Home & Garden: Home for the Holidays

The smell of wassail brewing on the stove, family gathered around the fire, and goodies baking in the oven. The sights, sounds and smells of the holidays take us back to warm memories and cheerful thoughts.

With Christmas fast-approaching, many of us are preparing for company. Whether it’s overnight visitors, small dinner parties or huge events, we all want our guests to feel welcome and comfortable.

“Follow your senses. Sight, smell, touch, taste and sound are what Christmas is all about,” said Julie Fost, Interior Designer and owner of J Fost Interiors. One of the best ways to bring instant cheer into your home is through comforting aromas. “This can be achieved by baking cookies, candy or breads.”

If you have the time, home stager Debbie Mason of Staged by Design, encourages whipping something up in the kitchen. “Nothing makes a home feel welcoming like that of fresh baked goodies. Through the holidays, I bake a lot and always have plenty on hand when guests arrive. If you don’t have time for baking, there are great candles and plug- ins that have the smell of pumpkin pie baking. And there’s nothing wrong with using the pre-made cookie dough.”

“A sure way to make your house smell like Christmas is with the pungent aroma of pine. Christmas trees, evergreen boughs and garlands are perfect for this,” said Fost. Potpourri will do the trick too. “When using potpourri, cinnamon and cranberry scents work well for Christmas and make the house smell wonderful when you don’t want to spend time baking.”

Inspirations Tea room can help you find the perfect scent to fill your home. Owner, Larry Rhoads says, “We’re the largest retailer of Tyler Candles. Scents for the holidays include Homecoming, Family Tradition, Hot Cinnamon Spice, Holiday Berry, Candy Cane and Eggnog. We also have warming pots and wax for a flameless way to add aroma,” he said. Cookie, hot cocoa and wassail mixes can also be found at Inspirations to help simplify holiday food preparation, as well as Christmas CDs to add ambiance.

“Music makes any event complete,” says event planner, Debbie Ritter of That’s A Wrap. “I especially enjoy playing holiday CD’s of local artists playing classical guitar, harp and strings. Some nice background jazz works all year long. When you can close your eyes and the music ‘takes you there,’ it’s the right thing to be listening to.”
“Fill your home with music of the holiday,” said Mason. “If you can’t purchase a great CD you love, local radio stations play holiday music from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.”

When you’re preparing for company, Fost offers simple advice. “Dim the lights, put garland up, fill bowls with fruit and fill the house with candles and Christmas lights. Cook up a fragrant meal and play a Christmas CD,” she said.

After your home is decorated to your satisfaction and your guests begin to arrive, Ritter advises having a greeter. “Someone to stand just inside the entrance and shake hands, recognize guests, and immediately make them feel welcome and comfortable.”

“Try to say something personal – if you don’t know them well, comment on their accessories and mean it. That will make them feel like they are glad they came, put them in a social mood, and help them want to make conversation with the next person,” says Ritter. Be natural and make eye contact to put them at ease.

“My single most important rule is to be ready and have everything prepared before my guests come to the front door,” says Mason. “I am more relaxed and can enjoy their company and I am a better host.”

“Nothing is as important as the way in which you receive people into your home – the true sense of hospitality,” says Rhoads. “People get so stressed out about having company and it’s evident to their guests. Coming together is a time for strength – to build friendships and family relationships.”

Making your home feel warm and inviting for your guests doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. It’s as simple as keeping your guest’s needs in mind and appeasing the senses. Fost says, “Remember, you are assured success if you engage the senses!”

To host your event at Inspirations Tea Room, call 715-2525. To reach Julie Fost for interior design call 330-6407. Debbie Mason can be reached at 642-6541 for home staging. Event planner, Debbie Ritter can be contacted at 201-2898.

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Julie’s English Wassail Bowl

Ingredients:
1 orange, sliced
10 to 12 whole cloves
3 quart bottles of claret
1/2 cup sugar
1 (4”) cinnamon stick

Directions:
Stud orange slices with cloves. In a saucepan mix sliced oranges, claret, sugar and cinnamon. Cover and heat to almost boiling and simmer about 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve hot. Makes 14 (4 oz.) servings.

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Debbie Mason’s Illian Bars

Ingredients:
14 oz caramels-paper removed
2/3 cup of PET evaporated milk
1 German chocolate cake mix
¾ cup melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans
16 oz. chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven 350 degrees. In a heavy sauce pan, combine caramels and 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Melt, stirring constantly, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine dry cake mix, butter, 1/3 cup evaporated milk and pecans. Stir. Press ½ of the dough mixture in the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Spread melted caramel over chips. Crumble remaining dough over caramels and bake for 15 – 18 minutes. Do not over bake! Cool and cut into squares.

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