Gather Your Friends: Holiday Open House 101

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Gathering together with friends during the holidays is when holiday memories are made!

Now that I’m in my new house, one holiday tradition I’m hoping to establish is hosting a holiday open house. When entertaining, I think having a good plan is key to not getting super-stressed. So, here’s my plan:


Step One - Pick your date. The holidays are busy times so plan early. Try to pick a date that is about 3 weeks away to give your guests time to plan and hopefully avoid conflicts. Remember Holiday Open Houses can happen after Christmas too! Sometimes, having a party after Christmas Day is much less stressful and gives everyone something to look forward to! Also, be sure to plan start and end times for your celebration.

Step Two - Plan the guest list. I think small gatherings are best, and since it’s an open house remember that guests may be coming and going. Think about your home’s comfortable seating capacity and entertaining “zones” - the dining room, living room, etc… What if everyone is there at the same time? How much “standing room only” space do you have? I suggest setting a maximum capacity limit and working back from that.

Step Three - Invite your guests. I adore paper invitations, but a casual party like this can be a great time to create a festive e-invitation.

Step Four - Plan the menu. Snacks and drinks are some of the most key elements to a successful party, and remember -- you want to be socializing and not chained to the kitchen stove. I recommend planning dishes that are delicious served at room temperature or that can be served straight from a heated dish, like a crock-pot on the warm setting.

Consider setting up a couple of stations for food to encourage guests to mix and mingle. For drinks, there are a lot of fun bar cart ideas floating around cyber-space right now, which make great self-serve bars, but I like to keep things really simple and offer a couple of pre-mixed punches.  Also, remember to keep foods fairly simple - guests want to be chatting and not juggling hard to handle food.

For a holiday party, I always like to serve something that feels "special" like shrimp. This recipe for Bacon Wrapped Shrimp on Rosemary Skewers is delicious, easy for guests to eat and feels "fancy" without too much fuss to make - perfect for this party! Here's my recipe:

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp on Rosemary Skewers

:: INGREDIENTS ::

24 Whole raw shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and tails-off

Olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper

Rosemary stems

12 pieces of Bacon, cut in half

:: STEP ONE :: 
Place shrimp in a dish and drizzle with olive oil and seasonings on both sides. Cover with saran wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
:: STEP TWO :: 
Prepare Rosemary stems (you can see tips on preparing stems on this post here.) I clipped each stem short to accommodate one shrimp each, this makes each bite feel extra-special and depending on the length of your rosemary you can get several skewers out of one piece. My cut pieces were approximately 3" - 4" long.
:: STEP THREE ::
 I found it easiest to thread one end of the bacon onto the skewer, then pierce the shrimp near the top, then wrap bacon around shrimp and pierce the shrimp near the tail, followed by the end of the bacon. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Place shrimp in pan and cook for approximately 5 minutes per side, until cooked through. These are delicious served warm or at room-temperature.
::
STEP FIVE:: Get ready for guests. If you'd like some fun decorating ideas, please visit my Christmas Home Tour here.

Tips for getting your home ready for the party:

• Make sure you have cleared off table space around your seating areas for drinks and plates for guests to use during the party.  Also, make sure that breakables are out harm’s way - it’s easy for someone to bump into a table when a room is filled with lots of people.
• Station a greeter by your front door and plan a spot for winter coats.
• Also, have a few folding chairs on stand-by just in case you need an extra seat or two.
• Be sure to stock the bathroom with extras like toilet paper and towels.
• Set the mood with music! From simply turning your satellite tv to a holiday station or find your inner mix-master and create a playlist for your iPod. No matter how you do it, don’t forget the music! Just be sure to keep the volume low enough that guests can chat comfortably.
• Chances are your home already smells yummy from your cooking but also consider adding a holiday spice boil to your stove to ensure the sweet scents of the holidays! (We have a delicious recipe for on in the November/December issue of my magazine!)

And there you have some tips and ideas for making your Holiday Open House the best ever! If you have more to add to the list, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

Happy Celebrating!

And if you're looking for a last minute gift idea... consider a gift subscription to Celebrating Everyday Life with Jennifer Carroll! It's a gift that keeps on giving!!

This post is part of the Favorite Holiday Traditions series, sponsored by Betty Crocker Cookies.

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