Be a Calm Holiday Hostess

November 20th 2009

dinnerware peppermint candy 1 Be a Calm Holiday HostessThe holiday season is starting and you may already be stressed out. It seems that the holiday season starts earlier every year. My parents said that because the end of the year just seemed to sneak up on them. Now, it’s from going into Lowe’s and seeing Christmas decorations up. And that’s before Halloween even starts!

The stores are marking down prices now to get the jump on Black Friday sales. The congestion in Costco makes my weekly errand something I won’t do on the weekend anymore. I hate being bumped into, but even worse is when someone actually hits you with a cart!

The hard part is really enjoying the holidays instead of letting them sap your energy. In the midst of taking care of everyone else, you really must take some time for yourself. A 5 minute coffee break isn’t going to do the trick. In fact, now is the perfect time to limit your caffeine intake. Too much caffeine, sugar, or even alcohol can actually make you more stressed out. They may seem to give you a burst of quick energy, but you will pay the price of being even more exhausted later.

Try cleaning up your house a little each day instead of in a marathon the day before your big holiday party. Make a batch of holiday cookie dough each week, and freeze most of the dough to easily bake an assortment for visitors. Depending on the type of cookie, you can even roll them out and put between sheets of wax paper. That way you don’t have to make 5 batches of different cookies at one time.

Stock up on cream, coffee, tea, and cocoa. This way you won’t run out. More people will just be dropping by to visit. Sharing time with close friends is the best way to get the holiday spirit.

Take a half an hour or so each morning, to do whatever your favorite things are. Simply read the paper with a nice mug of tea, or take a walk. Getting fresh air and exercise is a perfect way to de-stress yourself. It doesn’t hurt to start the day at your calmest. In fact, it can make you more tolerant of the stresses that may surround you during the day.

It goes without saying that getting the proper amount of sleep can make a world of difference. Running around can cause you to eat too many fast food meals. Make sure you have salads prepared ahead of time to take to work. Make slow cooker soups and stews, so you can have dinner waiting for you. There’s nothing better than a home cooked meal after a long, tiring day. Pull out your good Noritake dinnerware. Serve yourself up a bowl of comforting slow cooker baked potato soup. You may find these new good habits outlast the holidays.

Posted by Myriam under Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

No Fuss Craft Party

November 10th 2009

dinnerware jewelry007 No Fuss Craft PartyEarlier in the week I talked about throwing a no work dinner party. Are you ready for another type of party that you don’t have to clean your house for? Try throwing a craft party for your friends at a local craft store. Some places allow you to rent  space and include materials in the price, in others you will pick out a class and they will provide a teacher. Either way you get to have a private class just for your party.

For my birthday this year some of my friends and I took a soldering class. We learned to make little charms enclosed in glass, how to solder on jump rings, and make a charm bracelet from our class work. None of us had done anything like it before so it was fun for all of us. Remember that it’s really good to laugh at yourself when trying something new. Believe me, with my friends around there was plenty of laughter, not to mention friendly teasing. Being around friends to support you through your new learning experience is a great feeling.

First you need to do a little research to find a craft store or classes in your area. Many places will cater to children as well as adults. There is a place called the Scrap Exchange where I live. They are the ultimate reuse center. And best of all they teach you to turn recycled materials into art! They take donations from the community, as well as businesses including factories. They have everything from fabric to paper, and you’ll always find the unexpected. They have a party menu and even allow you to bring in food.

Some places will let you bring a birthday cake for before or after the class. Make sure to ask if that’s something you feel strongly about doing. If you are doing a craft that involves chemicals, or extreme heat, chances are you will not be able to bring food or drink into the classroom. It’s for your own safety.

Make sure to find out all the class details ahead of time. You will need to let your guests know if they need to buy anything ahead of time, or if they will need to bring money to buy supplies on site. Depending on the event you can split the cost with your guests or take care of it yourself depending on your budget.

Everyone is sure to have a great time and there’s no cleanup after. At least not for you! Plus your guests will have something they made with their own hands to keep as a souvenir.

Posted by Myriam under Hostessing & Occasions | 1 Comment »

Plan a Relaxing Day with Friends

November 2nd 2009

dinnerware fallpath1 Plan a Relaxing Day with Friends

As you’re taking down your Halloween decorations and preparing for the winter holidays, take a day out to have some relaxing time with friends. One of my favorite things to do is have a bunch of people meet at my house to go on a walk. It’s nice to slow down the pace and go outside to take in the beauty of the season.

Make sure to dress for the weather, and tell everyone to wear comfy shoes. If you aren’t near trees or nature, plan a road trip to find some. This time of the year is perfect for catching the last of the fall leaves in all their beautiful color. Enjoying a cool afternoon breeze, and perhaps the chance to pull out your favorite wool scarf, are great reasons to get outside. If it’s very cold, plan a short walk. Or make everyone steaming hot coffee in insulated cups to take along with them. You can enjoy the season and your friends even on a simple walk around the block.

If you have a backyard, you could use your fire pit to make a nice warm place to hang out there. Or if the weather really gets tough you can light a fire in the fireplace and enjoy your friends inside. Just remember to not stress out about the details, this is a day for everyone to kick back.

Make a few things ahead of time and you won’t have to disappear into the kitchen. You can actually relax at your own relaxing weekend party! In the morning, before your guests arrive, heat up a big crockpot of chili. You can use your favorite recipe, or make this easy sweet potato black bean chili from scratch. You’ll have to put the beans on the night before, but after that it takes almost no work.

Go ahead and fill up a few small bowls with garnishes. Then you can just pull them out of the fridge when you get back from your walk. Use sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions, jalapenos, minced cilantro, black olives, and a few different kinds of salsas. Set up bowls and soup spoons by the crockpot before you leave for the walk. It’s just one less thing for you to think about when you get home.

In another slow cooker make a nice hot drink for your friends. A hot toddy is always nice, or give  hot buttered rum a try. If you have kids involved, or just want to have an alcohol-free day make up some hot chocolate.

It’s always a treat to spend some downtime with the people you care about. After a beautiful, relaxing walk with your friends, sit down to a simple meal. You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to appreciate everything in your life.

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Hostessing | No Comments »

Make Some Halloween Trees

October 5th 2009

dinnerware scary tree xsmall Make Some Halloween TreesWhen you think of a spooky setting, one scene that may come to mind is a forest – a haunted forest of course.

The most inexpensive way to set up a haunted forest at your house can be found in your own backyard. If you don’t have any trees in your yard, you can ask a neighbor to help you out, or even buy some fake branches at a craft store.

First, think of how you want to display your Halloween tree(s). In a vase as the table centerpiece you would want a smaller, more narrow branch. But for a large front porch display, you could use branches as large as small trees.

Look for branches that are not rotted or crumbly. We want them to hold together through our crafting, and the bewitching night as well. You want to get some spray paint. I’d recommend black for a traditional look, but you could be bold and use glow in the dark paint. I’m thinking of making a few small ones to line my walk and paint them with the glow in the dark paint for a creepily ‘lit’ pathway. Feel free to match them with any Halloween party theme you may have chosen. Red, silver, green, and purple are also good Halloween paint choices. Not to mention you can glue glitter on them for a glam look as well.

I like to keep my trees simple. Painted black and showcased in a tall, clear vase filled with Halloween trinkets, or in a large fake stone planter stuck right into the dirt. I try to select branches that look more like little trees, with quite a few limbs to hang things from.

Go through your trunk of decorations from Halloweens past, and see what would look stylish on your tree. You will want to add a string or twisty tie to secure them. This is especially important if you plan on having the tree outside, where wind and rain could be an issue.

Part of the fun is decorating your own ornaments. You can use shrinky dinks, glass ornaments, even cutouts to decorate to your party theme. Any craft that you love can be used. I love the felted ornaments that I’ve seen. Just remember to only use weather resistant ones outside. You can dip glass ornaments into a solution of alcohol inks and water to create a ghoulish swirl. Take a look at this tutorial on the Ranger Ink site.

You’ll have a bewitching time making your own decorations. It’s also an opportunity for a tree making party, so invite a few friends over and let them enjoy the fun too.

Posted by Myriam under Decorations & Fall Entertaining & Halloween | No Comments »

Dress Up Your Hot Chocolate

September 28th 2009

dinnerware chocolateimg 272512 Dress Up Your Hot Chocolate

No cool weather gathering is complete without a toasty drink. Kids and grown-ups alike love a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

Having 20 children over for a pumpkin carving party? Get ahead of the game by making a batch of hot chocolate in your slow cooker. You can make large amounts, and it’ll be ready when the thirsty herd is.

For a smaller gathering you can still prepare it in advance, just use a thermal carafe to keep it warm or use a little dipper sized slow cooker. I do this before a fancy sit down dinner with coffee and tea. It lets me enjoy the company of my guests instead of staying hidden away in the kitchen.

Let the kids add their own touch to their drink. It’s amazing how easy it is to have so much fun. Create an area filled with little bowls of goodies to add to their cocoa. Decorate the table with a tablecloth and a few mini pumpkins.  You can also use flame-less candles to add a special touch with no danger to the little ones.  My hot chocolate goody bar usually includes whipped cream, chocolate shavings (milk, dark, and white), crushed peppermint candy, mini peppermint patties, mini marshmallows, and anything else I have on hand that seems like a fit.

If you will have older kids or adults around, try a mixture of ground chili, ginger, and cinnamon for a taste similar to what the Aztecs drank. It can have a kick, so keep an eye on the kids when you let them use this topping. Also try infusing the hot chocolate with a cinnamon stick and some cardamom pods when you make it for a delicious drink that needs no topping at all.

Flavored syrups like vanilla, hazelnut, and almond are another great addition. You can use them in fancy coffee drinks you make at home too. If there will be a lot of adults, bring out the liquors. Bailey’s, Amaretto, Frangelico, Grand Marnier, and even spiced rum make great grown up additions.

Make sure to ask the parents if any of the children have food allergies, before you decide what to put on your topping table. For someone with a milk allergy make your favorite hot chocolate recipe and use vanilla soymilk or almond milk in place of the dairy. Most mixes contain dairy, so you will need to make yours from scratch. It’ll be worth it and you may find yourself doing that for all your cocoa parties. It doesn’t take much time or effort, but it has a huge party payoff!

Posted by Myriam under Drinks & Fall Entertaining & Hostessing | 2 Comments »

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