How to Host a Stress-Free Holiday Meal

Updated 11/5/18

The holiday season is my favorite time of year, but it can be really stressful if you’re hosting dinner. Getting all the food ready to serve while it’s still hot and making sure all your guests are comfortable while doing it… that’s a daunting task! Over the past several years of hosting holiday meals, I’ve learned a few tricks to make the process go more smoothly. I can serve a delicious meal AND enjoy myself!

6 steps to help you plan a stress-free holiday meal so you can actually enjoy your day.

1 | Plan your menu in advance

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a step I’ve glossed over in the past. Sure, I knew we were eating turkey for Thanksgiving, but I didn’t think through all the sides ahead of time. Instead of shopping sales or prepping food ahead of time, I was left doing everything at the last minute. Planning the menu for your holiday meal allows you to save money, time, and stress.

2 | Delegate responsibilities

Just because you’re the hostess, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Once you plan your menu, ask guests to bring side dishes that can be reheated before dinner. Desserts and appetizers are a great option if you really like to have control over the menu. I’m not super confident about making gravy so I always put my dad in charge of that task.

If you have a large group, be specific about what they should bring so you don’t end up with repeat dishes. It’s not hard (or unreasonable) to send an email asking guests to tell everyone what they plan to bring.

Give your kids cleaning duties. Even younger ones can help unload the dishwasher or run a vacuum before guests arrive. I’m not super confident about making gravy so I put my dad in charge of that task.

3 | Prepare food ahead of time

Many side dishes can be prepared ahead of time and reheated prior to dinner without affecting the quality. Potatoes, stuffing, rolls and desserts can all be made a couple days ahead.

Be sure to account for reheating time to ensure you have room in your oven. Vegetable sides should usually be made the day of, but you can still wash and cut your veggies earlier in the day.

4 | Make a timetable for day-of cooking

Write out your full menu, noting the oven temperature and cooking time needed for every dish. Figure out which items will fit in the oven and can be cooked at the same temperature.

Then, counting backwards from the time you plan to sit down to dinner, determine when each item needs to go in the oven. With this masterplan in hand, you won’t need to worry about dishes not being ready in time or sitting out until they’re cold.

5 | Set your table the day before

Iron your tablecloth and napkins. Lay out place settings and your table decor or centerpiece. Set up extra tables and chairs if necessary. By doing these tasks the day before, you’re freeing up your time on the big day for cooking and spending time with guests.

If you need to use your table the day before a gathering, delegate as many of  these tasks as possible to family members. You can find some beautiful inspiration for your Thanksgiving table decor HERE.

6 | Plan outfits & lay them out the night before

If your holiday gathering is completely casual, you can skip this step. If you have a more formal celebration to attend or certain outfits in mind for your family, save your time and sanity by laying out these items in advance.

Prepping ahead not only ensures that clothing is definitely clean and presentable, it also eliminates the time spent picking out clothes or debating choices with a child (not that this would ever happen in my house lol.)

What are your tips for a stress-free holiday meal?

Five tips for a stress-free holiday meal.
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5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Home When You Travel

Follow these 5 tips to protect your home when you travel.

Welcome to my 14 Days of Organization series where I’m sharing tips, tools, and strategies to help you organize your home, your family, and your personal life! 

This might not seem like it has much to do with organization, but there’s so much to do when you go out of town that things can easily slip through the cracks. Just a few simple steps can help keep your house safe while you’re enjoying your trip.

1 | Hold the mail or ask someone to pick it up

Don’t let your mail pile up when you go out of town. A full mailbox is a sign to unwanted visitors that no one is home.

A neighbor might be willing to grab your mail each day. If not, it’s really easy to have the post office hold your mail. You can do it online at usps.com.

Your mail will be delivered in bulk on the first business day after your scheduled return. You should do the same for the newspaper if you have a daily delivery.

2 | Plan for pet and plant care

Arranging pet care is a given if you have cats or dogs. Don’t forget about the small pets like fish or hamsters! If you plan to be gone for more than a few days, it’s a good idea to have someone water your plants.

A trust-worthy teenager is perfect for tasks like getting the mail, newspaper, and watering the plants or caring for a low-maintenance pet.

3 | Notify your neighbors

Let a neighbor or two know you’ll be traveling and for how long. They can keep an eye out for any problems or suspicious activity. At least one person should have a spare key in case of emergencies.

Make sure to provide a contact number so they can reach you if anything comes up. A few years ago our neighbor noticed water pooling near our garage when we were out of town. It turned out there was a problem with the sprinkler system. We were able to have the water turned off and prevented major flooding, all thanks to our kind neighbor!

4 | SET AUTOMATIC TIMERS FOR LIGHTS IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE HOUSE

This one is pretty self explanatory, but having a couple different lights turn on at different times makes it look more like someone is at home and keeps shady characters away. Who else remembers the scene from Home Alone when the two crooks are watching all the automatic lights turn on?!

5 | DO A FINAL WALK-THROUGH BEFORE LEAVING

It’s common sense to lock up when you go out of town, but I’ve often found a bathroom window left open when we do a final check. By walking through the house quickly before you leave, you can be sure that windows and doors are secure and that valuables are hidden from view.

You should also turn off unused lights and turn down the thermostat. No sense wasting energy when you aren’t even there.

None of these tasks are too time-consuming, but they all help to protect your home and ensure it will be safe while you’re away so you can enjoy your trip. 

Check out all 14 Days of Organization here!

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One Room Challenge Week 7 – Girl’s Bedroom Reveal

One Room Challenge girl's bedroom redesign.

It’s finally time for the One Room Challenge reveal! I’m so excited to share my daughter’s updated bedroom with you. It has been such fun to get her input and see her excitement when ideas come to life. Working on a girl’s bedroom design was different than other room updates I’ve done. In our kitchen or den, it’s more about my style and making our home work for our family. In my daughter’s room, it’s important that her personality shines through.

The Closet

In my first post about my daughter’s bedroom, I shared that making the most of the large closet was a big priority. The old closet was underused and disorganized. Using an EasyClosets closet system, we were able to create a ton of storage.

I’m still adding a few last minute touches to this room, but overall my daughter is thrilled with her new room. This room redesign has been extra special because I got to see her reaction as it was transformed. The only problem now is that my son wants his room updated 🙂

Be sure to check out the other room reveals from the guest participants! A big thank you to Linda at Calling It Home for hosting another round of the One Room Challenge. It’s always an adventure!

Source List

Paint Color – Clear Aqua by Behr

Curtains – Wayfair.com

Comforter – Wayfair.com

Sheets – Target

Throw Blanket – Target

Sparkle Throw Pillow – Target

Bookcase – Ikea

Striped Canvas Bin – Target

Aqua Storage Boxes – Ikea

You can find posts from all seven weeks of the One Room Challenge here:

Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four | Week Five | Week Six |

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One Room Challenge Week 6 – EasyClosets Installation

One Room Challenge girl's bedroom redesign.

It’s week 6 of the One Room Challenge from Linda at Calling It Home. Normally this would be the week where I share the big reveal, but Linda decided that due to numerous natural disasters affecting participants’ plans, the challenge would be extended by one week.

So next week I’ll be showing pictures of my daughter’s bedroom update. This week is all about our EasyClosets installation.

Storage is one of my top priorities in this girl's bedroom redesign.

Closet Design plan

In my week four post, I shared the before pictures of my daughter’s under-utilized bedroom closet. We were debating between some DIY closet system options, as well as professional installation.

After some deliberation, my husband and I decided that EasyClosets.com would be the best route. I read about several other blogger’s experiences with installation and decided it was doable for us.

In week four, I showed my initial closet plans that I created using the EasyClosets design tool. Once we decided to go with an EasyClosets system, I tweaked the design a bit and added some extra shelves for shoes.

Storage is one of my top priorities in this girl's bedroom redesign.

It was really exciting (and just a little overwhelming) when the shipment arrived and we took inventory of all the materials.

I’ll be honest that this is one of the most complicated DIY projects that my husband and I have done together. I’d done my research and felt fairly confident we could handle it, but there were a lot of pieces on our living room floor.

The closet was emptied, all the holes were patched, and we were ready for installation.

EasyClosets makes it easy to design and install a closet system that best fits your needs.

EasyClosets Installation

The key to the stability and security of the EasyClosets system is properly installing the steel rail on which the rest of the pieces hang. This was basically the hardest part of the whole project.

We double and triple-checked all of our measurements and the location of the wall studs. Unlike the helpful installation video on the EasyClosets site, our studs were not all 16″ apart. Nevertheless, we managed to get the rail in place.

The EasyClosets installation process is completely manageable and results in a customized closet system to fit your needs.

Once the steel rail was securely in place, the installation moved a lot faster. The vertical pieces hang from the steel bar and lock together using shelves with special cam screws. As soon as all the cam shelves were in place, we started to see the closet come together.

The EasyClosets installation process is completely manageable and results in a customized closet system to fit your needs.

Drawer Installation

After the vertical panels and cam shelves were secured, we assembled the drawers. The drawer boxes are pre-built, so we only needed to screw on the drawer pulls and attach the drawer face to the box.

I have to say that the EasyClosets instruction manual is incredibly thorough and easy to understand. We had no trouble following the directions to put the drawers together and install the drawer glides.

The EasyClosets installation process is completely manageable and results in a customized closet system to fit your needs.

After we installed all the drawers, we cut the rail cover to size to hide the steel rail. This is our least favorite part of the system. The plastic cover feels a little flimsy and tacky, but it does the job of disguising the steel rail, and will be mostly unnoticeable once the closet is filled.

The EasyClosets installation process is completely manageable and results in a customized closet system to fit your needs.

When it was all said and done, the EasyClosets installation probably took about 4-5 hours. The instruction manual was detailed and easy to read, but I highly recommend watching the installation videos on the EasyClosets site. Sometimes having a visual demonstration was very helpful.

The EasyClosets installation process is completely manageable and results in a customized closet system to fit your needs.

The EasyClosets installation process is completely manageable and results in a customized closet system to fit your needs.

I’m so happy with the end result. This underused closet is now chock full of storage options. Our experience with the EasyClosets installation process was really positive.

As one blogger put it, it’s an easy closet, not a magic closet. It does take more skill than just pulling it out of the box, but it was a simple enough process that we would definitely use EasyClosets again. *Also I just want to note that this is not a sponsored post. No product was provided, and obviously all opinions are my own.

I’m excited to add the finishing touches to my daughter’s room this week and share the big reveal! Don’t forget to take a look at some of the other guest participants in the ORC here! There are some really talented people sharing some amazing transformations.

Check out all the progress of my daughter’s bedroom update in these past posts:

Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four | Week Five |

 

The EasyClosets installation process is completely manageable and results in a customized closet system to fit your needs.

The EasyClosets installation process is completely manageable and results in a customized closet system to fit your needs.
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One Room Challenge Week 5 – Details & Design Changes

It’s already week five of the One Room Challenge from Calling It Home, and I’m feeling thankful for the one week extension that Linda announced. I’ve made a lot of progress, but I still have plenty to do. This week I’ve been focusing on the details that will make this room feel special. Sometimes choosing accessories and wall decor can be the hardest part for me.

A fun aqua paint color makes a real difference in this girl's bedroom update.

When my daughter and I first started talking about updating her bedroom, she had very few specific requests. That makes it more fun for me, but also leaves a lot of room for direction. She wanted her walls to be aqua and was so excited by the result!

We talked about making the room feel more grown up, toning down the pink, and adding better storage. I suggested pink, gray and coral as accent colors to go with the aqua. We found a super cute accent pillow at Target, and started to base the design plans around the pillow.

Fun accent pillow for girls bedroom.

Somewhere along the way, I sort of forgot about the pillow and found completely different bedding. I’m honestly not sure what happened. But you can see the bedding below and in my week two post. It’s clearly a much different style from the accent pillow above. As soon as it arrived, I knew we had a choice to make. We either needed to start over on the design plan or go a completely different direction by sticking with the bedding.

A fun bedding option for a girls room, but not the right bedding for my plans.

I decided to look around for other bedding options so we could compare them side by side. My daughter found some really fun sheets at Target, and I ordered a white pinch pleat comforter from Wayfair. Once we saw the new bedding, I knew we were on the right track! The white comforter is a bit plain, but we found a super soft throw blanket that coordinates with the pillow and sheet set. It adds some much-needed color to her bed.

These elements make up a girl's bedroom design for the One Room Challenge.

I’m really excited to see this room coming together. Stay tuned for the big reveal on November 16th!

PROJECT TO-DO LIST

Paint Walls

Find window treatment

Buy bedding

Plan & install closet system – closet ordered and on its way

Wall decor/art – still working on accessories and art

Find bookcase

Don’t forget to take a peek at some of the other ORC guest participants at Calling It Home!

To catch up on my redesign of my daughter’s bedroom, take a look at past posts:

Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four |

One Room Challenge girl's bedroom redesign.

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