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Designing a Simple Yet Elegant Holiday Celebration

By Kerrie Kelly, ASID

When it comes to the holidays, weekends book up fast with cocktail gatherings, office parties and kids’ events. An impromptu get-together can make for a refreshing change of pace for the winter season. Even if you have simply procrastinated, it’s okay. Follow these simple tips to get your home ‘holiday ready’ within a few days’ time!



Invite guests electronically. Time is of the essence, so going the digital route will save you the delay of snail mail and the cost of invitations and stamps. An invitation from a service such as Evite or Paperless Post reaches guests instantly and makes RSVPs much easier on short notice. With all the hip designs available, you’ll have no trouble finding one that suits your personal style and event.

Clear the clutter. Get rid of mail and bills that may be lying around your drop zone areas. File important papers away and ditch the catalogs that may have piled up in kitchen and desktop areas. You won’t want any of these personal items getting in the way of the flurry of kitchen activity. This is also a perfect time to wipe down countertops, backsplashes and appliances.

Liven up libations. Replenish your bar basics such as gin, vodka and scotch, and layer on a supply of beer, wine and sodas. Don’t forget mixers, lemons and limes and other staples such as olives and tonic. Prepping these items, such as lime wedges and lemon twists, just before your event will ensure a festive effortless evening. If you would rather streamline the offering, a signature cocktail for your event is always well received.


Make room in the fridge. Make plenty of space for a turkey or a tray of hors d’oeuvres. Toss out expired food, clean out storage containers and polish off the splash of milk at the bottom of the carton. Give the fridge shelves a good wipe down, too. This one preparation activity can truly assist with the chaos of the kitchen, specifically.

Attack appliances. Wiping down the interior of that forgotten microwave is a given. Running a clean cycle on the oven and dishwasher may not be as obvious—it can be embarrassing to you and guests to open a food-splattered oven when trying to warm foods. Also, wipe down the drain areas and run the garbage disposal to ensure it is in good working order.


Decide on furniture and seating arrangements. Play around with the furniture layout to find the best flow for your gathering space. If you are hosting a sit-down dinner, think through where to place guests—who should get to know each other better and who should possibly “hold court” at the head of the table? You could even make simple place cards if time permits.

Keep food simple. Without a lot of time to plan, it can take a lot of pressure off to go with a streamlined menu that includes a mix of prepared and homemade dishes — for example, pick up a baked ham that’s ready to serve and pair it with your favorite go-to salad or vegetable recipe. Make as many items ahead of time as you can while still keeping things as fresh as possible. For a party, you could also focus on a simple theme, such as a brunch buffet or a hot chocolate bar.


If you’d rather let your local market or gourmet shop do the cooking, many offer prepared meals with all the trimmings. Order early in the week to give them time to accommodate you and use your own tableware or serving-ware to give it a nice presentation.

Prep the tableware. Pull out the good china, polish silver and press the linens. Make sure you have enough plates, glasses, flatware and serveware to suit the food you plan to offer. Don’t hesitate to buy some inexpensive extras like festive napkins, straws and swizzle sticks, if necessary. You can set the table or arrange the buffet a day or two in advance, then drape a lightweight sheet over it to keep dust off until party time.

Add in some flowers. A week should be plenty of time for a florist to create the arrangements you want. However, DIY-ers can play with loose blooms and vases to come up with their own custom creations from the garden, too. A simple arrangement of boughs and berries can provide a fresh scent and dramatic look.


Make a holiday playlist. Use iTunes or Spotify to create a holiday collection that sets the mood. If you feel as though your musical taste has gotten a little lackluster, browse premade holiday playlists and download some new tunes to shake things up. This small detail can really set the tone for your soiree.

What other tips do you have for a quick prep of your home before a holiday party?

Kerrie Kelly is an award-winning interior designer based in California who writes about kitchen décor for Home Depot. Kerrie seeks to inspire homeowners with her designs, and her planning tips for organizing your kitchen are just in time for the holidays. A wide variety of other kitchen design ideas can be found on Home Depot’s website.



How Smart Are Your Appliances?

 by Courtney Soinski

What if your dishwasher knew how dirty your dishes are?  What if your oven actually made you a better cook?  Can your refrigerator help you surf the web, play music, or make a phone call for you?  What if your cooktop regulated the heat under your pan for even cooking?

Whether you’re selling a home as a consumer or real estate professional, kitchen appliances are a big deal.  According to ratings collected by CNET, here are the top five kitchen appliances in high demand right now:

1. Dishwasher:

dishwasherWhirlpool WDL785SAAM – Want a dishwasher that knows how dirty your dishes are?  This unit is included in Whirlpool’s line of 6th Sense Live smart appliances and includes a “sensor wash cycle” which uses Whirlpool’s Auto Soil sensor and the water clarity to determine how dirty the dishes are. Depending on the reading, it may automatically add more water and adjust the temperature accordingly.  The WDL785SAAM is a tall tub, built-in dishwasher with two removable racks and a stainless steel tub, which holds heat better and is more energy efficient when compared to other dishwashers.



microwave2. Microwave:

Panasonic NN-SD997S – For a solid, good looking microwave, this high wattage, mid-price range stainless steel unit with blue LED display gets good reviews and has a large capacity.  The sensor functions are reported to do their job well and best of all, it’s a good deal.

Looking for more in a microwave? Check this Microwave Buying Guide. Newer options include a microwave in a drawer, super convection types for browning and new inverter technology so you can finally poach salmon and make fluffy omelets in your microwave.

3. Oven:

ovenDacor Renaissance 30″ Double Wall Oven – Can your oven make your a better cook?  CNET’s taste testers unanimously preferred the food cooked this oven over all other ovens they tested!  On the high end price-wise, this double oven is a critic’s fave.  They say you’ll have a hard time finding one with a better and more powerful cooking performance.


4. Refrigerator:

Samsung 4-Door Refrigerator with 8″ Wi-Fi Enabled LCD – This refrigerator syncs with the Galaxy S5 and Note 3, your television or your wifi connection so you can browse morning headlines, search recipe sites, stream music, or watch TV.  It will also keep your milk cold and your ice frozen with a 28 cu. ft. capacity, adjustable shelving, Twin Cooling

SamsungPlus” system, FlexZone” drawer with variable temperature control settings, along with the 8-inch LCD touchscreen.


5. Cooktops:

Bosch Benchmark induction and gas cooktops.  The newest innovation to stovetop cooking, induction stovetops from Bosch feature “FlexInduction” cooking with two separate cooking zones that can be combined to fit larger pots and pans.  The AutoChef temperature control supposedly holds a steady cooking temperature without fluctuating so food cooks more evenly.  Plus, it’s a pretty good looking cooktop.

Whether  you’re a master chef – or need all the help you can get, these hot appliances will add value to your kitchen and your home.




Brrrrrr! It’s cold outside! Three Yummy Drink Recipes to Warm You Up!

Trying to stay warm?  Here are some yummy ways to warm up!!

Here’s some recipe links –

Creamy Hot Cocoa

Creamy Hot Cocoa Recipe

OMG Homemade Marshmallows (They only take 15 minutes to make)

Slow Cooker Hot Apple Cider (Your house will smell wonderful!)

Slow Cooker Hot Spiced Apple Cider - With just four ingredients (okay, five if you decide to spike it with your favorite rum) this Crock Pot mulled cider recipe couldn't be any easier to make.

Reese Witherspoon’s Instant Spice Tea Recipe (Have this on hand for to warm up quickly!)

Reese Witherspoon's Spiced Tea

Grab a book, a blanket, and a cup of one of these goodies and you’ll stay toasty and warm!

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