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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

holidays made easy

Easy Entertaining
 
If there is one thing I do almost yearly it is host a holiday party at my house.  Now at the time I am planning the party I am all for it, but when it comes down to Go Time…I start to panic…until I realized that perfection is NOT the name of the holiday entertaining game!
I’ve compiled a list (with a little help)  of helpful tips to help you be the Hostess with the Mostess this holiday season. 

Don’t try to do it all!
This used to be my biggest problem.  I would offer to host Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at my house and then take on the responsibility of cooking EVERYTHING, cleaning, making sure my guests were having a good time, making sure the kids weren’t climbing the Christmas tree and I had no time to hang out with my guests and enjoy the party!  After about 3 years of hosting holiday dinners I decided that it was alright to ask for help…so I did.  To my amazement my guests were more than happy to bring covered dishes and deserts, plastic silverware, and drinks and ice.  As soon as I stopped putting so much pressure on myself my holiday parties became even bigger and better than they were before…and now I have time to spend with my guests and enjoy the parties…and I love that!

Make a Menu ahead of time!
This is something else that has proven to be a huge timesaver for not only me, but my guests as well.  I usually set aside one day to call up my guests and find out what they would like to bring, if doubles happen I try to help my guests decide on something else by suggesting other dishes that no one has volunteered to bring yet.  I find that by making a menu there are NO SURPRISES and that is always a good thing…after all, no one is going to be happy if Great Aunt Gertrude brings enough fruit cake to feed a small army!

Make sure everyone knows how much they are expected to bring!
I have had the problem before of some people cooking too much and some people not bringing enough.  When I compile my menu I always tell guests how many people are coming so that they know how much to bring! 

Crock Pots are your friend!
I always ask my guests to bring their crock pots with them (if their dishes are not already in them).  I use them to keep the food warm while we are waiting to eat…they are a huge time saver and the mashed potatoes don’t get cold! 

Do take a little help from the store!
I know that most people would prefer to make everything from scratch, but the reality is that no one has time to make pie crusts from scratch or spend hours making shrimp puffs.  I always take short cuts from the store when I can…it saves me time and sanity!  Some of my favorite appetizers are from Farm Rich, they seriously have everything from meatballs to mini Philly Cheese Steak bites!  You MUST check them out!

Dos and Don’t of Holiday Entertaining

Do bring a hostess gift!
Even if it is something as simple as a homemade pie or cake, the hostess will definitely appreciate the gesture!  You may even get an extra slice of your favorite desert out of the deal!  One of my favorite hostess gifts (to give and to receive) are from The Swiss Colony…they have so many mouthwatering goodies that you’ll have a hard time choosing just one!  I recommend bring your hostess a Jolly Wink Santa cake…they are so cute and SO yummy!

Do help clean up!
This is something that I cannot stress enough!!!!  Even if disposable plates, forks, and cups were used there is still so much to clean up after a family gathering.  Roll up your sleeves and don’t be afraid to help the hostess…she will be forever grateful!  

Don’t Assume your hostess will be alright with you springing last minute guests on her!
It is a lot of work planning for any holiday get-together and most hostesses have everything down to how many cloth napkins she needs to press worked out in her head.  Deciding at the last minute to bring your new boyfriend Bobby and his 4 kids to Christmas dinner unannounced is NOT alright!  While most gracious hostesses would smile (through gritted teeth) and set 5 more places at the dinner table, it is wrong to expect that it will be ok.  Simply calling and confirming with your hostess how many guests will be coming with you takes only a minute or two and saves your hostess so much unanticipated work!

DO have fun!
I like to incorporate fun into our get-togethers!  Every year at our annual Christmas Party we come up with a whole new set of games, stories, and fun stuff for the kids to do…and I must admit most of the adults enjoy it as well!  Here are a few of our favorite games from years past!

Santa Bingo:  This is ALWAYS a hit with everyone, it’s easy enough for most of the children and still a ton of fun for the adults.  I’ve personally made the bingo cards and they are a breeze.  Directions below:

What you need
Cardstock
Christmas stamps
Different colored ink

Cut the cardstock into bingo sized rectangles, and make a grid that is 5 across and 6 down.  Across the top write SANTA.  Then fill in the remaining squares with different Christmas images using the stamps.  In the middle I always place a star as the free spot.  We cut small squares out of cardstock to make the call slips.  We always place the call slips into a red felt bag similar to Santa’s bag and we use peppermint candies or marshmallows to cover our squares.    (I’ll post some more games soon!)

Don’t eat and run!
If there is one thing that irks me more than anything else when I’ve planned a beautiful dinner for family and friends, it is the Eat and Run!  You know that cousin of yours who only shows up when there’s food involved, doesn’t speak a word to anyone while he’s there, but inhales your sweet potatoes casserole without a second thought?  Yeah, him…I can’t stand that!  Not only is eating and running rude, you’re missing out on amazing conversations and good times with family and friends by dining and dashing!

I’ll be back soon with more Holiday Entertaining Tips…in the meantime let me know how you enjoy holiday entertaining in a stress-free way!

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