Early in our marriage, we started hosting various versions of a holiday party. Beginning with an Open House for neighbors. Today, it’s evolved into an Irish Christmas at Blackberry Hollow. Learning many a lesson along the way, here are a few of the tips from invites to party favors which might inspire you.
December is second only to May in being the busiest time of year for our family, so this year, our party invite counted for many as the Christmas card too. And, in case you didn’t get this, I included a little note to tell you! We also host our holiday party as a gift to our friends so no one brings a thing which is a great for busy girlfriends or the family cook. Now, we are encouraging invitees to stop worrying about a last minute hostess gift & drop a buck in our bucket for an area worthy cause. Here’s the note:
I found a new website for invites via an ad on The Facebook – Simply To Impress. A cute plaid was selected, staying with the McNulty Irish inspired theme. Style selected, I then uploaded a pic and was able to print the invite and envelope for $1.28 each with free shipping. Here’s a screen shot.
The guest list comprised of a few friends from each area of our lives – work, church, neighbor, volunteering, tennis, media, social, etc. It makes for an interesting mix and folks know you just dig in and work the crowd to discover new interesting friends! Oh but I wish I could invite the whole world but it makes hubbs grumpy! In addition to email & printed invites, we also did the Facebook closed invite which just doesn’t get viewed these days and too bad cause it’s a nice green way of doing things.
The late Thanksgiving date and a quick trip to NYC made every second prior to the party essential. A daily list was made from polishing silver and laying out the tablecloth to the three-day cooking count down.
My mother handed down her cooking and entertaining genes and I prepare just about everything on the buffet except chicken tenders from an area restaurant. We offer a Christmas buffet and it’s important to have certain odes to Irish motherland including a Celtic Venison Stew, Bread Pudding, Pecan Shortbread and a good Irish whiskey served by a roaring outdoor fire! Here’s a Must-Make favorite recipe of my mother’s:
Pick a sunny day because it does impact how the meringue behaves:
¼ tsp salt
3 egg whites
1 ¾ cp sifted conf. sugar
1 tsp enriched flour
2 cp broken pecans
1 cp chopped dates
1 tsp vanilla
Add salt to egg whites that are room temperatures. Beat until stiff. Sift together sugar & flour. Add egg whites 1 T at a time. Continue beating until stiff. Add vanilla. Add nuts, dates. Put on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off oven and leave for additional 30 minutes. Cool & then peel off paper. These freeze ahead perfectly. Be sure they are sealed tightly.
So wondering what was served? Here’s the menu: Martha Stewart Spiced Nuts, Ham & Cheese Rolls, Celtic Venison Stew/Noodles, Chicken strips with dipping sauce, Shrimp ‘n Grits, fresh pineapple, stuffed mushrooms, sundried tomato/pesto/pinenut torta, homemade blue cheese crackers w/ cheese, steamed/chilled asparagus w/ sundried tomato dip, Greer Dip, hand-rolled potato rolls, meringue cookies, Barefoot Contessa brownies, pecan shortbread, chocolate trifle and hot outta the oven chocolate cinnamon-rum bread pudding!
We also had a signature drink the Southern Living Blackberry Mojito!
We love having live music and this year Geno Haffner of the Dean Martinis, a Tennessee Swing Band, entertained. When he went on break, talented friend Harry Robinson brought out his dobro and played with Maggie McNulty singing some Alison Krauss favorites with help from a few of the guys from the Bethlehem Bluegrass Band. I. Love. Living. in the shadow of Music City!
A party favor is a highlight for me each year. Usually I make blueberry jam or pickles in the summer or perhaps biscotti or peppermint bark. At a November holiday party at an adorable downtown Franklin store, Kelly Spalding, Designing Events and Interiors, I found these cute farmstand milk bottles. I was also able to order 3 dozen more on Sweet Lulu. Half were filled with jelly beans and the other cashew nuts then tied with a festive plaid bow. A reminder of the evening, the mini milk bottles also make a cute bud vase! Another reason I like a party favor is it makes me walk my guests to the door to give them a gracious send off!
Yes, Christmas gifts were discouraged but two standouts have to be mentioned. World’s greatest biz partner, Dana Tucker gave me vintage tennis glassware and new friends/neighbors Bill & Anne Prickett gave us a plaid Christmas breakfast -in-a-basket filled with bacon, eggs, coffee and home grown fresh eggs! Both clever ideas.
Finally, I was blessed to have great help prior to and during the party! This year I had the honor of working on the Southern Living Idea House PR team. When I do a premier home tour, I usually add a new decorating idea or home decor accessory to my house. This year, I came away with the ULTIMATE event souvenir, a new friend forevah, Southern Living PR Director Jennifer Zawadzinski. Let me tell you, this Jersey girl/foodie/home interior expert is the perfect PR rep for the south’s bible. Early in December, I helped her with her magical New York soiree. She returned the favor helping me fearlessly prep and cook.
Holiday parties seem to be on the decline these day but I want to encourage you. From a few friends enjoying a dirty Santa exchange or a holiday game night to everybody bringing a treat to share, it’s important to slow down and enjoy your friends and family. I always say “I break for friends” cause at the end of the day those moments make this journey all so much sweeter.
From our home to yours, Happy Christmakwanzakah – The McNultys