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How to host an Oscar viewing party

How will you know if you like Naomi Watts’ dress at the Academy Awards unless your friends tell you that you do?

That’s just one reason to gather people at your home, to all sit and dish as you watch the entire evening of the Oscars. This year’s televised event is next Sunday, Feb. 24.

Your gathering can be anything from simple to spectacular. And we’re here to help with ideas.

Jazz up your gathering with Oscar-themed paper goods, such as Hollywood plates, napkins, tablecloths, etc. from your favorite local party store. Bundles of black and gold balloons are a fairly inexpensive way to get pizzazz around the party room.

Decorations can include a red carpet leading to your front door or buffet table, having a friend pose as a member of the paparazzi as guests arrive, silver Mylar fringe over front door for guest to walk through, and loads of Hollywood posters around the eating and watching areas. Companies such as Entertainment Unlimited Events rent big Oscar statues, from 5-foot to 12-feet tall, as well as Hollywood signs and other show-stopping decor items.

Select the level of extravagance for your party that matches you and your friends. “You can turn it up a notch by asking people to dress as their favorite movie character from this year’s list,” says Stephanie Via-Hagar of Entertainment Unlimited Events in Centerville. “Or make it a black-tie event.”

Add to the fun by having each guest make predictions as to who-will-win-what in the big categories (best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, best supportings). Award prizes for correct guesses as the awards are announced on TV or wait until the end of the evening to find who had the most correct guesses overall.

“No gathering is complete without food, and yours can be a lavish spread or yummy appetizers or anything in between,” says Christina Bender, healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods Market in Mason. “Potlucks are fun, especially if you have a theme to the evening.”

A French theme in homage to “Les Misérables”? Or let your imagination go wild by serving southern Louisiana fare as a bow to “Beast of the Southern Wild.”

“Remember that we’re not too far away from New Year’s Day and many people are maintaining their resolution to eat healthy in 2013,” Bender said. “Serving some healthy choices is always appropriate.”

“Offer guests a signature drink for the evening, such as a ‘Hot Hathaway,’ ‘The Golden Statue’ or another name you invent,” suggests Via-Hagar. She says the drink can be your own concoction or a cocktail recipe you find on the internet

When an evening is based around a televised event, you might want to gently suggest a code of conduct before you turn on the set. Ask guests if they like the idea of keeping talking to a minimum during the show but gabbing away during commercials. Their reaction may be yes or not, and take your cue from that, to create an evening that will have you taking a bow.

MOTION PICTURE MUSHROOM, RADISH AND HEARTS OF PALM SKEWERS

Recipe from Christina Bender, Whole Foods Market Mason.

Balsamic-marinated roasted mushrooms and hearts of palm alternated with crunchy, colorful radishes provide variety and balance on your party table.

Ingredients:

• 3 cloves garlic, chopped

• 24 small cremini or button mushrooms

• 4 tablespoons aged balsamic of Modena, divided

• 3 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary, divided

• 3 teaspoons finely chopped thyme, divided

• 6 medium radishes, trimmed and quartered

• 1 (14 ounce) can hearts of palm, drained

• 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Directions:

Mash or press garlic; transfer to a large bowl. Whisk together 3 tablespoons balsamic, 2 teaspoons rosemary and 2 teaspoons thyme. Add mushrooms and radishes, toss well and set aside, tossing occasionally, for 30 minutes. In another bowl toss the remaining vinegar, rosemary and thyme. Halve the largest pieces of hearts of palm so you have at least 24 pieces; add to the bowl and toss to combine. Preheat oven to 425°F. Transfer mushrooms and radishes to a large, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast until softened and just caramelized, about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, thread a mushroom, piece of radish and piece of palm heart onto 24 6-inch skewers. Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional info:

Per serving: 10 calories (0 from fat), 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 75mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate (1g dietary fiber, 1g sugar), 1g protein

Fitness gifts for the athletes on your holiday list

Some folks might dream of sweater sets, cuff links or sugarplums, poor things, but we know the athletes on your holiday gift list really want stuff that makes them sweat.

We’ve rounded up a collection of goodies that’ll keep those cardio-happy hipsters moving at the speed of fitness. And unlike fruitcakes and eggnog, these suggestions will keep your loved ones healthy, too. What better gift could you ask for?

Rapha clothing

Mellow Johnny’s recently opened the only Rapha concept shop in the Southwest, where it peddles top-of-the-line, retro-themed clothing that’s more wool than Lycra. Think cyclo-cross jerseys with a single padded shoulder for carrying your bike across race fields or a fitted (not boxy) high-visibility cycling vest. Who knew cycling gear could be stylish, too? ($210 long-sleeved cyclo-cross jersey, matching $60 winter cyclo-cross hat, $160 women’s high-visibility pink vest at Mellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces St.)

Bike bag

Want to cycle to work but don’t want to sling a backpack over your shoulders? Try this old school, eco-friendly, waxed cotton bag, perfect for stashing your laptop and lunch. Attach the bag to your handlebars with Velcro straps for the ride, then sling it over your shoulder once you arrive at your destination. ($35 at www.greatusefulstuff.com)

Running shoes

We love the cushy, loopy soles and snowy good looks of the Cloudsurfer Prism model of the Swiss-made On running shoes. Drenched in white, with three pairs of colorful laces, the shoes make you feel like you’re running on soft, shock-absorbing sand — except you don’t get bogged down on the push off. ($129 at specialty running stores including RunTex, or at www.on-running.com)

Event entry

Sometimes the best gifts are the kind that don’t take up space on the shelf — like entry fees for a local bike ride or foot race. Our favorites include the Livestrong Austin Marathon on Feb. 17 ($120 full marathon or $100 half, prices increase by $15 on Nov. 28, at www.youraustinmarathon.com), the BP MS 150 bike ride from Houston to Austin on April 20-21 ($100; tinyurl.com/a9vepd7) and the Statesman Capitol 10,000 on April 7 ($35; www.cap10k.com).  

“The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail,” by Andrew Skurka

From trekking poles to sleeping bags, portable stoves to water purification systems, this book explains what you’ll need on the trail and what to look for when you’re gearing up. (Published by National Geographic, $19.95; available at Amazon.com or bookstores)   

 

Dog-E-Glow LED collar and leash

Sometimes the best exercise partners are the four-legged kind. Make sure your pup stays visible if you’re walking after dark - and show your school colors, too - with this light-up collar and leash. Choose from University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas Christian and other major college versions. ($25.99 for collars; $29.99 for leashes at University Co-op and www.futurepets.com or www.dogeglow.com)

Nutcase bike helmet

Protect your shell with a funky bike helmet from Nutcase. We like this yellow taxi-cab number, but who wouldn’t want to swath their head in pink leopard skin, tie dye, polka dots or even a watermelon motif? (About $60 at specialty bike shops including Eastside Pedal Pushers and Ozone Bike Dept.).  

Fitness classes

How about the gift of flexibility? YogaYoga offers an array of classes, from hatha to flow to relaxation (unlimited classes for $99 per month, a year of unlimited yoga plus a massage for $995 or 5 classes for $55 at www.yogayoga.com). Rogue Running offers training classes that will help get you ready for a 10K run, including one geared toward the Statesman Capitol 10,000 ($182 at www.roguerunning.com). Or heat things up with a Brass Ovaries pole dancing fitness class that’ll knock your socks off ($35 for a group class; $150/month for unlimited classes at brass-ovaries.com/).

Cycling magazines

To call Privateer and Rouleur magazines is like calling Whole Foods Market a convenience store. These publications read more like books (and cost as much), and they’re packed with beautiful photos and in-depth articles on mountain biking and road cycling. You’ll read every bit of text and display ’em on your coffee table. ($20 at Mellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces St.)  

Timex Marathon watch

Runners can be obsessive when it comes to checking pace, distance and calories burned. This sweat-proof workout watch uses GPS to monitor both, and stores up to 30 workouts. Comes in black, turquoise or this chipper pink. ($99.95 at Hill Country Running, 9900 W. Parmer Lane or 215 S. Lamar Blvd., Amazon.com or REI.com)  

NiteRider cycling lights

Light up your commute with a Lumina headlight — it’s the size of a tamal, clips neatly to your bike handlebars and easily recharges by plugging it into a cable that attaches to the USB port on your computer. Or opt for the less-expensive, pint-sized Lightning Bug. (Lumina series starts at $89; Lightning Bug starts at $11.95 at Bicycle Sport Shop, 517 S. Lamar Boulevard, and Texas Cycle Werks, 5300 S. Mopac Blvd., No. 501) 

“Fifty Places to Bike Before You Die,” by Chris Santella

Have wheels, but need to know where to pedal? Bicyling experts including Steve Coyle, past president of the Austin Cycling Association, share their picks for the world’s greatest destinations. Among the recommendations? Through fields of tulips in the Netherlands, past giraffes in Botswana, and, yes, into the scrappy, undulating terrain of the Texas Hill Country. (Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95; available at Amazon.com and bookstores) 

Texas Chip Seal Embrocation

Slather on this Hill Country lavender-scented warming cream that acts as your skin’s protective barrier from cold and wind. As the shop says, “It may be the dead of winter, but your legs are vacationing in Cabo.” Made by Mad Alchemy. ($24.99 at Mellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces St.)

Clif bars

Can the candy canes and stuff your sweetie’s stocking with a handful of iced gingerbread, peppermint stick or spiced pumpkin pie-flavored Clif Bars instead. ($1.39 at grocery stores and sports stores)

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