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Make Small Holiday Celebrations Special with a Fresh MenuHoliday festivities with immediate family members or just a few friends rather than larger gatherings may feel different than normal, but you can make the most of the situation with these tips to add intimacy and special meaning to celebratory moments:

Use special dishes, glassware and linens to convey the tone of the celebration. Go ahead and use your best dishes or enhance your everyday plates with the use of cloth napkins or a festive tablecloth. Bring out the fancy glasses to savor every sip.

Arrange visually appealing, individual mini-snack platters for each person. Combine grapes with a special cheese, crackers, olives and nuts for an easy way to curb appetites before the main course.

Set a festive table with a simple but creative centerpiece. For instance, you can combine candles, flowers and draped bunches of colorful grapes. Place votive candles on mirrors for added shimmer and sparkle. Tie a gold or silver wire ribbon bow around the napkins at each place setting. Handwritten place cards with guests’ names can add a surprising and special touch.

Stay healthy to enjoy the holidays. Choose healthy foods like fruits and vegetables that help support the immune system. Maintain your exercise schedule as much as possible and ensure you are getting enough sleep.

Opt for homemade over processed foods for signature dishes then reinforce with prepared items to fill out the menu, if needed. Let your guests bring part of the meal or something to contribute to the festivities.

Adding a sweet touch to the menu can help keep guests coming back for more. For example, fresh California grapes are available into January and are perfect for the holiday season. Enjoy them as a fresh, healthy snack or side dish, or as an ingredient to add taste and visual appeal to recipes to make the season feel special.

Start the meal with a simple but beautiful salad such as Grape and Spinach Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Dressing, where the grapes provide festive color and pleasing texture. Pair your chosen entree with Warm Farro Salad with Grapes and Delicata Squash for a hearty side dish that can also be served on its own. Finally, cap off the celebration with homemade Grape and Apple Sheet Pan Pie.

Visit grapesfromcalifornia.com/recipe to find more holiday-worthy dishes from appetizers and entrees to sides, snacks and desserts.



Kid-made place cards will enliven holiday table


Thanksgiving Day and the “here before you know it” December holiday season are approaching. The weeks of celebration are all about giving, sharing and experiencing that intangible joy of playful togetherness.

During the busyness of the festivities, it’s good to be intentional about including kids in the process. After all, just like adults, they want to feel useful and part of things. So, this Thanksgiving, get children involved!

Here are simple ideas to keep kids engaged and creative by making place cards. When it’s time to set the holiday table, they can pitch in with their contributions.


Wash and dry 3- to 4-inch-wide flat stones. Paint them if you wish, using craft acrylic paints for a base coat, then painting names in a contrasting color. Or, leave stones natural, and write the name of each guest with a white paint pen (available at craft and art supply stores). You might want to draw a design around names for embellishment.

On the opposite side, write the date and place where you are celebrating. If you have extra stones, encourage guests to grab a paint pen and write inspirational words on them when they arrive. Words might include “gratitude,” “thankful,” “family” or “together.” Set them around the centerpiece of your table.


Use a marker to write names on mini pumpkins or gourds. Punch a hole in a small photo of the person, and tie to the stem with twine.


 Bundle sprigs of herbs such as sage, rosemary and thyme, a small pine branch, juniper, eucalyptus, bay leaves or whatever is available where you live. Write names on small white cards, punch a hole and thread on white string. Tie everything together and set on a napkin on dinner plates. The soft herbal fragrance will be meal-friendly.


Use a marker to print names near the end of a wide, 26-inch-long ribbon. Use ribbon to cinch small cellophane bags filled with candy, a homemade cookie or memento. Set at each place. Guests can take them home as a party favor.


Purchase inexpensive, solid colored fabric napkins, or repurpose an old set you own. Let kids draw a portrait of each person in one quadrant of each napkin with fabric paints in squeeze bottles or using fabric markers. Add the guest’s name below the portrait, and place on a plate. Guests will no doubt smile when they find their portrait.

Wash and save to use annually as a family tradition. In 10 years, Aunt Kate may say she never looked so young!

©2020 Donna Erickson King Features Synd.

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