By Terry L. Cooch
The holidays are the time to gather with friends and family. We enjoy conversation, laughter and togetherness. Planning this can offer great satisfaction and appreciation. At the same time, planning, executing and cleaning up after such gatherings can be overwhelming! It doesn’t need to be.
Efficiency Matters - The simpler entertaining is, the more likely you will do it. Reduce stress and protect your energy level by decluttering your kitchen and dining room. Is the apple peeler or the hot dog cooker worth the space they take up? If not, move them. Reorganize what remains to reduce the time and frustration of inefficient preparation, serving and cleanup. Set up so helpers don’t cross into your work zone.
Enjoy The Process - Once the kitchen is ready, determine what you love about entertaining. What do you enjoy and do well? Consider your time, budget and energy level. Design a party around all of these considerations. You’re a talented cook, but not into details? Then skip the flowers and feed your guests well - that is what they’ll enjoy and remember. If making your house look its best is important to you, then focus on decorations and lighting and keep the menu and bar simple.
Plan To Party! - Pick a date, make guest list, and decide on the mood and menu. If cooking, plan plenty of make-ahead recipes and keep to your comfort and talent level. Prepare a shopping list and schedule time to clean and decorate. Tip: Guests have a great time when they feel they are being treated. Oversized candy bowls or glasses of champagne are just the signal that your mission was to please.
Do, Delegate Or Drop - Manage your to-do list by first evaluating your plan. Prioritize by importance - place tags add an elegant touch, but the evening can go on without them. If the ice is never picked up, that could put a damper on the fun. Entertainment is about sharing your home. Sharing the work can help you achieve that experience. Decide when, where, how and who will carry out all of your to-do’s. Plan early and communicate the help you will need. Be specific, assume nothing.
Shortcuts Are The New Perfection - Knowing how to entertain simply is in. Having a friend who makes favors and place settings can set you free from more tasks. It can be just as impressive to know where to buy something new and delicious as to prepare it yourself. Take advantage of that to enjoy the evening as much as your guests. Overlook what you spilled, forgot or burned and everyone else will.
Hosting a successful party is enormously gratifying. But entertainment does require considerable organizing skills. Moderate goals and expectations and liberal use of list-making are instrumental in creating an atmosphere that both you and your guests will enjoy.
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