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Design Notes

Good serve

Planning to serve buffet-style this holiday season? Here are some helpful tips for setting up, suggested by the Washington Post:

Use a favorite tablecloth or buy seasonal fabric such as velvet, plaid, even glitzy voile. Embellish with simple greenery, pine cones, shiny ornaments, flowers or fruit.

Watch where you place candles, especially tall ones, that might singe someone's sleeve.

Stack plates at the beginning of the serving line, utensils at the end. Use china plates (they don't have to match) if you have enough, plastic disposables if you don't. Avoid paper plates, which gets soggy. Use real silverware (even if you have to borrow).

Let guests -- especially vegetarians and those with food restrictions -- know what's in each dish. Write out a brief menu and display in a festive frame, informing guests there are nuts in the brownies, etc.

When space is at a premium, go vertical with tiered serving dishes and skinny cylinder vases for flowers.

Avoid gridlock around the food table by setting up the bar in another room.


Table tip

Here's another idea for the buffet table, this from Real Simple Magazine's new book "Solutions": Recruit sturdy ceramic mugs to store spoons, forks and knives at the end of the buffet table.

Another festive approach is to wrap utensils in a ribbon-tied napkin.


Winter warmup

If there ever has been a better time to give gifts of warmth, it's this year. With rising fuel costs and many cold days ahead, here are some ideas to consider: flannel sheets or pajamas; down comforter; basket of hot drink mixes or teas; towel warmer; single-cup coffee-maker; slipper socks; shearling slippers, or -- spotted in the Bed Bath & Beyond catalog -- Bed Buddy warming mittens and booties.

They're microwavable.


And finally ...

"It's a party. Wear a hat! Wear sparkly cocktail rings. Wear a smile." -- Designer Kate Spade

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