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Time to Plan your Holiday Entertaining

The Holiday season is soon to be upon us. Time to start making plans for that special dinner or casual brunch, the family get together, or throw down))) Here's a few suggestions to get your started on your way. First, get out your calendar and start thinking about dates and what kind of event to host. As the host, you get to make the decisions! Think dressy or casual? Family or friends? Or both? Children? Keep it simple and plan the event around your calendar because you will be doing most of the work. The Cocktail Party: Adult guests, have a predetermined start and stop time, usually a couple of cocktailshours in the early evening or after dinner. Perhaps after an evening out to a concert or event. Serve a few special drinks and light hors d'oeuvres or a special dessert and gourmet coffee for a non-alcoholic party. Casual Open House: This type of party allows you to have a larger guest list and works well to open houseinclude families with children. Set a start and stop time and invite folks to drop in as they can. This function is flexible, a "come and go" event. Guests aren't expected to come and stay the entire time of the party. Provide small snacks and hors d'oeuvres with a mix of tasty and sweet items. Be mindful that children will be present and have something they will definitely like. It's nice to have a special table apart from the buffet or serving table just for the little ones with snacks they will like. Their special area can be decorated with "kid" stuff. Keep the sweets to a minimum and provide other healthier fare. If you have the space, provide a table adjacent to their snacks and cover the table with white paper and set out some crayons, Christmas coloring books or pages, simple Christmas games, puzzles or toys. Small favors to take home will make you a star! Just keep the games or toys simple, you don't want to get tied up explaining things or acting as a referee! Brunch:rolls This is one of my favorites! People get tired of ham and turkey dinners so quickly! A brunch can be put together with many make ahead recipes and heated up right at the last minute. Set up a buffet and sideboard so guests can serve themselves. Mini muffins and tiny biscuits with bite size meats are always a hit. Exquisite jellies and jams displayed in your best crystal and silver add an elegant touch to crusty, buttery, homemade biscuits! Create a coffee or hot chocolate bar separate from the food. Great time for bringing out those gourmet coffees and delicious hot chocolate. Provide chocolate spoon stirrers or candy canes. Always have a sugar substitute also. Elegant Holiday Dinner: Time to put out the good china and crystal or holiday dinnerware. No holiday dinnerpaper plates or plastic. If you only have nice plain china, invest in some colorful gold, silver or red chargers. No crystal? No worries. Just use clear glass tea or wine glasses, depending on the beverage being served. We're not wine drinkers, so I can't help you there. Our wine glasses are used for delectable desserts! Elegant dinners can be buffet or plates can be served. Just depends on your seating arrangements and your guest list. Always use candles. Dim the lights and show off your festive holiday creations! Don't forget the light fixture over your table. It's a perfect point of interest. Hang fresh garland around the light "carefully." Depends of course on the type light you have. But if the light lends itself well to decorating, this is the perfect spot to hang shiny, colorful ornaments with streams of glittering ribbon. Fresh greenery can be carried out as a decoration down the center of the table with candles, ornaments, twigs of berries etc. Spend some time on your menu. This probably isn't the best time to try something new for the first time! Test it weeks before on your family or friends before you decide to serve it to your guests. Keep in mind any particulars about your guests with special dietary needs ...diabetics for example. Not saying you have to provide a sugar free dessert, but perhaps have a second dessert consisting of a natural fruit sorbet or something similar. Allow enough time to enjoy the meal. Don't take the plates away too quickly. But do clear the dinner plates and bring on the dessert and coffee! Invitations: Write down your guest list, or else risk the chance of leaving someone out. Give holiday dinner invitationplenty of notice and if it's a sit down dinner, request RSVP. You can mail your invitations, or make a phone call or send an e-mail. For any occasion, a written invitation can make it even more special. Plan your Menu: Once you know about how many people to expect and what kind of meal you're having, you can start getting your recipes and grocery list in order. Offer a balance of colors, textures and flavors. Beverages: For our dinners, it's usually iced tea, sweet and unsweet, or water. Punch is great for open house entertaining. When serving alcoholic beverages, always have a non-alcoholic beverage on hand. Seating: For casual open house, people can use small luncheon or cocktail size plates and wander around mingling with them in their hand. Your dining table, bar or kitchen counter may be used for buffet style gatherings. Move the chairs away from the table so guests can circle around the table. Have a "starting point" where plates are stacked creatively and go from there ending up with picking up a beverage last. Place your chairs through the living room or other rooms that are open to your guest. Keep the lights off and doors closed to rooms you prefer not to have traffic in. Remember than an open house is very casual and all your rooms should probably be lighted and open except for a nursery, office, sewing room etc. Try to place chairs beside small tables when you can. Provide coasters, remember the mantle and place easily visible coasters there too. If you have a piece of furniture you can't bear a wet glass sitting on, cover the top with a Christmas cloth, scarf, napkin or table runner. The number of guest you can serve at a seated dinner will determine that guest list. Card tables with folding chairs provide adequate space for 4. You may want to move some chairs out of a room to make space for folding tables. Stay Organized: Make your shopping list and a "to do" list marking off as you accomplish the to do listtasks. Assign tasks to someone else when you can! Lighting: Lighting is essential. Dim or turn off overhead lights and use lamps, candle (battery powered or lighted). Extra strands of clear, white miniature Christmas lights along mantels, banisters, even molding and baseboards creates a dramatic effect. Use along your buffet table if it's against a wall, sideboard, under or on top of your kitchen cabinets if your food is being served in the kitchen. Keep candles a safe distance from linens and out of the way of guests. If children will be present, use the battery powered candles. Music: Music definitely sets the mood. Plan your music ahead of time and create a CD or MP3 file or whatever it is that you play your music on. Begin with soft music and depending on the style of party, increase the volume and energy level once the party is in full swing. Too soft is better than too loud. No background TV! Threaten to cut the ears off anyone who turns it on no matter what team is playing! Unless you're having a before or after game party))d Holiday Scents: A fireplace with crackling fire and orange embers exudes warmth, cheeriness mantleand peace. You can throw in some pine scented incense, but I like the natural smell of the fire better. Be careful not to let your room get too warm. Make the fireplace a nice place to cozy up to, not to get away from! A simmering pot of wassil smells heavenly. Be careful with scented candles. Use very light fragrances. Pine and cinnamon are good for entryways and bathrooms. Use unscented candles around your food so there is no competition with food aromas. And last, but certainly not least, ENJOY your party! If you've take all the proper steps to make sure you have enough food and drink.....what else do you have to worry about! These are your friends, and your family. They will enjoy the party more, if they see you are relaxed and enjoying it too. And remember, "what goes around, comes around." Next time you'll be the guest!
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