Photos by L.G. Patterson
When it comes to the holiday season, there are so many things to get you in the spirit. Whether it’s hosting a holiday party, putting up festive decorations with your family, finding the right Christmas tree for your home, serving a next- level holiday cocktail or elevating your next movie night or a jolly party with a special sweet treat, we’ve got you covered this season. So, grab your fuzzy socks, cozy sweaters and enjoy this guide to preparing your home for all the holiday festivities.
Planning a Holiday Happening
If hosting holiday parties is your thing, you might be looking for ways to lighten the load, try new things, fix the flow or just decorating tips. But where do you start? Andrea Lyn Seppo, owner of Andrea Lyn Events, says there is a quick checklist to go through before beginning the planning process. “When are you having it, how many people are you having, where are you hosting it and is there a theme?”
Once you’ve answered those basic questions, Seppo says you’ll want to determine what type of guests you are inviting. “Are they older, are they younger, are they guests who will want activities for the party? Are you sitting around doing a gift exchange?” This is an important piece, as it will all affect the activities, the food and, of course, the theme. “When we think holiday party, we think red and green, but there is more than that,” Seppo says. “This year’s holiday trends are very much a natural tone, so think all the natural colors, with little pops of red, light brown and sage green.”
When planning out the food and beverage, Seppo says it all comes down to the vibe you want to present. “Are you picking up party trays from a grocery store? Are you getting a hot, catered buffet or are you having a sit- down dinner? Do you want something casual, or is it a black tie, cocktail feel?” Something many people forget about when planning out the food is to make sure you are considering all the dietary restrictions because that is “one way to make your guests feel extra special.”
Once you figure out the type of food and beverage service, Seppo says you’ll want to ensure that wherever you choose to host has a good flow. “Where are you setting the food up, do you have a drink station, and for activities, make sure to keep it simple but be creative,” Seppo says.
Make sure to be realistic when planning your party because, as Sep- po says, “Pinterest can be your best friend and your worst enemy.” You don’t want to get overwhelmed trying to get your party to look exactly like the winter wonderland created online.
Seppo says one way to elevate your home for your next holiday party is to “clear the clutter and put away the pets. That makes people feel more comfortable. And try to avoid over- decorating. Remember that less is more, and candles always help.”
If all of this sounds overwhelming and you would rather feel like a guest at your own event, Seppo says to consider hiring someone to assist in the planning process and help at the event itself. “We can help with getting the whole party set up, keeping it all going, clearing plates, etc.” For more information on Andrea Lyn Events, visit andrealynevents.com.
Picking the Perfect Tree
No matter how festive you get for the holidays, one of the most crucial items for many is the Christmas tree and finding the right one for your home.
Helmi Sheely, owner of Helmi’s Gardens, says while there are several types of Christmas trees to choose from, pine trees are native to Mis- souri. “You will see Scotch pines, a short-lived tree, or sometimes people do white pines,” Sheely says. They not only look nice, but they might be nicer to your wallet, as well. “Several different types of cut Christmas trees are available, but they aren’t (as) cost effective to grow here, so they have to be shipped in.”
Sheely says the only downside to getting a pine is they don’t necessarily look like the classic Christmas tree. “There is nothing wrong with them, but for many people, when you think of a Christmas tree, a pine is not what you see in your head,” she says. “But that’s what grows here.” Sheely says the more traditional tree often seen is a spruce or a fir, and if you choose to buy a fake tree, it’s typically a rendi- tion of the spruce or fir.
The benefit of a fir tree is it’s easi- er to decorate, Sheely says. “I like firs better; they are fragrant and friendly, spruces are typically darker green, sharper and more difficult to decorate.”
Sheely says the right tree depends on what kind of holiday ambiance you want to create in your home. The Bal- sam fir is known for its classic conical shape and fragrant scent, while the Douglas fir is more compact and has softer needles. For those who want a tree with sturdy branches to accom- modate heavy ornaments, the Fraser fir is a top pick. “I like Frasier fir; it smells like Christmas to me, it looks like Christmas to me, it’s a very com- mon Christmas tree,” Sheely says. “But it’s all up to you. Some people have memories that are different, and they are going to lean towards what their memories are.”
No matter what you pick, Sheely says the most important thing to do is make sure the tree is fresh. “If it’s fresh, it will be heavy; light ones need water,” Sheely says. “If you can handle that tree like it is made out of nothing, that is a bad sign.”
When buying a real tree, it’s also important to make sure you time the purchase well. Sheely says as tempt- ing as it might be, you don’t want to purchase a tree before Thanksgiving “because the later, the better.” To ensure your tree lasts as long as possible, Sheely says it’s essential to keep it from drying out, even if that means sacrificing the picture-perfect tree by the fireplace photo opportunity. “Never put the tree by the window. Keep it away from the sun and the fireplace because it will dry out that much faster.”
Overall, the choice is yours, and Sheely says you can’t go wrong with the tree you choose because finding the perfect Christmas tree to fit your style and space is all part of the festive fun. For more information on Helmi’s Gardens, visit helmisgardens.com.
Creating a Hot Cocoa Bar
Making a hot cocoa bar at home is like inviting warmth and com- fort right into your living space. It’s a delightful way to infuse your home with the cozy spirit of the holiday season, whether it’s just for you and your family, or the talk of your next holiday party.
To achieve this warm and cozy creation, start by picking a designated area to set up the bar. Once you have an idea of the space, you can figure out just how many items you’ll need to fill it. Then, it’s up to you to customize the bar to fit whatever aesthetic you choose.
Do you want it to be a to-go bar? If so, make sure to have disposable cups set up at your station. Do you wantit to be a classic bar or a charcuterie board concept? If so, make sure to have the right serving trays to create your perfect platter.
There are truly so many ways to make the bar or board your own. Whether you are putting all your top- pings in decorative mason jars, placing festive mugs out to use, having signs made to label each topping, adding a festive table runner, making ginger- bread, laying out greenery or deciding how to present the hot chocolate. You really can’t go wrong when it comes to creating a hot cocoa bar for your guests to enjoy. The best part is that everyone can customize their cocoa to their heart’s content, making it a fun and interactive experience for guests of all ages. You can even add a splash of adult flair with some liqueurs like pep- permint schnapps or Irish cream for the grown-ups.
Whether it’s a chilly winter evening or a holiday gathering, a hot cocoa bar is guaranteed to create heartwarming memories at home.
Suggested Toppings for a Hot Coca Bar
- Candy canes
- Mini chocolate chips
- Mini marshmallows
- Cinnamon sticks
- Whipped cream
- Caramel sauce
- Chocolate syrup
- Toffee bits
- Hot coca mix
- Coca powder
- Stir sticks
- Flavored syrups
- Peppermint schnapps (for the adult bar)
- Irish Cream (for the adult bar)
Santa’s Helper Cocktail
- Cinnamon sticks
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1 ounce Luxardo
- 1 ounce homemade cran-cinnamon simple syrup
- 2 dashes angostura bitters
- Make the cran-cinnamon simple syrup by combining equal parts water, sugar, cranberries and cinnamon sticks in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
- Stir until the sugar dissolves completely, then strain the liquid into a glass jar or vessel.
- To make the cocktail, stir bourbon, Luxardo, cran-cinnamon simple syrup and bitters together and strain over fresh ice.
- Garnish with a cranberry and a cinnamon stick, and enjoy!