Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

1, Dec
Photo credit: Pinterest / Attagirlsays

Photo credit: Pinterest / Attagirlsays

When the temperatures drop, it can be very tempting to hibernate in your home, but don’t let the season get away without making memories. Create a winter bucket list of fun activities that are best done at this time of year, and start checking things off. Here are 10 ideas to get you going:

 

  • Decorate a gingerbread house
  • Make peppermint bark
  • Hold a snowball fight
  • Go on a horse-drawn carriage ride
  • Participate in a secret Santa gift exchange
  • Go for a drive and look at the Christmas lights
  • Volunteer at a local food bank or shelter
  • Bake cookies
  • Toast marshmallows in your fireplace and make s’mores
  • Go skating on an outdoor rink or pond

 

What are your favorite wintertime activities?

 

22, Nov

Thanksgiving is this week, and in the midst of your holiday preparation it is easy to overlook a few details. Here are three quick tips to help you with your last-minute planning:

1. If your turkey isn’t completely defrosted, don’t despair. Immerse the bird in the plastic wrap and put it in ice-cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to avoid dangerous bacteria from developing, according to Butterball. It will thaw quicker than leaving it in the refrigerator.

2. Double-check your menu. Go over each recipe and make sure you have all of your ingredients. You don’t want to have to run around on Thanksgiving morning looking for a store that’s open because you’re out of flour.

3. Count your place settings. Make sure you have enough plates, forks, knives and napkins for everyone. Don’t forget the settings you’ll use for serving food, and have a couple on hand in case someone brings an unexpected guest. If you’re shy a few settings ask someone to bring extra.

21, Nov

What’s better than Thanksgiving dinner? How about two Thanksgiving dinners!! Family gatherings are important and traditional, but a growing trend is hosting a Friendsgiving, a special Thanksgiving-style dinner with your favorite friends.

Hold it before Thanksgiving to create a trial run for the big day, or after to make the most of leftovers or serve something completely different.

Here are some things to consider before hosting your Friendsgiving:

Consider potluck. Friendsgiving is the perfect time to hold a potluck, making it easier than Thanksgiving because no one person will be in charge of the entire meal. Assign specific dishes or a category, such as veggies or dessert. Or be bold and enjoy whatever dishes show up in hand.

Set a theme. Another dinner-planning idea is to choose a theme and have guests bring something that fits. For example, set a theme of Italian, Chinese farm-to-table or even deep-fried. This could be a nice break from your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Make sure to accommodate special diets. Check in with friends and see if anyone has food allergies or intolerances, or follows a special diet, such as vegan or Paleo. Then make sure you have enough on your menu to fill them up.

Think about drinks. If you are serving alcohol, plan how you’ll stock your bar. You can make it easy and serve just wine or beer. Or create a special cocktail for the day, such as a special martini or mixed drinks. Or set out what guests will need for the most common drinks.

Decide if you want a special décor. Thanksgiving dinner usually includes a special holiday tablescape with a centerpiece, place settings, napkins and place cards. Friendsgiving, however, can be as festive or casual as you wish.

Do you hold Friendsgiving? Share you favorite tips in the comments below!

11, Nov

You could go out and invest in new dinnerware for the holidays. Gorgeous designs that are perfect for holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas are festive and fun. But you can also easily dress up your existing dinnerware with some easy and inexpensive details that will give you the same result.

Here are five ways to dress up your existing dishes and make them shine for the season:

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Photo credit: 3 Little Greenwoods / Pinterest

1. Use Chargers. Classic white plates look chic and elegant when you place them on a charger. Choose luxurious silver or gold for a classic look. Or brighten up the table with jewel tones, such as ruby, emerald or sapphire. We love this snowflake charger craft idea. You’ll be surprised at the impact a charger can make, and it can happen in a snap.

salad-plates

Photo credit: Traditional Home /  Pinterest

2. Purchase New Salad Plates. Instead of investing in an entire set of china, why not purchase salad plates that you layer atop your everyday dinner dish? The single piece won’t cost a lot, and the top plate is the star of the setting. Choose something for the holiday or season, and it will look like you went all out.

holiday-napkin

Photo credit: Paper & Lace / Pinterest

3. Add the Details. Little things can make a big impact, and your choice of napkins and napkin rings can set the tone. Instead of classic white napkins, choose a bold color or pattern. Or stick with white and let the ring take center stage. Here are some fun ideas we found on Pinterest. You could even go simple, and tie a sprig of evergreen with twine or ribbon.

holiday-table-runner

Photo credit: Flamingo Toes / Pinterest

4. Roll Out the Table Runner. Add flair by using a dramatic table runner. Not only does it introduce a theme; a runner allows the natural beauty of your table show through. You’ll find a wide assortment of options designed for your specific holiday, or head to the fabric store and purchase a piece of velvet, satin or even faux fur. You could also use a beautiful plaid blanket; the contrasting texture will create a warm, festive setting.

burlap-place-mats

Photo credit: Seattle Pi / Pinterest

5. Think About Place Mats. Place mats offer another design opportunity, and they help protect your table. Choose a color that enhances your holiday décor, or personalize a set of your own with this fun burlap place mat craft project.

We’d love to see how you create a festive tables design for the holidays. Post your photos in the comments below!

10, Nov

The turkey is definitely the star of the Thanksgiving table, but Tom deserves the proper backdrop. In addition to breaking out your best dinnerware and crystal, create a holiday memory by carefully choosing the rest of the table setting.

Start with a tablecloth. Protect your table by using a tablecloth over a table pad. From crisp white to a rich autumn tone, you will add some color to the meal with the right cloth.

Photo credit: BlueCricketDesign.net

Here’s a great craft project you can do to create a personalized tablecloth. Simply purchase a drop cloth and decorate it with words that represent the things you’re thankful for.

Or don’t. Rules are made to be broken, so feel free to skip the tablecloth and let your table go au natural. Use beautiful placemats or table runners to protect the wood.

Photo credit: The Stir

Mix and match plates, silverware and glassware. Don’t worry about not having enough table settings; purposefully mix and match what you have and no one will ever know. You can even go ultra casual chic by using Mason jars as water glasses.

Let Mother Nature provide decorations. Fall is the time of year when everything outside is in its most colorful glory. Bring in gorgeous leaves and scatter them down the center of the table. You can also use a metallic marker and write names or reasons you’re thankful on the leaves to make them even more special. Place small gourds down the center of the table, and put cut flowers in small pots or thin vases. Add candles and you’ve created a gorgeous fall scene.

Photo credit: Bloom Designs Online

Make it personal. Finally, make guests feel welcome by creating personalized place cards. If you’re hosting friends who aren’t well acquainted, place a little bit of information about each guest on the place card as a way for everyone to get to know each other. You could also include a reason why you’re thankful they are your friend or family member.

3, Nov

This is the time of year when lines at the grocery store grow longer with people getting ready for holiday meals and baking. Instead of running down to the store to pick up that one ingredient you need, stock up so you have essentials on hand. A full pantry also helps you avoid last-minute take out during the hustle and bustle of the season. Here’s a list of 20 things to have on hand:

1.     Brown rice (or other whole grains)

2.     Dried spices

3.     Potatoes

4.     Oatmeal

5.     Peanut butter

6.     Flour

7.     Sugar

8.     Baking powder and soda

9.     Canned tomatoes

10.  Kosher salt and pepper

11.  Garlic

12.  Onions

13.  Sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce)

14.  Quinoa or rice

15.  Pasta

16.  Olive and vegetable oil

17.  Vinegar

1, Nov

The holidays are the time of year when family and friends gather. If you’re hosting guests, you’ll want to have a stocked refrigerator to keep everyone going. In addition to your Thanksgiving meal ingredients, here are a dozen things you should put on your grocery list:

1.     Cheese, such as parmesan or cheddar

2.     Eggs

3.     Butter

4.     Vegetables, such as carrots and broccoli

5.     Hummus (for a quick snack)

6.     Chicken broth

7.     Yogurt

8.     Milk

9.     Orange juice

10.  Mayonnaise

11.  Lettuces and salad extras

12.  Lean protein, such as chicken or fish

29, Sep

Fill your home with the mouth-watering scent of apple pie this weekend. Here’s an easy apple crumble pie recipe:

 

Ingredients:

1 (6 oz.) graham cracker crust

Vegetable cooking spray

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup toasted chopped almonds

2 pounds sliced apples, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom and sides of graham crust with vegetable cooking spray. Bake 5 minutes; cool on wire rack.

Meanwhile, combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in almonds.

Place cooled crust on baking sheet. Spoon pie filling into crust. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over apple filling. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until crumb topping is golden. Serve warm.

 

Source: http://www.michiganapples.com/Recipes/ID/164/Easy-Apple-Crumble-Pie

23, Sep

vicenza-dining

For the past two decades, people have designed their homes to be casual and inviting. Formal dining rooms have been converted into home offices or media rooms, and builders focused on designing open floor plans that combined living and dining.

Well, formal dining is back and so is the formal dining room. This return to elegance and entertaining has brought a renewed emphasis on dining room furnishings. One of the best things about the dining room is that it is meant to be special, and that gives you permission to choose dramatic designs that show off your style.

Here are some ideas for creating a place where you need no reservations:

Sideboard Light

Choose a focal wall. The focal wall sets the tone for the room, so take your time choosing your impact piece. An important piece of art or an ornate mirror would make a beautiful choice.

dynasty-dining-room

Use dimmable lighting. Lowering the lights can help set the mood, but sometimes you want to have a bright setting. Put your lights on a dimmer so you can create the right atmosphere. We love using a statement chandelier or set of pendant lamps.

cambria-dining-room

Pay attention to the flooring. Choose furnishings that complement instead of matching your floor. If your flooring is light-colored wood, for example, choose a darker wood table. Or use an oversized rug to set your furniture apart.

Sideboard Bold

Go for balance. Design the space symmetrically to add to the formal, finished feel. You can also achieve balance by adding pops of color evenly around the room, such as in accessories, artwork or a rug.

20, Sep

dishware

Whether you’re a gourmet chef or take-out aficionado, you’re going to need some plates and bowls. You can simply pick the color or pattern you like, but it’s better to bring home a set that will last.

We caught up with our housewares buyer Emily Faltesek to get expert advice on purchasing dinnerware. She shares three things to consider:

Your Budget

Dinnerware comes in four types of material, and each has a different price point and characteristic.

Earthenware is the oldest for of dinnerware and is made of unrefined clay fired at low temperatures to create a glass-like surface.

“This is the lowest end,” says Faltesek. “The problem is that it doesn’t hold up to repeated use in the dishwasher, and it chips and breaks easier. You may spend less up front but you’re not getting the best bang for your buck.”

Stoneware is more durable than earthenware and is chip resistant. It’s made of refined clay and is fired at a higher temperature.

“Stoneware holds a glaze better than earthenware, and so it comes in cool designs and patterns,” says Faltesek. “It doesn’t chip as easily and holds up to the microwave. If you’re just starting out, stoneware is a good option and a good value.”

Porcelain is more durable than earthenware and stoneware. It offers a glass-like surface, and is fired at higher temperatures.

“Porcelain is made of a material that’s thinner and lighter weight,” says Faltesek. “It’s made from a finer sand, and is sturdy and doesn’t chip easily.”

Bone china is considered to be the strongest and most durable form of dinnerware. It’s fired twice at a higher temperature than porcelain and is dishwasher and microwave safe.

“Bone china is high quality; the finest fine china,” says Faltesek. “It’s super lightweight, durable and chip resistant. Animal bone ash is added to clay which makes it stronger.”

Your Needs

How many pieces you need depends on the size of your family and how often you entertain. Faltesek says enough to serve 12 is a traditional amount to purchase, but this number can be adjusted based on your needs and available storage. Dinnerware is sold in one of three ways:

Boxed sets come in 16- or 20-piece sets and provide service for four. They usually come with a dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, teacup and saucer.

Place settings are the most common way porcelain and bone china is sold. A place setting comes with five pieces: dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, teacup and saucer.

Open stock is dinnerware that is sold by the individual piece. This is a good option for someone who might not need separate salad and bread plates, or if you want to add to what you already have.

Faltesek recommends open stock. “I always buy open stock because if you break a plate or want to replace a scratched add bowl, it’s easy,” she says.

How many different sets to buy is another consideration. “Conventional wisdom says you need two sets: casual, for everyday use, and something more formal,” Faltesek says. “That’s not true anymore.”

Instead, determine if you’re frequently having big formal dinner parties. If you’re not, one set will do.

Your Style

Finally, you need to find dinnerware that represents your personal style. You’ll find options in every color imaginable, but you can never go wrong with white, says Faltesek. “White dinnerware is a big trend, especially in modern style,” she says. “You can use it for any occasion; it’s always appropriate.”

While you can use it alone, white dinnerware also serves as a foundation. “Layer fun colors or metallic with salad plates or bowls,” says Faltesek. “You can be trendy and fun for the season without spending tons of money replacing everything later.”

The best thing to know about dinnerware is to buy what you love. “Have fun,” says Faltesek. “Otherwise dinnerware is just taking up space in your cupboard.”