Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, America and an Unusual Christmas Party Idea!

Edited to add: this post is being linked to Playing Dishes, for Printersdevil's Christmas in July tablescape party!!

Happy Fourth of July! Are you celebrating America's birthday today with family and friends? As you read this, we are at the lake, doing just that!

Today is a day traditionally thought of as a grill out kind of weather, fireworks, lots of folks gathering to celebrate...but you probably don't think of doing a grill out for Christmas...but really, why not? If you live in the south, like we do, late autumn-early winter weather is typically mild...chilly but not too cold..crisp and cool. Many of us have outdoor fireplaces or fire pits now, which would help keep the cold at bay. Why not have a gathering outside?

If you have a covered or screened porch you could easily have this gathering there. If not, the deck or patio will work just fine, or just as spot on the lawn, as long as you take the time to make it festive and cozy. Lots of little twinkle lights in trees just say holiday to me, and so do candles and other luminaries. Use white twinkle lights to line your porch roof, or to go on the rafters of your porch if they are exposed. It's just the right amount of light and gives everything a fairy like glow...very festive! A beautifully decorated Christmas tree would be really cute, too.

Be sure to have some inexpensive fleece throws or quilts lying around in case guests get chilly as the evening wears on. I buy these throws at dollar stores in the fall to use at our annual Halloween party, but they work just as well at Christmas!

Greet your guests with a smile and a warm drink...

How about some apple cider? There's lots of recipes available for this traditonal warmer, but my favorite is still to use a cup of brown sugar, a tablespoon of ground cinnamon or a half dozen cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and a few allspice berries added to a gallon of apple cider, and let it warm on the stove or in a slow cooker. You can garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sticks, if you choose.

If your guests prefer something cold to start off, how about a cup of Christmas punch in a jolly old Saint Nick cup, served from a matching punch bowl!

A simple but yummy and colorful punch is to mix together a jug of red Hawaiian punch, a can of pineapple juice, and a can of orange juice concentrate, thawed. Stir together in a punch bowl, then pour a bottle of ginger ale over it, add some orange slices, pineapple slices and marachino cherries and you've got an easy, pretty and delicious punch!

A good appetizer for this meal might be a warm cup of cream of tomato soup, with crackers and cheese and mini cheddar garlic biscuits. There are lots of recipes on line for tomato soups, and you could always jazz up a can of Campbells by preparing it with milk instead of water, sprinkling in some lemon pepper seasoning and adding a celery stick stirrer...sort of a take off on a Bloody Mary. Have some shredded cheese, croutons and oyster crackers available for those who want a little more volume in their soup!

Bisquick makes a packaged mix for cheddar garlic biscuits that is really good for a base for mini biscuits. I add a little more garlic and some shredded cheddar to mine, then pat the dough out into a large rectangle and cut out mini biscuits with a cookie or biscuit cutter, or a small drinking glass. Then I brush the tops with a little garlic butter (garlic powder sprinkled into melted butter) and bake for about 10-12 minutes on 400 degrees, or until the tops of the biscuits are brown.

The main course could be a grilled pork butt. I use these all the time in the summer for wonderful barbeque, but they are equally good just sliced and served. I rub the pork with a packaged barbeque seasoning rub-I like Emerill's brand pretty well, but my favorite is packaged by the Rendezvous barbeque joint in Memphis. It's available at Wal-Mart in the seasoning aisle. I'm sure other stores carry it too, that's just where I buy mine! Then I put the pork on a preheated grill on indirect heat and let it cook for about an hour and a half (depending on the size of the butt). I let it cool slightly then slice it very thinly and serve it with barbeque sauce.

A good side dish for this meal might be grilled root veggies. You could do skewers of potatoes, onion, carrots, sweet potatoes and whatever else strikes your fancy...just brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay on the grill...mmm...good stuff!!

Add a loaf of garlic French bread (wrapped in foil, it'll warm on the top rack of the grill while the meat and veggies cook), a bagged salad with your favorite dressing and you've got a great, unexpected meal for a Christmas get together!

Dessert can be equally simple...just buy a Mrs. Smith's apple cobbler, bake it in the oven while everything else is cooking and top it with ice cream and caramel sauce. Call it Caramel Apple Cobbler and your guests will think you're a genius!! Just be sure to hide the Mrs. Smith's box.

Dress your outdoor table as you would inside with a beautiful, festive table cloth and fabric napkins, your Christmas dishes or other pretty dishes and a lovely centerpiece...and be sure to pass around the coffee with dessert. If you'd like to serve a fancy coffee drink, there's a recipe at the bottom of this post.

This was my Christmas Eve table a couple of years ago...the kids sit at the bar...

And the adults sit here...

Both of these tablecloths are twin sized sheets! You can get lots of colors, they iron up nicely and wash in the washing machine...and they are cheap!! The fancy "crystal" goblets are from the Dollar Tree, and the centerpiece is just a crystal bowl filled with red and gold glass, easy but oh! so pretty and elegant!

A party, inside or out, doesn't have to be expensive or labor intensive! The most important part is making sure your guests are comfortable, well fed and feel welcome!!

Here's that coffee drink I promised you. This is from the 20th anniversay edition of "The Spirit of Christmas".

Fireside Coffee

2 cups half and half

2 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped

2 cups hot brewed coffee

3/4 cup bourbon (tastes good without the bourbon, too!)

1/2 to 1 cup sugar

2/3 cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream to serve

Microwave half and half in a 2 cup glass measuring cup on HIGH 1-2 minutes, or until steamy. Pour over the chocolate, let stand 1 minute and whisk until combined. Stir in coffee and next 4 ingredients; pour into cups and serve with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Serve immediately.

Note: recipe can be multiplied as desired to serve more.

Remember-everything you do for Christmas in July is one less thing you have to do in December!

Merry, Merry!!


  1. Wow, such a pretty table and bar. TFS. I hope you will consider linking this to my Christmas in July Party. Mr. Linky is set up and ready. So far we only have my table and one from Marge. I knew this would not be a good weekend for this, but wanted to kick the weekend of with the party.

    I love all your recipes, too.

  2. thanks for sharing your pics and coffee recipe. Love the twin sheet idea too.


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About Me

I love to cook, decorate, entertain and plan the holidays. I'm wife to one handsome man and mom to three handsome boys, I love God, my family and my country. I'm the one at the small town parade waving the American flag!! Almost all the holidays are celebrated at our house, and we like it that way!!