The Holidays!!! We wait all year for the feelings of happiness and festivity. But there is a dark side to the holidays, and I don’t mean that the sun sets at 4:30pm. We have to find a way to survive the constraints of holiday entertaining.
Why is it difficult? Well, most of us are working and the end of the year is notorious for all of the close-outs in our business, tax planning, employee reviews and raises, not to mention holiday parties at the office, our volunteer organizations and personal. We are trying to buy presents, get a Christmas tree, get everything done at work and somehow, it starts to feel like the festive nature of the holidays is being eaten away by stress.
How to survive the constraints of holiday entertaining
So, I’m one of ‘those’ people. You know the type – always taking on too much. I hate saying no to anyone and I like to have fun. So, I commit to holiday entertaining and I’ve had to learn how to plan. Years ago (many, unfortunately) when I was in my early 20’s, I had my first dinner party. For my college graduation, my family gave me a set of fine china. You know, because an entry level college grad really needs that instead of a briefcase. Intent on using it, I set up my first adult dinner party. The problem was that I did not plan in advance at all except for the menu. I did every single thing the day of the party and at the end of dinner, I fell asleep in my chair! It was totally embarassing, but I’ve kept every single one of those friends to this day, so I think they understood.
What I’ve learned through my career in project management and as a chef is that you don’t and shouldn’t do everything at the last minute. Restaurant chefs and caterers don’t so why should you? It is so much easier to pull off a big or small party if you plan in advance. Think of it like a project. At work, you wouldn’t try to complete an entire project in one day, so use your planning skills for your at home party the same way.
In my dinner party plans, I provide a template for you to use in planning your party. I generally start as far as a month out from the party to plan the date, guests, and menu. From there, I sequence each item that needs to be done from one month to the day of the party. Anything that can be done in advance is, such as ironing linens. They don’t go stale – do that and get it out of the way while your spouse watches sports one Sunday afternoon. You can also take advantage of the power of the drone! Make purchases online and have them delivered instead of running all over town from store to store to pick up liquor, wine or flowers. On the day of the party, I have a timed plan that helps you know what to do in 15 minute increments. Once you do this a few times, you’ll get the hang of it and won’t need my help.
Once you start to employ the skill of planning, you won’t feel so overwhelmed. I just had a party a few nights ago and, even though I was super busy at work during the week, I breezed through the party on Saturday with ease. In fact, I baked my butt off and didn’t even feel tired. I made the bread dough the day before and baked it the day of the party. I selected an apricot cheesecake for dessert because it has to be made 24 hours ahead to set. I made Ragu alla Bolognese for the main course which also needs to be made a few days in advance. And for starters, I had Whole Foods shuck oysters for me and just picked them up shortly before the party.
Whether or not you use my dinner party plans, I hope you will start to break down your party into manageable chunks and prepare in advance. We need to save time for a run and nice bath before the party instead of cleaning flour off our face.