Jan Scott

Jan Scott is an event planner, food writer and the face behind the family food blog www.familybites.ca. She's also the mom of two school-aged boys, and when she's not planning a party or writing about feeding a family she can be found in her kitchen whipping up lots of yummy things for her boys to eat.
The Easiest Holiday Party You Can Host
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My friend, Julie, and I recently published our first book together. Gatherings is a collection of recipes, how-to’s, and easy decor ideas designed to assist you with planning any party you might consider hosting over the course of a year. From showers to sleepovers, and backyard barbecues to big family gatherings, we’ve tried to cover almost every major occasion on your calendar.

I’ve spent almost a decade organizing events and home parties at a professional level, and no party is easier to execute than an open house. Comprised mostly of a low-maintenance, make-ahead menu, the food is typically served buffet-style and requires almost nothing from a hostess—just the occasional reheating and replenishing of foods.

A holiday open house is an ideal way to open your home to friends and family during the holidays, when the desire to host is the strongest, but you have the least amount of time to do it. The tone for this gathering should be warm and casual, offering a break to your prospective guests who are likely overwhelmed and over-committed by the season’s schedule. It keeps the focus on the people in attendance and not the preparation, which naturally forces you to make merry with those you like and love the most.

Here are my best tips—the ones I published in the book—for hosting a successful holiday open house:

  • Avoid cooking during an open house. With guests coming and going at different times you want to be free from the kitchen so you can greet them appropriately.
  • This should be the easiest type of gathering you host. Keep self-serve in mind when it comes to planning the menu.
  • If serving hot foods, prepare them so they can be heated in batches, keeping a constant rotation of warm foods at the ready.
  • Mostly offer foods that do well at room temperature and require nothing more than a quick refresh and replenish.
  • Avoid the need for utensils whenever possible. Fingers and cocktail napkins are all that should be required.
  • Keep decorating to a minimum and focus on one key area, like the buffet table and bar.
  • Embrace the use of disposable plates, cutlery and napkins.
  • If hosting an evening event, don’t forget to offer decaf coffee to your guests in addition to a regular variety.
  • Empty your coat closet, leaving it free for your invited guests to hang their jackets themselves. If you don’t have the space, store the jackets in another room and direct guests to where they can find their coats themselves.
  • Make sure the second wave of visitors doesn’t arrive to empty platters and warm punch. Do a quick glance around the room every hour or so, bulking up the food, tidying the buffet, refilling the punch bowl, and tossing crumbled cocktail napkins.

Have you ever hosted an open house? Was it simple or stressful? What’s your favourite thing to serve at this type of party?

Jan Scott is an event planner, food writer and the face behind the family food blog www.familybites.ca. She's also the mom of two school-aged boys, and when she's not planning a party or writing about feeding a family she can be found in her kitchen whipping up lots of yummy things for her boys to eat.
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Last December, I was fortunate enough to participate in a photo-a-day challenge on Instagram.  A group I’m involved in (the Food Bloggers of Canada) organized the activity and provided us with a list of daily prompts, which were used to inspire me and the other participants to take the time to capture a seasonally related photo each day. Some of the words they selected—holiday cheer, peppermint, star, and wreath—served as great reminders to include some of the smaller, less obvious aspects of the holidays in our pictures, and because we all used the same hashtag on our images I was able to see how my friends were celebrating their own winter holidays.

This year, we’d love to invite you to take part in our December photo-a-day challenge. The rules are very simple: follow the daily prompt words above to create a simple digital photo taken with your phone or tablet, then share it on Instagram and tag your pictures with #SMphotoaday so that we can keep up with what our readers are making, baking, eating, and celebrating through the month of December.

If you’d like to follow along with us, we are @savvymomdotca and my personal account is @jannisescott1. Also, if you think you’d like to participate please leave your Instagram name in the comments below so we can be sure to follow you as well.

A side note: don’t worry if you can’t upload a photo every day.  Feel free to join in the fun whenever if it suits your schedule. Also, if you are not on the social media picture-sharing site, you can still use this list of words as a holiday photo checklist to make sure you capture some of those small, significant moments during the Christmas season!

Have fun! We can’t wait to see what you get up to this month.

P.S. In order to remember what the prompts were for each day I took a screen shot of the list of words and kept in on my phone’s camera roll so I could easily refer back if I forgot what the words were.

You can also see a higher resolution version of the word prompts here.

Jan Scott is an event planner, food writer and the face behind the family food blog www.familybites.ca. She's also the mom of two school-aged boys, and when she's not planning a party or writing about feeding a family she can be found in her kitchen whipping up lots of yummy things for her boys to eat.
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