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Solutions: Strategic planning lets you enjoy parties

January 12, 2018 GMT

There were lessons to be learned from the recent holiday parties and events I attended, keeping in mind it would be soon be my turn to host after my daughter convinced me to have a little get-together during her school break.

My friends always make entertaining look effortless. Maybe it’s because they truly enjoy the process. In truth, they never stop moving because it takes a lot of work to make something seem easy.

This time I decided to serve food from a different source. My usual pairing of pizza for the kids and Middle Eastern carryout for the adults requires last-minute phone calls followed by a juggling act of pickup and delivery.

So, I decided to have the party catered by Panera and pay the delivery fee, which was worth the added convenience given the frigid temps that day. The comfort food was a good fit with a mix of soups, sandwiches, mac and cheese and sweets.


A nonalcoholic punch I had at a friend’s annual holiday gathering inspired me to make my own from a recipe I found online that required only three ingredients. This kid-friendly beverage could be kicked up a notch for the grownups with a little vodka or rum.

Another friend suggested I pick up a plastic punch bowl at a party supply store, which I did, and it worked out really well. In the future, I plan to invest in a glass set like the Artland Aspen 8-Piece Punch Bowl Set shown here available at

Disposable tablecloths made clean up a breeze. The one I found in a shade of gold served as the perfect base for a sparkly tabletop tree that made my dining area feel festive.

This time, I also did a little more editing than usual, which made the space feel more welcoming.

After dinner, we played the nicer version of the White Elephant Gift Exchange where everyone brings a good gift and a gag gift to be selected from the bunch. The stars seemed to be aligned so that each person picked the perfect package to make the funny ones even more amusing.

Perhaps it’s because I ran my errands in advance or had a smaller group of around 10 that was easier to handle. Whatever the reason, I was able to relax and enjoy myself alongside everyone else, which isn’t always the case.

The best part is that I feel more confident about having people over. Between now and the next time I entertain, I’ll continue to gather ideas from those in the know including a friend who has already scheduled a little party at her place this month. January can be a good time of year to get together after the calendars have cleared from all those holiday obligations.

What I know so far is that it’s hard to go wrong with the right combination of food and fun and family and friends. I’ve also come to realize that it’s not about perfection. In fact, anyone who is willing to host has something special to share.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at