The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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December 6, 2012

5 ingredients for a smooth holiday

There are lots of recipes for holiday joy. It's all about combining the right ingredients for your family to make the coming weeks meaningful and fun. Each year, it seems everyone juggles more responsibilities. Many people have less time and less money to create that "perfect" holiday. Yet the music, the decorations, the food, the gift-giving and whatever spiritually you want to include add up to the most celebratory time of the year. We have rounded up five ideas that could become part of your own seasonal recipe for success.

Create a long-lasting centerpiece

The dining table is a focus of the holidays, whether it's the setting for festive meals or the command center for writing Christmas cards and wrapping presents.

"Your table should celebrate the season," says Sidra Forman, a chef and flower designer in the District's Shaw neighborhood. "Flowers and natural ingredients enhance camaraderie and conversation."

Forman creates tablescapes spiced with beautiful things that speak of winter: moss, chestnuts, acorns, persimmons and kumquats. Her advice is to start looking outdoors for midwinter greenery such as camellia and leatherleaf viburnum. Search for unusual bowls or cups to display flowers. Use layers of moss or a large tray as a base for your holiday tableaux, Forman says. Add candlelight for a nice glow. If you are having a seated dinner, manage the height of your arrangement so it won't interfere with conversation. Buffets can display something taller.

Diana Wescott, the Whole Foods regional floral buyer, stocks store shelves with plants such as lemon cypress ($12.99), rosemary trees ($12.99) and white snowball hydrangea ($24.99) to use as elegant centerpieces.

The classic choice is the stately amaryllis. She says red, white or striped amaryllis ($8.99) with buds about to open are just being delivered. "You can't go wrong with an amaryllis plant," Wescott says. "Put several in a big compote or soup tureen and cover the top with moss or pine needles. Add some birch or berries and you're good for a few weeks."

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