While I fully agree with the popular assessment of 2016 as the worst dumpster fire (so far), I was determined to help end the year on a high note. Or at least, create a high blip registered amidst the readings of an otherwise dismally negative year. To be honest, I have been so down about the state of the world that I considered not hosting a party this year. I waited waaay longer than I should have to send out invites. But ultimately I realized that this was a tradition I could not let pass by.  I’ve learned again and again over the years that when times are tough, friends often prove to be the family you never asked for but definitely needed. This past weekend, when my house was filled with the voices and laughter of so many truly dear friends from so many different parts of my life, my heart was positively overflowing. Though much remains uncertain, one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that my life is filled with more truly wonderful people than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. That may sound like hyperbole but I promise, it is entirely accurate. It makes me feel loved and supported and even a little bit hopeful. There are so very many good people.

I wanted to give my friends the amazingly fun time I felt we all deserved, and that ultimately translated into three main actions. 1. Excellent food, 2. Plenty of alcohol, and 3. Lip sync battle! Food wise – no doubt, this has been the year of the Milk Bar cake in my kitchen. This method has me completely enamored with layer cake-ing, and I’m constantly dreaming up new flavor combinations to make in this style. Believe it or not, there were far more flavors on my original brainstorm list but I finally narrowed it down to these five with the help of some trusted friends. I ended up making spiked eggnog, peppermint mocha, apple pie, gingerbread latte, and cranberry champagne with rosemary. All except the apple pie were my own creations and I’m very pleased to say all were a hit! Everyone seemed to choose a different cake as a favorite which I loved, because it meant that they were all good and there wasn’t a single one that outshone all the others. (For the record, my personal favorite was the spiked eggnog and sadly, the only one I did not get an individual picture of!) I plan to share the peppermint mocha cake recipe in the next couple of days but could be persuaded otherwise if there is something you are dying to see even more.

I just had to share a couple of favorite decor details. These sparkly acrylic letters for customized garland are, well, EVERYTHING. These were perfectly fitting with the simple aesthetic I had in mind. Also, have I ever shown you guys my amazing test tube light fixture?! I have had it since we moved into the house a couple of years ago and I love it so much. The biology major (and one class short chemistry minor) in me simply couldn’t resist this. Not only is it a nod to my roots in science, but it is perfectly adaptable for any occasion with different flowers, colored water, etc etc. I just grabbed random items from the floral area of the grocery store that seemed like they might work and ended up loving the overall look!

In the past couple of years, I have started to simplify the food spread for my parties. This in large part due to the bad ass cheese and charcuterie offerings of a favorite local shop Goose the Market. They offer “The Tour”, a variety cheese and meat plate that you can order per number of guests and based on what they have available at the time. It is always excellent, always demolished, and always makes my life remarkably easier. If you have access to something like this in your area, I urge you to consider it! Support good local business and have more time to focus on other things (read: ALL THE CAKE.)

I did make a few extra appetizers, but I kept them very simple. Deviled eggs, because I live for them (although admittedly it pains me to share them with anyone ever), these incredibly simple yet totally addictive bar nuts from Smitten Kitchen, and caramelized beet and avocado crostini. Even though I just cannot get on board with beets, my yoga teacher Todd loves them and I had to make something special for him!  Also, not pictured but very much enjoyed and raved about was the very verde dip from A Couple Cooks, who also came to party with us!

Can I tell you my other super secret but crucially important party planning tip?! If something on your list doesn’t get done because you run out of time due to vacuuming or straightening your hair or whatever, IT IS OKAY. Your guests will be none the wiser unless you tell them – so don’t! I had planned a specialty cocktail for the evening but didn’t have time to make it happen. Instead of stressing, I just set out the many bottles of liquor + mix ins, wine, champagne and beer that we had instead and let it go. Let’s be real – has anyone ever thought cake and champagne was a bad idea? NO.

And yes, lip sync battle…I don’t know that I have officially talked about this on the blog before but I have mentioned it many times on Instagram. Last year on a bit of a whim, I decided to introduce the idea of a lip sync battle as part of my holiday party. It isn’t mandatory but just optional participation for anyone interested. It is ALWAYS AMAZING. This year I almost skipped it because I was worried people might be tired of it (we did another mid-year) but popular demand made it happen and it was as wonderful as always. My BFF since kindergarten Amanda took home first place with a stellar rendition of Proud Mary, complete with sequined show choir dress borrowed from the high school where she teaches. Get it girl! And I was very thrilled to introduce my yoga studio friends to the lip sync this year. This crew was unbelievable and I’m already dying with anticipation to see what they will do for Lip Synco de Mayo!

I’m so incredibly happy to have hosted another joyful holiday party. Thanks to those of you who encouraged me to post about it this year! If you have specific questions about other details from this brief overview, please let me know! I would be happy to answer them.