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Keep it simple;
And who says the party has to be during the holidays? There are nine other months of the year. Spread the entertaining throughout the year with family and friends who are dear. It's much less stressful and much more fun when you don't have a million other things to worry about.
Entertaining doesn't have to be fancy-schmancy stuff. The purpose is to get people together to have a good time. Food plays a role, for sure, but do what you do best, even if it's the family's favorite meat loaf, a great chicken hekka or the best roast duck from Chinatown. Feature a great dish and let the sides be sideliners. Comfort food is always appreciated, especially if you've made it yourself. Make one truly spectacular dish that your guests will remember.
Potlucks are an island tradition that allow everyone to feel as though they are as much a party giver as the host and hostess. Plan a potluck affair: Assign courses or dishes so you end up with a balanced spread of food. Remember to include Aunty Emma's salad or Uncle Eddie's ribs: Favorite dishes are welcome and build traditions.
Of course, you can go out, although the hustle and bustle of a restaurant is not the same as the coziness of home. Choose a place that will allow for conversation and a chance to catch up with friends and family. Plan now; make reservations early.
Gracious entertaining is about a host/hostess being relaxed and welcoming. Planning and organizing are the key, and keeping the affair simple should be part of the process. Plan on enjoying yourself and you will.
Consider entertaining as a gift: Wrap up the promise of a special brunch or dinner after the holidays when everyone has more time. Consider a floral arrangement or flowering plants that will last beyond the season. Consider a charitable gift in the name of your recipient, a gift that will no doubt go far.
Cut out the frivolous little-something gifts that end up in the charity box or trash. You know what these are: the cutesy mugs, silly notepads, refrigerator magnets and tchotchkes that seem appropriate but never fulfill their value. Are these items things you would like to receive? And could your time devoted to shopping and wrapping be better spent?
Ditto for the food gifts. Cookies, candies and sweet treats are great, but all seem to come at once. While some might last beyond the season, sweet treats overwhelm at this time of year. Consider fresh fruits, nuts or other food gifts of a healthier note this year. Gift baskets of fresh produce or even a gift certificate for food shopping will no doubt please.
At the office put a limit on gifts, or collect whatever everyone would have spent on gifts to make a donation to charity. Or have everyone chip in for an office lunch or arrange a gathering after work to celebrate the season outside the office. Do start making reservations now if you're planning an office party.
Planning to make gifts this year? A great idea, a tradition unto itself. But it takes time, too. Think about gifts that can be made ahead: chutneys, jams, flavored vinegars, fruitcakes. Cookies can be made ahead and frozen, baked or unbaked. Quick breads store well in the freezer, too. Enlist help, make it a family project or turn it into a gift-making event that might include some of the recipients.
Greeting cards are a form of gift, too. Do you really need to send 200 of them? Not likely, especially if they're imprinted, computer-addressed cards without a trace of personalization. Think of other ways to send holiday greetings -- letters to faraway friends, or perhaps just a phone call to someone across town.
Enjoying the holidays can be as simple as saying no to another gift to be bought, a party invitation or night out. It's all about savoring a few special activities and holding onto traditions that will make for special memories.
Make less count for more this year.
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