Have a horde of house guests coming for the holidays? (Can’t they just stay in a hotel? Kidding, kidding. We love them.)

Don’t panic. The Home Sale has everything – and I mean everything – you need to make every out-of-towner feel at-ease and leave ever-impressed. Here are a few quick tips to get you started.

Bedding
Tuck some crisp sheets in tight and load up on the pillows. It’s probably a tad chilly outside, so leave a few extra blankets stacked on a chair, just in case. Guests are always apprehensive about asking for things (even when we tell them to make themselves at home).

Coffee & Toast
Is there anything better in the morning? (Okay, maybe pancakes.) But there’s no need to go overboard – you’re probably preparing the big dinner feast. Have coffee brewing, offer some fruit or toast, and take them to your favorite breakfast diner.

The Bar
Keep it stocked. Come 3PM (it’s the holidays, we don’t judge), someone will be jonesing for eggnog, and you’ll be ready with the rum. From ice buckets and decanters to every type of cocktail glass and goblet, this Boutique has everything you need to become the world’s best host(ess).

Our Get Ready, It’s a Big One: The Home Sale Boutique opens Friday, December 7, at 3PM ET.

By Julia Ivins, Staff Writer

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December 7, 2012

Even if you feel prepped and ready for the most wonderful time of the year, there’s always room for a little extra holiday merriment. As the weeks of winter progress, here are some creative decorating ideas to add some cheer to your home (before the relatives arrive).

Tree-mium Seating
Working with less-than-ideal square footage? (Or just have lots of gifts to give?) Host a smaller tree on a sideboard, coffee table, or – if it’s a tiny tree – mantel. Feel free to choose an unexpected color palette, like Eddie Ross’s blues and greens (or golds), then coordinate your wrapping paper and ornaments for pleasing décor the whole season through.

Card Collection
For years, my family hung holiday cards from friends and family around the kitchen door – with tape. Now that my mother has a mantel, she decided to rescue the paint on the walls by creating a mitten-themed cardholder with string and colorful clothespins – kind of like this one. Or, welcome guests in style with a wrought-iron or modern metal trellis decked in ribbon-tied cards and displayed with a wreath hanger.

Sweet Tooth
There are oldies-but-goodies – loading one coffee-table dish with edibles and a corresponding bowl with bright, round ornaments, for example – but for a change of (decorative) pace, try filling attractive glassware with white sugar, mini marshmallows, and old-fashioned candy sticks, or crafting candy topiaries with mints, gummies, foam, and quick-dry glue (substitute double-sided tape to make future snacking easier).

Festive Lighting
You can’t go wrong with candles. Create some ice vases, fill them with tea lights or votives, and pair them with a burning yule log – be it in your fireplace, or on your TV or computer screen.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

What are some of your favorite, tried-and-true decorating ideas? Share them in the comments below or tweet us at @ruelala.

Not a Member and like The (Style) Guide? You’ll love Rue La La. Join now.

December 5, 2012

With each generation, things change – holiday dinners are hosted at a different person’s house, or a meal that was traditionally a sit-down affair evolves into a buffet-style free-for-all. And as tradition shifts, so does hosting etiquette. What still applies to the modern-day gathering? Here, find four classic etiquette myths – and the modern truths behind them:

Myth #1: Traditional holiday menus are a necessity.
Who says the holiday potatoes have to be mashed rather than roasted, baked, or scalloped? You’re the host – so feel free to change up your dishes and recipes. Just be sure to share your menu plans with any traditionalists (or vegetarians, or guests with food allergies) who might protest. If it won’t be a real holiday dinner to your mother-in-law when she can’t have her favorite fig-preserve appetizer, let her bring it.

Myth #2: The bar must be stocked with every kind of alcohol and mixer.
It’s not always feasible to keep a bottle of every liquor known to man. Relieve the pressure by mixing up a signature sangria or cocktail for the event, just like at a wedding reception. Stock the ingredients for that one drink, plus a couple of different beers and both red and white wines. Add a few essentials – vodka, rum, tequila – for guests who like it straight or on the rocks, and you’ll have something to please everyone.

Myth #3: Paper and plasticware should always be shunned.
It is true that linen napkins, matching plates, and attractive silverware are the norm for a fancy dinner. But if you’re hosting family and friends in a more casual setting – especially if children are involved – it’s not uncouth to go disposable and lay down some colorful paper napkins, high-quality paper plates, and those metallic-hued plastic forks. Just stick to your décor’s color palette and give thanks for having fewer dishes to wash.

Myth #4: The more elaborate the better.
Rather than setting the table with every fork and spoon in the set – widely considered an outdated (and confusing) practice – it’s more than okay to start with only enough to get guests through the main course. Cutlery for later courses, like a dessert spoon, can be offered along with the dish. Also, a simple yet thoughtfully designed table can be more functional and just as beautiful as an elaborate setup.

Remember that entertaining has one primary goal: pleasure, for your guests and yourself. Do what is comfortable, fun, and thoughtful – regardless of any supposed “rules” – and you can’t go wrong.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Have any other classic hosting wisdom you love to ignore? Sound off in the comments below or tweet us at @ruelala.

Not a Member and like The (Style) Guide? You’ll love Rue La La. Join now.

November 28, 2012

Turning Thanksgiving dinner into a buffet-style extravaganza is a surefire way to ease tension when you’re home (and hosting) for the holidays, especially when the meal itself takes days to prepare. Spend less time cleaning and more time eating – and let guests fill up on as many waistband-stretching helpings as they please – with these self-serve tips.

Location, location, location.
Be creative with your table placement. If you have both a kitchen and dining room, it’s easy to create separate zones for serving and eating. If not, you can host the buffet on a wooden sideboard, a dresser, a desk – or even a door propped up on sawhorses and covered with a floor-length tablecloth. Just try to keep the table away from the wall so guests can access it from all sides, and set up the décor and serving dishes the night before.

Define your color palette and style it seasonally.
Floral arrangements need not apply. Instead, take cues from seasonal bounty and style the table with gourds, grapevines, or crab apple branches. You can also place clustered vignettes (try any combination of rose hips, artichokes, beets, eggplants, mini pumpkins, and sweet peppers) between your serving dishes for a dazzling, colorful spread. If you’re craving candles, choose the flameless variety – no one wants a side of smoking sleeves with their sweet potatoes.

To create additional serving space, stack vintage wooden cheese boxes or bricks wrapped in cloth napkins, then place your platters and décor on different heights to spur visual interest and increase functionality. Just keep it classy, not cluttered, and make sure everything is stable. You can even move décor to baskets on the floor, mantel, or side tables to make more room for the all-important food.

Continue reading “Holiday Entertaining: Thanksgiving Buffet Tips” »

November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Turkey, cranberry sauce, basic stuffing, mashed potatoes. If eating the same thing every year (no matter how tantalizing the tastes) sometimes gets you down, try adding a new dish to your Thanksgiving spread. One or more of these scrumptious sides – straight from our tables to yours – could be the answer. Just click on the titles below for printable cards to add to your recipe box.

Serve in contrasting-colored dishes – orange-hued stuffing in a turquoise bowl, for example, or nice, dark green beans on a bright red platter – for a table that’s as attractive as it is delicious.

Chorizo Corn Bread Stuffing
Makes 4 – 6 servings
“This sweet, savory, and spicy take on stuffing is a hit year after year. Use organic or all-natural sausage to boost the health factor – and the flavor.”

Ingredients
1 pound hard chorizo, diced
1 white onion, diced
1 large carrot, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 cups corn bread, crumbled
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions
1. Cook chorizo in a skillet over medium heat, about 5 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
3. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to the chorizo and cook until the vegetables have caramelized, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the corn bread, chicken stock, and cilantro. Mix until the bread is just coated – not too dry, not too wet.
5. Transfer to a buttered casserole dish and bake until heated through and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Continue reading for Firemen’s Potatoes (Potatoes au Gratin), Classic Baked Acorn Squash, Tarragon-Almond Green Beans, and Apple Cake recipes.

November 14, 2012

Planning ahead is the key to breezing your way through the holiday season. Once you’ve decided on your plates, serveware, and menu, it’s time to set the table – and crafting your own napkin rings is a simple and fun way to add personality and style.

Prep Your Holiday Table: DIY Napkin Rings

Photos courtesy of Miki Duisterhof via Eddie Ross (left, right) and Heather Rowley via The Creative Patch (middle).

Bold Texture
You can create a variation on these ribbon napkin rings to spruce up white or cream linens. Coordinate with your holiday table’s colors when you select your ribbon, trim, and burlap, and add buttons, lace, or vintage jewelry. If you love the idea of crafting with jewelry as much as I do, Eddie Ross’s vintage brooch napkin rings will help you outfit your tablescape in luxurious, textured style.

Thanksgiving Harvest
Bring a harvest feel to your Thanksgiving dinner table with acorn napkin rings. All you need is a drill with a tiny bit, some thin craft wire, and about ten acorns per place setting. Pair the rings with red or orange cloth napkins, then add acorns to your centerpiece to complete the rustic feel. You can also use some ribbon and a pearl for a different take on the same idea.

Holiday Hosting
As the go-to host, head into dinner-party season armed with festive wreath napkin rings. The small grapevine wreaths and holiday-hued ribbon should be available at any craft store. If your color scheme is more winter-themed – white, blue, or silver – try these jingle bell napkin rings to combine whimsy and class.

For the kids’ table, you can’t go wrong with Santa belt napkin rings – and they come with the added benefit of enticing youngsters with an arts and crafts project at the kitchen table while you baste the turkey or carve the holiday ham.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer 

What’s your favorite holiday-table DIY project? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @ruelala. 

Not a Member and like The (Style) Guide? You’ll love Rue La La. Join now.

November 7, 2012

While December may reign as the month of holiday cheer, much of it wouldn’t be possible without its supporting act, November – the ultimate month of festivity prep.

In the name of said prep, here’s a list of what exactly Rue has to offer this month that’ll cater to your holiday needs – be it entertaining, gifting, or finally replacing those sheets on the guest bed.

24 Hours of Today’s Fix. Yes, you read that right, and yes, we’re talking about that Today’s Fix. From 8PM Thanksgiving Day (November 22) through 8PM Black Friday (November 23), a new Today’s Fix will launch every hour, on the hour. The twist? The most coveted items (“it” bags included) will go live at the oddest of hours. (If you happen to be standing in a checkout line before sunup, though, and your phone bears the Rue La La app, perhaps those hours will be the best of hours.)

Get Gifty: Our Holiday Gift Shop. While this one was introduced a few days ago, a refresher never hurts. Think of it as your one-stop gift-getting destination, open 24/7, all holiday season long – and with every last member of your gift list in mind.

12 Days of Merry. As in, “My true love gave to me…” indeed. While partridges in pear trees won’t be found in these Boutiques (blame transportation logistics), holiday décor musts – think ornaments, wreaths, gourmet goodies, and more – most certainly will be. The event kicks off Saturday, November 10, at 11AM ET, and will continue for 12 whole days (just as the carol instructs, of course).

By Sarah Stanley, Staff Writer

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November 7, 2012