The spirit of gathering, sharing, and giving at the holiday season absolutely warms my heart. Gift-giving really is an art and I get such joy from finding that perfect gift for my family and my friends-who-feel-like-family. So, without further ado, may I present some of my top gift suggestions, based on various interests!
For the Chic Homebody…
When I traveled to South Africa earlier this year, I bought many items from Quince… I was blown away by the quality. Every single item I bought has become a wardrobe staple and I have been in *love* with this brand ever since. This will not be the last appearance by them in this guide but these Silk Pajamas make a wonderful gift. As do their cashmere socks!
Faux Feathered Slippers in a variety of colors are perfect for channeling a 1920’s starlet at her dressing table!
And, who could go wrong with a chic bedside carafe and drinking glass set? This pink pair from Maison Balzac had me at hello!
For the Home Cook
Cookbooks are always a welcome gift. These are all came out this year and are less likely to already be on your friends’ shelves. First, La Vita É Dolce explores Italian desserts with pastry chef Leticia Clark (who also wrote Sardinian Cookbook, Bitter Honey). Next, Celebrate with Babs, because to follow @brunchwithbabs is to love her! And finally, La Buvette: Recipes & Wine Notes from Paris, written by the owner of the famous Parisian café and wine bar.
For a non-book related gift: This set of 4 Spongeware Mugs by Tory Burch can become your giftee’s new go-to morning cup and of course, Chinoiserie kitchen towels are a resounding “yes” from me.
And, if you are planning to splurge, this 24-piece Cutlery Set from Laguiole is an actual *dream*!
For the “Drinks First” Friend…
For the friend who loves a good cocktail, The New York Times Essential Book of Cocktails features more than 400 classic and contemporary cocktail recipes. If they are more of a wine person, The Sommelier’s Cookbook is full of great dishes with recommended wine pairings.
If you prefer to gift glassware, these Champagne Coupes from Estelle Colored Glass are beautiful. By my count, there are 16 different colors to choose from so you are sure to find the right shade for your recipient! Alternatively, might I suggest a set of Square-Cut Crystal Highballs?
For the Fan of Parlor Games…
Two prettied-up versions of a classic game? Sign me up! These Chinoiserie Playing Cards come in a Ceramic Box and this version of Clue is designed to look pretty on your bookshelf.
Next, Piecework Puzzles never misses! The customized scenes in their puzzle sets are works of art in their own right which makes putting them together that much more fun. Only a handful of their puzzles are available on Amazon so I selected these three should you require last-minute, speedy delivery.
For the Beauty Lover…
I took a Merit Beauty Set with me to South Africa and am a total convert! This set is specifically designed for Holiday Gifting with less color-matching required. Similarly, this Lip Palette by Rouje has blendable shades that can suit just about every skin tone.
Made with French Guérande Salt, Sels De Bain Odiférants by iconic beauty brand Buly 1803 are full of minerals and feature a fragrant herbal blend with woody notes. And for drying off afterward, the Aquis Hair Towel is made of microfiber to help dry hair faster, protecting from breakage and damage.
A silk eye mask is a great way to unwind, block out light, and protect the delicate eye area from creases and folds while sleeping. This Mulberry Silk option is very affordable and from Quince.
And finally, these Dieux Skin Forever Under-Eye Patches are a brilliant eco-friendly solution to single-use under-eye masks. Simply use your favorite eye cream or treatment and layer the reusable eye masks on top. The masks help to seal in your skin product to boost efficacy.
For the New Mother…
When a new baby arrives, so much focus is on the newborn that we often forget Mom just went through a lot! This cashmere robe is ultra-soft for those early weeks at home and has that special touch of luxury she so deserves.
This very helpful little piece of tech means no more cold cups of coffee for Mom! The Ember Temperature Control Mug heats drinks to keep them at a stable temperature. All controlled by an app!
For the Interiors Tastemaker…
Coffee table books galore! It is difficult to go wrong with these classics.
For the Disney Aficionado…
Be still my Disney-Loving-Heart! Inspiring Walt Disney looks at the influence of French Decorative Arts on Disney’s early fairytale films such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and more.
The Poster Art of the Disney Parks is by no means a new release but it is a very fun look at the posters used to promote Disney Parks throughout the years. Retro park maps, individual ride posters, and so much more are inside.
Lastly, powerhouse publisher Taschen looks at Disneyland’s history through it’s unique art-focused lens in Walt Disney’s Disneyland.
For the Epicurean Adventurer…
Adventurous cookbooks whether on sustainably using every part of the vegetable in The Whole Vegetable by Sophie Gordon, or the art of pasta making in Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy’s Greatest Food are a great choice.
Or for more hands-on gifts, a Vegetable Fermentation Kit or Microgreens Grow Kit.
For the Lover of Luxury…
Quince makes its final appearance in today’s list with three items in the Luxury List: Organic Freshwater Cultured Pearl Drop Earrings, Mongolian Cashmere Crew-Neck Sweater (available in fifteen different colors!), and a Mulberry Silk Pillowcase.
Additionally, these velvet jewelry trays are perfect for organizing favorite pieces and this bag from fashion-influencer-favorite-brand Polène is also a beauty!
For the Wanderer…
For those with a Wanderlust Soul, these feast-for-the-eyes books make a brilliant mini-escape.
For the Pet Parent…
These dog and cat ornaments are organized by breed. Add their name and the year for a touch of customization. For mixed breeds, find the closest fit! Order quickly as these are made by an Etsy Seller and make take time to arrive…
For the Avid Gardener…
To help with landscaping, consider a book on Flower Color Theory for some creative inspiration. Or consider some lovely tools such as these high-quality (and very chic!) Secateurs, a Gathering Basket (vintage, so be on the look out for similar options!) and a Gardener’s Apron area all perfect fits.
For the Crafter…
These adorable Beginners Crochet Kits from Woobles come pre-cast with instructions to make sweet animals– be sure to search around as there are dozens of different animals to choose from. Or for something a little more practical, this knitting set teaches you to make your own chunky blanket.
For the One Who Has Everything…
High Camp Supply will send a box of fresh gardenias anywhere in the continental US. There are a variety of boxes to choose from but pictured here is the Vine & Bloom Discovery Box.
The holidays are synonymous with entertaining and attending parties, gift exchanges, cookie decorating, and more! I have split this guide into two sections, one with great items for hosting with holiday table decor, party games, and other useful items, and the other section is filled with great hostess gifts.
LaGuiole Cheese Knives
Beautiful and functional, a great set of cheese knives will be used time and time again.
Taper Candlers in Every Shade
Whatever direction you are taking your holiday table (or if you want to bookmark these for a later event), nearly every color you’d need (32 to be exact!) can be found here.
Holiday Party Animal Cocktail Napkins
The Rudolph Zebra? My heart! These are so much fun and made my South-Africa-Loving-Heart soar. Available here.
Perfect for the family-centered holiday table to share viewpoints from all generations. Available here.
Green Glass Votives
An easy Amazon find for the holiday table! Comes in a set of 12. Available here.
Playful Placecards by Houses & Parties
These place cards add a touch of fun and whimsy to any dinner table. Choose between “Most Likely To…” where you can playfully fill in the blanks as a group (or you could pre-fill them and have guests guess which seat is theirs!) or “This or That‘ wherein you could go around the table deciding which of the options on your place card you’d be or choose, i.e. “Bake or Buy” and “Sweet or Savory.”
Holiday Tree Bowl
This Christmas tree-shaped small bowl is perfect for filling with holiday candies on the coffee table!
Acrylic Jenga Tower
A decidedly chic upgrade to the traditional wooden blocks. This acrylic Jenga tower makes a great icebreaker.
Gold Glass Candleholders
Another great candle holder option for the holiday table from Amazon, perfect for taper candles.
Icon Party Masks
If you know me, you know I will be calling *dibs* on Audrey, *wink! These Icon Party Masks make for lots of fun. Alternatively, you could opt for the Royal Court Masks featuring the portraits of Queen Victoria, King Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn.
Garden Soiree Serving Bowl
The green border on this serving bowl is equally at home during the holidays as it is in Spring and Summer, for year-round use. Available here.
You’d never know this pitcher was an Amazon find! Perfect for pre-batching your signature holiday cocktails.
Hostess Gift Guide
Noble Fir Candle
It is hard to go wrong with a holiday-scented candle!
Mini Match Cloche
Pair this miniature match cloche with a scented candle to really up your hostess gift game!
A holiday classic and Williams Sonoma’s tin is so festive. Add a ribbon and you’re ready to go! Available here.
Holiday Hot Cocoa Pair
Williams Sonoma’s Hot Cocoa Mix and Snowflake Marshmallows are sold separately but I think they make a better gift when paired together!
Seasonally perfect! Pair with a lovely bottle of red wine for the perfect holiday hostess gift. I’m partial to these as they come in sachets rather than the loose spices which require additional straining or equipment.
Chic British Tea
Who could resist the perfectly named Queen’s Guard blend?
Go-to Dinners by Ina Garten
Ina’s latest cookbook is a great gift for amateur and advanced home chefs alike!
Wooden Pepper Mill
A beautiful wooden pepper mill is made even better by including a jar of peppercorns!
Acid League’s Specialty Vinegar Set
Featuring living vinegars in flavors: Meyer Lemon Honey, Apple Cider Maple, Strawberry Rosé, and Cabernet Port, this set is a very fun hostess gift for your culinarily-inclined friends!
A Classic Box of Chocolates
See’s Candy is a classic. Our favorites are Soft Centers or Nuts & Chews. A pound is usually plenty unless you know the person you are gifting to has a major sweet tooth!
Nama Chocolate Squares
If you would like to give chocolate but seek something a little more unique and unusual, these Japanese chocolates fit the bill. Wildly soft and said to be a popular gift in the entertainment industry, these are sure to pique your recipient’s interest. They are sort of a cross between fudge and a chocolate truffle, with a very light (but not airy!) texture. They are difficult to describe but very special! Available here.
Ikat Wine Bags
A must for prettying up a nice bottle of wine and making it extra special! Comes in a pack of 6 so you are sure to be prepared for any planned or last-minute invitations! Available here.
Lastly, I feel you truly cannot go wrong by gifting a box of macarons from your local bakery. Just make sure your recipient is not allergic to nuts as almond flour is key to macaron-making.
With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I thought it high time to round up my top etiquette and decorating tips into one helpful guide!
Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving
Decorating the Thanksgiving Table
It may come as no surprise that decorating the table is my favorite part of any holiday– there is a reason I do what I do, *wink!
- Lean into seasonal colors, but do not feel restricted. I love a classic set-up, but I have also seen fabulous tables mixing blue and white chinoiserie with pumpkins and rustic set-ups that evoke the seasonal feeling without a gourd or squash in sight. There are no rules, so if you feel called to do something different, run with it!
- Layer your linens, plates, and chargers for texture and visual interest. In the above image, we have two placemats: a round orange leather mat topped with a woven mat and followed by a chic stack of china. And remember, the napkin is either placed on top of the dinner plate or to the left of the forks.
- Ensure decorations do not block conversation. Keep them low or placed between seats.
- When setting the table, only place utensils that will be used. For example, if you are not serving multiple courses, you only need one set of cutlery.
- Cloth napkins are a must at any holiday gathering! Truthfully, I am a proponent of the idea that no occasion is too small for a cloth napkin.
- Use what you have! There is no need to go out and purchase a whole new table design, your guests will be happy to be there no matter what the table looks like.
Consider place cards.
With a mix of family members who perhaps do not see each other often, consider using place cards so that everyone knows where to sit. It streamlines the seating process and has the added bonus of being able to place people who do not get along further apart.
Greet guests at the door.
Whenever possible, greet your guests at the front door and welcome them inside, furnishing them with a drink and directing them to other guests. This is not always easy on Thanksgiving when the meal requires preparation down to the last minute, but consider assigning this role to someone if you are unable.
Include non-alcoholic beverage options.
Not everyone can or wants to drink so it is important to provide non-alcoholic options. I love to greet guests with a specialty cocktail at the beginning of the night and try to include a mocktail version as well. Please note, it is never appropriate to ask “why” someone is choosing not to imbibe.
If children are attending…
Plan activities to keep them occupied outside of mealtime. This could be a small art project, board games, puzzles, or simply a separate room with a television!
Remember, guests will follow your lead.
As the host, it is your duty to verbally signal to guests when to be seated. You are also responsible for many nonverbal cues, such as placing your napkin in your lap to signal the beginning of the meal and placing your napkin on the table to signal the end.
If you are using a buffet-style service, as is common during holiday meals with lots of components, you may want to encourage guests to begin while their food is still hot. Lastly, as a host, it is your duty to pace yourself with your guests so that slower eaters do not feel rushed for being the last to finish.
The dishes can (and should) wait.
Outside of clearing the table, wait until after guests have left to begin cleaning up. Nothing makes guests feel more uncomfortable than sitting around the table while dishes are clanging in the sink.
Offer to send leftovers home with your guests.
Part of the fun of Thanksgiving is the abundance of food and the leftovers the next day. Plan in advance by procuring some disposable takeout containers– I buy eco-friendly containers on Amazon and they always come in handy.
Tips for Attending Thanksgiving as a Guest
Ask what you can bring.
If you are attending a Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving) meal at someone’s home, ask what you can bring! You could offer to bring a side dish, dessert, wine, or similar. If your host declines, respect their wishes but do bring a hostess gift (see below for suggestions!).
While it is not strictly required to bring a hostess gift if you are contributing a dish, I think it is nice to bring a little something in gratitude for your host’s gracious invitation.
Do not arrive early (or late).
Before the designated start time, your host is busy with last-minute adjustments and finishing touches. Arriving early can throw off their planning. Arrive within 15 minutes of the time you have been given, it is equally impolite to be late.
Bring a Hostess Gift
A lovely candle, chocolates, a nice bottle of wine, or flowers are all great hostess gift options. Just remember, if you choose to bring flowers as your hostess gift, they should be in a vase. The last thing your host should be worrying about as guests arrive is finding a vase and arranging flowers.
Offer to pitch in, but do not be pushy.
Thanksgiving involves a lot of moving parts. Offer to help with chopping, cooking, tidying, or cleaning. If your host declines, do not be pushy and avoid lingering in the kitchen and talking whilst your host is working to get the meal ready.
Avoid controversial conversation topics.
Politics and religion are both topics to be avoided at the holiday table. If someone else brings these up, do not engage and do your best to change the subject.
If you spill or break something…
Help to clean up right away and offer to pay for the damage or cleaning fee.
Try not to overstay.
Know when it is time to take your leave. Thanksgiving is a very long day for hosts and after you leave, they will still need to clean up and do their nightly routine.
Send a thank-you note.
Within one week of the evening, it is good manners to send a handwritten thank-you note to your host expressing your gratitude and how much you enjoyed the evening.
A Note on Dietary Requirements vs. Preferences
Ask about dietary requirements in advance. Even if you think you know what everyone can and cannot eat, ask again. These things can change quickly and it is better to be safe than sorry.
If you have plant-based guests, consider something like a nut roast, which is a vegan alternative to Thanksgiving’s classic main, Turkey. Yes, many plant-based guests will happily eat the sides, but it is nicer to show the effort to properly include them.
Allergens should be managed with great care, using separate pans and cooking utensils.
If you have a genuine allergy or religious restriction, be sure to let your host know in advance. Outside of this, personal preferences are not things you can communicate and you should plan to eat a little bit of everything that is on your plate.
We saw a Florida barn with a modern twist… But then said, “make it Napa Valley!” Jesse and Jim’s wedding was an absolute dream to plan from start to finish.
From the start, Jesse had a clear vision for what she wanted– rustic with black and white accents, warm wood tones, simple white florals, and a breezy, comfortable feeling to put all her guests at ease. Oh, and did I mention she wanted a barn? If you know me, you know the words “Lisa Lyons” and “barn” are not often uttered in the same sentence. But, I *knew* Jesse and I shared a similar vision and aesthetic so we got to work!
Achieving a Napa valley vibe in a Florida barn felt like staging a coup at times but the final result says it all– my design partners “went there” with me and the juxtaposition of every element created something truly special!
The wedding was held at The Mulberry in New Smyrna Beach, about an hour north of Orlando. The grounds were picturesque and both Jesse and Jim knew they wanted an outdoor ceremony.
We opted for simple, rustic bench seating and a ceremony beneath a huge maple tree. Lana and Art Faulkner of Fairbanks Florist custom made the ceremony backdrop and wove white wisteria, roses, and anemones into it. The result was so very “Jesse and Jim,” it the perfect setting for them to make their commitment to one another.
For Jesse and Jim, more important than the setting or any other detail was Jim’s daughter Finley. They wanted to ensure she was included in every aspect of their ceremony.
Finley walked with Jesse down the aisle– where there was not a dry eye in sight! Then all three stood together as Jesse and Jim made vows not only to each other, but to Finley too.
And just like that, Jesse and Jim were wed and Finley officially had a bonus Mom!
A cocktail hour followed the ceremony in which guests sipped on a choice of two signature cocktails: a French 75 and an Old Fashioned.
Traditional canapés were traded for an enormous, eight-foot grazing table– otherwise known as the cheese and charcuterie board of dreams! It was the largest spread the caterers had ever done! From the start, Jesse and Jim knew they wanted a grazing table (an 8’ table at that!) and it was a major hit with their guests.
As guests imbibed, the newly married couple snuck away for portraits. I do not even have WORDS for these images!
After cocktails and photos, the reception space was ready for my big reveal moment with Jesse and Jim.
We went for simple, classic, warm, and decidedly chic. Guests sat at long wooden tables, lined with white florals and a mix of classic white tower and black taper candles in glass hurricanes. Black rimmed glass chargers were set with soft linen napkins draped over the table’s edge. Custom stationery by Do Tell Stationery featured in each menu and place card, each with their own wax seal.
Once guests made their way to their seats, it was time for Jesse and Jim’s first dance. We had a custom dancefloor created and as the song reached a crescendo, cool sparks erupted.
Dinner and speeches followed with lots of laughter.
Then there was a cake cutting before…
… The dance floor kicked up. And what a dance floor it was! Few people party like the Pittman’s and their guests!
We had a confetti release…
And light sticks…
And a send off with cool sparks…
Although our couple and many of their guests stayed to dance until the wee hours!
Wedding Planning and Design: Lisa Lyons Events
Ceremony and Reception Venue: The Mulberry at New Smyrna Beach
Photography and Videography: Josh and Rachel
Florals: Fairbanks Florist
Hair and Makeup: Kristy’s Artistry Design Team
Lighting, Entertainment, Cool Sparks, Confetti: Fyerfly Productions
Linens: Over the Top Rental Linens
Wedding Cake: Sprinkles Custom Cakes
Furniture: Event Effects
Chargers, Stemware, Flatware: Treasury Rentals
Stationery and Table Numbers: Do Tell Stationery and Designs
Bride’s Wedding Dress and Veil: Alyssa Kristin Bridal via Everthine Bridal Boutique
Bride’s Shoes: Stuart Weitzman
Grooms Attire: Hugo Boss
Rings: Blue Water Jewelers
An entire day dedicated to the celebration of love? Why, my beating heart! *wink
I thought I would dabble in some (bubbly) fun in celebrating Valentine’s Day all day long with breakfast, lunch and a touch of a cocktail hour ideas and inspiration that I hope you’ll find lovely, stylish, and most importantly, attainable! As always, there is no one better to capture my aesthetic than the enchanting, Abby Liga-DiDomenico!
I had all of the below to play with, hand-lettered Valentine’s inspired paper from Ashton Manis with Ashton Ink, a sweet peony arrangement given to me by my dear friends and creative partners Raining Roses, some darling pink roses picked up at Trader Joe’s, and of course, some treasures I’ve picked up along the way from Home Goods, Target, and Wayfair.
This was also my first editorial shoot in my newly renovated townhome and I was tickled pink to debut my new space and fresh start!
First, a breakfast that will make you blush …
Weather permitting, my preference is to always do breakfast on my balcony which serves as my sanctuary in the quiet moments of the morning.
While I eat a plant-based diet, I certainly don’t mind preparing food for loved ones that don’t, and so I thought this soft-boiled egg was a delightful touch for a special morning, especially served in my silver egg cup! Here’s a tip on the perfect soft boiled egg every time!
For me, these vegan blueberry muffins from Two Raspberries always make breakfast feel like a special occasion!
Also, can we have a moment here for my funny Valentine?? I love my sweet beagle Fred Rogers!
Next, a lunch to love…
How sweet is this? The “love” paper from Ashton ink not only served as the perfect backdrop for my Valentine’s picnic-inspired lunch, but also as the perfect touch as the sandwich wrap.
My current lunch addiction is this Vegan Veggie Sandwich from Spoonful of Kindness, and proves that there is refinement in simplicity. What makes this sandwich stand out is the homemade pesto, in my opinion, and I just keep loading on whatever veggies I happen to have on hand. It’s just perfect!
Using cutting boards in lieu of plates added an additional touch of whimsy to tis tablescape!
Setting the stage for a bubbly good time …
From a cheeky little cocktail hour …
Quality control from the handsome Fred Rogers! *swooooon*
Transitioning to a sophisticated cocktail hour…!
Hugs and kisses to all those you love, and I’ll give an extra special smooch to Fred Rogers from all of you! *wink!
And always, always remember, LOVE FIRST!
All Photography: Abby Liga
Kathleen and Marc | Holy Family Catholic Church | Ritz Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
Our team adored working with Kathleen, Marc and Kathleen’s mother and sister. Our relationship started with Kathleen’s sister, Grace, who followed Lisa Stoner Events on Instagram for quite some time, and the rest is history.
With family in North Carolina and the family and couple relocating after the wedding, life was very busy. However, working with hand in hand with three lovely, poised Southern women was a delight; and all were working for a seamless wedding weekend.
We learned that Kathleen likes a little sparkle and woodland fairies, and this wedding design was a beautiful blending of both.
The late morning wedding ceremony was held at Holy Family Catholic Church allowing for a leisurely afternoon of family and wedding party photographs before dinner and dancing at the Ritz Carlton Orlando.
Kathleen chose a beautiful cap sleeve gown with an illusion overlay in a branch and flower pattern, an amazing delicate detail; bringing in a little sparkle with adorable shimmering Jimmy Choo’s. Kathleen carried an elegant round , hand tied bouquet of white peonies, ranunculus and dusty miller.
Marc looked handsome in his classic two button tuxedo with an understated white boutonniere and pocket square.
The picturesque grounds of the Ritz Carlton were the perfect setting for photos with the wedding party and for Kathleen and Marc as the spent some time alone.
Guest enjoyed cocktail hour on the resorts Tuscany Terrace before making their way into the Tuscany Ballroom for a night of dinner and dancing.
The ballroom décor was breathtaking with a five tiered, silver banded wedding cake centered on an oversized dancefloor, under a stunning floral and crystal lighter chandelier.
A mix of round and long guest tables surrounded the dancefloor with shimmering mirrored centerpieces, candles floating and in mercury glass votive cups, raised white floral pieces with hanging glass bubbles with candles, shimmering linen, and clear chivari ballroom chairs.
It was a beautiful, blending of modern shimmering glass, sparkling candles and soft weight floral pieces with just a touch of greenery.
The couple began the evening with their First Dance to Elton John’s “Your Song” and The Maxx kept the dancefloor filled the rest of the evening.
Thank you to all of the vendors who helped create a magical evening for Kathleen and Marc.
. Orlando Wedding Planner– Lisa Stoner Events
. Orlando Wedding Ceremony– Holy Family Catholic Church
. Wedding Officiant– Father John Giel
. Ceremony Music– Beautiful Music
. Hair and Makeup – Kristy’s Artistry and Design
. Wedding Photography– Virgil Bunao
. Floral– Lee James Floral
. Orlando Wedding Reception– Ritz Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
. Lighting– Get Lit Productions
. Draping– Swag Décor
. Linen– Over The Top Linen
. Clear Chivari Chairs– A Chair Affair
. Additional Table Rentals– Orlando Wedding and Party Rental
. Escort Cards– Dogwood Blossom Stationery
. Floral Chandelier– Fairbanks Florist
. Wedding Cake– Ritz Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
. Reception Music – The Maxx
. Transportation– Destination MCO
. Videography: Market Street Studios