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How to Prevent a Holiday Party Nightmare

Candle Holders from Pottery Barn

Five things you can do RIGHT NOW to prepare for any holiday gathering – for the rest of the year!

The whole group was coming to my party. I was so happy that I found myself literally grinning from ear to ear every time the doorbell rang. People were in such a great mood and everyone was engaged in conversation. The atmosphere in the room was lively, people were laughing, it couldn’t have been better. But then, to my horror, I realized that I wasn’t ready. Worse than that – nothing was ready!

I had no drinks to serve.

My dining room was a mess.

None of the food was ready.

I was in a complete panic. Then I suddenly realized something else that stopped me cold in my tracks. I was still in my swimsuit and I reeked of sun tan lotion! And, even worse than that, I had an inflatable swim ring around my waist? Whaaaaaat? Seriously? I don’t even sit out in the sun much less use suntan lotion or an inflatable swim ring!

That’s when I woke up and sat bolt upright in bed.  It was all a horribly bad dream. I laughed. Of course. If you’ve ever wondered what a nightmare looks like to a home entertainment expert, this would be it. I’d been so busy this summer. I’d been up north, back east and in between. With that kind of schedule, who has time to think about the holidays?

But now, I am. In fact, part of this blog was written right after that silly dream – well, let’s call it what it was – a nightmare, okay? Now, this is my warning to all my fellow home entertainers – the time to prepare is NOW.  The holidays are literally, right around the corner. As a friend of mine is fond of saying: The trick to preparation is getting prepared now.

There are FIVE simple things you can do – today – to get your home prepared for the holidays.

ONE: Start with easy-to-do accent changes: change out the couch throws for heavy knit ones and add a few accent pillows that say, “here come the holidays” like this pillow and this one from Crate and Barrel. You don’t have to start with the ‘jingle bells’ thing just yet, but nice warm colors will help set the mood just right.

TWO: Think about the “welcome beverage” you will be serving at your parties.  Bring everything into the seasonal spirit with sparkling wines; Gruet and Schramsberg are always favorites in my home! And don’t forget the pomegranate seeds. Then stock up on beautiful reds, like these bottles from Long Meadow Ranch or Davis Estates. Speaking of bottles, don’t forget to put your favorite vodka (Chopin anyone?) in the freezer.

THREE: Remember your candles. My summer setting is always ‘white and bright.’ It’s time now to change up to softer colors to match the couch throws and pillows. Keep those simple candles (for fall white or ivory) but change out the holders to pewter, silver or soft gold.  The softer color of metals create a softer light – like these from World Market or Pottery Barn.

FOUR: If you have a mantel or fireplace, change décor but keep it light and simple. If you have centerpieces or runners for your coffee table and dining table – it’s time for a change. Think “autumn leaves.” Like this basket setting from Pottery Barn.

FIVE: Maybe this is on the top of everyone’s mind, but the music list is always good to figure out long before the guests arrive. Time to put away Elvis and bring back Frank. Well, maybe it’s the opposite for some folks, but you get the idea.

Want to go the distance? I even change out some of my framed pictures – ones of my family and friends on easel backs and some on the walls. Store away the pictures of beach parties and put up the ones of camping trips in autumn and ski trips to the alps. You’d be surprised how this simple switch will change the “feel” in your home.

The point of this exercise – don’t wait until the week or days before the first holiday party. Start now and set the canvas. You can add the finishing touches later. Besides, you’ll have plenty of other things to worry about before your guests arrive. Everything you do now will look like you really took time to plan things out. Taking these steps now will also help you enjoy your party that much more and you won’t be waking up from a nightmare like I did!

Have fun!

Give your flowers a reason to SING!

Your Table Top: turn ordinary into extraordinary with unusual flower containers.

Don’t you love to wander in a flower garden during full bloom? It’s such a peaceful experience, but it also draws you closer to nature. That’s why we cut flowers and bring them into our homes, to bring some of that beauty inside.

But, if you’re taking the time and effort to cut the perfect blooms why settle for simple vases? I mean, if you’re going to accent your home with flower arrangements, why not try something different for containers like watering cans, milk bottles, pitchers, or small bowls?  In my world, if it can hold water then it can be used as a flower holder.

Blame it on a streak of creativity that I’ve taken with me over the more than twenty years of owning restaurants – I always ask myself, how can I turn ordinary into extraordinary?

What do you get from putting flowers into something other than a vase – even a very beautiful crystal vase? I think you get something memorable. You get questions and conversation! You make it fun for you and your guests.

There is no limit to the types of containers you can use for cut flowers to add interest to a centerpiece or arrangement on any table in your home. I look for textures, color, and different materials to compliment room décor or to spice up a theme.  The sky is the limit.  Pay attention to the size and shape of the container when you cut the stems.  You can even use very large blooms in a low container by just keeping the stems short.  Sometimes you might want to bunch flowers very tightly to fill a container to the max or sometimes a single flower makes just the right statement.

Depending upon the theme of the evening dropping just daisy heads into a large shallow container filled with water and adding floating lit tea lights could be just the perfect centerpiece to add some drama to your dining table.  You can even use this technique in several smaller shallow containers for a centerpiece.  Any flat bloom will work!

Speaking of mood, what you do depends on what you’re trying to achieve. And it doesn’t require that you get very elaborate. For instance, you can use votive candle holders and glass hurricane candle holders as bud vases. You can get very nice ones from Crate and Barrel.

I’ve used Ball Mason jars too. You know, the jars with screw-on lids that people use when making jams. They work well as impromptu containers for an informal setting, like a dinner al fresco. Put a bunch of wild flowers in them or a bunch of small daisies or even just a large bunch of leaves.  Ball Mason jars are available all over but I got mine from World Market.

I have several different water pitchers that I always use as flower “vases” – glass, white ceramic ones, but my favorite is this one of a kind pewter one from Arte Italica. They have so many to choose from in all types of materials.

I’ve even used a very tall glass cream pitcher that I purchased for $2 at an estate sale. It makes a gentle statement with a single rose or daffodil.

Don’t get me wrong. I think nice vases can be an elegant touch, but the point is don’t limit yourself. Get creative.  When it comes to flowers to accent your home, anything can be used to hold them.

Let your imagination go, and have fun!