After I posted my tips for how to survive hosting a holiday party and make your guests feel welcome I thought of a few more tips. Kind of annoying, I really wanted to write one definitive guide for those of us who just want to get our holiday bashes over with and then guilt someone else into hosting them the next year.
Grocery shopping. While I’m sure it has been tried, it is pretty hard to host a holiday party without food. You have to, at the very least, give your guests something to drink. So, whether you are just having cocoa and cookies or a full meal, you will have to hit the grocery store when it is in full holiday madness.
• Write out your party’s menu before you write your grocery list. I have learned, from painful experience, to write out my menu before I write my grocery list because it reminds me to find out exactly what I need to purchase for each menu item I’m serving. When I do this helps me keep from missing important items and having to go back to a busy store full of cranky people.
• Clean out your refrigerator before you go grocery shopping. I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten to do this and then I don’t have room for the turkey to thaw or the veggie tray to sit level because I have take-out containers and past-the-date yogurts taking up all the space.
• Wear good shoes. I mistakenly wore old flip-flops to Costco once on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Have you ever tried to wrangle one of those extra-big bulk-store shopping carts full of goodies while wearing shoes that have no traction? Not good. Grocery stores during the holidays are crowded with frazzled people wielding heavy carts with wonky wheels—it is a good idea to wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes with good traction so you can leap out of danger at a moment’s notice and stand in long check-out lines.
Back to the bathroom. In my last set of tips I mentioned the importance of having sufficient, easy-to-find toilet paper but I neglected to mention the importance of also making sure there is a wastebasket in the bathroom—this is critical. A friend was just sharing with me the horror she has experienced at “that time of the month” when confronted with a bathroom that has no trash can for disposing of used feminine hygiene items. No woman wants to have to smuggle a used pad or tampon out in her purse.
Making beautiful music. Oscar Wilde once wrote that it was a difficult to choose music for a party because if play good music people don’t listen and if you play bad music they don’t talk. A little mood and background music is necessary for any party because too much quiet is intimidating and can feel solemn. Fortunately, you don’t have to over-think the issue at Christmastime. There are plenty of Christmas albums available to set the mood (in keeping with your party’s tone and personality) without grating on everyone’s nerves.
Food for thought on homemade vs. store-made. With the economy in the tank, many of us are trying to make things ourselves to save cash. If you have the time and inclination to do that, by all means, get in touch with your inner caterer.
• The devil you know. I have found that it isn’t always a good idea to try a new recipe for a big party. There’s a lot that can go wrong when trying a new recipe—I once had to make a cookie recipe three times before I created anything edible. If you are already stressed out from holiday shopping, cleaning, and taking care of everything else that goes along with hosting a party, then you might want to go with tried and true recipes.
• Buy-buy love. You consider getting help from the store and buying some prepared items to simplify your food preparation. Depending on how much you enjoy cooking and how stressed and busy you are, it may be worth the extra money to let your store share the food preparation burden. While some folks might be snide if not all the food at the party was lovingly made by your own two hands, the majority won’t care. They just want something that tastes good so they won’t have to lie to save your feelings.
Aprons away. I think it might be Murphy’s Law, but every time I have to take something out of the oven or do some last minute food preparation before a party I seem to end up wearing some of the food as a festive accessory. Now I try to remember to don an apron when I’m all dolled up in my party duds and have to do something with the food, even if it is something as minor as putting a serving spoon in the three-bean salad. It just seems safer to wear an apron than to try to get hummus out of wool.
And that’s it. I think I’m officially out of object lessons derived from my mistakes in the scary world of party hosting. As always, I would love to hear your tips for hosting a holiday soiree because, in addition to being useful, it is encouraging to know I’m not the only one who has tried to learn a better way to do things after making copious mistakes.