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November 16, 2016

Your First Holiday Dinner in Your New Home

One of the most exciting (and most stressful!) events you’ll plan is your first holiday dinner for family and friends in your new home. With all the choices open to you when it comes to fall and winter holiday gatherings, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to host a fabulous get-together. Of course, you want everything to be perfect. However, the more you worry, the less fun you (and your guests) will have. You can throw a fantastic party with relatively little difficulty if you focus on what really matters, and forget the rest! Here’s a few great tips we’ve put together that will help you impress your guests and save your sanity. Gather Your Guests Be realistic about the head count…only invite as many people as your dining areas can comfortably hold. Cramming people so tightly together that they can’t pass the gravy is sure to make for a difficult meal. The kid’s table is a helpful tradition here – you can spread your guest net wider by adding seating for youngsters in the kitchen or living room. Appoint the older children as “team leads” to assist younger ones and help keep order. Decide if you’ll be planning a family gathering, hosting an informal group of friends sharing a casual meal or captaining an “orphan party”, where you invite everyone you know who is far away from family and friends during the holidays to come on over. For your first go-round, avoid mixing these crowds overly much. Inviting a bunch of people who don’t know each other puts more stress on you, because you’ll be trying to make introductions and set up conversations while you’re putting dinner together. If your gathering is small, say, eight or ten people, allow guests to seat themselves for dinner. If you’re having a larger group, consider using place cards to facilitate conversation and ensure compatibility in the group. Double Duty Holidays If you have enough space, consider planning a combination holiday dinner and housewarming. Instead of housewarming gifts, suggest that guests bring a side or dessert, along with the recipe. You can also use festive holiday cards to serve as greetings, invitations and change of address notices all at the same time. Choose one with a cozy house scene or have one custom made with a photo of your new house. Many web-based companies and local printers offer them at surprisingly low prices. Decorate Strategically You may not even have time to unpack all of your holiday decorations before the big event, so keep it simple. A few carefully placed pieces show your holiday spirit without overwhelming your home’s décor. And make sure you measure the space for your Christmas tree accurately - you’ll want to make sure that the centerpiece of your holiday display isn’t missing its top! New ceilings may have new heights that need to be accommodated. Scented candles add a warm, homey touch and create a welcoming atmosphere. Keep centerpieces low to promote easy conversation. Add appropriate background music at low volume to set the stage for your party and let the good times roll! Mix Traditional and Modern Cuisine Favorites such as oven roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, eggnog and cranberry sauce are expected, so be sure to meet the expectations of your guests. However, don’t be afraid to complement these staples with alternative dishes such as a daring soup, roasted root vegetables, creative casserole-style sides and baked apples with ice cream. However, avoid making a dish for the first time when you’re hosting your party. You don’t want to have to serve a failed experiment or discover at the last minute that you don’t have an essential ingredient handy. Keep in mind that guests have different dietary preferences and restrictions, but don’t micro-plan the meal to fit every need. If you serve a nice variety of choices, everyone should find something to satisfy them. However, if someone offers to bring a specific dish, accept graciously. This person may simply want to make sure that he or she has a known alternative if they have strict dietary restrictions. Organization Is Key Begin cooking earlier than you think you will need to start. Inevitably, you’ll run into delays and snags that will ensure that dinner hits the table later than expected. If you do stay on schedule, imagine how nice it will be to have fifteen or twenty minutes before your guests arrive to unwind with a good book and a glass of wine! You can also make several dishes in advance, especially ones that don’t need to be served piping hot. Many dishes can be made ahead of time, especially if they will be served chilled or at room temperature. Be sure to allow yourself sufficient time to sit down with your guests and enjoy the meal! Cleaning Up Is Hard to Do Yes, by far the worst part of throwing a great dinner party is the clean-up. If you’re comfortable with accepting help from guests who offer to stack plates, wash dishes or pack up leftovers, refuse once. If they persist, they aren’t just asking to be polite; they honestly want to help. At that point, the more the merrier!
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