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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

Planning Holiday Dinner Parties & Christmas Dinner Without The Stress

Posted: November 25, 2006
by: Robert Jackson

At this time of the year, we all have so much to think about! It's just one Christmas_ornament_red

long party season - starting in earnest with Canadian Thanksgiving in early

October, or late October in the USA with Halloween. And then it just doesn't stop until the 1st of January, when we all wake up with a sore head, and a hefty credit card balance! But we all love it, and so we should!

What we don't love, and should actively avoid...is the stress that often accompanies all of the planning and preparations that are so essential for a successful host or hostess entertaining guests at home. So I want to share with you some well rehearsed tips for planning a holiday dinner party or Christmas dinner which just may help to get you through this season....without a headache!

My number 1 golden rule in successful, stress-free entertaining is... PLANNING AND PREPARATION! If you are not a natural-born "planner", now is the time to learn! The single biggest cause of average, (or worse, disappointing!) hospitality is a host or hostess who is so badly organised and prepared that the party descends into orchestrated chaos!

So here are my top 10 suggestions for slick and stylish entertaining without inducing a single, grey hair!

1.. Menu & Recipes

Plough through as many cook books and websites as you need to in order to prepare a menu that YOU are happy with. If using a website to locate dinner menus, print off the recipes as you find them

2.. Keep it simple!

Do not get carried away by trying to create a menu that is beyond your comfort zone. It is always far better to serve very casual, simple food that has been skillfully prepared than it is to serve extravagant and complex dishes which are poorly or badly cooked!

3.. "Cheat" a little!

Don't be afraid of buying in 1, 2 or more prepared dishes. There are so many excellent suppliers (such as GourmetStation) available now - many of them on the internet. When combined with your own offerings and finished with your individual flourish, no one need ever know your little secret!

4.. Get some Help

If the occasion is beyond your abilities (whether due to restrictions on your time, a large number of guests or a lack of culinary skills), call in some help. That might just be a few close friends. Or perhaps you need to hire Caterers or a Personal Chef. Again, you will find it easy to discover such services in your area on the internet.

5.. Prepare a Timetable

Sit down with a sheet of A4 notepaper and make headings for at least 7 days leading up to the event. Now with all of your recipes spread out in front of you, decide which tasks can be performed ahead of time, and by how much (many dishes are suitable for freezing and can be prepared a week or more in advance). Then under each date heading, list all of the separate stages of preparation.

6.. Make Lists

From your timetable, now prepare lists for the grocery shopping (look out for foods that must be ordered well in advance). Make lists for drinks & beverages to be purchased. And finally make "to-do" lists. Prioritise these in the order of importance (taking the timetable into account). I find

sticky "post-it" notes useful for this. But however you do it, make sure the reminders are somewhere prominent where you won't forget them!

7.. Prepare the Invitation List

Again on A4 note paper, prepare your guest list. Be realistic about numbers! Do not invite more guests than you are comfortable with (or can physically accommodate!). Decide on the invitation format. Depending on the formality of the occasion, a card by post, email or the telephone may be appropriate.

8.. Shopping

Always leave plenty of time for grocery shopping and do as much well ahead of time as your menu will allow. Bulk shopping can now easily be done online which takes a lot of the physical effort out of the equation. Specialty food purchases can also often be ordered online from gourmet food suppliers. Do not leave shopping to the last moment.... or you will regret it!

9.. Only Spend That Which You Can Afford

Do not be tempted into unnecessary extravagance that you cannot afford as spending excessively rarely impresses people. Plan your budget...and stick to it.  Just a few small, luxury items will go a very long way and is all that is needed!

10.. Relax and enjoy yourself!

My final golden rule to stress-free entertaining is to at all times, remember that good hospitality is all about enjoyment...for your guests, and especially for yourself! So relax. Don't allow yourself to get too bogged down by worrying over every small detail. Even when kitchen mishaps do occur, our well intentioned, invited friends are almost always, very

forgiving! After all, it is the Holidays...another drink anyone?

Happy Holidays everyone.

Robert Jackson

Your Comments

Thanks for the suggestion..

Posted by: Juno888 at May 17, 2007 11:45:13 PM

Some fantsstic suggestions! There is so much to go through when planning a holiday get together, this will surley help.


Posted by: Christmas Entertaining at Dec 8, 2007 6:25:08 PM