For the last few months, we've been fielding your questions and conundrums in the Help, I'm Hosting! series. As 2018 draws to a close, we decided to go to the ultimate authority on all things home and hosting — Martha Stewart.
New Year's Eve is a time for optimism, Stewart says. It's "the welcoming of a new year, a new season ... hopefully a happier time."
If you're hosting friends or family as we usher in 2019, Stewart is here to help. Her new book, The Martha Manual: How to Do (Almost) Everything, has a whole section on hosting and entertaining. Below, she answered our questions and our listeners' questions about how to throw the New Year's party that's perfect for you.
If you're offering accommodations for overnight guests, how do you choose who gets to stay and in which room? And how can you make those guests most comfortable?
There might be a clamor for those rooms, but I think the people who live the furthest, of course, should have first choice. I think that making the rooms comfy for them — making sure there's plenty of water to drink and maybe a bowl of fruit or something. ... Have a toothbrush and some toothpaste in the bathroom ... and a bathrobe, of course, and a schedule for the next day.
(Ed. note: Stewart advises that New Year's Day breakfast should not start at 7:30 a.m.!)
Any suggestions for introverted hosts who want to keep the conversation flowing?
Having a party at your own house is the way to cope with it. Inviting a few of your very best friends in to play games and puzzles and activities with the kids ... have a ping-pong tournament. ... I think if you have people involved — let them help you in the kitchen. That's a good icebreaker, for example. Let other people bring things so that you can all taste different dishes from different people. ... I think once you start in on the fun and games you're not going to have too much of a lull in conversation.
What's the best way to entertain without breaking the bank?
Make a big pot of soup and a couple great breads — nice warm, crusty, breads — and dig into that with maybe some assorted beers. That's not an expensive kind of way to entertain but it's delicious and fun. ...
A delicious macaroni and cheese doesn't have to cost a fortune to make, everybody would love it — and if you serve it with a really nice bottle of wine, you can have a great party.
Any favorite seasonal drinks?
One of my favorite things is a Cranberry Cosmopolitan — and you can make it with white cranberry juice which would be very pretty on New Year's Eve ... or you could do it with the red, natural cranberry juice. ... [Mix] cranberry juice, vodka, fresh lemon juice, some Cointreau, and some ice and some cranberries frozen in some ice. It's a tasty, tasty cocktail ... mix this drink up to taste. It can be put in a great, big punch bowl, with a ladle, and a big ice ring floating in it ...
Make a cider sour in quantity with [apple cider], fresh orange juice, fresh lemon juice, bourbon, a little bit of sugar if you need it ... and lots of ice, and sugar-rimmed glasses. To rim a glass, just put a little bit of lime juice on a rim and dip it into raw sugar. It looks real pretty and tastes real good.
... And for the non-drinkers?
We make a pomegranate tea that is so good. We get the POM Wonderful pomegranate extract ... and you just mix that with sparkling water, some slices of orange, lemon, lime and maybe some fresh orange juice mixed in ... you can add ginger ale for some fizz, and it is delicious.
So ... what's an ice ball?
You can get these little contraptions that freeze ice in ball shapes ... and they are so nice. ... You can put cranberries in that sphere, you could put mint leaves to freeze in the ice, you could do a rose in the ice ball. ... They look pretty floating around in a drink ... and they don't dilute the drink because it takes longer ... to melt than a bunch of little ice cubes. ... It looks so impressive.
Sophia Boyd and Viet Le produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Beth Novey adapted it for the Web.