If the holidays tend to sneak up on you, just as they do me, you'll need a little help to make sure your holiday dinners and/or parties are perfect! Here are a few little tips that can go a long way when it feels like there is not enough time to get everything done:
1) Place orders for some of menu or desserts - this may sound like cheating, but it really isn't! While you might be preparing a meal for 12 people, and just the turkey and fixings are enough to take up your day, look into your local gourmet grocery store, or places like La Boulange, that are now offering a wonderful catering menu. I tend to like to take care of my main dinner myself, but would like some delicious hors d'oeuvres to go with the meal that I just don't have the time to put together. This year, I have also pre-ordered our pies, since I like to bake cookies and other treats to go with the dessert course, I thought I would save some time and get some local homemade pies. It may be cheating, but I will at least be able to enjoy this very special holiday spending more time with our family and friends than in the kitchen.
2) Have separate entertaining glassware - one of the best purchases I have made for my personal entertaining supplies is boxed glassware sets. I have used these so many times, and they make my life so much easier on the day of my event. I have three different glassware sets; wine glasses, champagne flutes and tumblers. These are perfect to set out on your bar for self serve beverages, and cover everything from water, mixed drinks, champagne and wine. The best part is after the party, you pop them in the dishwasher, put them back in their boxes, and out to the garage they go. I have found my sets at Cost Plus World Market and Pier 1 Imports, but I know there are many other stores that carry them as well.
3) Make your play list ahead of time - one of the easiest things to forget about when planning an event at home is the music. Make sure you have the right music to go with your event, and you may want to have separate play lists for the dinner portion and something more upbeat for later in the evening. I usually burn a few cd's and put them into our stereo (I know, so old school), and never think about it again. Those of you more tech savvy can also do the same thing with your ipod.
4) Rent items instead of purchasing - We are lucky enough here in San Francisco to have places like La Tavola Linens and Hartmann Studios to rent anything our hearts desire. Check your local area for equipment and linen rental shops and see what they have available. A lot of times you can rent really beautiful linens for your tables, as well as chargers, china and even extra tables and chairs. You can save money by picking it up yourself, but if convenience is your key word, have them deliver. The best part is, they wash everything!
5) Invitations don't have to go in the mail - If you are running behind on sending out the invitations, the better thing to do is to send them electronically. The worst thing is to go ahead an plan an elaborate holiday party only to find out only 1/4 of your guests can attend because your invitation came too late. I really like Paperless Post as an online option. They even let you upgrade to electronic envelope liners... love it! Also, a quick tip about getting guests to come, don't plan your party on a Saturday evening, there is too much competition. Thursdays and Sundays are great alternatives and you will notice a better turn out.
I hope all your dinners and parties are wonderful, and I would love for you to share any other easy tips for our readers that are entertaining this season!