December 7, 2016 Holiday Decor & Recipes 5 Tips for Hosting a Spectacular Gift Exchange This post has been sponsored by The J.M. Smucker Company and Kellogg Company. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It was two weeks before Christmas and we were sitting around the biggest table in the restaurant. Thirteen girls were gathered around it happily chit-chatting. I’d only moved to the city 2 years earlier, and as I looked up and down at the table, I felt immensely lucky & blessed to call all these women my friends. Our supper club had been meeting for nearly a year, and that night’s dinner was our Christmas gift exchange. Two and a half years later, our supper club has dwindled as people have gotten married, gone to grad school and moved away from Chicago. Though the group has changed, the holidays are still the perfect excuse to get the girls together. I think we can all agree that the holidays can get so busy with work parties, travel and family get-togethers and carving out time to just hang out with your gal pals can be hard. Instead of planning another fancy dinner with the girls, this year I’m thinking a more relaxed & casual night in with a little gift exchange sounds pretty good! Here’s my tips for throwing an easy gift exchange party: Set a Limit Make sure to set a limit. We ended up setting our limit at $75 which may seem a little bit high, but we all agreed that we’d rather spend a little more and get something special, than set the limit at $25 and just get some random stuff or a gift card. When there’s a limit, it evens the playing field and removes a potentially awkward moment while exchanging gifts. Draw Names Drawing names makes the whole process simpler. Why? Because you only have to buy one present! I love all my girlfriends, but if I bought every single one of them an equal gift, I’d go broke! To keep things unbiased, draw names a few weeks prior so you have time to think about something that person wants. Or if you really want to make it easy, have everyone also give a few gift ideas! To keep the gifts a surprise until the exchange, just put the ‘from’ name on it, so no one will know who it’s for until you gift it! Finger Foods When it comes to casual get-togethers, I prefer doing more of a snacky dinner, as my mom would call it! Instead of a salad, main course and dessert, we just put everything out on the table and snack on it throughout the night. I always love doing a cheese board of some sort! For this one, I added this delicious pecan and dried cranberry mix called Sahale Snacks Valdosta Pecans Glazed Mix, manchego cheese, Carr’s Table Water Crackers (a family favorite), prosciutto and Smucker’s Fruit and Honey Strawberry Fruit Spread. I love the sweetness the jam adds to the mix. You can also add grapes, sliced apples, or vegetable crudités as well. Order these products online to save! 20% off Smucker’s Fruit and Honey Strawberry Fruit Spread 20% off Sahale Snacks Valdosta Pecans Glazed Mix 5% offCarr’s Table Water Crackers Wine The conversation always lasts longer when wine is involved! Im loving this Pinot Noir from Mirassou, it’s fruity & light and goes perfectly with the cheese & snack board. Best of all, you can pick up all the ingredients at once at Target. Get Festive For an in-home casual night, I usually tell the girls to come in something comfortable, but since it’s the holidays, I like to make the table festive with gold plates & napkin rings. Gifts wrapped in holiday paper only add to the holiday spirit. I’m already looking forward to this year’s holiday gift exchange and girl’s night! What do you do to celebrate your friends during the holidays? What kind of foods do you like to serve? BTW, how to wear velvet this season, and how to make your home cozy for the holidays.