Story last updated at 12/3/2008 - 2:01 pm
Hosting family and friends for a special holiday occasion can become a major source of stress. But you can pull off any party, from an elegant dinner to a casual potluck, without requiring post-holiday psychotherapy. Here are some tips to make your holiday party a success:
Choose your party theme. Different types of parties suit different spaces, personalities and budgets, so decide carefully. If you're on a budget, a potluck might be a great idea -; just ask your guests to bring a dish and a bottle of wine or champagne, then provide punch, dessert and appetizers. Coordinate with your guests, though, so you don't end up with five or six seven-layer dips at the buffet.
Pick foods to fit the theme. Serve tapas at a Mediterranean party or samosas at an Indian one. Holiday-themed parties delight everyone. Decide whether children will attend -; if so, you should provide kid-friendly finger foods.
Typically, this is not the time to try out some elaborate new recipe for the first time. Go for family favorites that you can make in your sleep. Better yet, choose dishes that you can prepare ahead, so that you can actually spend time with your guests. You can also hire caterers or buy pre-made foods.
Serve options. Make sure your guests will arrive home safely by providing non-alcoholic options. One great option, Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice Cocktail (www.welchs.com), comes in red and white grape flavors, and it lets kids, mothers-to-be and designated drivers participate in holiday toasts.
If you serve coffee, make sure to have decaffeinated coffee and black tea on hand as well, especially because many people now steer away from caffeine for health reasons. Make sure you have a way to keep coffee warm for your guests such as in an urn or carafe.
Decorate to please. You need to create a festive mood, so pick decorations that match your party's theme. Poinsettas or winter gourds make elegant center pieces, while holiday-themed plasticware might better suit a casual New Year's get-together. Accidents can happen, so you might want to consider purchasing microfiber tablecloths, which resist spills.
Provide nonalcoholic drinks, like sparkling grape juice, so that kids, pregnant women and designated drivers can also celebrate.
1. Clean the refrigerator: Take advantage of Clean Your Refrigerator Day on Nov. 15 and clean the icebox before it is loaded with turkey, mashed potatoes, and all those holiday treats. Start by removing the shelving and drawers, spray down the interior with a solution of 1-cup water and 1-teaspoon dishwashing liquid and clean condiment tops. Also, do not forget to clean the outside. To help repel fingerprints from all the guests going into the refrigerator, use a cleaner like Weiman Stainless Steel Wipes.
2. Polish the silver: After spending a year in storage, silver serving pieces and candlesticks may become dusty or tarnished. Use a silver polish like Wright's Silver Cream, which is safe to use on silver pieces that come in contact with food.
3. Clean the fireplace and stock up on wood/propane: Place newspaper around the fireplace to protect the floor and shovel ashes into a bag. Use a vacuum to pick up the remaining lightweight ashes. For glass doors, scrape off any baked-on soot with a razor and use a vinegar-water solution (½-cup vinegar to 1-gallon water) to clean the glass. Stock up on wood and fire starters or check the propane tank to ensure the fire will burn brightly throughout the holiday season.
4. Prepare the guestroom: Wash the bedding, clean up pet hair to avoid allergic reactions and dust drawers and closets in the guestroom. For wood surfaces such as dressers and nightstands, use a cleaner like Weiman Furniture Wipes to remove any dust, dirt and grime that accumulated and give furniture a brilliant shine.
5. Make room for guest coats and shoes: Place extra hangers in the hall closet and make room if necessary to accommodate guests' bulky jackets. Also, add a welcome mat to help stop dirt and water from entering the home.