Q  –  HELP!  I just agreed to host a Christmas party for my co-workers and my boss.  I have no idea what I was thinking when I agrees to this and I’m starting to panic.  Idon’t have time to paint or redecorate, but I was wondering if you had any tips on easy things I could do this week?
A  –  Well, I like an email question that starts with “HELP”.   I’m not a professional party planner, but I do know my way around a cocktail… so here’s a quick list of home-related things to consider before your boss and co-workers arrive.
– Replace blown-out bulbs in exterior lights.
– Scatter sand or kitty litter on slippery steps…not salt which will get tracked in and all over your clean floors… and be sure to have a clean mat inside the door.
– Add a dimmer switch to the hallway fixture (soft light = instant mood-setter).
– Roll out a temporary rug or runner to absorb slush and snow.
– Fix squeaky hardwood floors by sweeping graphite powder or even corn starch into the cracks, then vacuum up the remainder.
– Forget cleaning out a closet and the massive pile of coats on a bed idea. A portable coat rack adds “closet” capacity in a hallway. About $60; Bed Bath & Beyond
– Ratchet down the thermostat by 3 degrees F.  the body heat from a crowd will warm a place up quickly and guests hate sweating over their holiday cocktails.
– Keep area rugs in place with double-sided tape or non-skid mats to prevent tripping and slipping.
– Treat fabric-covered furniture with a protective spray, such as Scotchgard, so that spills don’t become a permanent record. Have some club soda on hand in case you do have to deal with an accidental spill.  If no one spills wine on anything, then you’re ready for a celebratory vodka soda when everyone leaves…
– Plug up window drafts with weatherstripping or Peel-N-Seal caulk.
– Add seat cushions, especially for folding chairs, to ward off marathon-meal butt numbness.
– Fill scratches in the dining room table with colored paste wax.
-Spread out the bar, food/snack table and deserts… people tend to like to hang out in the kitchen and if you have everything in there, it only reinforces them crowding into one room.  There are many ways to deal with this conjested kitchen/empty living room phenomenon:  Pull your chairs out from the dining room table (they can go in the garage for a night, or if you need them, place them in a curve or semi-circle in a dead corner). Then, throw a cheap plastic table cloth on the dining room table and cover it with a nicer table cloth, now you have a great spot for a buffet, large appetizer table or a full bar and your table is totally protected.  Also, try clearing off a tall end table, coffee table or even a desk and turn it into a desert table.
– Pre-place coasters around, especially on old wood pieces.
– Replace the washer or O-ring on an annoyingly drippy tap.
– Rinse out grit from the faucet’s filter screen to keep the water flowing smoothly.
– Buy some paper guest towels…. trying to dry your hands on a wet hand towel used by the 20 people before you is just gross.
– The best parties I go to all have one thing in common, they appeal to all the sences!  Just keep this in mind……and relax.
  Sight:  clean, simple, interesting and themes are all good to look at when deciding how to decorate for a holiday party.
  Sound:  low background music is mandatory.
  Smell:  flowers, fresh evergreen, candles, or a simmering pot of cinnemon and cloves will be noticed by everyone.
  Feel:  comfortable temperature, enough seating, space to talk and a warm, friendly host will make people leave thinking, ‘that was fun’.
  Taste:  good food and good drinks should be easy and not complicated for you or your guests.


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