A circle of Westport friends masters the art of stress-free, good-time get-togethers
On one of the rare winter days when snow did not fall for at least a few hours, party hosts Emily and Lewis Liebert pulled out the grill, tested the ice on the lake and sent word that the afternoon’s festivities were a go. This gathering of friends and neighbors is a slice of Westport’s best-kept promises: enjoy time with good, interesting, talented and fun-loving people. Now regulars at this, it doesn’t take much to get this group together. From big milestones, like a significant birthday, to the smallest sliver of an excuse, such as, “Hey, it’s wintertime,” the families celebrate life’s sweetest moments together. They’ve even mastered the arrangements and their roles like a hit show on Broadway. Everyone jumps in and does their part, and together they make memories and nurture friendships that sustain them through life’s ups and downs. Here, we asked Emily about this wonderful social circle.
Q & A with Host Emily Liebert
HOW LONG HAVE YOU ALL KNOWN ONE ANOTHER?
EL “On average, five-plus years.”
HOW OFTEN DO YOU GET TOGETHER?
EL “Often! There are parties throughout the year, typically with fun themes—Studio 54, Roaring ’20s, ’90s Rock Star, Après Ski, and, of course, Halloween. During the summer months, there’s something going on practically every weekend. We end the season with a regatta and an after-party.”
WHEN YOU WERE HOUSE-HUNTING AND SAW THE LAKE, DID YOU IMAGINE SKATING PARTIES OR WAS THAT JUST A HAPPY DEVELOPMENT?
EL “The minute Lewis saw the lake, his eyes lit up. Through the years he’s played hockey, worked in the industry and has been a loyal New York Rangers fan. His mind went immediately to ice skating. The idea for a skating party evolved later.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO MOVE TO WESTPORT?
EL “Lewis and I both grew up in New York City and later moved to Westchester. We lived there together for ten years before relocating to Westport. The move was life-changing for us. Everything improved—from a home that we fell in love with, to a fantastic school system for our children, to a town so rich with community, and, of course, to all of the amazing friends who embraced us and became family.”
WHO DID YOU MEET FIRST?
EL “I met Anne Epstein, Jen Goldberg and Heather Bauer all around the same time. Jen is an amazing photographer and, not long after I moved here, she was referred to me for an author photo for my next novel. Anne was a mom in my son Hugo’s pre-K class and our boys brought us together. And Heather was introduced to me by a mutual friend. The nice thing is that I became friends with each one of them independently without knowing that the three of them were already very close.”
WHAT’S THE TRICK TO MAKING NEW FRIENDS?
EL “I’m a talker. I’ll start up a conversation with anyone—except on airplanes. Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I like meeting people from different backgrounds and with varying interests. I thrive on details! Also, I know this sounds trite, but I truly believe that when you’re authentic, people are drawn to you. What you see is what you get with me.”
DO YOUR FRIENDS SHOW UP IN YOUR NOVELS?
EL “With each novel I’ve written, I have friends who ask if they’re a specific character in the book. The answer is no. And yes. I’ve never based an entire character on a friend, but there are certainly aspects of personalities and relationships that are true to the world I live in and the people I surround myself with.”
WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
EL “We live on a large cul-de-sac, which means our kids can walk or ride their scooters over to a friend’s house. We love that there are plenty of kids at our bus stop in the morning and also to trick or treat with, or to just come over for pizza on a Sunday night.”
5 Easy Steps to a Successful Party
1 Master the Grill
“Take time to make some sauces and condiments—such as pickled shallots, salsa verde, green tomato relish, etc.—for your grilled proteins. Great condiments take grilling to the next level.”
2 Set the Scene
“Rather than a traditional red-and-plaid themed party, set a winter whites scene using white sheepskin throws and chunky knit blankets. Serve fondue over the fire and, of course, roast marshmallows!”
3 Make a Fashion Statement
“Splurge on a forever, favorite pair of boots. I purchased my Chanel combat boots when I was twenty-seven, and I continue to get complimented on them.”
4 Keep Things Friendly
“Be prepared with at least one or two interesting tidbits about each of your guests, in order to spark lively conversations within the group.”
5 Include the Kids
“Design a hot chocolate bar specifically for the kids. This gives them the freedom to pick and choose their own beverage and toppings and makes them feel like an important part of the event.”