Merry & Bright: A Christmas Party
Have I mentioned how much I love to entertain? I have? Well, I'm gonna gush about it some more. I love to create parties, events for friends where I can thoughtfully plan a menu and decor that will cast a spell of enchantment on my guests. I guess you could say I aspire to be an entertaining wizard of sorts. Except fashioning all those crafty little details and bites of bliss takes hard work. And a fucking lot of planning. Fortunately, these are things I excel at. Organization, stamina, obsessive devotion to an ideal.
Smiling charm and social grace, not so much. Everyone has their gifts.
By the time the party arrives, I've crafted something unique and had the pleasure of watching it blossom into being before my eyes.
Our holiday party this year was no exception. I begin planning and staging about a month in advance, posting themed invites on Facebook and Punchbowl and assembling party plans on Pinterest boards that will become the framework of the decor and menu. Two weeks before hand, the listing begins. SO many lists. To do lists, shopping lists. It's an OCD binge of satisfying detailed proportions. By the time we get to the week of the party, I am in execution mode. I've broken down my tasks into rigid timelines that must be completed to stay on schedule. It's an approach that might seem unnecessary, so much military precision for one little event. But I've learned with years of practice that this strict regimen allows me to carry off my vision successfully on the day of with minimal panic.
Merry & Bright brought a few new elements of decor to my standard household holiday fare. In addition to our gorgeous fourteen footer of a tree, complete with signage tucked into the branches and strung on the seemingly invisible threads of fishing wire, I added a ton of small details to our table and counter displays.
My favorite perhaps were the little paper houses, lit from within by LED tealights nestled in boughs of fir and white painted branches on the counter.
I re created my table display from last year, featuring starry lights (you can purchase them here: Starry String Lights Warm White Color LED's on a Flexible Copper Wire - LED String Light with 120 Individually Mounted LED's, 20ft, wooden trees from West Elm, and an advent calendar I picked up at Target years ago. I made the burlap banner last year in a burst of craftiness and then this year made several dozen intricate paper snowflakes that I scattered on the table to buffer the wood from spills and accidents during the festivities.
One of the things I do for parties is pick up bunches of flowers in colors that coordinate with the decor for the event. It's a cheap and easy way to bring the color scheme together.
This little gathering of Gerber daisies and white hydrangeas I grabbed at Trader Joe's, which is a great place to get florals on the cheap.
Now we come the most important part- the elaborate eats!
Here's a shot of the menu. I typically post it online a week or more before the event so if guests want to contribute coordinating dishes, they have time to come up with something fun. During the party, I borrow my daughter's chalkboard easel and chalk up a menu for party goers in the entrance way to announce the culinary experience they'll be undertaking.
I focus on concocting a menu that carries seasonal flavors and dishes that lend themselves well to the weather.
For winter gatherings, I lean towards the warm fragrance of soups and the comfort of bread. And I am always trying my hand at something new.
This time around, I fashioned a myriad of crostinis. In the first photo you'll see the Peach Jalapeno, Mint & Honey Crostini alongside the Roasted Tomato Basil Crostini. In the next photo you'll sample my favorite- a Smoked Salmon with Dill and Lemon Herbed Ricotta.
Next up is where the magic happens in the menu. At least for me. I am an enthusiastic baker and I often take time to invent new offerings at parties. For Merry & Bright I went with a mountain of buttered toffee topped with either pistachios or salted peanuts and a tower of gingerbread cupcakes piled high with cinnamon buttercream.
For me, dessert is about fantasy and I always strive for the whimsical.
Last year's eggnog & hot cocoa bar returned, which is always popular with the kids. I post a guide and all the fixings to make some pretty fascinating renditions of your favorite warm drinks, including cayenne and dark chocolate, Nutella and orange zest alongside candy cane stirrers, coffee for adults and a mini frother to mix up homemade eggnog or maple lattes.
We also offered a gingerbread house again this year, which keeps the kids busy for about five whole minutes before they start just eating the pieces and engaging in outright demolition.
I wouldn't advise this particular house since the gingerbread tastes terrible and the frosting directions rendered a mix so runny, it was practically unusable. It was a nice concept. Perhaps next year, I'll make my own. Hmmmm...
Having a holiday party is a tradition I adore, one that fills our home with the laughter and the love of friends and becomes a way to express our gratitude for their presence in our lives.
Whatever customs you pursue during this season's festivities, I hope they are ones that bring you joy and allow you to create happiness for yourself and others. May all the light and warmth of the holidays be yours in the coming days, friends.