Making an Impression
So much time when hosting is spent on the interior of the house and the meal, but don’t forget that the experience starts for your guests when they walk up to the door. Think of your entry as an extension of your home. Give a quick sweep to the stoop and freshen up the doormats (Ikea has tasteful, inexpensive ones, such as these). Add a little festive décor with an arrangement of evergreen, dried hydrangea blossom, and red twig dogwood. Pumpkins and gourds also are still fitting for the Thanksgiving holiday and are great additions to fall displays. If your guests are arriving (or departing) when it’s dusk or later, consider adding special lighting in the entry or along your walkway. Click here for a good instructional video for paper bag luminaries or simply use some of your hurricanes from inside for the occasion.
Cozy Sights and Smells
Have the house “say” holiday right when guest walk in by having mulling spices – cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, orange peel, allspice, and/or pre-packaged mulling spices – simmering in water or apple cider (if serving as part of a holiday drink) on your stove.
Lighting is key to creating a cozy ambiance. Turn on lamps throughout the house, and don’t be shy with the candles. Depending on when you are serving the meal or how long your guests are staying, have on hand some cookie dough that you are able to pop in the oven. Is there an adult or child that doesn’t love the smell of fresh cookies?
Anthropologie measuring cup, used as small serving dish
Feed the Folks, Already (It’s a pretty big reason why they are there)!
Chances are, your guests have been thinking about this day for a while, and primarily the food and drink associated with it. Have drinks and nibbles ready to go, and appoint someone to assist with the beverages. You don’t want your guests to feel as though they need to serve themselves, but you also probably don’t have time to dedicate to tending the bar, along with the other things you are juggling. If you’re having a specialty cocktail, prep ahead of time (cut garnishes, rim the glasses, etc.) so you don’t need to worry about it once guests arrive. Although you won’t want guests to ruin their appetite by serving too heavy an appetizer, do have on hand a light snack for them to enjoy as they wait for the main event. As a departure from the normal mixed nuts, try these spiced marcona almonds (link here). Delish.
Making Your House Their Home
If house guests are staying overnight, think of the comforts of home, or even better, a great hotel. Tidy closets and make sure there are some empty hangers and space for their belongings. Make sure the bathroom is well appointed with clean towels, new soap, and nice lotion. Dress up the bedside table with a fun mug for water, a small container for jewelry, hand cream and lip balm (if you are hosting in a climate like Minnesota, this is really more of a courtesy, or requirement, than a generous gesture!) and a book or two they may want to flip through before dozing off into the night.
A small gift of handmade goodies and recipes from your kitchen is a fun way to send your guests home with warm wishes to help jump start their holidays.
Reality Check. Back to those marcona almonds. It’s ironic that the Food & Entertaining posts these last three weeks have been about preparation, recipes, and finishing touches, and yet when I went to make these last night for the post (yup, not allowing much wiggle room) I (a) couldn’t find the Michael Chiarello cookbook with the recipe and (b) was out of cumin, which is, um, one of the five ingredients (I remembered the ingredients from the recipe, just not the measurements or the cooking instructions). I looked for an alternative recipe – all had cumin. I should add that I had the kids solo last night, so there was no chance I could run to the store, even if I wanted to put myself through the madness of grocery shopping on the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving. I decided to make them anyway, and substitute California chili powder for the cumin. I had purchased California chili powder in preparation to make the Chiarello recipe – apparently I thought I had enough cumin – this version of chili powder is sweeter than regular chili powder, which is apparently a blend of spices (who knew?). I figured that if they were terrible, no one looking at a picture would be the wiser. But they were fantastic! I have a feeling that if you throw any spices on marcona almonds and roast them they will be pretty dang good, but the point is – the recipe in the link above is easy AND you can mess it up pretty substantially and still have it work out well. My kind of appetizer recipe.