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5 tips to plan the best holiday party

Tis’ the season — the season for holiday parties that is! There is the office party, the obligatory family parties, and of course, a party for each circle of friends. It can get exhausting!!

More and more people are opting out of hosting their own parties. First of all, you have to clean your house top to bottom. Then you have to prepare music, food, alcohol, spend money on decorations, and then act as the host the entire night making sure everyone has a good time. At the same time, it can be really fun to invite all your friends and family over for an afternoon or evening of holiday cheer! Here at Women’s Post, we understand the conundrum.

That’s what we have some tips for how to throw a seamless, easy, and memorable holiday bash:

Pick a theme: While it can be amazing just to gather with friends and loved ones, the best holiday bashes have a theme. Having a theme can help with decorations, food, music, and attire — it brings a party together. It doesn’t have to be crazy. For example, you can have the very casual “wear your ugly sweater” or the more glamorous “gold and silver”.   It also gives your guests an idea of what to expect when they arrive.

Signature drink: Even if your party is BYOB, always have a signature drink or cocktail to offer guests when they arrive. The key is not to choose a drink that most of your guests will enjoy — something not too sweet, with the perfect amount of alcohol ratio. It’s also ideal to be a cocktail you can make in mass so you aren’t stuck in the kitchen all night. Sangria is a classic option, and there are plenty of ways to make it more of a holiday beverage. Try mixing white wine with white cranberry juice, some sugar and club soda. Put it in a few large pitchers with oranges, cranberries, apples, and raspberries, and let soak for a few hours. Keep sprigs of rosemary to garnish. Pour over ice! This drink is easy because you can keep everything on a bar or table and guests can help themselves. Just keep a pitcher in the fridge for latecomers.

Decorate, but don’t overdo it: I always aim for comfortable holiday decorations – a beautiful tree, a few wreaths, table runners and centrepieces with green, red, and white accents. Twinkle lights work no matter your theme. They can appear elegant, or urban-chic, and they can create some really great ambiance. Try to avoid cheesy santa statues or name tags. Keep the atmosphere warm and comfortable. Have a few playlist selections but avoid a lot of the classic orchestral music unless your theme is a bit more elegant or your event is actually a dinner party. It tends to make people sleepy and you may find your party ends before planned. Go with plastic cutlery and napkins that fit the theme.

Be creative with your canapés: Food is one of the most important parts of a party. If you aren’t hosting a dinner or doing a meal, guests will expect a few snacks, if only to soak up that sangria! The classic baked brie is a fan favourite around the holidays. Drizzle honey and rosemary overtop of a round of brie. Put it in the oven or even the microwave to heat it up. The brie should be soft enough to cut into, but not too soft as to be misinterpreted as soup. Serve with a variety of crackers, some cranberry sauce, and some red pepper jelly. Other options include spiced meats, jalapeño poppers, and a popcorn/nuts and bolts mixture. Make sure to have a variety of options for vegetarians and vegans.

Have an activity: No one hates icebreakers more than I do, but it’s always fun to have an activity, no matter how small, to get people talking. This can be a secret santa, a gift exchange, or even a decorating of a tree. Drinking games are always fun with the right crowd. It can also be something outdoors. If there is a skating rink or a park with lovely lights, organize a bit of an outing for those who want to be a bit more active.

Let us know how your party went!

How to make your dorm your own

Moving away from home for the first time is an exciting and scary adventure. On one hand, you finally have independence from your parents, but then you have to make sure you can actually take care of yourself. Creating a fun and organized dorm room is the way to make that happen.

The first step when moving into a dorm room is to assess the size of the room and figure out what fits in the small space. I had my own room in residence and it came with a twin bed, dresser, and desk. It was literally the size of a closet (honestly, I was just glad I had my own room). Here are a few tips from a university veteran.

Photo by Marco Derksen
Photo by Marco Derksen
  1. Good vibes

By creating a room with colourful and dynamic art, it makes an open and enjoyable space that classmates and friends can also enjoy. When I moved into residence, I was a poor student and had to be creative with my decorating skills. I purchased an art magazine called Juxtapose and hung all of the art on my door and walls, creating a collage. I still use some of these art pieces today. Most campuses in Ontario have poster sales if you are looking for something specific. If you do have to share a room, try using a nice fabric or sheet to separate the space and make it more private. You can also buy a funky bedspread and pillows to make the space even more dynamic.

  1. Ways to leave a note

Another decorating trick is to create a message board. I used a roll of blank white paper on a wall to create a writing area for people to sign and leave messages after they stop by. I also used it to write poems and do drawings when I had a sudden burst of inspiration. These papers are now a memento of my first few years at university.  You can also hang a whiteboard or chalkboard if you prefer. Having a message area is also a fun way for your friends to leave notes at your dorm if you aren’t there, and also so floor mates can inform you of parties and get-togethers.

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  1. Closet organizers

A closet organizer is a must in a tiny room. These hanging units take up virtually no space and help to keep clothes and personal items organized and off the ground. Be sure to keep the area organized though as the compartments can get quite messy if you pile on extra items or random knick knacks. I personally used my closet organizer for undergarments because these items are small and get easily lost if not in a contained area. These organizers come in a variety of styles and sizes, and can be quite stylish.

 

  1. A wall calendar

University can be chaotic and busy, and having a place in front of your desk with your tests and activities written down is a good way to remember your schedule. I had a large calendar and could record everything from a friend’s kegger to the midterm the next day (hopefully not). Having deadlines visible on a daily basis helped me remember what needed to be done and alleviated stress.

  1. Under the bed storage

Dorm rooms have limited space, so make sure to utilize the space under your bed. Get some short and wide boxes for seasonal clothing or use it to store smaller things like extra toothpaste, Tylenol, and socks. This is also a great spot to store secret snacks when you get the munchies.

Decorating gives character to a room, making it friendly and inviting. It will also make it feel more personal if you feel homesick. Being organized will help you succeed at the “school” part of living in residence (smaller priority sometimes), while the more personal touches will make the tiny room seem like home.

How would you decorate and organize your dorm room? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

How to host an eco-friendly BBQ

There is nothing better than a delicious BBQ. The smell of the smoke, eating barefoot in the grass, drinking wine out of plastic cups — plus, everything tastes better when cooked with fire! But, as a vegan and strict environmentalist, my planning typically includes a lot of eco-friendly adaptations.

You may be asking: what do you mean by an eco-friendly barbecue? Is that even possible? Well my fellow readers, I am here to tell you that it is. To help you out, here are a few tips:

Fresh organic farmers market fruit and vegetable on display
Fresh organic farmers market fruit and vegetable on display
  1. Use in-season vegetables and fruits

Hit up your local farmer’s market and grab organic cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon and any other refreshing options to include as inexpensive and healthy side dishes at your BBQ. I always fry zucchini drizzled in chilli powder and olive oil. It is quite the with party guests.

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  1. Keep it simple

Planning and attempting complex recipes hours before guests arrive is a fast-track way to give yourself a heart attack. No need for unnecessary stress! Keep things simple with fresh foods that can be easily chopped or thrown on the BBQ. Provide kettle-cooked chips or sweet potato fries as an easy appetizer. Keeping it simple can also be said of decorations. Grab a vase or a floating dish with flowers from the garden and use homemade candles at night instead of outdoor lightings.

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  1. Use your own dishes

Paper plates and plastic utensils are my mortal enemy. They are wasteful and often difficult to recycle. Instead use your own dishes and convince your lovely party guests to help with dishes once the drinks are flowing and their bellies are full. I always enjoyed doing dishes after a great meal with my cousins while sipping a beer.

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  1. Potluck style

Another option instead of hosting a BBQ solo is to challenge guests to bring a healthy side dish along with them. Something small such as a light dessert or wine also helps. This creates and fosters a sense of shared community and makes meals versatile and fun for trying new foods.

By Michael Salazar
By Michael Salazar
  1. Make your own BBQ sauce

BBQ sauce is often full of sugar and preservatives. Instead, making a personalized sauce adds individualized taste to the meal. Try this: add one can of chopped tomatoes, 75 ml unsweetened apple juice, 2 tbps brown sugar, 1 tbps apple cider vinegar and ¼ tsp tabasco sauce to a pan and heat until boiling. This also makes your BBQ vegan for your animal-loving friends!

Remember to enjoy yourself. Planning a BBQ shouldn’t be a stressful affair. ALSO, don’t forget to have a vegetarian hot dog in the fridge just in case you get a surprise vegan guest! Bon Appetit!

Decorating for the holidays

By Leslie Whatmough

The season for entertaining is upon us. Although I enjoy taking time out of my regular routine to get together with friends and family, I find the thought of entertaining a little daunting. It is not the menu or the music that concerns me, rather it is simply the concern of how to fit everyone in, comfortably.  Indoor entertaining raises a host of logistical problems for many households . Homes that easily accommodate the everyday functions of a family may be inadequate for entertaining larger groups. The secret to a holiday of stress-free entertaining this year may just be a little creativity.

For me, food and drink are the backbone of every great get together, so my holiday preparations focus on the dining areas of my home. Our kitchen has a small breakfast counter which can double for a serving area for buffet functions. Otherwise we use the dining end of the great room. This grandiose term does not adequately describe the unused end of the living room that we chose to use for a dining room.  When we first planned the room arrangements of our new house we realized that our home office needs would be best suited by reassigning the dining room. Then we divided the overly large living room into two separate spaces, visually, to gain a dining area with  a lovely view of the backyard. The space is compact, but functional for everyday use. We chose an oval table with sentimental value as the heart of our room. My father built the pine table top when he and my mother needed space for their five children and they couldn’t afford to purchase anything fancy. It has been the centre of many a celebration.  I am a big fan of oval tables, especially ones with a pedestal base. There are no legs to get in the way of the dining chairs and no one feels like they are hanging off a corner. The one drawback with them is that they do not easily connect with another table if more seating is needed. Should you be in the market for new dining furniture, current trends in design feature tables with leaves or other expandable designs to solve space problems.

Another trend that appeals to me is the demise of the matching dining suite. It appears that more people prefer to find individual pieces that suit their unique spaces. Mismatched chairs around the dining table are becoming common, though there is a preference for matching the two end chairs. My first consideration for a chair is comfort, second is size. Tiny chairs are not practical or comfortable for most people, but space does dictate that smaller chairs will allow more people around the table.

The dining room needs to be a functional food service space, so additional surfaces are needed to store dishes and act as the traditional sideboard. Non-traditional pieces are my preference for this function. Old hutches reflect a country decorating style while dressers and other low pieces like old stereo cabinets could be incorporated to evoke a retro feel in a more modern setting. The choice of lighting also helps to define an era or evoke a mood. Chandeliers are popular right now and as a result there is a wide assortment available, from traditional to modern.

I have noticed that many people seem to be afraid to treat the dining room like other rooms in the house. There is often either a lack of decoration or an overly formal mood that does not match the rest of the home. I find it helpful to examine the decor in my favorite restaurants when I think about decorating the dining room. I believe that form follows function. If the room is inviting people will naturally gravitate to it. A room does not have to be large to be effective.

So as this holiday approaches I will have to make some decisions about whether we follow the tradition of a sit-down dinner or perhaps a buffet will be more practical. I prefer to sit at a table so maybe I will rearrange my “great room” to accommodate a number of smaller tables and really go with that restaurant feel. The possibilities are intriguing.