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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: Home Decor

Simmering Winter Potpourri on WGN

Marc J. Sievers

During the winter, I love to have a pot simmering on the stove filled with quintessential seasonal aromatics that make my home smell welcoming and festive.  Just before Christmas, I had the pleasure of showcasing some last-minute decor ideas on WGN News and this (along with a few others!) was a hit in the newsroom!  My Simmering Winter Potpourri does just the trick!  Things like cinnamon, orange, rosemary, and even Balsam branches gently release their fragrance in spiced apple cider and fill the air with the most wonderful scent.  The best part is all you need to do is add more apple cider or water as needed and your home will smell like a wintery wonderland!  

Happy Holidays - from me to you!   


Simmering Winter Potpourri

Components

  • Apple Cider – 2 cups

  • Water – 3 cups

  • Orange – 1 large, sliced ½-inch thick

  • Rosemary – 3 springs, fresh

  • Balsam Branches – 8 small springs

  • Cinnamon Sticks – 3

  • Cloves – 10, whole

Directions

  1. Add all of the components to a saucepan and bring to just under the boil. Then, reduce the heat to simmer. Allow the aromatics to simmer throughout the day or evening, adding more water and apple cider as necessary.

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Deck Your Home with All Things Jolly!

Marc J. Sievers

During the holidays, time can play a huge roll when it comes to finishing the little details.  Use the ideas I’ve created here to help set the mood for a festive soirée and still have time to bake those 21 dozen decorated cookies you planned on giving out to your friends and colleagues this year (remember that idea you got after a bottle of wine and endless hours on Pinterest?!).

I believe that each and every day should be festive, stylish, and simple.  When I am coming up with holiday décor ideas I try to use easily-found components, concepts that do not take hours to complete, materials that are budget friendly, and most importantly ideas that won’t take an entire weekend to finish.  This year, I wanted to add a bit of holiday cheer to everyday items commonly found around the house, your local grocery store, and maybe a quick trip to a craft store (don’t worry, I promise no glitter!).  And since I live in a mid-rise, I also wanted to highlight holiday ideas that don’t require “storage” after—making them perfect for a smaller space to add a festive touch!

This is my favorite time of year, and I want to take as much time as I can celebrating and entertaining my friends, family, and clients—with my simple ideas here you will be able to join the party and deck your home with all things jolly!

My original article was written for FW: Chicago Magazine - Holiday Edition


Tinsel Bowl:

This crystal bowl filled with mini LED battery-operated lights and silver tinsel is a must for part of your holiday décor this year!  The effect of the sparkling crystal against the shiny tinsel, all illuminated with tiny lights adds a “WOW!” factor to any table, sideboard, or entry.  The same concept can be done in any clear vessel—so use your imagination!  Imagine multiples of these down the center of your dining table for a dinner party – I’ll bring the champagne!


Ribbon Napkin Rings:

A simple white cotton napkin gets a festive and glamorous makeover with the addition of tartan plaid ribbon, tied in a big bow, then adorned with a sprig of fresh rosemary and crystal chandelier prisms (which I found on Amazon.com).  At the end of your dinner party (or buffet), encourage guests to take the crystals home to adorn their tree—an instant take-away bobble—and enjoy for years to come!  


Peppermint Hurricanes:

Plain glass hurricanes and unscented white pillar candles turn into a winter wonderland with peppermint candies and regular coarse Kosher salt—all available at your local grocery store!  Fill the bottom ¼ full of peppermints then pour spoonfuls of coarse salt over the candies.  Not only does the salt take on a snow-like effect, it also helps to stabilizes the candle base.  Place these all over your home to instantly add a bit of holiday cheer to any room or table.


Silver Tray with Cards

A silver tray filled with holiday cards set either atop a coffee table or under your Christmas tree is probably the chicest way to both display and contain all of those “fa la la” greetings!  If you don’t have a silver tray (I find mine at flea markets and thrift stores) a decorative bowl or even a large platter will work just fine.  


Bow-Tied Flutes:

Transform everyday stemmed glassware with the addition of tiny red velvet bows to add instant holiday cheer!  These charming little bows already come with a twist-tie closure, making the application just a few twists away (martini, anyone?)!  Best of all, after your soirée, you can either save the bows for next year or use them to decorate packages!  


Cinnamon Bundles:

Easily found at your local grocery store, cinnamon sticks tied in little bundles with velvet ribbon are the perfect addition to the doorknob of a powder room, as package ties, around a wine bottle for a host/ess gift, or even hung throughout your Christmas tree to add a spicy scent (especially if you have a faux tree).  A little spice, and everything nice!

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The City of Lights - Paris!

Marc J. Sievers

The City of Lights – Paris, France – in my opinion should be called “The City of Inspiration”!  Having just spent eight glorious days there eating, shopping, and of course enjoying some fabulous French wines, I brought home a million (and one!) food, décor, and style ideas.  The weather was mostly sunny, the air was filled with smells of freshly baked bread, and the gardens and trees were just starting to get their Spring buds—it was the perfect backdrop for my first trip with my husband Ryan to celebrate our third wedding anniversary with great friends. 

Since I have been home (for about 8 grueling American days) I have been going through the almost 1,200 photos that I took during my trip — everything from street vendors, patisseries, bistros, flowers and of course the Eiffel Tower and Versailles.  In the coming months, sprinkled amongst my regular posts, I will be sharing Paris-inspired posts, each filled with original recipes, décor ideas, and style concepts that will take you on a virtual vacation and impart some Parisian flair into your everyday living.  Grab your beret!  Our first stop is Ralph’s!

Ralph’s is Ralph Lauren’s second restaurant—the first was RL in Chicago—which opened in 2010 in the romantic Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood in Paris.  It was also the backdrop to our anniversary dinner!  RL in Chicago is our “go-to” restaurant whether we are grabbing a quick lunch, aperitif, or a cozy dinner, so the only place we could imagine creating a lasting memory for our anniversary dinner on our first trip to Paris was Ralph’s.  The moment we stepped out of the taxi (at a very un-Parisian early 7:00pm) we knew we were in for a stunningly beautiful evening.  As we walked through the heavy double outer doors, through the stone vestibule, and into the swoon-worthy inner courtyard, I couldn’t help but to stop and peak through the windows on the world-famous designer’s Paris flagship boutique.

The particular window I peek through first was the jewelry salon, where sitting atop a fireplace mantle were two ornate Chinese ginger jars filled with dozens of red roses.  They took my breath away.  These two simple components—materialized on a truly grand scale—were somehow going to come back to Chicago with me!  For months I had been struggling with just how to finish the sideboard in my dining room—no longer!  As I tucked that idea into the back of my mind, walked through the courtyard, and stepped into the “magazine worthy” restaurant, the simple and elegant theme of the red roses continued at the bar, on every table with small clusters in simple glass vases, and even fifteen feet in the air by way of towering mantle pieces crowned with velvety red roses.  I felt as though I was in a chic and fabulous dream!  The rest of the evening was filled with champagne, laughter with close friends, scrumptious food, and lasting memories that I will cherish for years to come.




Inspiration is about seeing something that impresses you in a way that you want to create your own interpretation of it and adapt into your own style, scale, and budget. Inspiration is about being inspired—motivated by something, based on a particular example, feeling, or flavor, and is not about copying or duplicating. Inspiration comes in many forms and from countless sources and well-executed inspirational experience will incorporate details you love and want to pay homage to. - MJS


TIP: When arranging small clusters of roses, arrange them at least 3 days before your soirée. This will allow each bloom to open up and become more full.  Change the water everyday and re-cut each stem ¼ inch to ensure the flowers stay fresh and drink as much water as possible.  

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"Orange" You Glad It's Fall!

Marc J. Sievers

Simple & Chic Decorating Ideas for Fall


There is a slight chill in in the air, pumpkin lattes are in full swing, and the leaves are starting to change.  That can only mean one thing - its time to decorate for Fall!  This year, instead of covering every single surface I have with mountains of mini pumpkins, I chose to keep things simple, chic, understated, and best of all budget friendly.  Like many of you, when I think of Fall, I instantly think of rich colors like rust, burgundy, and deep yellow, orange.  There seems to be something about this time of year that makes me want to make my home feel very welcoming with the addition of earthy textures, the smells of musk and sandalwood, and the bright contrast of the color orange.  

As I looked around my small (but mighty!) space, I found many components that I already owned that I could re-purpose, re-merchandise, and re-arrange.  Not only did this breathe new life into my home, but it was free (hence the budget-friendly part!).  Use my photos below as a guide for inspiration, then begin your own transformation.  Click on each photo to enlarge and read a simple tip or idea to help you get started.  

Happy decorating!

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Would You Like Sparkling or Still?

Marc J. Sievers

If you are like me then you have a lot of glassware—I have sets from casual to formal, glass and crystal, and short to tall.  I have it covered.  I think of glassware almost like jewelry for my tabletop:  many options, wonderfully interchangeable, and a great way to add style to the “basics” (think linens, flatware, place settings, etc.), or to make the formal more comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the classic water goblet, but I find that lately I am setting my table using a not-so-traditional glass for water.  From thin and elegant stem-less wine and champagne flutes, to rustic juice glasses, chunky stemware, and modern clean-lined highball glassware, the options are endless!

What I love even more is mixing up my water glasses each time I entertain.  It helps to keep my tablescape looking new and fresh to returning guests.  It also allows me to utilize what I already own, in different ways, thus being kind to my household budget (I know, I said the “B” word).  And if you will excuse me, I have a crystal goblet of water waiting for me!

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