It’s better to give than to receive – sage advice we should all be following, especially during the holiday season. This nugget is doubly important to bear in mind when shopping for your next Yankee Swap soiree.

I know I can’t be the only one who suffers from severe shopping anxiety when it comes to finding the perfect communal gift. Your purchase is bound to change hands multiple times throughout the night, so it needs appeal to everyone.

Whether you’re shopping for family or friends, men or women, or a mixed bag of the aforementioned, show up with any of the following and your gift will be the envy of the evening.

Wine. You really can’t go wrong when it comes to gifting a bottle of vino. Stick to classics like Malbec, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Riesling to accommodate even the most discerning of taste buds. Dress it up by pairing your bottle of choice with a set of new wine glasses or wine charms to adorn the neck. Voilà! Instagift.

Gift cards. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone at a party who won’t appreciate saving a few bucks on their everyday staples. Coffee, music, and book purchases all fall under this umbrella, but feel free to get creative – try filling a decorative coffee mug with eye-catching tissue paper and resting the gift cards on top.

Think cozy. Pair winter-friendly items together to create an irresistibly comfy gift set. A fleece throw and a lightly scented candle will make the weather outside seem not-so-frightful.

Gourmet touches. The holiday shelves are stocked with plenty of tasty, pre-packaged gift packs. From hot cocoa to pastry mixes, there are more than enough appetizing options out there for aspiring chefs (or anyone with a sweet tooth). Find a unique bowl or platter to jazz up your presentation.

By Lauryn Paiva, Staff Writer

What are you bringing to your next Yankee Swap? Share in the comments below or tweet us at @ruelala.

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December 6, 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

 

The latke. (Or, if you must, the “potato pancake.”) It’s the ultimate Hanukkah comfort food, and everyone has their very own “best” way of making it. Here, peep how we whip up this savory holiday treat in the Berliner household (then replicate with abandon). From my family to yours, enjoy.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

6 potatoes (I swapped a white potato for a sweet potato, but don’t tell latke traditionalists)
2 large eggs, well-beaten
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
Oil for frying

Directions
1. 
Peel and coarsely grate potatoes, then throughly press all liquid out of them.
2. Toss all ingredients together, and refrigerate to keep cold.
3. Heat oil on medium-high in a frying pan, then add batter by spoon to oil without crowding. Gently flatten with a spatula.
4. When latkes are crisp and brown on both sides, remove and drain on paper towels.
5. Reheat in oven just before serving, if necessary.
6. Serve with sour cream, applesauce, or both. Tip: make your own applesauce. It makes all the difference. (This recipe is to die for.)

By Joanna Berliner, Editor 

Have a favorite holiday recipe? Share it 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 3, 2012

Ah, Christmastime in New York City. There’s nothing quite like it. The glittering lights on the Rockefeller Center tree. A chill in the air as you saunter from destination to destination, steaming cup of cocoa in hand.

It’s one of my fondest childhood memories (even the four-hour car rides were met with giddy anticipation). So I was thrilled to hear we were pairing up with luxury charity auction site Charitybuzz – which has raised more than $65 million for nonprofits worldwide by auctioning exclusive access to the world’s biggest celebs and brands – to offer a holiday-in-the-city experience to remember. Think a private dance lesson with the Rockettes, tickets to see them perform at Radio City Music Hall, a behind-the-scenes tour, and (oh-so-much) more.

It’s must-see, must-do New York at its best – and, as if that phrase didn’t already contain enough musts, I’ll throw in another plus: benefits go to a nonprofit charity, Garden of Dreams.

Since its inception in 2006, Garden of Dreams has worked closely with all areas of The Madison Square Garden Company to help make dreams come true for children facing obstacles. Creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and beyond, they’ve helped more than 215,000 tri-state area children persevering through illness, homelessness, poverty, and tragedy.

An unmatched holiday experience that benefits a cause? I can’t think of a better way to channel the spirit of the season.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular Experience opens Monday, November 26, at 11AM ET.

By Joanna Berliner, Editor 

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November 24, 2012

Sure, the turkey is still waiting to be devoured, but it’s never to early to start planning for the biggest Internet shopping day of the year. Cyber Monday is rapidly approaching, and this year, we’ve stocked the big day with too-perfect gifts for everyone on your list (think of it as our own little gift to you).

 

So here are our can’t-miss Boutiques, sure to get that list all checked off early – and of course, easily. (Who couldn’t use a little more easy?)

8AM ET:

This one should already be on your radar. At 8AM, we’re starting our Today’s Fix: Special Holiday Edition Boutique. 24 (incredible) Today’s Fixes in 24 hours? Enough said.

11AM ET:

We’re kicking off our favorite hour with a bang – and a luxurious one, at that. Vintage Rolex and Cartier watches, SOREL winter shoes (for the whole family), Barbara Bixby jewelry, and Yves Saint Laurent – classically luxe clothes, shoes, and accessories for both men and women. Plus, we’ve put together a few of our very own Gift Boutiques, practically overflowing with hand-picked gifts for men, women, and children. There’s something for everyone – and trust us, these gifts will be fondly remembered for years to come.

But we’re not done yet. Not by a long shot.

Continue reading “Rue Sneak Preview: Cyber Monday” »

November 22, 2012

They’re almost here: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Haven’t been plotting your plan of attack all year? Not to worry – here are my best tips. After 14 years in retail, I’ve seen (and shopped!) it all.

Black Friday:

  • Scour Black Friday ads after stuffing yourself with turkey on Thanksgiving. Chances are you won’t nab everything on your list, so you’ll want to target the items that are at the top.
  • Heading out to the stores at midnight? Be sure to make a big mug of coffee around 10PM. That way, you’re sure to stay wide awake while standing in those long lines with your finds.
  • When waiting in said lines, double your shopping by checking out all the Boutiques Rue has at 11AM and 3PM from your iPhone® (you have our app, right?) or mobile device.

 

Cyber Monday:

  • Go big. Appliances and electronics usually have deep discounts on Cyber Monday – and it’s easier to put that 40″ LED TV in a virtual cart, rather than having to lug it through an actual store.
  • Get your fix – as in Today’s Fix – all day. Rue will have 24 must-have gifts for everyone on your list. It’ll also be a good time to start finding gifts for yourself, too (’tis the season)!
  • Take advantage of shipping deals like our Rue 30 to maximize convenience and savings (that’s the time to throw those fuzzy slippers into your cart).

 

Even after Cyber Monday, online holiday deals are plentiful, but here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Shipping time frames. Most sites will give you an idea of when an item will be shipped out (on Rue, the “Ships in” information is below the “Add to Bag” button). This will be essential for the party dress you need before the big night. Look for upgraded shipping options when you need to. All Rue Boutiques will have the “Guaranteed for Christmas” treatment on applicable items.
  • Return policies. Generally, e-tailers and retailers give you a little leeway in case Nana thinks you still like sweatshirts with kittens on them. Always take a peek before ordering – sometimes items like lingerie are final sale and can’t be returned. (Rue lets you return non-final-sale items until January 15, 2013.)
  • Gift messaging. Sometimes it’s available, sometimes it’s not. Be sure to note which gifts you may need to send a corresponding card with. Making sure that the perfect gift is finished off with a “thank you!” is what holiday shopping is all about. You can write notes to your lucky recipients on Rue by clicking “Yes” on the checkout screen – right under your payment information.

 

By Amy Bootier, Corporate Concierge

What are your Black Friday and Cyber Monday tips? Share them in the comments below or tweet us @ruelala.

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November 22, 2012

Tree ornaments are a great way to celebrate all of life’s milestones – big or small. From your first Christmas to your most recent great purchase, look to ornaments that are sure to be passed down for generations.

 

The 12 Days of Merry: Christopher Radko Ornaments Boutique opens Wednesday, November 21, at 11AM ET.

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November 21, 2012

Every year those holiday check lists get bigger and bigger. And knowing what to get for each person on the list? It’s a challenge in itself. (Never mind actually scoring the right things before they sell out.) That’s where our Brookstone® Boutique steps in. From movie buffs and wine connoisseurs to the iPad® obsessed and anyone who’s ever lost their keys (guilty), stock up on these high-tech extras for a season’s worth of go-to gifts. Promise: you’ll get total gift-giving glee from watching the lucky recipients’ faces when they unwrap these oh-so-fitting gadgets.

Our Brookstone Boutique opens Sunday, November 18, at 11AM ET.

By Brianna Lapolla, Staff Writer

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November 18, 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

November 1. Can you believe it? I swear last week it was summer. But alas, here we are – and I’m already starting to think about all the glittering, butterflies-in-your-stomach-inducing wonders of the holidays.

First up? Thanksgiving dinner. This year, impress guests with more than that expertly basted turkey thanks to these five tips for your best tablescape yet. (Trust me, Pinterest-perfect is possible. It just requires planning.)

1. Find your inspiration. Pinterest is rife with Thanksgiving tablescapes – from the simple to the lavish. Start a board online, or print out your favorites and create your own real-life “pinboard.”

2. Settle on a color scheme, then go from there. Bronzey brown, white, and silver. All white with touches of gold and cream. This year, I’m all about warm, spicy colors and shimmery metallics paired with cream or white, but don’t be afraid to play with bold color. Rich turquoisey blue really pops against a rustic farmhouse table.

3. Brush up on table setting rules. Remember what your mother told you: Forks go on the left, spoons and knives on the right, placed in the order that they will be used. Visualize it here.

4. Layer, layer, layer. There’s no rule against layering tablecloths. Try a neutral tablecloth underneath a gold or lush brocade runner. I’m also a firm believer that two (or three) plates are better than one. Start with a charger, add a dinner plate, then finish the look with a salad plate. Bonus points for varied colors and patterns.

5. Don’t forget the accents. Think place-card holders and candles. Find them in today’s Boutique or make your own. For place-card holders, stencil miniature pumpkins with guests’ initials or first names, or try a variation on these whimsical little animal figurines. Simply spray-paint turkey or bird figurines gold or white, add labels, and voilà. I also love these DIY gourd votives that Emily, one of our lovely Rue staff writers, taught us how to make.

Find everything for that perfect Thanksgiving tablescape – plus cuisine, cookware, and more – in our Feast of Thanks: Serve the Guests, Feast of Thanks: Let’s Eat, and Feast of Thanks: For the Cook Boutiques, opening Thursday, November 1, at 3PM ET.

By Joanna Berliner, Editor 

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November 1, 2012