The following is a post from Erica.
As fall approaches, I look forward to cooler weather and the season of family gatherings. Since we are the host family for 6-8 family members each Thanksgiving and Christmas, preparing for this season entails organization, decor, and menu planning.
Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips for hosting family holiday gatherings without losing your mind. With November fast approaching and the holidays on a lot of our minds right now, I thought I’d share a few.
Set the Atmosphere
- Whether you plan to host one or twenty-one, the first thing you should consider is what type of atmosphere you’re going for: Casual, Modern, Rustic, or Formal.
- Determine your priorities and find short cuts for the rest.
- Take this opportunity to clean, de-clutter and take inventory of each room. This makes seasonal shopping quick and easy, by freeing up space for all of the winter clothing and Christmas toys to come.
- In the kitchen, make a list of which tools and supplies need replacing before hosting.
- Assess the condition of linens. Replace towels and sheets that are past their prime.
- This is also a great time to make end of the year charitable donations.
Quick Tip: Unless you’ve been keeping up in this department all year, you will inevitably have a few hodgepodge items that need to be addressed. Keep an empty tub to temporarily stash these items out of the way.
Now that you’ve pared down a bit, it’s time to gather supplies for making your home visually appealing. Magazine images during this time of year make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside with their elaborate seasonal decorations and attention to detail. Maybe one day I’ll be on that level, but for now I stick with ideas that are practical, functional and economical.
Rely on seasonal floral picks (live and artificial) and natural elements.
- Vases can be filled with acorns, miniature pumpkins or even bare branches and adorned with a raffia or burlap bow.
Recycle and repurpose items when possible.
- A pitcher filled with sunflowers atop the dining table or a wicker basket with colorful throw blankets thoughtfully placed beside the couch, will bring a natural and seasonal element to your space.
Quick Tip: For a simple Christmas arrangement, invert wine glasses on a platter or tray (lined with pine branches). Top each glass with a white votive candle. Scatter a few pinecones (if available) and fresh cranberries (for color) to make an elegant focal point on a buffet or kitchen island.
Don’t forget to spruce up your entryway.
- Replace your doormat, if needed. Flank your door with pumpkins or fall plants.
- Update your home’s entrance for Christmas with a miniature artificial or real tree, or a simple wreath with a beautiful satin bow.
- Check out this tutorial for a simple DIY Christmas tree that can be made with things you probably already have around the house.
As the seasons change, replace the natural fall elements with Christmas ornaments, pinecones, and cinnamon sticks.
- Use these items as well as seasonal family photos throughout your home to create vignettes in unexpected places: art niches, built-ins, the bar or island.
Quick Tip: I like to incorporate seasonal family photos without displaying a ton of photos at once. My quick fix: place multiple photos in each frame and rotate them as the seasons change.
Plan the Food
If you’re hosting a specific event get a game plan early on. Determine your menu and purchase non-perishibles as soon as possible.
Consider a bar.
- In addition to buffet style meals, food bars are ideal for a casual gathering. They require a little preparation, but are flexible enough for “come and go” guests and alleviate a lot of work during the meal. Whether pizza, tacos, baked potatoes or a combination, you simply provide the toppings and let your guests decide.
Quick Tip: Select serving dishes, utensils, linens, and any decorations in advance. Arrange them all the night before your guests arrive.
Serve this simple “mock-tail” with your menu and it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Ingredients: Sprite, white grape juice, frozen grapes (optional)
Directions: In a large pitcher, mix equal parts Sprite and white grape juice. Stir. Serve in flutes. Garnish with frozen grapes.
Last Minute Details for Overnight Guests
- Lightly mist clean linens with fabric refreshener and pop them in the dryer briefly for a freshly laundered smell.
- Set aside a candle, towels, magazines, bedside carafe and anything else overnight guests may need to be comfortable.
- Be sure to have extra pillows and throws nearby.
- Prepare a small treat to serve your guests when they arrive: warm cider, cheese board.