Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vivid colors return in time for new year

I'm working on my list of things to mention when the conversation turns to New Year's resolutions and things of note from the year passing.
The best news, to me, is the return of bright colors. That trend will continue, as neutrals move to a back seat. Plums, purples and lilac tones are darlings for 2014.
The timing for this switch couldn't be better, as far as I'm concerned. Who wants to be surrounded by beige in an economy that's still sputtering along? Bring a cheerful tone into the room, and suddenly, everything around it seems to have more life and energy.
My resolution for next year is to learn how to operate my digital camera. I've been using point-and-shoot mode since I got it months ago. I signed up for photography classes at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. (See details here.)
All of you Facebook friends, no need to worry that the classes mean you'll have to put up with pictures of my morning yogurt parfait or victory shots when I've cleared a weedy section of my garden. Those pictures are already stored in my phone.
Speaking of smartphones, I spent more time than ever with technology in 2013. Maybe you can relate. We come home from a day at a computer only to pick up again – laptops, smartphones and tablets. I'm adjusting. To make that easier, maybe next year. I'll get a new case for my phone – something in a very bright color.

Sullivan:; @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Festive table doesn't need holiday motif

You’ve dusted off the family recipes, taken inventory of the pantry and fridge and carefully mapped out where you’ll buy ingredients for the year’s big feast.
But what about the dinner table?
That vague plan you put on a back burner weeks ago needs finishing touches. Without them, the table might look like an afterthought. And we won’t even remind you about the stress that comes with a last-minute scramble.
Here’s a tip that might make it easier: Forget about seasonal color schemes and patterns, says Mollie Rowe, a tableware expert from Juliska. Instead, use what you have to create a display that makes the occasion something special.
Start by clearing the table and setting out a dish for serving each item on the menu. Those main pieces are the beginning of your theme, which you’ll need for focus – and restraint.
“Bohemian shimmer” is how Rowe describes the theme for a table she decorated for B.D. Jeffries’ SouthPark store.
“Bohemian is more of a free will,” Rowe said. “The shimmer is from the gold and platinum plates.”
Her goal was to keep it simple, also working in tones of pewter and bronze. Rowe explains each in this video.

For finishing touches, she said, add only things that energize your theme. When you’re done, don’t hesitate to take a few things away.
“Less is always more in the end,” Rowe said.
See ideas for more traditional holiday table decor in this slideshow.

Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Avoid rookie hostess mistakes

It's funny what we worry about at this time of year. We want everything to go smoothly when family and friends are with us. And we want to lavish those guests in comfort and holiday cheer.
Experts say we should make a plan and lots of lists so the pantry is well-stocked and we're prepared to handle those little emergencies and special requests.
It sounds so simple, but I've learned that there's almost no way to really be prepared when the celebrating starts. So now my personal holiday survival list just covers the basics:
  • Coffee: This is a no-brainer, except that I'm not a coffee drinker. Imagine the disbelief when a house full of relatives came downstairs one morning to find not even a spoonful of mojo juice. I'm not exaggerating when I say those people were scary.
  • Paper towels: Seems to me some people, especially the youngest ones, can't get enough of these. I've seen them used as a dish rack, as place mats and layered to make a pillow for a teddy bear.
  • Firewood: The fireplace is my go-to for bringing everybody together. Just be sure to send an experienced person to the woodpile. You'd be surprised how much of a danger people become to themselves – and their dignity – when they come face-to-face with a small spider or a baby snake.
  • Well-charged smartphone or camcorder: It's the host's and hostess' job to capture the most memorable moments, especially those trips to the woodpile.
Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Stick to a plan when family gathers

What’s most important to you and your family during the holidays? 
Most of us would say it’s being together with relatives and friends. But there are so many things that creep in to change that priority. 
Shopping, decorating, wrapping gifts and preparing for holiday events outside the home can quickly eat away at your time and become distractions, said Laurie Martin, owner of Simplicity, a professional organizing company in Charlotte.
“We get caught up in the cyclone of doing too much and being too busy and we miss the big picture,” Martin said. 
She recommends checking in with everyone before they arrive to decide what to do with the time that you’ll have together. Agree on a plan, write it down and share it with everyone. Avoid other activities and events unless they fit with the group’s priorities. 
“Try not to cram too much into your schedule,” she said. “When there’s less on your schedule, you have more time to appreciate what you’re doing.” 
Here are other ways to keep your focus on the people you’ll be spending time with: 
  • Think of ways to simplify your plan for holiday decorating. 
  • For the jobs that have to get done, find ways to delegate, defer until after the holiday or hire out.
  • Ask everyone to turn off tech gadgets and give their full attention to the people in the room during activities the group agreed on. 
  • Most importantly, during the hectic times, remind yourself again what is most important.

Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter