Answer to a Holiday Entertaining Question

 © John Saunders – Fotolia.com

© John Saunders – Fotolia.com

Just in time for holiday parties, a reader sent in a frequently asked, and sometimes tricky, question about entertaining. AM in Michigan writes:

Q.:

I’m tentatively planning appetizers for an “around the world party” – how many different apps. should I have for 4 adults (and 1 child)?  One adult has a severe food allergy (no dairy, and no most kinds of meat), so I want a least a couple options for him, but I do like cheese so I want other things as well.

A.:

What a great theme!!

A great rule of thumb for a cocktail party is, “make 3, buy 3.” So 6 different apps gives a good variety while not being overwhelming for either the hostess or the guests. Plan at least 4 pieces of each app per guest – more for the options that your allergy guest can consume, since he will have fewer options.

Hope this helps!! Enjoy the party!

If you ever have a question about party planning, home decorating, gift giving or smart living, please post your questions on the Facebook page.

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Easy Christmas Snack: A Merry Mix Up

Easy Christmas Snack recipe

Putting together your own snacks mixes takes just a few minutes, and you have complete control over the ingredients. Substitute dried fruit and nuts of your choice, add cereal pieces … it is all up to you! This seasonally–minded mix is perfect as a festive nibbler for those holiday parties. It pairs well with everything from hot mulled cider to sparkling wine!

Ingredients:

1 16 oz. bag of pretzels (use the square waffle-like pretzels; they catch more chocolate)
6 T. butter, melted
1/3 c. sugar
1 ½ t. cinnamon
½ c. cinnamon sugar* (see below)
1 c. white chocolate chips or melting disks
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. shelled pistachio nuts

Directions:

1. Pour the pretzels into a large microwave-safe bowl. (I divided them into two large mixing bowls.)

2. Whisk together the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the pretzels. (Divide the butter mixture evenly if you’re using more than one bowl for the pretzels.) Gently stir the pretzels until they are completely coated with the butter mixture.

3. Microwave the pretzels on high power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave for another 45 seconds.

4. Pour the pretzels onto a parchment-lined tray in a single layer. Sprinkle generously with the reserved cinnamon sugar. (If you have any leftover cinnamon sugar, save it in an airtight container and sprinkle it on toast or oatmeal.) Allow the pretzels to cool completely.

5. Microwave the white chocolate morsels or disks in a microwave-safe bowl on high power in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until almost completely melted. Stir until it’s completely melted.

6. Using a tablespoon, drizzle the melted chocolate generously on the pretzels. Top immediately with the cranberries and pistachios, so the toppings stick to the chocolate. When cool, break into pieces and pile into a serving bowl or divide to use as favors or gifts.

*To make the cinnamon sugar, combine 1/2 c. granulated sugar and 1 t. cinnamon in a small bowl.

Gift ideas:

  • Make it a party favor: package the mix in clear cellophane bags tied with a festive ribbon and a Christmas poem or verse.
  • Package the mix in mason jars; use scrapbook paper to make labels; top it with a bow.
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Entertaining Essentials: The Pantry

Snack bar

Keep hungry holiday guests happy by giving them something to nibble on while you finish dinner or set out heartier snacks. Create a “snack bar” on the kitchen counter or coffee table. Arrange a variety of covered candy jars and vintage nut and candy dishes on a tray.

With the holiday season drawing near, I’m continuing my series of posts on entertaining essentials: those indispensable items that every home entertainer needs to make any gathering look and feel effortless. Previous entries in this series include setting up the essential bar and essential utensils for the home chef.

Today it’s time for the goodies! Whether you plan to bake up a storm or you have unplanned visitors arrive for a quick holiday chat, keeping these items on hand will allow you to spend more time with your family and friends, and less time running to the market or searching the cupboards at the last minute.

For baking:

Tips: Keep nuts in a zipper bag in the freezer; they’ll keep longer. Keep baking supplies together on a shelf or in a basket or bin, so everything is in one place when you’re ready to bake.

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Brown sugar (light)
  • Light corn syrup
  • Evaporated milk
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Cocoa powder
  • Baking (bittersweet) chocolate bars
  • Semisweet chocolate morsels
  • White chocolate morsels
  • Vanilla extract
  • Honey
  • Pecans (unsalted)
  • Walnuts (unsalted)
  • Pumpkin
  • Fruit pie filling
  • Refrigerated pie crusts
  • Butter or margarine
  • Eggs

For impromptu entertaining:

  • Salted or seasoned nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios)
  • Snack mix
  • Water crackers
  • Flavored crackers
  • Cheese straws
  • Assorted olives
  • Tapenade or other spreads
  • Smoked salmon
  • Imported butter cookies
  • One box of assorted frozen puff pastry appetizers
  • Cheeses
  • One or two bottles of wine

 

With a selection of these items in your pantry, freezer and fridge, you will be on your way to less stressed holidays. Check what you already have on hand, and add any remaining items to your shop-ping list. Make sure to replenish items as you use them over the season.

For more entertaining essential ideas and tips, follow my board on Pinterest here.

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One Stop Holiday Shopping at The Tree Lot

One of my top tips for gift giving is to shop “where” you are. Of course, it helps if where you are has a variety of departments or merchandise!

And that is definitely the case with The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel, a pop-up shop that opened Oct. 29 at Town Square. The 6,700 square foot space is located just behind Brio, adjacent to the central park.

The Tree Lot is filled with items from Crate and Barrel’s Holiday 2013 collection and features a wide selection of globally sourced, exclusive home decor, gift items, entertaining/tabletop wares, tree trimming essentials and confections. Oh, the confections!!

“This year, we were inspired by the tradition of Christmas tree lots and we wanted to bring the joy and sentiment of that experience with our holiday product and visual display,” said Marta Calle, President and Chief Merchant of Crate and Barrel.

Calle’s Columbian roots bring a fresh, new perspective to Crate and Barrel and that is evident in The Tree Lot, with many rustic textures and ethnic elements from stuffed wool critter tree ornaments to garlands made from sari fabric. One of my personal favorites from the tabletop collection is this ceramic serving tray with a woodgrain texture ($19.95).

 Tray

Tree Trimming

Many ornaments have a handmade quality. The store’s selection includes penguins, deer, dachshunds and foxes along with glittering bells, balls and snowflakes.

Ornaments 2

Ornametns

One hot new trend is a tree ring. These oversized rings ($59.95), available in galvanized metal or hand-braided native palm, slip over the tree stand and eliminate the need for a skirt. (Although the store still offers tree skirts as well.)

Rings

Gift Wrap

Customers who purchase rolls of Crate and Barrel wrapping paper ($7.95) may have their purchases wrapped by a store associate at no additional charge. This year’s washi tape craze hits holiday wrapping with a selection of “ribbon tape” ($4.95 to $9.95) from Japan in a variety of widths and designs from a cute mouse to “no peeking.” Wrap your boxes with tape instead of traditional ribbon!

Tape

Confections

I’ve been buying C&B Christmas confections for many years, so I was pleased to see that The Tree Lot has a good selection of this year’s sweet treats, from traditional hard candy to homemade marshmallows from the Butter Baked Goods bakery in Vancouver. (Try the gingerbread marshmallows!) Bourbon balls, peppermint bark, English toffee, organic hot chocolate mix and the popular mini melts are just a few of the tempting offerings.

Hard candy

Marshmallow

Home Accessories

Shoppers at the The Tree Lot will find plenty of holiday home accessories, including an array of bright pillows, cozy throws, vases and  candle holders. The Jingleberry bowl filler ($9.95) caught my eye, and would be perfect mixed in with my usual pinecone display.

Pinecones

Gift Ideas

Many of the items highlighted here would be a wonderful holiday gift (and I’ll put together my top 5 hostess gift ideas in another article), but The Tree Lot has a dedicated display of interesting, unique and downright quirky gift items for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Even things for your pets! But what interested me was a stack of Japanese notepads. I thought, why on earth would there be a stack of notepads? Well, I felt the paper and it’s sumptuous — like no paper I’ve ever felt, and it’s graph paper.

Paper

Now, who on my list is a paper aficionado? There has to be someone!

The Tree Lot will be open through Dec. 31. The pop-up concept is a first for Crate and Barrel, who is trying the holiday stores in three other locations that do not have a Crate and Barrel retail store. While there’s no concrete plans to bring a permanent store to Las Vegas, we can cross our fingers that The Tree Lot is a good market test!

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Crate and Barrel POPS into Las Vegas!

Yay! Dreams really do come true … one of my favorite retailers is opening a holiday pop-up shop in Las Vegas! Crate and Barrel will debut The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel on October 29 at Town Square.

Every year I wait to see Crate and Barrel’s holiday catalog, so I’m delighted to be able to see it in person right in my own back yard. I can’t wait to see what they’ve done this year, to check out their gift collection and of course to ogle the holiday candy!

It looks like I’ll be invited to the opening night celebration, so I’ll give you all sneak peeks into their offerings. (Be sure to follow me on Twitter for the most up-to-the-minute action!)

Below is the press release I received with more details.

I know this is only temporary, but maybe if we beg and plead they’ll make Vegas a more permanent home. Pretty pleeeease!?!?!

Oh! And my Iowa friends will be pleased to know a pop-up holiday shop is also coming to West Des Moines.

Stay turned for more details, reviews and opening night updates.

 

Crate and Barrel Holiday Shop Coming to Las Vegas

The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel to Open at Town Square on October 29th

NORTHBROOK, IL – September 5, 2013 – Today, leading home furnishings retailer Crate and Barrel announces the opening of a holiday pop-up shop in Las Vegas, introducing its latest concept, The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel. Offering festive holiday décor and gifts, the pop-up shop will make its debut on October 29th at Town Square, and will remain open until the end of the year.

Customers of The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel will discover the brand’s fresh and joyful Holiday 2013 offering, all with the great design and affordable prices customers have come to expect from the brand. The collection includes a wide selection of globally sourced and exclusive home décor, festive tabletop, and tree trimming essentials such as ornaments, tree skirts and collars, tree toppers, garlands and lights. Those shopping for gifts will find something for everyone on their list at the Crate and Barrel Gift Table, which will offer a carefully curated selection of unique gifts and stocking stuffers. Shoppers will also discover the delights of The Candy Shop, a delicious collection of holiday sweets from the world’s finest candymakers, perfectly packaged for gifting. The pop-up shop in Las Vegas will also treat guests to a series of in-store events and special promotions throughout the holiday season.

At Town Square, visitors to The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel will be greeted by the welcome sights, sounds and scents of the holiday season. At 6700 square feet, the shop’s interior design will feature festively decorated holiday trees, rustic red wooden shelves and tables, galvanized steel accents, and strings of glittering holiday lights, all providing the perfect backdrop for the brand’s joyful and abundant holiday merchandise.

“This year, we were inspired by the tradition of Christmas tree lots and we wanted to bring the joy and sentiment of that experience with our holiday product and visual display,” said Marta Calle, President and Chief Merchant of Crate and Barrel. “We are delighted to be able to share the Crate and Barrel shopping experience with our customers in Las Vegas with this special holiday pop-up store, which conveys the Crate and Barrel core values of celebrating family, friends and the everyday gathering.”

Pop-up locations of The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel will also open this fall in Nashville, Tennessee, West Des Moines, Iowa, and Albany, New York. Each location will also offer online ordering for customers interested in the brand’s full line of home furnishings and gift registry options available at crateandbarrel.com. The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel will also be available at all existing Crate and Barrel locations in the United States and Canada.

The Tree Lot at Crate and Barrel, Las Vegas
Opening: October 29
Town Square
6605 Las Vegas Blvd., S. Las Vegas, NV 89119

About Crate and Barrel

Working directly with European ateliers and factories to import their products, Crate and Barrel was among the first retailers to make contemporary tabletop and kitchenwares affordable to American consumers. Now in its 50th year, Crate and Barrel is a multi-channel family of brands and an internationally recognized industry leader, known for exclusive housewares and furniture designs, excellent value and superb customer service. To learn more about Crate and Barrel, visit www.crateandbarrel.com.

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4 Steps to Stress-Free Gift Giving

© mao-in-photo – Fotolia.com

December is arguably the busiest shopping month of the year, with shopping centers and malls historically reporting the most traffic this month. It’s no wonder: on average we will spend about $750 purchasing gifts and cards for our family, friends, coworkers and pets this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s a lot of shopping; it’s going to be a busy month! Therefore, it’s important to keep track of where, how and on whom that money is spent.

To help track of holiday purchases—and gift purchases year ‘round—I created a Gift Tracker to record dates, names, gift ideas and a budget for everyone on your list. Click to download the Gift Tracker 2012 in Word or a PDF version. The tracker is only part of the story, however. Use the tracker in conjunction with the overall Gift Giving for Busy People system.

When I was developing my POPS (Plan, Organize, Prioritize, Schedule) plan for personal success, I knew it could have applicability to the gift giving side of life. Nearly everything I do for holidays, home decorating and even entertaining follows that basic outline. So why not gift giving? The one adjustment I make when applying POPS to gift giving is to make it personal.

Thus, here are the four simple steps to streamlining and simplifying your gift giving, whether it’s the holidays or any day:

Plan

Creating a gift giving plan gives you a bird’s eye view of your gift giving needs, and lets you budget accordingly.

  • Create a big picture view of all birthdays, anniversaries, known occasions and holiday gifts. The holidays are a heavy gift giving season, but look for groupings or clusters in the rest of the year. Maybe you have six birthdays and an anniversary in April. That’s a signal you will need to budget more for those times of the year.
  • Create an annual budget, paying particular attention to winter holidays.
  • Use a gift tracker to write down everyone you need or want to select a gift for, a price point for the gift and any ideas or things to remember.

Organize

Look at your gift giving behaviors. Are you typically a last-minute shopper, picking up some knick knack on the way to the office party for the grab bag? Or do you plan ahead? Even if you do plan and purchase ahead of time, is there a frenzy every time you need to wrap a gift? Once you identify what causes stress in your gift giving continuum, think about ways to make that task less stressful. Being organized might be the answer! Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Use a gift drawer so you’re never caught without a gift. What is a gift drawer, you ask? Read on.
  • Designate supplies just for gift wrapping, and keep them handy.  Read more.

Personalize

Perhaps the biggest stressor in gift giving is “what” to buy or make to give to your recipient.

In Gift Giving for Busy People, I go into great detail with a series of questions designed to help you arrive at the perfect gift for your recipient. For now, try this exercise. Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through a shopping mall with your recipient. What is she drawn to? Notice the stores, the items and the colors and see if any themes emerge. Or, would he even be caught dead in the mall? Where would he rather be? What would he rather be doing? What gift ideas come from those answers?

It is necessary to step into your recipient’s shoes for a moment to determine what is important to him or her. This includes being aware of your recipient’s social conscience and lifestyle; for example, you would not want to give a leather purse to a vegan. The reason this works is, people respond best when their values are supported. Challenge their values and they will withdraw or become defensive. This is true in any interpersonal exchange, whether it’s a business meeting, a family dinner, or a gift exchange. A gift giver should always keep in mind the recipient’s values, rather than his or her own.

Any gift you select may be personalized even more and made very special indeed. Do this by including a personal, handwritten note explaining your feelings behind the gift. For these gifts, we’re talking about symbolism and sentiment to move the gift beyond the realm of the generic and into perfection.  For example, a husband presenting his wife with a clock on their first wedding anniversary might say, “May this gift remind you that no matter how quickly time may pass, my love will always be there for you.” A personal sentiment is free and it transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary and meaningful. Read more.

Schedule

  • Plan shopping trips at holiday time. Literally block off time after work or on a weekend (eek!) to shop for gifts.
  • Looking at your gift tracker, look for groupings of stores; any time several gifts can be purchased at one store or at several stores in one shopping center, it saves time. (And gas!)
  • Use technology to your advantage to comparison buy or simply buy online and ship directly to your recipient.
  • Sign up on your favorite retailers’ social media pages, or sign up for promotional emails. Both are a great source of exclusive information on sales, as well as coupons.
  • Combine tasks by shopping where you are. Read more.
  • Save time by shopping when you are. Read more.

If you still need help selecting holiday gifts, check out my Holiday Gift Guide 2012 on Pinterest! Happy giving!!

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