The first chill in the air makes our thoughts turn to seasonal celebrations. Holidays are about family and friends gathering to claim traditions both old and new. As the days turn darker and we are inside longer, we tend to take stock of our surroundings. Indoor work that we let go of during the summer are now pressing to be fixed as we prepare for guests, who will require fresh amenities.
Here are some tips for creating a warm welcoming home for the holidays.
Stock the bar — Take note of the libations that you have on hand and new ones you need to add. At the start of the season we like to work on a signature drink to offer guests along with the standard favorites. We find most people like the idea of holiday drink to try. Hot ciders, toddies and spiked hot chocolates are a few of our favorites. Pick up holiday cocktail napkins and add some new serving pieces. Check your barware. Are you down to five wine glasses? Stock up on drink glasses. I like to have a minimum of 12 to 14 glasses on hand. I also love linen napkins and small cocktail plates that are easy to hold. Don’t forget to polish the silverware.
Check your table linens — I always have a few sets on hand. Things can inadvertently spill and I often host the holidays back to back. At the end of the evening, it makes it easy to clean everything up and then reset the table with fresh linens without worrying about washing, ironing and getting the same table linens back on the table for the next day’s celebrations.
Add seasonal decorations to your décor — You don’t necessarily have to stick with traditional colors for your holiday décor. I love to use fresh branches and berries along with sparkling gold and silver decorations. Some years I bring in all white flowers; other years it’s all pinks and golds.
Seasonally scented candles add to the memories. You can also boil a pot of scented spices to bring that beautiful aroma of the holidays into your home. Baking a pie or cookies will do the trick, too.
Flowers, plants and bulbs are all wonderful additions — Buy tightly budded flowers a few days prior to give them time to be at peak blossom by your holiday evening. Start bulbs a few weeks before the holidays so they will bloom in time.
Decorate with lots of throws to cozy up in — People may be staying over and they may feel the winter chill. I always have several throws on hand to offer and I leave extra blankets and pillows in guest rooms. I even have a noise machine on hand for guests who need a little white noise to get a restful night’s sleep. (It’s a great device to drown out a snorer.).
Have games on hand to keep the festivities going — Our favorite is a game of charades that we play every New Year’s Eve. We set up teams and play after dinner until the ball drops. It keeps all of your guests on their toes. Once everyone gets past his initial trepidation, it is sure to become a traditional staple. Scrabble is another family favorite.
Keep it simple and stress-free — I often have clients go into a total panic wanting to completely redecorate a room three or four weeks prior to the holidays. If you want to redo your room or renovate your home, sometimes it’s best to wait until after the holidays. After the holidays everything slows down and you can take the time to concentrate on your project and not feel pressured to have the house ready for guests. Plus, let the rooms go through that extra little wear and tear before you redecorate. No one wants to be the one to spill a glass of red wine on a brand-new sofa or rug.
Give yourself plenty of time to prep for the holidays — Organize your menus and stock your pantry. The last thing you want to do is to be so exhausted by the time the holidays are here that you don’t get the chance to enjoy them. Prepare some of the foods and bring in the rest. There are so many wonderful places to pick up prepared foods that it leaves you the extra time to decorate and relax to enjoy your family and guests. Holidays are really a time to slow down and appreciate others as you create memories that will last a lifetime.
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