Last Minute New Year’s Decorating Ideas

The end is near! The end of the year, that is. Whether you’re having a New Year’s Eve bash or ringing in the New Year with a brunch or dinner party on New Year’s Day (or even if you just want a little sparkle in your home!), here are a few quick tips for centerpieces and table decorations:

1. Keep table linens, accessories and decorations to a simple palette of white and metallics—New Year’s classics.

2. Gather pine cones and sturdy, broad evergreen leaves (such as laurel or magnolia) and give them a quick coat of silver spray paint. (Use proper precautions and a suitable area for spray painting.) Arrange them in a large, clear vase or bowl along with silver ornaments from the tree.Holiday 09 005

3. Use the leaves as place cards: write a guest’s name with permanent marker on a leaf and tie on to the napkin with metallic cord or ribbon.

4. Collect all the star shaped ornaments from the tree and elsewhere and arrange them in a large, clear vase or bowl.

5. Arrange metallic ornaments in a decorative shallow bowl, mixing colors, sizes and textures.

6. Curl 10-inch lengths of curling ribbon in a variety of hues and scatter them on the dining table, sideboard, on top of food trays … any place that can use a pop of whimsy and color.

7. Sprinkle confetti on the dining table.

8. Use a few lengths of metallic tinsel as a table runner, or wrap it around the base of a clear glass hurricane candle holder.

9. Cut geometric shapes (such as diamonds or stars) out of metallic foil wrapping paper and place under clear votive cups as festive coasters.

10. Add noise makers to a store-bought floral arrangement. (If necessary, place the noise makers on bamboo skewers and push the skewers down into the vase.)

Enjoy the festivities of the evening!

Read More

New Year’s Nibbles

Simple NYE Buffet

Whether you’re having dozens of friends over on New Year’s Eve or keeping things quiet with just family, setting out a few midnight snacks will tastefully ring in the New Year (and help absorb the alcohol in the Champagne!).

Here are a few easy ideas for dishes to make and to purchase ready-made from your favorite market. Many of the dishes may be assembled ahead and/or served at room temperature, giving you more time to mingle. They’re so easy, the “recipes” are almost non-recipes!

Mix and match three from each category following the tried-and-true cocktail party rule of “Make 3, Buy 3.”

Make:

Garlic Parmesan Bites: Garlic + Cheese + Bread = Nirvana

Bacon Wrapped Dates: Sweet, salty and savory all in one bite.

Seasoned Chicken Strips: These crowd pleasers are a cinch to make.

Caprese Puffs: It’s like a summer caprese salad, only made with pantry staples and crescent rolls.

Roasted Pearl Onions: Bite-sized by nature, roasting these little gems gives them sweetness.

Mini Yorkshire Pudding Cups: A miniature version of a traditional holiday feast.

Buy:

Marinated olives: Look on the salad bar or antipasto bar or in the deli section of your local market for more variety.

Flavored nuts: Many grocery stores have expanded their selection of nuts beyond the plain salted variety. Cost Plus World Market also carries a good selection of interesting flavors such as wasabi, chile-lime and barbecue.

Brie with dried fruits and nuts: Surround a wheel of brie with selections such as cranberries, apricots and walnuts or cherries, raisins and pistachios. Serve with crackers.

Roasted red peppers: In a jar or off the antipasto bar, be sure to look for areas of charring to make sure they were fire roasted.

Cornichons: If you can’t find these unique French pickles, substitute gherkins instead.

Parmesan: Cut a block of parmesan (such as Parmigano Reggiano) into bite-size shards.

What to drink?

The beverage of the evening is, of course, sparkling wine. Some sparkling wines have origin-controlled proper names such as Champagne (France), Spumante (Italy) or Cava (Spain). Most all sparkling wines use the winemaking method made famous by the French monk Dom Perignon some 300 years ago. Place your sparkler of choice in the refrigerator at 6 p.m. for a well-chilled midnight treat. If you forget to chill it ahead of time, do NOT place sparkling wine in the freezer. (It will explode.) Instead, place the bottle in a large wine bucket filled half with cold water and half with ice cubes for about one hour.

Calculate 1/6 of a bottle per person for a midnight toast. For a twist, add an ounce or so of fruit-flavored liqueur to the bottom of the glass before pouring the wine. Perhaps the most famous liqueur/Champagne cocktail is the Kir Royale—a blend of Crème de Cassis (black currant liqueur) and Champagne. More modern takes could include pomegranate liqueur, raspberry liqueur or cherry liqueur; each goes particularly well with a dry sparkling wine.Please drink responsibly and have a safe and happy New Year!

Recipes

Garlic Parmesan RoundsGarlic Parmesan Rounds

Make the toasts and the spread early in the day and assemble and bake just before the party begins. These are tasty hot or at room temperature.

  • 6 slices of white sandwich bread
  • Olive oil
  • ½ c. grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ c. mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ t. salt
  • Dash of hot sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut 4 rounds out of each slice of bread using a small cookie cutter. (If you don’t have a small cutter, trim the edges off the bread and cut into 4 squares.) Brush each piece lightly with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake about 8 minutes, just until the bread begins to brown lightly. Cool. Mix together the remaining ingredients, combining well. Divide the mixture evenly among the toasts, about 1 teaspoon each. Return the toasts to the oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes until the cheese starts to bubble and the toasts are browned. Garnish with chopped chives if desired.

Bacon Wrapped Dates

These may be assembled earlier in the day and kept in the fridge until ready to broil.Bacon Wrapped Dates and Chicken Strips

  • 1 tub flavored soft cheese (such as Alouette or Rondele)
  • 1 package Medjool dates
  • 10 slices bacon

Preheat the broiler. Cut the bacon slices in half. Make a slit in each date, being careful not to cut all the way through. Remove the pit. Stuff each date with a bit of cheese, wrap in bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place on a baking sheet and broil 5 to 8 minutes until the bacon is crisp.

Seasoned Chicken Strips

  • 1 ½ pounds chicken tenders
  • ½ c. Italian dressing
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the chicken tenders in half lengthwise to yield 1 inch wide strips. Season with salt and pepper and place in a plastic resealable bag. Pour in the dressing and turn the tenders to coat well. Place in the refrigerator to marinate at least 30 minutes. (This can be done in the morning.)Soak bamboo skewers in water 20 minutes. Thread each chicken tender onto a skewer and place on a wire rack set in a roasting pan. Bake 20-25 minutes, turning midway through the cooking time. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Caprese PuffsCaprese Puffs

  • 1 container of crescent rolls
  • 1/3 c. diced tomatoes, well drained
  • ½ c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 T. dried basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the tomatoes, cheese and basil in a small bowl. Roll out the crescent roll dough, and separate into 4 rectangles. (Do not separate into triangles.) With a knife or a pastry scraper, cut each section of dough diagonally in half; each section will yield 4 triangles. Place a scant teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the middle of each small triangle. Working with one triangle at a time, fold in the sides and pinch the seams closed. (It’s okay to get different shapes out of each piece of dough. These are homemade!) Place on a baking sheet and bake 11 to 13 minutes until golden brown.Hints: For added flavor, use Italian recipe tomatoes. Fresh basil may be substituted, just be sure to cut it into small ribbons. If using a dark baking sheet, turn the puffs over midway through the cooking time to prevent over browning.

Roasted Pearl OnionsRoasted Pearl Onions

  • 1 12 oz. bag of frozen pearl onions
  • 1 T. olive oi
  • 1 T. Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Thaw and drain the onions and pat dry. Toss the onions with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the onions in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven 10 minutes or until the onions begin to brown. Shake the pan to turn over the onions and bake 8 to 10 minutes more until brown. Remove from the oven and toss with the Balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.Tips: These may be made ahead and served at room temperature. If you cannot find frozen onions, substitute a 12 oz. jar of plain cocktail onions, well drained.

Mini Yorkshire Pudding Cups

The Yorkshire Puddings may be made ahead of time. Assemble the dish a few
moments before the party begins and serve at room temperature.Mini Yorkshire Pudding

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • ½ t. salt
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • Prepared horseradish sauce
  • 12 slices of deli roast beef
  • Chives

Preheat oven to 425. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and Worcestershire. Sift in the flour and add the salt; whisk until smooth. Let rest about 10 to 15 minutes.While the batter is resting, pour a small amount of oil (about 1/8 inch) in each of 36 miniature muffin cups. Place the muffin tins on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the hot oven, about 5 minutes, to warm the oil.With a gravy ladle, divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them to the top. Bake 10 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Remove from the muffin cups immediately and drain on paper towels if needed.

Cut each slice of roast beef into 3 pieces and roll up. Cut chives to 2 inch lengths. With a small knife, cut a slit in each pudding, being careful not to pierce the bottom. Place a small dollop of horseradish in the bottom of each pudding, top with a piece of beef and 2 chives. Yield: 36.

Read More

Putting Reality into Resolutions

 

Where many of us fall short with New Year’s resolutions is not in making them, but in following through with them. Whether you make 12 resolutions or two, what is important is that you incorporate your resolutions into your daily life. Here are a few ideas:

One of the best ways to incorporate goals, resolutions and affirmations into daily life is to read and reaffirm them every day. With this entry, I’ve posted “My Resolutions that Rock!” in two sizes, a standard 8.5×11 and a 5×7. Simply download the document you choose, type in your resolutions and print! Feel free to add your own inspirational quotes, clip art or photos. The smaller size is perfect to print, cut out and place in a pretty frame on your dresser or vanity–someplace where you can see it and read it every day. Or, post a copy on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, or inside your daily planner.

Another way to keep your resolutions front and center is to create vision boards – either one large one for every resolution or one page for each resolution. A vision board is essentially a collage of magazine photos, clip art, inspirational quotes and descriptive words that relate to your goal. Get out the craft supplies and some black card stock or construction paper and have fun! You can pin vision boards on a cork board in front of your desk; shrink and copy them on a color copier to bind into your journal or your daily planner; or even create a yearly calendar using a publishing program or word processor. (Add photos from a clip art collection representing each resolution.) A few years ago I created my first vision boards representing travel plans and home improvement and decorating projects that I wanted to achieve in my home. It took a year or so, but eventually everything (and I mean everything) that was represented on those board became reality, from a garage organization system and a pool to a trip to Australia. It works somehow, like magic. Try it!

The most practical way to incorporate your resolutions into your daily life is to schedule specific activities and actions that support your goals. Say you want to pay down your credit cards, your specific action steps could be (1) read articles and books on personal finance about eliminating credit card debt; (2) make a list of all outstanding credit cards; (3) consult a certified credit counselor; and (4) create a workable spending plan and a payment schedule. Then set aside a defined amount of time each week to devote to that task list and write it into your schedule.

Give one of these ideas a try and see if it helps make your 2010 resolutions a reality.

Read More

New Year’s Resolutions that Rock!

The year is quickly winding down and many of us are thinking of New Year’s resolutions.

In the corporate and political worlds, a resolution is the formal declaration and adoption of an opinion or a course of action. Turned into a verb, “resolution” becomes “resolve,” one meaning of which is “to change or transform.”

It’s interesting that society has chosen such a formal and yet transformative word for our annual “to-do” list. It speaks both to the seriousness with which we undertake the task of reflecting on the past year and planning ahead to the new one, as well as to the chance we give ourselves every single year to make ourselves, our lives and the lives of those around us just that much better.

What are your resolutions for 2010? If you haven’t even thought about making a resolution, fear not! Here are a few questions to get you started on your brainstorming session. These questions invite you to think not only of “what” you would like to improve or change, but also “how” you might begin to make your resolutions a reality

.1. What would I like to be, do or have in 2010? Be specific, and make sure the resolution is realistic (i.e., “lose 30 pounds in 5 months” not “lose 100 pounds in 3 months”). Get a clear picture of your goal in your mind. What does your goal look like, feel like, smell like, taste like? As James Allen wrote in “As a Man Thinketh” more than 100 years ago, “The outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought.” Get the details in your head first; tomorrow I’ll share a few concrete ways to turn those thoughts into reality.

2. If I could improve just one aspect of my career, my relationships, my finances, or myself (body, mind or spirit), what would it be? Strive for progress, not perfection. Be careful not overwhelm yourself with too many improvements in too short a time. Maybe pick one area to work on during each quarter of the year (January to March, April to June, July to September, and October to December).

3. If I’ve made a similar resolution in the past, was it successful? Why or why not? What can I learn from that experience? For example, it doesn’t make much sense to resolve to “lose 20 pounds” and not make any plans to join a gym, consult a nutrionist or dietician, hire a trainer, improve eating habits, or similar lifestyle changes. Or, if a resolution was successful, why was it successful? Did you hire a professional to help? Did you enlist the aid of your support network? Apply what made past changes successful to this year’s resolutions.

4. What kind of support do I need to make such a change possible? Studies show that life changes that are supported by family or friends have a better chance of success. Let a few trusted friends and family know about your goals, and give them specific ways they can support you. Some people need accountability to another person such as a coach, or they need to pay for a service (such as a professional organizer or a personal trainer) to stick to a new set of behaviors.

5. What resources are available to me? Where can I find such resources? Help is out there; you need only seek it out and ask for it. Look for referrals from friends who have made similar changes, or check out professional trade organizations online for names of local people who specialize in the area in which you need help.

Most importantly, give yourself a break! Jan. 1 is not the magic day to start your resolutions. It may take time to craft a solid, realistic and meaningful set of resolutions, and that’s okay.Your first goal is to formulate resolutions that you feel passionate about … resolutions that rock!

Read More