Monday, December 14, 2009

Setting The Table - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

Over the last few weeks, I have shown you how to create an advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas, how to dress up your home for the holidays, and the best gift ideas for the person who has everything. With the holidays just around the corner now there are parties that need a-hosting, and tables that need a-setting. I love to host gatherings with my friends, from simple cocktail parties to extravagant bashes, and of course, dinner parties with my closest friends are always a holiday favourite.

The Cocktail Party
When hosting a cocktail party, while you may not have place settings, you will certainly need to set out food and drinks buffet style. First, re-arrange your furniture to accommodate your guests and allow them to mingle. It’s best to set up a table for serving against a large wall in the room, instead of in the middle of the room. Set up a pitcher or punch bowl with a non-alcoholic beverage with some highball glasses, a bucket of ice, and some lemons and limes for garnishes. Set out wine glasses, as well as an uncorked bottle of red and white (don’t open too many bottles right away, as your guests may bring you a bottle as well, and it is best to offer to serve their wine first). Serve finger foods that are easy to eat and don’t require utensils, and be sure to provide lots of side dishes and napkins.

The Dinner Party
When hosting a dinner party, how you choose to dress up your table is up to you. Whether it be simple and elegant, or festive, or even themed, have fun with it. Be sure to set the table before your guests arrive. It will help to set the tone for the evening, and avoid the chaos of trying to get it done while entertaining your guests. Set out hand-written place cards for a personal touch, and that way you can choose the seat that you want that will allow you the most flexibility to balance serving with entertaining.

The Black Tie Themed Party
If you are hosting a formal, black tie style party, why not set your table in a black tie theme? Choose a black linen tablecloth, and crisp white linen napkins, with black and white dishware. Compliment with some shimmer, such as silver candlesticks, or a centerpiece of silver and gold ornaments. Add a splash of colour by using a single colour accent, such as red or purple, both hot colours this season.

The Festive Party
If you want to keep it festive, compliment your holiday decorations and set the table with the festive colours that you have chosen for your home. Create a feeling of warmth with candles, and bring out the holiday spirit with pinecone and holly accents.

If you’re attending a hosted party this season, avoid showing up empty handed. While most hosts will appreciate a contribution to the beverage bar, such as a bottle of wine or after dinner liqueur, feel free to bring something more personal instead, something that they can keep and enjoy after the party (see last week’s ATH for some great ideas).

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gifts For The Person That Has Everything - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

I think everyone has at least one person on their gift list that just seems to have everything. So, to help you with your holiday shopping, I have put together some unique ideas. As with all trends for 2009, gifts this holiday season will definitely focus on sustainability and eco-friendly alternatives. I have tried to keep with that theme in these green gift ideas for any budget.

The Classic Candy Dish
A classic. Think outside the dish on this one though, as you don’t need to use the traditional candy dish to hold your sweet treats. I chose a few items that I found at Winners HomeSense, including a vase, 2 different votive candle holders, and a cute, everyday bowl, all ranging in price from $3-$5. The candy was purchased from the bulk food store for relatively cheap, but you can also consider making your own truffles, bark, or cookies to fill the containers. I avoided extra packaging by placing the candy directly into the containers (be sure to hand-wash containers first of course before doing this). As well, instead of wrapping in cellophane, consider a re-usable gift bag, or even a fun shopping tote.

Flavoured Vinegar
This DIY gift is a unique gift with a personal touch, and is great for salads. You will need to start on this right away if you want the vinegar to be done in time for Christmas, as it is recommended you allow it to sit for 2-3 weeks before using. Making the vinegar was simple, and you can find various recipes online. I chose a Cranberry Orange Vinegar, and put an orange rind and fresh cranberries in the bottle for added effect. I scoured the thrift stores for their fun, decorative bottles, and purchased about a dozen in total, all for only $1-$3. Most did not come with corks, but you can purchase new corks online, or simply collect from your family and friends. Some liquor bottles use a cork cap that I found fit most bottles really well.

Re-usable Glass Water Bottle
With all the concerns about the dangerous BPA of re-usable water bottles, consider a glass alternative. While perhaps not ideal for athletes, these are great bottles to take in the car, or use around the house. I found the Aquasana bottles online for around $4 each.

Wine of the Month Club
My brother and I have been giving this gift to my parents for the last several years. When they down-sized their home, they simply did not have the space to put any new knick-knacks or accessories. As well, it’s the gift that keeps giving. Each month, two bottles of wine are delivered right to their door, and include information regarding the wine, winery, and food pairings. There are various levels to choose from, starting at $39/month. For more information, visit

Adopt an Olive Tree
I found this idea in the Nov 2009 issue of Canadian House & Home magazine, and thought it was a wonderful new idea. The price is $116 and with each adoption you receive an adoption certificate and booklet about your tree, a Spring Package containing all the extra virgin olive oil from your tree and an Autumn Package containing a set of three flavoured extra virgin olive oils. For more information, visit

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes