Lessons from the 2014 Holiday Open House

In no particular order

  • A recipe that serves 15, when multiplied ten times to serve 150, will actually serve about 225.
  • A pasta recipe designed for 1 lb. of pasta might work as a 2 lb. dish, but cooking and dressing/seasoning it in 3 or 4 lb. batches just doesn’t work well.
  • When you plan the menu be sure to anticipate what you will do with leftovers.  Pasta freezes. Israeli salad and roller sandwiches do not.
  • New discovery. Israeli salad, when whirled through the blender, makes a nice veggie drink, or with added tomato juice a quick gazpacho.  My friend Flo says to heat it up and serve it over pasta.  Good idea.  I have a lot of both left-over pasta and salad in the fridge.
  • Even though Israeli salad (tomatoes and cucumbers, with chopped bell peppers in a lemon and oil dressing) probably doesn’t freeze well, I’ve put several bags of it in the freezer and will add it to soup. Nothing ventured: nothing gained.
  • Buying the LARGE (66 piece) size cans of stuffed grape leaves sure makes putting them out easy – much easier than opening many more small cans.
  • Buying the LARGE (66) size cans of stuffed grape leaves can leave you with a dilemma when the party is winding down, and the serving plate is fairly empty and you would like to put more stuffed grape leaves out but you don’t want to open a large can.
  • When you tell guests that they are not to bring any gifts, that we are not collecting food and we are not collecting toys because we know that everyone gets so many requests for assistance this time of year, you need to be prepared for lots of wine, cookies, and candy coming in the door.
  • If you send out the invites 2 months in advance you need to remind everyone a few days prior to the actual event because some of the first people who RSVP’d will, when you check on why they weren’t at the party to be sure that they are OK, tell you that they don’t remember being invited.
  • If there is someone you really want to see and spend time with then plan a separate time for them.  You will see most of the people when they walk in and when they walk out and not in between.
  • Get dressed up. Wear nice jewelry if you want.  Hair and make-up.  Look fancy.  Except for your feet.  Wear comfy.  You will be on your feet for all the time before the party starts, most of the time during the party, and all of the time after the party.  It is very difficult to smile and enjoy the day when your feet really hurt.  Comfortable shoes.  Wear comfortable shoes.
  • You need twice as many helping hands in the 2 hours before the party starts as you think you will need
  • The unexpected “tag along” younger brother of one of the teens who was an official “hired hand” for the day turned out to be smart and energetic and a whiz at making coffee.  Bravo Zulu as we say in the Coast Guard family.
  • Finish this statement – “Two Rabbis and a Priest walk in a room”.  We had 2 Rabbis and a Priest attending (the Oman sent his apologies – seriously).  Several people said it sounded like the start of a joke.
  • When making food for such a large group you will need more large containers for cooking and preparing than you anticipate. Time to get creative.  Crock pot inserts and the large pots used for canning come in handy.
  • Anyone who is still here when the party is breaking up and says “is there anything I can do to help?” deserves a polite “YES!” Don’t be a do it yourselfer when you are dog tired.  If several people pitch in to fold tables and chairs it takes just a short time to get it done.
  • Give yourself a couple of days to get everything cleaned up, washed, dried, tidied, and put away correctly.  Don’t rush this step and definitely do not let anyone else put the dishes away until you have double checked that they are truly clean.  Trust me on this.  I once took out the large coffee pot to use at Christmas only to discover that the last time it had been used, probably Easter, someone had put it back in its storage box with some coffee remaining and the basket filled with grounds.  This was NOT a pretty sight.
  • If you hire professional help, a check is fine.  If you hire teens, give them cash.  The look on their faces when you hand them the money will just make your day.

What advice do you have for those who are about to embark on a large party event?

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