'm always leaning on her to come up with a great idea."
Whether creating a holiday luncheon, hosting dinner for Elisabeth von Trapp (complete with "Sound of Music" theme) or hosting a committee luncheon, Ruthie knows how to create an event.
"I look for inspiration everywhere I go. If something catches my eye, I try and re-create it myself. If something tastes really good, I figure out how to do it economically. I try new recipes every week."
The details are important, she says, but they don't have to be expensive.
"Think about the feeling you want to convey for the event, and use things that don't cost a lot of money - reuse things you have."
Ruthie says, "You can find ideas. I'm more tuned in now, especially with the Internet."
Ideas like turning beta fish bowls into snow globes can transform your average holiday centerpiece into a fun and interesting creation.
According to local fans, Ruthie's talents are ever-increasing.
"I think she's awesome in the kitchen and awesome in the church," says Jean, referring to her spirit of giving.
Her gift of meshing elegance and economy not only gives joy to her fellow congregants, but serves as an example to the community at large - frugality in favor of giving to those in need.
Following are some tricks of the trade, from Ruthie Steen and accomplished holiday party planners.
Food and Drink
Ruthie Steen's Apricot Bites
"I had something like it at a resort several years ago," she says. "They're gorgeous, tasty, and healthy."
Layer ingredients in order to create individual "bites." Arrange on a platter with chocolate truffles or alone and serve at parties, receptions or brunch.
Story published Friday, December 3, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 7 )