9 Christmas party essentials that make hosting a breeze
First things first: Invitations. Sure, you can send out a text or email to let friends and family know the details of your gathering, but we think that paper invitations that arrive in the mail the traditional way are much more charming. Minted offers a large selection of gorgeously designed invitations that are guaranteed to set the mood for your holiday party. Gilded Botanicals Holiday Party Invitations, Minted, prices vary.
We admit, we’re not fans of the sickly sweet fragrances emitted by many a scented candle, but choose carefully and you can infuse your home with an aroma that truly enhances the atmosphere of your party. This candle is not only a beautiful display item but it also gives off the subtle but authentic smell of a fresh Frasier fir. If you aren’t putting up a real tree in your home, just fake it! Thymes Frasier Fir Poured Candle with Pine Needle Motif, Indigo, $32.
If most of your holiday music is digitally stored on your phone, then you’ll need a speaker to fill your home with the joyful carols of the season. This moderately-priced option is sleek and lightweight and produces high-quality sound. It has a seven-hour rechargeable battery and easily pairs to any Bluetooth-enabled iOS device. Beats by Dr. Dre Pill Speaker, Apple Store, $219.95.
While you want your guests to eat, drink and be merry, you don’t want to find impossible-to-remove water rings or red wine stains on your travertine coffee table the next morning! Help your guests help you keep your home stain-free by making sure everyone has a coaster upon which to place their drink. These leather reindeer coasters are just the thing to add a festive touch to your soiree. Forest Merriment Coasters, Anthropologie, $32 (set of 4).
Your guests will need a napkin or two over the course of the evening, especially if you’re serving finger foods. Skip the boring white napkins and instead, opt for ones that are Christmas-themed. These 12 Days of Christmas paper napkins are perfect for a casual gathering and will add a touch of whimsy to a more formal one. 12 Days of Christmas Napkins, Amazon, $4.19 (package of 20.
Take a more modern approach to champagne this holiday season. Instead of traditional stemmed flutes, serve your bubbly in these stemless glasses, gilded with gold. Each is inscribed with the word ‘Cheers’, making them suitable for year-round use, but they’re particularly perfect for the holiday season. Stemless Champagne Glasses, Indigo, $39.50 (set of 4).
You don’t have to be Tom Cruise to mix a cocktail like a boss. This eight-piece set will turn you into a pro in no time. Complete with all the essentials you’ll need, you may be ready to start moonlighting before the night is out. This set includes a one-quart Mason jar, stainless steel strainer, double jigger, hardwood muddler, ice tongs, a stir spoon and two pour spouts. MakersKit Classic Cocktail Kit, West Elm, $28.
Sometimes it’s the smallest details that are the most impactful and memorable. Dress up your holiday table with these beautiful napkin rings, which are made with gold beads and sequins. Flurry Beaded Napkin Rings, Crate & Barrel, $4.76.
A selection of fine cheeses and gourmet crackers are always a hit at a party. And since cheese stays cooler on marble than most other surfaces, this is a great option. Plus, it also comes with a wire slicer that can easily cut through most soft and hard cheeses. Marble Cheese Board and Slicer, Sur La Table, $11.96.
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
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SERVE THE PERFECT DINNER
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SET THE PERFECT TABLE
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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
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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.
Give your garlic bread an update with this festive snowflake design.
We're taking traditional garlic bread to new heights this holiday season.
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1 Divide the dough in half; shape one half into a ball, folding the ends underneath and pinching at the bottom. Roll the ball on a work surface in a circular motion until seamless. Repeat with the remaining dough.
2 Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and let rise for 15 minutes.
3 In a small bowl, stir together 1/3 cup of the butter, the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the thyme and the pepper; set aside.
4 On a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough ball into a 12" circle. Place one circle on a rimless parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread the butter mixture on top, leaving a 1/2" border.
5 Sprinkle with all but 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan; press gently to adhere. Brush the edge of the circle with a bit of the egg; top with the remaining dough circle, pinching the ends to seal.
6 Preheat the oven to 375°F.
7 Make 20 cuts from the outside toward the centre of the circle, leaving 1" in the centre intact. Take one piece of dough and twist it four or five times; twist the next piece of dough in the opposite direction. Brush the ends of both pieces of dough with the egg and pinch them together to seal. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
8 Sprinkle with the remaining thyme and Parmesan. Bake until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped, about 25 minutes.
9 Brush with remaining butter; let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Prep & cook time: 1 hour
Makes: One 20-piece loaf