cheers to 2011

christmas was almost a week ago, and the new year is just over a day away.  tomorrow night my parents' are hosting their annual new year's eve party (with a twist).  this year they're not only celebrating the approach of 2011, they're ringing in our wedding year and inviting friends and family to toast craig and me as we enter into the official countdown to 11.5.11.

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my mom is the ultimate hostess and can make a party for 50 seem like a walk in the park.  and she's "trained" me and my sis, hannah, well.  the three of us can seamlessly maneuver around the kitchen prepping, chopping, cooking and baking with nary a word.  we can anticipate the others' moves and just know what needs to get done.  but this year, because craig and i are the "guests of honor", i don't know how much helping they'll allow me to do...

with my mom's natural hosting ability, i often take for granted that it's a true (and coveted) skill to host a good party.  here are some tricks, tips & techniques i've learned from my mom (a.k.a. the nice martha stewart).

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-plan out your menu - pick your recipes & review ingredients needed, and grocery shop a few days beforehand.  make whatever you can in advance.

-set up a bar - (not in the kitchen) when guests arrive make sure the bar is set and ready to go, that way they can get a drink even if the food isn't out yet.  don't have room for a fully stocked bar?  no problem.  get a few bottles of wine, some beer and do one signature cocktail.  guests will love it.  oh, and don't forget to buy extra bags of ice for the ice & wine/beer buckets.

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-take shortcuts - if people offer to bring something, let them!  if you're concerned about the cohesiveness of your menu, suggest they make something specific and send them the recipe.  trust me, it'll simplify their life too!  also, stick to a few good recipes that you do well.  no experimenting with new stuff.

-get in the flow - if you're doing appetizers/hors d'ouevres before dinner, put them around the house (again, not in the kitchen) to encourage people to move around and mingle (as they search for food : )

-set the mood - never underestimate the importance of music and lighting.  candles and low lighting put people at ease and music sets the tone for the party.  are you a classical or classic rock group?

-beautiful buffets - though sit down dinners are great, they're sometimes hard to pull off (i.e. more stressful).  instead, consider a buffet.  guests like the laid-back feel but that doesn't mean it can't be fancy.  add candles, crystal and silver to glam it up.  no aluminum chaffing dishes, thank you very much!

i hope you have a fabulous time ringing in the new year.  cheers to 2011!

have any fun plans?.