There seems to be two major types of people this time of year. There’s the cookie baking, ugly sweater wearing, and gift wrapping type, yelling, “Alexa, play ‘Rockin Around the Christmas Tree'”! There is also the type that can’t wait for this expensive season of hustle and bustle to be over. Somehow, I feel it is also very possible to be both of these types of people at the same time. It’s possible to enjoy the festivities of the year, but also feel completely overwhelmed with the planning and cost of it all. Keep reading for time and money saving tips, that will make hosting or attending upcoming holiday parties a breeze! Whatever you do, and wherever you go, I hope you have many laughs and make lovely memories with your loved ones!
I know you want to. I know you feel the urge. I know it is easier than ever! BUT you do not need to blow your paycheck on holiday decor at Target. If you are hosting this season, there are many ways to make your place feel festive and warm with little personal touches. This year, I opted for greenery, handmade ornaments, and colorful fruits as my main sources of decor.
I paired simple white lights with my handmade clay stars, pom-pons, and dried orange slice ornaments to give my tree an eclectic feel. All you need is a cookie cutter and this easy salt dough recipe to make custom ornaments for your tree. I finished mine with a glittery glaze and string of glass beads, but feel free to get creative with yours!
If you take a quick look around my house or closet, it is no secret that I’m a sucker for pom pons —they make pillows, blankets, hats, pretty much anything, just a bit more fun and playful. I made some of my own to hang on the tree as well as jazz up my gift wrapping! I may have gotten a little out of hand, caution — these are kind of addicting.
The orange slices made the house smell amazing while they dried in the oven and give an old-fashioned holiday feel when added to greenery. I always buy a little extra fruit than my recipes call for. Stacked in decorative dishes, they add a fresh pop of color!
A tip for the partygoer: Consider bringing along a small token of gratitude for your host. I suggest something he or she can enjoy after the party, such as chocolates, a scented candle, or decorative notebook.
THE FOOD AND DRINK
Santa’s got a list and you should have one too. Actually, a few. As a natural planner, this is the only way I can feel organized and keep the all moving parts straight — especially in the kitchen!
Your first list is going to essentially be your ‘menu’. Write down each dish (and speciality drinks) you plan to serve. Also consider having light snacks on hand for your guests to graze on. Cheese and cured meats, white popcorn, crackers and jam, and mixed nuts are my top choices since they keep well throughout the day. When it comes to your main meal, check that there is variety in the flavors, colors, textures, and temperatures. Also take into account how you plan to serve your meal. For instance, skillet fried potatoes are delicious, but dangerous to be passed around a crowded table. Buffet style serving may also be necessary if you have a larger group over for the holidays. This year, it happened to be a smaller group for Thanksgiving and I was able to set a place setting for each guest. I brought the salad and starters to the table and set up the main courses in the butler’s pantry for everyone to serve themselves.
Once you have your menu set, it is time to make your second list, one for groceries. Double check your cupboards to be sure you don’t end up double buying, or perhaps assume you have an ingredient that actually expired last November. I usually organize the ingredients I need to shop for in general categories, to save time at the store. Although, I usually get sucked in and end up roaming down every aisle anyways.
Lastly, make a list of to-do’s for the day of your gathering. Preparing a little timeline for the day offers helpful reminders about what time you should put dishes in/out of the oven, reduce the heat, cut the fruits for the salad, put out appetizers, etc.
Remember, even the most organized and well prepared for meals are rarely free of mishaps— it’s OK! My entire kitchen and dining room filled with smoke while I was making my skillet potatoes this year. I tried not to panic, opened a few windows, and prayed my guests didn’t freeze before lunch was served. It was a lesson learned, a memory made, and a couple crispy taters. If this is your first go-around at cooking for a crowd, you may choose to research beginner friendly recipes, do a trial-run, or call in experienced reinforcements.
Keep in mind, the people you are inviting to your home for the holidays are most likely your dearest friends and family. They are not going to think any less of you if there happens to be water spots on their wine glass or they have to wait a bit longer for dessert to come out of the oven. There is a desire to make everything perfect, but try your hardest to savor the moment in spite of the stress. There is no feeling greater as a host than to look around and see your guests enjoying themselves –– it makes all of the hard work totally worth it!
A tip for the partygoer: Determine what food and drink will be provided at the party. If it is a cocktail party, there may only be modest appetizers served so you may need a small meal before you arrive. On the other hand, you would hate to show up full and miss out on the lovely meal your host is serving!
As the host of the event, you set the dress code perimeters. Keep in mind your attire should match the overall vibe of your party. It may be tempting to go all out and wear your new sequin top, but if your hosting duties include standing over a hot stove or running coats up a flight of steps, it may not be your best choice. You want to want to be clinking cocktails with your guests, not dabbing sweat off your brow in the bathroom. If guests may be pulling up a floor seat or playing games at your relaxed dinner party, let them know they are free to dress comfortably! On the other hand, if you have a more sophisticated soirée in mind, be sure to add a dress code label to the invitation or relay the information to be sure everyone is on the same page!
A tip for the partygoer: The holiday season may be your busiest time of year. With events ranging from cozy casual gatherings to formal dinner parties, it may be tricky to gauge your attire each time you get an invite. My opinion is that it’s always better to be too dressy than too casual. It’s easy this time of year to dress-up a closet staple with a piece of statement jewelry, glitzy hair accessory, metallic heel, or a red lip!
Need a little inspiration? This season’s must-haves include cozy knits, sequins, pleated skirts, and playful blouses. Use the looks below as a jumping-off point to build your seasonal wardrobe!
WHERE TO WEAR IT: casual holiday gatherings, holiday shopping, coffee date
HOW TO PAIR IT: embellished denim, elevated sneakers, messy bun, everyday jewelry
WHERE TO WEAR IT: work party, cocktail hour, concert
HOW TO PAIR IT: dark denim, bangles, hair clips, classic heel, bright lip, loose hair waves
WHERE TO WEAR IT: family dinner, the office, out for lunch, the theatre
HOW TO PAIR IT: textured knit, chunky mule, drop earring, rosy cheek
WHERE TO WEAR IT: dinner date, girl’s night out, holiday party, gift opening
HOW TO PAIR IT: statement heel, fray hem denim, metallic jewelry
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Best wishes & happy holidays!