How to host your first holiday dinner

How to host your first holiday dinner.

First-time homeowners, unite! This is your year for finally hosting a holiday dinner. It’s a rite of passage, an honor, and also? Just a whole lot of fun. Don’t worry about stressing, just use these basic steps to turn your holiday hosting into an appetite-pleasing, perfectly decorated event that everyone can enjoy.

Start with a list.

You’ll need lists, lots of them. For starters, create a guest list. Then once you decide on a direction for the meal, make a grocery list. But don’t forget to keep a non-food list as well—you’ll want to include things like napkins and decorations (or even extra Tupperware). You can minimalize list stress by using an invitation service like www.evites.com. Electronically send invitations and then manage RSVPs.

Choose a style.

Your style is your own, and it should suit the guests you’re inviting as well. You can go five-star formal, or opt for a more low-key buffet style meal. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s something you’re comfortable with. If you have a huge gathering, there’s no shame in disposable plates to help with the cleanup. From five-star to buffet, a buffet warmer is staple that will serve your household for years to come. Consider your options here.

Buffet Warmer - great for hosting your first holiday dinner.
BestProducts.com

Self-Serve Drinks

Empower your guests by setting up a self-serve bar for drinks. It only takes a few kitchen staples and ingredients, and it allows you to focus on food and socializing and not refilling glasses. Plus, you can throw in a few decorations to make it an eye appealing focal point. Think of it like the office water cooler, a nice gathering place for guests.

Self-Serve Bar for Drinks - Holiday Hosting Idea
WhatsCookingAmerica.net

Decorations

Don’t fret, decorating for your holiday meal doesn’t need to be a stressful event. A few things here and there will do plenty to set the mood. Remember holiday colors, and don’t forget the power of a few seasonal items like pine cones and tinsel. We happen to think that place cards are a delightful way to make your guests feel special, and this place card idea gives cranberries a fantastic use.

Holiday Place Holders - great for hosting holiday dinner
CountryLiving.com

Most importantly, have fun! This is your home, your people, your meal. You have everything to enjoy, right in front of you. After dinner, switch on the fireplace or a good movie, and simply relish in a job well done.

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Thanksgiving Fun at the Kids’ Table

Thanksgiving Fun at the Kids' Table

Most of us have memories at the kids’ table during Thanksgiving and holidays. It can seem like an exclusion from all the adult festivities, but with these fun and creative ideas, the kids’ table doesn’t have to be a banishment. Incorporate some of these concepts into your Thanksgiving table for little ones, and even your adult guests will want to join in the fun.

Elbows Off the Table, Crayons On

If the best part of eating at Macaroni Grill was getting to color on the table, then this idea is for you. A large roll of white paper (or orange to keep it festive) is all you need to add creativity to Thanksgiving. Cover your own kids’ table in paper, provide plenty of crayons, and let the kids’ imaginations go wild. Show them how to turn their handprint into Thanksgiving turkeys for extra fun.

Corn Husk Friends

If you’re a Little House on the Prairie fan, you might remember this concept. Use corn cobs or corn husks to create pilgrim dolls, and watch your Thanksgiving table decorations double as interactive play for all the kiddos. Martha Stewart outlines how here.

Corn Husk Dolls
MarthaStewart.com

Timeless Pilgrim Decorations

Martha also gets credit for this simple yet oh-so-appealing table decoration. You don’t even need to be a master crafter to pull off this look. It’s a simple “less is more” design that still incorporates a nice history lesson into your Thanksgiving meal. Throw in some Thanksgiving trivia questions to get the conversation flowing. Use this link for directions and free printables.

Pilgrim Centerpiece
MarthaStewart.com

Activity Book

Double the use of your tablecloth crayons by giving each child a Thanksgiving coloring and activity book. The book is free to download and print and can keep kids of all ages occupied for hours … or at least until the pie is served.

Thanksgiving coloring pages
HappinessIsHomemade.com

Centerpiece with a Surprise

We can’t get enough of this paper bag turkey centerpiece. But the best part is the surprise snack inside. You can show off your creativity and impeccable taste in snacking, but the best part is how easy this craft is to pull off.

Paper Bag Turkey
OneCharmingParty.com

A Healthy Dessert

We know, we know, it’s not quite pie (We really encourage you to serve that, too.) but you just can’t go wrong with these cute and healthy fruit cornucopias. Plus, we all know the easiest way to get kids to eat healthy is to make it eye appealing. This healthy after-dinner snack only comes with one catch—make enough for the adults, too, because these are just too difficult to pass up.

fruit cornucopias
ForkAndBeans.com

Make-ahead recipes for your Thanksgiving feast

According to History.com, in 2011 the United States was expected to produce nearly 750 million pounds of cranberries. Which, seems like a lot, unless you’re the first person to say “please pass the cranberry sauce” at Thanksgiving dinner. Couple that with the 235 million turkeys we eat annually (a fifth of which are consumed on Thanksgiving), and you’ve almost got a Thanksgiving feast.

But if your palate is craving a little bit more, browse through these ideas. The best part is that all of these recipes can be prepared ahead of time, leaving you more family and football time.

Cranberries

Speaking of all of those cranberries, maybe you’d like something a little more appealing than the gelatin out of a can. Real Simple shares this recipe that can be made up to four days in advance. Get ready for real texture and real flavor (and plenty of real, delicious cranberries) that almost look too pretty to eat.

cranberries
RealSimple.com

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes almost always seem to find their way to our Thanksgiving table. But why not make this healthy and tasty spud into finger food? The sweet potatoes can be cut and prepped in advance, leaving you with one job: toss them in the oven. Eat them plain or with your favorite dipping sauce, and you’ve just invited a traditional side dish into 2016.

sweet potato wedges
RealSimple.com

Mashed potatoes

If you’ve ever tried to make mashed potatoes ahead of time, you were probably more than a little disappointed. Luckily, The Kitchn offers some helpful tips and a recipe for potatoes that actually tastes better when it is made in advance and stored in the fridge. For starters, they urge the right type of potato (russet) and equipment (don’t use anything you have to plug in). Finish off the perfection by using whole milk, and slowly warm it up on Thanksgiving Day.

mashed potatoes
TheKitchn.com

Apple pie

If there’s anything as American as Thanksgiving, it’s apple pie. But a homemade apple pie is both tedious and time consuming. The Food Network encourages preparing this deep dish apple pie recipe in advance. Not only does this classic dessert look mouthwatering, The Food Network advises storing it in the fridge (preferably the night before the big feast) until you’re ready to bake.

apple pie
FoodNetwork.com

Turkey

Lastly, the centerpiece of every Thanksgiving meal is, of course, the turkey. But there’s even a way to save you holiday stress and prepare this staple early. Two words: smoked turkey. This requires a couple of days of prep. First, you’ll want to dry brine the turkey two days before your feast, but don’t worry, the recipe explains how. Then, the day before, let the turkey enjoy the warmth of a smoker. Store the smoked meat in the refrigerator until you’re ready to heat and serve.

smoked turkey
SouthernLiving.com

We can’t promise that preparing your Thanksgiving meal in advance will save you from all of the holiday stress, but it does give you plenty of extra time to enjoy every minute of the day and be thankful.

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It’s pumpkin season—fun, food, frills

pumpkin patchIt’s officially fall, and what better way to celebrate than to enjoy all that pumpkins have to offer. From visiting a pumpkin patch, to delicious treats, and even some decorating—there’s really no limit to what you can with a great pumpkin. We have a few ideas to get you started ringing in autumn.

Pumpkin Patches

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

Even if you don’t have small children, a pumpkin patch visit is practically a fall necessity. Luckily, there are plenty to choose from around Nebraska, and for every budget.  Vala’s Pumpkin Patch is large and filled with live shows, a corn maze, shopping, and of course, plenty of pumpkins. Visit on a Monday thru Thursday for discounted ticket prices, otherwise pricing ranges from $13.99 to $17.99.

Roca Berry Farm

Roca Berry farm is a short and beautiful drive only 15 minutes from Lincoln. They even offer season passes for $23.99. If you love Halloween, you might want to splurge for the Sinister Circus Psychopath Haunted Manor tickets. They run $19.99, and it is sure to be memorable experience.

Nielsen Kids U-Pick Pumpkin Patch

If you love pumpkins and you also love the honor system, then Nielsen Kids U-Pick Pumpkin Patch is definitely for you. You’ll enjoy the complete lack of sticker shock, and the acres of pumpkins and gourds in every variety and color. You’ll have to drive to Minden to get there, but a short road trip through Nebraska in the fall? It doesn’t get much better than that.

Food

pumpkin tiramisu
MyRecipes.com Photographer: Alison Miksch

So you’ve stocked up on pumpkins, now what? If you’re the ambitious type, use a pie pumpkin for your recipes. But we love the ease of opening up a can of pumpkin, too. Whichever way you choose to enjoy the savory flavor, this Pumpkin-Espresso Tiramisu is probably a must!

Decorate

pumpkin vase
ReadersDigest.com

Lining your front porch with jack-o-lanterns is a time-honored tradition. But don’t just stop there. There are plenty of creative—and simple—ways to decorate with pumpkins this season. Try starting out with this elegant and festive flower arrangement. You can browse Reader’s Digest for the rest of their crafty ideas.

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Tips to tailgate like a pro

cornhole toss gameThe countdown is on, and September 3rd is fast approaching. It’s the date Husker fans have been counting down to since the end of last season: the first Husker football game of 2016. If you haven’t scored season tickets, you can relax and instead enjoy a season of football tradition. A tailgate is the next best thing to sitting in the stands, and we’ll tell you how to tailgate like the diehard fan that you are.

Head to the Action

Obviously, downtown is the place to be on Husker game days. Fans head to Haymarket park as early as 8 a.m. on game days to kick off their Husker rally. $25 dollars per car is all it takes to partake in the celebrations, and with food vendors surrounded in a sea of red you really can’t go wrong. For a more family and wallet-friendly option, the Husker Nation Pavilion is free to enter and has enough music and food to keep you going throughout the entire game. You can even arrive early for autograph sessions; just plan to be there three hours before game time. Take a peek at this handy downtown parking map beforehand to avoid traffic headaches.

Throw Your Own Tailgate

Downtown crowds aren’t for everyone. If you’re a comfort-seeking fan use your own driveway for a tailgate. Keep an eye out for a great deal on a sturdy, portable firepit, and use it to heat up comfort food snacks, like s’mores, or to keep friends and family warm during colder games. A big screen television is essential, and red decorations will bring Memorial Stadium to you. Tie a few red balloons within arms’ reach to cheer on that first touchdown, and some dollar store red silly string will make cheering even more exciting. And Husker temporary tattoos are a delight for adults and kids alike.

Cheer with a Full Belly

Eat like a champ and clean up like a pro by utilizing the magic of your slow cooker. Chili and cinnamon rolls are a Nebraska tradition, but don’t forget about the other football food staples like hot wings and chips and dip. Even your dessert can find a warm home in your slow cooker. This apple treat is absolutely perfect for autumn.

Games

Don’t let the party die down during half time. Every Nebraskan should be a cornhole master, and you can learn how to build your own regulation cornhole set here.

Toss around your own football to keep the game and energy going, but also try Frisbee golf, darts, and card games.

Most of all, get your most enthusiastic Husker friends at the party. Whether you choose to head downtown or keep the party in your own driveway, tailgating is a tradition that will get even those non-sports fans bleeding Husker red every game day.

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Everything to do in Lincoln this August

Things to do in Lincoln: August 2016

Check out our list of August events in the area:

8/1-8/6 Various Times USA Roller Sports 2016 National Championship Speedway Village http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Roller-Sports/Calendar/2016-National-Championships

8/3 6 p.m. Nebraska Fan Day– Memorial Stadium www.huskers.com

8/3 starting at 7 p.m. Railyard Summer Classic Movie Series   http://www.canopyst.com/railyard

8/4 6-8 p.m. Family Fishing Event at Holmes Lake http://lincoln.macaronikid.com/calendar/event/family-fishing-event-at-holmes-lake/2016-08-04/c5164660/

8/4-8/13 (see website for times). Lancaster County Super Fair www.superfair.org

8/4 7 p.m. doors open, 8 p.m. show Alabama www.pinewoodbowltheater.com

8/5 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. First Friday Art Walks http://downtownlincoln.org/explore/first-friday.html

8/5 6 p.m. doors open Haymarket in White Dinner and Dance https://www.pinnaclebankarena.com/events/detail/haymarket-in-white

8/9 7 p.m. doors open, 8 p.m. show An Evening with Chicago www.pinewoodbowltheater.com

8/10 7 p.m. doors open, 8 p.m. show “Weird Al” Yankovic www.pinewoodbowltheater.com

8/11 7 p.m. doors open, 8 p.m. show The Beach Boys and The Temptations www.pinewoodbowltheater.com

8/11-8/28 7:30 p.m. Thurs-Sat, 2 p.m. Sun Beehive The 60s Musical www.tadaproductions.info

8/13 4-7 p.m. Party in the Parks Union Plaza http://lincoln.ne.gov/city/parks/party/index.htm

8/13 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. LES Sustainable Living Festival Railyard, West Haymarket http://www.les.com/about-les/sustainable-living-festival

8/13 4-7 p.m. Party in the Parks Union Plaza 21st & O St http://lincoln.ne.gov/city/parks/party/index.htm

8/18- 8/20 (see website for times) 20th Annual Capital City Ribfest https://www.pinnaclebankarena.com/events/detail/capital-city-ribfest-2

8/18 7:30 p.m. Ignite Lincoln 8 Rococo Theatre http://rococotheatre.com/event/ignite-lincoln-8/

8/19 7 p.m. FREE Cornhusker Marching Band Exhibition Show Memorial Stadium

8/19-8/20 Railyard Rims 3 on 3 Streetball (see website for details) http://www.railyardrims.com/

8/20 2016 Mud Run Lancaster Event Center (see website for details) http://www.nebraskasportscouncil.com/mudrun

8/20 7 p.m. Bob Devaney Sports Center Nebraska Volleyball Red/White Scrimmage www.huskers.com

8/20 8 a.m. 1 MILE RED PANDA RUN Lincoln Children’s Zoo http://www.lincolnzoo.org/events/red-panda-run.html

8/25 5:30 p.m. Chez Hay, 210 N 14th St. 3rd Annual Colors of Hope https://necancerresearch-org.presencehost.net/events/colorsofhope.html

8/25-/27 gates open at 5 p.m. show begins at 7:00 p.m. 9th & D, The Colonel Mustard Amateur Attic Theatre Company presents Wanted: Robyn Hood (And Her Merry Men & Women) https://www.facebook.com/events/1557919641180923/

8/26-27 4 p.m.-10 p.m. and 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. 950 N 63rd St, My Big Fat Greek Festival http://annunciation.ne.goarch.org/festival

8/26-27 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. Belong Tour https://www.pinnaclebankarena.com/events/detail/belong

8/27 Railyard Haymarket Lincoln Zombie Fest http://www.lincolnzombiewalk.com/

8/27 5-8:30 p.m. Community Crops Feast on the Farm Prairie Pines, 112th & Adams http://communitycrops.org/events/feast-on-the-farm/

8/27 3:30-7:30 p.m. Prairie Jazz Festival Pioneers Park Nature Center https://lnknaturecenterorg.presencehost.net/prairiejazzfestival/

8/27 5:15 a.m. Check in, Holmes Lake, Major League Triathlon http://www.majorleaguetriathlon.com/

 

Ongoing All-Summer events

8/1-8/26 Be a Tourist in your own Hometown http://www.lincoln.org/play/be-a-tourist

8/3-8/31 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wild Wednesdays Lincoln’s Children’s Zoo www.lincolnzoo.org

8/6 – 8/27 (Saturdays) 8-11 p.m. Hyde Memorial Observatory Free Programs Holmes Lake http://www.hydeobservatory.info/

8/1-8/17 Sundays, Mondays & Wednesdays 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Kids Dream Summer at Marcus Theatres participating Marcus Theatre location-check the website for updates. http://marcustheatres.com/

 

Ongoing FREE Summer Concerts

8/ 5 -8/19 (Fridays) 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday Nights Live at Southpointe Pavilions donations requested http://southpointeshopping.com/events/friday-nights-live-summer-concerts/

8/7 & 14 7 p.m. (Sundays) Lincoln Municipal Band presents 2016 Summer Concert Series FREE at Antelope Park- See website for schedule; http://www.lincoln.org/play/event/87311-lincoln-municipal-band-presents-2016-summer-concert-series

8/ 2 & 9 7-9 p.m. (Tuesdays) Free Tower Jazz, 13th & P, see website for schedule http://downtownlincoln.org/explore/tower-jazz.html

8/ 3- 31 (Wednesdays) 12 p.m.-1 p.m. Lincoln Community Foundation Garden Performance Series 1415 N St http://www.artsincorporated.org/default.asp

8/ 4- 18 (Thursdays) 7 p.m. Stransky outdoor summer Concert Series 17th & Harrison Ave http://kzum.org/

 

Ongoing Farmers’ Markets

Aug. 2 -Oct. Tuesdays 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. F Street Neighborhood Farmers’ Market 1302 F St. (church parking lot) https://www.facebook.com/fstreetmarket/

Aug. 3-Oct 8 Wednesdays 3.-6:30 p.m. Havelock Farmers’ Market 6220 Havelock Ave http://www.lincoln.org/play/event/87341-havelock-farmers-market

Aug. 4-Sept. Thursdays 4:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Fallbrook Farmers’ Market http://www.fallbrookfarmersmarket.com/

Aug. 6-Oct. Saturdays 8 a.m.-12noon Historic Haymarket Farmers’ Market http://lincolnhaymarket.org/

Aug. 7 – Oct. 30 Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Rain or shine Old Cheney Road Farmers Market www.oldcheneyroadfarmersmarket.com

 

Ongoing August sporting events: Check websites

University of Nebraska Sports Schedule: www.huskers.com

Nebraska Wesleyan University Sports Schedule: http://nwusports.com/

Lincoln Saltdogs Schedule: http://www.saltdogs.com/schedules/games/

No Coast Derby Girls https://www.facebook.com/NOCOASTDERBYGIRLS/events

Tips for Throwing a Memorable Housewarming Party

housewarming, food, fun,party, friends, family, neighbors

First, break all the rules

When it comes to a memorable housewarming party, the best rule of thumb is to throw etiquette out the window. Intricately designed invitations are great for friends and family, but what better way to connect with new neighbors than to go door to door, or run into a few at the neighborhood mailbox and invite them over for a low-key get together.

Don’t worry about impressing anyone

You might not have furniture yet. Your real friends don’t care. They just want to help you enjoy the happiness of your new home. We had a housewarming party just days after moving in, we didn’t have new furniture yet. Friends happily found a cozy spot on the floor, and the comment we heard most often? “Your carpet is SO soft!” I replied every time with “Almost as soft as a couch, right?!”

Keep your party simple

That includes food. An endless supply of drinks and a nice fire pit in the yard is more than enough. A few backyard games don’t hurt either. Set up a sprinkler or slip-and-slide if it’s warm, or invite everyone to make s’mores or roast marshmallows as you watch new and old friendships come together.

For food, try simple appetizers, mainly finger foods, that require little prep and cleanup and satisfy a growling stomach. Caprese salad is a delicious, nutritious finger food that is even more visually appealing skewered on a toothpick.

Keeping with that theme, you can literally almost skewer anything; smoked turkey breast, fresh fruit, gummy candy, the possibilities are simple and endless.

Create keepsakes

Don’t forget to have your guests sign a thoughtful message in a decorative guestbook. You’ll want to remember your first party in your new home, and it’s a great way to remember the names of new neighbors.

Try a fun Polaroid camera to take snapshots. Write the names of new neighbors on the back; keep one photo for yourself and send one as a thank you to your guests for attending and, added bonus, they will have a tangible copy of your new address.

Give directions

Lastly, don’t forget directions! While everyone probably has a GPS, they still might be roaming the streets of every cul-de-sac in your new ‘hood trying to find your house number. Try a simple app like Glympse where guests can view your exact GPS location, and even send you theirs so you know when they’re on your way.

If you keep the food simple and easy, the cleanup will be a mere afterthought. And the greatest friends and neighbors will probably offer to pick up a few things before they leave.

Happy Home Christening!

Great recipes for throwing a Super Bowl party

The best thing about throwing a Super Bowl party is you only need two things: a television and food. Before you start debating where to rack up a tab for pizza delivery, consider these fun and flavorful options that will definitely be more of a hit than the Super Bowl commercials:

The Dip

Without dip, there is clearly no Super Bowl party. You may not be a master chef, but these ideas will stun your guests into believing you are, even if their mouths are too full to congratulate you.

Food.com offers this Chicken Enchilada Dip in their compilation of 36 Football Dip Recipes. The only thing better than actually eating enchiladas, is an enchilada that is mobile enough to throw in a bowl and survive four quarters of cheering and touchdown dances. This dip fits the bill:

7 layer dip
Food.com

We also happen to think this BLT dip turns one of the world’s greatest sandwiches into one incredible dip:

BLT dip
Food.com

But if you still have pizza on the brain, there are a number of drool worthy pizza dip recipes, like this one straight from the Food Network:

pizza dip
FoodNetwork.com

The Main Dish

You can also skip the pizza delivery with this genius recipe made with none other than your waffle maker. The Food Network boasts, “What happens when you stick pizza dough in a waffle iron? You get extra-crispy, ridged crust with perfectly squared wells to catch all the sauce and cheese.”

Pizza Waffles
FoodNetwork.com

Or turn your slow cooker into a game day hero with this Buffalo Chicken recipe. Guests can pile on as much chicken as they like to make their own sandwich, and you won’t miss a second of the game.

Buffalo Chicken
HostTheToast.com

But of course it’s every slow cooker’s dream to fill your party with the tantalizing aroma of warm, savory, chili. Dress this chili to impress by serving in edible bread bowls.

chili
GimmeSomeOven.com

But before you panic, no, we would never forget wings. These Gingered Sweet and Spicy Hot Wings also claim to be “foolproof.”

wings
TasteofHome.com

The Dessert

By halftime, everyone has a sweet tooth. Bon Appetit offers up this stunning gallery of 33 Super Bowl Desserts. Like this Iron Skillet Peach Crisp:

peach crisp
BonAppetit.com

Maybe you’re looking for something a little cuter? Then you can’t go wrong with these Chocolate Covered Strawberry Footballs:

chocolate strawberry footballs
DomesticFits.com

And finally, even if you’re over all of the gender reveal trends, these Super Bowl “reveal” cupcakes are still the tastiest way to show your team alliance.

Whichever team you root for, with full and happy party guests, you’ll come out the winner this Sunday.

Hosting a New Year’s Eve party you can enjoy also

2016So in a moment of holiday cheer, your excitement took over and you invited all of your family, friends, old high school buddies, the grocery store clerk, and some strangers on the street to your home for the most EPIC New Year’s Eve party this century has ever seen! Now that reality has set in and that holiday cheer has turned into the reality of your task at hand, don’t panic. We’ve got you covered with these simple, fun, and wow-worthy New Year’s Eve party ideas that will actually allow you to enjoy the festivities also.

Decorations:

Skip those plastic party store decorations. (Exception: 2016 eyeglasses. Never skip 2016 eyeglasses.) Nothing says “classy adult party” like this decoration focal point. Beautiful, unique, and a breeze to clean up afterwards.

clocks
From MarthaStewart.com

Food:

If the idea of preparing a five-course meal leaves you huddled in the corner in fear, then don’t. Invite your guests to arrive after dinner. In their post-meal state they’ll be totally ready to nibble on all the easy appetizers you’ve so beautifully displayed. Vegetable and fruit trays, meats and cheeses with crackers—all of these are stress-free (and you can even buy them already prepared at your grocery store). Then spend your energy on a few cute appetizers like these mini hot dogs. Miniature food is like a miniature pony, way too cute to resist. Try these mini hotdogs and get creative with other foods that you can cut down to size.

mini hot dogs
From SouthernLiving.com

Drink:

Have a little “Mad Scientist” moment in the kitchen and create your own signature drink concoction for the night. Think beyond the normal fruity punches and get creative! For extra fun, freeze juice into ice cubes for extra color and flavor. Just don’t forget to give your brand new drink a fun name that your friends will be repeating all night as they refill!

Games:

For a really simple—and really fun—holiday game, Real Simple always has the right solution. Have some fun with normal tradition of New Year’s Resolutions with these downloadable New Year Playing Cards. Guests fill in the blanks to questions like “The person I want to be more like this year _____.” or “The bad habit I want to kick this year is _____.” Then shuffle the cards and read them aloud; try to guess to whom each resolution belongs!

resolution cards
From RealSimple.com

Countdown:

The countdown to midnight: the most anticipated part of a New Year’s Party. But please, your vacuum begs you, skip the confetti. Instead, feast your eyes on this amazing personalized idea that really shows your guests how much they mean to you. It might take a little extra prep work, but personalized confetti with your favorite photos of friends and family will be the highlight of your party, right after 3…2….1. The best part, guests will want to actually help pick them up so they can keep their special memento.

photo confetti
From MarthaStewart.com

Post-Midnight:

After the ball drops, don’t let guests rush out the door. Keep the party going with some softer music, the glorious glow of a fireplace, and of course, bottomless cups of coffee. As the excitement of the night wears off, you and your friends will find a cozy end to the night talking, laughing, and reminiscing on a wonderful 2015, but also looking forward to what 2016 has in store.

Thanksgiving tips and tricks

thanksgiving-keep-calmThanksgiving is upon us, and if you’re the one hosting this year you might already be in a panic. Step one for anything successful holiday feast is simple: stop panicking.

A good place to start for a successful Thanksgiving dinner is set the tone. Always start with some great music in the background. You might want to start the Christmas music early, because let’s face it, Christmas music is the best ANY time of year, or go for some festive oldies the grandparents will love. If you have a vinyl record player, you can even make those oldies authentic! Who knows, maybe your guests will even dress in theme for added fun.

There are a number of ways to sweeten the smell of your home as soon as your guests step in the door. Warm some vanilla in a pan, or get creative with orange rind and cinnamon. Anything to get those stomachs growling.

One word: Plasticware. Stock up on as much as you can from the dollar store and send your guests home with leftovers in dishes they never need to worry about returning.

turkey-apron-webWhen I host family meals, I love a cute apron. I know, I know, it’s 2015. But come on, they’re adorable, and nothing says “I’ve been slaving in the kitchen all day AND look adorable” more than an amazing apron.

Try a fun craft for the kids while they wait for dinner to be served. I love the idea of a sugar cookie bar. Let the kids (and adults) frost sugar cookies with a variety of colors and sprinkles; plus, it’s extra incentive for them to clean their dinner plates.

One overlooked crockpot use is beverages. Homemade hot chocolate or some simmering apple cider will definitely warm those tummies and bring out the holiday spirit in everyone.

And of course, prepare everything you can ahead of time. Use your freezer to store prepared food until you’re ready to complete it. Then after Thanksgiving, stock up the freezer again with leftover turkey and other ingredients that you can turn into a delicious soup on a cold day.

The Food Network asked 50 famous chefs for their best Thanksgiving tips, here are a few gems:

“Incorporate some games into the day! Whether it’s a backyard touch football game or a beanbag toss, have a few things going on so people aren’t crowding the kitchen.” Richard Blais, The Spence, Atlanta

“As my Thanksgiving crowd grew, I started doing the meal as a buffet. I put the food out in the kitchen and people walk through and take what they want. They gather in different areas to eat and mingle, and it’s so much fun.” Marc Vetri, Vetri, Philidelphia

“Serve cranberry sauce in hollowed-out apples to add some color to your dinner table” Wolfgang Puck, Spago, Beverly Hills

Above all, once those bellies are full is the perfect time for everyone to remember exactly what they are thankful for. Your meal will be amazing, but they will be grateful for so much more.

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