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Does anyone keep an entertaining/hostess journal?

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Are they as helpful as I think they are (guest list, menu, what worked, what didn't)? Can anyone recommend a good one? Seems like they'd make good hostess gifts, too.....

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  1. i sort of do this with a blank leather journal that i keep out on one of my tables, which was a gift from a friend. I try to keep tabs on wines i've had at home and at other's places, and definitly what not to serve to certain people (like so and so despises berries....don't make for dinner).

    As for other "what didn't work" type things....i have my own cookbook with written and glued in recipes etc...i tend to write in there what i didn't like about stuff, or what really went over well.

    I think it's a great idea.

    1. I keep a regular journal and will often make notes in that on how dinners went. It's also useful for keeping track of restaurants. One of my sisters recently asked me the name of the place in NYC where we had that great cinnamon tea many years ago. I don't remember, but I could and did look it up. Recipe notes and changes go right in the cookbook where I can't miss them.

      1. I like to do a recap after each party we throw, so I know what worked and what could be improved. While I've seen some sassy pre made books (Pamela Barsky?) I tend to balk at the price, and just use a simple blank notebook.
        What I include is date, theme of party, people who attended, people who did not, what I served and how much, what was a hit, what I had left over, what it was served in, etc. This helps me gauge how much to make for the next time (we're strictly drinks and apps people, no dinners for us) and also what I maybe have served too much and should leave off the menu the next time 'round. I find it fun to re-read, as it is like enjoying the party all over again, and have found that my "what I would do different next time" notes have definitely improved my hostess skills!

        1. I have a small journal that I keep on my kitchen counter when cooking and in my bag when out and about so I'm always taking notes about things that I'm trying or what's inspiring me. Like others, after entertaining I always make notes about the menu, wines, my guest's likes/dislikes, allergies, etc (which can get pretty complicated with vegetarians, vegans, onion-haters, dieters, etc in attendance!). It's nothing too formal - it's full of scribbles, pages covered in spills, the occasional sketch, etc.

          1. I wouldn't exactly call it a "journal," but I do make short notes on my computer's appointment calendar showing who was here and what I served. The way I misplace books (by shoving them into the nearest bookcase regardless of where they belong) I'd probably have dozens of journals with only one or two entries in each.

            1. I keep a 'log' in an A4 unlined hardbacked notebook - I start with notes on ideas, who's coming, dietry restrictions etc, then lead onto a decided menu (including references to cookbooks used), a shopping list and a cooking schedule. Sometimes I include drawings of plating ideas. I end with a 'review' of how it went.
              I am currently working on a meal plan for Friday night... (I do like to plan!) - and looking back through the book reminds me of those times I was over-ambitious, or cooked way too much food - or got a simple meal for two absolutely perfect.
              If I was starting a logbook now I'd make a point of adding photos too.

              1. I have a large Word document of recipes I've typed, scanned, cut-and-pasted. At the end of that document I list the date of the party, the attendees, the menu, and the accompanying wines. Next to the recipe I note, if I'm afraid I won't remember, where the recipe came from (book, Epicurious, my own Word document) and, if appropriate, whether or not it's something I might want to do again. I don't like serving the same meals to guests, and this is the only way I could possibly remember who was served what and when.

                I particulary like having this info on the computer so I can do a search of it. For me, at least, I don't think a hard copy would be as useful.

                5 Replies
                1. re: JoanN

                  I completely agree with you, JoanN, and do the same thing. Additionally, when I see a particularly interesting recipe for a particular friend (e.g., someone who loves beets, or port, etc.) I make a note of it under a section for "future parties" so I'll already have a head start on the next party for that attendee.

                  I have 2 friends who love to cook as much as I do, so I up the ante when they come over (fancier food styling, riffs on a particular theme or ingredient they love, more difficult ingredients, etc.) and a Word doc is the easiest way to keep everything straight. Hard copy would be too difficult for copying and pasting content.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    Could you say a little more about your set-up? I'd love to do something similar. It's one Word doc?

                    1. re: eLizard

                      eLizard - if you're asking me, I use one Word doc; you could make it several, but then maintaining it becomes a chore. Plus, it's fun to scroll down and revisit old events before adding the new ones. I have the following sections:
                      1. Past dinners (date, theme, attendees, dishes, quantities)
                      2. Guest preferences/dislikes (who, what)
                      3. Future dinners (particular dishes tied to particular attendees or themes, etc.)
                      Actually, now that I'm reading this, I wonder if an Excel doc wouldn't be easier...
                      If you weren't asking me, please forgive.

                      1. re: Claudette

                        I was asking you. And I appreciate your suggestions. It sounds like a great idea.

                        1. re: Claudette

                          Excel is pretty sweet because you can have a named worksheet for each event. Plus, you can use the math abilities for adding up guests, or estimating attendance, adding up what you spent (possibly not a good idea, reall),etc.

                          Honestly though, although I use Excel for planning, I tend to keep my post-party notes on paper...there's something about the tactile nature that takes me back to the event and some makes the handwritten scrawl "NO MORE BURGERS. Jeff will ruin them and refuses to take direction" that much funnier.

                    2. I've kept a "Guest Likes and Dislikes" journal for longer than I care to remember. I've gone from paper notebook to computer file and am happy with my jottings. When something is a particular favorite, I make a note and ditto for learning that so-and-so doesn't eat salmon or whatever. Allergies are in RED and I pay very close attention to these.

                      I have menus in a separate file with notes about what worked, what needed tweaking and what should be avoided at all costs in the future.

                      1. I just got home from Barnes and Noble and saw a hostess/party record book in the journals area. It was pretty nice, thought about purchasing it myself, but I do not have enough parties to justify it for myself, but now I have a ton of people that I could probably give one to.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: justagthing

                          Do you remember which one it was? I'm looking to give them as gifts. And perhaps pick one up for myself.

                          1. re: eLizard

                            I was at the store in Fashion Island and it was downstairs where all their gifty items are, towards the left side of the wall.

                            1. re: justagthing

                              I'm sorry. I have no idea what Fashion Island is!

                              1. re: eLizard

                                Oh sorry. Fashion Island is in Newport Beach. But I am sure you could go into any of the B&N and ask for them, they are great at special orders as well.

                        2. I do keep notes on parties/menus that we have had. I don't like to do too many repeat recipes so this helps me not serve the same things when we have parties.

                          I keep a journal more of the meals I prepare for my family and what they like and dislike. I get them to try different foods b/c they know I am keeping track of their reviews. It serves a central place for me to keep track of my recipes and not on scraps of paper scattered all over the place.

                          my blog http://www.dinnersforayear.blogspot.com

                          1. Hi,
                            I don't have an official journal. however, as someone else said I keep a word doc. I include # of guests, what foods were finished off, what remained at the end of the night, what were some favorite drinks, etc.
                            I find it helps me a lot because I always made way too much food and spent too much time in the kitchen. Now I find my parties go much more smoothly and I don't have a ton of leftovers at the end of the night. I also think it's always a nice touch to remember my friends favorite drinks!

                            1. I find it helpful to prevent repeating the same meal / main dish or dessert with the same people! as well, which guests work or don't work with which others... altho that one seems to be easier to remember!

                              1. I do keep a journal. Menu, guests, etc. What worked, what didn't, what recipe changes I made...

                                But I just use one of those ubiquitous blank books you can buy almost anywhere.

                                1. i like to keep a journal- if not just for postarity!--- just invite your guest to ''journal'' an email to yorself the nest day--- this makes a wonderful memento!

                                  1. I private cheffed for a very nice woman whose Mother and Father were grand party givers!. She had a large hard bound "medical ledger" of his, that was filled to the brim with their families many dinners and hostings. Cursive writting, scribbles, spills, New Yorker cartoons and single lines crossed over a word...I swear I could hear the laughter and sometimes even taste the food. She had a very similar ledger, and it was my honor to write my efforts into her tome.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: JalamaMama

                                      Love it - what a fabulous idea!