Dec 162010
Hubby prepping food for the Open House

Hubby prepping food for the Open House

A party just isn’t a party without friends. I found out this year that party prep is a whole lot more fun with friends, too. Completely by accident, we are starting a new tradition: The Pre-Open House Friday Night Prep Party.

I’ve learned over the past few years (and am still learning) that when friends offer to help you, you should let them. My mother (if her health is good) and a couple of close friends come a few hours early each Open House to assist me, and my college friend B– spends the weekend here so she can help.

But it’s never occurred to me to impose on people by asking that they come over on a Friday night for several hours just to help me finish (or make progress on) the impossible number of dishes that I always try to tackle for this holiday party.

It still wouldn’t have occurred to me if my (really wonderful and amazing) friend Angela hadn’t suggested it. Thanks to her offer and idea, six of us spent a good 5 hours the night before the party frosting, folding, dipping, and filling an assortment of sweets and savories.

The menu was takeout pizza and the broken or messed up pieces of whatever we’re prepping. This year that included Oreo Truffles, Buckeyes, Peanut Butter Chocolate Sandwich cookies, and Mini Chocolate Sandwich cookies.

We also prepped Cheesy Bacon Bites, but those weren’t cooked until the next day so they weren’t something you wanted to nibble.

We covered the coffee table with cutting boards and sheet pans, and most of my friends camped on the couches or sat on the floor while they prepped. I wish I had taken photos, but we were so busy cooking I didn’t think about it! (The picture above is actually from the day of the party, but you get the idea of how we were working.)

Six people working 5 hours saved me at least 30 hours of making sandwich cookies and rolling items in chocolate. I actually got less done myself because every time I turned around someone said, “Done! What’s next?” and I had to figure out how else they could help. I know for next year that I need to have a list of things people can do, and the components for those things prepped and ready for them.

I cannot say enough how awesome my friends are and how much I value the gift of their time.

And you know what? I think we had more fun than during the actual party!

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Dec 132010
Entertaining tip: The art of delegating

Every year that I put on this Open House, I feel I get a little better at delegating. Not just delegating, but letting go of the idea of perfection. The first year that I gave my friend B– free rein of the fruit and vegetable platters for the party, I nearly cleaned off the trays and started over. It wasn’t that what she did wasn’t beautiful – indeed, she’s very artful at arranging crudites. She just didn’t arrange them exactly the same way I would. For example, she arranged the fruit like a rainbow, with one color blending harmonious into […]

Dec 042010
Open House - T minus 7 days and counting

The two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Open House are crunch time. Ideally, with a week left before the party I want the decorations to be completely finished and the house mostly clean so I can spend the final week focused on cooking. It never quite works out that way. The tree is done, at least. THE tree, not the dozen I have scattered around the house in heights varying from 1 feet to 6. I love my theme trees, and take great joy in them, but my Christmas tree, the one that counts, is the live Frasier Fir in […]

Nov 232010
My tip for entertaining? Don't burn your house down.

Good idea: A pre-party trial run. Bad idea: Setting the kitchen on fire. Okay, I didn’t actually set the kitchen on fire. Just a cookbook, but the kitchen is alive and well only thanks to my quick-acting husband. To explain: A couple of years ago I learned (kind of the hard way) that it’s not a good idea to make a recipe for the first time when preparing it for my Open House. Most recipes don’t tell you how long they really take to make – at normal human speeds, not Rachel Ray 30 minute speeds – not to mention […]

Nov 162010
Open House - T minus 4 weeks and counting

As I write this, it’s mid November and I feel drastically behind for the Open House. But I feel that way every year, so what’s new? Actually, my work load in my design job has been at capacity and beyond for several weeks, so I’ve had a hard time juggling that and OH prep. (At least I’m earning money to help pay for the Open House.) Here’s where I stand so far: Decorating: Carolina Panthers tree done. This tree sits on top of the entertainment center, topped by a Sir Purr angel (made the wings and halo with pipe cleaners). […]

Oct 152010
The 2010 Open House Menu: First Thoughts

After each Open House, as we pack up the leftovers and get ready for the game night that immediately follows the party (my reward), my husband and I take notes about what recipes worked and which ones didn’t. Basically a post-mortem. What worked? What didn’t? Here’s what we thought about 2009.

Sep 302010
Anatomy of a Holiday Open House

I throw a huge Open House every Christmas that, despite my best efforts, gets bigger and more ambitious every year. But after 10 years of learning from my mistakes, I’ve gotten pretty good at organizing, planning, and prepping 50+ dishes so we’re (mostly) done in time for the party and I get to enjoy my guests. Here’s the first in a series of posts about the Open House and my preparations for it.