Over the holidays there is a lot of focus on family time – and it is a special time of year to spend time with those we love. But it’s also a great time of year to celebrate and spend time with those we’re close with. After having moved so often, I am grateful for all the new people who have come into our lives, and December is a natural time to look back on the year and think of the people we know now that we didn’t this time last year. That said, this time of year can be a social whirl focused on kids and family and traditions, but you’re not too busy to carve a few hours out to toast with your girlfriends. Here’s some easy entertaining how-tos to pull it off this busy time of year!
Earlier this month I had a girls night trunk show for my new friends in our new city. I wanted it to be festive but still laid back. I didn’t tell anyone to get dressed up and since it’s technically a work event for me (I mean technically, but it’s nice to have a job where you can still drink champagne while you’re working) I didn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all night (the eternal struggle of the fab hostess). I wanted to be present and enjoy time with my guests.
I didn’t want to make a lot of food because I know from experience that at trunk shows in particular, people are playing with jewelry and they don’t eat a lot. I hate being stressed trying to finish five different dishes as my guests are arriving or having a ton of leftovers, so I kept it simple.
The best rule of thumb for planning a low key get together is one hot savory item, one savory platter that doesn’t require being kept hot or cold, one desert that doesn’t need to be served hot, and one cocktail that can be mixed ahead of time. A theme always takes things to the next level and it doesn’t have to be elaborate.
The week before this party I stopped at target and found the cutest buffalo plaid cocktail plates in the Dollar Spot and then I helped myself to a bag of peppermint bark M&Ms. And thus, a theme and easy but festive color scheme was born.
Here’s the menu:
- Charcuterie and Cheese plate
- Trader Joe’s Pastry Bites with Feta and Caramelized Onions
- Peppermint Meltaways
- Sparkling Pomegranate Cider Punch
I love to cook for people, but within reason when you are also hosting a gathering. So I make one menu item from scratch and then rely on my favorite brands to help me fill in the gaps. In this case I made the cookies.
I hit up Trader Joe’s the morning of the party, spent $50 and half and hour and came away with everything I needed for the party. For the charcuterie and cheese plate I really like their Unexpected Cheddar (it’s inexpensive and tastes sharper and more expensive than it is – guaranteed to get compliments) and their goat cheese rolled in cranberry. One soft, one hard and you’re done. I also threw in a salami and a box of their Pistachio Pomegranate crisps. Easy, well received, and touching on flavors and colors of the season. This requires assembly, but no cooking. I have a heavy wooden cutting board I use as a serving board for meats and cheeses and it works as a tray and cutting board.
For the hot item, I didn’t want to be messing with cooking from scratch at the last minute, so I grabbed a box of their Pastry Bites. Their frozen section has a lot of good options for the busy hostess, and the feta and onion bites are a proven crowd pleaser. I preheat the oven before guests arrive and put them in when the first one rings the doorbell. They can snack on the cheese plate while they wait and then the pastry bites aren’t getting cold when everyone shows up half an hour late. Take the stress off yourself and get one thing that doesn’t need to be made from scratch. Put them on a pretty platter and no one will know the difference.
For dessert I checked Pinterest for a fun peppermint dessert to keep with the theme. I didn’t like the recipe for the cookies I made, so I didn’t share it here, but they were pretty and everyone else said they liked them. Cookies are a great dessert for a casual get together because they can be made ahead of time and don’t have to be kept at a certain temperature. They don’t require silverware and guests can help themselves.
I also grabbed a festive holiday bouquet with some seasonal greenery and red flowers at Trader Joe’s. Their fresh flowers are a great deal for the value and flowers are an easy and luxe party decoration that add a lot of bang for your buck. Add a candle or two and some fun cocktail napkins and that’s all you need to decorate!
Cocktails are my favorite part of entertaining. There are so many fun recipes and glasses to serve them out of. Mr. Handsome and I share a love of barware and we seem to keep accumulating it. But as he says, if you drink something out of the right glass, it tastes better. For this party I wanted to make a sparkling drink to keep it festive and add something red to up the ante. I used a recipe for Cranberry Cider Punch from How Sweet it Is as a starting point, but decided to make it pomegranate instead of cranberry. I made her simple syrup (without the star anise) and replaced the ginger ale with prosecco and the cranberry juice with Sparkling Pomegranate juice from Trader Joe’s. I mixed the punch and put it in a decanter so guests could drink it with or without the bubbly.
I grabbed a package of pomegranate arils to use as garnish. They look like little jewels in the bottom of the glass. Having a garnish for you cocktail add a fancy touch.
A note on Prosecco – it’s cheaper than champagne because it comes from Italy instead of France and most people can’t tell the difference. If you’re on a budget or mixing it into a cocktail, I recommend buying a few bottles of prosecco. A cheap bottle of prosecco is usually a lot better than a cheap bottle of champagne. Costco’s best kept secret is their Kirkland prosecco – it’s delicious and only $6.99!
Having a classy girls night is easier and less expensive than you think. Little details make a big impact. Shop your cupboards for accessories for high end presentations (those M&M’s are in an ice cream dish) and pick a few decorative items to invest in (like flowers, cocktail napkins or fun straws and stirrers). You can mix and match glassware if you don’t have enough of one type. I spent more time cleaning my house and writing this post than I did shopping for and prepping this party. You can impress your guests without breaking the bank or your sanity – promise!
With less than a week left until Christmas and Hanukkah, I am sure you have fun plans on the horizon. The next two weeks will be busy for all of us, but I hope they are filled with friends, family, festivities and laid-back entertaining. Hopefully you picked up a tip or two to help you get through it! Cheers!
- Peppermint Bark Plate – Williams-Sonoma
- Plaid Appetizer Plates – Target
- Gala Statement Earrings – Stella & Dot
- Isabelle Wrap Bracelet – Stella & Dot
- Pave Disc Cuff (Silver) – Stella & Dot
- Vintage Crystal Necklace – Stella & Dot
- Wooden Cutting Board – Williams-Sonoma
- White French Perle Serving Plate – Lenox
- Cocktail napkins – Meri Meri (found at Homegoods)
- Gold “Dessert” Plate – Nicole Miller (found at Homegoods)
- Larabee Dot Rose Crystal Bowl – Kate Spade
- Buffalo Plaid Hand Towel – Target
- Larabee Dot Decanter – Kate Spade
- Camille Champagne Coupe Glasses – Crate & Barrel
- “Celebrate” Champagne flutes – Homegoods