Holiday Party Tips

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:

NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Guests can jot a quick note in the guest book & drop a small donation to a worthy local charity in lieu of a hostess gift!

Generous friends dropped a small donation to a worthy local charity in lieu of a hostess gift. This year a $300 donation & two cute stuffed animals were given to Miriam’s Promise!

Guests are invited to sign the holiday guest book! We've captured over 2 decade of memories.

Guests are invited to sign the holiday guest book. We’ve captured over two decades of memories.

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.

Simply To Impress invitation for annual holiday party.

Simply To Impress invitation for annual holiday party.

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.

Decorating the mailbox is a fun Southern tradition. Friend Lisha Pope does this as an extraordinary gift each year & adds the Irish flags for a little panache.

Decorating the mailbox is a fun tradition. Friend Lisha Pope does this as an extraordinary gift each year & adds the Irish flags for a little party panache.

This year's favorite party pics include new fav friend Robbie Brooks Moore, Forest Home Media partner Dana Tucker and me. (Oh, and that's Grammy-winning artist Keb' Mo' photo bombing. Love a photo bomb!)

This year’s favorite party pics include friend Kind of Blue Music CEO Robbie Brooks Moore, Forest Home Media partner Dana Tucker and me. (Oh, and that’s Robbie’s Grammy-winning artist/hub Keb’ Mo‘ photo bombing. Love a good photo bomb!)

Guests w/ kilts are encouraged to wear them - ha! The best of the best each year is friend David McQuiddy who matched my favorite nutcracker!

Guests with kilts are encouraged to wear them. The best of the best each year is friend of Scottish descent, David McQuiddy, who matched my favorite nutcracker!

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.

The tablecloth is dry cleaned so each year I toss in the dryer & place on the table. My mother's heirloom swan was festively dressed by Garden Delights.

The tablecloth is dry cleaned so each year I toss it into the dryer & place immediately on the table. My mother’s heirloom swan was festively dressed by Garden Delights.

Inspired by designer Jerome Farris, love mixing fresh fruit & flowers. Merry Christmas y'all!

Inspired by designer Jerome Farris, love mixing fresh fruit & flowers. Merry Christmas y’all!

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:

Meringue Cookies

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!

Small chalkboard place cards are clever addition to the table decor from Kelly Spalding's Franklin, TN store.

Small chalkboard place cards are a clever addition to the table decor from Kelly Spalding’s Franklin, TN store.

We also had a signature drink the Southern Living Blackberry Mojito!

Friends Troy Marden, NPT Volunteer Gardener, and interior designer Jerome Farris tried the evening's signature drink, the Southern Living Blackberry Mojito, a nod also to our homestead's name, Blackberry Hollow.

Guests Troy Marden, NPT Volunteer Gardener, and interior designer Jerome Farris tried the evening’s signature drink, the Southern Living Blackberry Mojito, a nod also to our homestead’s name, Blackberry Hollow.

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!

Music this year by cutie pie Geno Hafner of the Dean Martinis.

Music this year by the talented Geno Haffner of the Dean Martinis. (Photo by Erin Daunic, party photog extraordinnaire!)

Breaking out the tunes in the kitchen are daughter Maggie singing with Harry Robinson on dobro and neighbor Brooks Tucker!

Breaking out the tunes in the kitchen are daughter Maggie singing with Harry Robinson on dobro and talented singer/neighbor/faux artisan Brooks Tucker!

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!

Farmstand milk bottles filled with jelly beans or cashews was the party favor.

Farmstand milk bottles filled with jelly beans or cashews was the party favor.

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.

Vintage tennis themed glassware was a favorite gift from biz partner Dana Tucker!

Vintage tennis themed glassware was a favorite gift from biz partner Dana Tucker!

Breakfast in a basket is an adorable holiday gift.

Breakfast in a basket is an adorable holiday gift.

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.

Jersey girl Jen Z, on left, tackles for the first time "Grits Ya Ya" a fabulous shrimp and grits recipe she impressively mastered. She's pictured her with my niece, Lizzie, and helper Kristin, the keys to my survival this year!

Jersey girl Jen Z, on left, tackles for the first time “Grits Ya Ya” a fabulous shrimp and grits recipe she impressively mastered. She’s pictured here with my niece, Lizzie, and helper Kristin, the keys to my survival this year!

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

NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Share

About Nancy McNulty

PR & marketing practitioner, wife/mom, writer, tennis player, cook & lover of the arts & pop culture. Began as a Nashville Banner & WMCP Radio Station reporter. Communications grad – Univ.of TN – Knoxville including working at WUTK & The Daily Beacon. Spent two summers interning in Washington, DC w/ one stint in the Majority Leader’s Press Office – “yes, I can give you directions Mr. Kissinger.” Now living, loving & working in Nashville, TN w/ my integrated marketing biz – Forest Home Media.. Love sharing great tips on what to do & where to go with folks via this NanceSense experience blog.Twitter & Instagram @NanceSense & Pinterest@NancyMcNulty

This entry was posted in Eating & Entertaining, What You Really Ought To Try and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Holiday Party Tips

  1. Dana TuckerNo Gravatar says:

    This is definitely the party of the year! I will do my best NEVER to get uninvited. Glad you liked the vintage barware. I know this party is an extreme amount of work and I appreciate all the time, effort, money and thoughtfulness that goes into it.

    xoxo

  2. WhitneyNo Gravatar says:

    Looks like a wonderful party, Nancy! Love all the ideas and inspiration and photos! Especially fun to see our friend Jenn Z. getting her “southern” on with the shrimp dish 🙂 Happy New Year to you and your lovely family!
    Fondly,
    Whitney

  3. Pingback: Landscape Lighting Illuminates FHM Partner’s House - Forest Home Media | Content Marketing | PR

Leave a Reply