Holiday Entertaining Made Easy

Ahh…Christmastime, my favorite time of the year! There’s nothing like this special time of year to have a gathering of friends and family. And while there are many decorating themes you could go with, I’m going to show you some basics that could be incorporated into whichever party theme you choose.

SETTING THE SCENE

No matter the time of day, candles add an elegant touch to any event. If your party is in the evening, turn your lights down low and let the candles work their ambient magic. Below are simple ways to dress up plain white candles. You can find different types of glass containers and candles at your local dollar store. You’ll also want to have some music playing and there are a variety of holiday channels you can find on internet radio stations that will suit the mood of your event.

FESTIVE EATS

So that you aren’t slaving in your kitchen all day, pick up some frozen appetizers from the grocery store. You’ll be able to find mini quiches, filled puff pastry, and much more. You can also use your crock pot to make meatballs, cheesy dips, or hot buttered rum. For a festive touch you can dress up your cheese balls by making them into a snowman, create a tree out of fruit and cheese, or make the pretty and delicious Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites shown below. Recipe can be found here: http://www.annies-eats.com/2012/12/19/sparkling-cranberry-brie-bites/. And don’t forget a signature cocktail like an Eggnog Martini!

TABLEWARE

For those of you hosting a holiday dinner, you’ll want to create a gorgeous table. A simple touch is to dress up your silverware by using felt craft store stockings that can double as favors or a simple pine sprig and ribbon. You can also spray paint the frame of a cheap mirror and use it as the base for your centerpiece. The reflection of candlelight makes for an elegant meal.

THE SWEET STUFF

For a sweet ending to the night, why not let Polka Dot Bakery take care of the baking. We offer Hot Cocoa Cupcakes, Gingerbread Roll Cake and frosted sugar cookies to serve or package as favors.

DIY FUN

With a little bit of time and money you can make your own ornament favors, photo props, or decorations. The ornament garland is easily made by stringing dollar store ornaments on ribbon and the glitter pears are made using fake dollar store fruit, glue and glitter. Free photo prop templates can be found here: http://talkcraftytome.com/2012/12/06/christmas-photo-booth-props-free-printable/.

With these ideas and more you are on your way to hosting a fabulous holiday party!

 

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Easy Thanksgiving Entertaining

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations this time of year can be very overwhelming, especially if you are hosting an event. Today’s post is aimed at helping you have a less stressful, and therefore more enjoyable, time with your friends and family.

TURKEY, GRAVY, AND STUFFING…OH MY!

You don’t have to bear the burden of cooking the food all alone. Never mind the stress of planning the meal and purchasing the food, but not many of us have kitchens equipped to feed a small army and the space issue can be a big stressor by itself. So tell your guests that you will be providing the turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing and they are each to bring a side dish or dessert. This way some of the burden is lifted off of you and everyone gets to enjoy a taste of things they might not otherwise have tried.

SETTING THE SCENE

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, atmosphere is important for setting the tone of your gathering and some simple music and decorations can go a long way. I am a jazz lover so some soft jazz would be what I would play but any type of soft background music will do. Just nothing that will overpower conversation. However, you don’t want it to be so dull that people are nodding off prior to their turkey induced tryptophan coma. Decorations need not be extravagant. A simple tablescape and some well-placed decorations in food serving areas will go a long way. Suggestions include a vase filled with mini pumpkins, acorns, or pinecones with or without leaves and flowers. Tea lights placed in hollowed-out gourds, a simple candle surrounded by cranberries or adding a festive flourish to existing candle holders or lanterns.

SOMETHING FOR THE KIDS

Besides plopping them in front of the TV to watch the parade, Thanksgiving can be a little boring for kids. Make sure you have some games for them to play, some coloring books and crayons and maybe even plan a Thanksgiving related arts & crafts project. They can make pilgrim hats, hand turkeys, or the older kids can make the cool Q-tip dot trees pictured below.

SOMETHING FOR THE ADULTS

Besides the regular offerings of wine and beer, offer a signature cocktail. A pumpkin pie martini or cranberry mojito will liven up your palate and your party! You might also want to have some games for the adults to play since everyone will be too full to leave the table for a couple of hours.

 

A SWEET FINALE

For a new spin on some old favorites, you can order one of many desserts Polka Dot Bakery has to offer. Some of the more popular treats include Pumpkin Cheesecake, Cranberry Hand Pies, Pumpkin Pie Cookies and Pumpkin Chocolate Pie. Any of these would be sure to delight your guests and would save you some time in the kitchen!

With the tips listed above, you are now on your way to an enjoyable and less stressful holiday gathering. Happy Thanksgiving!

New Year’s Eve for the Kids

For the past two years I’ve had my nieces over for a New Year’s Eve sleepover. We make our own pizzas for dinner, play games, and drink sparkling cider. It’s a blast and is always fun to see who stays up the latest! In this post you’ll find some ideas to get you started on having a fun-filled kid’s party of your own!

IT’S ABOUT TIME

Children’s sense of time is not very developed and telling them that there’s only three hours until midnight sounds to them like an eternity. Having a visual countdown will help them to know how much time is left until the new year. One way to countdown to midnight is with balloons. Each balloon gets labeled with a different time in increments of 15, 30, or 60 minutes. You can hang them up somewhere or attach them to a board or mirror. Each kid takes a turn popping a balloon at the proper time and the fewer balloons there are, the closer it is until midnight. Another idea is to put together activity bags that can be opened every hour. Activities can include making dinner, watching a movie, playing a game, doing a craft or having a dance party. And of course don’t forget the noise makers and a toast at midnight!

Balloon Countdown                    Activity Bags

BRING ON THE ENTERTAINMENT

Kids get antsy quickly and it can be a challenge to keep them entertained all night. Even though I always feel like I have plenty of things planned to span 5 hours or so, it never seems like enough. So I ask my nieces to bring their favorites board games with them and we usually play a couple of those but have also been known to engage in epic Wii dance parties. Even their uncle gets into it! Some other ideas are arts & crafts, coloring, or baking and decorating cookies. Since having multiple kids help you make dough in the kitchen would require sainthood (or a bottle of wine), it’s best to have the dough prepared and ready to roll out.

GOOD EATS

Most kids I know are bottomless pits and my nieces are no exception. Since it’s a special occasion, I put out appetizers for them to munch on before and after dinner. These usually include a veggie platter, cheese and crackers and mozzarella sticks or another hot item. For dinner I purchase individual pizza crusts from Hannaford and allow each kid to put their own sauce and toppings on it. They seem to really enjoy doing this and we usually end up with a pepperoni smiley face or two. For dessert you can do make-your-own sundaes or eat the cookies you decorated earlier.

REMEMBERING THE FUN

Besides taking pictures, another way to document your parties from year to year is by having the kids answer some simple questions about their current lives. The great printable form pictured below, as well as a tutorial for the activity countdown bags, can be found at: http://www.wonderfuljoyahead.com/2011/12/new-years-eve-tradition.html.

Hopefully I’ve stimulated your imagination and you’re ready to create your own fantastic New Year’s Eve party for kids. And if you need any help with desserts, Polka Dot Bakery is here to help!