10 Holiday Party Planning Hacks Plus Bonus Recipe for Chocolate Shortbread Bites

By Penelope Carlevato @teatimepen in Leading Hearts Magazine

A FEW YEARS AGO I HOSTED A GOING-AWAY TEA FOR A CO-WORKER. WE HAD ENJOYED WORKING TOGETHER FOR SEVERAL YEARS AND ALWAYS PLANNED ON GETTING TOGETHER “ONE OF THESE DAYS.”

Well, that day never happened until it was time for her to move. As we sat around the table and enjoyed our tea and scones, we regretted not making time earlier for fellowship. We talked about the people God had put into our lives we wanted to connect with but didn’t take the time.

We don’t have to look far to find those who are lonely and need a friend. So, how do we make the time to reach out to our neighbors and co-workers, especially when our world is so complex and we’re all so busy? My answer is very simple, but not always easy to accomplish.

We have to make time for hospitality to happen, even if it is an impromptu get together. I suggest we pray and ask God who he wants us to invite for a meal or a cup of tea. He always answers! When we pray about who will be a guest at our table, it includes Jesus being involved with the planning.

My ministry is tea related, so that is usually the direction I take when inviting others into our home. You may be the “casserole queen” or the “baking queen,” so follow your heart and plan your next hospitality opportunity.

Probably my favorite Bible story about hospitality is in Genesis 18: 1-18. Abraham sees three men by his tent door. He invites them in for a meal without any mention of payment or reward. When the guests are revealed as angels, Abraham and his wife Sarah are told their childless years are about to end, Sarah is going to have a baby at age 90 after being infertile her whole life!

They thought they were just providing a meal and drink to three hungry and tired men. The moral of this story is when we welcome a guest into our homes to sit at our dining table, we will often be the recipient of a blessing.

So often we focus on all the work it takes to have company, and we forget the many blessings of laughter, comfort, friendship, and encouragement. Hospitality really has nothing to do with having a clean house, gourmet meals or being a “hostess with the mostess.” It’s about being a vessel for God’s love to flow from Him to them. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2, NIV)

Christmas is the perfect time, in fact, a prime opportunity to open your home and share the real meaning of Christmas. I have the date for my Neighborhood Christmas Tea on my calendar and will deliver the invitations Thanksgiving week. I look through magazines and my recipe box for the menu planning, and I keep a journal to make sure I am on track and start getting things together early.

Here are a few of my practical tips for you to begin an exciting new tradition:

1. Pray for guidance in who to invite.

2. Pray about the date, time and theme and put it on your calendar.

3. Plan in advance the invitations and the menu.

4. Ask a friend to be your co-hostess.

5. Invite your family to help. Husbands and children can help with the shopping, cleaning, guest list. Then, on the day of your event, they can greet guests when they arrive, hang up coats and serve at the party.

6. Bake or prepare food in advance and freeze.

7. Shop for non-perishables a few days before the event.

8. Pick up fresh baked goods from your local bakery. You don’t have to do all the cooking and baking.

9. The day before your party, buy flowers, do as much of the cooking as possible, set the table and get serving dishes and platters ready.

10. The day of the party, tidy the house, hang fresh towels in the bathroom and change into your party attire and ENJOY! This favorite shortbread recipe is a wonderful addition for a Christmas Tea or Christmas party.

Chocolate Shortbread Bites 

1 cup flour 1/3 cup butter at room temperature ¼ cup powdered sugar 2 eggs 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted in microwave on defrost and cooled 1 cup sugar ½ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the flour, butter and powdered sugar until mixed well. Press into an 8-inch, ungreased square baking dish and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Beat remaining ingredients together until fluffy. Pour this mixture over the hot cookie crust and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes or until set. Cool and cut into squares.

These Shortbread Bites can be made ahead of time. Keep in an airtight container. Makes 16.

Find great recipes like this in Penelope’s Carlevato’s book: The Art of Afternoon Tea: From the Era of Downton Abbey, Tea on the Titanic and First Class Etiquette. She speaks on hospitality, historical entertaining, and etiquette and manners for all ages and all occasions. Penelope lives in the Denver, CO. area and is the grandmother of eleven! penelopecarlevato.com
Article from Leading Hearts magazine leadinghearts.com,

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