Regifting and New Year’s Eve tips on Canada AM

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Thanks for having me as a guest, Canada AM! Click the image below or here for the segment!

Host an “Oh, it’s no big deal” Summer Party

As promised, here’s the second in a little series as a guest contributor for This Beautiful Day.

Host an “Oh, it’s no big deal” Summer Party

We’re helping you have the BEST summer evaaaaa with Etiquette ExpertKaren Cleveland who will be sharing her gems all summer along. This is the second in our three-part series. Missed the first one? Catch it over here!

Summer weekends are prime real estate in social calendars, booking up well in advanced. Between cottage weekends, weddings, showers and vacations, I’m lucky if I’ll be able to round up all of my dearest and dearest before Thanksgiving! When weekend dinner plans aren’t in the cards, midweek entertaining is the answer. Even an intimidated host can pull together a Thursday night dinner party with ease and it is a fantastic respite to break up the work week.

Barque-BBQ

The dog days of summer, with fresh produce, late sunsets and BBQs, beckon for unfussy dinners. Invite friends a week or so out, then use that window of time to set mini deadlines. Plan the menu one night, shop for beer, wine and shelf-stable ingredients the next night. Buy flowers and ice, do some chopping and before you know it, everything will practically be done.

If your space (and menu) is conducive to it, make the most of your BBQ. You can tend to it within chatting distance of your guests and it minimizes clean-up. Bonus! Grill everything you possibly can: some bread to serve with a salad to start, fish, meat, veggies or pizza for mains, then some hard fruit for dessert (grilled peaches with a brush of bourbon? Pineapple with a super easy rum sauce? Yes, please). Add in some beer and wine on ice at arm’s reach, an abundance of white candles and a fun soundtrack — recipe for a nice midweek for the night and you’re set. Best part of grilling your entire meal? Very few dishes to wash up.

(Originally published on This Beautful Life, July 2013)

Radio Interview, The Motts

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a couple gets a wedding gift they think is cheap, so they demand a receipt and an explanation from the guest. It’s not a joke, but it might as well be.

I had a blast talking to The Motts about this calamity. #truestory.

The Motts with Karen Cleveland

Cocktail Hour – Ode to the Negroni

When I don’t know what I want to drink, or what to serve friends, I default to a Negroni.

A classic cocktail with three ingredients, this drink doesn’t require a minor in mixology or complicated bar equipment (you don’t even need a shaker) — and yet it is a damn solid drink.

Classic cocktails stand the test of time and the Negroni has earned its rightful position as staple drink. If you like, you can make these with painstaking love, one glass at a time, with finite precision with your garnish, but there is no need to get too precious. The beauty of this drink is its steadfast simplicity: a 1 to 1 to 1 ratio of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. If entertaining a group, you can cheat by making a batch (just don’t add ice too far in advanced when making by the batch, it will melt and spoil your concoction).

Negronis belong in the martini family in the true sense of the term: straight alcohol, not a splash of anything. They pack a punch and have a beautiful complexity about them. Not too sweet, not too bitter and a gorgeous colour. The rich red of Campari screams summer for me, la dolce vita in a glass.

The drink was invented by a Count (really) who worked as a rodeo cowboy, if that’s any indication of the drink’s stock. Not a wimpy cocktail.

You will need:
• Gin
• Campari
• Sweet vermouth
• An orange
• Ice

Here’s how to put it all together — the perfect Negroni, in one minute.

(Originally published for The Huffington Post Canada, June 2012)

Ask An Expert: To Remove Shoes Or Not?

There are ample sartorial conundrums out there – can you show your bra straps or how short is too short for a wear-to-work skirt? But one of the biggest issues we’ll all face at some point involves footwear, specifically to remove or not remove at a party?

To help us answer this conundrum (and to ensure you do the fashionably forward thing at your next house party), we contacted our resident etiquette expert Karen Cleveland of Finishing School.

The mark of a good host is whether or not they allow guests leave their shoes on? To think of all the time wasted, mixing drinks, whipping up food and introducing guests to each other. Pity. There is no right or wrong answer to this conundrum. But there is a place for common sense. Are these shoes freshly in from an icy or sopping wet walk on an April day? Or are they sandals that have been meticulously wiped on the front door, practically spotless, on a dry June evening.

More variables: is your carpet white or made of the skin of an exotic animal? Is your flooring fairly low maintenance hardwood that cleans up with a quick wipe? Despite all of these things to consider, it’s the host’s call, though they risk bristling a guest that differs in shoe placement opinion.

Hosts: there is a tacit liability that when you invite guest over, they might unintentionally get your things dirty. If you have an area rug that is really precious, roll that white animal skin rug up and put it away for the night. Don’t serve exclusively red wine, particularly if the crowd or occasion is bound to get raucous. If you prefer guests keep their shoes off, enlist the help of your trusted friends. Ask them to arrive a bit early and stage their shoes just so, so that other guests will hopefully get their cue.

Guests: if there is a stack of shoes at the entrance to a party, that is a clear signal to take off your shoes and add them to the pile. Get a vodka soda or other transparent beverage and start dancing on the nearest white animal skin rug.

Questions, comments and conundrums are most welcome at twitter.com/schoolfinishing or formspring.me/KarenCleveland.

(Originally published on Stylelist Canada, April, 2013)