The holidays have arrived. Time to sprinkle your home with seasonal magic! For me, holiday entertaining is all about beautiful, natural elegance, with a few festive, over-the-top extras. In the December Invite, I’m sharing holiday styling ideas, time-saving entertaining tips, a festive signature sip, and a sensational soup that’s a celebration in a wintry mug. Cheers to the season of entertaining!
Holiday Refrigerator Goals
Prep your fridge for joyful holiday entertaining! OK, this entertaining tip is both beautiful and practical. The fridge side door holds dreamy flower arrangements ready for duty. (Heck yes, I added twinkle lights; so what?) Get all your party needs — washed, prepped, and neatly displayed in clear bins — ready to go, at your fingertips! From cocktail components to sweet treats!
Beautiful hand-blown baubles are carefully hung on our two fresh Christmas trees. One is left natural, and one is flocked. The towering noble fir holds court in the main hall and gets lit up with thousands of lights. (Yep, I’m the one who goes up on a two-story ladder, wrapping the branches while the Mr. and son, aka ACME lighting crew, work below, testing the strands!)
Tip: To avoid a small (Griswold) holiday meltdown, carefully calculate how many watts of bulbs your circuits can handle, and follow the package instructions to determine the number of lights you can string together. Trust me on this.
DIY: Create a Beautiful Bay Wreath
Nothing but bay, baby! This simple DIY wreath is a fragrant holiday favorite. It took just three bunches of fresh bay branches, garden clippers, and a wet-foam wreath to assemble this lovely holiday mantel topper in less than an hour. You can find the wet-foam forms online. Many markets and flower shops carry seasonal bay leaf branches.
First, thoroughly soak the foam wreath in water and allow to drain in the sink. Clip branches to desired length, and begin building the wreath. Use a shallow protective tray underneath the wreath for indoor mantle displays. Freshen the wreath with water a few times a week.
Bauble Bowls, String Lights, and Stockings
Add quick sparkle and panache to your kitchen counters with strands of glowing string-light, bulbs, and everyday bowls, piled with gleaming ornaments. Decorative Christmas stockings are hung on the kitchen hardware with care.
Seasonal Foliage and Flowers
Showy white amaryllis, roses, and tulips are my favorite holiday combo. Layer in sprigs of fresh seasonal greenery like juniper and fir for fragrance and texture. Try popping fresh greenery and blooms into holiday ice buckets, and decorate the holiday bar with boughs of juniper, trimmed with flowers and vintage ornaments.
Build a Bar
Speaking of the holiday bar, treat guests to a fun mix of pretty cocktail glassware, like this tray of eclectic vintage finds, and then shake up a signature seasonal holiday cocktail.
Cocktail Trimming Tray
Heap a simple tray with cocktail essentials, like fresh berries, pom seeds, herbs, citrus, juices, syrups, and spirits. The tray serves as a holiday decoration in itself.
Signature Holiday Soup Sips
If you make one thing this holiday season, let it be this elegant crab bisque. It’s seriously yummy, easy to make, and you can prep it ahead. You can slice and dice the veggies the night before. Sauté and simmer a few hours prior to your gathering, and pop the soup pan in the fridge. Just before serving, rewarm the bisque, and fold in the fresh crab. I serve it up, in festive mugs, straight from the stovetop. It’s a hearty appetizer at our holiday parties and dinners. Guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, cored, outer part removed, diced
2 shallots, diced
3 crimini mushrooms, chopped
3 tablespoons brandy
¾ teaspoon Pernod
Zest of half a lemon
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
5 drops Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon truffle salt
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fennel salt
3 tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste
2 cans tomato soup (10¾ ounces, undiluted)
1¾ cans cream of celery soup
3½ cups whole milk
1 cup half & half
1 pound fresh crabmeat, picked through
Step 1: Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy pan. Sauté fennel, shallots, and mushrooms in the oil on medium heat until soft but still firm. (About 8 minutes.)
Step 2: Add the brandy, Pernod, Worcestershire, lemon zest, Tabasco, ground pepper, salts, and tomato paste into the pan. Sauté for 5 minutes more. Add the tomato and celery soups, and cook over medium heat, stirring until the soup base is heated through. Add milk and half & half, and whisk until smooth and heated through. Do not boil. (Now you can return the mixture to the refrigerator if you want to finish later without much fuss, or continue to Step 3.)
Step 3: Fold in the crab, and allow it to heat through for a few minutes. Adjust seasonings and consistency to your liking by adding a bit more milk. Just before serving, add another splash of brandy. Ladle into mugs and top with a dollop of sour cream, snipped chives, and fresh fennel fronds.
Holiday Cocktail Kits
This is perfect for small gatherings. Send guests or couples home with signature cocktail ingredients. Include mini shakers and spirits bottles, fresh herbs, and citrus. TIP: These clear containers also double as a fridge
re-organizing starter kit!
Rudolph Red Rosemary Cocktail
Hit the festive holiday cocktail mark with the flavors of the season: vibrant red pomegranate juice and vodka spirits, an infusion of rosemary syrup and tangy lime juice, plus a muddled satsuma peel. Cheers!
TIP: Makes one cocktail, or multiply the recipe and place in a pitcher. Shake up the mix in an ice-filled cocktail shaker as guests arrive.
1 satsuma (peel only)
Juice of ½ small lime
2 ounces vodka
11/2 ounces pomegranate juice
1 ounce rosemary simple syrup (see below)
Rosemary Simple Syrup
Combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a stovetop pan. Toss in 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Strain and chill.
Add a strip of satsuma peel, the lime juice, and vodka to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well. Add plenty of ice to the shaker. Top with the pomegranate juice and syrup. Shake until the shaker is frosty as a snowman, and strain into a glass. Garnish with a fresh lime peel.