Shine On
  • ‘Tis the season of holiday parties and gatherings, and that means it’s time to bust out the fancy dishes, silverware and other hosting goodies.

    L.A.-based celebrity gifting expert Cynde Cassel, who curated this year’s holiday collection for Winners, HomeSense and Marshalls, recently shared her holiday hosting must-haves with us.

    Here are three items every host(ess) should have on hand to take their party to the next level.

    Great Dishes

    Cocktail plate set, $7.99 at Marshalls.Cocktail plate set, $7.99 at Marshalls.

    Having a wide variety of serving dishes and platters can help to add a touch of class and glamour to your holiday event, says Cassel.

    “You can totally mix and match – different patterns, sizes, colours – there are no rules here.”

    A Little Something Special

    Gourmet salt set, $29.99 at Homesense.Gourmet salt set, $29.99 at Homesense.

    Having a little something special or gourmet-inspired can really help to kick your party up a notch, Cassel says. Think herbed butters or flavoured sea salts in small bowls with fancy spoons.

    “It just adds that wow-factor. I mean, how pretty does that look?!”

    Candles

    Poured glass candle, $9.99 at Marshalls.Poured glass candle, $9.99 at Marshalls.

    It might seem cliché, but no

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  • Foods that taste better when frozen

    Baby, it’s cold outside. And while it’s easy to nosh on warm comfort food this season, let’s not overlook the joys of cold food, too. Really, really cold food. 

    Here are some foods that taste best when frozen. Eat slowly, or risk the dreaded brain freeze.

    Frozen bananas make a delicious ice cream-like treat. (Thinkstock)Frozen bananas make a delicious ice cream-like treat. (Thinkstock)

    Bananas

    Peel bananas before you freeze them. You’ll be surprised at how creamy a treat they become when frozen. If you’ve got an extra minute or two, toss frozen chunks of banana into a blender for one-ingredient ice cream.

    Grapes

    If you haven’t tried frozen grapes — they’re nature’s candy — you’re missing out. Epicurious reminds us that grapes are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, so try to buy organic. 

    Also great frozen: raspberries and frozen canned fruit, like peaches and pineapple.)

    Frozen avocadoes are an unexpected treat. (Thinkstock)Frozen avocadoes are an unexpected treat. (Thinkstock)

    Avocado slices

    This is one snack we can’t wait to try. The Food Network recommends freezing avocado slices for up to four hours, then sprinkling them with chili powder and salt before eating. 

    Iceberg lettuce wedges

    Another

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  • ’Tis the season to impress dinner guests. 

    And while the winter holidays are the perfect time to throw a formal dinner party, for those of us who’ve never set a formal table, the task can seem pretty daunting.

    A formal setting can intimidate guests, too: “Which glass is mine?” “Is that your bread knife or mine?”

    Shine On asked Toronto-based etiquette writer and advisor Karen Cleveland for some help in navigating formal table settings. 

    Shine On: What makes a table setting a “formal” one?

    Cleveland: A “formal” table setting is really subjective, but a good gauge is that it is set for multiple courses.

    In mid-to-late nineteenth century, we started dining a la Russe, meaning that each type of food was served in its own course, and the table wasn’t reset between all of them. All the forks showed up on the table at once, and it was up to the hostess or butler to know which order the meal was coming out in so that the cutlery could be arranged accordingly. That began our (relatively modern)

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