Holiday Hosting Made Simple : 11 Tips To Stress Free Entertaining

The holidays are a joyous time. We reflect and feel gratitude for those we hold dear, some of whom we might not see all that often. I love hosting get togethers during the holidays to ensure I see everyone.
Often times we think of entertaining as a full blown dinner party. I've found it less stressful and more fun to host gatherings that are less food centric and more about visiting. For some reason we measure ourselves in entertaining terms by how much we actually prepared and how complicated it was. The more involved the recipe the more accomplished the host. Many of us pull it off, however, I've found many end up focusing on the food and serving all night, then addressing clean up and are exhausted the next day... potentially not even having had time to really talk to all of the guests. If you've ever felt totally overwhelmed by hosting it can make you reluctant to try again.
This year I hosted an early get together with family and friends who always head out of town for the holidays. I decided with absolute certainty that I would figure out a way to make it as stress free and enjoyable as possible. I thought a drop in would be a good idea and that it would be dessert themed with a very basic array. I planned all that I would need to host the perfect event and headed to Willow Park Village. It's incredibly convenient to have every single thing I could possibly need all in one stop. The upside of shopping in a setting like this too is that it becomes a welcoming little community, people in shops remember you and are happy to see you return.
Planning was so easy. I ordered a stacked 6" on 8" cake from Crave Cupcakes and additional cupcakes for the children. I then walked two doors down to order flowers, including some for the cake at Blooms and Butterflies. In between those two stops Kate King Jewelry caught my eye and I popped in and treated myself to a new ring to match a pendant I already have. Another two doors down I picked up two Brie bakers and the next stop, some new toss cushions and a throw and the living room was ready to welcome guests.
I spoke to an expert at Springbank Cheese Company to create the best cheese pairings to compliment my other choices. I made several more stops purchasing some necessities and all of my work for gathering the right things was done in under an hour. I didn't need to prep a single thing with exception of the brie that I warmed and my signature drink. It was the easiest set up ever.
I welcomed guests to come as they please on Saturday afternoon for a quick bite and drink between a set hour window. I arranged the cake and baked goods on pretty white stands and made up the cheese board to balance the sweet. Guests sipped a Winter White Sangria recipe that I came up with and there was an alcohol free juice medley for our tiny guests. Everyone was able to make it and we ended up having the loveliest time.
Fresh eucalyptus and pear are the perfect touch to this cheese platter. 
Bud vase blooms,  fresh hand towels a scented candle are pretty vanity additions. A new liquid soap means guest won't have to fumble with a bar.
Extra blooms adorn this amazing cake and were so easy to set atop. 

From planning and set up to cleanup I've included a step by step list to hosting your own amazing get together.

11 Steps To Stress Free Entertaining:
  1. Decide on your event date. Create a guest list and evite guests, Naughty or Nice with no more than three weeks warning. This is the magic number, any longer and people forget or make alternate plans. 
  2. Create a prep list outlining food, florals, serving supplies or decorations and check it twice. 
  3. Order florals and bakery items a week in advance. This way if you have a flower or dietary request you have extra time to confirm availability or make alternate plans. Inquire as to whether they have a delivery service. I did with Crave and Blooms and Butterflies -the nominal charge was completely worth it. 
  4. For savoury items it's always an option to keep it simple. I did a warmed brie but sticking to room temperature finger foods reduces prep time, cuts back on clean up and won't require heating or utensils. You can buy cheeses, crackers, olives, etc... ahead of time to help with early organization.  
  5. If you're cohosting or you live with someone delegate some prep or cleaning jobs to them. 
  6. Pick necessities up the week of in one shot and set everything up the night before so all you have to do is address the actual food and drinks the day of.  
  7. Restock the restroom with clean towels and extra toilet paper. For an added touch I swap out our bar soap for a new liquid soap. This way guests don't have to touch communal soap.
  8. Make a signature cocktail and serve in a punch bowl or labelled jugs. Guests can help themselves to a beverage and you're free to visit. Make sure to have an alcohol free option for those driving and children. 
  9. Encourage a friend or family member to capture a few candid photos. Hosts are often too preoccupied to but the pictures are great to look back at later. 
  10. If you'd like to decorate your cake with fresh florals tack an extra bloom or two on to your order ahead of time. Keep them in a cool dark spot the day before and place them on your cake at serving time. It's such a nice added touch. 
  11. Lastly, heat your brie shortly before expecting your first guests. Any oven will act as a warming drawer if kept at 200°. Make a second warmed brie and keep covered for when guests have made their way through the first one. Then you need only take the new one out of the oven and swap your brie bakers. 
All items supplied by Willow Park Village. 
1. Cakes, cupcakes and cakestands- Crave Cupcakes 
2. All florals - Blooms and Butterflies 
3. Throw Cushions - Down Bedding
4. Pendant Necklace - Kate King Jewelry
5. Lace trimmed slip dress - Knickers and Lace
6. Children's clothing - Stephanie's Kids
7. Fir candles, throw blanket - Home Treasures and More
8. Liquid Hand Soap - Skoah
9. Brie Bakers - Compleat Cook 

This post was sponsored by Willow Park Village. All styling, advice and opinions are my own.


The Style Files : Sentaler Coats

Everyone loves a success story. I've enjoyed watching as one of my favourite Canadian labels, Sentaler, a luxury outerwear line, has risen to the top in a very short time. They're known for their Alpaca (which are sustainable, fair trade and cruelty free) wrap style coats with signature ribbed sleeve detailing. The brand is gracing magazine covers as worn by the Royal Duchess Kate Middleton (here) and on Canada's first lady Sophie Gregoire Trudeau (here). A year or so ago I was lucky to meet Bojana Sentaler when she had a trunk show for her coats at Holt Renfrew. She is a warm hearted, lovely person who's keen fashion sense and eye for detail is unparalleled.
Find Sentaler in store at Holt Renfrew, Nordstrom and The Bay or purchase online on their site (here).


Holiday Tradition : A Glimpse At How We Start The Season

Traditions, we all have them but what does the word tradition even mean? A tradition is a custom or belief passed down from generation to generation; however it's so much more than that. It's something that we look forward to and anticipate with excitement. Sometimes our traditions are what keep us tied to the spirit of the holidays and remind us of the importance of family and what the season is really all about. Our tree trimming party is a treasured tradition for all in my family.
In the past it seemed every year as the holiday's rapidly approached I'd run out of time organizing for Christmas Day. I'd end up pulling together holiday decorations last minute and it usually involved a late night or two. I figured there had to be a better way, so when my boys were little I started involving them in the holiday decor process. I felt it was important to show them that setting up could be a process of celebration and love and that it isn't something that just happens in a snap overnight while they're asleep. It's good for them to learn to help out and of course they loved the involvement as it gave them a sense of pride and purpose to help prepare our home. To make it fun I'd turn it into a full celebration; complete with treats, hot chocolate and the perfect mood setting music. It quickly became a tradition that we all looked forward to.
Setting up needn't be complicated. I like to keep things simple and elegant. I've found over the years that this is the best way to approach decor. When we complicate things we get overwhelmed and don't always follow through. My goal was to create a decor set up that was easy enough to replicate year after year with slight tweaks. I felt it was important to invest once in good quality decor elements, that way they'd last and become treasures that we can pull out of storage every year. For this reason I've loved Pottery Barn's Channel stitch collection. The stockings and tree skirt are so well made and as a new little family member arrived; a year or two later, I was able to purchase him a new stocking that was exactly the same as the ones we already had. I appreciated that.
Having a creamy white back drop for our staple decor elements, like the tree skirt and stockings has meant that every year we could layer in green, red, gold... or whatever theme felt right that year. 
For the dining table I love setting up tiered cake plates (6", 9" and 12") with different treats and goodies. Having varied heights and diameters across the table top creates visual interest yet it's still low enough to see over and encourage lively conversation. In order to get around using a fussy table cloth I like to use a set of silver leaf chargers. They look great and keep cleanup easy.
I put out an array of treats from my favorite local bakery, Crave Cupcakes 
I'm a glitter girl at heart and these ornaments are the perfect champagne glitter to work with both the gold and silver tones in my living room. Plus the globes cast a beautiful warm light with their tiny flameless candles inside. (similar here)
Mixing ornaments with some fresh flowers adds a festive touch amidst the accessories that normally reside on the coffee table. This simple addition adds another layer of decor to compliment the Christmas tree. Often times floral arrangements can also be made of just greenery and will last for several weeks. 
I can never get enough pillar candles. Setting up multiple vignettes of flameless flicker candles; all of which are on a timer, means that the living room has an ambiance and glow that I can depend on at the same time every day. They're amazing to come home to on a cold winter night and the boys enjoyed decorating the candle holders with fake snow and german glitter snowflakes.
There's nothing quite like curling up under a warm cozy faux fur throw and reading the same holiday stories that we read every year.
Quite possibly my favourite addition last year were the St. Jude mercury glass candles both lidded and votive. They smell so lovely, look beautiful with my other accessories, and a portion of the proceeds go back to your local Children's Hospital. That just feels good whether you keep them or give them as a thoughtful gift. This year's Children's Hospital collection here.
I approached the fire place hearth a little different than I have in the past. I decided it might look pretty to stack logs and stagger a collection of simple glass votives over the logs. These ones happen to smell great as well. I like that the flame is enclosed in the glass cup and therefore I needn't worry about them setting fire to the wood.
Setting up this way gets our holiday season off to the best start. After the decor is complete we all find ourselves feeling the festive spirit and enjoy spending time together in rooms that are decked in holiday trim. 
*Pottery Barn currently is having their black Friday sale and all holiday decor is 30% off (here). 

This post was sponsored by Pottery Barn all styling and opinions are my own.

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The Style Files : Perfect Dress Round Up

A well built wardrobe is made up of key components that give us the flexibility to have the right things on hand when we need them even if at the last minute. There have been times in the last few years when I'm invited to an event the day of and am grateful to have a few great dresses hanging in my closet to choose from. It saves the rush of buying something not so great in a pinch and alleviates stress when a spontaneous invite arises. With the holidays fast approaching and parties, gatherings and invites doubling over the next few weeks I thought it might be good to pull together a round up of my favourite most versatile dress styles. I've included a dress at a reasonable price point two in-between and one a little on the higher end, but a good investment piece none the less. Everything is on sale today for black friday. I'm here ordering up a storm and trying to get all my holiday shopping wrapped up while at home in pajamas. I'll include some links below to my favourite sites with the best deals.
Black Lace Dress (here). I'm holding the black cape blazer I wore with it. (here
Emerald Lace Dress (here
Berry Lace Dress (here)
Black Lace Dress (here)

There are so many other sales worth checking out too. 

1. J.Crew:  Currently 40% of almost everything with the code HOLIDAY  and an additional 50% off sale items now until Sunday night.

2. Serena & Lily: One of my favourite home go to sites has 20% off with the code THANKYOU 

3. Amazon: It's quickly become a resource for everything. Easy delivery and best pricing. Sales are anywhere between 20%-40% taken off at checkout. I went crazy buying toys and tech today (here)

4. Minted: 20% off holiday orders and 15% for everything else with code BF2016

5. Anthropologie: 30% off everything with the code LETSGO. I stocked up on ornaments and decor!

6. SavvySleepers: My favourite satin pillowcases. Excellent for better skin and hair are 20% with free shipping over $50 use code SLEEPBETTER.

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Thanksgiving Countdown : Pretty Tabletop Ideas

Every year Thanksgiving seems to sneak up so quickly that I haven't always had the time to arrange things exactly how I might want. Of course Canadian thanksgiving falls in the first week or so of October. Sometimes I'm envious of the later November date of American Thanksgiving. It's cooler out and cozier to gather within. In any event September is such a blur of back to school that I always wish I was more organized.
This year I pulled off a look for my table scape that was truly perfect. It made me so happy to welcome my sweet family to gather around a table that I'd put such love into decorating. The best part was I kept everything so simple that it was easy to pull together but looked like it was layered and lush with visual pops. I found my inspiration via pinterest.
These are some ideas that are easy to implement and take literally zero prep. For my own table I ordered wood slice trivets as my main decor starting point. They look great, clean up easy and the best part was they're on sale. I like that I'll reuse them in Christmas decor too. I simply tied a piece of rosemary to the napkin with a piece of twine and I was done for the plates. I created a simple centre piece from seeded eucalyptus and different height votive candles. 
I'm hoping that if I post this early enough and gather my thoughts that perhaps I can come up with something really pretty for my Christmas dinner tablescape. It's hard to believe that's only 30 shopping days away. Whatever you come up with I hope it's everything you want it to be. All the best. xo Erica 
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Getting Personal : Update 2.0

A letter to my readers,

I recently wrote a short and sweet update about what had happened in my personal life over the last few years. I wanted to write a second post to follow up once I was ready. The truth is life hasn't been easy. I'm the type of person who always sees the best in others and I found myself tangled up with people who weren't good for me. I have an ex who watches my every move and scrutinizes every detail. I had legal issues arise and was told to stay out of the public eye which is not ideal for a blogger. I struggled for a couple of years trying to balance blogging just enough that I didn't completely disappear and yet be vague enough not to rock the boat for myself personally.
It was hard at times but difficulty makes us grow. I constantly felt that my passion for writing and blogging was being stifled and I feared that I would be forgotten or left behind.
Now that I'm in a good spot and I've returned to blogging full time, I found myself in a position where Moth could have the same fresh start or second chance that I had been granted. I asked myself, "what is Moth? What will it be or look like moving forward?" The answer was always the same. MOTH stands for "making others truly happy". My intention in writing the blog from day one was always to help others by posting simple ways to live your best and most meaningful life.
I'm blessed to have an amazing reader base and I'm blown away at the number of you that still drop by. I was moved to consider new approaches to relate to you and am working so hard right now to build and grow in ways that create dynamic and relevant content. So in short, Moth will have the same content and purpose but I'm striving to make it so much better.
I have some exciting announcements coming up in the next week (I can't wait to share) and in the meantime I'd LOVE to hear from you. Is there anything you'd like to see for content on Moth Design? Thanks so much to each and every one of you for being a friend. I appreciate you all.

Much love, Erica xo


Weekend Edition | Fresh Baked Banana Bread

I usually try and catch up on some baking on the weekends. I feel better about my boys taking muffins or banana bread to school rather than prepackaged snacks. I typically make double batches and freeze individual portions so they're easy to take in the morning rush.
Having a pretty and organized space to bake makes all the difference too.

Best Banana Bread by Erica Cook

1 cup softened butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
4 cups ripe banana (6-7)
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter and sugar together well until light and airy. 
Continue blending adding eggs one at a time. Add in mashed banana. Remove 
mixing bowl and gradually hand fold in the four sifted dry ingredients, blending until
just moistened. Divide batter evenly between two lightly greased pans. 
Bake for 55-60 minutes or until fork comes out clean.  

Baking tips:

1. Cool in pan for a softer crust or pop onto cooling rack immediately for a crisper crust.

2. Store ripened bananas ahead of time. Peel and freeze them individually on a cookie sheet. when fully frozen transfer them to a plastic container. This makes it easy to remove as few or as many as you need for your recipe later without them sticking together. 

3. Invest in good quality bakeware. The coated metal pans end up with a million scratches, however the white ones above can be cut in and clean up well with a magic eraser. 

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