New Year’s Eve at Home ~ With Style

Invite a few close friends to ring in the New Year with an easy, intimate party at home.

Preparation

Considering that New Year’s is a pretty hot-ticket holiday, it’d behoove you to let your friends know sooner rather than later that you’ll be hosting a party at your place. Paperless Post is a good alternative for those who don’t want to track down friends’ addresses, go out to buy a roll of stamps, or leave the house. For those on a budget, there are several free invitation designs to choose from.

Safety

Hire a carpool so no one has to drive home. This is best done by using a traditional car service that can be scheduled for pick up and home delivery. Other ride share companies like Uber and Lyft offer similar services but they cannot be reserved and on a busy night you might find your friends coming in late and leaving far later than desired.

Drinks

For a refreshing alternative to Champagne, try Prosecco. For nonalcoholic selection try Twelve, a fizzy blend of fruit and herbal tea. It’s delicious and certainly more elegant than sparkling cider. Pellegrino and Perrier are also very nice to keep people happy and hydrated.

Food

Don’t let people get hungry! Make it easy on yourself and your wallet. Get some fabulous, frozen pre-made appetizers and keep them rolling from the oven. Cheese and cracker, charcuterie and veggie platters that require no cooking and can be made ahead of time are always crowd pleasers. These can even be purchased from your local deli if time is more important than slicing and arranging your own cheese.

Sweets

We’ve all been eating way too much sugar all December but if you want to do a small dessert and make it look special, dust some edible glitter onto your store bought cookies or cake. Yes, edible glitter is a thing.

Music

Set up Pandora at a volume where you can hear it – but don’t have to raise voices to hear each other. Hipster Cocktail Party is a great one. Don’t let the name turn you off; the music they play is terrific. Bill Withers, Nina Simone, Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin are some regulars you’ll find on this station.

Parting Gifts

Send everyone home with recovery bags: Insert a packet of emergenC, a pre-packaged duo of Tylenol and breath mints and attach it to a bottle of water.

Ten Ideas for New Thanksgiving Traditions

Most of us already have our “ways” of doing Thanksgiving – ways our mother did it, ways our extended family did it, ways our neighborhood did it. Thanksgiving doesn’t lend itself well to trying out new traditions, but sometimes the situation calls for it – you can’t make it home for Thanksgiving, for example, or you have a family now and want to start traditions of your own. So what can you do to heighten, deepen, and extend Thanksgiving to its most memorable end?

  1. Start the day with an indulgent, relaxing breakfast.

While some people are firmly in the “no breakfast” camp to save room for the big meal later, we love the idea of starting the day in such a festive, delicious way! Pancakes, waffles, eggs, even pie – it’s all good.

  1. Take time for yourself before time with family.

As wonderful as Thanksgiving can be, we all know it can be exhausting and overwhelming. That’s why it’s such a good idea to deliberately take a little time for yourself during the day to make sure you enjoy the holiday on your terms.

  1. Remember loved ones who have passed.

Holidays can be bittersweet when beloved family members or friends are missing from the gathering. Look through old photo albums and recall funny, tender or important achievements of those who are gone but not forgotten.

  1. Write your thanks on a butcher paper tablecloth.

Cover the table with butcher paper. During the meal, distribute pens and ask each family member to write down a few things they’re thankful for on the paper and then take turns reading them out loud. We love the practice during the Thanksgiving meal of naming things you’re thankful for, and this is a unique way to do it – especially since you can tear off and save particularly meaningful memories.

  1. Let everyone toast!

Another way to make gratitude gushing even more festive is to let everyone make a toast. Raise your glass to the year, to your family, to your friends!

  1. Have the kids serve dessert.

Let the bigger kids get in on the action of serving to their family.  Put them in charge of delivering dessert and coffee after the meal. The oldest can plate and pour while the younger kids can take orders and serve. It keeps them busy after the meal while the adults talk and gives them a broader sense of appreciation for the holiday.

  1. Have Thanksgiving dinner early.

Planning for a 3 p.m. dinner shifts the momentum of the day. An earlier meal creates a more relaxed celebration, plus there’s plenty of time to digest before going to bed.  An earlier dinner also accommodates traveling guests and lets them return home at a reasonable hour.

  1. Take a long walk together after dinner.

No one is ready for dessert right after dinner anyway, so why not take that time to go on a long walk with your loved ones? Enjoy the cool, crispy (and hopefully dry) autumn weather and get the blood flowing again after all that rich food.

  1. If it’s just two of you, really treat yourself.

It can be hard to justify making a huge Thanksgiving meal when it’s just two of you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be any less special, or even any less of a treat. In fact, it should be more so. Make it special by treating yourselves to nicer ingredients and better wine than you would normally use if you were cooking for a large group.

  1. Stay connected with family members far away.

If you can’t be with your loved ones on Thanksgiving, thankfully you can still be together – just virtually! Do a video call or Google Hangout before dinner, or Facetime family members in for the giving-thanks portion of the evening.

Prepping your Kitchen for the Holidays

Check spices that may need restocking

You may think your spice rack is well-stocked, but before you hunker down for the holiday, double-check expiration dates and give them a sniff test. Spices can go rancid or lose their flavor and scent entirely.

Audit your Pantry

A well-stocked pantry of coffee, tea, soda, and snacks is a great start. Then add wine (red, white, and sparkling), unscented candles, and an extra bag of ice for the freezer to your shopping list.

Get your service ware ready

Have your knives sharpened so you don’t end up hacking away at your honey-baked ham. If you are planning on any formal dinner parties over the holidays; polish silver, wash and iron fabric napkins, and clean china well in advance so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute.

 Clean your cutting board(s)

If you haven’t done a deep clean on them lately, now is a good time to do so. If you want to avoid using bleach or chemicals, sprinkle the board with a coarse salt and massage it in using a lemon wedge. The lemon juice disinfects and neutralizes any odors, while the salt sloughs off any scraps and stains.

Clean the microwave

There are fewer things less appetizing than a filthy microwave and it is so easy to clean one. Put one cup vinegar and one cup hot water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 5-10 minutes (depending on the level of mess and the strength of your microwave), remove the bowl and wipe the inside clean with a damp towel.

Getting new glassware ready

Put your hair dryer on its highest heat setting and hover it directly over the sticky label for about 30 seconds. Next, test a corner to see if the label lifts up easily. (If not, zap it for another 30 seconds.) Then peel the label off. If there is residue left behind, rub a few drops of olive oil on any sticky parts and let it sit for a minute or two. Then gently peel or scrub the remaining bits off.

Bottle Opener

If you don’t have a good bottle opener – invest in one that does all the work for you, never causing a fuss.

The Refrigerator
Pull everything out. Discard bottles with remnants of ketchup and old leftovers hiding in the back. Remove shelves and drawers and wash them in warm soapy water. Make as much room for pre-prepared dishes and the ultimate onslaught of new leftovers.

Smile
Your kitchen looks great and will function for you like a champ all holiday season long.