Budget Living, the sassy magazine that teaches you to be economical -- no not economical, innovative -- is out with its second book, "Party Central: A Month-by-Month Guide to Entertaining on the Cheap" (Perigee, $19.95). The book pays homage to the magazine's proneness to beer nuts versus caviar. But that's not to say that frugal can't be festive and classy. There are party guides for the familiar (Thanksgiving, Fourth of July and Valentine's Day) and the occasional (organic camping trip, Derby day and a school cafeteria wedding). The folks at Budget Living make a good point -- it's the low-key, high-fun parties that pals remember. It's hard to forget a New Year's pinata that rains down Smarties, Jack Daniels and Alka-Seltzer. And the host should have fun too. The book's introduction touches on cocktail party cheat sheets -- like how many bottles of gin you'll need for 30 to 40 guests (the answer is 2) -- and kitchen essentials (skillet vs. Dutch oven.) "What we really hope people get is a lot of inspiration," says Budget Living Executive Editor Alex Bhattacharji. A lot of other magazines and books offer party and food tips that "people can't really replicate," he says. "Many typical foodie magazines emphasize fanciness over practical appeal." But "practical appeal" is Budget Living's middle name. Take Halloween for example. Their "Having a Scream" meal-time version includes innards pasta alfredo, pale-as-a-ghost cheese plate and an Almond Brain Blancmange -- that looks disgustingly like its namesake. Plus, there's information on how to create a spooky cemetery (blue board Styrofoam), ghoulish goodies (like wax fangs, pop rocks and candy cigs), costume ideas (Day of the Dead newlyweds -- you can wear your wedding dress again) and more snacks, like deviled egg eyeballs. Simply take the retro snack and plop on an olive.
Says Bhattacharji, "It's creepy and cool."
"Party Central: A Month-by-Month Guide to Entertaining on the Cheap" 2004) is available at area book stores.
-- Janelle Erlichman Diamond