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Monday, December 1, 2008

Are you ready for holiday entertaining?

Have you ever been in the midst of holiday baking only to find that you're out of butter? Did you ever have unexpected guests arrive at your door and you were totally unprepared? After having these things happen to me on more than one occasion I began a system that helps to keep me in jolly spirits throughout the holiday season.

I won't sugar coat it. There is about 4 hours of work involved. But you will be ready for almost anything or anyone.

Shortly before the holidays I begin by taking down all the glasses on the top shelf of our cupboard that are usually covered in dust and pop them into the dishwasher. I also take a bit of time to switch out our everyday mugs with mugs that we have gathered from numerous German Christmas markets. Taking the few minutes to do this simple task insures that I will always have clean and festive glassware to offer any visitors.

I also check the other cupboards for rarely used serving pieces that may need a bit of polish and also straighten things up as I go along. Thank goodness I did this as I couldn't find my glass measuring cup. The individual who usually unloads the dishwasher confessed that it had recently been broken. Whew, potential crisis averted!

Tip: Use lid racks or small adjustable curtain rods to keep trays, cutting boards and platters neat.


I also go through all of the drawers. In addition to throwing out 800 pens that didn't work, I found that I was almost out of matches, aluminum foil and AA batteries. Can you imagine the horror of a new toy and no batteries? The thought gives me shudders! Taking a moment to check under the sink insures that I am well stocked with light bulbs, vacuum bags and cleaning products.

Tip: Keep your cleaning products in a plastic container. I learned this lesson the hard way when a bottle of lemon oil leaked over everything. Contained messes are much easier to clean up.

To make sure that I will not be elbow deep in pasty when discovering a missing ingredient I go through my spices and other unrefrigerated condiments. For quicker prep work I do separate my spices into two categories: baking and cooking. Yes, I do alphabetize my spices. Forget the OCD jokes, it just makes it quicker to find what I want.

Tip: Use the best vanilla you can afford. It truly does make a difference. Also, put your baking soda into an air tight container. The reason is that baking soda is famous for its odor absorbing qualities. By placing it in a container your cookies will remain tasting like cookies instead of some other mystery flavor.

The pantry. Martha Stewart gives the best advice on what staples to stock. I don't bother messing with perfection.

But, during the holidays I like to have a few things on hand that require little, if any prep work that I can present on a clean and shiny tray. Voila! It says to your guest, welcome to my home, you are special.

~Crackers: brand doesn't matter. Buy what you like as you will eventually have to eat the rest.


~Hot chocolate or cider mixes



~Assorted chocolates~yeah I know. I keep chocolate covered cherries on hand because I won't eat them. Ditto on the hard cookie mix.

~Festive paper cups, plates, napkins, forks, in case of a crowd and you don't have time for dishes.

~Candles~ Ambiance. Light up a vanilla candle and your guests will think that you actually baked the cookies your serving.

In the refrigerator keep the following cold:

~A mix of sodas, sparkling cider or a bottle of white wine.

~Spreadable cheeses

~Carrots and celery

The freezer:


~IKEA meatballs, seriously. These are for the guests that stay through the dinner hour.

Now sit back and be ready to be crowned HOSTED WITH THE MOSTESS!

Make sure you sign up for my vintage Christmas giveaway. It's the next post down.


Mildred said...

These are all great tips. I'm looking forward to you posting about your Thanksgiving trip.

Stacey said...

Oh my goodness, you have great idea. I have thought of a few of these but you are on top of it! So many times I've fussed at myself for not being prepared...this list will really help. :)

jewelstreet said...

I have to say you are so much more prepared than I am! Good thing no one comes to my house. Though I am keeping your tips for implementing when I'm doing the cabinet remodel.

I've got a tip. I find real butter is much better used in a lot of baking like snickerdoodles. I'm sure most know this though.

Mary Grace McNamara said...

Laura, thanks so much for your great tips. The one I like the most is the spring curtain rods used for organizing platters and cookie sheets! What a great idea! I have been kicking myself for not getting one of those cabinets with dividers for this purpose when we were putting the kitchen together, but now I can do it myself for a lot less money, and make it as flexible as I want.

I'm still looking for one more person to sign up for my Pay It Forward exchange. If anyone is interested, just click the button on my sidebar.



Rue said...

Hi Laura :)

Great tips! My favorite one is the chocolate covered cherries because I won't eat those either. I have serious control issues with chocolate LOL

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving :)

KDLOST said...

I am inspired!! Time to go organize! Thanks for the tips! You just have such lovely taste. I can't say that enough.

Priscila said...

I love love love entertaining I just hate hate hate cleaning before and after hahaha

Shimmy Mom said...

Great ideas!!! And I love IKEA meatballs.
Thanks again,

Miss Linda said...

Wonderful ideas, dear Laura! I am going to print this out and go through it top to bottom. Thank you for taking the time to post all of this wonderful information!

Cheryl said...

beautiful! I love that white pantry and the chalkboard door! now if only I had a pantry!

The Berry's Patch said...

Great tips. Your spices look like mine, except mine aren't alphabetized. That's next on my "to do" list. I like keeping a few things on hand in case we have uninvited guests. I could never keep chocolate covered cherries though. They would ate in seconds here.

Thanks for the ideas! :-)

Miss Sandy said...

Great tips and tricks. I LOVE the tension rod idea and WILL be using this idea! You will never hear and OCD joke from me, I too keep my baking spices and cooking spices separate and yes they are alphabetized! Thanks for such a wealth of info. in your post today. Have a great week.

Priscila said...

haha! your so cute!! Anything counts as long as u use one or all of the images! :)
I got your lovely package today! The journal is breathtaking beautiful! I love the tags!!!! I studied fashion in collage but am thinking of going back and studing design and ur a big part in me thinking about it!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

I am totally smacking my head over storing cleaning products in plastic containers. Of course! GAH!!! Why didn't I ever figure that out? Well, that's why you're here. To help us domestically-challenged out.

See you on the SITSmas highway tomorrow!!!

A Hint of Home said...

Thanks for all the helpful hints you gave. They will be very useful.

Tea Time With Melody said...

These are great, but I would much rather you come to my house and do it for me. lol I'll even pay you!

Meredith Teagarden said...

GREAT tips! Love the baking spices separated from cooking!!!

heather said...

I seriously want an invite to a holiday party (or heck- any party) at your house!

Julie said...

You are so very wise! I love your blog, Mrs. Laura.

Julie said...

These are great tips. I love your blog, Mrs. Laura.

Tracy said...

Great tips, Laura. Especially the one about getting my glassware and Christmas mugs ready BEFORE I need them! Seems simple enough, and I always plan to do just that, but it somehow gets away from me and I end up scrambling at the last minute. Maybe not so much this year, thanks to you!

new every morning said...

Just found your blog.

We are like-minded, girlie!

Thanks for the tips. I'll be back!

Krista said...

wow... I like to be organized but never keep it up. This is a classic list worthy of printing and pasting inside my spice cupboard... as soon as I manage to get another ink cartridge for my printer... LOL. I will be back to read more, I like what I have found so far!

Jen said...

I had to laugh reading your holiday entertaining prep. A woman after my own heart. - at least, someone who I always wanted to be