Home & Family
Holiday Entertaining Guide
12/1/2017 4:21:29 PM
Christmas Entertaining

Christmas decorating, gift shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning for houseguests . . . whew!  We know how crazy busy the holiday season can be, especially if your plans include entertaining. In this month’s cover story, you’ll find articles with tips and ideas for décor, cards and invitations, and party planning that will hopefully make your holiday hosting to-do list a bit easier. 

Deck the Halls
Create warm, cozy holiday cheer at home with these simple strategies
by Victoria Hartley-Ellender 

Cascading garland, shining ornaments, warm, shimmering lights -- nothing brings a room to life like holiday décor. Preparing your home for the holiday season can bring joy and good cheer to be sure, but the abundance of elaborate themes available can make it difficult to get started. 

Sara Lasher, local designer and owner of Sara Lasher Designs, shares some of her favorite strategies that help pull it all together -- creating the space for laughter, fun memories, and a merry time. 

Lasher provides her services for weddings, events, and special occasions throughout the year, but Christmastime is one of her favorite seasons to decorate. "There’s a certain cheer in the air that only happens during the holidays, and those warm fuzzies are reinforced with décor, food, drink, and music. As soon as the decorations are out, it’s hard for me not to get into the spirit,” Lasher said. 

It doesn’t take much to bring the holiday season to life, according to Lasher, who is a huge advocate for repurposing items that would otherwise be thrown away. "All it takes is a little ingenuity. We’ve used limbs from a tree that needed to be cut back to create a faux mantle for stockings to be hung, and it was the perfect rustic flair for a little bungalow downtown,” she said. 

Some current trends in holiday décor focus on minimalistic color palettes, but Lasher enjoys adding a bit of boldness to the modern style. She explores some of these daring themes on her Pinterest board entitled, "Yuletide Knot Tying.” 

"The inclusion of herbs and cinnamon sticks in tablescapes, greenery suspended from chandeliers, and wood disk chargers are some of my favorite takes on the modern holiday table,” she said. "White, green, and mixed metallic are still very popular for an overall minimalistic color palette, but I love a good dash of oxblood or marsala for those who prefer a bolder look.”

Little inexpensive touches often have the biggest impact in setting the scene for the holidays. If you’re hosting a party, Lasher recommends mixing your holiday theme thoroughly between the décor and menu. "Leftover herbs like rosemary or sage are great when frozen in ice cubes for signature cocktails, and cranberry water looks festive yet functional in a decanter, which is much more pleasing for service than a boring tub of water. The theme should not only show in the invite or the decorations, but also in the cocktails and menu. We have some really great florists and caterers in the area who are happy to help as little or as much as you need. If you are a do-it-yourself’er, the affordable possibilities are endless.”

Greetings with Flair
Make your Holiday Cards and Invitations Extra Merry
by Lauren Atterbery Cesar

With the holiday season in full swing, party invitations and greeting cards begin pouring in as early as December 1, showcasing festive designs and picture-perfect families. 

If you’re hosting an event, whether an Ugly Christmas Sweater party or an elegant New Year’s Eve soiree, take time and choose just the right invitation to set the tone for your entire party. With so many invitation options available, there are several elements to consider.

Sara Smith of The Papersmith in Lake Charles says foil printing and less traditional colors, such as aqua and apple greens, are big this year. "Our customers are going for more fun and splashy designs, however, wreaths, ornaments and trees in traditional reds and greens are a timeless and classic choice. The invitation is a small preview of what to expect at the party, so you should choose one reflective of the event.” 

When choosing holiday cards to send out to your loved ones, photos of children, grandchildren, or even pets have become the focus of recent holiday well-wishes, along with traditional colorful photographs of the whole family. You will find these carefully-chosen pictures framed by gold foil or crimson and black colors touting greetings such as, Merry Everything, What a Year!, or Oh, What Fun, and the occasional spirited holiday graphic. 

If time sneaks up on you and the holidays have come and gone, or maybe you don’t celebrate the Christmas tradition, but you still want to send out special greetings to friends and family, Smith suggests sending out a festive New Year’s card. It’s a fun idea without the added pressure of getting it out prior to December 25.

Some things to consider before you send out party invitations:
  • Mail invitations out two to three weeks prior to the event.
  • Include a phone number, in case guests have questions or need directions. 
  • Include expected attire, if appropriate.
  • Post with a holiday stamp, for a nice touch.

If you’re invited to a party:
  • RSVP if requested.
  • Take a small hostess gift
  • Send a thank you note after the party.

Quick and Easy 
Appetizer and Cocktail Recipes

While we focus on Christmas cheer and the joy of the season, the holidays can also be a bit crazy and chaotic. But your party fare need not be complicated. Easy appetizers include traditional time-honored favorites such as pepper jelly-topped cream cheese and crackers, spiced nuts, and artichoke dips. For something new and different – and easy – try these recipes, courtesy of delish.com. Then whip up some festive holiday cocktails, shared by the L Bar at L’Auberge Casino Resort.

Bloody Mary Bombs
1 c. vodka
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 stalks celery, chopped into 1/2” pieces
3 strips bacon, cooked and cut into 1” pieces

  1. In a large jar, combine vodka, Worcestershire, hot sauce and lemon pepper. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. Poke each grape tomato 3-4 times with a toothpick, then skewer it about halfway up the toothpick. Skewer a celery slice as well. Line the tomato-and-celery skewers into a small shallow resealable container.
  3. Pour vodka mixture on top, letting the skewers soak in it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  4. When ready to serve, remove skewers from liquid and place on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess juices. Add a piece of cooked bacon to each skewer and serve.

Slow Cooker Bourbon Smokies
2 lb. cocktail wieners
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. ketchup
1/2 c. bourbon
1/3 c. finely chopped shallot 
3 cloves garlic, minced

  1. In a small slow cooker, combine cocktail wieners, brown sugar, ketchup, bourbon, shallot, and garlic. Stir to combine and cover.
  2. Cook on high until the bourbon smell has cooked off, 6 hours.
  3. Serve with toothpicks

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake Dip
1 package cream cheese
1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon, divided
2 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. sugar

  1. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Beat with a whisk or silicone spatula until the mixture is light, fluffy and no longer lumpy, 2 to 3 minutes. (You could also use an electric mixer.)
  2. In a separate bowl, combine remaining cinnamon, melted butter and sugar. Mix to combine. Pour this mixture into the cream cheese batter, folding it in just enough to create cinnamon-sugar swirls in the dip.
  3. Serve with graham crackers, ‘Nilla Wafers, apple slices, or whatever you’d prefer.

created by the L Bar at L’Auberge Casino Resort

Winter on the Bayou
2 ½ cups Bayou Spiced Rum
4 cups Whole Milk
4 cups Light Cream
1 ½ cups Sugar
12 Eggs – Separate Yolks from Whites
5 Cloves
2 ½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Freshly Grated Cinnamon
½ teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg

  1. Combine Milk, Cloves, ½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract and Cinnamon into saucepan on low setting for about five minutes. Slowly bring mixture to a boil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar, whisking together until fluffy.
  3. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into the eggs. Pour mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes or until thick. Do not allow mixture to boil. Strain to remove cloves and let cool for about an hour.
  4. While waiting for the mixture to cool, place egg whites in a large bowl and whip until soft peaks start to form. Set aside.
  5. Stir in Rum, Cream, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and nutmeg into original mixture once cooled. Fold in whipped egg whites. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. Shake well, pour into glass and garnish with freshly grated Nutmeg and a Cinnamon Stick.
Serves 12-14. Enjoy!

Drunken Pumpkin Holiday Cocktail
¾ ounce Bayou Select Rum
1 ¼ ounce Rum Chata Liquor
1 ounce Pumpkin Cream*
Freshly Ground Cinnamon, Nutmeg & Clove
Cinnamon Sticks for garnish

  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker tin; add ice
  2. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds
  3. Strain into a Chilled Cocktail Glass
  4. Garnish with Freshly Ground Spices and a Cinnamon Stick
  5. Serves one; enjoy!
*Pumpkin Cream
4 ounces Pumpkin Puree (canned)
16 ounces Half & Half Creamer
6 tablespoon Brown Sugar
¼ teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Add all ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a soft boil, stirring continuously. Continue to simmer until cream mixture has thickened.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer and chill for 2 hours. Tip: Make pumpkin cream ahead to have on hand for holiday cocktails!

The (White) Elephant in the Room
Gift Exchange Games for Your Christmas Party
by Keaghan P. Wier

The holidays are a popular time for parties. Many of these gatherings – whether you’re hosting or attending – include a gift exchange. Secret Santa, White Elephant, and others are all great ways to do random gift exchanges. Need some good ideas? Here are a few fun gift exchange games to incorporate into this year’s Christmas party.

White Elephant 

This is the standard holiday gift exchange game. Everyone arrives with a wrapped present. (For all gift exchange games, it’s a good idea to set a price range for gifts prior to party.) Place all the gifts under the Christmas tree or on a table. Randomly choose a person to go first – you could draw numbers from a hat or allow the person with the next birthday first pick, for example. That person selects a present from the pile and opens it. The next person in line can either get a package from the pile or "steal” the gift of the first person. This continues until everyone has a gift. Another common rule is to set a limit on how many times a person can be stolen from or a particular gift can be stolen. 

Hot Potato

A version of a popular children’s party game, this one is particularly fun with a high-energy or younger crowd. Everyone brings a wrapped present. Arrange chairs in a circle, with everyone facing inward. One person holds a gift and waits for the timer to start. Begin passing the gift around the circle when the timer starts, and stop when the timer buzzes. The person left holding the gift gets to unwrap and keep it. They step out of the circle and the game continues with a new gift. You can also play this one by playing Christmas music and stopping it at random points!

Right-Left Story

There are a variety of different ways to play this one. Like Hot Potato, everyone is seated or stands in a circle. Each person holds his or her own present. The host begins to read a story that contains a number of times where they say "right” or "left.” Everyone follows the directions – passing their present to the right or left as the story goes on. At the end of the story, everyone should be holding a present that isn’t their own, and they keep it. (You can also have every guest hold a random present at the beginning, but you run the risk of them ending up with their own – in which case, they could always trade with someone else.) You can find several stories for this game online.

Musical Gifts

Play this one like musical chairs – it’s a quick and fun way to do a random gift exchange! Set up chairs in a circle, facing outward. Each guest puts their wrapped present on a chair and starts out in front of it. The host plays Christmas music for a random amount of time, and when they stop it, the players all claim the present on the chair in front of them.

You can pick one of these games, or perhaps play a couple of them if you have a larger group. Whatever you do, make sure that everyone has a great time!

Tips for Gift Giving

Thanksgiving is over and the holiday shopping season is in full swing. Buying all those gifts for everyone on your list can become expensive and overwhelming.  How much do you spend?  Do you have to buy for absolutely everyone? Is it alright to re-gift? What if you don’t know what to get a person?

Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author, and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, offers these 10 guidelines for holiday gift giving:  

Avoid Asking "What do you want?” 
If you don’t know what to get, try and figure it out. Consider their hobbies or what’s important in their lives. If they exercise every day, workout gear is probably a good choice. If they just moved into a new home, go for a housewarming gift. Remember, it’s about being thoughtful. 
You Don’t Have to Buy for Everyone 
Annually review your gift list. How has your relationship grown and evolved? Have you kept in touch via phone, email, or seen each other in person? Did you buy him or her a birthday gift? If the answers to these are no, evaluate the need for a gift. You want to avoid having a friend feel truly forgotten, and sending a timely personalized holiday card will prevent hurt feelings.
Don’t Break the Bank
Stay within your household budget. Gift giving is a blessing, not an obligation. Avoid overspending. January bills are unforgiving!  

Avoid Matched Spending 
When buying is driven more by pressure than thoughtfulness, it loses its meaning. When folks buy flamboyantly, hopefully they do so because they wish to, not because they expect anything in return. Most extravagant gift buyers have everything they could wish for, so there’s nothing luxurious you can buy them that they can’t buy for themselves. It’s better to plan a thoughtful, sentimental gift without a hefty price tag. 

Consider Couple Gifts 
Once a family member or friend is in a serious relationship, gift giving may segue from individual gifts to couple gifts. For example, buy them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant and include a thoughtful note that shows your gracious holiday spirit. If they are engaged or newlyweds, check their registry for a treasure trove of ideas. 

Be Genuine in Your Response to Surprise Gifts
If you receive an unexpected gift, be authentic in your response. Share that you are "surprised, and maybe slightly embarrassed that you don’t have a gift ready for them.” It’s awkward to race to the gift closet and spring a last-minute gift on them. You may wish to send a thank you note with a small gift wishing them all the best in the coming year. 
Holiday Tips
With loyal, long term service providers, like a yard person or cleaning person, consider a holiday gratuity or tip.

Unique Gifts
for Everyone on your List

One of the many joys of the holiday season is finding that perfect present for each person on your gift list. Often easier said than done, right! The key is to know their interests, their personalities, and find something unique, something they’d never think to buy for themselves . . . something that puts a huge smile on their face when they unwrap your gift. To help get you started, we’ve put together this list of special gifts and paired them with various hobbies, activities, and general preferences. Coffee lovers, sports enthusiasts, food aficionados, fashionistas . . . there’s something here for everyone. Take a look, and start shopping!

Doodlers and Note Takers
This Ezra Arthur leather bound blank page journal is hand stitched and bound with full grain leather, constructed with Tomoe River paper. ezraarthur.com. $$

Bakers and Cookie Lovers 
The "Sweet” Holiday gift box includes Gingerbread Man, Star, and Tree cookie skillets, whisk, holiday sprinkles, and white chocolate chip cookie mixes. thoughtfully.com. $$$

Grillers and BBQ Chefs
This Branded and Grilled gift box includes a branding iron set, Sweet Fire BBQ sauce, five grill charms, a sauce basting pot and brush, and three rubbing spices. thoughtfully.com. $$$

Hot Sauce Lovers
This person probably already has a dozen bottles of Tabasco in his pantry, so introduce him to something different. Try Nando’s Peri-Peri Sauce in a variety of flavors and heat. Available at Walmart, amazon.com, or nandosperiperi.com.  $-$$ 
For a local connection, try Jammin Jelly’s Hot Sauce, made here in Lake Charles, in flavors like Mamou Mangeaux, Creole Cucumber, and Bayou Blackberry. jamminjellyshotsauce.com. $

Beer Enthusiasts
Crying Eagle Brewing Company sells an assortment of swag such as barware, growlers, apparel, and snacks that pair well with beer. You’re sure to find something to please any beer buff on your list! 1165 E McNeese St. cryingeagle.com. $-$$$

Java Junkies
Just in time for the holidays, Community Coffee roasted up two new flavors: Chocolate Peppermint and Holiday Jazz. Sure to please the coffee lover on your list. Available at most local grocery stories. $

Your Hostess with the Mostess
Crave Gourmet Baskets and Gifts is well-known for their extensive selection of premium olive oils and balsamics, boutique cheeses, wines, and other fine foods, as well as unique gift items. They specialize in creating exceptional gift baskets sure to please anyone on your gift list. The gift basket pictured includes a little bit of everything that Crave offers. 2801 Ryan Street cravegiftbaskets.com. $$$

Support a local business and buy a gift basket or gift card from Great Harvest Bread Company, Lake Charles. They specialize in homemade whole grain breads and baked goods, sandwiches, and salads made from only the freshest ingredients. They also sell jams, nut butters, and a variety of other gifts. 4112 Lake Street. $-$$

Style Mavens 
What do you get the fashionista who has everything? How about a glitzy phone case by Cellairis? They offer a variety of styles and colors of their Rapture phone case models. cellairis.com. $$

Glamour Girls
Doucce’s Limited Edition Holiday 2017 Set!  This perfectly packaged set includes some of Doucce’s top selling products including; Master Pro Palette with two blush and four eyeshadow pans, Maxlash Mascara, Ultra-Precision Eyeliner, and Luscious Lip Stain in a bright bold red. Doucce.com. $$$

Stress Relief Seekers
These folks would love to curl up in a luxurious robe, such as the Lacoste Home Pique Bath Robe for him or her. Crafted with soft cotton terry and a pique-knit design at the collar and belt, this robe provides superior comfort and style ideal for shower time and simply lounging around your home. macy’s.com. $$$

Culture Patrons
Cultural organizations abound in Southwest Louisiana. Buy season tickets to their favorite form of entertainment, such as music, dance, or theater. Banners at McNeese crosses entertainment genres and cultures to bring our community a diverse selection of entertainment options each year. $$$$

$ = Under $25  |  $$ = $25-50
$$$ = $50 - 100  |  $$$$ = $100 and Up

Gift Guide
In Jewish tradition, a gift is given each of the eight nights of Hannukah, Dec. 12-20 this year. Not sure what to buy for a friend or loved-one? We did some research.

Ask Bubbe, the Talking Jewish Grandmother Doll, as seen on Sharktank. amazon.com. $

The Mensch on a Bench Hanukkah Decor with Hardcover Book and Removable Bench. amazon.com. $$

Gelt for Grown-Ups  -- Kosher Chocolate Coins by Veruca in Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt flavor. thejewishmuseum.org. $

Hanukkah Dreidel Spinner Multi-Pack in Silver, Blue, and Pink. amazon.com. $

Menorasaur: Triceratops Dinosaur Menorah by Lisa Pierce. thejewishmuseum.org. $$$

Multi-Color Hand-Dipped Beeswax Hanukkah Candles. thejewishmuseum.org. $

Oy-Vey Sticky Notes -- Add a little chutzpah to your desk accessories. knockknockstuff.com. $

Schlep Tote  thejewishmuseum.org. $

How to Raise a Jewish Dog in paperback. Everything a dog owner ever wanted to know. amazon.com. $

$ = Under $25  |  $$ = $25-50
$$$ = $50 - 100  |  $$$$ = $100 and Up
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