My grandma is a natural-born party thrower. I call her a “party in a box” because she always seems to have everything ready and know what to do to make an instant party – even if it’s just 3 of us sitting around a kitchen table. One of my favorite memories from when I was a kid/teenager is my grandparent’s annual Christmas parties. When they lived in Virginia, every year they’d host a big Christmas party for about 100 or so of their friends and family. My mom and aunt still joke about how it took a month to prepare and a month to recover, haha. But they wouldn’t give anything for the memories.
Their house was a two-story brick colonial, and the interior was decorated in classic 18th century Williamsburg-style colonial decor, but it still had the comfort and warmth of “Grandma and Grandpa’s house”. For the Christmas parties, everything was homemade – even the decor. The tables were always decorated with fresh sprigs of boxwoods, berries and magnolias from their lawn and the tables in the dining room were covered with yummy foods. It was always an adults-only party, but there would be so many leftovers (yes, even after 100+ people eating a ton of food) that a night or two after the party, I got to invite a bunch of my friends over to my grandparent’s house for my own little Christmas party.
And this picture only shows half of the dining room spread! Since we bought this house, one of my “in the back of my head goals” has been to start having annual Christmas parties. Last year, we had our Baby It’s Cold Outside Brunch, and while we’re not planning any big parties for this year because I really want the dining room and living room a little closer to “done”, I’m gathering inspiration for next year. During my pre-pre-planning spurts, I kept wanting a place to keep my photos, notes and menu ideas. Thus, the Christmas Party Notebook was born.
Sure, these days we have Pinterest, but this is a great way to keep track of things like tangible things like paper samples and have a place to jot down notes and scribble ideas. Over time, it will turn into a “Christmas Party Scrapbook” of sorts and will be so much fun to look at down the road.
To get a better look, click the above image to make it larger. I started out with my favorite go-to 3-ring binder (this Martha Stewart binder) and colorful dividers. The black and white damask pouch holds paper tape (in Christmas colors, of course), a few Sharpie pens and a few colored pencils. I keep it snapped into one of the notebook rings to keep it all together. I also have a flat silver snowflake ornament and two tiny jingle bells tied on a string snapped into the top notebook ring. These serve no purpose except adding a bit of Christmas cheer and making me happy when I open the notebook. In the notebook pocket, I keep paper samples for invitations and clippings from magazines I need to attach in one of the tabbed sections. I guess you could call it my “organize later pocket”.
In the front of the notebook, before the divided sections, is a grand “what to do when” checklist. I went through all of the necessities to plan a party, starting four weeks in advance. Everything from making an invitation list to designating a coat area – it’s all there. I even went over it with my mom and grandma to see if I was missing anything. It never hurts to consult the experts, right? Click here to download the party check-list.
As for the divided sections, I have notes, invites, guest list, decor, games, menu, recipes and shopping. Here’s a rundown of what’s in each sections:
NOTES // This section is filled with blank printer paper for doodling, list making and what not. I like having this section in the front so it’s easy to get to and ultra convenient to jot down quick notes and ideas.
INVITES // I love designing our own invitations, so this is where I keep my sketches and ideas. I also plan on keeping a copy of an invitation from each year’s party – which will be fun to look at in a few years when we have some more parties under our belt.
GUEST LIST // Pretty self-explanatory, but this is where the guest list hangs out. Even though I keep all of our friends’ and family’s addresses and contact info “in the cloud” on our computers, once I have a finalized guest list, I’ll also include a list of their addresses in this section for the invitations.
DECOR // I planned through two other themes before deciding on the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” theme for last year’s party. I learned my lesson and now realize if I keep track of decor inspiration far enough in advance, I won’t have to plan two completely separate parties before coming up with “the one”. This section is where I keep notes for ideas for things like decorating a hot chocolate table and having a little table set up for guests to sign a Christmas ornament instead of a guest book.
GAMES // Fun non-cheesy Christmas party games are hard to come by. So, if I come across one that sounds like our cup of tea, I print it out (or tear it out of the magazine) and stash it in here. My Grandma has a super fun party game that coincides with giving all your guests a tour of the house. Come to think about it, that would be a fun post! I’ll be sure to post about it soon.
MENU // This is where I keep menu ideas as well as ideas for unique serving dishes (like last year’s “juice glass grits”). After the party, you can make notes on the menu items that were a hit and if you should plan on making a larger batch the next year. This is always the case with my mom’s sausage balls! Can’t keep them on the table.
RECIPES // In this section, I keep the recipes for our favorite Christmas party dishes – including the recipes from last year’s Christmas brunch. I’m slowly collecting all the staple recipes from my Grandma’s parties. I plan on getting more from her when I see her in a few weeks – I love having her recipes in her own handwriting.
SHOPPING // Last, but not least, shopping! As you know, a lot of shopping is involved when you put together a big holiday party. This section is for shopping lists (grocery, decor, etc) and I also have a clear zipper pouch for important receipts.
This binder setup can work for any holiday you like to entertain for annually – even birthday parties. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m already looking forward to flipping through and reminiscing 5-10 years from now at our past invitations, menus and such. If only a smidgen of my Grandma’s Christmas party-throwing talent rubs off on me, I’ll be a happy camper. One thing’s for sure, this binder will keep me organized and definitely make planning even more fun along the way.
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, by now you are very well aware of my intense love for that Martha Stewart Home Office Avery collection at Staples. That being the case, I’m beyond excited to share this giveaway. Like, 15-year-old-at-a-Jonas-Brothers-concert-in-2006 kinds of excited. Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery is giving one lucky reader a mother lode of holiday products to help kick off your holiday season (including everything you need to put together a Christmas party notebook of your own) along with a $50 gift card to Staples. How awesome is that?!
Here’s how to enter… Scroll down to the giveaway widget below and log in with your Facebook account. If you’d rather not use your Facebook account, or don’t have one, just enter your email address (registering with a password, etc is not required). As always, your information is kept private! Once you’ve done that, you’ll be shown the entry requirements set by yours truly. Click the “Do it!” button, type the phrase in the blank in the widget, then click “Enter!”. Now that you’ve entered, you’ll see some optional entry options. To gain additional entries and increase your chances of winning the prize, you can do one or all of them. If you already follow Avery or 7th House, go ahead and enter your Facebook or Twitter info, and you’ll be automatically given the extra entries. This giveaway is open to those in the US only (no PO boxes, please) and as usual, the winner will be chosen using Random.org. Good luck everyone!