As hard as it may be to believe while trying to master the art of souffle, with a bit of forethought it is possible to successfully host without feeling as though you need a holiday to recover from your holiday. These tips for advance preparation can go a long way during the celebration season.
Pre-Plan the Menu: When putting together your menu, instead of choosing myriad recipes, which may need to be concocted and cooked two hours prior to hitting the table, choose at least a few dishes to make ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Also, be sure to consider the cooking time and temperature requirement of each of your dishes; you don't want to plan a menu with four dishes needing to be baked concurrently—or all at once—at varying degrees.
Create a Checklist: Devise a to-do list for up to one month ahead of your gathering's date. This checklist should include tasks that can be completed in advance such as pressing linens, making place cards, or organizing decorations. If you stagger your tasks, you won't be stuck doing it all at the last minute, which would leave you far too exhausted to enjoy the get together. Be sure to add to your schedule any food preparation that can be done a few days prior as well. Many recipes—particularly desserts—can be made and stored in the refrigerator for a week or more. Making them ahead of time will leave you with less to conquer on party day.
Multi-task: This is really the key word for the holiday season. Do it as much as possible—even if it means utilizing a bit of outside help. The holidays are a great time to make use of a local food service. This way, while you're trying to dig the tree skirt out of a black hole in the attic, someone else is picking out the perfect box of clementines. While you may pay a little more overall for the convenience, do not forget that your time and sanity have value as well.
Enlist Outside Help: Consider hiring a cleaning service to come the day before the gathering. Task them with the chores you least enjoy: sanitizing bathrooms, dusting, and/or scrubbing hardwood floors. Warning: Be sure to schedule this service well in advance—chances are many busy moms will have the same idea.