I love, love, LOVE this time of year! I love the excitement and the anticipation of the season.
One of the things I look forward to the most is Christmas Eve, which we host at our home. During the hustle and bustle of the season it is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed when entertaining, but here are a few tips to make it easier.
#1 – Think like a guest… and do it in advance.
What makes you comfortable when you visit someone’s home? It’s the little things like knowing where your can put your coat when you arrive, or being able to help yourself to a beverage. Anticipate what your guests will want or need.
Setting up a buffet?
What was difficult for you the last time you went through a buffet line? It’s likely that people navigating the buffet line will have a drink in their hand, or they will need to spread a condiment, etc. Leave a little room for your guests to set their drink or their plate down, while they help themselves. Put condiments and spreads near the dish they’re most likely to be used with. Have a serving utensil for everything on the table.
Make traffic flow easy and obvious. Have an “entrance” and an “exit” The line starts here… grab a plate… help yourself… here’s your silverware… off you go… Enjoy! (Why put silverware at the beginning of the line? Your guests don’t need to juggle that too. Put silverware at the end of the buffet so that it is the last thing they grab on their way to their seats.) Try to have a separate dessert table and an area for drinks. If that isn’t possible, at the very least, designate specific spots for them on the table.
Um, chances are, someone is going to need to use it. Make sure there is plenty of TP and soap. Have you ever been to someone’s home and needed more toilet paper and you had to root through their cabinets to see if there was any under the sink?! (Uncomfortable. Even worse? You can’t find any and you have to go alert the hostess to the problem.) Have fresh towels ready and light a seasonal candle. Oh… And for the love of Pete, make sure it’s clean before your guests arrive. This is a great opportunity for slave labor to get your children involved. All kids should know how to clean a bathroom, particularly boys.
#2 – Choose a menu filled with dishes you can prepare in advance.
When you are able to cook and bake ahead of time, it frees you up to enjoy your guests and reduces some of the stress that can be associated with entertaining. One of my favorite holiday appetizers is this Cheese Ball. I can make several in advance and keep them in the freezer until about an hour before my guests arrive.
For our Christmas Eve soiree we actually purchase ah-mazing clam chowder from one of our favorite local restaurants. We keep it warm in a crock pot, set out plenty of bowls, spoons and crackers and our guests just help themselves. Breville has an amazing selection of time saving food preparation appliances. You should give it a look-see.
#3 – Set mood lighting and appropriate music.
Everything is more festive with candles and little white lights. Have your lighting set about half an hour before your guests arrive.
#4 – Don’t try to “do it all.”
Ask guests to bring a side dish or a dessert. If someone asks what they can do to help you, take them up on their offer! If I get an offer of help, I will usually ask them to play bartender for me and help guests get drinks.
|If your bar/beverage area is set up ahead of time, it’s an easy task for a guest to help themselves.|
Oh! And with regard to decor…? For every one decorative touch or special detail that I create, there were three others that I didn’t have time to do. You know what? I’m the only one who knows there were things I didn’t get to. In other words? Everyone else thinks it looks complete and put together. (Ha Ha! I fooled them!)
#5 – Be in the moment.
You might have noticed a theme here: Do as much in advance as you possibly can. But once guests arrive, enjoy them. Enjoy the fellowship and the fun. Don’t get bogged down worrying about every little detail… just make sure your guests feel welcome. With a little thought and common sense planning, even the simplest and most casual of get-togethers can make your guests feel welcome and comfortable. And honestly, isn’t that what hospitality is really about?
There are some fabulous tools that can help you put your party together. Breville has a fabulous selection of kitchen items, designed to make your life a little easier. They are sold in various retail stores, but you can also order from them directly online and can get replacement parts and accessories from them as well. Check out their website for more information on this product and other great gift ideas.