In the entry way are my husband's vintage 50's Santas,
rescued from the trash bin when his parents sold their home.
They are wind-up bell-ringers, and they still work!
Off the entry, the hallway hosts the little lady in glass, decked out with battery operated lights.
In the living room I replaced my big tree with this 6.5' tree from Ikea.
It fits on top of the round and is nice for a change.
The little Wendt and Kuhn collection.
The darling angel orchestra!
I've collected glass ornaments for years.
In the dining room:
The Santa on the right is from my family. Mother says she bought it in the 60s,
In my knitting lounge, my tree with handmade ornaments,
and all made by me over the last 40 years:
In our guest bathroom:
And finally, our bedroom got a little something too.
We've had two wonderful parties this month, one for our monthly Friday party group, and another for my knitting group and their guys. There were about 20 people at each party. For one party I made a Hungarian Goulash and for the other I made Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon. For the latter, if you have Julia's book, The Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, use the recipe in there, but if you don't have that book (and you should!), this recipe is pretty close to her original. As for the goulash, it relies on paprika for it's flavor, so buy the very best one you can find. We loved this one from Sur La Table; it absolutely made the dish! Both the goulash and beef stew take the best part of a day, but the good thing is, it's easy to quadruple the recipe, it's best if made a day or two ahead, and it's easy for guests to eat when space is tight. I served both dinners buffet style with potatoes and a simple green salad.
My husband and I love to host gatherings, and my friends compliment me by telling me I make entertaining look easy, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve:
Always keep it simple. Always. I learned that the hard way.
We offer wine, beer and water at a serve yourself bar, but to get things rolling, we'll pour the first drink. My husband likes to put out a few scotches, maybe gin and vodka and a few mixers too. But it's a very simple and casual bar set up. For larger groups, when our guests are eating in different rooms around the house, I'll pop over to each table and put down a bottle of white and red wine and make sure they all have wine glasses. I know some hosts are famous for making one special drink to serve. I love that idea, and think it's so fun, but I can't seem to manage that. The one time I did offer chocolate martinis, oh geesh, what a mess. I have my limits, even for my lovely guests.
As for decorations, I go easy there too. Christmas is Christmas, so there's no need to add a thing to the December house. But for parties the other eleven months of the year, I rely on a sparkling clean house, fresh seasonal flowers, candlelight, and a smile at the door.
I don't want more than two appetizers, and maybe one more for a large group. If someone offers to bring one, I rarely say no! Below is one of my Christmas appetizers this year, copied from the Pioneer Woman. The skewers are rosemary!
With my knitting group, I asked them to each bring 2-3 dozen cookies for an old-fashioned cookie exchange. I cleared off a counter in our family room and as they arrived, I placed the cookies on glass platters. After dinner, I announced that the cookie buffet was open and to come and help yourself to dessert. All the men made a bee-line to the cookies and filled their dessert plates full. Another half hour later I announced that the cookie shop was open. That's when the women got up, retrieved the empty containers they had brought their cookies in, and filled them with a variety of cookies to take home. One of that gals was having her large family over the next day and another girl was hosting her book club, so they were very serious about getting the best selection! It was very fun and reminded me of my old PTA days! I would totally recommend this for any party, any time of year. Very fun.
It wouldn't be right for me to show you all these cookies and not give you some recipes right? There were two break-out treats, or so my husband tells me--caramel popcorn and Congo Bars. Both are treasured family recipes with wonderful stories behind them. Both travel well and can easily be mailed cross-country or to our boys in the service.
Patty's Caramel Popcorn recipe is here.
Charlotte's Congo Bars are here.