(Family Features) For most Americans, the holiday season is the busiest and most demanding time of the year. From social engagements and travel to buying gifts and baking, it's often hard to juggle competing commitments. In fact, 80 percent of Americans anticipate stress during the holiday season, according to the American Psychological Association.
If you are planning a cocktail or dinner party this year, remember, inviting friends and family into your home should be fun and festive, not overwhelming. Take time to plan ahead and follow these simple tips for a special gathering that both you and your guests will enjoy.
Set the mood as you set the table. When entertaining, linen napkins and tablecloths can set the tone for the party and create a festive and welcoming experience for guests. If table linens are kept packed away, wash and freshen before setting the table. No one wants to see lipstick or food stains as they sit down for dinner. Before the party, wash linens with a gel detergent that attacks stains and rinses easily. Try Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Power Gel Laundry Detergent which removes stains like food, oil and grease.
Menu planning 101. Expect guests to be thirsty and hungry when they arrive. Whether passing hors d'oeuvres or having a sit-down meal, buy and prepare plenty of food to keep everyone happy and full. To have enough cocktails on hand, plan for your guests to drink one to two drinks per hour of the party and calculate from there.
Create a show-stopping centerpiece. Adding centerpieces, whether one large arrangement or a series of small vases or candles, can help dress up any room. Arrangements made from pine, holly, or berry branches tie nicely to the holiday season and can be found at any craft store. As an alternative, make an arrangement of pomegranates, cloves, and oranges to provide a pleasant and fresh scent.
Warm up by the fire. If you have a fireplace in your home, lighting it during gatherings provides an intimate and cozy glow. If you have not used the fireplace in a while, make sure you open the flue. Then add newspaper and wood logs. Plan to light the fireplace 15-20 minutes before guests arrive.
Arrange a festive soundtrack. Music is an essential component of any successful holiday party. Organize CD's ahead of time or make a digital playlist on your mp3 player so you're ready to push play and get the party started as soon as your guests walk in the door.
Freshen up after the revelry. When the party has died down and it's clean up time, check areas around the house for messy remnants from the celebration. In particular, carpets may appear dirty from heavy foot traffic. Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda over carpets, let sit for fifteen minutes, and then vacuum up. Baking soda will help neutralize any lingering odors in the carpet.
For more pre- and post-entertaining house prep, visit www.armandhammer.com.