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How to get ready to entertain holiday guests

I had fun writing my novel Josephine’s Journals. The story involved a girl coming of age and her caretaker preparing a holiday open house to welcome her estranged sister home. (The most fun part was being able to move the tree wherever I wanted without arguing with anyone to help me decorate or string lights.)

The main character could rummage through the old attic in the mansion where the story takes place and find silver, crystal, mirrors, pheasant taxidermy. Anything she needed to decorate I could just make appear. Mrs. Emily was in charge of the food preparation, and she prepared things ahead of time that could be stored in the refrigerator until serving time. The girls, Sabine and Joy, named the dishes and labeled them on cards, keeping with a theme of “birds of a feather.” It was fun, and I can still imagine the decorations and food planning which is why I try to employ some of those same techniques off the page.

It is handy to have items on hand from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day to serve drop-in guests. The house is decorated, people are in town visiting relatives — it is the perfect time to have impromptu gatherings and impress with festive cocktails and nibbles. My favorite drinks are those that can be stored and combined in a large pitcher in no time at all.

Mrs. Emily’s Scarlet Spoonbill Punch


  • 2 cups rosé wine, chilled
  • 2 cups ginger ale, chilled
  • 1 cup cranberry juice cocktail, chilled


  1. Pour all ingredients over an ice block in punch bowl and enjoy a delicious treat, or combine everything in a large, clear pitcher.
  2. Alternative serving idea: Freeze a 1/2 bag of fresh cranberries and pour into the bottom of large crystal pitcher. Pour the punch mixture over the frozen cranberries.

Green grape cheese bites — the perfect nibbles for a wine-based drink


  • 1 bunch seedless green grapes
  • 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


  1. Wash grapes and allow them to dry completely.
  2. Cream together the crumbled blue cheese and cream cheese.
  3. Separate the grapes.
  4. Carefully press the cheese mixture around each individual grape.
  5. Roll each grape in the chopped nuts.
  6. Refrigerate the bites in a covered container until time it’s to serve.

These bites are great with cocktails or wine served with crackers.

Guests will enjoy these unique treats, and they can be kept handy with no trouble at all. However, the decorations will not be as easy as my imagined party!

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