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Holiday Entertaining Tips From Veteran Party Planner Lara DiPaola

December 2, 2010

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It’s December 2nd? How did this happen?! We’re not sure either. Luckily, veteran party planner Lara DiPaola has come to our rescue with a slew of tips and tricks to make your holiday season festive.

First SnowSource

Lara is a writer, mother of four and a big fan of Flatout. She has owned her own party planning and catering business and is well known for going overboard with birthday parties for her kids, lunch with the ladies and her annual Holiday Cookie Exchange event.

We’re thrilled to be a part of her holiday exchange this year – but are even more excited to share the experience with all of you! Over the next few weeks, Lara will be sharing her sage wisdom about all things holiday entertaining.

Below she divulges some of her favorite entertaining tips, which will help make your season stress-free.

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Ready or not it’s here. Welcome to The Holiday Season! Did they sneak up on you too? It certainly pulled a fast one on me. It’s at times like these that I’m grateful for my party planer’s “tool box”. What is that you say? Grab some cocoa and I’ll tell you a tale about tidings and joy.

Nestled All Snug In Their Beds

Have house guests this holiday? Make it special for them and a breeze for you with a few simple things that make for a warm welcome and memorable stay.

  • Get nosy! Find out what they drink in the morning. Stock up on their favorite night cap. Take just a little time to pick up their favorites to show you care.
  • Freshen up. Mist the sheets with a little linen spray, put some fresh flowers on the night stand. Small touches really go a long way.
  • It’s in the basket. Fill a small basket or container with toiletries, small candies and a welcome note.
  • You be the Guide. Print out an “Guest Guide”  that lists things like your plans and where to find important things in the house, like coffee filters and maybe a list of TV channels and how to use the remote (gosh that can be frustrating).

Note: Though I’ve been doing most of these things for years, some of them were inspired by the Hostess with the most-est Amy B. of Bee Dot and this article she wrote.

Visions of Sugarplums

One of the most stressful things about the holidays is meal or party planning. Kick the Abominable Stress Monster out of your kitchen with the power of preparation. Start early and double check often!

  • Start with a “Vision Board.” Cut out pictures of decor you like, write down the names of dishes you’d like to serve, make a party music play list and break out the glue stick. Have some fun playing with your party plans. Once you have a collage of what you want you’ll ramp up the excitement level and have a good jumping off point for the next phase of your planning.
  • Get a move on. Once you have that vision solidified, start with a menu as far in advance as you can. Food can really set the tone and will likely be the most time consuming part of your plan. Break the menu down into three categories:
    • Advanced purchase: dry goods, freezer friendly options, etc
    • Fresh items: Fruits, veggies and the like
    • Supporting players: Ice, cups, flatware, serving items and paper goods
  • Break it on down. Take care of anything you can do in advance, such as chopping, slicing and the like, you’ll be glad you did. Imagine only having to assemble on the day of the party… BLISS!

Note: Pair down your vision into those things that are “do-able.” We’d all love an eight foot ice sculpture of The North Pole but is that realistic?

Deck the Halls

I only have one nugget of wisdom to offer here…

  • ENLIST HELP! Most of you have friends that either offer to help or would be happy to do so, if asked. Don’t turn away help. Make a day of decorating. Have those pals over, nosh on some Flatout pizzas (easy), have a cocktail and lots of laughs. If it’s in the budget hire a little help. Having someone else take care of the cleaning while you prep for your event is your gift to you.

One Final Nugget

My best bit of advice? Remember it’s about the people. Many of the little details and even the big bumps in the road will fade into memory. In the end, no matter the occasion, the best gift we give is what we give of ourselves to each other. ENJOY!

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We’d love your fresh perspective:

  • Will you be hosting an event or guests during the holidays this year?
5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2010 10:37 am

    Great tips, Lara! I especially love the one about enlisting help. Last year, some friends got together to decorate one of our GFs house to cheer her up. That informal “party” was one of the most fun nights we ever had.

  2. December 13, 2010 3:18 pm

    Having attended Lara’s party on Saturday I can vouch for her amazing skill at decorating and putting out a lavish spread that pleases every guest (even vegetarians and little kids!)

    But my all time favorite was her FlatOut cuban paninis.


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