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The week before Christmas my husband and I conquered the competition that is house hunting. After nearly six months of open houses, wire transfers, and countless signed papers we received the keys to our cozy little bungalow in Los Angeles. We wandered around the home for the first few days unsure of where to even begin. Boxes lined every wall of the place and the remaining furniture we didn’t sell sat awkwardly in their new rooms. Our clothes remained packed away in suitcases and the garage was quickly becoming an abyss of tools, photos, bikes, boxes, basically anything that wouldn’t fit into our nearly closet-less home. It was out of sight and out of mind so I really didn’t care what I was banishing to the outdoor storage. In my mind all of the art would be hung, furniture ordered and delivered, and kitchen in true working order within days of moving in, but I had the face the harsh reality that my life just isn’t an HGTV competition. My husband and I did decide to tempt fates a bit and host Christmas Eve dinner for our families. It’s a new tradition we started last year and I wasn’t about to let a few piles of packing paper and boxes get in the way, plus we saw it as our fuel to get unpacking. Did I mention we moved in five days before our scheduled dinner?

If this were a normal year I would have been menu planning the week ahead, but I accepted the fact that this year would need a little modification. While my husband Paul dove head first into emptying the boxes I set out to make our new home feel as cozy as possible. The morning of our family dinner I popped a pot of seasonally scented items onto the stove and let it simmer away as I tackled cooking in a new kitchen. Apple cider, cranberries, orange, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, and a sprig cut from our tiny Christmas tree bubbled away filling our new home with an inviting smell that truly made our new place feel like our own. This season felt even more joyful, not just because we had a new house to celebrate, but because our families were there along the way. I enlisted the help of the moms to put dinner together, the dads to stock the table with wine. Through some sort of magical unpacking ability we were able to get the house party ready and by the time we plugged in the lights on the tree (yes we still bought a tree) our new home looked and felt like it was already ours. Granted we fashioned a credenza out of boxes of books, but I think it had a rustic chic look to it in the end. A glittering table completed the look and waited for the platters of food to rest on top, some homemade and some store bought this year.

Only five days before the painter’s tarps were lining the hardwood floors while the quickly coated our walls with white and trim with grey, but as we all sat around the dinner table that night you could only smell the good food and scented air. This is the part of entertaining I like to savor, when the table cloth is dotted with wine, the plates are empty, serving spoons rest in half-emptied bowls, and the guests don’t show any sign of wanting to leave. I may not have finished every little detail of the home and didn’t have a chance to cook those special things I like to every year, and I’m sure Paul was still tinkering with the stereo pre-dinner, but our little bungalow provided the best backdrop for our first dinner party.

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Here are a few of the things I found to be very helpful for planning a first dinner party, personalizing our home quickly, and moving as easily as possible:
Rent a Green Box, no tape just toss everything in and put it on the truck!
P.F. Candle Co’s Amber and Moss candle, a deep and sophisticated scent that lingers well after the candle is blown out.
A cozy faux fur blanket, getting used to a new heater is hard plus it’s comforting when you’re adjusting to a new place.
Method Cucumber All-Purpose Spray from Target, it’s leaves behind a fresh scent after endlessly cleaning every inch of the place.

…and a little look and what was going on five days before all of this!

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