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Toronto decor: 5 simple centrepieces for your holiday dinner

Are you hosting Christmas dinner? I’m sure you already have your menu prepared (if you don’t, you should probably get on that) — but how about the decor? Typically, people don’t think about how they are going to set their table until the night before. By then, it is too late to get any kind of extravagant dishes or inspiring centrepieces.

But, don’t worry. There are some simply ways to decorate your table for company. Here are a few ideas:

Centrepiece: The table centrepiece is critical to the ambiance of a dinner party. If you don’t have a lot of space (who does during a Christmas feast), take a clear glass vase or even a bowl and fill the bottom with large chunks of salt or stones from your backyard. Rinse if dirty. Place a thick, round candle in the centre of the bowl and place some pinecones, garland, or even some extra bobbles you may not have put on the tree, around the candle close to the rim. If you have a spare long piece of garland, you can also line the centre of the table with it and place candles, bobbles, and pinecones at random across the table. It sounds messy, but it can actually turn out quite pretty.

Floral arrangements: Get a thin vase (or even a glass cup) and fill it with water and some fresh flowers. To make it more festive, try adding in a few pieces of pine or a ring of cranberries. Make sure the colour of the flowers is warm and inviting, like a dark red. Feel free to use fake flowers from the dollar store if you can’t get any real ones. No one will care that much. You can make them even more festive by wrapping your vase with small string lights!

Place settings: Uncle Jim may not get along with Aunt Sally — don’t give them the option of sitting near each other! You can create some really nice labels using Microsoft Word, but you can also get a little creative. If you have some stock paper, print a small tag with each guests name on it. Punch a whole in the top and thread a ribbon through to create a bow. Place on top of each plate setting with a red or gold bobble. You can even do it without the bobble!

Bar cart: Keeping wine or bottles of scotch on the table can prove welcoming with easy access, but it also takes up much needed space. Instead, set up a small table and put your alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages there with an ice bucket. Put bobbles, ribbon, pine, or garland in between the bottles. You can even use tea lights, which are easy and cheap to find at any dollar store. You can even tie cinnamon sticks together with a ribbon! Get creative. Keep a small tin of holiday cookies by the car cart too! For those who may be indulging over the holidays, it’s a great way to soak up the alcohol. It also offers a conversation piece while people wait to get their wine!

These are just a few suggestions. Above all else, use what you have at home and make your atmosphere as cozy and comfortable as possible. Keep to rich tones, put on some soft holiday tunes, and enjoy the company!

How will you be decorating your home for Christmas? Let us know in the comments below!

Have a Caribbean inspired Christmas in Toronto

What’s Christmas like in your home country ? I recently started thinking about the way people hold different Christmas traditions close to their heart. Some people dream of snow on Christmas and look forward to icy winters and warm hot chocolate. Christmas for me, however, has been different, growing up in a tropical country. If you can’t physically go to the Caribbean and experience the holiday season for yourself, here are some ways to have an island-inspired Christmas.

Caribbean Foods

Everyone loves good food — it’s one of the driving factors at every holiday celebration, no matter the culture. One of the more popular Christmas dishes you can expect to find in mostly all the islands is Christmas rum cake. This is a sponge cake with various dried fruits that has been soaked in rum, after baking. Splash more rum on the cake to add delicious flavour as well as preserve the cake for almost up to a year. Just don’t go too heavy on the rum or you’ll  become intoxicated from eating to much cake. Also, try Caribbean classics like sorrel punch and ginger beer.

Caribbean Decor

When you think of the islands, you think of warm sunshine and lots of palm trees! Palm trees are an amazing way to add a tropical touch to any room. Certain design ideas include making a Christmas wreath out of palm leaves or the funniest one that’s been circulating  on social media is a Christmas pineapple. For people that don’t want, or have time for a tree, a pineapple can easily be decorated to invoke that Christmas island feel. For the record, I have never done this and I don’t believe this is a Caribbean tradition, but its certainly festive and island-like.

Caribbean Music

Just like for any other season of the year, the creative geniuses and musical talents originating from Trinidad and Tobago know how to make Christmas in the Caribbean lively. There is a special genre of music called Parang that originated in Venezuela and Trinidad. The music revolves around an island christmas. Soca-Parang is a mixture of Soca beats and traditional Christmas songs. Similar to carolling , in some places in Trinidad people go home to home singing parang music in exchange for treats of sorrel drink or rum punch.

Caribbean Christmas Pop-up

If you’re considering what it would be like to experience a Caribbean island Christmas, there is a special Christmas pop up market coming to Toronto on Dec 16. The pop-up market is presented by Jamaican Eats Magazine and inspires  the taste, shop and style of the Caribbean. The event will be held at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre on Queen Street East. Expect to find more rum cake, a special treasure hunt and Caribbean inspired greeting cards.

An office in your home

By Leslie Whatmough

If you work in an office environment, the term home office may suggest a lifetime of homework, but a well designed home office can be a liberating space that is both functional and inspiring.

To keep a healthy balance in life it is important to find time to work, love, laugh, and create. Having a space in the home that inspires you to unleash your creative side is as important as any other functional space.

So throw out your old ideas about a home office and reinvent it as a studio, a place to paint, sew, write or build things that make your heart sing.

Choosing a space that is large enough to accommodate both the creative and practical functions of the room is the primary concern. Treat this studio as a blank canvas whose primary function is to inspire, so paint the walls in colours that set the mood and hang posters of role models or write phrases to encourage action.

It is important to think of this studio as having two distinct functions so if possible do not try to use one surface for two purposes. A desk that functions as the place to write cheques may become buried in the associated paperwork and the effort required to clear it off may deter you from using the space for its creative function. Find separate solutions for each function in the room and ignore that voice from childhood that insists that the space be cleaned up every night. If necessary ensure that this space is not visible to the rest of the home. A work in progress will allow you the freedom to commit small chunks of time without wasting that time on repetitive set-up and will allow more time for creativity.

Organization is the key to a successful home office/ studio. Commit only the minimum of space necessary to those reality tasks and keep the larger room for the creative endeavors. Bill paying and menu planning can be organized into an accordion file and requires only a counter big enough to hold a laptop or keyboard. A traditional monitor can be wall mounted for space saving if necessary. For the creative centre, comfortable furniture should be a priority as creativity often requires us to slow down and give inspiration the opportunity to surface.

A home studio is not an indulgence, it is a necessity. Taking time to allow your souls expression is the secret to a long and happy life.