entertaining

A Holiday Soup Bowl Party

The women in my family would get together every year before the Christmas holiday to discuss and plan the festivities of the seasons. I’m a planner from way back and I love to have everything planned out, with the holiday school pageants, driving around to see the light displays, making crafts and planning the holiday dinner, time needed to be scheduled to ensure we didn’t miss a moment of holiday cheer.

When we first started this holiday meeting it was all eight of us picking and choosing dates that worked for us, a task that seemed to take hours.

We never gave any thought into having dinner that night, who had the time, there was Christmas planning under foot. There we were with our calendars, schedules and appointment books waiting for the local pizza shop to deliver a few supreme pies, a quick answer to our hunger pangs. Pizza was always a snack to me, not a meal and, as my girls will tell you, I always have a meal.

Squabbling one night over the pizza toppings, I mentioned it would be easier to open a can of soup.

Then it hit me. Soups for our yearly planning ritual. Something quick and easy we could throw together, even after a hard day of work. And me being me of course wrote it down, so I wouldn’t forget.

Four different bowls with different soups

A variety of soups is tasty!

The following year I made cute little soup can invitations for our planning date and mailed them off. Assigning each person a different item to bring. One brought assorted bread, one brought drinks, one brought the desserts and the remaining 5 each brought 2-3 quarts of any soup of their choosing.

It was a hit, not only did we get to sample a variety of soups and spend time together, the entire atmosphere changed. Our scheduling was completed in record time and occasionally we would have time left over to enjoy a holiday movie.

That was several years ago, and we all look forward to it every year. A yearly chore that seemed to be stressful and a bit unnerving, now is an evening the ladies of our family can’t wait to arrive. I can’t help but wonder if it was the holiday cheer that found its way into our date making or was it the power of a warm bowl of soup.

Christmas entertaining tips

Entertaining people is one of the delights of Christmas – socialising, seeing those you care for, relaxing and being hospitable. But it comes at a price – preparing to entertain.

Entertaining can mean a lot of cleaning up, buying food and supplies, cooking and planning which can add up to a lot of stress for many people. Especially if you’re on a tight budget and try to minimise expenses.

Here are a few tips to get your entertaining preparations under control this Christmas:

  1. delegate – most Australians are used to ‘bringing a plate’ so don’t be afraid of asking people to help with the food
  2. ignore ‘unseen’ parts of your home for December – don’t bother dusting, vacuuming or even tidying the study, ensuite, garden shed, etc if no one will be going in those areas. Stick to public areas and go for clean and presentable rather than perfect
  3. use short cuts in the kitchen. For example, buy packets of fruit mince pies or fruit cake and just ice them yourself, buy tartlet cases, prepared custard and fruit to make fruit tarts, use an electric mixer or blender instead of stirring or chopping by hand, and cook in advance and freeze food to reduce cooking on the day
  4. get the kids to make paper chains as a cheap decoration that helps keep them busy while you work, too
  5. flat red sheets make great tablecloths – easy to wash, can be reused as sheets and are big enough for large tables. They’re generally cheaper than tablecloths, too. You could decorate them with fabric pens and paints, or leave them plain so you can brighten them up in different ways for each event and following Christmases – pretty runners, tinsel, Christmas balls, scattered popcorn, ivy and other greenery, glitter and paper chains are all ideas for adding interest to the tableRed and white setting for a Christmas table
  6. put some candles around the room and house – they give a lovely light in the evening and can smell beautiful at any time. Candles are much quicker to set out than  a lot of other decorating ideas yet look classy
  7. give yourself permission to relax and enjoy the events you host – people are there to see you and celebrate Christmas, being together and the end of another year so relax and be with them instead of running around aiming for an impossible target of perfection
  8. consider using plastic cutlery and plates so you can set them out in advance without interfering with your daily needs. Before you worry about the low quality plastics or the financial and environmental cost of disposables, think about using some good plastic plates and cutlery such as from your picnic set. The bright colours will just add to the festive atmosphere and plastic takes away any risk of broken dishes hurting people
  9. set yourself a schedule for cleaning so it doesn’t become so overwhelming. For example, sweep and mop the floors on Monday, clean the bathroom on Tuesday and dust on Wednesday. On the actual day you then only need to do a quick once over everything to be ready
What other time and cost saving tips can you add?
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