Holy shit! I can’t believe it's only a month before Thanksgiving! Time is flying! Then Christmas will be here before we know it. However, I think it is safe to say we are all excited to get 2020 over and behind us.
For me personally, it has been a crazy couple weeks with design appointments, interviews for my new designer position, homeschooling 4 kids, and I still have several more weeks of design appointments before I can get excited about taking a few days to relax and spend time with family and close friends.
I'm thinking about hosting holidays at our home this year, so I wanted to spend my day today making my home cozy and beautiful. It's snowing today, so there's no reason for me to go outside, nor do I want to. You may be wondering why would I care about how my house looks and feels a month before the holiday season officially begins. If there is one thing I have learned from COVID, it is I DO have a little more time to plan things, where as before it would have been a very different scene….. most likely where I spend the whole day of, running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to find just the right napkins, plates, name tags, flowers, etc. for the perfect holiday dinner. The day would then conclude with me frantically screeching into the driveway, unloading bags of “stuff” I don’t need, feeling incredibly stressed and probably picking a fight with my husband because he is sitting on the couch with his feet up doing exactly what the holidays are all about… relaxing and enjoying himself!
Over the years I have had to learn about the “art” of being not only a happy host, but also a happy guest at my own party.
Something else I've learned from COVID is how quickly the things we once took for granted were taken away...quickly. No more birthday parties, weddings were cancelled, vacations (not us) cancelled, dinner parties and date nights forbidden, the list goes on and on. Once we were "allowed" to have those moments back (with limitations), I realized a great occasion is really about presence. Even if we’re surrounded by the very best and beautiful things, we can’t enjoy them if we don’t have the presence of mind to truly be in the moment.
Whether you are going to be the host or a guest the year (because WE WILL NOT LET THEM CANCEL OUR HOLIDAYS), the most important element for a Happy Holiday gathering is your presence, more so this year than any.
When we are present (instead of perfect), we have such a greater chance at enjoying everyone around us, dancing with unexpected twists ’n turns, and most importantly being grateful for what we have.
With all that being said though….
There are many tangible things we actually CAN do to help ourselves be more centered and grounded this holiday season.
Below are some of my favorite tips for being both a fabulous host and guest this holiday season! I hope you find these helpful and be sure to share any other tips and tricks you may have of your own in the comments below!
Wishing you a beautiful, peaceful and fun holiday season with your family and friends!
Holiday Planning Tips For Hosts
Look at lighting.
Beautiful lighting can create a sense of warmth, connectedness, and flow. Adorn your home with candles, soften those overhead lights, and make it cozy!
Think about who’s coming, and what would make them most comfortable.
Would your guests get squeamish if you asked them to take turns saying what they’re grateful for? Then don’t do it! Tailor your plans for your guests’ comfort: from the food to the activities to the seating arrangements.
Be a peaceful leader.
As the host, your presence truly ripples out to everyone there. If you’re stressed about the turkey or anxious about Uncle Jack, your guests will pick up on this, and be stressed, too. However, if you’re calm (and not just pretending to be calm!), everyone else will relax. Plan for everything to be ready and settled 20-30 minutes before your guests arrive, so you can put up your feet, read a magazine, and enjoy the calm.
Ask for and receive support.
(Disclosure- this is a struggle for me) Get creative with this! Can you have someone come clean your house the day before or after? Could you book a massage the day before? What about cooking the turkey in the morning, then watching a movie before everyone arrives? Accept support from others before, during, and after the event. (Often, tension as a host comes from a reluctance to receive support, believing we have to “do it all” ourselves. This is complete bullshit! When you ask for help (or receive it graciously when it’s offered), you’ll invite others to take care of themselves, too … which leads to more presence and peace … and that’s where the real magic of a gathering begins!
Shift your furniture to facilitate connection.
Create little areas for different-sized conversations. That lone chair you read in? Pull up a companion for it, so two people can have an intimate conversation. Create larger and smaller arrangements so different sized groupings of people can talk easily.
Adorn your home with intentions.
Every time I light a candle, I say a little intention (for joy, ease, love, etc). So when my guests arrive and there are lots of candles in my home, they’re actually walking into a meadow of meaning! This way, even if my guests aren’t the kind of people who’d love sharing appreciations or setting intentions out loud, I’ve already enjoyed this ritual, in my own way. I also suggest smudging your home beforehand too. Start at the front door of the home and light your smudge stick. Then, begin to move around the home. Move mindfully and with care, walking clockwise around the entire perimeter of the home. Be sure to allow the smoke to drift into even the hidden spaces, like inside closets, basements and dark corners. When you arrive back at the front door, chant your final mantra or prayer. Visualize the entire home is filled with bright white sunlight. Then speak your intention one last time to close the smudging ceremony.
Play soft music.
I think of music as the thread that weaves an event together. We want it to be soft enough so it doesn’t steal the show, but pleasant enough to set a beautiful mood.
Make time for your favorite parts.
For the reasons I mentioned above, you can imagine that Vince (my husband) used to hate it when I hostessed parties. I ran around like a crazy person, attending to all the details — and it wasn’t fun for anyone. When I finally realized that in order to create an enjoyable experience for my guests, I needed to enjoy myself too, everything changed! For me, this meant identifying my favorite parts of hostessing, and making time for them. Back then, I would spend so much time cooking (which I didn’t love), that I’d run out of time to do my favorite: make things beautiful! Now, I’ve learned to get support for the cooking, so I can spend more time doing what I do best and love: creating a beautiful environment for the gathering. Take a moment to identify what you love most about hosting, and find creative ways to make more time for it.
Holiday Planning Tips For Guests
Even if you aren’t the host, you can show up as a leader: model presence, love, and calm for everyone around you. You’ll have a better time — and so will they! Take a few minutes before you leave the house to breathe, relax, and set the intentions to have a wonderful time.
Calmly offer to help your host, in small, creative ways — like setting the table, pouring drinks, or cleaning up. Be sensitive to the fact that your host may not want to receive help, though; if taking care of everything is a source of pride for them, don’t deprive them of it.
Be responsible for your own comfort.
If you need a break, take one. If you get cold, put on a sweater. If you’re allergic to nuts, make sure you don’t eat any. If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask, wear it. If you feel more comfortable and free without a mask, then don't. It sounds simple, but taking responsibility for your own needs is actually one of the most helpful things you can do. Strive to care for yourself gracefully — and you just might inspire others to do the same. This will help everyone have a better time (including the host!).
Things probably won’t go exactly as you imagined. Go with the flow: embrace that new tradition, try that new recipe, have a talk with that new friend.
Hosting a big gathering takes a ton of work, so be sure to thank your host. Share specific things you enjoyed and appreciated. Let them know that you know how much work they put into things, and how grateful you are.
Whether you’re the host or the guest this holiday season (or staying solo!), take a few moments to set intentions for yourself, get grounded, and truly arrive.
Then let the magic and merriment begin!
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Yes, the holidays are drawing near which means casual gatherings and holiday dinners. Whether you entertain a lot or a little, having a well-stocked home can take a lot of the stress out of party planning. So I have done all the work for you. Being proactive rather than reactive (I say this to my kids a lot) is the key to making the most out of the upcoming Entertaining Season.
I also selected accessories that are versatile and can be used all year round. Tans, creams, and touches of metallics, making it easy to incorporate new themes throughout the year; whether adding touches of orange and yellow leaves in the bud vases, or incorporating berry sprigs in the tall vases- it will be easy to swap out the seasons with this shopping list (click on the images below to purchase)
My Must-Haves For Holiday Entertaining:
Did I miss anything? Share your own entertaining essentials in the Comments!
Fall is here, and while many of us are working from home + homeschooling, looking for something creative for the kids to do, well the Toscano family has a fun and easy craft for you... courtesy of the $1 Tree!
We recently celebrated my Fall Open House at Toscano Interiors, and to make the occasion extra special our daughter, Harper, helped make these fun goodie bags for my customers who attended the event.
To make these simple bags we picked up the following from our local $1 Tree Store:
* Paper Lunch Bags
* Felty Halloween Stickers
* Halloween ribbon
* Rolls of felt- purple, green, white
* Sticker jewels
* Brown Bakers twine
* Monster Googely Eyes
Then we used some patterned orange craft paper we already had from Michaels, patterned scissors, hot clue, Tacky Glue, and of course...buttons *eyeroll* (refer to previous blog posts about buttons)
We created pumpkins out of the craft paper and green felt. Made ghosts with the white felt and googley eyes...we just let our imagination run with it.
Your homemade goodie bag can be as simple or as a decorated as you want. Place your treats inside the bag. Fold the top of the bag over, and use a hole punch to punch through the folded layers. Thread some raffia through the holes, and tie it to secure it.
Repurpose old newspapers. Fold a sheet of newspaper into a pouch, and secure it with clear tape. Use craft glue to affix Halloween-colored notions and trim to the front of the bag. This package is best suited for flat treats like stickers and notepads.
If you’re looking for something a little fancier to wrap your treats in, make a felt favor pouch. Again, the $1 Store has rolls of felt you could use. Use pinking shears to cut out a long, rectangular piece of felt. Fold the felt in half, and use hot glue to join the two sides. Decorate the front, using scraps of felt indifferent colors. Braid a handle out of yarn. Cut small slits in each top corner. Thread the handle through each slit, and tie to secure.
These goodie bags were a huge hit, something that just adds to the touch of shopping small and local...and it gave our 6 year old something new to do one afternoon while hanging out with mom at her store.
As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, my husband and I both realized we had some tough decisions to make when it came to how our family was going to respond to these crazy times we are all living in; and that was with FEAR...yes, you read that right- FEAR
While most people we knew were frantic, and responded with the other type of FEAR,
As a family we kept moving forward and made the conscious choice to keep things as normal as possible when it came to our family activities. Obviously the activities we had control over, and rely on our already normal routines and rituals- except with more intention.
This is something I love discussing with my design client's who are in the middle of big life transitions, because these rituals we incorporate into our daily lives are also vital opportunities for self-care and self-love.
A terribly wise person once said, “You are the things you do every day.”On the upside, this means that I’m a husband-cuddler, early-morning meditator, and have a daily gratitude practice.
On the downside, it also means I’m a laundry procrastinator, have a terrible sweet tooth and waste a lot of time distracted on the internet when I’m not careful. Not too mention my husband and I are work-a-holics...which means we like to disconnect as much as possible. How that looks for our family- it is a ritual to travel often, especially during the summer months.
We refused to let COVID-19 ruin that ritual for us. With three vacations this summer, we were reminded that this summer Toscano family ritual was an important anchor to maintaining good mental health and dealing with anxiety during this pandemic. We were able to disconnect and feel some normalcy.
Routines and rituals help us stay grounded, giving us a sense of security by providing structure.
They give us a sense of accomplishment. Routines and rituals typically have a beginning and an end, and we plan our day and time around being able to prioritize them and accomplish the most important tasks of the day for ourselves and our families.
And our family's rituals look different to your family's rituals and routines- and that's okay. And maybe this pandemic is the perfect opportunity for your family to incorporate new routines and rituals, or be mindful and intentional with the ones you currently have. And let's not forget...
Home is the container that holds your rituals.
Your home is so much more than four walls and a roof. It’s a sacred space, filled with personal meaning and stories. It is so important now more than ever to make conscious choices about what rituals and routines you fill your space with.
Pro Design Ritual You Can Incorporate In Your Life Today-
Eat real meals, at a table, with beautiful place settings
No more of this “in front of the computer, right out of the container” business. At least not all the time! Make even the most run-of-the-mill meal something special. Break out those lovely placemats and cloth napkins. Set out your best China, light some candles, and put on some music — even if you’re alone, eating leftovers. Ambiance is everything … and you deserve it!
We’re all creatures of habit — and our habits define us. So … what if we stopped going on “autopilot,” and instead made the very most of our daily routines and rituals? What if we infused them with luxurious awareness and self-love? What if, every single day, we took an extra moment or two to love ourselves?
Slowly but surely, we’d feel happier.
Calmer. More Resilient.
More loved and more loving...
Even during a pandemic.
Ready for some great tips, courtesy of Guest Blogger, Shirley Martin, from Tidy Life Today? I know I am! This week's blog post is great, especially since most of us are stuck at home. Let's focus on how we can still enjoy the smaller things in life- this post Shirley shows you how.
Just because you’re still stuck at home due to COVID-19 doesn’t mean your summer has to be boring. Especially since one of the perks of having more free time is that you can take on fun summer projects that will improve your home, including creating the ultimate backyard kitchen and dining space! Then, you and your family can take your summer meals outside for some fresh air and sunshine. You can get started by following these tips.
First, Let’s Talk About Your Home Value
If you’re still on the fence about sprucing up your outdoor spaces, and you plan on selling your home, you may want to read through these tips. Because as you read through tips for boosting your home’s value, you will see that updating outdoor spaces tops the list. To get the most return out of your improvement project, be sure to snag some killer before and after photos and keep up with receipts. That way an appraiser will be able to calculate just how much value your new outdoor kitchen and dining area adds to your home. Adding curb appeal by updating the landscaping around these spaces can also increase your home value and help it attract more potential buyers. So, this is one summer project that home sellers will not want to skip!
Next, It’s Time to Think About Your Space
Now that you understand how outdoor spaces can help your home value, it’s time to get to work on updating yours! If you are starting from scratch that may mean starting with your yard and gardens. If you’re looking for low-maintenance landscaping to surround your dining and kitchen space, then using planters and containers may be your best option. Then, you won’t have to worry about spending hours watering and caring for a lawn. However, it can also be pretty wonderful to have your own vegetable garden out back so you can create authentic farm-to-table recipes without leaving your yard. Planting colorful vegetables and flowers together in your garden can really add some style but adding an archway or beautiful containers can also work. Also, think about whether a deck or patio is best for your entertainment needs.
Now, You Can Pick Out Appliances and Furniture
Since a backyard kitchen is such an extensive project, you should think about what sort of appliances and setups you would like to include in this area. Having at least a grill is a must but you may also want to add a cooktop, a smoker, or even a pizza oven. Typically, these appliances can be built into your space, which means you’ll need to hire a contractor to help out with this project. While inviting a professional into your home during a pandemic may feel stressful, practicing social distancing and asking about safety precautions can ease your mind. While your contractor is working on building your dream outdoor kitchen and dining area, you can pick out some outdoor furniture. You can shop online for furniture that will fit any budget.
Finally, Add Some Finishing Touches to Your Space
Okay so now that you’ve put all that effort into planning and building your new outdoor spaces, it’s time to have some fun with decor. Creating the perfect summer party space comes down to picking the right decor, so look for fun throw pillows, boldly colored outdoor rugs, and sophisticated table accessories to complete your outdoor oasis. Since you plan on hosting lots of outdoor dinners and parties this summer, be sure to top your new dining space off with some quality outdoor dinnerware and look for options that are as cute as they are durable. Pick a pattern that complements the rest of your decor to really help pull your space together.
Nothing says summer quite like dining al fresco with your family. So get to work planning and creating your ultimate backyard kitchen and entertainment space! Who knows, you may even begin to prefer your own backyard to dining out on restaurant patios. Which could make time go by a lot faster when you are stuck at home.
Photo Credit: Unsplash
It is no surprise that workplace has changed significantly due to COVID-19. It crucial for companies during these times of change, to create workplace settings that encourage efficiency and improve productivity while abiding by social distancing preferences.
This week's blog topic is a great infographic courtesy of guest blog writer, Skylar Ross with Avanti Systems. Discover the details of how a workspace can improve productivity through architecture and design with the below infographic.
Author, Candance Toscano
"You can design the life of your dreams and acquire that luxurious, fulfilled and empowered lifestyle you know you have always wanted."