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Monday, January 6, 2014

*Update: Winner Announced! | Nespresso Giveaway | Emma's Birthday Sneek Peek



*Update : Winner of the Nespresso package is Katie A!  I completely relate with her story about being someplace new and reaching out to new neighbors to help make your new house feel like home.    Katie - I hope you your new Nespresso helps to you make some new cozy moments and memories in your new home.

Here is here story :

"We are in a new city and neighborhood this year, having moved only a month ago. We are far from family and friends so that can make the holidays really, really difficult. My four year old daughter came to me one day and told me that she "wanted to do something nice for the neighbors." I have no idea where this came from other than her sweet little soul! I gave it some thought and after perusing your store one day, I proposed to her that we spend some time making some nice holiday treats together that we could package up with your wonderful labels and bags. We had a ball doing this and then my daughter put on a Santa hat and got on her tricycle with the packages in the back and we went around to our new neighbors to say hello and Merry Christmas. To be honest, it was a little bit out of my comfort zone, but it ended up just being a joy to do and I think I learned a lesson from my little daughter. In our times, people keep more to themselves than they ever did. And making some effort, and putting some love out there can really make a difference! I hope we can make this a permanent tradition because it made us feel so good to do it."

Good Morning.

This morning I am taking a little break from the holiday rush and enjoying some time to slow down as I reflect on our weekend.  It was Emma's birthday - my baby is two.  I have to admit these are some of my favorite moments - a quiet morning looking through photos of our sweet girl as I upload.

This morning is even a little more special, because instead of my normal cup of coffee, I'm sipping on a beautiful, frothy cappuccino from our very own Nespresso machine.  Christmas came a little to our house when this package arrived on our doorstep Thursday afternoon.  I've had a Pixie and Aeroccino on my wish list for three years now, since our honeymoon in Italy.  

Its arrival was perfectly timed, because we had family coming in to stay with us for Emma's birthday and there is nothing treating your guests to a luxurious cappuccino in the morning to make your home feel cozy and warm on a winter morning.
 


We had the best weekend centered around all of Emma's favorite things.  I did my best to keep it as low-key and easy as possible, all while doing all we could to thrill and delight our little girl.  When we're entertaining, I like to keep the decorations really simple and tasteful - and try to make everything myself.  I had clear balloons filled with silver glitter, and tied snowflakes on the streamers. It took all of 5 minutes and completely delighted Emma when she came down stairs in the morning to floating snowflakes filling the living room... the "pixie dust" (glittered) wrapping paper didn't hurt either.


This is one of my favorite moments - Emma's waiting (patiently?) for her birthday breakfast cinnamon rolls to bake.

I can't wait to share the rest of the photos from our weekend of cookie decorating with Emma's cousins, a horse-drawn carriage ride to see Christmas lights, a visit to the Aquarium (her favorite place - My Fishies, she always exclaims), a big family dinner, a children's holiday party at a local domestic violence center with our church, and a cozy dinner at home with just the three of us.  I know typical toddler birthday party weekends usually sound a little different, but I always like to think more about what I thought Emma would truly enjoy, rather than doing what people expect you to (or what everyone else does) - especially for entertaining.  I loved every minute of our special weekend with our little girl - and I loved how much she loved it, too!


Now comes the fun part : What is your favorite way to entertaining during the holidays - in a tasteful, not so typical way?  Share your idea or personal story about a creative way you like to entertain tastefully in the comments section below and you'll get the chance to win a Nespresso Pixie Aluminum ($229) and Aeroccino ($99).



I'll select a winner from the comments later this week.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and I can't wait to share my new favorite things with one of you!

.......

This post is sponsored by Nespresso.

136 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Those photos are precious! Sounds like a perfect birthday weekend :)

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  3. Nothing is better than time spent with family and friends during the holidays...even if it is having a soda and a bag of chips! The best times we have had have been the impromtu get togethers at our kitchen table, laughing and talking for hours!

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  4. How fun! I love your blog, and your whole philosophy on and attitude towards entertaining! I love simple, tasteful and low-key things that make entertaining more enjoyable for everyone, and let guests be involved, because I always think they are more relaxed and have more fun that way! Things like having a make your own pizza night are one of my favorites, because it's fun and easy, yet you can get so creative with it! :)

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  5. I host a "favorite things" party for my girlfriends where everyone brings one of their favorite beauty or household products (priced under ten bucks) for each guest. We have tons of cheese, wine and chocolate - always a blast!

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  6. My favorite way to celebrate during the holidays is just by keeping things really low-key. Last year, I encouraged my extended family to come over in their PJ's if they wanted so nobody felt like they had to get all gussied up. Also, we have a tradition that is so much fun and brought over by my English grandmother. We get Christmas Crackers and pop them and sit around at the dinner table wearing the silly paper hats and reading the corny jokes that are included in each one. We've been doing it for years and it always makes us laugh together, which is awesome. I know it is creating wonderful memories for our children because I have many fond memories of it myself. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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  7. So fun! My favorite way of entertaining during the Christmas holiday is having a cookie decorating party. I love creating a whole table of fun sprinkles and icings and have the kids decorate. The kids have something fun and creative to do while the parents have a few cocktails and apps.

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  8. First, happy birthday to Emma! What a fun way to celebrate her birthday weekend!

    For the holidays, if I am hosting a Thanksgiving or Christmas, I like to keep everything easy and comfortable for everyone. I'll be sure to keep the bar cart stocked, the buffet table filled with appetizers (cheese platter, olives, nuts) and desserts, and the fridge filled with extra snacks and drinks of their choice. I always make a big pitcher of lemon water and iced tea in the morning and leave those out as well, so people can pour a glass without feeling awkward to ask. I'll put a holiday mix on via iTunes and have a deck of cards and a few board games out so we can play after dinner. Nothing too fancy, but fun times are always had!

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  9. Every year for my husbands birthday which is Dec 20th. We go to the Davenport Hotel in Spokane WA.
    It is a grand old hotel that is decorated to the nines. They have this lovely lobby and serve a very simple pix fixed meal in front of the tress and roaring fire. Usually they have someone playing the piano.
    My hubby is not much on birthday celebrations but he loves to be surrounded by his family and feel the spirit of the holiday season. This year he believes it will only be us and our one son and daughter in law. I am surprising him by flying in our youngest from Seattle. He will show up at the hotel with his brother. After dinner and gifts we walk over to our favorite Santa and do a family Santa photo. We keep the day about family and focus on Dad. Our whole family looks forward to honoring Bruce this way and at the same time we still feel a real since of the holidays. We have done this for the last twenty years. What is fun now is seeing how our Daughter in law loves this tradition .

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  10. Happy birthday to Emma!! Sounds like she had a magical weekend! :) As for entertaining...I really love, when possible/within reason, to do EVERYTHING so all the guests need to bring is themselves. It's such a treat for them!

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  11. I have a TEENY tiny house. So entertaining requires a lot of creativity. I think the most important thing I've discovered is providing meals that can be enjoyed without a table. Providing a meal that requires a fork and knife and then asking my guests to eat on the couch is just the worst. :)

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  12. All my husband and my family live within 30 minutes. Of course, we have by far the smallest house. I am pretty certain that one thing I have learned the past 15 years about being the hostess is that BIG fun happens in SMALL spaces! It doesn't matter that we can't all gather around the table. The best meals are by far the buffet variety with a heavy duty Solo plate held on our laps! Happy holidays to all!

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  13. Happy birthday, little Emma! !
    One of my favorite things to do is to make our Grandpa Tom's Corn and Shrimp Chowder. It is always a HIT with family and friends. It takes about 10 minutes to make and can be made in a small batch or large batches. It is even made in the crockpot on Christmas Eve while we are at church. It is paired with Artisan bread, and a nice green salad...We call it our sipping soup and serve it in my vintage luncheon cups with little spoons. Simple, elegant and delicious!!
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!
    Lisa

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  14. There's nothing better than a morning fire in the fireplace. Toasty, luxurious and calming, listening to the crackling while you're sipping coffee with visiting friends and family is the perfect way to emerge into a new day.

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  15. This year, we each bring a gift that represent a passion we want to share with others. :)

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  16. My favorite way to entertain is to cook for my friends and family! A meal to warm everyone up and a nice bottle of wine is perfect.

    Fingers crossed to win the coffee maker to cozy up a Boston winter!!!

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  17. I like to host a holiday play date for my 3 year old and 9 month old and their friends. Just something simple, but special and fun for them. This year we had cocoa and played with candy cane scented play dough. I made the cocoa in the crockpot a couple of hours ahead and just scented a basic play dough recipe with peppermint oil and tinted half of it red. Simple and easy=the best!

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  18. I just recently started following your blog. I am a reluctant entertainer and my daughter's birthday is the 21st of this month. I get a LOT overwhelmed in December so I was so excited to see your daughter's birthday is in December also! I really appreciate the "lower key/thoughtful" ideas I have gotten so far!

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  19. Usually, my whole family drives up to Big Sky, Montana for a fun week of food, skiing and time with our huge family. I like to bring a special homemade treat for everyone to enjoy. In the past I've made toffee, pasta and gourmet popcorn. I am getting married this year and I am excited to extend this tradition to my new family!

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  20. Thank you for such a generous give away!

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  21. I like to entertain by my having my house feel cozy,warm and welcome for my guests. I love to create explosions of color for my table decorations with candles and holiday themed flowers or get some branches or cut some bushes right from my backyard.

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  22. I recently started to follow your blog and absolutely love it! My husband and I love to entertain - definitely more than going out to dinner. We are having a holiday party/birthday party this Friday and we are trying to make it a festive party food wise, but a very casual setting since it's in our house and we're not too fancy. We also love to just cook a pot of chili and have friends over for an evening to watch sports and relax.

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  23. Sounds like such a delightful weekend! Since I love the Barefoot Contessa I love to entertain very simply. I want people to feel comfortable and at home when they visit our house. Usually that means light snacks like nuts or homemade popcorn, easy drinks, quiet music and lots of enjoyable conversation:)

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  24. I adore your entertaining philosophy and try to keep things festive and casual when I entertain for the holidays. While I love to cook and work in the kitchen as much as possible, it isn't always easy with two young children. I enjoy finding make ahead items and then save my kitchen time for the main course. I try to set my tables early and keep the decor natural and earthy.

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  25. I love your philosophy on toddler birthdays! I have 4 year old twin boys. I too feel like there is such pressure to have a birthday "bash" for kids. However, to my pleasure, when my boys were asked what kind of party they wanted this year, they said they wanted a party with just family, which consisted on 8 people.

    I too like to keep my holiday entertaining low key and keep the stress at a minimum. Usually, Christmas Eve consists of a small gathering at a family friends house. My family has been attending this gathering since I was 6. 27 years later we still go every Christmas eve. Now many of the kids that my age have kids so it is fun to see how we have all grown. Christmas Day is super low key. Brunch and dinner at my moms house in jammies. I try as much as possible to slow down and enjoy this time of year. I feel like as an adult you lose some of the magic of the season that existed as a child. So I try to make this time of yet special for my kids.

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  26. I love your blog! Thanks for the recipes and inspiration! My husband's tummy thanks you, too! This is our "first Christmas" as a married couple and I've been trying to make our nights special. I've been cooking his favorite dinners and setting a pretty table that reflects this time of year. I also light our Christmas scented candles the minute I get home so the house smells nice when he gets home (Is there a better scent than Thyme's Frazier Fir candle? I don't think so!). The other night when we settled in to watch our favorite Christmas movie (Love Actually) and I was wrapping gifts I realized that even though these little moments we share aren't the reason for the season, they are a big part of it. If I never attend another Christmas party again that will be ok as long as I can spend my nights with him by our tree and a cozy fire! I can't believe Emma is two! I started following you when you were pregnant with her...time flies! Happy Birthday, Emma!

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  27. Hi - I love your blog! I enjoy so much how thoughtful you are in everything you do. Your recipes are amazing and I have you bookmarked! I'm not one to throw big parties (always dream of them though) but I host a big family gathering for xmas every other year. It includes lots of cousins for my 2 boys. My favorite thing to do is give them all a funny/fun gift at the dinner table. It gives everyone something fun to do and talk about and helps cousins reconnect that haven't been together in a while. Enjoy Christmas!

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  28. When I was growing up my great uncle would send us a Swiss Colony box every year at Christmas time. My sisters and I were always so excited when that red box would arrive at our doorstep. Our tradition was to combine the specialty cheese and sausages, chocolates and petit fours with triangle toasts, crackers, fresh fruit and sparkling juice. We would save our highly anticipated feast until Christmas Eve. After church we would come home to our fireplace and feast. While those boxes no longer arrive at our doorstep, we still recreate that meal every year. It is one of my favorite Christmas entertaining traditions!

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  29. We haven't thrown huge "kid" type parties for our girls either yet. They are 3 and 5 and so far we have kept it to family and close friends and their kids. It is nice to know everyone at the party and not have a pack of kids running through the house like mad. I know that day will come, but for now we have kept it small and memorable. No complaints from our girls either, they feel special, loved and surrounded by those closest to them.

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  30. We celebrate Christmas very simply! We have heavy appetizers and beverages while opening presents on Christmas Eve and late night mass. It is really quite lovely and a great way to enjoy each other as well as remember all of our blessings.

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  31. I love just to watch the delight and pure joy on my grans faces!! Simplicity takes the day.

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  32. I always have a buffet that is a combination of my guest’s favorite dishes. The one dish that he/she is always talking about craving during the year, but don’t indulge in as often because they are trying to “be good”. Sometimes my guests will offer to make and bring the dish themselves, but only if they insist. And sometimes I’ll ask because no one in the world makes spinach dip like John. And everyone gets to indulge in the spirit of the holidays! And we get to indulge in dishes that we only get during this time of year when we are all together.

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  33. We visit all of the homes of our immediate family. It is fun to get to see the different Christmas decorations and eat delicious holiday treats and snacks!

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  34. We entertain several times during the holiday season, but my most favorite has been the tradition of crafting and cookie baking with my daughter (7 years old) and her friends. We just had our annual get together on Friday afternoon and it will be a memory I hold close for a long time. The girls came in their christmas pajamas, and we had snacks, baked and decorated cookies, made christmas jewelry boxes and the girls danced to Christmas music.

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  35. I like to plan a menu that includes a meal, or two of Austin/Texas themed food. I think it is a little like a bed and breakfast to have a meal served that is a glimpse into the city you are staying in. For the holidays, we travel at Christmas, but are home for NYE. So, we host an annual dinner inviting over friends. I like to challenge myself to decorate the table with only things I have on hand. Seeing that I often have wrapping paper left over, I run a length of it down the center of the table to act as a festive table runner. It always makes me smile to see how simply a nice evening can come together :)

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  36. Jenny - I just adore your blog. In terms of holidays entertaining, I like to make (or even buy) a little something special for each of our loved ones. Buying some special things makes life easier for me (Hey, antipasto and cheese platters- I'm looking at you!). For our family and friends, I enjoy serving a special meal of braised short ribs over polenta at our tree lighting party. For my sister, I will make "Ina's roasted shrimp cocktail." For my mom and mother-in-law, the frig will be stocked with their favorite champagnes. And, for my husband, I will be making your baked brie on Christmas Eve- a new family tradition! I try to keep each person in mind so that everyone will feel a little bit special.

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  37. Instead of decorating a Christmas Tree, we will decorate a table with lights and ornaments in bowls or spread out on the table and then accent with flowers and garland accents.

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  38. This sounds like a lovely weekend! When everyone is so crazy busy during the holidays, I like to keep it small and simple: I'll keep a jar of nice olives, some delicious cheese or chocolate, and maybe a bottle of bubbly on hand so that friends can stop by for an impromptu cocktail hour without needing to schedule anything large and elaborate. It still feels fancy, even if it only took 5 minutes to pull together! Thanks for the great giveaway.

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  39. The first Christmas my husband and I were dating we both decided to stay in town instead of visiting family or friends out of town. We had only been dating about six months and had never had individual holiday traditions so we decided to have the "perfect" holiday for us. On Christmas Eve we piled into the car and stopped for snacks (hot cocoa, cookies, and potato chips) and drove around looking at Christmas lights. On Christmas morning we made our favorite brunch - Eggs Benedict - and then had a movie marathon. We watched five movies we had been meaning to see all year. It was perfect for us. After nine years, it has become our tradition and we look forward to it every year. Whenever people ask what we are doing for Christmas they always say how relaxing it sounds and I agree - we truly enjoy the holiday together. We just moved to a new city this year and have already started scouting out our Christmas Eve light peeping route (and where to get our tasty snacks).

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  40. I love to entertain with a brunch. It's fun and easy and there are so many yummy brunch recipes!

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  41. I like to incorporate as much nature as I can, keeping in mind the current season. I also like to host themed dinners that highlight our area's local food - shrimp, mussels, and of course, pralines. I have also found that guests really enjoy taking home a small goodie bag/basket full of local treats/products. It's a great way to introduce them to your favorite things, and even if they, too, are local, it's always fun to have a little something to remember the dinner with. Low-key, simple, tasteful hosting has always gone over really well for me and my guests, so that's what we tend to stick with. I don't have children yet, but I LOVE the idea of carrying this over to their parties and get-togethers, too. Thank you so much for the chance to win this fabulous giveaway!

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  42. I love a winter palette of whites and the ever classic red with accents of gold and silver. Glass votives are scattered among fresh cut greens. I layer white dinner plates with a few special pieces like scalloped salad plates, linen napkins and our special-occasion monogramed glasses we received as a wedding gift. I always keep a bottle of red wine, a few quality cheeses, table crackers, and Marcona almonds on hand. After dinner we sit in front of the fireplace where laughter, warmth, and meaningful conversation is shared. We sip on mugs filled with creamy peppermint hot chocolate.

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  43. Our entertaining is a family tradition on Christmas Eve. We prepare a polish meal consisting of hand made perogies, polish sausage, and mashed potatoes with sauerkraut and bacon. We all gather together and "break bread" with one another and extend our heartfelt wish to one another. Dinner is topped off with a gourmet tray of homemade cookies, which both myself and my sister made for weeks prior. Alljomemade, nothing storebought. This year, the tray of cookies will be the premier offering of your snowflake sugar cookie. I'm so excited! My polish father passed away seven ago and we still carry out his tradition to this day.

    A nespresso would be perfect mate for our cookie tray! happy Holidays!

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  44. In addition to our family we would invite any widows and widowers and maiden aunts and bachelor uncles to join in a day of feasting, games, and fun. All the food was homemade and the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas every night after work I'd make another treat to share. This year we are adding your snowflake cookies to our cookie platters and for the first time I have set up a hot cocoa, tea, and coffee bar. A Nepresso would make a wonderful "personalized" addition as what we have now is a 10 cup coffee pot. Thank you so much for willingly and cheerfully and confidently sharing with us via your blog and pinterest! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

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  45. We are in our first house (and first non-tiny home!) for Christmas, and so far we've entertained by playing games. Catchphrase, Mancala and Gin Rummy! Not particularly unique but still fun. Fingers crossed to win such a sweet giveaway!

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  46. I'm in my early 30s, and we have a lot of single friends who don't really cook and especially don't bake. I grew up baking with my mom, and one of my favorite pictures of me as a little girl is me wearing an apron that's too long, standing on a stool so I could reach the counter and help cut out cookies. For holiday entertaining, we like to have a big open house and invite over all of our friends, and I just bake everything I can think of - cookies, cakes, brownies, truffles. I pull out all my fun serving dishes, and my husband plays bartender. We have desserts and drinks, and everyone has a really good time just being together.

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  47. Christmas eve we celebrate with family my parents stay over and we put on a fire, watch holiday movies with the kids and eat some munchies. Christmas day everyone comes over and we enjoy turkey and all the trimmings(trying some of your recipes). Pretty low key but wonderful. Merry Christmas To you and your family Jenny.

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  48. The past few years I have started a tradition of doing all my baking the couple days before Christmas, as opposed to throughout the month. My father and step mother come and stay with us, and I found that they really enjoy doing it with me. Honestly, I love the help (sugar cookies are a monster!) but the time spent together, is really wonderful. To top it all off - for the past 8 years, we have hosted our Christmas party on Christmas Eve, and we invite everyone. So no one feels like they have to split time between families. Of course, our theme is the ever so tasteful "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation", and that just adds to the fun. This year we are really looking forward to it as our little girl just turned 1, and so far, this holiday has been the best yet sharing everything I love with her for the first time.

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  49. Happy 1st birthday to Emma! Love the clear balloon idea!

    We always make Beef Wellington for Christmas dinner. It's a bit of an effort but perfectly indulgent for the holiday.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family Jenny!

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  50. Your birthday weekend sounds wonderful. And so does a chance to win a Nespresso machine! Thanksgiving is the holiday we host for extended family. It is such a grand time. So, Christmas tends to be just our family. Christmas Eve services and delicious appetizers or a hearty chowder or soup. We always watch a classic movie after church. I try to plan and prepare simple, yet delicious foods on Christmas. A casserole assembled the night before and fruit for breakfast, and dinner is usually beef with a potato side and salad. We will visit family the following week.

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  51. We are fairly busy during the month of December but I try to squeeze in an impromptu get together with friends. We are lucky to have a large deck and it is great for entertaining during our mild Texas winters. I try to keep it simple with drinks and light appetizers.

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  52. How wonderful your decor and the ease of the entertaining is.
    I actually haven't entertained too much because of a number of reasons but mainly because I have been going aback and forth between my home and where my parents are (only 14 miles but right now with construction and snow it takes some time). When I have entertained it has been casual. If people offer to bring something I say themselves. I make something that is fast and easy and most every one enjoys. Appetizers are something like cheese and crackers and fresh raw veggies.. Dessert are fruit or finger foods (cookies, brownies). Casual makes people (in my opinion) a wee bit more relaxed.

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  53. Hi Jenny! I love your blog and draw so much inspiration from your photographs and writing. Our holiday entertaining tradition is very casual and comfy... homemade clam chowder on Christmas Eve. I make a version combining Ina's recipe with one I got years ago from Skipjack's Restaurant in Boston. We open some nice wine, slice sharp cheddar cheese, and some crusty bread, and top our steaming bowls with crumbled bacon. My husband has dined on Christmas Eve clam chowder for almost all of his 45 years,and even though we have been transplants to the south for the last 15 it still reminds us of what we love about cozy homes and our family in New England. Thanks for the chance to share... maybe someone else will decide making a big production dinner isn't necessary and opt for a bowl of soup instead! Merry Christmas, especially to Emma! From Sally

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  54. Your snowflake theme is lovely. I might just borrow that idea!
    My favorite way to entertain during the holidays is a tea (or coffee) party. Little things to eat is so much less stressful than a big meal. With the variety of small bites everyone will find something they like. This helps me avoid the anxiety of "what if they don't like the main course and only eat bread!"

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  55. We live in a small, tightly-knit neighborhood, everyone knows everyone! On the weekend before Christmas, the family that lives in the first house gathers and heads to the second home where they begin carolling. You see where this is going....we go from house to house, gathering neighbors along the way until we all gather together to warm up at that year's designated indoor party home. We all bring baked goods and spend a few hours sipping on hot chocolate for the kids and coffee and espresso, sometimes with a shot of this or that to warm our bellies, but it's always made in five or six Nespresso machines assembled just for this reason! It wouldn't be the same without the wonderful blends Nespresso is known for! Oh, yes, and each is topped with lots of yummy frothed milk too!

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  56. I love having a house full of out of town guest! I think this is because we never get to see each other so it is nice to have everyone packed together so we never miss a moment. I am an early riser, but just in case someone is up before me I like to have a coffee station ready. I will have the coffee maker prepped so that it only has to be flipped on, mugs are standing by, and all that is left is to pull the creamer out of the fridge. I also like to have some baked goods next to the coffee maker just in case anyone is hungry before we start making breakfast. Mornings always run better when everyone has their coffee!

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  57. Happy holidays!! My favorite way to entertain is so much like your style, elegant yet simple. White dishes/platters with soft decorations. I love your blog, follow it everyday and refer to it all the time for recipes! my polish/Italian traditions of my parents are incorporated every year so my 9 year old daughter can experience these with her grandparents. Delicious and different, red and white borscht is a must and we all look forward to it! Thank you for the giveaway chance and beautiful posts!

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  58. We are having a holiday cookie party this week with all of the kids friends. Everyone is bringing their favorite holiday cookies to share and wearing their favorite Christmas shirt. There's going to be over 30 people, mostly kids running around. We're hoping it will be a ton of chaotic fun!!!

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  59. Jenny - first of all thank you for this blog and all of your inspiration!! For the holidays we host an annual Christmas party with family and friends the first weekend of December to kick off the season. We serve appetizers and drinks and some desserts. I like to prepare things that are not so fussy and that can be served room temperature so everything can be out and I can enjoy my guests. Many of your recipes have now been included for the past 2 years since I started following your blog. Then Christmas Eve we go to mass and my parents come back home with us for an easy dinner and sleep over to be there when my daughter wakes on Christmas morning to share in the fun. Breakfast is always my mom's homemade cinnamon buns which my daughter now makes with her on Christmas eve. Throughout the day other family comes over and it is an easy day of enjoying the games and toys that have been received by the young family members and then a nice filet dinner that my husband prepares. Creme brulee is always the dessert of choice. It is all about spending time with the family though and just enjoying the time together! Merry Christmas to you and your family and Happy Birthday to Emma!

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  60. Homemade lobster dinner for Christmas has been our tradition the past several years. It's so easy to make since it just involves boiling the lobsters in water, and it's indulgent enough for Christmas, but so much cheaper (and fun!) since it's cooked at home. We pair it with different sides each year, put on our napkin "bibs", and crack away :)

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  61. I think my favorite entertaining s a spontaneous call, spur of the moment .. . . an event for a glass of wine, or toddy, no plan, just do it. And knowing the ease it is . . .

    Adorable birthday child . . . sweet Emma peeking at the cinnamon rolls baking! Love it, going to see the "fishes" too!

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  62. I join my mom and sister and help host a multi-family Christmas Eve fiesta! This year we're having pozole and tamales! Full production! Hey, it's once a year!}

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  63. My entertaining consist more of family coming to stay with me through the holidays. I try to make sure my fridge and cupboards are stocked, particularly with their favorites if I happen to know what it is. For instance my Mom arrives tomorrow and I have her favorite- tapioca, and I am well stocked up in coffee as she's from Seattle- need I say more. ;)

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  64. stewing a pot of homemade russian tea is ALWAYS a good reason to invite some people over. makes the house smell amazing, and goes perfect with light desserts. add some rum for a yummy night cap

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  65. During the holidays I break out the kitchenware and start cooking up hearty soups and yummy appetizers for family and friends. Just experienced my first snow!

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  66. Lots of family time and love fill our holiday. We are grateful to spend time cooking, playing games, and watching Christmas movies. Your blog is an absolute delight. simple, yet elegant...thank you for all your hard work that you put into it...

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  67. We have 5couples from our neighborhood over for dinner, I do all the cooking ( menu doesn't change, makes it easy) they bring wine and we sit for hours around the dining room laughing and enjoying each other's company. It's not Christmas until we've had our Jinglebell juicer!

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  68. Entertaining to us always meant small groups -- maybe 1 or 2 other couples. We can have conversations without yelling across the room. Dinner is our favorite meal to entertain. Dinner plus dessert afterwards. Dessert almost always screams coffee -- adding the Nespresso or Aeroccino would make a great addition when entertaining.

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  69. Great giveaway! This year is our second Christmas as a married couple, so we feel like it's the right time to start our own traditions. Both of our families have always turned Christmas Dinner into a repeat of Thanksgiving Dinner (TURKEY OVERLOAD!), so with the help of Mrs. Ina, we've decided to have our own Christmas Eve Dinner- Roasted Chicken with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese, Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter, Roasted Winter Veggies, and a Raspberry Trifle. YUM! A fresh, home made cappuccino would be the perfect addition to dessert!

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  70. Jenny--as my Mom and I are in the midst of our 3 day Christmas cookie marathon, I took a moment to read your blog. My daughter was born on Dec 26, so I can relate to Christmas and birthday overlap. Love your ideas with the floating snowflakes--and love Emma's sense of wonder and happy participation in your activities. What a sweetie! Making a December birthday special can be difficult and I agree that making it a small celebration for a toddler is a good strategy. I made a fanciful Cinderella cake for one of Caroline's birthdays with pink sparkle sugar around the sides on top of the marshmallow frosting. We just had family except on rare occasions. Enjoy your sweet girl and family celebrations during this Christmas season. I wish you the best in 2014 and look forward to more interesting and cool ideas from Everyday Occasions!

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  71. One of my favorite experience's is getting together with my best girlfriends for coffee and bagels on Christmas Eve morning before we volunteer to serve lunch at our local soup kitchen in Asbury Park, NJ. We volunteer with a local group called Holiday Express whose work every year is simply amazing! The volunteer musicians perform Christmas carols, they are served a warm dinner and dessert and everyone leaves with a brand new knapsack filled with fruit and personal grooming items! It is a beautiful way to start Christmas Eve!

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  72. We watch old Christmas movies over the school break and have the traditional tamales (from my childhood traditions) Christmas Eve. I make sure the kids have their favorite things drink, which are usually highly sugared and a big treat. We like to have lots of snacks, like cheese and spiced nuts, along with fresh fruit. Thank you for the giveaway.

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  73. CONGRATS on your wonderful new addition to holiday entertaining with the Nepresso! It has also been on my wishlist for several years. There is nothing at all like sitting at home with loved ones and friends..or even by oneself, enjoying the delights of a cappuccino at home. One of my fave things to do at holiday time is to have a nite of hot chocolate or decaf cappuccino n snuggle together with family watching old time classic Christmas movies, after making cookies together! Cathy B palmbreezelife at yahoo dotcom

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  74. Wonderful give away! We don't always entertain during the holidays, but we always have a festive party for our youngest daughter who is a Xmas eve baby. She picks the menu and guest list. It's always fun. I like to get as much done ahead of time so that I can enjoy the party, too. Your birthday weekend sounds relaxed and just the thing for a 2 year old.

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  75. What a lovely birthday weekend! Happy birthday little Emma!

    During the holidays, I love to include things from back home, it makes me feel close to my island and my family. So, when my husband's family comes over for dinner, I prepare dishes that are traditional during the Christmas season in Puerto Rico. Having those familiar smells fill my kitchen while it's snowing outside definitely brings a piece of the Caribbean into my heart.

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  76. Happy Holidays to you and your family. I love reading your blog, thank you.
    Last week, I was flying through Frankfurt airport and there were demonstration stations with Nespresso machines; may I say that the lines were very very long.

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  77. Looks like you had a great birthday weekend for Emma. I do enjoy your blog and easy way of entertaining. One of my favorite things to do over the holidays, is to have my 5 grandchildren over to make gingerbread houses. My oldest granddaughter, Emma, is almost 13 now and she has become quite the little decorator. The rest all ask her to help. I love seeing the creations they come up with. Then they all take them home to enjoy.

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  78. Oh how I have wanted a Nespresso! This year my husband and I simplified all the holidays by moving my mother-in-law to Virginia. My family is all here so she joins us to celebrate! No more crazy holiday travelling. That is unless my husband whisks me away to somewhere tropical (wishful thinking)! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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  79. I love to keep it simple and just enjoy the season, family and friends. Christmas is so overdone and has lost the true meaning. I wish my children could know and experience simpler and "safer" times like I did growing up. With that said, just when you think you have lost all faith in people - some secret santa or good Samaritan performs a random act of kindness and restores your faith in humanity. God Bless those people - pay it forward!!! Christmas Blessings to all.

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  80. Impromptu get togethers and and decorating the house with the family!!

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  81. What a lovely way to celebrate Emma's Birthday! Jenny, I enjoy your blog so much......I get so many wonderful ideas from you. Hot chocolate while decorating cookies with Grandchildren is one of my favorites.

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  82. My daughter and I were just talking about this last night ~ we want to have two nights of everyone, including my grandchildren, getting together for a baking night (we've had as many as five mixers going at once in past years) and a night for a gift wrapping party. The main thing is to all be together.

    My granddaughter just had a small "Sweet 16" party but I still remember her second birthday celebration when she had her first cream puff and literally licked the plate clean while lying on her tummy. It's wonderful that you planned Emma's celebration around HER interests. The years go by so fast, but you'll have warm memories of her being happy!

    Thanks for a chance at the giveaway! Happy Holidays!
    dani

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  83. My mom, my sisters, my nieces and I always like to have a small tea party at Christmastime, wherever we happen to be that year. When I went to Russia on a mission trip back in college, I picked up a tea cup for each of my mom and sisters and myself, so we always use those when we have our Christmas tea, and we bake a couple treats to have as well. While our location has changed over the years (we used to always celebrate at my parents' house, but now we rotate between our homes due to the growth of each of our families), we still treasure this simple treat together. It's especially fun that we've gotten to add my nieces into the tradition over time. I look forward to it every year, and while it's not extravagant or worthy of any magazine covers, it has produced a lot of special memories for us.

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  84. Aw, how sweet!! This year many of my friends aren't able to travel for the holidays, so we are doing something new. My friends and I are having a gifts-in-a-jar exchange and dinner party. We're making each other different themed gifts in a jar, and having fun cocktails and yummy treats and watching a classic Christmas movie. Hoping to be a new tradition!!

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  85. We have a tiny house: 500 sq feet, so anything greater than 4 people is a bit of a stretch. So we entertain by STARTING at our house and then heading to a community event a couple blocks away. Everyone drives to our house (many live in the suburbs/away from the heart of the town), we stock up on thermoses and travel mugs of hot chocolate (ahem, some may be "enriched" with adult beverages) and then we all walk over to the site of the parade. It's an amazing tradition: our local university marching band has a practice for the annual parade of lights around several blocks in our neighborhood. It is far better for the kiddos than the actual event: about 30 minutes, far fewer people, and just enough light filled Christmas music and university fight songs to get everyone in the mood!

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  86. I have also had a Nespresso machine on my wish list forever! I love low-key entertaining over the holidays with my family and friends. I think the best thing is keeping the menu simple and not being shy to ask people to help contribute to the spread by bringing a dish (or bevy) to share. Keeping the menu simple allows for me to be at ease and not stressed out when the guests arrive. I love serving holiday cookies for dessert - which my whole family bakes together a few weeks before Christmas. Living in snowy Minnesota, we can bake things in advance and store the baked goods in the garage to keep them fresher longer..and of course Christmas cookies taste best when served with coffee (or better yet, a fresh Nespresso Latte or Cappuccino!)! :)

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  87. Happy Birthday to your little one!! She is so precious! I love the idea of entertaining a small group so that you can savor the time together! We enjoy cooking a holiday brunch with my grandmother's brunch egg recipe, like an eggs benedict! Espresso is the perfect compliment!

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  88. We are hosting 5 people for 5 weeks this Christmas (family all the way from Australia!) and so we have taken the low-key route to entertaining this year. We all pitch in, make casseroles, get take-out, and take it slow! We're making gingerbread with the kids, cocktails with the grownups, and not worrying about the rest!

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  89. I'm all for low key. Sometimes it gets so busy that you cannot enjoy visiting with family and friends. The little kiddies need their time to enjoy all of their gifts and everyone stays happy. Everyone pitches in so, hopefully, it isn't a lot of pressure on one person.

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

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  90. Having married children, when and where we get together changes from year to year. I love traditions so every year we make Christmas breakfast, sometimes for just 2 or as many as 8. This year it will be just the two of us. We will be having Gingerbread Waffles topped with sliced pears, a warm lemon sauce and fresh whipped cream. We sit at out beautifully set table and listen to Christmas music in the background.

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  91. We host a sledding party. The kids and adults love it. At the bottom of the hill, we serve grilled cheese sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil hot from the grill, cocoa with marshmallows, and/or mulled wine for the adults.

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  92. I love holiday brunches. It's full of my favorite foods, so I enjoy making everything. It's low-key and festive and great for the whole family.

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  93. When entertaining around the holidays, I like to keep dessert simple by serving an assortment of homemade Christmas cookies. Everything can be baked ahead of time and there are fewer dishes to wash since we don't need plates or forks! - Shelly from Oregon

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  94. My favorite way of entertaining during the holidays is to always make sure people leave with a goodie bag, usually full of food! Food always brings my family together for conversation so I like to give people the chance to take home a few bites of their favorite dish to remember how joyful it was when we were all together.

    Happy 2nd Birthday, Emma!

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  95. I lived in Australia when during a semester of my university days.. the wonderful lady who took me under her wing loved throwing dinner parties and when I offered to help her clean up, she told me.. you are a guest, go enjoy yourself, when I come to your dinner party someday, I will do the same. I try to remember that now and make sure everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves! If my guests are happy - so am I!

    Happy Birthday Sweet Emma! x

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  96. My men in the family make a big breakfast for everyone on Christmas morning. They always make the pancakes in different animal shapes, and it's so fun to see what they come up with. Everyone helps with clean up, and then we go sledding in the afternoon if we have enough snow.

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  97. My family loves to do holiday entertaining that is kid-centered. In the past, we have hosted cookie exchanges, gingerbread house decorating parties, tea / hot chocolate parties. The adults can visit while the kids have fun.

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  98. Though my husband's family has always gathered on Christmas Eve at his parent's house, my favorite way to celebrate is by hosting a small brunch at our home on Christmas morning. I like that it's a small group, everyone can talk and the best part is, my husband cleans up!

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  99. We decorate homemade Gingerbread Men every year, as part of a tree-decorating party. Adults and kids alike. It is fun to see everyone get creative, Hawaiian Hula Gingerbread girl, Elvis, Justin Bieber and of course Santa!

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  100. We are in a new city and neighborhood this year, having moved only a month ago. We are far from family and friends so that can make the holidays really, really difficult. My four year old daughter came to me one day and told me that she "wanted to do something nice for the neighbors." I have no idea where this came from other than her sweet little soul! I gave it some thought and after perusing your store one day, I proposed to her that we spend some time making some nice holiday treats together that we could package up with your wonderful labels and bags. We had a ball doing this and then my daughter put on a Santa hat and got on her tricycle with the packages in the back and we went around to our new neighbors to say hello and Merry Christmas. To be honest, it was a little bit out of my comfort zone, but it ended up just being a joy to do and I think I learned a lesson from my little daughter. In our times, people keep more to themselves than they ever did. And making some effort, and putting some love out there can really make a difference! I hope we can make this a permanent tradition because it made us feel so good to do it.

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  101. I am making an effort to host neighbors to dinner-- even if I think our house or the food I cook isn't perfect, I'm learning that getting together with friends is more important than having every last detail just right. One neighbor recently suggested a brunch after church and this beautiful Nespresso would help make that a really special occasion! Maybe starting with breakfasts would be a good way for me to ease into entertaining more often. Merry Christmas!

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  102. I enjoy entertaining small groups, for a more intimate evening. My favorite way is by preparing a nice meal, Of course, coffee is always part of it, so this machine would be a welcome addition to my kitchen.
    waytoomanycats (@) gmail (dot) com.

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  103. I think my favorite part of entertaining is the planning/anticipation aspect. I LOVE having friends over for tea and making scones or cookies and using my vintage English China

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  104. Favorite part of entertaining is coffee with dessert after a wonderful meal! The nespresso would be perfect to treat my guests this season:)

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  105. I want to try harder to celebrate the true meaning of the season. This can be done in such simple ways....he does not need us to be fancy or sparkly. I am guilty of getting caught up in all the other stuff. This year I have been making a conscious effort to bring myself back to what it's really all about.

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  106. Jenny - your blog is inspiring in many ways, but most importantly encourages me to not wait for perfection to entertain - to just move forward with what we have right now. Thank you for that.

    There are a few things that seem innocuous but bring me immense joy when entertaining - I love hosting and participating in potlucks with my cousins and family. It's great to feel like I'm contributing when someone else is entertaining...to be able to leisurely focus on one dish, and jazz it up! From my travels, I often collect unique dining and serving elements (when I was in Slovakia for work about 5 years ago, while sightseeing, we stumbled upon a door with a tiny sign - when we walked inside, it was a store filled with pottery, and the potter himself was in a corner working away. I bough a emerald colored dish shaped like a fish - you can even feel scales that he sculpted in on the bottom of the dish!) - these dishes make wonderful conversation, and always allow me to relive my travels and those special moments. This past Thanksgiving was hosted at my uncle and aunt's house - my cousin asked my husband if he could teach her how to make his apple bourbon bread pudding. They ended up making it together early on while everyone was arriving, enjoying appetizers, catching up...we were all chipping in at various moments with the chopping and peeling. I've always thought it is better when everything is out of the way before the guests arrive, but it was such a fun activity to be doing while everyone was there, and out of all the Thanksgiving desserts, everyone was looking forward to the bread pudding the most! It's an idea that I think I might incorporate going forward - picking one simple, fun dish that can be prepared while guests are there.

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  107. This year I am having my 2nd annual gift wrapping party, which turns a Christmas "to-do" into a social occasion! I can't wait!

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  108. I suppose I should have to say no more than The Barefoot Contessa's beef tenderloin! It has been my go to Christmas Eve dinner for years. I grew up outside New Orleans, La so it wouldn't be Christmas morning without homemade, hot Beignets, (with loads of powdered sugar) and sausage balls. We always do stockings and Santa gifts first and then break for breakfast (or brunch, now that the kids are older) we then return with full bellies for the rest of the gift exchange. We just like to savour the day... I love the tenderloin, and make the largest one I can find. I make a horseradish sauce and lay out fresh rolls and salad and everyone can graze at their leisure the rest of the day. The best advice I have, keep it simple, make one thing that you know works and everyone loves, and play with the rest. Kids grow up way to fast to be stressing in the kitchen all day!!!

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  109. What a nice post! There is nothing better than Christmas (or birthdays!) through the eyes of a child. One of the most fun traditions we have in our town is the night Santa rides through town on the firetruck! He stops off at various homes to see the children and drop off gifts. Usually we attend a huge neighborhood party, but this year (with a sick child) we stayed home and decided to have a more low key night in our jammies baking and decorating the house & tree. It was so lovely and cozy. I thought to myself - this is it. Our new tradition will be to forego the huge neighborhood bash (aka cocktail fest) and opt to stay in our cozy home decorating and baking while we wait for Santa's arrival!

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  110. What a lovely post and a great tradition with Emma. Love the photo of her waiting for the cinnamon buns to come out of oven, so adorable. One of my traditions during the holidays is to serve a brunch along with coffee, tea and hot chocolate bar. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

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  111. My mom and I always have baking days during the holiday's. We invite friends and family who like to bake, or who like to eat baked goods, and spend the day in the kitchen together. Everyone leaves with treats!

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  112. I always throw a "pancakes and pajamas" party with all of my gal friends over the holidays. Everyone arrives in their jammies and brings their favorite pancake add-ins or toppings. We spend the day chit chatting, watching christmas movies, and voting on our favorite topping combinations!

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  113. To try to streamline the holidays, I do as much as possible in advance.....make bread, freeze rolls formed to thaw, rise, and bake on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve I serve my own recipe, Chicken Stroganoff over buttered noodles....it's become a tradition! This year I'm making the Barefoot Contessa's chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream icing for dessert. It is incredible.....I made it for my grandson's 2nd birthday party and everyone went bananas over it. So it's made and freeing on it's antique cake pedestal, waiting for the big thaw on Christmas. There's still lots to do, but I've come to subscribe to the notion that simple holidays with less stress are the best gift I can give to my family! Have the loveliest Christmas season ever!

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  114. Great ideas with the simple decorations for Emma's party! I can imagine her excitement when she saw the balloons! I love that you thought to think of what she would want to do. Can't believe she is 2. I started following your blog just before she was born. You have beautiful family and home. Happy Holidays!

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  115. Since we live in a small, NYC apartment, we don't typically entertain at our place. However, whenever we go to someone else's (larger) place, I try to play the part of the traveling hostess by taking some of the burden off of the actual host and making him/her feel at ease. I typically bring a decadent dessert along with my own dessert plates for serving (and wash them myself afterwards), offer to take charge of some aspect of the party (music, etc.) and bring a hostess gift that can be used during the actual party (a fir scented candle around Christmas time, for example). I would love to have a big enough space to actually host the event, but until then, playing the traveling hostess works for now!

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  116. A simple dinner with friends. Good food and time with friends - what more could you ask for!

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  117. A progressive dinner with two other couples in our neighborhood has become an annual tradition. One hosts happy hour, one the main course and the third has dessert. No one feels like they are doing it all and we get to exercise and admire the lights as we walk to the next home!

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  118. We like to invite friends over to sing Christmas carols around our piano! Everyone usually brings an appetizer type food and we supply the beverages. It's simple and fun, and people always say they look forward to it. Spending time with family and friends and reflecting on the meaning of the Season is what it's all about!

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  119. I like to make the classic recipes my mom used when she would entertain for the holidays! For example, nothing beats a traditional shrimp cocktail in my opinion!

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  120. I love entertaining by going all out and having a nice little "dessert bar". I make cake, cookies, chocolate torte, and a cheesecake and serve coffee and hot chocolate! Thank you!

    nickijoseph91@gmail.com

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  121. My favorite way to entertain is to let my daughter do all of the work! I make cookies and coffee and she does all of the cooking. I also always have Bailey's on hand to make the coffee extra"special".

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  122. Happy Birthday Emma! We like to entertain by having a friend's get together before Christmas. We decorate our house, do the white elephant thing, exchange Christmas cookies, and make a lot of delicious food :-) kenhall013@gmail.com

    ~Kenny H.

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  123. I have four kids and my favorite way to entertain for their birthdays is to make all their favorite foods...starting with a special breakfast! Lots of "magic"! Special suprises like a box of candy or a special lunch dropped off at school. A birthday candle for each child that gets burned the entire day of their birthday. And lots of family and friends!

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  124. We like to turn the Christmas tree lights down low - they are on a dimmer- light lots of white candles and invite a few friends to,share hot buttered rum and read aloud "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas.

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  125. Awesome giveaway! Merry Christmas!

    suzanneedevaux@yahoo.com

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  126. I like to entertain with random indoor picnics, it takes friends and family back to their childhoods and makes everyone the same level ;)
    mummytotwoboys@yahoo.com

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  127. When I set the table I use things that belonged to both my grandmothers, it always adds that special touch and reminds us of them. Merry Christmas!
    Susan

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  128. We have all my immediate family to my house and we set the big farm house table with our Christmas dishes and enjoy a lovely meal and then time to open up the gifts!
    The coffee makers would be wonderful!!
    Merry Christmas to you!
    Dana Munoz

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  129. Recently moved to a new area, no family around here and haven't made any friends here yet. My "entertaining" will be via Skype calls so I can be with loved ones around the country. No better way to feel right there, when you can't physically be right there. I also usually include a video tour, lol, of the decorations and our new apartment. ;) Thank you internet!

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  130. I like to host a casual brunch. It is laid back & leaves the rest of the day open for everyone. I also love to put my 2 daughters, ages 12 & 15, in charge of decorations. It is always fun to see how creative they are!

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  131. Every year, my husband and I throw a DIY ugly christmas sweater/white elephant party. We buy silly christmas decorations from the dollar store, every one brings an old sweater; and we have several hot glue guns ready to go! After decorating, we proudly wear them and proceed to have our white elephant gift game.
    For New Years Eve, our families bring our old calendars from the previous year and make hats out of them! Play lots of board games, card games; eat yummy hors d'oeuvres and sip lots of champagne.

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  132. There is nothing better than giving my time to others in need! I love to do random "special" suprises to others that have no idea who they came from. I find it a great way to give back and I feel good too!
    Christmas morning is spent with my hubby alone opening our own gifts and enjoying the moment...our own tradition...then we are off to join family for an eventful brunch nad creating special memories!

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  133. My family and I have a lot of traditions. We cut down a real tree, we open 1 present on Christmas Eve, we always read the Bible story of the birth of Jesus to remind us what Christmas is all about, and more. This year I am starting a new tradition. I have invited my nieces who are 20 and 22 along with my 19 year old daughter to make Christmas candies and other goodies. I am hoping this will be a yearly event that we will carry on even when they are married and have children of their own. This will be the second Christmas without my mother. This is something she would have loved to do but was always too sick or tired. I feel like the matriarch of the family now. I know my mother will be watching from heaven and she will be smiling.

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  134. Our family goes to the nursing home to sing Christmas carols every year!

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  136. Christmas was a special time to me. I would decorate every room in the house, each one room also had a small tree with each in a different theme. Then I would plan a dinner party and have friends and family over. Every one enjoyed the feel good feeling in our home. I would always make something for each couple to take home with them. I can't do that anymore and I miss it so much. I was told twenty years ago I had MS. If you are able to do special thing for the holidays, do them and enjoy the moment, you never know when your life could change. Now I read blogs and look at others pictures, wishing to be able to do what I use to do. My three grandsons have never been able to have the kind of Christmas at my house that I use to have. Oh how I wish they could. They would have had fun.Christmas is a fun time to share with others.
    CABWNANA1@bellsouth.net

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