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  • Get Ready for the Holidays: Have a hosting plan

    Get Ready for the Holidays 2015 with Chief Family Officer

    Are you hosting a gathering for Thanksgiving or another occasion? If so, there are many things you can do ahead of time to reduce the stress. Here’s a quick checklist:

    Determine the number of people you’re hosting. This will affect your menu as well as your seating and serving plans.

    Decide on a menu. A pot luck will reduce the number of dishes you need to prepare – just be sure to make specific requests. For example, instead of “side dish,” ask someone to bring the sweet potato casserole they made last year. If your guests aren’t great cooks, ask them to bring wine, or a pie or bread from your favorite bakery.

    Figure out the logistics of what goes where. Decide ahead of time where you are going to seat everybody, whether the food will be served family style at the table(s) or whether you want to go with a buffet (and if so, know where you are going to locate the buffet), and where drinks will be located (do you want to dispense drinks from the kitchen as guests arrive, or set up a bar where they can help themselves?).

    Create a timeline for the day of. I picked up this tip from Ina Garten, who creates a detailed plan for the day of the party. This includes what dish you’re preparing at what time, what goes into the oven at a specific time, what comes out of the oven when, etc. This is a great way of ensuring that you don’t make one dish that needs to be baked at 350 degrees at the same time that you need to bake something else at 425, or need to use six burners when you only have four.

    Get your serving dishes ready the day before. This is especially true if you are using dishes you don’t use regularly, like a gravy boat. Use post-its to label platters and bowls with what they will hold, so you (or your helpers) don’t have to think about it when you’re getting ready to eat.

    If possible, set the table the day before. If you don’t need the table(s) you’ll be eating at, go ahead and set them a day ahead so you have one less thing to do on the big day. This way, you will also know ahead of time if you are short a glass or silverware.

    Be prepared for the unexpected. There will almost certainly be a hiccup or two on the day of your event, so just know that and stay calm. Most likely, no one else will notice, and even if they do, they’ll think it’s not a big deal if you don’t make it one!

    Original image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Stuart Miles.

    Party Idea: A Pirate Party

    I found these suggestions for holding a pirate-themed party at the America’s Cheapest Family website:

    For my son’s 7th birthday I had a pirate party. I found the cake idea in Family FunJohnny Pirate – the cheap kid magazine as well as some game ideas. The kids enjoyed a game called “Walk the Plank.” We put a wide plank of wood over our Little Tykes swimming pool and floated plastic alligators in the water. The kids all enjoyed walking the plank. They also enjoyed the foil wrapped cardboard swords that I gave them as a prize for walking the plank. Then we had a treasure hunt with clues. This resulted in the kids finding a cache of gold candy coins that we divided evenly between all the pirates. They took their “booty” home with them in their little wooden treasure chests. I also did an internet search and found the Boardman website. He has suggestions for more games using the pirate theme. I got free pirate hats from Long John Silver’s restaurants. I also learned to shop for the theme idea a few months ahead to get the best deals. I did find some gold coins at the 99-cent store, but the quality wasn’t very good. Later I discovered that See’s Candies had delicious gold coins.

    Here are some additional tips:

    • If you don’t have a pool, you could create a circle with cement blocks and lay a plank across the blocks.
    • Find directions for making pirate-themed cakes here, here, here, and here.
    • The Boardman site, mentioned in the original post on the America’s Cheapest Family site, has complete instructions for hosting a pirate party.
    • Turn a wipes container into a treasure chest.
    • Make pirate hats out of newspaper.

    Update 9/4/07: I came across this awesome pirate cake over at Slashfood. Instructions are here.

    Party Idea: A Chocktail Party

    Here’s an idea older kids will love: a Chocktail Party. To make it a truly special occasion, specify a dress code on the invitation (semi-formal, cocktail, or festive attire), and arrange an elegant buffet by varying the height of the serving platters with cakestands and tiered plates, using real plates and utensils (or buy clear plastic plates and silver plastic utensils, available at party supply stores), and serving drinks in stemware.

    Suggested menu:

    Finally, here are some tips for getting out chocolate stains:

    • Let the chocolate harden (put in fridge if necessary). Remove as much chocolate as possible with a dull knife or spoon.
    • Rinse the stain and rub in laundry or dishwashing detergent. Let stand for 5 minutes and rinse. (Work on the inside of the fabric to avoid damaging the appearance on the outside.)
    • Repeat the last step several times if necessary. You can also try soaking the stain in milk or heavy cream. If an oily stain remains, use a commercial stain remover and wash normally.
    • For carpets, scrape as much chocolate off as possible. Layer some paper towels over the stain and lightly run an iron on the lowest setting over the paper towels. Move the paper towels and repeat until the stain is gone (replacing the paper towels as necessary). You want to get the chocolate just melted enough to absorb into the paper towels but not so soft that it spreads on the carpet. Follow with a stain remover or a small amount of dishwashing detergent and blot dry.