It’s a shame to take the olive for granted when there’s so much variety! I love olives. Green, black, stuffed, unstuffed, in salads, or plain. I only thought about the history of this fabulous fruit after a small gathering at a friend’s home not long ago. My friend, the historian, told us that the reason we use olive branches as a sign of peace is that it takes so long to grow olive trees that can bear edible fruit.  For a couple of varieties (Arbequina and Koroneiki) it takes 3 years but for most varieties it takes 5-12 years!  The tree itself has been around for millions of years. Ancient written records left in tombs and on stone tablets suggest that we’ve been harvesting olives for about 7,000 years – that’s before the Bronze Age! Today, there are enough varieties of olives to match just about any palate—even those that…

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Turn them all into wine spritzers and keep your party going! Gift wines. There. I said it. A bottle quickly picked up at the market, thoughtfully bought, but random nevertheless. Guests can’t help it. Buying a random bottle of wine for a house party is like bringing a bouquet of flowers not knowing the home décor or gifting a box of candy to someone who can’t eat sweets (I grieve for them, wherever they may be). A random bottle of wine is just that—it’s random. It isn’t necessarily bad, and you’re not being elitist for liking only certain kinds of wine. But there it sits. Those bottles of Merlot and over-oaked Chardonnay, all sitting there in the back of your collection, gathering dust. Now, if you’re a real elitist, you toss the bottles out unopened. And that’s a shame unless of course, the bottle is spoiled. But there is such…

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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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I have a lot of friends who work in stage, film, and video entertainment. One has been a “lighting designer” for going on 40 years. What that means is that he works with the set designers and comes up with just the right type of lighting to set the mood of the story. “Lighting is everything, and it’s nothing,” he says. “When I’ve done my job right, nobody notices that I’ve done it. It’s all about the mood, the actors, and the set. The lighting makes it all come together, without anyone thinking about it.” So, imagine you’re the director of your own stage production of “The Holidays at My Home.” What are you going to do to set the mood for a great party? Nothing better than perfect lighting that nobody notices. I love to use candles. Of course, everyone notices candles. The trick is making it all about…

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And so easy to make: Dijon Mustard, sea salt, champagne vinegar, and olive oil. You know me. I love to turn even the simplest things into a conversation. One easy topic that has a great and colorful history: anything and everything about the culinary arts. In fact, each major culture from all over the planet has their own story about how a certain dish came to be or how a particular recipe started. Interestingly, there is actually a long and lovely history of salad dressings. Seriously! Approximately 4,000 years ago, Babylonians may have been the first in Western Civilization to mix oil and vinegar for salads. Egyptians picked up the idea and added spices to the mix. After that, salad dressing became a standard for nobility with chefs from different houses competing for the most extravagant and delicious ones. The kitchens of every royal court from Italy to the English…

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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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What are the qualities that sets one coffee mug apart from all the others? Ever notice how we collect coffee mugs? And we all have different reasons not just for accumulating them but also for keeping them. I have a friend who has an embarrassingly large collection of Disney mugs. A few of them are rare and pricey (for coffee mugs) on the collector market. Her favorite is a mug she got when she was a kid in the 1960s. It has a 3D raised image of the castle and the handle looks like a tree limb. She said she stopped using it when she found out that it is considered “extremely rare” and sells for $200 in auctions. One friend collects mugs as she and her husband travel around the country and Europe. Another friend collects mugs with clever slogans and movie quotes. Her favorite is a black mug…

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This is the onion dip taste you’ve been looking for – seriously. You’re going to want to keep this one. You go to a party and – there it is – your favorite onion dip that we all learned to make with sour cream and dried onion soup packets from the market. It worked for us in the beginning, savory, salty, with all that delicious onion flavoring (and with all those ‘lovely’ preservatives). But, what if you can say that yours was homemade and much more delicious? Made one from scratch? Now, wouldn’t that turn some heads? The exciting thing is that roasted onion dip is actually very easy to make. I found a straightforward recipe from Bon Appetit that will have you and your guests craving this over and over. And, I guarantee that you will never look at the soup packets the same way again. Preheat your oven…

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A fabulous “quick” preparation for a favorite… wait a minute… what IS garlic anyhow? Here’s a fun fact about garlic. While it’s probably easy to call it a vegetable it’s actually an allium like onions, shallots and leeks and is rarely, if ever, eaten on its own LIKE a vegetable. But, as a friend of mine likes to say, the discussion is merely academic. Botanically speaking, garlic is actually part of the lily family and has been spicing up human food for thousands of years. Archeologists have found garlic among a list of favorite food flavorings and traditional medicine for Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Babylonians, and Greeks. These days, 80% of the world supply of garlic comes from China. I buy mine at my local Farmer’s Market.  It can grow almost anywhere it is dry and warm. There used to be a little restaurant – I forget the name – on the…

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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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