Throwing a party can sound like a great idea – until it’s the day of and your stress limit is through the roof while you run around crafting cocktails and entrees and making sure everything is in place. While it may feel like your stress won’t leave until the last guest does, there are various steps you can take to enjoy stress free entertaining. Here, we list our top 7 ways to entertain your guests without feeling the stress and pressure of hosting.
Keep Up with Your Calendar
Plan ahead and do as much as you can before the day of the party. Organize your rooms and give your home a deep cleaning a week in advance. Then you’ll only have to do light cleaning one or two days before. Shop for your party a few days in advance – buy any produce or things that need to be fresh (like flowers) the day before or the day of. The day before your guests arrive, set the table and prepare any cold appetizers and entrées or ones that taste just as good when they are reheated. Plan what you need to do each day leading up to the big day and stay on track with those errands.
Lists will help you stay sane and organized. A shopping list will help you know what’s been purchased already and what you still need to get. It keeps you from over spending and over shopping – as long as you stick to it. In the same way, a to do list keeps you on track – especially if your attention span is limited. It will show you what’s been done and what you still need to do. And it just feels so good when you cross something off; you may feel a sense of relief with each task that’s completed. To keep from crafting a lengthy, intimidating list, break each list down by the day you can complete each task. That way, each day will have a smaller list.
Keep it Simple
While those spectacular cocktails may look simple on Pinterest, believe us, they’re not. Making really complex cocktails may wow the crowd, but trying to master it could eat up precious planning time and it could get expensive. Usually, multi-faceted cocktails require a number of ingredients, including expensive liqueurs, muddled fruits, and a variety of spirits. Along with that, some cocktails call for exact measurements or more refined tastes. Guests might be impressed by the way a drink looks, but the way it tastes is more important. What’s the point of a drink if no one wants to drink it?
Keep it Familiar
Now is not the time to try a new recipe. There’s too much risk involved including messing up the ingredients to overcooking the food. You might cook it perfectly, but without tasting it beforehand, you may not even know that you just don’t like the entrée. Stick with tried and true recipes. Stick to an entrée that you’re known for and that has received a ton of compliments from your guests. It’s ok to give them what they’re expecting. At least you know they’ll be happy.
Keep it Real
This goes along with keeping it simple and familiar. Nothing will stress you out more than trying too hard to impress others. Your guests are invited for a reason and hopefully that reason is because they are close friends or family and they enjoy spending time with you. Read that again: they enjoy spending time with YOU. Don’t stress over trying to be someone you’re not and throw a party that is just your style instead. It’ll be easier to plan and put on than something you are not accustomed to.
Keep Your Guests in Mind
Without guests, you can’t entertain. So make sure you make your guests happy. Keep them in mind when planning your menu. Find out if any of your guests have food allergies or dietary restrictions. Is your best friend vegan? Have a meatless option. Is your aunt severely allergic to nuts? Keep nuts absolutely out of the party. If the allergy is life threatening, make sure your other guests know not to bring anything with the allergen in it.
Along with knowing your guests diets, know their personalities. Do you have a friend who always brings extra guests? Plan for a few extra, uninvited guests. If you have two friends who can’t stand to be in the same room together, maybe invite just one of those friends. If you have a guest who always drinks a little too much, have a guest room or cab company ready for them.
Keep Calm and Just Have Fun
Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your own party. Some things just happen and there is nothing you can do about it. The sooner you accept that, the less stressed you’ll feel.
Tis the season for a plethora of holidays, which gives you the perfect reason to entertain. While there’s not much you can do once the party begins – besides enjoy yourself – there are some things you can do while planning and preparing for your event.
WOW THEM FROM THE GET GO
Impress your guests before they even get inside by making sure your yard and porch look good. First and foremost, ensure safety. Keep your eye out for any dangers including loose steps, uneven concrete, and potential trip hazards. If there is any inclement weather, make sure you remove any piles of leaves, snow, or ice on your driveway and walkway. Pour kitty litter or sand on icy areas. You could also take care of your guests by setting out a bench, such as these benches from Natural Wood Decor, for smokers or guests in need fresh air.
Once your guests walk in, have someone there to greet them. If you’re the only one running the entire show, you could even put up a sign to greet them and tell them where to go. If you’d like shoes off at the door, make it known. If it’s cold outside, have a place to store coats that is close to the entrance.
APPEASE THE SENSES
Taste – Make sure there’s something for all tastes by having a spread of multiple foods including meatless fare. You may even want to check with guests ahead of time to see if there are allergies, gluten sensitivities, or any other dietary restriction. In any case, clearly label food and include a note with specific information like if it is extra spicy or contains nuts. The same rules apply for drinks. Make sure to clearly label any drink – especially if it is an alcoholic beverage that hides the taste of liquor. If you are serving liquor and beer, always make sure there are non-alcoholic options as well.
Smell – If your get together has an assortment of foods, the aroma from cooking may be enough. You can also set up plug-in scents around the home, burn some incense in a non-conspicuous, safe area, or light a few candles, which may also set a calming tone to the party.
Sound – Depending on the feel of your get together, you can play some music in the background, making sure it isn’t too loud and competing with general conversation.
Sight – Make everything appealing to the eyes. Try not to include too many patterns and color schemes into your décor.
Touch – Make sure your guests don’t freeze or get overheated by setting your thermostat to a comfortable temperature. Play with textures and fabrics by using velvety tablecloths, incredibly soft curtains, and cushy seats.
DECORATE WITH A PURPOSE
Don’t just decorate to decorate. Have your decorations serve a purpose other than looking good. Set up a few statement pieces that spark conversation. Use decorative dishes and bowls like Natural Wood Decor’s large driftwood platter platter or small root wood bowl to hold appetizers.
Natural Rug Co’s bamboo rugs serve a number of purposes. Their sturdy material holds up and keeps your floors protected. The walnut brown, natural, or dark chocolate colors pair well with many room colors. The rugs are also easy to clean with a damp cloth or vacuum, so you won’t have to worry about falling crumbs and liquid spills. Not only that, but the rugs are made from plentiful bamboo.
Consider all scenarios from unexpected overnight guests to clumsy visitors. You may want to have a room or two set up in case you have a guest that over-imbibes and needs to stay the night. Or have a list of cabs ready to call. You could also have spare toothbrushes or even clothing set aside just in case they’re needed. And if there is something you don’t want to get broken or stained, put it away for the night.
A note on neighbors: if you have any nosey or grumpy neighbors, let them know ahead of time that you’re having a get together so there are no surprises. You could even take this as a chance to make nice and invite them over.
SEND THEM WITH A GIFT
Gift bags aren’t just for kids’ parties anymore. There’s plenty of grown up party favors from macrons and other edibles to wine glass charms and mini bottles of liquor. Self-serve candy bars are a big thing right now and require little prep. Just put a few jars of jellybeans, gummies, and chocolates on a table along with scoopers and small bags. You can also make it more personal by hand-making ornaments, hand soap, or cookies, chocolates, or muffins.
For this year’s gift guide, we’re aiming to rid the holiday world of gift baskets full of bath accessories or cheese and sausages. Food devotees and spa junkies can attest to the overwhelming amount of the aforementioned gift baskets they receive during the holidays. Not that there is anything wrong with these gifts, but our collection listed below may put a bit more of a creative spin on what to get these special people in your life.
For the Foodie in the Family
The rustic look and creative carving of this bowl allow its owner to surround fruit and veggies with a natural work of art. Made from Chinese Fir stumps, these root wood bowls are large enough to hold multiple items or seasonal decorations. Learn more about Natural Wood Décor’s Large Root Wood Bowl.
At more than one foot long and more than six inches wide, this unique platter can hold a large variety of favorite snacks. Taken from mountain slopes and crafted in carving villages, this piece has an interesting story to share with each selection of food that accompanies it. Learn more about Natural Wood Décor’s Large Root Wood Platter.
With the bowl attached to the platter, foodies can hold their gift, while keeping one hand free for dipping. While the platter itself encourages happy snacking, the process by which the platter is made encourages faster reforestation. Learn more about Natural Wood Décor’s Chip and Dip Platter.
Wine aficionados can show off their favorite collection with the Root Wood Wine Rack, which fits up to six bottles of wine. Made from the wood of Chinese Fir stumps, the rack may have a more interesting origin than the wine that sits on it. Learn more about Natural Wood Décor’s Root Wood Wine Rack.
The 3 Section Appetizer Disk is perfect for the foodie who just can’t choose between their favorite foods. This year for every purchase of this product we’ll be donating $3 to Second Harvest; a food bank in North Carolina (where my partner and I live). So not only is it a great gift, but the gift includes a contribution to the community. Learn more about Natural Wood Décor’s Acacia Wood 3 Section Appetizer Disk.
For the Spa Enthusiast
These natural pieces of wood fill any room with the tranquility of the Northern Thailand forests from which they come. Each piece comes with space for one tealight candle that sets this artistic piece aglow. And the best part about this gift – it comes as a pair. Learn more about Natural Wood Décor’s Driftwood Tea Light Set.
The Teak Bath Bar adds even more relaxation to a warm bath by providing a place to rest candles, essential oils, or a good book. Made from resilient and low-maintenance teak wood, the shelf is coated in an all natural teak oil that keeps the wood protected while splashing around or soaking in serenity. Learn more about Natural Wood Décor’s Teak Bath Bar.
Still need more ideas? Check out our green gift board on Pinterest.
Plants are always a great way to bring the outdoors in and there are so many options for brightening your home with plants. Here are just a few of our favorites from our Pinterest board. Which is your favorite?
1. Love the idea of a water garden!
2. Not sure why so many things look cuter in miniature but the rule seems to apply with this adorable mini magnet planters. Perfect for the frig.
3. Love that these funky Buddha head planters at a little zen to any room.
4. What better way to hang plants then upside down right! These sky planters sure do make a statement.
5. This one is from a post on uncommon house plants. This succulent definitely has such a unique shape.
Want some more ideas for indoor plants? Check out our Indoor Gardening Pinterest board.
The kitchen is one of the most important rooms and rightly called the heart of your home. Here are a few ideas to make your kitchen green and more environment-friendly. Some of them may be possible only if you are planning a whole remodel while some are as simple as tweaking your daily routine. Have a look!
- Use sustainable materials
- Use sustainable, environment-friendly materials such as bamboo for backsplashes and flooring.
- Cork is another good choice for kitchens as it is also hypo-allergenic and resistant to mold and mildew. While oak or maple may take 30 years or more to grow, cork trees regenerate in less than one-third of that time, making it a sustainable option.
- When it comes to countertops, use green options such as IceStone (made of recycled glass, concrete and pigment). Surfacing made from naturally-occurring materials such as quartz or recycled stone-chipped composite countertops are also good choices.
- When it comes to cabinets, use wood harvested from managed forests or still better, made of an alternative material such as wheatboard.
- Paints and finishes should be non-toxic and the VOC content in them should be zero or extremely low.
- If you are planning to replace you kitchen sink, try buying one made of recycled copper wires and pipes.
- Choose energy-efficient appliances
- Switch decades-old appliances for new, Star-rated electric appliances which are more energy-efficient and use less power and water than other models.
- Refrigerators with top and bottom freezer/refrigerator units are said to be more efficient than side-by-side models because they minimize the cold air that is lost.
- Check the seal of your refrigerator using the dollar bill test. If you shut the fridge door on a dollar bill and are able to pull it out easily without much effort, then it shows that it is time for you to have your seal replaced!
- Choose a convection–style oven over a conventional one for faster cooking. Cooking in a convection-style oven is 25 percent faster because it makes use of a fan to drive heat swiftly from source to food. An electric induction cooker also cooks food faster than an ordinary gas stove.
- Eco-friendly tableware and kitchen tools
- Use bamboo cutting boards instead of plastic ones.
- Buy dinnerware made of recycled glass.
- Root wood serving bowls and platters are unique and made of tree stumps, the removal of which helps expedite reforestation.
- Implement energy and water-saving measures wherever possible
- Maximize natural lighting wherever possible and use fluorescent lighting in other areas.
- Switch to a water-saving faucet with a reduced flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute.
- Use natural and bio-degradable cleaning supplies and detergents.
- Use leftover water from boiling vegetables or pasta to water your plants.
- Get into the habit of composting kitchen scraps.
- Run the dishwasher only when you have a full load to make the most efficient use of water, detergent and energy.
- Put your fridge away from your dishwasher or it will have to work that much harder to cool down the heat emanated by the washer.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible, and that includes old stained glass windows, cabinets and countertops.
- Buy local materials to minimize the cost of shipping and transport.
Guest Blogger: Kurt Jacobson is a surfing enthusiast with a background in real estate. Having moved 10 times in the past 7 years, he thrives on helping others learn from his experiences. When he’s not out shredding waves he writes about homes for househunter.co.
One of the reasons we choose Second Harvest, a food bank in Northwest North Carolina, is that North Carolina is among the five worst states for hunger levels among both adults and children and is where my partner and I live. It is also part of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization which supports more than 200 regional food banks.
Learn more about Second Harvest and the community it serves below.
Second Harvest’s impact in the community:
“In fiscal year 2013-2014, Second Harvest Food Bank distributed more than 25 million pounds of donated, purchased and prepared foods, the equivalent of more than 20 million meals. Together with our network of more than 400 partner programs – community food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and youth and senior feeding programs serving local communities in 18 counties – we provide critical food assistance to more than 300,000 neighbors in need each year, including 100,000 children.”
The households that Second Harvest serves have had to make difficult choices and trade-offs to keep food on the table this year:
- 73 percent had to choose between paying for food or paying for medical care or medicine.
- 75 percent had to choose between paying for food or paying for utilities.
- 71 percent had to choose between paying for food or paying for transportation.
- 61 percent had to choose between paying for food or paying for housing.
Second Harvest’s food bank network helps the communities most vulnerable residents:
- 32 percent of those who receive food assistance through Second Harvest Food Bank’s network of partner food assistance programs are children under the age of 18; 10 percent are seniors age 65 or older. (30 percent are age 50 and older.)
Making your own cleaning products is not only good for the earth, it’s also better for your health and your wallet. You will see that there are many ingredients you can buy in bulk since many products use the same ingredients including water-softening citric acid, stain-removing washing soda, and bacteria-fighting white vinegar. Read on to find some of our favorite eco-friendly and health friendly products from various blogs that are easy and cost-effective to make yourself.
Wash your clothes with a simple detergent made from this recipe found on the Thank Your Body blog.
1 5-ounce bar of castile soap, grated
1 cup of washing soda
½ cup of baking soda
½ cup of citric acid
¼ cup of coarse sea salt
Mix all ingredients together and add 1-2 tablespoons to each wash. Store your product in an airtight container to prevent moisture from getting in and causing clumping.
We thank Pop Sugar for this find. If you want to rid your wardrobe of static and keep fabrics soft, mix 16 ounces of distilled white vinegar with 10-12 drops of essential oil. Enhance the scent by adding a sprig of rosemary, mint, or another fresh, fragrant herb.
According to allyou.com, you can make 16.5 ounces of liquid dish soap for just under $2.50. Just mix the following ingredients together. This mixture also doubles as a countertop cleaner.
2/3 cup liquid castile soap
3 teaspoons vegetable glycerin
5 drops tea-tree essential oil
20 drops lemon essential oil
1 1/3 cups water
If you own a dishwasher, you can also make your own dishwashing tablets with this recipe from Easy-Home-Made. Keep in mind that, while many companies agree that borax is non-toxic, there is still some debate on this product.
1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
½ cup citric acid
½ cup kosher salt
Mix all ingredients together.
Gently squirt your mixture with water so it will clump together. Do not drench the mixture.
Pack your mixture into an ice cube tray.
Allow mixture to dry and set, approximately half an hour.
Remove from ice tray and lay pieces on wax paper to dry completely.
Store tabs in jar or other container. Recipe yields about 36 tabs.
Making your own window cleaner will save you cash at the register. Mix together the following ingredients for a streak-free clean.
¼ cup rubbing alcohol
¼ cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups warm water
Clean your leather and break up dirt by combining vinegar and olive oil in this recipe from Pop Sugar. Add some fresh scent with essential oils. Use paper towel to apply to cleaner and make sure to test a small spot before using it all over your furniture. Save a bundle by mixing the following ingredients together.
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
10 drops essential oil
When it comes to the bathroom, waste is not something we want to think about, but it is something that needs to be addressed. Because the waste we’re talking about is filling up landfills and going down the drain. Between disposable products, long showers, and multiple flushes, the bathroom is one room where a few small changes can impact the environment in a big way. Here, we list five different areas in the bathroom that are the perfect places to start on the road to making your bathroom greener.
If you’re planning on getting a whole new sink, think about saving room in the landfills by going with recycled or salvaged sinks. You can buy sinks made from recycled glass, bronze, aluminum, or even have one made from old tires. If you’re a traditionalist when it comes to material, you can also head over to a salvage store to find reclaimed porcelain. If you want something truly unique, try using another salvaged item as a sink, for example old troughs, buckets, even wooden barrels. As long as the object is bowl shaped and you can drill a hole in it for a drain, it can work as a sink.
If your bathroom project doesn’t include a whole new sink, focus on conserving water with just one change. So much water is wasted when we leave the faucet on while soaping up our hands or brushing our teeth in between rinses. You can prevent perfectly good water from going down the drain by investing in a motion sensor faucet. You’ll still be able to wet and rewet your toothbrush without having to keep turning on the faucet and you won’t have to worry about getting suds on the handles or more germs on your hands after washing them by having to turn the faucet off.
Showers are notorious for wasting water. According to the EPA, standard shower heads pump out 2.5 gallons per minute. While taking shorter showers will cut back on the water that is used, you can also install water efficient shower heads, which could save the average family about 2,900 gallons of water per year. This also means saving on your water bill. You can get water efficient shower heads for as low as $8 and you can find them online or at home repair centers like Home Depot and Lowes.
We can’t talk about water conservation without talking about the toilet. A bathroom staple, the toilet uses about 27% of the water that is consumed in the home, according to Duke University’s Center for Sustainability and Commerce. The EPA also reports that toilets manufactured before 1992 can use up to 3.5 gallons of water with each flush. Use a low-flow toilet to reduce gallons per flush by more than half. In fact, low-flow toilets use about 1.6 gallons. Dual-flush systems use a reduced flush of around one gallon per flush for liquid waste and about 1.6 gallons per flush for solid waste.
With all of the different activities (showering, hairstyling, makeup application, etc.) that go on in the bathroom, storage is a must. Natural Wood Decor’s Teak Spa Shelf holds towels, knick knacks, and shower products without taking up much space. Meanwhile, their Teak Storage and Shelving Unit provides ample room for makeup, hair styling equipment, and other beauty items, or books to read while doing other bathroom activities. The hinged top provides a spot to store more private items and the flat top surface makes a perfect manicure station. The best part of these storage units is that they are handcrafted from teak wood that has been sustainably harvested, which lasts for years. Purchasing one of these durable units also helps support local Thai artisans along with their farms and communities.
When it comes to making your bathroom more eco-friendly changing what we put into those storage areas is just as important. We’re talking about the products you use in your bathroom.
Toilet Paper: While the tissue in toilet paper is made to break down in septic tanks, the cardboard roll and the tissue that is thrown away still takes up space in landfills. On top of that, the production of toilet paper requires the destruction of trees. According to the EPA, one tree makes about 100 pounds of toilet paper. The average American alone uses an estimated 50 pounds of tissue per year alone. That’s one tree for every two Americans per year. The EPA has also estimated that if each US resident replaced one single-ply roll of toilet paper with a recycled roll, Americans alone could save about 470,000 trees. And that’s just switching out one traditional single roll. Imagine how many trees you could save switching out those soft, double- or triple-ply rolls for a single-ply recycled roll. Along with recycled rolls, you can also buy rolls without the cardboard center.
Towels: While those new, one-time-use towels for the home allow guests to have a nice, clean towel every time they wash and keep germs at bay, they are only allowing convenience to trump the environment. Stick to re-useable, washable towels. In fact, you can go one step further by purchasing organic cotton or bamboo towels. The manufacturing of these products uses far less chemicals and other harmful substances that can greatly impact the environment.
Feminine Products: We’ll preface the next few sentences by saying this: men, you can stop reading here. It is a known fact that feminine products cause waste. In fact, the book “Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation” states that in her lifetime, the average woman throws out 250 to 300 pounds of pads, plugs, and applicators. Along with taking up landfill space, many of those products are made from harmful chemicals including rayon, viscose, and wood fluff pulp – a tree derived material. Choose organic cotton pads and tampons, which are free of the aforementioned materials. Meaning, you’ll save trees and keep harmful chemicals from being absorbed into your body. Not only that, but certified organic cotton is grown without the use of pesticides nor are they whitened with chlorine. The products cost more money, but the benefits for you and the environment are worth it. If you don’t want to pay the extra price for organic tampons, you can help reduce feminine product waste by trying tampons without applicators, which cuts back on waste.