Follow me on Twitter! Do you have a pretty product you'd like to recommend for this blog? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Host the most unforgettable holiday party with help from our savvy hostess guide Source: Tracey Ayton
We asked the experts, consulted the pros and tapped into the minds of the most talented to create the ultimate handbook for the holiday hostess.
THROW THE PERFECT PARTY
The dos and don'ts of throwing the perfect party: Find out the ultimate dos and don'ts for throwing a fabulous holiday party from the expert.
SERVE THE PERFECT DINNER
Mark McEwan's 5 tips to serving the perfect dinner: Celebrity chef Mark McEwan is no stranger to dinner parties - both hosting and attending them. Here, he shares his secrets to serving in style.
SET THE PERFECT TABLE
Holiday table setting 101: Easy tips to go from boring to breathtaking
CREATE THE PERFECT COCKTAILS
4 must-try classic cocktail recipes: You may not be a mixologist, but these signature drinks will have guests convinced you've been taking secret bartending lessons.
Drink recipe: Grapefruit rose mimosa: This refreshing grapefruit mimosa makes the perfect holiday brunch beverage.
Drink recipe: Ginger pear Bellini: Serve your classic Bellini with a twist by adding sugar pear and ginger liqueur.
Drink recipe: Satsuma sparkle: Freshly squeezed satsuma gives this champagne cocktail its signature fruity flavour.
Drink recipe: Blackberry lime fizz: Serve this fresh and flavourful champagne cocktail at your upcoming holiday party.
DECORATE THE PERFECT GUEST ROOM
How to decorate the perfect guest room for the holidays: The experts dish their tips on preparing for overnight guests this holiday season.
GIVE THE PERFECT HOSTESS GIFT
14 great gift ideas for the holiday hostess: Get holiday party ready with these gift ideas for your holiday host.
10 things to throw out now
10 things you need to get rid of to unload and update your home.
12 organizing ideas that will change your life | 5 ways to conquer clutter hotspots | 10 quick clutter busters
Does the traffic jam of clutter in your home feel more oppressive than ever? You've likely already started thinking about a plan to tackle the easy stuff-cleaning the house from top to bottom, donating clothes you no longer wear to charity, clearing out the garage. (Well, at least the thinking part is easy.)
But here's a list of things that you may not have realized are cluttering your surroundings just as much, adding to the overload of outdated or just plain excess "stuff." Add these to your to-do list, and you'll be surprised how much space you'll free up-not to mention the mental freedom that comes from letting them go.
1 Outdated technology
You probably have one (or more) computers, TVs, DVD players, VHS recorders, cassette decks or other rusting electronics stored away in your basement. What are you waiting for, the return of the eight-track machine? Old electronics can be recycled or disposed of in an environmentally friendly way at the local transfer station. (In the case of computers, be sure to wipe the hard drive completely first for security reasons. Many office supply and computer stores will do this for you for free.)
2 Old files
Whether you have a working home office or not, chances are you have a file cabinet filled to overflowing with old files and paperwork. Most of it you don't need to keep. If you do, scan the papers and store them electronically. Then put the rest in the recycling bin (shred it first if it contains sensitive information). Tax returns should be kept for seven years; after that, you can get rid of them with a clear conscience.
3 Bedding and mattresses
Even top-quality mattresses only have a life span of about 10 years; if yours is older, it could be the reason you have that nagging backache in the morning. If you can fold your pillow in half and it stays folded, it's ready for the pillow retirement home. While you're at it, go through your linen closet; old sheets and towels that are no longer in fashion, no longer match your decor or are torn or faded should be recycled.
4 Smoke/carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers
Over time, smoke detectors get clogged with dust, pet dander or simply become less sensitive. Also, the efficiency of newer models is higher, making periodic replacement (every 10 years or so) a good idea.
5 Medicines and vitamins
If you no longer have the affliction the medicine was prescribed for, or vitamins (or over-the-counter medications) have expired, they should be safely disposed of.
6 Makeup and nail polish
Rare indeed is the beauty queen who doesn't have a bathroom drawer filled with dried-up nail polish or makeup that's worn out, nearly used up or the wrong colour. Out it goes.
7 Coat hangers
Metal coat hangers have a way of multiplying. Determine how many you really need and toss the rest. They should be recycled or taken to the transfer station.
8 Books, CDs, DVDs, vinyl LPs
If you're a culture vulture, you probably have a large collection of one or all of these (except perhaps LPs, unless you are of a certain age.) Go through them and recycle or donate anything that no longer interests you, and free up room for all the new ones you're probably going to buy. In the case of DVDs and CDs, download them from iTunes (or similar streaming services) from now on.
9 Anything chipped or broken
I have a teapot I purchased at Value Village years ago that's lovely, except for the little chip on the spout that makes it unusable for tea. If I can part with that, you can part with the cracked coffee mug that you rarely or never use, or the flower vase that's a beautiful colour but leaks.
10 Excess furniture, rugs or chairs
In some cases, old furniture can be repaired, reupholstered or repurposed, but if, realistically, you're not planning to do it any time soon, donate it to charity (or if really beyond repair, take to the dump). Old rugs, unless they're heirloom quality, take up a lot of room when they're rolled up. Alternatively, if your old pieces are too nice to throw out, put them on Craigslist and turn your clutter into cash.
12 stylish gift wrapping ideas you can do yourself
Create your very own stylish faux bois-inspired holiday gift wrap. For the full look and all the details click here.
A cheery colour scheme uses sky blue to temper the ubiquitous holiday red. The shades play off each other to create a happy holiday palette, while the traditional use of bows and ribbons is perfectly at home in the mix. For the full look and all the details click here.
True to her happy-go-lucky style, design assistant Morgan Lindsay created a colourful array of wrapped presents that are guaranteed to put a smile on any recipients’ face. For the full look and all the details click here.
The natural look has never appeared as good as on these subtle, sophisticated gifts. Whether it’s brown-paper packages tied up with string or gift wrap crafted from a page or two of a vintage book, understated elegance is the name of the game. For the full look and all the details click here.
Drawing inspiration from our favourite of-the-moment wallpapers, we designed our very own gift wrap, and you can too! For the full look and all the details click here.
Green never gets old during the holidays, especially when it comes in all kinds of lovely variations of shade and texture. For the full look and all the details click here.
A little old-fashioned, a little modern and a lot of style. Lace-like details give style and food editor Tara Ballantyne’s packages a handmade feel, while hits of neon keep the look contemporary and fun – perfect for a season that both embraces tradition and celebrates new endeavours. For the full look and all the details click here.
Create your own pretty snowflake wrapping paper inspired by one of our favourite of-the-moment wallpaper designs. For the full look and all the details click here.
Indulge in a spate of whimsy this season by choosing a colour palette that’s out of the holiday ordinary. This combination of white and bubble-gum pink brings new life to the tried-and-true basics we’re – maybe – too used to seeing. For the full look and all the details click here.
The combination of dusty rose and dove grey brings a sense of youthfulness to these Christmas presents that’s sweet but not saccharine. Senior style editor Ann Marie Favot skilfully combined patterned papers, string and stickers to create a fun, fresh take on holiday gift wrapping. For the full look and all the details click here.
Always one to bring on the glamour, Jessica Waks gave her gifts a decorator’s touch. Her signature graphic palette of black and white with hits of gold is sophisticated and a perfect match for the dazzle of the holidays. For the full look and all the details click here.
Lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs gives her home a fresh look for Christmas. Credits: Tracey Ayton
For lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs, Christmas is all about sentiment and style. Here are 12 ways she pulls off a fresh look filled with meaning to commemorate a family milestone.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without family and tradition, sure, but in Monika Hibbs’s home, Christmas also wouldn’t be complete without her signature styling. Based just outside of Fort Langley, B.C., the blogger, who has quickly become a master of holiday decor, switches up her style almost every year. But regardless of the theme, these aspects always remain: A classic look and neutral scheme, metallic touches, a hint of whimsy and sheer covetability. Seasonal styling is a talent Monika has honed since she was a little girl. “Even when I was young, I loved adorning the tree and wrapping gifts,” she says. “Plus, my mom always let me be in charge of floral arrangements and tablescapes.”
Now that Monika has her own family (including hubby Troy, three-year-old Liam and 11- month-old Lillya), she shares the tasks with her children. “Liam’s really into it,” says Monika. “He decorates cookies, hangs ornaments and arranges the manger.” Though Lillya is too young to get involved, her arrival just two weeks before last Christmas inspired the entire feminine theme, executed with dusty rose-hued accents like tea light holders, wrapping paper and delicate raw silk ribbon.
Holiday decorating with the kids isn’t the only tradition the Hibbses have – they enjoy hot chocolate by their outdoor fireplace in the evenings and always make time for charity. But a highlight is taking the Bright Nights Christmas Train through Stanley Park with Troy’s family. “There’s around 60 of us – we fill the whole train,” says Monika, noting that the park is lit with millions of lights – perhaps the perfect place for this family-oriented champion of Christmas who also happens to have a penchant for sparkle.
1 Lifestyle blogger and unofficial queen of fresh and elegant holiday decor Monika Hibbs has three main tips for trimming a tree: Start with a colour scheme (“You don’t have to use every ornament in your box – save the ones that don’t suit your theme for another year,” she advises); instead of buying one-off ornaments, go for groups of three for visual impact; and organize them by category (like glass balls or felted figures) before hanging them to ensure balanced distribution.
2 “There’s something special about a fire this time of year,” says Monika. The one here in her family room is not the only staple flame of the season – tea lights are strewn on surfaces throughout the house, and the outdoor fireplace plays host to many a morning coffee or evening cocoa. “I love a fire’s warmth and random crackles, which add to the magic of the holidays.”
3 Style meets sentiment in chic pieces that commemorate family milestones, such as the decorative houses arranged on Monika’s fireplace mantel. “Each one represents a huge moment for us, from the purchase of our first home to the construction of this one,” she says. “And I write a note on the bottom of each so I never forget.”
4 Monika doesn’t switch out much of her everyday decor come Christmastime. In fact, furniture placement, artwork and accents mostly stay the same, save for a few toss cushions that get traded for more festive ones.
5 When it comes to garlands, Monika goes all out: She orders a massive length of fresh cedar (last year it was 75 feet!) to string along her banister, mantel, exterior trim and garage. She starts by measuring everything she wants to adorn and then adds an extra foot of cedar for every four feet to accommodate swag. Here, the garland is garnished with eucalyptus, cypress, pine cones and raw silk bows with cascading tails for a fresh, feminine look.
6 “You don’t need to cook an entire sit-down dinner for each of the season’s many parties,” says Monika, who prefers to prep for a holiday drop-in with comfort foods like homemade apple pie. “It’s elegant but cozy,” she explains.
7 Roses may be unconventional Christmas flowers, but they’re perfectly suited to Monika’s pretty-in-pink theme. “Originally, I wanted this piece to be a garland that wrapped around the whole range hood,” says Monika. “But it didn’t look right, so I downsized the idea. It’s perfect proof that sometimes less is more.”
8 A simple wreath hung with thick ribbon serves as another example of less is more and offers a wink of holiday spirit in an otherwise unadorned area.
9 Sparkling rosé served in pink champagne coupes underscores the holiday colour scheme, while whimsical details like frozen-rose ice cubes and sugared cranberries are easy and inexpensive ways to add serious wow factor.
10 No matter her holiday scheme, Monika tends to stick to neutrals when picking gift wrap. “I usually choose paper with subtle patterns, such as snowflakes or polka dots,” she says. “But I always wrap the kids’ presents in something more playful.”
11 Born six weeks after the Hibbses moved into this house and two weeks before Christmas, baby Lillya was the main source of inspiration for the home’s festive decor last year, marked by the powder pink and dusty rose accents with feminine touches. Monika purchased the “Hello Lovely” ornament in honour of Lillya’s birth to serve as a beautiful reminder of when they welcomed her into the world.
12 From the Fort Langley, B.C., shopping bag to the plaid scarf and blanket to the warm winter boots and even the skull mount, there’s always a hint of Canadiana in Monika’s winter decor.