By Sue Ann Truitt
By this time of year retailers, magazines and media programs have informed everyone that the holidays are upon us. With this realization, a rush of mixed emotions floods the mind of every hostess. How does one accomplish the necessary and still proclaim this as the “Happiest Time of the Year”? Determined to improve upon last year’s holiday, what can a hostess do differently? The answer is shortcuts! The most obvious shortcut is to plan everything well ahead of time—like Now! Early planning should not be a topic of conversation at the Bridge table or the dinner table. Pre-planning can be most successfully accomplished at a quiet time when your mind is uncluttered. Arm yourself with a tablet, post-it notes and your calendar. Then, proceed with making list, upon list, upon list. Group Thanksgiving Dinner and Christmas Dinner when thinking of menus. Two things done together take less time. While going through your array of cookbooks, think about both holiday dinners. There is less chance of repetition and more possibility of adding a new creative touch to the meals. Mark the recipes and set the cookbooks aside for further planning.
Next, concentrate on the table’s décor for each of the dinners. Determine which linens can be used for which holiday. Check that the linens are clean, ironed and ready. If not, add the linens to an ongoing “To Do List”. Visualize the tables. Consider how creative and interesting napkin rings can be in adding personality to your table setting. Here are some suggestions:
Roll the napkin into a cylinder shape and tie with a wired ribbon in a seasonal color. A wrapped candy cane, sprig of holly or a fresh flower may be tucked into the bow.
Wrap a cutting of Ivy around a folded napkin.
Cut burlap fabric into 1½ inch wide strips about 14” long. Wrap burlap around a folded napkin and tie in a square knot. Set a small pumpkin or a tree ornament on the top of the flat tie.
Tie a napkin with a long string of black and/or red licorice.
A complete holiday table should have place cards. Realistically, they minimize the confusion of seating the guests. Also, place cards can double as a table gift. Ideas for place cards could be…
Use a small silver frame. Write the guest’s name in the picture place or have the frame engraved with the guest’s name.
Choose a tree ornament that represents the hobby or profession of each guest. Place this clever “place card” at each place. Let everyone try to find his or her place.
Put a fresh flower at each place setting with the guest’s name written in metallic on a leaf.
Tie large bows on the back of each chair. Write the guest’s name on one of the streamers.
When preparing a place card for guests, who may not know everyone, write the person’s name on both sides of the card. That way one can see the name of the person sitting across from them as well as those on either side.
Buy reasonably priced wine glasses. Have the guest’s name etched on the glass.
Using votive candle holders, have the guest’s name written on the votive. This serves as a place card, table gift and adds a soft light to the table décor.
Continuing with the tablet, list names and gift possibilities, attaching catalogue information or the store location. On the “To Do List”, purchase all wrapping materials. Gifts, then, may be wrapped as soon as purchased and stored. Remember to have several wrapped hostess gifts ready for the upcoming holiday parties.
Now that the lists are made, have a special planning calendar. This should be separate from the family event calendar. With lists in hand, allocate certain days for each item on the “To Do Lists”. Write on your calendar in pencil should plans need to be altered. Many time management consultants will attest that writing down an item on a list removes the stress of trying to remember long lists of “Things To Do”.
If, at the first of November, this pre-planning is completed, there will be more time available to actually enjoy the holidays. The key to shortcuts is planning ahead so you won’t be ‘cut short’ on being prepared. Happy Planning!