I used to be known for my Christmas party. I had one every year. Hundreds of dollars spent on food. Friends from all facets of our life were invited. Each year I spent so much time in the kitchen, serving, cleaning up, trying to talk to everyone, that I actually didn’t get to spend any time with my friends. I was more of the roaming, stressed hostess. The last time we had a party, I hired someone to come do the dishes and help serve. I had more time to talk to a few friends before I noticed that all the food was gone and some of the guests were so drunk and obnoxious that they started offending and scaring off the other guests. We needed to change something. (Not the friends, I love those goofy guys.)
The only good thing about those parties was my ice breaker. People talked about it and looked forward to it all year. I split the guests into groups of unaffiliated couples. They were given a sheet of paper with all of our animals’ names on it and told to tell what movie each name came from. Back then we only had eight cats and one or two dogs. It would be a hoot to do it now with sixteen chickens, two goats, two alpacas, along with eight cats, and two dogs!
We decided to have individual dinners with each group of friends. I could be more present and really enjoy my friends. We often go to a restaurant with Monte and Erik to exchange presents and celebrate our friendship and the year. Toast the year ahead. We’ll meet Margie and her family tonight at the wine bar. Rodney, Pat, Kat, Rod, and Mark will come over Christmas night. Last night we hosted Nancy and her crew. Farmgirls reunited. We made it through a treacherous summer of farmer’s markets. Didn’t kill each other and came out stronger. I was delighted to have her and her husband, daughter and boyfriend, and Nancy’s nephew who was home on leave from the Marines over for dinner. My girls were here, the twinkly lights, candle lights, and oil lamp seems to shine brighter and sweeter with friends over.
Here are some tips for putting together a seamless holiday dinner. Everything is done in advance. Don’t choose a day you work or will be running around to host ten people for dinner.
1. Clean the house during the day or the day before. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Candlelight and friends are forgiving.
2. Set the table hours in advance. Shoo cats off the table for the rest of the day.
3. Prepare coffee pot and place after dinner cups on a tray.
4. Choose the menu a good week before and make sure you have the ingredients for it. Let friends bring things. They truly don’t mind (after all, their house is staying clean!). Drinks, or an appetizer, or dessert could be taken care of if you only ask.
5. Get creative with table settings. I used an old lace curtain, topped with a round lace tablecloth, topped with a large, vintage doily. Candles along the table. Mix matched Christmas china…..let’s stop there. I know that it is tempting to use Christmas paper plates but it is so much prettier and makes people feel special if you go all out with presentation. I had everyone wash just their plate and I have considerably less dishes to do this morning. Or Doug does anyway. A canning jar acted as a water cup with a wine glass next to it. Instead of cloth napkins, I threw in a bit of humor with cocktail napkins with funny sayings. People started laughing immediately upon arrival as soon as they saw them.
6. Back to the meal. I always choose something like soup or pasta that can be made and sit in a pot on warm in the oven until ready to serve. No more cooking while folks are over. I made goulash last night in a cast iron pot and placed it in the oven. A jar of sauerkraut, a jar of apple and pear sauces, and Nancy’s crisp salad rounded out the meal. (It sure is nice having a full root cellar of canned food. It is like having a grocery store in the basement.)
7. Open up the wine and have a glass. ‘Tis the time of year to celebrate!
Let’s see how you fare on the ice breaker. Reply with your answers. They are characters from a movie, play, or commercial.
Snuggles Sheer Khan-
Frankie and Louie (from a commercial)-
Mr. Boogedy Boo (Boo boo)-