Here are a few simple ideas on how to prepare your home for the winter holiday season of entertaining:

All Aglow:  We all look best with warm light at face level instead of just from above.  Candles are great for this – but also consider adding beautiful lamps to your buffet or server.  Remember – Atmosphere is half the battle! 

Create floral arrangements the day before the event.  Invariably they take longer to create then I ever anticipate.  Or visit one of our wonderful local floral arrangers and invest in beautiful arrangements that remove one item from your own to-do list.

Small Groupings:  Arrange the furniture so there are several intimate areas for guests to cluster and converse. 

Dim the lights before guests arrive.  There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re below a poorly placed spot light while you’re trying to make a first impression. 

Opportunity for Eye Contact:  Keep table centerpieces low.  Make sure guests can flirt across the table.

Set the Stage with Music:  Have fun creating a music playlist for the group coming over.  Start the music at least fifteen minutes before you’re expecting anyone, so it starts to put you in the mood before the gang shows up.

Share the Load:  Consider serving a combination of home-made and pre-made.  I love having an item or two that I’ve created, and let Olives do the rest!

A Hosts Chief Job, in my opinion, is to do one’s best to introduce and connect guests to one another in order to hopefully give everyone the opportunity for at least one interesting conversation in a night. 

Create a bar and beverage station separate from the often hectic kitchen.  If you don’t have a bar tender, create a simple and tasty cocktail in a server for those looking for something besides wine and beer.

Consider a simple hot beverage.  Many years I’ve heated apple cider on the stove top and doled it out into mugs along with cinnamon sticks and a splash of dark rum or brandy.  Yummy!

Serve wine from a decanter instead of the bottle.  It gives your red wine an opportunity to open up and breathe and it looks pretty to boot! 

If you’re brave, let guests make their own cocktails.  Laminate and display a few favorite recipes on cards at the bar and allow your friends to mix and shake their own creations.

Not everyone drinks, so make sure to have a lovely beverage or two that doesn’t include alcohol.

When guests ask if they can help – take them up on it!  Make a mental list of items that guests can assist with when they’re arriving like serving the wine or offering appetizers to other guests.  This also gives folks an opportunity to meet each other. 

Add simple flourishes to your dinner table.  Consider rolling your cloth napkins and topping each one with a cinnamon stick all tied up in a twine or red ribbon bow.

A Sweet Finish:  For dessert, offer something sweet and sinful, and something sweet but healthy for those of us trying to behave.

Give a Gift to the Giver:  Don’t show up for friend’s parties empty handed!  Bring along some small token that shows them how glad you are they cared to invite you to their own shin-dig. 

Keep the plans for your event simple.  Make sure you don’t give yourself too much work to take care of after your guests have arrived.  My goal for myself is to generally have everything ready to go a half hour before guests arrive so I can pour myself the first cocktail and relax a bit before the party starts.  Failing that, just relax and settle into the adventure when the doorbell rings – because when you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, your guests are sure to do the same!

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