By TMoM Team Member Katie Moosbrugger and Carolyn Miller

When I think of great holiday entertaining hostesses, two names come to mind: Martha Stewart and my sister-in-law Carolyn Miller. And I’m not joking! When it comes to entertaining, Carolyn is one serious cookie in the kitchen!

She (and my brother) have hosted a holiday party at their home in NJ every year for the past 18 years for friends and family – with a guest list averaging nothing short of 100 names! She does all the food preparation and organization herself, puts my brother in charge of stocking the bar, and together, they tag-team the cleaning responsibilities. On top of this, she has hosted both sides of my parents’ families (from great grandparents down to great grandkids) every year for two separate Christmas dinners that not only include full settings of china and crystal, but also homemade appetizers and three course meals – plus dessert! Oh and did I mention she and my brother have four children? While the kids are now at the age where they can help out mom and dad (ages 17, 15,13 and 9), it had never slowed Carolyn down in the past to have one babe glued to her hip and another hugging her leg. How she does it is beyond me, exhausts me, and amazes me. So, when we added holiday entertaining to our editorial schedule, Carolyn was the first person I turned to. I hope you’ll find her tips and tricks useful for your party preparations. Happy entertaining! – KM

Holiday entertaining is much easier than you think. The key is to stay organized. Follow the basic time saving tips below and you can throw a great party!

1. Store the guest list on the computer so you can use it again. Request on invite an RSVP with an email option (not regrets only.) Guests will reply more promptly and make your planning easier.

2. Save money and buy card stock and print your own invitation. Or send an Evite out via email and eliminate all postage and invitation costs.

3. Repeat the menu. If you have a dinner menu or appetizers you love to make , use them again. Stick with appetizers you know and only introduce a few new items each party.

4. Create lists for everything – and save them on your computer to use again.
For instance, list 1: Appetizer list…Sort appetizers into cold appetizers, hot appetizers and served appetizers. Also include all desserts and beverages needed. Finally, break the party set-up into task to do in advance, do the day before and do the day of. Constantly refer back to this list so you know what you need to do.

Also, List 2: Shopping list…List all appetizers being served and all the ingredients needed to make them. Break the shopping list out further with ingredients purchased in advance vs. fresh the day of the party. Even note where to buy ingredients (wholesale store, supermarket, etc.)

5. Make in advance and freeze everything you can. Many appetizers can be made two or three weeks in advance and put in the freezer. This frees up your time the day before and the day of the party to make the fresh items.

6. Don’t wait until the last minute. Several days before the party, set up the bar and organize all the serving platters with labels of what is being served. Even set the platters on your serving table with chips, crackers and serving utensils.

7. Get your kids involved. Have them assist with simple cooking tasks before the party and clearing glasses and serving during the party.

8. Use all areas of your home. Spread out the party by setting up the bar in one area and appetizers in another. Even place a bar and appetizers outside if weather permits.

9. Consider hiring someone to serve during the party and clean up. This way you can enjoy your own party. If you are cleaning up on your own, spend 30 minutes after the party ends and collect all the dirty glasses and dishes and run them through the dishwasher. No matter how tired you may be the night of the party, it is so much nicer to wake up the next morning to a clean house.

10. Spend a couple minutes the day after jotting down lessons learned for the next party. Note appetizers that went quickly or were left over, and beverages you had too much or not enough of. Add the notes to your party document and save for the next party.

Thanks, Carolyn for all your holiday entertaining advice! I am so in awe of what you do, and very thankful you host our family each and every year (better you than me) 🙂