I LOVE LOVE LOVE hosting for the hoilidays. But let's be real. While the holidays are amazing, they can sometimes be overwhelming. From the planning, to the cleaning, to the crazy family, it can be a little much. So, I can't control what your crazy side of the family does or doesn't do, I can share my secret sauce for making your next holiday gathering a WIN!
The first thing to think about is the menu. It's like the focus of the day. I really love putting together an elaborate meal but I have little patience for an insanely long and complicated recipes. Plus, I have two kids and, honestly, I they don't care if everyone is coming over for Christmas Dinner, they want me attention, NOW! So the key for me is making as much as a I can ahead of time. For instance, a side dish can usually be made 1-2 days ahead of time and the morning/afternoon of the gathering, I pop it in the oven and BAM! If you're looking for those quick and easy but super impressive recipes, check out my post 'Easy & Impressive Holiday Menu'. Lastly, don't forget hors d'oeuvre. Guests are usually hungry when they arrive and does anyone ever arrive at the same time. Let them eat!
2. SOMETHING FOR THE KIDS
I remember dreading the holiday gatherings as a kid because there was never anything to do. Give the kids an activity and if the kids that you're hosting are a bunch of different ages, go the extra step and get something age appropriate for each one. You'll thank me later. The last thing you want is bored children running around your house.
For the younger elementary aged kids, printable placemats that they can color on are great. I would play it safe and stick with crayons =] Peal and stick ornament making was a hit with our younger kids last year and super mess free. For the older kids Wikki Sticks are amazing. Even for children 3+ they're great and they'll keep them entertained.
3. SIMPLE DECOR
Keep the decor simple. You'll thank yourself later. String lights are so inviting and are a simple way of sprucing up any space. I like to put a pre-lit garland in many areas of my home; entry tables, tv consoles, fireplace mantels, frame your windows with them, go crazy! They're easy clean up and a classic way of decorating for the holidays. Fresh cranberries in a clear vase with a floating candle are another great addition.
4. MAKE A FESTIVE DRINK
Whether alcohol is on your menu or not (some family should refrain from the booze!) a festive drink makes even our warmest AZ Christmases feel cozy. My favorite Non-Alcoholic Festive Drink is this and my favorite Festive Adult Beverage is Cranberry Sangria click here for this recipe and more Christmas Cocktails.
5. SAY YES TO HELP
My mom and I are always putting together amazing get-togethers and I'm so happy that we do because these are the things that I'll remember and that my girls will remember. My mom usually handles at least half of the cooking when we host a dinner and the rest of it she's helping me with. I get to learn more of her delicious family recipes and it helps me more than she knows.
6. DON'T STRESS
I used to get so stressed out and worried that everything wouldn't turn out to be perfect to the point where I didn't enjoy myself. A family friend of ours has told me many times, "Plan like Martha and party like Mary". What that means is to be diligent and prepared like Martha was, but don't go overboard and miss the blessings, enjoy yourself like Mary did and if something didn't get done, no one will notice anyway.