Friday, November 5, 2010

In Order to Prepare for the Holidays, a Little Organization is in Order

If you are hosting overnight guests or a special event for the holidays, one great way to relieve stress is to give it a little forethought.  It always begins with a list, even if you don't begin working on any tasks now.  Of course, there are a few things you can do soon that will reduce the crunch time panic later so prioritize what you want to accomplish and even assign some of them to family members.  By the time an event comes, I like to find myself entrenched in one thing only and that is the food preparation.  All else has to be done within a few days of hosting guests.

Some things to think about;
  • Think back on previous parties and what went well for you and what didn't.
  • What events are you hosting, for how many guests and how many children?
  • How will they be invited and when?
  • On what day of the week does the party fall?
  • Who will be cleaning the house and when?
  • Begin to put thoughts into a menu considering a combination of hot and cold, vegetable and fruit vs meat, dip vs platter, sweets vs savory, items cooked in the oven, on the grill and on the stove.  The bigger the party, the more you have to spread out.
  • If you have a favorite serving platter, bowl or silver that you want to use, work them in during your planning.
  • Do you have a theme or color scheme?  Incorporate that into your table decorations.
  • Consider a combination of dishes that can be made in advance vs dishes that can only be made the day of the party.    The menu is similar to a matrix as you should have marks in all areas.  
  • Don't serve things your guests knowingly can't or don't eat.  There are food allergies to be considered as well as religious beliefs.
  • Make sure you have your menu and recipes handy to begin to writing a grocery list.
  • Consider color and texture, making certain to have a mix.  Don't get caught serving 3 brown looking casseroles or too much junk food and sweets and not enough substantial food or 3 dishes using broccoli.
  • If your matrix is absent of something add something new you've never made but is on your level of cooking ability.  
  • Consider the storage of these foods before and after the party and determine if you have ample space.  If not, begin using what you have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer and then actually clean your refrigerator and freezer.
  • Clean your oven.
  • Polish your silver pieces.
  • Consider your equipment and space.  Where will things go and how will people eat these things for example, on what, with what and where?  If it's a standup cocktail party, don't serve things that require a fork and knife.
  • Mid-day parties are the most complicated and should be avoided if possible, especially if your guests are bringing children.  If parties take place during a mealtime, it's much easier for you and your guests to know what to expect.  This issue is if they eat lunch they aren't hungry for your food and if they attend your party, it ruins a later meal.  This absolutely doesn't work at all for most people.
  • If you need linens, platters, cutting boards or glassware now is a good time to shop while the selection is great and sales are a plenty.
  • Spread out the expense by purchasing your beverages now.
  • Give some thought to how beverages will be kept cold and if you will need to make ice leading up to the party.  If you are using coolers, all the cold beverages should be chilling the night before the party or first thing in the morning for an evening event.  This is a good job to delegate.
  • What decorating needs to be done?  It should be completed days ahead of the party.
  • If you are making place cards, you can make them in advance.
  • Sharpen all of your culinary knives and replace broken cookware.  These can be very dangerous in the kitchen, especially when it comes to asking people to help you in the kitchen.
With a little preplanning, you might just be encouraged to find room to get out of your comfort zone.  With a little preplanning, you might just host your best party yet!

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