Christmas Day Open House

lovechristmasNovember 5, 2006

Any ideas appreciated. In southern California it is usually a orphen party of friends that didn't go back east. I would live to create a great experience for everyone.

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How many friends and how formal do you want this to be?

Some would find decorating cookies while classic movies play on tv would be a "great experience." Others would be happier with a cocktail party.

Vaguely, what are you thinking of?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 3:35PM
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Thanks for help!
It should be around 20-30. Mostly singles (early 30's from NYC)and some family. Would like to please the diverse mix. Is it OK to plan events if Open House? Like it to come off eclectic casual with traditional twist. Also would like to appear effortless of course. Just not sure how to lay out food, drink and seating etc. This is second party (newlywed). Our house is 3 level with the middle floor the only living/family space in beach town. So, it does get a little conjested. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.Thank you!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 4:04PM
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lovechristmas - I think what you are doing is great!

First, take all the furniture out of the rooms you are going to use for the open house, except for the dining room table and chairs if you have them. You will need a table cloth and some sort of centerpiece for your table. I like to do something that I make myself, I have a couple of holly trees on my property and there are fresh greens available here at this time of the year as I live on the east coast. You could use silk, put some christmas balls, or other decorations in the midst. I try and do something a little different each year. One year it was snowmen. Last year it was a little more formal since I was having a sit down dinner and using my Lenox holiday china.

From the furniture you took out of the room, look at the room from the perspective of creating small intimate group settings for conversation, but not so much that it doesn't feel like a group event. Make sure you have enough seats for everyone to sit down to eat.

I would do buffet. If you serve food that has to be cut, rent/buy plain white china plates from a restaurant supply store. Got to the nearest big city and you will find them in a certain area and there are always a street full of competitors. When I first did this I though what a waste of money. Not so, I have reused those plates for years and they give a more put together look. You can do the same with silverware. The restaurant supply places are probably one of the best/cheapest resources for that kind of thing.

You can be creative with table coverings. If you have a christmas quilt or even a red or green, use it to cover a buffet or table you will use to set up your bar or food. You can go to the fabric store and get fabric that you like. You will not even have to sew it as they now have sew glue. So easy. If you have an island in your kitchen, use that for your food setup, its close to the kitchen and you don't have to worry about covering it.

I would set up stations on separate tables, bar stocked with wine and beer, food to be set up on a buffet length table or on your island if you have one, table for punchbowl and cups. I usually try to decorate each table. I have had pieces of glass cut to cover my good pieces in order to use them for serving stations rather than renting serving tables. It was cheap and I still get the warm feeling from the well worn antiques. I have inherited some nice pieces, a tea cart and a Shefield table that I love and have always wanted to use for entertaining, but was hesitant because if something was spilled, it could ruin the finish. The glass takes the worry out of any spilling and are easily cleaned with windex. Plus, if there is a spill on a table cloth it really ruins the look of the table for the rest of the day. Glass is easily cleaned up. Using different tables for different purposes avoids a traffic jam of people if you only have one or two tables to accomodate the food, bar, etc. It just flows better.

As for your bar, I usually offer beer, a white wine and a red that go with whatever you chose to serve. Of course, you could do something holiday oriented like eggnog in a punch bowl - looks really nice. You can do ahead store in fridge in plastic pitchers then transfer to punch bowl about 1/2 hour before guests start to arrive.

If you are a newlywed, perhaps you have gotten some nice serving pieces to use. Get out all of your proposed serving pieces to see what you have vs. what you need. I get everything out since you can forget from year to year what you really have on hand. I am constantly buying unique serving dishes at tag sales and putting them in the pantry closet for entertaining. Not everything has to match. I think it is much beter if it doesn't.

If you are using a buffet table, you can set up your food serving bowls at different heights, use small boxes or differing size supports on your table to give it interest. Cover the boxes with colored napkins coordinated with a tablecloth if you are using one so as to hide what you are using for the height.

Make a menu - choose a lot of do ahead dishes if you want to relax and enjoy the party with your friends. Think about what you have in the way of oven space - do you have a double oven and how many burners are on your stove. Do you have a toaster oven?

Do your friends contribute or are you doing all of the food.

I would do something interesting for dessert like individual cheesecake lollipops you can make ahead that are covered with chocolate and frozen. After you make them, freeze and pull them out of freezer when you put out your dinner. I find slicing pies and cakes is boring and labor intensive. A large bowl of strawberries with a bowl of sweetened whipped cream, I hope I am making sense.

An event? Not sure what you mean by event, but I think it would be hard to do what I think you mean since, it is an open house and not everyone arrives at the same time, some people may come in and out throughout the day? Is that the type of party, or are you giving a time to arrive?

Have a great time. It is alot of fun planning a party and it just takes a little creativity to have it all come together. You will do a great job. Have a wonderful Christmas! How lucky your friends are to have someone like you to gather together those who won't be going "home for the holidays".

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 5:19PM
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Thank you so much for all your great ideas! I'm lucky to have collected a lot of goodies at flea markets over the years and will put to good use. I also collected Tracy Porters Christmas pottery, dinner ware, etc. I love your dessert idea too!
Many Thanks!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 8:01PM
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Not sure taking all the furniture out will make it appear "effortless"...
I would plan a cocktail buffet...and if you can hire help for serving and/or tending bar.
I would plan a succession of elegant a center cut of beef filet, roasted rare and sliced thin and served with a hot sauce of some radish if that's what you like...but a Mexican chipotle sauce of sone sort is good...and it could be bottled.
How about a whole poached fish on a bed of ice....salmon? Red snapper?..lots of lemon and capers....
Grilled terayaki chicken strips...or even Buffalo wings?
Lots of cut up veggies, a dip or 2, some breads to go with the meats... and perhaps something hot to cheese balls, spanikopita, crab rangoon..
And a no big deal skinny slices of fruit cake, or Ann T's slices of sin....and coffee, maybe with a bowl of whipped cream and add in's ( like grated peels, dark sugar, brandy, kahlua, grated chocolate).
Make it easy, serve your self...nice wines, a limited bar...maybe a few micro brewery beers....
Come when you can and stay as long as you like.
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 9:41PM
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My suggestion of moving the furniture out was to be done far in advance of the party so that you can get a perspective of the room and what is absolutely needed. In no way was I implying it should be anything so different that will be the first thing noticed when your guests arrive.

I just know what it is like to entertain 30 people in a small place. It is difficult at best to do it so that everything flows and gives the appearance of effortless entertaining.

However, that said, the appearance of effortless entertaining is achieved when you well plan how things are set up from the furniture down to where the powder room is.

It may be difficult to find people to serve on Christmas day. I am sure if you are a group of friends you would be able to keep it much lower key than to have "paid help". A close girl friend or two probably will be enough along with help from your hubby:). I use help with larger parties, but not for 30 people. If you do use help, perhaps they could dress as elves - I guess that would probably be very noticeable - what I am trying to avoid is that black and white server uniform. I've always tried to make the help invisible. During the summer I have the help come in khaki shorts and short sleeve polo-like shirt. That way no body notices them. It makes people uncomfortable in conversations when the help is lurking about in a small place. It also makes people feel that they can't entertain in the way you do and may not reciprocate. I have seen so many posts on these forums of people very intimidated about an upcoming dinner party or what not because one of the guests is like the new Martha Stewart. I guess my main goal is to make everyone feel most comfortable in my home, not go so overboard that the offerings look too "professional". It sounds like you are having a casual group of good friends.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 1:57PM
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Thanks so much for the input.
I actually thought about hiring 1-2 people but, just can't on Christmas Day. I would feel evil! But, I have been thinking about furniture since we are listing home on market soon. Actually taking home photos now before the Christmas decorations go up.
So for food I plan to serve a roast, ham (because it's easy), cous cous salad, corn salad, creamed spinach, roasted potatos, quiches, fruit, cheese, breads. I only have 1 oven!! Maybe I should do a fish too?? I will have all food on dining table. Table in kitchen will have desserts. I will set up bar on kitchen island with wines, beer, black velvets would be fun! That way I can fill extra sink with ice.
I'm actually more excited to decorate! I also bought nice invites to print myself.
Oh, I also have concern with dishes piling in sink when people are done. I don't want to be the type that is right behind them putting in dishwasher. Any advice?

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 7:43PM
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I think a "Christmas in New York" or "Christmas in New England" theme could be nice. You could easily make invitations for this theme. I would use photos and/or prints of the city, particularly those reminiscent of the Holidays, copy and place in frames for the buffet table.
Maybe favors of a Christmas CD or ornaments with your party date and "Christmas in New York" or whatever written in script. Just a thought.

Don't forget the music and low lights, which always make for a nice ambience.

Regarding the dishes, since you have a small space and guests will be in the kitchen area, I would fill the sink with soapy water and place them to soak. You may have room for an extra dishpan on the countertop, too. I've tried to get "ahead" a few times by placing dishes in the dishwasher, but decided last time it detracts from the party atmosphere and probably doesn't make my guests feel
all that welcome to hear the clattering and see me fumbling with the dishes.

I hope you have a successful party and it is only the beginning of very many!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2006 at 8:02AM
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Let Trader Joe's and Costco be your best friends. When we lived in Calif., three long years ago, my best and for me, most relaxing, party featured one of each hors d'oeuvres from both stores. I just picked those that looked the yummiest and didn't require any prep. This was for an afternoon outside cocktail party, not Christmas. It was a huge success.

I guess my point is, don't get frazzled. You need to enjoy it too. I've given parties where I was so worn out I couldn't wait for them to be over. Not good.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2006 at 11:30AM
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