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Extraordinary Holidays at Home

11/01/2006 10:45AM ● Published by Brandi Barnett

By Kim Kramer

We all love a great party and the hosts who give them. A good host not only has the ability to entertain us, but also has the ability to create a pool of memories that we can dip into for years to come. An experienced event designer will tell you that hosting a party or any event can be compared to a theatre production. A host sets the stage for a memorable event by offering the guests a distinctive experience, using exciting menus and interesting décor that are above the norm of our
everyday lives.

While most of us will usually go beyond average expectations when planning an event for friends and strangers, we rarely create a special holiday event with the same pizzazz for our own loved ones. Our fast-paced, stressed-out lives keep us preoccupied and sometimes make it difficult for us to find the time to push ourselves any harder; especially for those who love us unconditionally.

This holiday season, I would like to help you capture a balance of creative and unique ideas, along with time saving tips that will fill your home with a festive spirit, but won’t kill you in the process.Think of your holiday event as a special gift to your family.While you are considering this, also remember that great gifts sometimes come in small packages. It is not the size of the event that matters, but the small, unique details of the event that become the treasure.

I am a huge believer in the WOW factor.This is the “oooh and aaah” sounds that your family and guests will make as they walk into your home. The goal should be to appeal to all of their senses. As we organize the party, it is important to incorporate these elements into the décor and the menu.

Getting Started.Make a list and check it twice, three times and more. Organization is key to a successful party and a sane mind. Include on your list even the most minor details along with a realistic timeline. If an item can be purchased before your event, then purchase it. If an item can be prepared before the event, then prepare it. Leave only the last-minute details to the last minute.

Setting the Mood. I love to see hosts step out of the box just a little and try new, exciting ideas both in décor and with the menu. Using color and themes fashions a more lively space and can easily be created in your home’s entryway, on a fireplace mantel or in the center of a tabletop. As you create your mood, try to carry the color or theme throughout your home. This adds uniformity while at the
same time creating an overall ambiance.

This year, skip the traditional fall colors of orange and yellow and try richer tones of red such as maroon or burgundy interwoven with green and chocolate brown. You can add these colors to any arrangement by using berries, maple leaves and rich-colored autumn flowers. Fruits such as pomegranates, apples, grapes and pears help to add texture and balance to any display.

If you want a trendier look, add a little faux fur or feathers to your theme.My favorite greenery to fill a display is glossy lemon leaves. They are easily purchased from a local florist, are inexpensive and make an arrangement full and lush. All of the other items can be purchased from a local grocery store or found in your own backyard.

If a fire in the fireplace will warm the room too much for your event, try placing a cluster of pillar
candles in different size and shapes in the fireplace and lighting those. This will give your room a warm glow without overheating your guests.

One small but very nice touch is to add paper guest towels to your bathroom along with a host basket that offers your guests things like mouth freshener, hair spray, and first-aid items.

Setting the Table. The focal point of your feast will be the table setting. A beautifully decorated table is a way of honoring your family and guests for coming into your home and celebrating the holiday season. The table setting can be compared to beautiful wrapping paper that creates anticipation for the gift to follow. One important element to remember with the table decorations is to allow room for your guests and their place setting by keeping the centerpiece simple as well as integrated with the theme you have throughout the house. I would again use a mixture of lemon leaves, berries, flowers, fruits and feathers to create a narrow garland down the center of the table. The eclectic items add a display of color and texture without overpowering the table. Even a bottle or carafe of red wine can help to expand the colors of the display. I also love a tabletop that is gleaming with twinkling candlelight. You can use tall tapered candles or clusters of different size pillar candles to line the garland and create a high-low effect. A unique touch to your table can be the place card for your family member’s seat. A pear or apple sitting in the middle of a guest’s plate with their name on a small flag glued to the stem of the fruit is a nice, simple touch that goes beyond any normal dinner hour. Another idea for a fall place setting is a rubber stamp with a leaf design. Using an ivory color cardstock cut to size, you can stamp each card with the leaf in an ink color that coordinates with your theme. Each guest’s name can be written with a felt marker just below the leaf print. Place the card in the center of the guest’s napkin or plate. Be creative with your table setting, but also be realistic to the requirements of your meal and needs of your guests. I have only one fast rule at a holiday table: NO PAPER PLATES!

Menu. An easy way to balance out your time and energy is to keep the drinks, cocktails and appetizers simple. Apple cider, sparkling cider and your favorite wines can easily complete and complement any holiday meal. A full wheel of stilton cheese (or any other favorite cheese) surrounded by a cluster of grapes and gourmet crackers is not only an easy appetizer that is appealing to the eye and simple to prepare, but the grapes help tie the display into your décor theme.

As for the traditional holiday meal, your family may be looking forward to their favorites such as roasted turkey and pumpkin pie, but you can surprise them with a few new dishes to try in addition to the oldtime favorites. Honor your family traditions by consistently serving those favorites that your family looks forward to all year, but enliven the feast with new items. As an example, along with serving your standard pumpkin pie, you can try serving a dessert that is as decadent as a pumpkin soufflé drizzled with warm maple syrup or as simple as a pumpkin cheesecake drizzled with chocolate and caramel.

All of us have been to events, whether it be a wedding, charity event or large holiday ball, that left us
with a lasting feeling of deep pleasure. There is no reason why, with a little flare and a little organization, our holiday family gatherings can’t be just as memorable.�

November 2006

Food+Dining, In Print thanksgiving hosting november 2008 extraoridnary holidays at home
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