easy-holiday-entertaining-mason-jar-lights

Let’s face it, sometimes the easiest way really is the best way!

Throughout this joyous season we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make a beautiful, sparkling clean home for welcoming our families and guests. On top of cooking and gift preparations, decorating for the holidays can really be overwhelming. Here are some great ideas to lessen your stress and keep your panic level to a minimum so you can enjoy yourself all season long:

Plan it out. Think of what you want and plan it out. From meals, to décor, to beverages, to guests, plan it out. Once the entertaining plan is made, put it into action. On the invitation, give as much info as possible, such as formal or informal, who is welcomed (kids and extra guests), whether or not to bring a side dish, etc.

Make a list and check it twice. If you stay organized, your entertaining vision will come together. Make a “to do” list in sections such as “meals, decorations, etc.” Don’t be afraid to use others to help pick those last-minute items up.

Order your decorations online. Ease the stress of long lines and overcrowded stores by shopping online. From fresh greenery and winter red berries to candles and white lights, there are a variety of stores that offer free shipping and fast delivery right to your front door. While you’re at it, and if you have some spare time, gift shopping on the web is another convenient time saver!

Decorate with ease. A couple strands of strings lights, some fresh poinsettias, a live evergreen wreath or strip of garland, fresh fruits and berries, and a few candles can make any room look festive and beautiful for entertaining. When choosing your scheme, start by picking a color scheme. One or two hues is all you need.

Go rustic, it’s easier. Skip those white tablecloths and choose a rustic winter theme instead. Guests will love the relaxed, nostalgic feel and you will love the easy cleanup. Plain, fresh smelling greenery and a few candles is all you need.

Use essential oils for cleaning and for decorating. Dab a few cotton balls with peppermint, apple, or mint essential oils and stick them around your rooms. Add some pine cones or cinnamon sticks to your scheme for added fragrance.

Decorate with natural items. Use poinsettias as centerpieces on tables or on top of mantles.

Instead of purchasing a wreath or strip of garland, ask for scraps or broken evergreen branches and make your own instead.

What about fresh fruit? Use pears and add small labels on them for place setting.

Make a beautiful garland by twisting together one floral wire or kumquats and one floral wire of cranberries to make one big piece of garland.

A favorite centerpiece of mine is a bowl of sugared fruit. Just fill your bowl with sugar, add some colorful fruits, and place high up in the center of the table. Another idea for a centerpiece can be made by using wooden picks to secure flowers or fruit onto foam forms, and adding a ribbon. Or, decorate a pewter platter with ribbon-wrapped candles surrounded by pears, white cherries, and figs.

To decorate your entryway use scraps of fruit, flowers and branches to assemble a neat mixture for a beautiful urn.

Or, try these easy citrus spheres:  Fasten kumquats to three or five-inch foam balls with wood picks. Hide the wire by adding a wide ribbon or bow. Hang the spheres on doors, staircase railings, or place on tables or mantles.

Buy a plain wreath from your local store and decorate it with pine cones, berries, and ribbon. Don’t forget to add a sprig of mistletoe inside the doorway!

Give your rooms that soft peaceful holiday glow with candles. Add white candles to glass vases for a warm look.

Fill white paper lunch bags with sand or dirt, add a votive to the center of each bag, and light them up on a path on your sidewalk. Better yet, add small strands of lights to large mason jars and place all around your front porch.

Add some color and comfort. Focusing only on the rooms where guests will be, add a pop of color to the room by placing throws and pillows around the couches and chairs.

Spot clean. Don’t spend a ton of time cleaning when you can quickly spot clean. All you need are a few microfiber cloths for dusting, and a HEPA-filter vacuum for your floors.

Create entertaining “stations”.  The easiest way to host a large holiday gathering is with stations. Make sure each one is easy to see. Be sure to include a self-serve beverage station, a dessert station, and even a coat station. To keep your guests mingling, set up different stations in different areas of the party. When serving dinner, for smaller parties where guests will be seated and can help themselves, serve dishes in large platters on the tables. For larger parties, a buffet style comes in handy.

Set the mood with music. Celebrate the holidays by listening to your holiday music favorites. Spotify can help. Your local cable network can also help.  Karaoke always comes in handy too!

Buy early. Stock up on wine ahead of time. Buy a few extra to have on hand for last minute gifts, too.

Cook simply. As far as food is concerned, not everything has to be homemade! Learn how to spice up store bought platters by adding oil, spices, chives, or even parsley flakes as toppings.

A “one-pot” dinner is never out of the question. Pasta and shrimp, chili and corn, chicken and rice, and many other dinners can be made in one big pot (or crock pot) for that matter. Don’t think you need to cook a three to five course meal all the time. Give yourself (and your post party cleaning crew) a break and cook a big meal in one pot!

Speaking of pots ~ if you never like pot luck dinners because the foods never went well together, have a themed pot luck dinner instead. Assign a “wine and cheese” theme or a “desserts only” theme to your potluck guests. This way you can cook the entire dinner yourself and leave the appetizers and desserts for the guests to make.

Don’t forget the kids. Having kids at your party? Then be sure to plan a “kid zone” in advance. Toys, movies, puzzles, decorating cookies, drawing, or singing. Be sure to have a variety of age appropriate activities for the kiddos.

And most of all….say yes! Say yes to help, no matter what it is, no matter who it is. The more help you receive, the less burden you have. After all, it’s your holiday too!

Here’s wishing you all and a very bright, healthy, and joyous holiday season!

And for more holiday sanity, be sure to check out my companion blog, The Bright Side of the Holidays.