An adult drink with champagne that only looks fruity sweet (it isn’t). It’s summer and that means outdoor or indoor fun with friends and family and usually in a group.  I always recommend greeting your guests with an adult beverage when they arrive.  A summer punch sets the tone for the party and lets everyone know that you want them to have a great time. The easiest way to serve an adult summer punch to a group (with very little effort from you-the host) is with a batch cocktail or fun punch.  Punch can be colorful and is definitely made ahead of your guests’ arrival which takes a lot of the stress out of making sure that first glass of ‘welcome’ is ready when they walk through the door. Set up a beverage area with the punch bowl, cups or small multi-colored glasses and, of course, napkins.  Add flowers and…

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How to replace ‘pack and move’ with a little ‘edit and love’. I love my clients and I love my friends even more. So, when a great friend, who is also a client, calls me and says she’s sold her big house faster than she thought would happen and is moving into a townhome but she has only 30 days to do it – I shift into overdrive and fly across the country to do what I do best – help her delete (not pack and move) what she doesn’t want or use for entertaining.  Then we pack up what IS getting moved and I’ll fill in the ‘holes’ left from the ‘purge’ with things she will actually use and love. Almost everyone I’ve ever spoken to has shared that they’ve packed and moved much, much more than they needed to.  They realize this only after they are in their…

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It’s the small things that count: frozen strawberries that will make your guests gush! A friend of mine admitted the other day that she’s sometimes uncomfortable visiting a mutual friend. And you know the one thing that makes her so nervous? Our mutual friend is like a clock, calendar, and seasonal directory—all rolled into one. Her home is always decorated with just the right colors and the perfect seasonal and holiday tone. I have to admit, she is a bit intimidating. “How does she do that?” says my friend. So many of us find that the holidays are upon us before we’ve had time to plan anything much less decorate and figure out special meals or even gifts.  Not everyone is as well organized and ‘ready’ like my “mutual friend”.  She’s planning year-round to get it all done.  I don’t plan year-round but I do collect ideas that can help…

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Challenged by originality? Remember to be thoughtful.
It’s probably a huge generalization, but I think it’s a lot easier to get a gift for a guy-friend than it is for a girl-friend. Not saying that guys are less sophisticated or that women are overly complex – not at all. I think it has more to do with being a woman, coming up with an original gift idea for another woman.
Originality is the challenge – many men don’t care that much about originality but for us women it’s in the DNA. How about this example: men don’t seem to mind much about showing up to a party with the same Tommy Bahama shirt as another guy. But – if two women show up to the same event wearing the same dress? Disaster! I went to a black tie party once where THREE women showed up wearing the exact same designer dress. Talk about a problem…
And then, just when you think you’ve come up with the perfect gift idea, she tells you how much she loves your gift from last year – exactly what you thought was so original for this year! That’s why I have a notebook and why I keep track. I don’t do it to impress people that I’m original. I do it to keep myself organized. I love it when I give a gift and the eyes open wide from the sheer joy of receiving something unexpected. I delight in the art of giving in the very same way that I love to entertain guests who come to my gatherings. It’s no fun unless everyone is excited. And it just so happens that “originality” is a key ingredient for that kind of success.
I’m constantly jotting ideas down all year long as I think of them. It took me nearly the whole year to build my gift lists: one for men, the other for women. Here’s my 2018 list of Gift Ideas for Women, all thanks to Bloomingdales and Geary’s of Beverly Hills:
Scarfs from Zadiq & Voltaire. This label is one of my favorite fashion brands. I love all of their designs – especially the grey skulls!
Bedside Crystal Carafe and Glass from Majestic Gifts and a gorgeous tray from Juliska. Now, this is truly special and unique: a bedside crystal carafe on a special tray to keep your friend hydrated through the night. It’s always a good idea to have water by your bedside. If you wake up at night, like I do, it’ll be right there.
Tiny Tress Press from Dry Bar. Have a friend who has curly hair but wishes it was straight and loves to travel? This is perfect for them. It’s a detailing iron that nice and compact. Great for touch-ups while on the go. And–added bonus—it has a dual voltage feature that’s perfect for global nomads.
Lucky Butterfly from Baccarat. The butterfly is offered in twelve beautiful colors and absolute perfect quality, this is a jewel-like touch for your friend’s table top décor. The butterfly is a symbol of freedom and grace and giving the Papillon Lucky Butterfly is a way for you to express these qualities for your friend.
Picture Frames from Match1995. I love pewter. And pewter picture frames are an excellent gift: no polishing, no worries. Match1995 has other perfect gifts, handmade in pewter. This is a favorite brand of mine.
Collectible Animal Figurines from Herend. Start your friend’s collection, or help them take their existing one up a notch. These are truly exquisite collectible animal figurines, such lovely design and craftsmanship. And Herend has so many different little animals in multiple colors and most have a funny side to them (when pigs fly, bunny chef, frog in a meditation pose, just to name a few).
Scented Candles Decorative Candles from the Baobab Collection. Candles are such a lovely thing to add to a home. I love the flickering warmth of a tiny flame, especially when it’s framed inside one of these beautiful glass jars. The great thing is they burn completely down so the empty glass can be used for flowers!
If you love entertaining friends and family at home, then you’re already there for giving fabulous gifts for your friends. All they want is a little sign of your thoughtfulness. Originality comes along for the ride with the joy shared by all.

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Putting thought into gifts for men takes a little effort, but it’s so very rewarding. I admit it. I can get pretty particular sometimes. I still hand-write letters and thank you notes to friends and family. Yep. On paper! I admit my handwriting has gotten a bit sloppy over the years (I spend a lot of time on a keyboard) but I make the effort.  And, I still read a paper newspaper and real books. Oh, I’m not a tech hermit by any means.  After all, I write this blog, right? And I’m pretty engaged on social media (check out Instagram and the latest video about this post). I also love streaming video – so nice not to look at commercials. And I email, text, watch Vines.  You know, the usual. What I love about newspapers and books is the tactile experience of reading – touching the paper. I can…

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“Above the Salt” Idea: Entertain guests like a pro with great salt cellars for your table. Do you know someone who can really throw a fabulous gathering no matter how large or small? I have to say I’ve been lucky enough to know some party planning geniuses and, to be honest, I spend a lot of time paying attention to them – what they do and how they get it done. What I’m describing here is the subtle art of home entertaining. Creating an intimate setting where the drinks are flowing, the food is excellent, and the music sounds fabulous, but at the very heart of the party is the conversation: electric, happy, and memorable. THAT’s the key, right there: the trigger for a great conversation. Without it, you could host a party with a five-star magician as the main entertainment, and still watch it flop. I know. I’ve seen…

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It IS great time to entertain your friends and family—make those memories stand out with a themed cocktail drink! As you plan your football party, there are some quick and easy ways for you to enjoy the day too.  Keeping it casual and having plenty of food around is one way (see my previous post). But, one exception to the “casual” rule—I always have a ‘welcome drink’ ready for my guests as they arrive. I love thinking about focal points for my gatherings. One way to do this is by making drinks that are color coordinated with the teams playing. Mixed Drink Recipe: Polaroid So, how about something BLUE if one of the teams playing is the New England Patriots or the Denver Broncos? Blue Curaçao is made from the dried peelings of the Laraha bitter orange native to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. The color comes from a…

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What a great time to entertain your friends and family—but don’t forget the most important ingredient! It’s football season – a great time to entertain friends and family! Football Sunday is an instant hit for most people. Even friends who don’t watch football, love to come to my gatherings just because it’s a great time to hang out and party a bit. And the great part?  Sundays are typically lazy days which make them perfect for casual get-togethers, right? Keep it flexible.  These rules can work as easily on Saturdays if you’re a College ball fan as they do on Sundays if you like watching pro.  Keeping it flexible and casual means that entertaining areas don’t have to be limited to the kitchen or dining room. Your TV area/room is perfect for a football Saturday/Sunday you just have to spend a little time thinking and planning for a good place…

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Enjoy the relaxed pace and informality of a timeless continental style. One of the reasons I became a restaurateur is that I love to entertain. And, one of my favorite ways to entertain guests follows the Italian Aperitivo style: informal and wholly intimate. It’s a time to invite everyone – it can be a group of only friends after work or add family and have everyone all at once. This style is not about impressing people with your silverware and fine china. It’s all about the spirit of the gathering; making everyone feel welcomed and together as one happy group. It’s really a very simple way to socialize over light cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Aperitivo is also not about impressing anyone with your kitchen prowess. Very often, Italians serve prepared foods that they’ve picked up at the local market to make it easier. Aperitivo itself is more of a prelude…

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Two big tips and one great recipe idea for #Superbowl #SB52 – Good Food, Good Friends, Great Times. I have hosted a ton of Super Bowl Parties at my home and, I’ve been a guest at quite a few of them as well. I’ve tried doing it a lot of different ways but a casual affair like this should always be fun – for everyone. And that calls for my “go-to” Super Bowl party plan – a tiny bit of variety along with an easy setup. Everything is set up with what a friend of mine calls a ‘quick snap’: one cup, one napkin, one plate (or bowl), and you’re back to the game. It goes without saying that we want cold beverages that go best with whatever it is that’s on the menu. I think a good set for the icebox will include sodas, beer, and bottled water. But…

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Just because it’s a little chilly outside doesn’t mean you can’t have your party outdoors. I’m not talking about freezing weather. Let’s be sensible! And – yes – I know: “chilly” weather in California isn’t the same kind of “chilly” in Michigan. What I’m talking about is pleasantly calm weather that lets us enjoy winter! Tell your guests that the party is outside and they’ll know to dress accordingly! No matter where you are and how well people dress, warmth for your outdoor dining party is an absolute must. Depending on where you live, an open campfire on the ground may not be a good idea. In fact, in some places, it might even be illegal. Either way, covered fire pits and outdoor fireplaces (chimenea) may be the safer alternative. My search turned up a few helpful ideas. Lowe’s has several styles of covered fire pits that will meet all…

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The easy “how-to” for tipping during the holidays. We all have service people that help us throughout the year, but sometimes it’s confusing on how much to tip or even whether you should tip at all during the holidays. I’ve been in the restaurant business for more than twenty years, and sometimes it’s a little confusing even for me! Tipping is easy enough in a restaurant – not so easy in other settings. I have a simple guideline for who to tip during the holidays. It comes from my uncle who said, “At the end of the year, think of the people who have helped you. If you’ve been helped, it never hurts to tip.” So, I think about the places where I’m a ‘regular’ – at least once a month, weekly, or semi-weekly. I also especially think of businesses that know me well, and where I’m always satisfied. For…

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