For the past several years we’ve hosted a Holiday Open House for friends and family. Everyone is invited. Adults, kids, pets, you name it. We have crafts for the kids, booze for the adults and food for all ages. Other than that, there’s no agenda except to pause for an afternoon and enjoy each others’ company.
Every year I come out of my turkey stupor and mild Thanksgiving hangover that is Thanksgiving and realize I’ve given zero thought to our holiday party. No date picked, no invites sent, no menu considered. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
And every year I briefly consider canceling it. I mean the holiday season is jam packed enough without adding one more thing, right? My kids school activities alone (performances, parties, toy drives, etc.) could be a whole other full time job. Why add another block to the leaning Jenga tower that is my life this time of year?
But I quickly scrap that idea and here’s why: First, I genuinely enjoy party planning. I like trolling the internet for recipe ideas and devising the menu. I like coming up with the crafts. I love going to Michaels or some other store and seeing something that inspires me. And I truly enjoy making all the food for it. I would enjoy all the planning and prep even if I didn’t get to attend the party.*
But even more than that, at least for me, the party has become a way to re-connect with people. The friends that I cherish but see to infrequently. The people I see on a daily/weekly basis only in hurried passing in the school hall or the chance encounter at the grocery store. And even the people that I do get meaningful time with during the year. Plus, I like that it reinforces for my kids the importance of community and tradition. Alright, enough schmaltz for now.
After that brief moment of thinking things are too busy for a party, I always decide to push forward. And this year was a complete success both in preparation and the actual party itself.
With regard to preparation I knew I was going to be out of town for part of the week (more on that another time) leading up to the party, so I loaded the menu with items I could make a week before, freeze, and then cook on the day of. Even for the dessert (with the exception of the macarons) all the doughs and such were made the week before, frozen and then baked off in the day or two before the party. In that regard, Smitten Kitchen’s advice on an easier way to make cookies was super helpful. Definitely worth a read.
As to the party itself, I think everyone had a good time. People seemed to enjoy the food. Most of it was gone by the end which is always a good sign. And booze was consumed. All my family members had fun. Success all around.
Without further adieu here is what I served (I’ll be posting the many of the recipes in the coming weeks if anything strikes your fancy):
Spinach and Gruyere Puffs
Beef Empanadas with Chimchurri Sauce
Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites
Cocktail Turkey Meatballs
Pumpkin Hummus with Pita Chips
Brie En Croute with Cranberry Relish
Cheese Board with a variety of cheeses, crackers and fig spread, etc.
A goldfish “Christmas Tree” (kid-sized cups of goldfish arranged in a tree shape)
Cinnamon Sugar Candied Pecans
Peppermint Brownies Cakes
Peppermint White Chocolate Macarons
Cranberry, white chocolate, macadamia nut blondies
Ginger Molasses Cookies
Double Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Vanilla Icing
Hot cocoa bar (slow cooker is great for this)
Cranberry vodka punch
The only main items that I bought were the cut-up fruit and veggies. Mama’s not going to waste time cutting up produce if I can just order inexpensive trays at the grocery store. Though, as you can see in the pictures, I did transfer the fruit and veggies onto nice white serving platters. I’m classy like that.
For crafts I went low key. I bought the ones below from Oriental Trading: easy to make, cute and cheap. Wins all around. I also put out a bunch of plain sugar cookies I’d made the day before with various icings and sprinkles and let the kids decorate themselves into a sugar coma.
So there you go. My holiday party in a nutshell. Now that it’s over and I’ve finally finished all my holiday shopping I’m going to hibernate until December 25th. No one wake me.
*If you asked my husband he’d probably tell you differently. In the last minutes (or hours, days, whatever) before any party, I’m scrambling to finish things and wondering where the time went. I’m not to be messed with. Even joking? Bad idea. Your only choice is to do what I say as I bark orders at you or get out of my way. My husband coined the phrase “Baker’s Rage” to describe this phenomenon. I think he determines the success of any party based partially on the level of my Baker’s Rage leading up to it.
**I bought this party fountain early last year. Best $18 I ever spent. Every kid who comes to any party at our house is super impressed with it. You wanna get kids to drink more liquids? Put it in a party fountain.