Something kicks in right around Thanksgiving and the urge to attend, and have, impromptu get-togethers becomes unavoidable. You'll feel much better about opening your home to friends, family, or the Christmas carolers you forget about every year if you have just a few staples at the ready. A sign of a true grown-up is a well-stocked cupboard, and will also allow you to relax and enjoy whatever holiday company comes your way.
(Psst -- If you think a half a bottle of red and a hard-edged chunk of cheddar will get you through unexpected guests, it's time to move past your early 20s and into adulthood. But pass the wine and cheese if that's all you've got.)
The fastest way to make your home welcome and fresh is to light up a great, mellow candle. Don't go for an overpowering scent or your guests with allergies or asthma will have to leave the second they walk in the door. But a lovely, light, fresh scent is incredibly welcoming.
2. Nuts, Spiced or Otherwise
If you're not lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's nearby where you can pick up festively flavored cashews to almonds -- buy salted or raw and whip together this quick recipe in 7 minutes from Emeril. You'll have delicious, hot, spiced nuts that welcome anyone into your abode.
3. Wine & Beer
Full bottles please, and also always have on hand at least one bottle of red, one bottle of white, and one bottle of either rose or sparkling. Because not everyone enjoys wine (I know it's hard to believe -- but it's absolutely true), it's a good idea to have a six-pack in your fridge. A microbrew or holiday ale really makes your guests feel they are reveling.
4. Matching Glasses
If you want to look like you planned your entertaining, invest in a set of at least 12 matching glasses. Even if they're not wine glasses, serve up the beverage of choice in the same glassware to look like a super-smooth host.
5. Coffee, Tea & Cocoa
It's getting cold outside, so be ready to warm up your holiday guests in a variety of ways. Too young for coffee, the younger drop-ins need something too! Bonus points if you keep yourself stocked with marshmallows.
Buy a bottle of plain and a bottle of flavored for your non-alcohol drinking guests. Grab some lemons and limes to flavor even plain water in case you downed all the seltzer yourself.
7. The Cheese
Yes, people love cheese. So be sure you have a lovely rotation of soft and hard cheeses in your possession at all times. Pair a goat with an aged cheddar or a brie with a Gouda -- mix it up for all types of cheese lovers.
8. A Crunchy
Pita chips are a great way to go because you can throw them out as their own snack, or pair them with cheese or a great dip. Popcorn is also a fun option, and if you start floundering for an activity, you can string it up and deck the halls. But really, as long as you have some crackers to throw down, you'll have people munching. And that's a good thing.
It doesn't matter if you're grabbing the leftover Halloween candy, having a chocolate option boosts those happy chemicals you want your visitors to have in spades. Glass jars of M&Ms all around the place can also double as a decoration.
An updated playlist to set the mood is crucial. Keep up with your downloads and you'll be prepared for everyone from your art rock fans to your Pogues-loving friends.
Are you ready for the holiday crowds?
Image via madmolecule/Flickr