New Year’s Resolution: Make Time for Family and Friends!

Design Expert: Jenn Sbranti

ten_logo_ copyHostess with the Mostess Jenn Sbranti

Entertaining guru Jennifer Sbranti, Editor-in-Chief of the hip party planning resource, Hostess with the Mostess®, shares with us—in her own words—how to create memorable times with those closest to us, as we Make Time for Family and Friends in the
New Year….

“The idea of “making time for family and friends” seems like something that should be a no-brainer, right? Certainly it’s a different sort of “resolution” than trying to drop that extra weight or finally getting those financials in order! But the reality of the situation is that between the demands of work, household upkeep, taking care of the kids, and all the other “to-do’s” that keep us endlessly busy, it’s easy to find yourself opting for spending quality time with the couch over channeling your inner Martha Stewart.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to make an everyday dinner or friendly get-together special without completely overwhelming yourself. Yes, it will require a little extra effort, but most people find that they really enjoy the chance to get a little creative, and there’s actually something energizing about the idea of switching up of the typical day-to-day routine. Below are a few of my favorite tips to help get you started…

Dinner with Family

Keeping the concept of “simply and fun” in mind, are some creative ideas for sprucing up the standard family dinner:

1. Build a “dinner experience” around one particular theme. For example:

Family Night Italian Dinner

• Italian Nights
Even the standard bowl of spaghetti and meatballs is exciting when served atop a red and white checked tablecloth illuminated with lots of white candles! Just serve up a yummy Italian pasta dish with garlic bread or another easy favorite like pizza or lasagna, then pour fizzy Italian sodas for the kids and Chianti Classico for mom & dad. So simple, yet still fun & different… that’s Amore!

• Taco Tuesday
Recreate this popular weekly restaurant celebration at home. Start out with baskets of hot tortilla chips & fresh salsa, set up a self-serve taco bar on your counter, and incorporate a few inexpensive, fiesta-themed decorations, such as colorful paper napkins, a striped serape used as a table topper, and even novelty sombreros for the kids (all readily available at most party supply stores).

• Sports Themes
If there’s a big game coming up, whether it incorporates your favorite pro team, your daughter’s soccer team, or your husband’s city-league basketball team, use a family meal to help celebrate and build on the excitement! Decorate the table in your favorite team’s colors and the style of the sport (i.e. Astroturf or green felt for a football or soccer “field”), and serve food and drinks that coordinate as well.

2. Dress Up the Table {& Personalize It!}


Chances are good that the family will notice something special is happening at dinnertime when the usual plate-and-paper-towel settings are suddenly spruced up a bit! One of the easiest & most inexpensive ways to give your table a new look is to get crafty with good-quality gift wrap or scrapbook materials.


Find a paper pattern (or series of patterns) that you really love, and use it to create your own paper table runners, placemats and napkin “rings.” Coordinating gift tags and chipboard scrapbook embellishments make for great DIY place cards, drink charms and more.

For a thoughtful twist, tailor the look of the table to something one of your family members would especially love – whether it’s High School Musical for your daughter or Star Wars for your son. Serve that family member’s favorite foods for dinner and dessert, and make a point of it being their special night. Want to go the extra mile? Screen their favorite movie after dinner!

Celebrating with Friends

Friends Toasting

Never underestimate the importance of quality time spent with friends. Whether it’s a girls night in or a casual dinner party, any time spent laughing and chatting it up with friends is literally GOOD for you (yes, good as in “healthy”). Once again, it’s easy for to-do lists and hectic schedules to get in the way, so here are a few things you can do to help ensure this quality time still happens:

1. Develop a Ritual.

It can be hard to get everyone’s calendar to align for one specific get-together, which is why a standing monthly “date” with a group of friends – such as the first Thursday of every month – is ideal, and actually much easier to keep up because it’s easier to keep in mind. Monthly meet-ups are great for things like a rotating supper club (where a different couple hosts the group each month), or a common interest gathering like a book club or Bunko group.

And don’t be afraid to come up with something new that will appeal to your friends specifically – it could be anything from “dinner and a movie” on the third Tuesday of every month to a Saturday morning run followed by brunch. The important thing is to develop a ritual and make the standing “date” a priority.

2. Make it Memorable.

Whether it’s a recurring event or a one-time get-together, take a few steps to make your party extra fun & memorable. Here are a few ideas:

Signature Drinks 2Signature Drinks

• Serve a Signature Drink.
This is such an easy idea that’s always so well received. Create a fun cocktail or mocktail, come up with your own clever name for the drink, dress up the glass, and add a fun edible garnish and/or creative cocktail pick. Prepare a tray of your signature drinks ahead of time so that you can hand your guests a drink right when they walk in the door… definitely a fun way to kick the party off for them!

Easy Signature Drink Ideas:

• Mandarin Martini on the Rocks
– 1.5 oz mandarin vodka
– 3 oz orange juice
Garnish: orange slice or lime wheel

• Champagne Bar
Have a tray of cocktail flutes pre-filled 2/3 of the way with chilled champagne, then offer your guests a variety of “toppers” to choose from – such as orange juice, pomegranate juice, or Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur.

Pink Party Buffet

• Pick a Theme.
You can do anything from a cause-related party – like a Pink Party to show support for a particular friend or family member dealing with breast cancer, to an outdoor summer luau, to a movie screening night complete with popcorn, snacks, and even decorations that match the movie’s theme.

For example, I hosted a Twilight movie screening party last year for fellow book series fans when the DVD came out, and served red martinis rimmed with a candy “blood rim,” framed some quotes from the movie, dimmed the lights, and added some twinkle lights and candles to set the mood. These were all easy details, but they made the evening a much more fun & memorable experience than simply turning on the DVD in the player.


• Set up a DIY photo booth.
There’s something in the air at parties that makes guests LOVE to jump in front of the camera – especially when they have a partner in crime or fun props to dress up with! All you need to create your own inexpensive “photo booth” at home is a nice background like a sheet or wall and a point-and-shoot camera.

Toss in a few props for guests to dress up with – like funny hats & glasses, feather boas, football helmets and anything else you can dream up… the more random the better sometimes! Check out this article for more DIY photo booth tips from photographer Jillian Bisinger.

I hope these tips have left you feeling inspired to spend more time with friends and family this year – and to really get the most out of that quality time!”

Jenn’s got me pumped up to party. These are doable ideas that I know will make for some good times. And here’s a little audio extra for you—more of Jenn’s advice—from when she and I talked about how to entertain without losing your mind:

Sorry, the Flash player for the sound clip failed to load. You may need to get the Flash plugin for your browser.

How do you make time for family and friends? What simple gatherings have been a big success for you?


Jan 13th Answer copyCongratulations to Debbie for winning the trivia contest, with the first correct of a baby shower!

Thanks to Jennifer Sbranti for this inspiring post of wonderful ways we can all put our loved ones first. Jenn shares her contemporary style and no-fuss approach to entertaining through an inspirational “how-to” website——and her popular daily blog— Her ideas have been featured in People, InStyle Weddings, Life&Style, Pregnancy, and Extra! TV, and she is a featured contributor for several online communities, including,, and

BONUS: Visit Living In Color With Sonu to Download Your Copy of Jenn’s Ten Tips for Making Time for Family and Friends.

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14 Comments for “New Year’s Resolution: Make Time for Family and Friends!”

I’m so inspired to entertain, Kathy! I love Jenn’s idea of theming up a dinner table to fit the meal every night. Have you ever heard of Destination Dinners? Very fun idea!

Also, I find that just planning to have people over is always good for us. It forces us to get out of our routine and look forward to some time with people we care about.

Hey there Sonu,

That Destination Dinners looks great! Whatever we can do to keep it interesting and fun, yes? Oh and to not overplan, so we avoid stressing out (not that I know anyone that does that–ahem–well I do have a past life in the special events business, so I have to remind myself I am not putting on a party for 500 people.)

You are right it’s good to have friends over. And I bet I’m not the only one whose house is cleaner when I’m expecting guests. Anyone??

Sonu, these ten days are a blast aren’t they?
— Kathy

I have a few themed dinners but not done as lovely as shown by Jenn so I’ll have to step it up a bit.

The reminder I most appreciated? “Any time spent laughing and chatting it up with friends is literally GOOD for you.” Amen to that one!

Hi Kate,

So true about the laughing and chatting it up with friends!!

Want to know something funny? As I was getting this post up about spending more time with family and friends, some of my “mom friends” were emailing me on my personal email about having another GNO — we try to work one in as often as we can. I was so busy blogging about making time for friends that I completely missed the emails from my friends about our GNO planning!! I’ve since written them back and we are planning to get together soon. But I have a ways to go on this resolution.

I love Jenn’s idea of a standing date; we should try that.

Good to see your colorful self,
— Kathy

Love the ideas shared. Basic in concept but creative in excecution!

My fiance and I have a group of couples that have formed a little supper club. Whomever’s house we have the get together at dictates the theme and everyone else brings apps and sides to compliment. The size ranges anywhere from 6 to 30 people. It’s always a blast!

As far as family is concerned, the second Sunday of every month my fiance and I dine with my parents. It’s always a nice change of pace.

Thanks for sharing!

A baby shower!

It was the Safari Luxe Baby Shower – so cute!!

We have a winner!!

Wow DebbieKL, that was incredibly fast! Yes, the Safari Luxe REAL PARTY Jenn featured was a Baby Shower.

Excellent competition tonight. Debbie, I will email you to get your shipping information.

Thanks Kathy!

Hi Sarah,

Your supper club concept is marvelous. Somehow the name “supper club” conjures up some romance, a little food, a little jazz, excellent. Sounds like you have a great group of friends there.

And it’s wonderful that your folks are nearby and that you honor them with the monthly Sunday dinner; I’m sure they really appreciate you being there.

Thanks for your lovely ideas!
— Kathy

[…] Jenn Sbranti, Entertaining and Hip Party-Planning Guru […]

Got my awesome prize in the mail today! We have family visiting this weekend and are looking forward to trying the Mojito’s in our cool Dizzy glasses!

Excellent, Debbie! I am so glad your Signature Cocktail Set arrived. Enjoy the time with your family and those Mojito’s too!

Thanks for checking in,
— Kathy

This is a great idea I can introduce to my mom since she like these kinds of stuffs.. especially designing the dining table for special occasions. Very Cool!

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