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Holiday party prep

Martha Stewart, Abby Larson and Camille Styles show us how to throw a party like a pro.

It’s your turn to host. Don’t let the painfully curated affairs you see on Pinterest scare you away from inviting loved ones over for a festive bash. We turned to some of the biggest entertaining experts for their tried-and-true holiday hosting tips. Just make sure someone pins the pics.

Abby Larson, founder and editor of Style Me Pretty Living

Serve seasonal foods
“During the holidays, entertaining becomes more festive and fun if you stock a few seasonal favorites like all of the fixings for hot chocolate and stovetop apple cider,” says Larson, whose site showcases some of the prettiest parties. “I also like to keep a cheesecake, a breakfast strata and a homemade pasta sauce in the freezer for impromptu parties.”

Let your hair down
“Holiday entertaining doesn’t have to be formal,” insists the lifestyle expert. “There is always a place for messy, practical parties that bring people together like a gift wrapping party, a cookie decorating party or a kid’s crafting get-together.”

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Hand ’em a drink
“The easiest way to make guests feel right at home is with a signature cocktail,” says Larson. This season, she’s loving Shirley Temples for the little ones and a champagne cocktail for the grown-ups.

Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

Decorate
“Wreaths look great on doors, and even better in unexpected spots,” says the domestic queen. “Suspend them in front of a mirror, or hang them indoors on windows.” When it comes to the table, Stewart has some rules for the centerpiece. “They should not be too strong-smelling or so tall that you can’t clearly see the people across from you,” she says, adding,“Centerpieces can be flowers, vegetables, glass, candlesticks or even a fine piece of art.”

Camille Styles, founder of CamilleStyles.com

Have a plan
As an event stylist and lifestyle blogger, Styles knows all the tricks to throwing a seamless dinner party. “First, create a timeline counting down the 24 hours before mealtime, listing exactly when all menu items should be prepared. Then put that list on the refrigerator door and follow it to the letter,” she says.

Avoid clutter
“Create ‘zones’ in your space devoted to specific activities,” says Styles. “Before guests arrive, designate a spot for coats and purses, a place for younger kids to play and a self-serve bar that’s separate from the food, so that guests flow throughout the room and maximize available space.”

Bake!
Everyone loves home-made treats. Styles shares her recipe for Salted Chocolate Brownie Cookies below.

Salted Chocolate Brownie Cookies

MAKES 20 COOKIES

 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
 ¼ cup sugar
 1 tablespoon brewed espresso
 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
 2 tablespoons (¼ stick) butter
 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
 ¾ cup mini–chocolate chips
 Maldon sea salt, for finishing
Preheat the oven to 375˚F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, espresso, and vanilla on
high speed until thick, 10 to 15 minutes.
Place the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave
at 50 percent power in 30-second intervals, stirring between each one, until the
chocolate is smoothly melted.
Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until partially combined, leaving
some streaks.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt.
Carefully fold the flour mixture into the batter, followed by the chocolate chips. Do not
overmix.
Spoon the batter by heaping tablespoons onto the baking sheets. Sprinkle a
liberal dose of coarse sea salt on top of each and bake until the cookies are puffy and
the tops are cracked, about 9 minutes. Cool before removing from the baking sheets.
 
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