Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Parties: 'Tis the Season for Family, Friends, Food, and Fun

I interrupt my mystery writing series to bring you a timely post!

This post can do double-duty. You can plan a holiday party and plop that into your next book. How much fun is that??? I can see Alli and Gina catering at some holiday party right before somebody bites the dust. Could your protagonist get caught up in a murder or robbery?

That glittery New Year’s Eve party was perfect until the popular hostess dropped dead in front of distinguished 50 guests.

The 8th night of Channukah seemed to be going so well for the gathered family and friends until Cousin Sue found Uncle Ben dead in the upstairs hall bathroom.

Christmas Eve cookies and cocoa might never be served again after Aunt Mildred poisoned the next door neighbors.

On the other hand, maybe you just want to have a rip-roarin’ good time yourself. For whatever reason, planning a holiday party doesn’t have to be stressful. The point is to have fun with family, friend, and food!

First things first:
How many and who can you invite? In the Phoenix, AZ area, it is still warm enough for the party to spill over to outdoors. But inventory your space. This is finger-food eating, not sit-down-dinner, so perhaps you can invite more. Or not, if you want a more intimate party. If you decide to make it a family party you will have to plan activities for the kids and adults.

So, make your list and check it at least twice. How many is the right number for the party you see in your head?

What foods will you have? The Internet is loaded with holiday recipes right now. It’s super easy to plan a party with gorgeous and delicious comestibles.

Make this a heavy appetizers party. Ask each family to bring two appetizers. Now here’s my bias: Tell everyone that you are doing the sweets, so they should bring the savory. Obviously you can do a true potluck appetizers party, but I think that’s more work for you.

By focusing your attention on one category only, sweets, you will pull off a great party. One- or two-bite sweets are especially appreciated so people can sample from your array. Make tiny cookies, shot glass puddings and parfaits, mini-fruit tarts, cupcakes, and the like. Having a lot of different desserts will make it look more sumptuous than a couple of cakes sitting beside a plate of cookies.

Will you have a punchbowl with alcoholic and non-alcoholic options or stick to fruit juices and wine? Unless you have a dedicated bartender, I’d suggest not serving mixed drinks or having too many options. You want this to be as easy as possible. Letting people serve themselves frees you up for other things, like having fun at your own party.

What about entertainment? Will you have a TV in another room playing classic Christmas movies all night? Will you put on dance music like “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”?  Or will you let sparkling conversation drive the evening?

A very fun thing to do is decorate gingerbread people. Make (or buy) a batch and put out the icings. People really enjoy this. If children are present, the rules are pretty obvious, right, about how to depict them? No kids? Go for it!

I also like to buy clear glass ornaments in bulk and let people fill them with beads, tinsel, or other small items OR paint the inside or outside. It’s amazing how creative people can get with just a few suggestions.

Playing board games or old favorites like charades with holiday-themed book, quotes, movies is easy entertaining.

If you have the fixings for simple holiday candies or no-bake cookies, everyone can make a box to take home if they like cooking activities.

With kids, one thing I have done is provide a room with gift wrap and adult supervision. Kids bring the gifts for their families and wrap them at your house. Parents will appreciate your effort, and it keeps kids busy for a long while. Have a holiday movie playing in the room, too.

What about decorations? You have this one nailed. You’re already decorated for the holidays. Plan the party between the time of put up and take down. With low lights, no one will notice the dust!

Getting it all done:
I’m huge on list making. Write down every single item in a column, arranged in categories (like these headings) and figure out each tiny step. Planning now saves headaches later.

After you have your menu planned, you choose the hardest, most elaborate, or expensive items for yourself. Make sure you prepare enough food so if people “forget” their assigned dish, you don’t run out. Divvy up the other menu items and get the directions/recipes for each.

Send an invitation to each family you’re inviting and ask them to bring two savory appetizers, telling them the desserts are all by you. If they can’t come, have them let you know well in advance so you can adjust the amount of dessert.

Your invitation should specify who’s invited, when and where the party is, and the dress code.

There! Here you have everything you need to pull off the holiday neighborhood party of the year. It truly is merely a matter of organization supplemented by Internet ideas!

Here’s some help to get you started:










Still looking for a present for a foodie friend? Maybe you could give Mission Impastable, a tasty treat of a mystery with recipes. Sort of a two-fer! http://amzn.to/1eYJ4AY It would certainly make MY holiday brighter!

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