Hosting Happy Holidays: Simpler Ways to Entertain the Masses
One of the most unfortunate realities of hosting a holiday gathering is that you often end up spending the entire night in the kitchen completing last-minute preparations and trying to keep up with the dishes. If this is the case, make sure you are able to enjoy your guests by bringing the party to you.
More Cooks in the Kitchen: Rather than shoo would-be chefs out of the kitchen while you season, stir, and cook, invite everyone in! Purchase inexpensive aprons at craft stores for adults and older children who will be attending your party. You can even put their names on the front or otherwise decorate the aprons if you’d like.
Identify tasks such as peeling potatoes and slicing carrots, and write those tasks on slips of paper. Put the slips into a hat, and let each guest draw a task with which they can assist or which they must complete in full. It generally will take each person only a few minutes to complete their task (unless some poor soul draws “Make Creme Brulee from scratch—blow torch in pantry”). This approach saves the host several hours’ worth of work, plus it’s a fun activity to do as a group.
The Art of Pot Luck: Another idea is to let those on the guest list know what the main entree will be a few months in advance. Ask them to come up with a side dish, appetizer, or dessert (or a combination thereof). If the guests are local, ask them to prepare and bring their selected item. If they are out-of-town guests, ask them to provide you with the necessary ingredients so that you can purchase them ahead of time. Your guests are then responsible for preparing their recipe. Everyone shares in the meal preparation, and there’s an unexpected and welcome variety to the menu, too.
Embrace Frozen Food: If you insist on preparing the entire meal yourself, don’t discount the convenience and quality of frozen appetizers or side dishes from establishments such as discount grocers or warehouse clubs. One year a friend of mine used frozen items from a warehouse club for her entire Christmas menu—appetizers to dessert (she made me promise not to use her name in case her in-laws read this). No one was any the wiser and it was the easiest holiday meal she’s ever prepared.
Dealing with the Aftermath
So, you’ve eaten a fabulous meal, shared stories, played a few rounds of charades, and laughed until tears ran down your face. When it’s time for everyone to depart, you bid them farewell and turn to find what appears to be the remnants of a level-five tornado in your kitchen. Suddenly, joy turns back to anxiety. There are ways to avoid this.
Clean as You Go: You can avoid feeling shell-shocked by party clean up with a little preventive planning. Consider hiring your favorite babysitter, enlisting one of your family’s older children, or asking a friendly neighbor to clean and tidy up as your party progresses. He or she can pick up used cups and plates, load and unload the dishwasher, and take out trash bags and recyclables while you enjoy the company of your guests. This way when it comes time to finally say goodbye to that last guest, you can enjoy walking through a clean home on your way to bed!
Post-Party Cleaning Services: Whether or not you hired a cleaning service on the front end, do consider hiring one on the back end. You may not be terribly concerned at this point about having the house vacuumed and dusted, but the mountain of dishes may be more than you bargained for. Find a service that will clean only your kitchen. These days, many cleaning services contract for a specific block of time and will do whatever you need done during that time. Have the house cleaners do whatever is necessary to take this part of your home back to the state it was in just before the first guest rang the doorbell.
Reward the Host and Hostess: Don’t neglect to treat yourself for all of your hard work. Make an appointment at a local spa or salon for a manicure, pedicure, or the works. Knowing you have an hour or a day of pampering on the schedule will give you something to look forward to as you’re chopping ten pounds of onions by hand.
The holidays are a lot of work, no doubt. But they also provide an opportunity to have a lot of fun and make many memories. With the right planning, you can ensure that these memories will inspire you to jump in and host again next year.
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