By CYN LoPINTO
As soon as the weather starts to get cooler, many of us begin to think about the fall/winter holiday season. Halloween decorations are already popping up in retail outlets, signifying that Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. It is traditionally the time of year when friends and family visit and by being ahead of the game, you can take a lot of stress out of your life. Home Front Magazine is here with the following suggestions to help make the 2016 Holiday Season the most enjoyable and relaxing one yet.
Whether you have a large spare room for visitors to stay in or just a small area, a homey atmosphere can really make guests feel welcome. Make sure you take stock of bed linens way before your company shows up. We have all been in the situation where we are making up a guest bed only to find missing sheets, stained or ripped bedding or mismatched sets. Last minutes trips to a local bedding store can end up costing a fortune and rob precious time. It is much better to begin looking now when you can select what you want at the price you want to pay. If you have small children that will be staying with you, see if they will be needing a crib. The same planning is important with anyone having mobility issues. Check to see if they require special accommodations or any products that will have be purchased ahead of time
This is another area that we often forget to check out in advance. How do your bath towels look that you have for guests? Are they torn, stained or faded? Do you have matching sets for company? If you need replacements, start looking around for sales and specials. A really nice gesture to make guests feel appreciated is to wrap a set of towels in an inexpensive ribbon and place them on the bed. Also, make sure you have toiletries for guests (maybe small ones you have been saving from hotel stays). It is a good idea to have some liquid bath soap so guests don’t have to share a bar of soap. I usually have extra tooth brushes available in case someone forgot theirs.
Just like bedding and linen, take stock of your dishes and table settings way before visitors arrive. See what you have and check for matching sets and broken and chipped pieces. You can actually make mismatched pieces look chic if you get creative. Pick a color scheme and take a walk around your home and see what you already have that will work as serving dishes, bowls or table decorations. If you are having a large crowd over for dinner, you probably don’t have matching dinnerware for all. There are fantastic online DYI sites to help you make what you have look festive. For example, standard wine glasses can double as candy dishes or candle holders. Don’t forget to go over the table size you need and number of chairs. This way if you have to borrow items from friends and neighbors, you will know what you need. You may even want to rearrange your furniture in your dining area so guests will be able to converse with each other freely during mealtime. As you get closer to the big day, remember name tags and/or placemats. Kids usually love to take this task on and it makes the holiday table even more special.
It is always a good idea to find out about food sensitivities, allergies or dietary restrictions of people who are coming to visit. There are so many choices in your local grocery store these days to accommodate most diets. By finding out food issues ahead of time will help everyone enjoy meals without feeling left out or embarrassed. This is especially true if you are cooking the big holiday meal. Nowadays most get-togethers have guests bringing dishes to contribute to the meal. Ask those with special requests to bring along a dish that they can eat or try preparing something that all guests will be able to enjoy. It is fun to try to make new things as long as you have this information ahead of time. Make menus way in advance and have a written out schedule of when you are making what. Have what you are serving in plain sight so you can check to make sure everything got out on the table. I think we all can remember a time when the meal was over only to find a dish stuck in the back of the refrigerator that never made it out!
So many people today send invites to special events online or through a text message. While this may be the norm, it doesn’t show much effort. Consider making simple personal invitations to your gatherings this season. Most of what ends up in our mailboxes are either bills or junk mail. Just think how special it would be for a family member or friend to pick up their mail and find a special invitation from you. Yes, and they can still RSVP online or through a text!
Make sure you think about the music you want at your celebrations. Whether you put together a playlist for guests or choose to play your favorite cd or radio station, music really sets the mood for gatherings. You don’t want it too loud so people aren’t able to talk, but you do want something playing to let your guests know it is a special time.
Games and activities can really make a party fun. You may want to do a gag gift activity where guests pick names weeks before the event and then bring funny inexpensive gifts to the party. We once had family over for Thanksgiving and asked everyone to bring along the most useless/inexpensive gift they could find. Then we played a dice game where in the first round we chose a wrapped gift. In the second round we unwrapped gifts and the third round we traded/gave away/stole gifts from each other until a timer went off and we were stuck with the gift in our hand. It was so much fun and many of the items people brought were items they had or things purchased from a dollar store. Even regular board games can be lots of fun when friends and families get together for a party. Do something different besides just eating/drinking and talking. Your guests will appreciate it.
Makes sure your guests have places to park when they are coming to your home. Sometimes this can be a real challenge. If you are friendly with neighbors and they aren’t using their driveway for the day of your celebration, ask if some of your visitors can park there. Plus, if you invite your neighbors, they will have to say yes!! Move your own vehicles further away so guests can use your driveway or if you live where you can use your lawn for parking, consider that option. If you have any elderly guests or those with mobility issues coming over, be aware of their needs and see that everything is accessible.