The Case for Febgiving

Dinner-partyAs we enter the latter half of winter, it can be kind of discouraging to know that there’s not much holiday-wise to look forward to. All of the big ones have already passed, and the “fun factor” of Valentine’s Day isn’t quite as universal as we’d like to believe. Thus, it may be good for our collective mental health to consider a new holiday that’s been catching on: Febgiving!

At its core, Febgiving is a holiday for gathering up your friends and family to have a day of warmth and celebration despite the bitter cold. Consider it as a sort of pre-party for the end of winter and a surefire way to combat the season’s blues. Modeled on the luxurious feast that defines Thanksgiving, Febgiving, like most good holidays, is simply an excuse to eat and drink well in the presence of people you care about.

Not sold yet? Though the benefits to Febgiving are literally unending, here are a few choice reasons for you to jump on the bandwagon.

You don’t have to deal with tradition
Am I alone in my hostility toward whole roast turkey? It’s one of my least favorite dishes, but having a Thanksgiving dinner without it would invite endless scoldings and complaints from people who are devoted to it for the sake of tradition. That’s why Febgiving is so great: there aren’t centuries of tradition to deal with, so you can do it up however you want! Cook up a nice porchetta, some brisket, or quiche as your main dish instead — it’s all up to you!

You don’t have to invite everyone
One drawback to the major winter holidays is the feeling that hanging out with not-so-nice family members is mandatory. It’s sort of the price you pay for eating all of that good food. Since no one’s heard of Febgiving, you’re freer to decide who gets to come over and celebrate with you. You can make it a friends-only affair, or dine with a few close cousins instead of the whole clan.

Traveling is easier in February
Anyone who’s flown or driven to relatives’ homes during the winter holidays knows that it can often balloon into a huge expense. You have to budget for inflated airfare, airport snacks to eat during the inevitable delays, and extra gas for bumper-to-bumper traffic. The good thing about February is that it’s one of the slower times for interstate travel: you’ll get where you’re going faster and cheaper than in November.

It makes February a little less lonely
Though Valentine’s Day can be a lot of fun for couples, the flipside of it is that it tends to leave unpartnered people in the lurch. And since Valentine’s is really the only holiday in February, it can make the whole month feel like kind of a bummer. With Febgiving, you can extend the spirit of love to everyone in your social group, regardless of whether they’re coupled or not. Everyone wants to feel loved; especially in February.

Leftovers!
Do I even need to explain this one?

Soleil is a former chef, with an encyclopedia of recipes floating around in her head. Nowadays, she applies her culinary expertise to the wonderful world of fancy picnic baskets.

5 Tips to Decorate Your Kitchen for Any Holiday

Decorating a kitchen for the holidays is a constant struggle between practicality and festivity. You want to add fun touches, but you also need to keep the space usable and clutter-free. Here are tips for holiday decorating that will help you spread the cheer while still spreading that mayo on sandwiches for school lunches. Try these 5 decorating tips that can be translated to any holiday décor, from the Fourth of July to New Year’s Day.

Go Above the Cabinets
Don’t waste that valuable space above your cabinets! This is a prime area for some festive fun that is out of the way of the kitchen’s day to day hubbub. If you are not already using the space for storage (which is completely understandable), start using it for decorations.

Here are some items you could add for various holidays:Holiday-kitchen
• Garlands
• Small collectibles
• Framed artwork
• Pottery
• Figurines
• Baskets

Think how cute a collection of nutcrackers would look. Or, imagine Easter baskets with eggs and a watchful Easter bunny. Just don’t fill the space too much, or else it will cluttered and tacky. Choose items wisely, and space them out across the cabinets for the best effect.

Dish It Up
Dishes aren’t just for eating off of—they are the perfect tools to spread holiday cheer. Try hanging a collection on a wall, and then switch some out for different season. Display beautiful pieces on open shelving or in glass-front cabinets. Or here’s a novel idea—actually use holiday dishes to eat. Any meal (even leftovers) becomes more exciting with fun dishes. Check out craft or department stores to buy them, or make your own with easy transfers or vinyl images.

A Little Linen Love
What kitchen isn’t laden with dish towels, tea towels, napkins, and tablecloths? The idea for this tip is to transform things you already need and use in your kitchen into festive additions. You already use towels in your kitchen, so why not make them a decoration, too? Spread out a tablecloth on your table or counter top. Hang some towels on your oven handle or a hook. You can add a lot of color with only little space, while adding high utility. You can even make your own holiday linens with some flour sack towels and simple embroidery (plus a few details like buttons or fabric scraps).

The Central Affair
Add an easy centerpiece to your dining or kitchen table. The best centerpiece is one that is easy to change between seasons and holidays. Have a few foundation pieces, like a tray, a monogram letter, and a few large apothecary jars. A tray is a good way to contain the space, and it’s easy to remove the centerpiece for meals. To change the scene for different times of year, fill the jars with different items. For Easter, fill the jars with plastic eggs and pastel candy. During Halloween, drape with spider webs and flying bats. At Christmas time, add ornaments or candy canes.

Don’t Forget the Food
Remember what the kitchen is about? Oh yeah, food! Use the function of the kitchen to inspire its décor. Food is a perfect reflection of seasonal changes. Strawberries call up thoughts of sunshine and summertime, apples remind us of autumn and new school years, and pomegranates and oranges bring Christmas and winter cheer. Simply display fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter. You can also add more holiday-inspired items like frosted sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day, dried corn and gourds for Thanksgiving, and gingerbread for Christmas.

Your kitchen doesn’t have to give up its functionality for festivity! Use these tips to decorate for any holiday in a few easy steps. You’ll wow your friends with your constantly changing (but super easy) décor throughout the year.

Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose pride and joy is her family. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, and sharing her experiences with others. Melanie loves decorating her home (especially for the holidays) and renovating, and enjoys working with Always Plumbing & Heating to make sure her home is in tip-top shape.

Image Credit: homedit.com

Pinteresting Picks for November

Savvy Do-It-Yourselfers and Décor enthusiasts know that Pinterest is the go-to destination for fresh and innovating ideas for the home. At Lakeside, some of our most popular pins for the month of November have given many homeowners excellent ideas for adding a nice touch to their homes. The holidays are nearly upon us and homeowners love the fact that they can add beautiful accents from our For the Home section.

For-the-home

Items here include accent lighting for almost any area or location in your home, picture frames, and much more! The great part about our For the Home section is that is that our items are great for year-round decorating situations. Whether you are looking to spruce up your dining room, living room, or other multi-purpose room, this section has everything you need for the holidays, and any other time of the year.

lighted-garland

Sometime it’s important to consider décor for the season, as well. For instance, many of the top pins for the month are from our holiday decorations section.  Whether you are considering shopping for yourself, or shopping with others in mind, this amazing section has items suited for both large and small homes. The outdoor décor items allow you to put together an amazing display for yourself and your neighbors.

On the other hand, if you are merely looking to add indoor home décor with holiday flair in mind, Lakeside still has you covered with our holiday décor section. Find the perfect combination of items to decorate your tree, and make it a holiday season to remember for you and your family. Pinterest is great at showing you how your table could look with the proper tableware and intricate decorations. Even the best food will lose some of its luster if it’s not showcased properly. This is definitely an area in which we could all improve! So make the most of your holiday meals, and pay attention to your holiday tableware this year. Everyone will wonder how you made it look so incredible.

baby-set

Toys have been really big on Pinterest lately. The end of the year always wraps up so quickly, from Halloween onward. First, it’s Halloween, and before you know it Thanksgiving break comes around. By the time we’re over our holiday feast it’s already time for Christmas, and New Year’s Eve celebrations. If you are looking for a great gift for a child who is notoriously hard to shop for, then the Toys & Sports category is specifically made for you.

You can find puzzles here that will even intrigue sharp and intelligent children. If you are looking for gifts for someone a bit younger, or a bit older, you can still be sure you’ll find exactly what you need in this category. Combine all of your shopping in one place to save as much time and money as possible. So why not avoid the long lines, the returns, and hostile shopping conditions this year? You could go shopping anywhere, but wouldn’t it be great to do it all from the comfort of your own home? Lakeside’s Pinteresting picks for the month are a great place to start!

10 Christmas Party Games For Kids You Definitely Should Consider

Kid-Christmas-gamesChristmas is a very joyous time and is particularly fun for kids, who don’t have to go to school, get to have fun in the snow and receive presents. There is a lot of good food and plenty of sweets and the house is decorated and lit up, so you can expect the little ones go a little crazy with excitement. There are a number of great Christmas party games that you can play with your kids to give them a more creative and constructive outlet for all that extra energy.

1.Crafting presents

Kids love to get creative and use different materials and tools to craft unique items. You can use this fact to your advantage and kill two birds with one stone – just set up a crafting area where kids can draw, paint, make sculptures and have them create presents for each other as well as other family members. They can even create cute Christmas tree ornaments.

2.Gift wrapping and Christmas tree decorating

Have the kids help out with the preparations – they will have fun, your job will be a bit easier and you won’t have to worry about them running around the house while you are doing the decorating. You can use items that the kids have crafted as tree ornaments or decorations around the house. You can also hang up their paintings around the house.

3.Hidden treasure

Get up a little earlier in the morning and hide a couple of toys or bags of candy (you can use those chocolate gold coins as the perfect treasure) around the house or yard and prepare little hints in a form of a riddle or an encrypted treasure map.

4.Snowman competition

Divide into teams and see which team can build a snowman the quickest. You can switch up the rules and judge the quality of the snowman or the size, see who can build the most mini-snowmen in a couple of hours or build the best snowman family.

5.Building a snow fort

This one requires some space in your backyard and a lot of snow, but it is incredibly fun and you can use the fort to play tons of different games. It will take a good part of the day to get it right and you can customize the fort gradually over the next few days.

6.Snowball fight

The fort can be a perfect setting for a snowball fight – one team can defend it while the other attacks or you can play capture the flag, where you have to get the opposing team’s flag back to your base to win a round. Alternatively you can just make it a free-for-all and have everybody play against everyone else.

7.Sled racing

Sled races are some of the best fun you can have in the winter, for both kids and adults. Just make sure the hill you are sledding on isn’t too steep. The kids will already be wearing multiple layers of clothing and thick jackets, but  you don’t really want to have to worry about anyone getting hurt.

Captain-America-Costume

Image Credit: www.costumecollection.com

8.Dress up

Since you will need to get your kids dressed in layers of clothing, it is a great idea to make a game out of it. Hey, even Superman wears his costume underneath regular clothes, so you can buy a superhero costume and some superhero-themed socks, hats and underwear for them to wear instead of the boring plain clothes. Getting dressed will no longer be seen as a chore – it will be something they can’t wait to do.

9.A Christmas play

Speaking of dressing up, you can organize a small costume party and have the kids act out a short play. It can be something Christmassy with reindeer and Santa; it can be an epic battle from one of the latest superhero movies; it can be about medieval knights and dragons and so on. You can even get the kids to work with you on the play and help with set design and choreography.

10.Fun with Santa

Of course, no Christmas party would be complete without Santa Clause. You can hire a Santa, but it is much easier and cheaper to just rent a Santa costume and have a family member wear it. .

There are a lot of fun things you can do around Christmas and the most important thing is to give the kids some way to apply themselves in a creative manner, while keeping it safe.

Image Credit: womenontheirway.com

3 Amazing Holiday Potluck Ideas

The holiday season is practically synonymous with the traditional potluck. Nobody wants to be the third consecutive guest to arrive with yet another 7-layer dip, so what should you actually bring along? If you’re running low on time and creativity, don’t worry – these holiday potluck ideas are sure to win the party over.

The trick to mastering the potluck is to think outside the box – with so much food being served, as a general rule of thumb, lighter is better. With that being said, here are some amazing seasonal salads that are a breeze to prepare.

Orange and Pomegranate Salad w/ Buttermilk Dressing

Orange-pomegranate-salad

Image Credit: brooklynsupper.net

Combining seasonal flavors like bright citrus and rich pomegranate, these fruits pair beautifully with a creamy buttermilk dressing. Although simple by nature, this salad is loaded with flavor.

Start by preparing the dressing. Here’s what you’ll need,

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon shallot (minced)
1/2 teaspoon minced
rosemary
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Grab a mixing bowl and start whisking the zest, juice, mustard, vinegar, buttermilk and olive oil together. As it starts to blend together, add in the shallots, rosemary and sea salt.

Finally, prepare the greens. Here’s what you’ll need,

1 large offering of spinach
3 oranges
1 large pomegranate
1/2 thinly sliced shallot
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
A dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Delicately peel your oranges making sure to preserve the citrusy flesh. Chop these slices about ½”. Next, pour your fresh dressing over the spinach and gently use your hands to ensure the greens receive an even coat.

Finish off this holiday salad with strategically placed orange slices and drizzling the lush pomegranate seeds throughout the greens, leaving room for the shallots. Top it off with the fresh rosemary, sea salt and pepper and you’re set to go. Delicious!

Ginger Spiced Pecans

Sweet-spicy-pecans

Image Credit: savoryspiceshop.com

Perfect for the holiday season, ginger spice pecans make an easy offering for the holiday potluck – something your company will find every bit delicious as they do accessible. If you’re dish is really pressed for time, these sautéed pecan halves are a happy compromise.

Grab yourself a nonstick frying pan and these other ingredients,

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Pinch salt

Begin by melting butter within your nonstick pan over medium heat. As it melts, add in the pecan halves and allow them to cook, making sure to stir them. You’ll want these to brown, which, depending on your stove, shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

Using a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, ginger and salt. After a quick mix here, add these ingredients to the cooking pecans making sure you continue to stir. Avoid cooking this all together for too long as the sugar will eventually melt away from the pecans.

Finally, allow the baked pecans to sit out and cool on a cookie sheet setup with wax paper. This should allow the coat to properly adhere to the skin. Transfer your pecans in a bowl and you’re ready to go.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut-squash-risotto

Image Credit: thisweekfordinner.com

If you’ve been tasked to bring along something a bit heavier and you’re comfortable in the kitchen, there’s nothing quite like a great risotto. The butternut squash adds a terrific seasonal twist to a proven potluck favorite.

Here’s what this recipe calls for,

2 cups of butternut squash, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Begin by placing your squash within a steamer over a saucepan. Add some water and cover the squash, bringing it to boil over medium-high heat. You’ll want to steam the squash till tender, generally around 10 – 15 minutes. Afterward, drain the water and mash the tenderized squash in a separate bowl.

Place your butter in the saucepan and melt it over the same heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, making sure to stir until the onion softens – you don’t want to burn it. When beginning to cook, add the rice. Cook this mixture until the rice starts to glisten and the onion edges start to brown, generally an additional 5 minutes.

Carefully pour your white wine in, constantly stirring the mixture until it has completely evaporated. Stir in your freshly mashed squash and add 1/3 of the chicken stock. Reduce the heat and cook until the rice absorbs the chicken stock, typically around 5 -7 minutes.

Add the remaining chicken stock and continue to stir. Repeat the previous process, allowing the rice to soak and add your remaining chicken stock. The risotto should appear creamy before you add the Parmesan cheese and other seasonings.

Happy holidays to you and your potluck company!

This article was written and prepared by Tyler Thursby, a self-proclaimed foodie and contributing author for Crooked Manners

Decorate Your Home for Halloween with These 10 Tips

Halloween-DecorationsHalloween costumes are for more than you and your kids; your home also gets a scary new look when you decorate for the holiday. This year, make Halloween extra special with these spectacularly spooky decorating tips that are ideal for impressing party guests, trick-or-treaters and anyone who visits.

1. Create a focal point for every Halloween scene

Decorating experts recommend making a favorite piece of furniture or art the focal piece for a room, and the same design concept holds true for temporary decorations at Halloween. If you have a favorite decoration or hand-created centerpiece, use it as the inspiration for the decor around it.

2. Give guests a dramatic entrance

Your front porch, door and foyer set the tone for the rest of your house’s Halloween finery, so make an impact where it counts with decorations up front.

3. Lighting sets a mood

Things that go bump in the night seem spookier in eerie, subdued lighting. At the same time, keeping lighting levels too low affects safety for trick-or-treaters and party guests, so look for ways to light it up while sticking to your Halloween theme. Lighted decorations, such as this ghostly ground-breaker, are perfect for lighting your Halloween event.

4. Make your own decorations

Nothing puts a fun new spin on Halloween decorating like coming up with your own wreaths, tabletop displays and centerpieces. Old clothes, some straw and newspapers can become your very own scarecrow. Cut your own bat shapes out of construction paper. Whatever you decide to craft, start early, so your decorations will be ready for Halloween.

5. Incorporate nature in your decorating scheme for Halloween

Naturally warty or oddly shaped pumpkins and gourds have character, especially when you group them together. Find bare branches from your backyard to serve as a spooky take on floral arrangements.

6. Add surprises throughout your home

Party-goers don’t stay in one room, so add a few Halloween touches to the kitchen, restroom, and back porch or patio. Anywhere that guests might see should get a few fearsome touches.

7. Use age-appropriate decorations

For households with small children, some Halloween decor is a little too gruesome for comfort. While the kids are little, stick to friendly ghosts and smiling jack-o’-lanterns like these cheery porch Halloween light covers.

8. Appeal to all the senses

Your decorations may offer spooky sights, but don’t forget to add an equally eerie soundtrack to your Halloween display. Halloween scents such as pumpkin and candy corn evoke memories of the holiday for guests. If you’re really ambitious, add a fog generator for atmosphere.

9. More can be better

If one pumpkin on your porch looks good, then a row of them will look great. When you multiply decorating elements, you increase their impact. Some items work best as stand-alone displays, especially if they’re large and dramatic, but for smaller items, grouping creates an interesting tableau.

10. Go with your tastes

Picking decorations that suit your style will give your Halloween decorations a unified feel. This Medusa Halloween decoration would look right at home on an elegant mantel. If you’re fond of country style, decorate with scarecrows and straw bales.

However you choose to decorate this year, shop Lakeside’s selection of Halloween goodies for your home and make it your best spooky season ever!

Image Credit: apartmenttherapy.com

Lakeside Selection: Our Choice of Favorite Items for the Week

It’s never too early to start thinking about the holidays, and one of our favorite ones, Halloween, is coming up soon! Get everything you need to make your home and yard look gorgeously gruesome for Halloween today, and you’ll have plenty of time in October for planning parties, creating costumes, and adding cute or creepy finishing touches to your decor. If Halloween’s ghosts and ghouls aren’t your style, you’ll also find beautiful seasonal decorations to celebrate autumn. No matter how you decorate for October, you’ll find what you need.

Every Halloween display needs a focal point, and we love this skeleton decoration for its weird and whimsical charm. Just because he’s passed on doesn’t mean he forgot how to take life easy, so he’s found a comfortable spot to relax for a spell. This sleepy skeleton’s chest rises and falls as he snores in his hammock, perhaps resting up for a big Halloween night. His hammock is 8 feet long, so it’s a large enough piece to be the center of your yard’s display. Add a spotlight or two to show him off, and you’ll have one of the most unusual decorations on your block.Interactive-skeleton-hammock

Halloween is about more than spooky skeletons, though. With this cheerful Halloween bunting, you’ll get in the spirit of the season while still keeping your decor friendly enough for the littlest kids. Made of durable polyester fabric, the bunting is perfect for a porch rail, a deck or a fence. At almost 60 inches across, this adorable hanging makes an emphatic statement. Choose from jack-o’-lanterns in festive fall hues of orange and black with green accents or a trio of cheerful, bow-tied ghosts. If you have plenty of space to cover, choose both – they look great together or separately.

Halloween-Buntings

If your kids’ trick-or-treating days are behind them, or if you prefer a more sophisticated take on Halloween, try these oddly elegant lighted Halloween urns to flank your door or adorn your porch. Welcome guests to your Halloween party in style with these black, molded plastic urns filled with bare branches and twinkling lights. Choose from traditional Halloween black with miniature orange lights or an elegantly eerie purple with blue lights. If you prefer, you can mix and match them to create a dramatic setting for your next Halloween party. Each pair of urns is over 22 inches tall, so you can also use them as a towering tabletop arrangement or near your fireplace.

Lighted-Halloween-Urns

Halloween is also harvest time, which is why we’re showing off these sweet garden decorations for your yard. These painted metal pumpkins stake into the ground and give your front or back yard a festive touch that works for Halloween, Thanksgiving and beyond. Pair them with hay bales to impart a country harvest look to your yard.

Garden-decor-fall

Whether your Halloween style is cute, creepy or comforting, we have your look! Get started today, and you’ll have the best-looking display in your neighborhood. We’re always getting new stock in, so check back often to see what else we have in store for the holidays.

Lakeside Selection: Our Choice of Favorite Items for the Week

You don’t have to be a wizard to appreciate the charm of owls, and this week, we’re paying homage to our feathered friends. The big-eyed birds have long been considered symbols of wisdom, and the Greek goddess Athena had one as her companion. To many Native American tribes, they symbolized the spirit and represented protection. In the 1970s, owls were a hugely popular design motif; their earthy tones, mystical connotations and striking eyes made them irresistible to artists. Today, the resurgence of retro style and the phenomenal sales of the Harry Potter books have made owls a new style staple.

Owl-throw-pillow
If you love all things owl-related as much as we do, you’ll find a tremendous selection at Lakeside. From jewelry to coffee cups, owls adorn everything, but we decided to focus on home design because we think you’ll want to surround yourself with these adorable owls every day.One of our favorites, this colorful licensed Milo owl throw adds eclectic style to any room in your house. In shades of turquoise, mint green, cream, brown and brick, it goes with practically any decor. Vintage hues and modern softness make it the perfect fusion of style and substance. Made in North Carolina, the cotton and poly throw will keep you warm for many falls and winters to come. If you’ve already fallen in love with the throw, get the matching poly-filled pillow and add a touch of whimsy to your den or bedroom. Curl up under this warm throw and settle your head on the pillow at the end of a long day. You’ll see why we love these owls so much.

Owl-bath-ensemble
You’ll find more owl art for the bath with this owl friend bath ensemble that features feathered friends on every album from the shower curtain to the toothbrush holder. Rich, warm browns, sunny yellows and turquoise tones dominate, but you’ll also find accents in green, orange, pink and white to go with everything. We’re especially taken with the ceramic owl-eyed shower hooks that have tiny red jewel-like accents, but every piece of the set looks great together or separately. Give your bathroom an instant makeover with the complete set, or pick just a few accents to freshen a guest or master bath. These owls also make sensational housewarming or hostess gifts, so consider picking up extra items for the holiday season.

Owl-pillow-rug
Colorful and cuddly, these Owl rugs and pillows are an adorable accent in a child’s room or a whimsical addition to your own bedroom. Choose from earthy browns and tans, bright blues and purples, or cheerful yellows and aqua. Each pillow comes with a zip-out liner form under the soft, plush cotton pile pillow cover. The rugs can also go in the wash and come out as bright and soft as new, making this set ideal for nurseries. Choose matching sets or mix and match them to create a personalized look.Whimsical, wild and wise, owls make adorable accents in your home, and you’ll find a fantastic selection of them here at Lakeside!

5 Entertaining Tips Everyone Should Know

Party season is right around the corner, and we have some great party tips to make your next get-together memorably festive. Whether it’s your turn to host an office party, a birthday celebration or just a good excuse to have fun with friends, these tips will provide you with what you need for success.

Tiki-torches 

Pick a Theme

Holiday parties have a built-in theme, but even if you’re hosting a mid-week gathering for no particular reason, coming up with a concept for decorations, drinks and food can help you create a festive atmosphere. Luau and tiki themes are always hits for backyard barbecues, but don’t feel constrained to popular party ideas; you can go as wild as you like with your concept. Guests will be charmed with a Mardi Gras masquerade or a retro party with dishes and drinks from vintage cookbooks.

 

 

Handled-bakers

Cook Ahead

When you get most of the cooking done ahead of time, you give yourself more freedom to enjoy entertaining. Instead of spending your party in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on some complicated dish, plan a simple, straightforward menu of foods you know your guests will love. You and they will remember the fun more than the food, so prepare something elegant and easy. Lasagna, roasted chicken and macaroni and cheese are a few possibilities.

Cookware that looks and performs beautifully, such as this set of three handled baking dishes, lets you assemble and store entrees or side dishes the night before and pop them in the oven shortly before guests arrive. They go straight from the oven to the dinner table, saving you another step and giving you more time to spend with your guests.

Pillar-candle-light-string

 

Make It Inviting with Light

What makes a chic nightclub or formal restaurant special? In many cases, it’s the lighting, not the decor, that makes the difference. Try some special effects with lighting to make your next get-together magical. Outside, try stringing colorful paper lanterns or white fairy lights above your deck or patio. Interior spaces take on a beautifully warm and welcoming glow with candles. Kids and pets don’t always get along with candles, though, so choose child-friendly alternatives such as this electric pillar candle light string for part of your table design.

 

 

Create a Play List

Create-list

Music makes a party, and you have more options than ever for music that complements your theme. Internet radio stations have hundreds of stations with dozens of exciting musical genres from which to choose. You can even find music from favorite television shows or movies to play as background music for a season finale party or Oscar night. For holiday parties, look for unique takes on classics; an album of vintage Christmas music, for example, makes your party memorable and will get people talking.

Candle-warmer

 

Appeal to All the Senses

You’ve already decorated, cooked and chosen the music, but don’t forget to make an impression on your guests’ noses. Bouquets of fresh flowers, incense or candle warmers have the staying power to perfume the air for hours without coming on too strong. For a dinner party, choose scents that go well with food and won’t overpower the meal, such as vanilla or spice fragrances. A summer cocktail party might call for something exotic and tropical.

Entertaining can be as much fun for you, the host, as it is for your guests when you plan. Start thinking about creative, fun party ideas today, and you’ll be set from now until the new year!