updated 12/21/2011 AT 3:00 PM ET
•originally published 12/21/2011 AT 10:00 AM ET
From judging reality shows to writing hit songs, Kara DioGuardi’s never had trouble hitting a high note. So, what are her tips for throwing equally on-key holiday parties?
“I keep the fires going, the wine flowing and try to spend time with everyone who comes to celebrate,” DioGuardi tells PEOPLE.
This year, the former American Idol judge threw a joint party with her next-door neighbors in Maine, where, she says, “It’s always a snowy, winter wonderland.”
“Our houses were built by the same man in the early 1900’s,” DioGuardi says. “We thought it would be fun to reunite them in his honor, so appetizers were at [my neighbor’s] house and dessert was at ours.”
When it came to decorating for her soiree, DioGuardi kept things simple, using Hen House Linens tablecloths and dinner napkins (only $9 each!). “My goal was to make the house look warm, festive and cozy,” she says. “I tried to make every room have a holiday flair.”
To add some warmth to her tablescapes, DioGuardi also ordered several bouquets from Teleflora, including the Park Avenue Centerpiece and Faith Hill Christmas Blush Bouquet (designed by the country singer herself).
And the perfect finishing touch: music, of course!
“You have to play great Christmas music,” DioGuardi says. “Some of my favorite are “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby and Brenda Lee’s ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.’ ”