It used to be that December was the month where everyone was attending house parties and gatherings with friends and family to celebrate the holidays, but with so much celebrating that needs to be done, I think we need to start sooner, much sooner- like this weekend! The only downside to entertaining-the preparation-YIKES! So, if you are like me and LOVE to entertain and spend time with friends and family but don’t necessarily want to stress out over getting ready to entertain, this is for you!
My list of “How to Entertain, Simply, Without Losing Your Mind and Getting Totally Stressed Out!” is ready to help you out so you can enjoy hosting just as much as visiting! I’m so excited to share this with you-and to help you out, if you would like some practice on hosting, feel free to invite me over!
Our Top Tips for Stress-Free Entertaining
- Start with a clean slate-I NEED my house to be cleaned before I can even begin anything else. I can’t be the only one like this, can I? I also have the rest of life that requires my time so it really can’t take me a week just to clean the house in preparation for an evening, so I have had to learn a few tricks and tips that make life easier. First, don’t clean the house the day of the event-TOO MUCH STRESS! I clean during the week prior. I do a mini-clean the day of the event, but the majority of the cleaning, especially the rooms where guests won’t be visiting, are done earlier in the week. The day of the event, I clean the guest bathroom (make sure to put up fresh towels, check the toilet paper roll and the soap dispenser and empty the garbage can). I also sweep and mop in the kitchen and surrounding area. A tidy is the best thing you can do. The day before the event, I remove all things on my counter and in the room that look cluttered and put them in another room in a basket.
- I set out my serving dishes and cutlery earlier. This prevents me from preparing something and forgetting to put it out to serve. Yup. That happened. I had starving guests and a full fridge. It also allows you to make sure you have enough space and you don’t forget something like napkins (again, another embarrassing story to go along with that…I can tell you the whole story over some wine!). It also gives me a chance to make sure all my dishes are out of the dishwasher and then I won’t be handwashing dishes on the day of the event!
- I love to decorate, but I don’t have a lot of time, so I take a quick look at Pinterest (yup, only a quick one because I can get lost there for a long time!) and get my creative juices flowing and then I take inventory of what I have that I can put together with minimal time, fuss and money. Here is a centerpiece I created with a tray I have, a lantern I have (and battery operated candle) and all I did was go out and buy the pumpkins and babys breath while getting groceries. Within 10 minutes, I had thrown it together. Pretty happy with it (and a little proud of myself!) and I love tray decorating as I keep it on my kitchen table and need to remove it for dinner so it’s easy to transport, yet has quite a presence on the table! Just one centerpiece is enough to make a room look decorated! What do you think? Like it?
- Another thing I was reading about in preparation for this blog, is creating a “flow” for the event…I have never consciously done this, but I guess it counts when I think of where I will serve the food and where people will eat, etc. So, when I put out my serving dishes and/or set the table, that is creating a flow. If you are having a larger group, perhaps consider different “stations” where you can have tables with a few snacks so that people will circulate. That’s all I got for “flow”-hope it is helpful!
- What I DO know to be really helpful and have learned from past experience to do, is keep food simple. You can have wonderful, tasty, eye catching food without having to purchase and use a great number of ingredients and take a huge amount of effort and time. In fact, here are some great tips to make it really simple by buying pre-made food and having it look amazing:
- Garnish EVERYTHING!!! Put that purchased potato salad in a lovely vintage bowl and garnish with tomatoes and parsley and TA-DA!!! Beautiful!
- Take your frozen concentrate lemonade and fill a dispenser-the one with the little spout, and add ice cubes, mint leaves and slices of lemon and you have a stunning and inviting drink station! You can do the same with water just add cucumber slices, oranges and lemons and limes, or anything else you want to add to the water.
- If it is a smaller gathering, put the food, like salads, into single serving containers, like stemless wine glasses. Wow-suddenly salad looks incredibly appealing!
- Have bright colours-I am attracted to bright reds, greens and yellows. Much more appealing than beige. So, if you have hummus, sprinkle some chopped red pepper on top to add a bit of colour. Think outside the box for different serving wear-I’ve stood pretzel sticks in water glasses or put brownies on a pedestal cake plate…wine glasses for salad-who knew!!! Presentation does make a difference!
- I am loving the charcuterie platter-so I created one and it’s quite easy, looks amazing, tastes fantastic and has something for everyone, yet is simple entertaining at its best! Here is how I created mine: Start with meats and cheeses. I got 3-4 different meats and cheeses-each very different considering taste, colour and texture. A great aged cheddar is amazing, some unique goat cheese with carmelized onion, and a soft spreadable herbed cheese. The meats I chose based on what I know we like-salami, garlic sausage, and turkey pepperoni minis are so cute and so popular! Then, something savory-either pickles or olives works here. Then nuts-carmelized are awesome, but roasted is also great! I had both cashews and pecans. Then the sweet component-dried fruit. I added a small amount of cranberries, some apricots and dried mango, cut into small pieces for just that hint of sweetness in between bites. Simple to prepare, satisfying to eat and beautiful to present-all the perfect storm of simple entertaining!
- The day of the event, before guests arrive, clean out the dishwasher and sink and wipe down the countertops. If you are putting a dish in the oven, line it with aluminum foil so clean up is easier. Turn on lights in rooms and light candles, even if it isn’t dark yet, so there is an inviting feel to your home. Once it gets dark, you don’t want to be running around turning on lights and lighting candles.
- A BIG tip when hosting is to accept help. Friends may offer to bring something…always say “YES-please bring WINE!!!” There is something about contributing that brings friends closer, so accept their offer and then enjoy the wine!
- How to quickly cool wine-something I wish I knew years ago! Wet a linen dish towel and wrap it around the bottle and put in the fridge for 30 minutes or in the freezer for 15 minutes. Voila-the wine your friend brought is ready to serve before they have taken off their shoes!!!
That’s it! I hope you enjoy the Season of Entertaining and found something useful in here. Happy Fall to everyone from all of us here at Elite Kitchens & Bathrooms!!!