It's never too late to plan a New Year's Eve Party!

New Year’s Eve…for the young at heart and the old!

What better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve than as a family, surrounded by kids of all ages. Instead of getting a sitter and dressing up to go to a formal cocktail or dinner party, host a neighborhood New Year’s Eve Pajama Party.

My neighbor Monique threw this last year – and it was one of my favorite parties all year long.

Invitation – it sets the tone, gets everyone onboard for the fun theme ahead, and lets everyone know to dress the part! There isn’t much time to get the word out, so have the kids draw up some artwork and write out the time to be there. You can dress the kids up in their winter finery and hand deliver them door to door. Or, for a faster invitation, just pick up the phone and invite everyone personally.

Timing – get here by 7, back home by 11. It works great for kids (and exhausted adults!) of all ages.

Décor – all white is my favorite – with hints of sparkling silver and gold. White hydrangea look like fresh fallen snow, and gold or silver wire wrapped around the vases add a hint of sparkle to the décor. As always, candles, candles, candles…you can even wrap the silver or gold wire around glass cylinder vases and fill with water, placing floating candles inside. These should always be placed high so they are out of danger to children.

Drink – champagne for the adults of course (I love serving off of a champagne bar – set up various bottles of Prosecco, Champagne, Sofia Coppola minis), and pajama punch (sparkling cider with fruit juice) for the kids makes everyone feel included and sip a special cocktail or mocktail all night long.

I always love a great specialty cocktail – and my new favorite 2008-tini is made with the hot “green” 360  Vodka – the first eco luxury vodka.  Mix it with cherry limeade (at the grocery store in the juice aisle) and a splash of ginger ale for a great holiday martini.  More recipes available at

Food – Pajamas and pizza go hand in hand…and from gourmet flavors for the adults to kids making their own mini pizzas, there is something to please even the pickiest of palettes. I love Homemade Pizza in Chicago – the pizzas are premade, and all you have to do is pop them in the oven.  And the flavors are divine!  Second, their Pizza Party Kit for kids is chock full of mini size crusts, sauce, and toppings.  My kids think they have won the lottery when I bring this home.  If you don’t have a Homemade Pizza, you can use premade Boboli pizza crusts (I love the whole wheat), or store bought fresh pizza dough. My Dad loves to throw them on the grill instead of in the oven – boy do they taste like heaven.

Dessert – a hot “green” dessert trend is to have the dessert buffet double as a take home favor. All white candies like yogurt covered pretzels, non pareleils, white chocolate covered malt balls, m and ms, jelly bellies and more play to the theme, and are displayed in glass jars tied with white bows. Candy boxes can be labeled with custom labels, or decorated by the kids as an art project during the party.

Ring in the new year – childhood style – by having the ball drop and clock strike at 9 or 10 pm. You can set a countdown timer, ring bells, blow party horns, and blow bubbles to their heart’s content to celebrate 2008. Happy New Year to you and your families… >

Gorgeous Gift Wrap Trends for you and yours

Gorgeous gift wrap for your holiday gifts this season.

No matter who is on your list…and what your gifts to give may be, the gift wrap on the outside sets the excitement and tone for what lies ahead inside.

Today I am sharing the 7 hot trends in gift wrap:

1. Decorative boxes – these make great gift wrap a snap! You don’t need expensive wrapping paper or tape, you just place your gift inside with tissue paper, add ribbon and a tag, and voila – fabulous in under a minute. These are also a green wrapping trend – as the box is recyclable for many other uses like storage, the next holiday gift wrap and more.  Gorgeous boxes of every shape, size and style are available at A Perfect Event.

Don’t have time to find pretty gift boxes?

2. Department and Specialty store boxes – this is even faster and easier gift wrap, because the box comes with the gift! I always ask for gift boxes at stores and boutiques, so you don’t need to find a box to fit the gift later. Many also provide tissue, ribbon, even the gift card. How easy is that? My favorites are from Kate Spade, H and M, Henri Bendel, Takashimaya and Bergdorf Goodman.

3. Hard to wrap gifts – these can be tricky to find boxes or even wrapping paper. Simply add a gorgeous bow – using wide satin ribbon, and making a simple bow with two long tails to cover the height of the gift. My secret is to tuck into the bow something special and pretty. I love to tie the accent theme to the theme of the gift itself. A stuffed animal with this New Mother’s Delivery Bag, vintage teaspoon with gourmet chocolate mix, Pampered Chef coffee clip with Fauchon coffee set, etc.

You can also buy rolls of cellophane, at florist or craft stores, and wrap a large sheet of cellophane around the gift for an elegant finishing touch. Unlike wrapping paper cello can be gathered and tied, so it makes the hard to wrap gift easier to manage.

4. Gift wrap IS the gift – I also love combining the container with the gift inside. A mixing bowl filled with baking tools and treats, a saucepan filled with gourmet gadgets, a children’s beach bucket filled with toys, etc. Again just add cellophane, or a ribbon, and save the paper. Another green tip!

5. The card says it all – My mother is famous for this – she always has tags that give you a hint of what is inside. For a book on Paris, have a tag with the Eiffel Tower and say “for your next trip”, for a favorite CD collection say “I think of you everytime I hear this song…”

It really sets the tone for the gift, and again alludes to what is inside.

6. Green gift wrap – My grandmother is the queen of recycling. Al Gore could use her on his team. Using leftover scraps of fabric, wrap small gifts and just add ribbon. With left over ribbon, wrinkled ribbon, simply iron the wrinkles out with a hot iron. With holiday cards, have the kids make gift tags.

7. Kid’s artwork as wrap – nothing is more special than something homemade, especially by your young family or friends. Have kids make wrapping paper, gift bags, and tags by coloring their favorite holiday scenes onto paper, cardstock, and more. Add ribbon, and an accent, and the gift couldn’t look any sweeter.

Happy wrapping – and merry holidays.


Holiday Tablesettings and Cocktails

Holiday Tablesettings are all about family and friends, personal traditions, warm, wonderful winter colors and designs.

In your family, what makes up your holiday celebration?

Children? If so, involve them and begin to teach them the beauty of sharing traditions and special occasions with their friends and family.

Make your table a North Pole dream come true – complete with the kids working as Santa’s little elves!

Take a styrafoam cone shaped topiary form, and any holiday candies that you want to use. I love swedish fish, jelly bellies in holiday colors, gumdrops, cinnamon bears and more.  With hot glue or tacky glue, adhere candies to each cone in various patterns based on color, shapes, and more. Add a silk bow to teh top to finish the look.  Display ontop dishes or cake stands to complete the look.

Company in from out of town? If so, make them feel welcome and personally touched by the details and thoughtfulness at your table.

Holiday Wish jar centerpiece…make a wish, take a wish.

Take a collection of glass apothecary jars, and fill half of them with scrolled blank paper, cut from large sheets. Wrap a ribbon on the jar, and add a tag describing the type of wishes to be placed inside: Wishes for Family, Wishes for the World, New Year Resolutions, and more. Have pens at each placesetting, for guests to use to write their personal holiday wish, and put into the jar.

Half of the jars can be filled with wishes for your guests…they reach into the jar, and take one of your wishes for them to take into the holiday and new year.

No time for table décor?

Instant winter centerpiece – Take glass hurricanes or vases, and spray with “spray frost” for an instant, gorgeous candle collection centerpiece. Fill the hurricane or vase with a tall pillar candle, or water and a floating candle.  Surround with scattered white or red rose petals and votives (I love to spray frost these too) for the finishing touch.

What holiday party is complete without a fabulous cocktail?  My favorite hot Cocktail Trends this year include the following (and all can be made as mocktails, without alchol for the kids or non-drinkers):

Pomapolitan – a cosmopolitan made with pomagranate juice. My aunt Elaine made these for the pre-party to my cousin Megan’s wedding.  They were so delish – I rushed home from Ohio to make them for my own parties.

Into a pitcher or martini shaker, pour:

2 oz vodka (I am so in love with Vodka 360)

2 oz contreau (orange liquor)

1 oz lime juice

1.5 cups pomegranate juice

Garnish with a thin slice of lime floating in the glass…voila!

Peppermint Patty – hot chocolate with a splash of peppermint schnapps (you can decide how much you use in a “splash”!

Pour into glass Irish Coffee mug, teacup, etc. hot chocolate

Splash with peppermint schnapps

Garnish with a mini candy cane on the rim…too sweet.

Gingertini – Vanilla Vodka with Ginger Beer

In a pitcher or martini shaker pour:

Half Vanilla Vodka (I love Absolute)

Half Ginger Beer (or Ginger Ale in a pinch)

Garnish with a cinnamon stick to stir in the glass.

Cheers – to happy holidays!


Holiday Cheer

Holiday Cheer

By Debi Lilly

The holidays are my favorite time of year. When else are we obligated to indulge in delicious food and drink, decorate our houses and celebrate with loved ones? The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and this December I’ve got the perfect plan for sharing the joy of the season!


Why not skip the predictable holiday décor and create unusual elegance this year? I love the stunning wintery palette…and the options are endless. Choose three chic, wintery colors. My favorite combination is apple green, white and gold. It’s the perfect mix of crispness and warmth, much like winter itself (at least when indoors). Use this color scheme throughout your holiday details…from décor to holiday cocktails and menus. These colors work beautifully tabletop and outdoors, too.

The ultimate Christmas tree is dressed with a collection of fresh flowers, like orchids, chrysthanemums and carnations. Florals can be cut and water-tubed at the base of each stem for a long-lasting effect (available at your local florist or crafts store).

To make your table or mantle a festive focal point throughout the holiday season, fill your favorite urns, vases and antique containers with abundant white carnation blooms. This affordable flower creates a stunning winter wonderland. Simply trim your stems so the base of the blooms are flush with your containers. As always, mismatched containers with different shapes and heights add visual interest. Or, create gorgeous accents with easy, spray-painted white and au naturale pinecones. Try tying them with luscious silk ribbons for indoor décor. Scatter tabletop or in baskets outside.


Host a decadent dessert party for the easiest holiday party theme. Inviting guests from 8 to 10 pm keeps the prep to a minimum, and the party short and sweet! Greet guests with your specialty holiday cocktail. A White-Winter-tini is creamy and delicious: mix equal parts of Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur and Effen Black Cherry vodka. Float white rose petals on top as garnish. Stunning and delicious!

Champagne makes another elegant, festive cocktail. Serve three vintages and let guests choose from three styles of stemware, for a new twist on sipping bubbly: Stemless Reidel glasses, traditional flutes and slim bud-vase flutes.

Next, offer the ultimate, decadent dessert and candy bar. Create a stunning spread with all white candies in various-sized glass jars: Gumdrops, M&Ms, white chocolate malted milk balls, yogurt-covered almonds, white candy canes and white chocolate pretzels. Continue the sweetness with mini-cakes, cupcakes and pudding shots, served in small glasses. Decadent truffles and chocolate bark are festive when rolled with peppermint or nuts. For another lovely and easy dessert, fill a trifle bowl with layers of cake, brownies and pudding. Serve your delicious desserts on three-tiered stands and finish the table with white votive candles and fresh cedar sprigs.

Happy Holidays!

Chicago Scene Magazine, December 2007