Thursday, December 19, 2013

An easy way to spiff up any winter party

I hosted a Christmas party for my family this past weekend.  I love to bust out my creativity when I am having people over but with two littles, I have to be realistic.  Usually my method these days is to go simple on most everything and then choose one thing to make extra special.  I don’t want to be stressed and tense when people arrive (that’s hard to do!), therefore, I try to pick a menu that I can easily accomplish, then I give myself the freedom to “go all out” in one area for a special memory at my house. 

I like to choose something that people can get involved in when they arrive.  When you welcome people into your home and give them the option of a destination to visit during the party, along with something to do with their hands, even if they don’t know another soul, it helps them to feel welcome and at ease.  It’s also fun and shows the thoughtfulness you put into your guest’s experience in a tangible way (this is a great way to show love and hospitality!).

Because it was a winter event, this time around I chose to go with a hot cocoa bar!

It was suuuuper simple thanks to the help of Sam’s Club.  The whole idea was built around the concept of being able to DIY one’s own personalized cup of hot chocolate.  I purchased a large variety pack of some of the. best. cocoa. ever.  It had at least six packages of eight flavors (oatmeal cookie, caramel, raspberry, s’more etc.) so guests could choose their own special one.  The variety of different hot chocolates is a must-have and is what makes it so fun. 

Other than that, the special goodies to put in the cocoa are up to you.   I purchased some yummy biscottis from Sam's and they were a hit. I think they make the cocoa even more fun because it gives you something to bite into and easily elevates the drink to something more gourmet.  

I also had peppermint and regular whipped cream (not pictured) and gingerbread and French vanilla marshmallows.  I hunted high and low for the gourmet marshmallows you see at some specialty or confectionery stores but didn't find them the day I was shopping.  Usually they are square-shaped and uniquely flavored, oftentimes even dipped or dusted in chocolate or other sweet things.  However, when all else fails, your kids are crying, and you just need to buy something to plop place on the table, holiday ‘mallows from Jet Puff are great too J

Add some fun mini cookies or things for guests to nibble on and there you go! 

You can use paper cups, Styrofoam cups, or mugs from your cupboard.  I put some colorful paper straws in a glass for guests to use as stir-sticks.  

The other thing I had was an electric kettle.  My cocoa bar was set up upstairs, far away from my kitchen, so this was the best way to have hot water available to people.  For bigger gatherings I would recommend something like this as it heats itself up real quick (mine was from Target) .  If it’s just a few friends, a kettle on the stove is fine.  I wouldn’t send people to the microwave as it would get congested and take too much time.

Here are some more ideas you could add to your Cocoa Bar:
  • A chalkboard sign with something to incorporate the theme
  • A cute garland or bunting, tablecloths and platters.  
  • A paper tablecloth you can write on, pointing to different ingredients on the table and labeling them
  • Crushed peppermints or dark cocoa powder for dusting on hot chocolate
  • Andes mints for sprinkling on top—hey, even sprinkles for that matter!
  • A variety of syrups people could add into their cocoa
I set this whole thing up in about 15 minutes. You can have it be simple and casual (more like mine) or go all out with apothecary jars filled with goodies and a lot more décor. Whatever you have time for and whatever you want to do. Have fun and let me know if you try this at your next event. It won’t disappoint your guests on a cold winter day!


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