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Common Holiday Dilemmas -- Solved!

Photo: Thinkstock / The Nest

Hoping to get through the holidays with minimal drama -- and maybe actually enjoy yourself? Steer clear of awkward situations and full-on disasters with advice from our Nestpert Allana Baroni -- a guru when it comes to social grace.

"My in-laws have asked us if they could stay over on the night of our holiday dinner. We live in a one-bedroom. What should I do?" -- LUVUDAVEACDC
They know you live in a one-bedroom; their expectations are probably not five-star. Just think of it as a grown-up slumber party and have fun. All you need is a blow-up mattress, fresh linens/towels, a place to unpack a few things, and store-bought muffins in the morning. Oh, and (obviously) you might want to skip on the sex that night. Parents sleeping on the other side of the door at this point in your life is just creepy.

"I've come to discover that people love to snoop around our house, especially our bedroom, even if the door is closed. How do you keep guests out?" -- MRSEMMAK
The first line of defense is to hang up a "private" door sign across the middle of the door. Or take a humorous approach: Place a couple of printed cards where the snooping occurs (drawers and closets) that say, "Smile, you're on our webcam!"

"I can never seem to get all the food hot and ready on time, especially with multiple courses. Help!" -- CINCYGIRL1980
Try planning a low-maintenance meal with minimal hot dishes, a few chilled ones that can be made or prepped the day before, and one or two room-temperature items that can be made earlier in the day. Some staples: roasted turkey and potatoes (hot), cranberry relish (chilled, made the day before) and roasted veggies (drizzled with olive oil, made up to two hours before and served at room temperature).

"We're on a budget. Is it rude to ask people to bring food or wine?" -- PURPLBRIDECT
Throwing a collective/potluck holiday fest is a blast -- you just have to set it up that way. Talk to your group and offer up your pad as the location and then plan the party together by asking what "famous dish" each person would like to bring. Cover yourself by serving a one-hit wonder like paella or jambalaya in case people flake out.

"What's a good trick to get people to show up to a party on time? It always throws everything off when our guests casually stroll in late." -- VENICEFOREVER
We all have crazy schedules -- especially during the holidays -- and if they're less than a half-hour late, cut them some slack. Or save yourself the headache by throwing a party that works for your crowd, like an open house with a buffet, which allows guests to come and go. If you must have a sit-down meal, target serial offenders with a fake time (4 p.m. instead of 5, for example).


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