Tuesday, December 23, 2008

QG's Tips for Aspiring Hostesses With the Mostess

After reading a number of comments to my Friday Five play expressing astonishment that I am hosting 22 for dinner on Christmas Day (plus 4 adults, 2 toddlers and a dog out of town guests staying at the house), I am sharing my tips for hosting large numbers in the spirit of the season.

My own mother was not a good hostess--Christmas always made her tense and nervous. This was something I had to learn as an adult and fortunately , my sister and brother-in-law have the gift of hospitality and provided a great model for me.

Herewith QG's tips for Aspiring Hostesses (and Hosts):

1. Delegate, delegate and again I say: delegate. When a guest says "what can I bring?", tell them. Forget being Martha Stewart yourself. You are not a caterer! I always provide the entree, but let guests bring side dishes, bread, wine and desserts.

2. When you tell someone what to bring, take into consideration that guest's personality and lifestyle. Don't ask the busy working mom to bring an elaborate dessert or side dish--assign her bakery rolls or bread from the supermarket. Or wine. Let those who love to cook or bake bring home-made offerings for the table.

3. Fill in the festive board with left-overs. For example, SIL and St. Betty are both having big dinners on Christmas Eve. They will bring left-over side dishes, wine and desserts to my house on Christmas Day. The food is still good and there is a slightly different group who will enjoy it.

4. Set up a large cooler on the porch (or other easily accessible place) filled with ice, water bottles, soft drinks, and fruit juice for the kids. If there are beer drinkers, set up a second cooler with beer and ice. Let everyone help themselves.

5. Assign someone to oversee the bar. Chez QG that is El Jefe's job. This includes setting up and making sure the coolers mentioned above are refilled.

6. Set up a large garbage can in an easily accessible place for disposal of plastic cups, paper plates, etc.

7. Know who is in charge of the cleanup. This year that will be Portia and DK, with assistance from St. Betty and her daughter, The Defender.

8. Choose an easy main dish that doesn't require a lot of fiddling and can be kept warm if necessary until everyone is there and ready to eat. QG's first law of lots of guests is that someone will be delayed so you don't want to serve anything that is ruined if not served immediately.

9. Set up extra tables and chairs wherever you can around the house. Everyone HATES trying to eat in their laps. This may cause crowding, but trust me, it's worth it.

10. RELAX AND ENJOY YOURSELF. Your guests are not going to be critical of your efforts. They are coming to share Christmas joy with you, your family and each other. They are happy to be there and grateful to you for sharing your home and giving them the gift of hospitality.


Anonymous said...

I agree completely that delegating is key...I remember the year I had 27 for Thanksgiving...I did a turkey and a ham...everyone else brought a side/dessert/beverage...We had a great time!


Gannet Girl said...

For many years our Christmases were like this -- 35 was a typical number and one year there were seven four year olds! I offer only two other suggestions: 1) if you have a pinata, it helps to have one for the older kids and one for the younger kids (I'm sure no explanation is necessary) and 2)if you are going be upset if gggggmothers's china or stemware gets broken, don't use it. It didn't bother me -- I figure beautiful things are treasured for use rather than their museum potential, and an occasional casualty is the price -- but there were occasions when friends looked with horror at shattered glass lying at the feet of their preschoolers and needed to be reassured that 150 years was a good survival rate for a wine glass.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I finally caved in and started using paper plates and napkins. I used to think these types of dinners required the formal china/silver/cloth napkins but I've gotten over that now! We live in California where everything is more casual anyway, and cleaning up china and crystal for 20+ people is a real task if you don't have a kitchen staff (we don't...well actually it's me!)

I do get out the nice china/silver/crystal at home every now and then just so my teenage children know what it's like to use it.

Sue said...

Wow. Such good advice - all of it!

The only difference here is that the porch/balcony IS the cooler. We have about a foot of snow out there right now and more on the way. hee hee. Handy if you need to keep large quantities of anything cold, however....

Blessings of the season to you and yours QG.

Michelle said...

I'm with the "use it" and know you'll lose it group. I've done the 20+ as a breakfast for my students, all the china out and gleaming, students in their jeans on my floor (preferred to the tables!)

My two cents? If they offer to load the dishwasher, let them! Delegate on both ends!

Merry Christmas!