This Month's Articles:
1) Setting A Festive Table – Tips For A Striking Presentation
2) Using Spontaneous and Observational Humor
3) Christmas Cheesecake
REGAL TITLES CHRISTMAS DEADLINE IS APPROACHING
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Setting A Festive Table – Tips For A Striking Presentation
You'll be slaving over a hot stove for hours, preparing a feast fit for kings this Christmas. From the turkey to the desserts, you put love into every recipe, and your family digs in with gusto. Why not add some festive touches to the table as well, and make the presentation as breathtaking as the dishes you'll be serving? It doesn't take much time or money to transform your table from humbug to very merry.
Choosing a Theme
The easiest way to coordinate your decor is to choose a theme. Your theme can be as specific as a single Christmas carol, or as broad as a certain style or colors. For example, you could choose "Jingle Bells" as your theme, making the centerpiece a miniature one-horse open sleigh, and attaching bells to everything that doesn't voluntarily move. Or, choose a "Country Christmas" theme and add lots of country touches to your table, like felt cut-outs and cross-stitched napkins.
If you're planning on selecting colors for your table, stick with one main color and a maximum of two accent colors. Holiday colors of green, red, and white look very festive, or accent with silver or gold for a more elegant touch. Blue and white work nicely together for a winter theme.
You may have your great-great-grandmother's handmade lace tablecloth stowed away, ready to use for your Christmas dinner. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but if spillage and possible staining are a major worry for you, save the lace for accenting your decorative holiday displays instead and pick up some inexpensive cotton or other fabric to cover your table with, or use clean sheets in various colors. You can even use two contrasting colors of fabric, and use the second, smaller piece to hang at an angle over the larger one. Christmas prints are cute and charming, but try to steer clear of anything too busy or bright, as the fabric will overshadow any other accents you add.
For a children's table, cover the surface with butcher paper or inverted wrapping paper and provide crayons at each setting. Christmas crackers are also great fun for kids, and look cute sitting on each dinner plate.
Centerpieces can be as simple as a small grouping of different sized candles. You needn't go overboard and spend hundreds of dollars on fresh flowers and a beautiful decorator's vase to hold them in. Potted Poinsettias make a pretty centerpiece, as do small baskets filled with pine sprigs and pinecones, or clear glass bowls full of bright Christmas tree balls.
Keeping your chosen theme in mind, choose a centerpiece that will stand out among your dishes of food, and become a conversation piece for guests. If you plan to use lit candles, never leave them unattended, and choose unscented candles wherever possible.
You don't have to limit yourself to simple linen napkins, although these work perfectly well. Use facecloths, small hand towels, or handkerchiefs instead if you prefer. Roll your napkins and fold the roll in half, securing with a pretty bow, or fold them origami style into an interesting shape.
Napkin rings can be made from pipe cleaners, mini wreaths, licorice strings, ribbons, artificial flower stems, or anything else you can think of that will look festive and do the job. Tie bells, small ornaments, pinecones, silk flowers, or even small toys onto each napkin ring for added decoration.
Serving Dishes and Platters
Your serving dishes don't need to match each other to look pretty. A mixture of different styles and colors add whimsy and a country feel to your presentation. If you don't have enough trivets for all of your dishes, cover pre-cut pieces of thick cardboard with aluminum foil and use these as shiny mats that will protect your table and still look nice.
If you want to use place cards to prearrange the seating at your table, use your theme to come up with imaginative ways to create or display them. Gift tags are an easy idea, and they can be attached to each napkin or wine glass with ribbon or pipe cleaners. Miniature artificial poinsettia pots are available at many dollar stores, and they make gorgeous place card holders. Simply fashion your cards and attach them to straws or toothpicks, then secure them into the pots.
Pinecones can hold name cards as well, if you maneuver the cards so that the 'teeth' of the cones hold them in place. Create shapes out of clay or dough, thread the cards through candy cane sticks, or simply place your cards on the top of each dinner plate. The possibilities here are endless.
Extras and Finishing Touches
Adding candles of varying heights and colors will add warmth to your table setting. Scatter tea lights, votives, pillars, and tapers around the center of the table, making sure that they are secure and not interfering with anything that could be flammable.
You can also decorate the stems on wine glasses with purchased wine charms or pipe cleaners, or tie small bells to each one with ribbon. Tie cutlery together in a similar fashion if you wish, or tuck utensils securely inside rolled napkins.
For an added touch, decorate each chair with bows, bits of garland, or pretty fabric. Anything goes as long as it doesn't scratch or otherwise interfere with your guests' enjoyment of your wonderful meal.
With a bit of extra effort, you can take a plain and boring table and create a stunning masterpiece that will impress your guests even before the first course is served.
Using Spontaneous and Observational Humor
An impromptu quip will hit the target more often than a canned joke.
Spontaneous humor is a wonderful way to connect with an audience. An impromptu quip will hit the target more often than a canned joke. Audiences are flattered when the humor is created just for them. Often, an improvised touch of humor lends a fresh appeal to your entire talk.
Here are four keys to the effective use of spontaneous humor:
First, let's look at preparation.
What? Prepare to be spontaneous? Of course! Have you ever visited a comedy club and observed how the stand-up comic has an "off-the-cuff" ad lib for nearly anything that comes up? Think of those times when the comic chats with people in the front row and makes a witty remark if someone happens to be from Chicago, or works in the medical field, or is visiting the club with someone other than his or her own spouse. Such exchanges appear to be very spontaneous. But in reality, the comic is often making the "spontaneous" remark for the 50th or 100th time! The seasoned comic has prepared to be spontaneous.
In speaking situations, it's a good idea to be prepared with humor to handle unexpected events. For example, what will you do or say if the lights go out or the sound system fails? If you're armed with a humorous ad lib, the audience will be won over when they see the problem hasn't gotten the best of you.
Preparation should also include a study of your audience. If you circulate a preprogram questionnaire to obtain "inside information" about the group, you'll be able to customize your humor and make it seem much more spontaneous.
Here's another tip: carefully note any effective off-the-cuff humorous remark made by you or an audience member, then recycle it during your next talk. Although it may seem contradictory, being ready with a few humorous quips can actually create an illusion of spontaneity.
The second key is observation. Since most humor is based on relationships, the more observant you are, the more likely you'll be able to create humorous relationships and pictures in the minds of your audience. A bit of humor will create a funny picture in the minds of the audience.
One occasion, while attending a holiday luncheon, I noticed a gentleman wearing loud green and red plaid pants with a black sports coat. On my way up to the stage, I passed by his table and asked him to join me. Once in front of the audience I said, "Bob has started a new tradition today. To carry on this tradition, next year when you arrive at your holiday luncheon, you'll be required to exchange an article of clothing with someone seated next to you. Would the gentleman wearing the other half of Bob's suit please stand up." With only a simple gesture and without any advance coordination, a gentleman wearing a loud plaid sports coat with black pants stood up! It brought the house down.
It's also a good idea to listen and observe as other speakers make remarks and presentations before you speak. At a company awards luncheon it seemed as though nearly everyone receiving 5, 10 and 15-year service awards had started in the company's telemarketing department and had subsequently worked their way into other jobs. I added a new line to my opening monologue. "People call me a comedy magician because they laugh at my magic and they're mystified by my jokes. But I wasn't always a comedy magician. I used to work in telemarketing!" It was on target and received a great response. The audience appreciated the fresh, spontaneous nature of the remark.
Then there was the time I attended a function where a wide variety of recognition were being given for club service. During the course of the ceremony I noticed that some of the recipients were present and some were absent that evening. So one of my best lines came from a simple observation: "This is my kind of club. You gave out perfect attendance awards to two people who weren't even here!" Simple? Of course. But highly effective.
After you've prepared and remembered to be observant, you'll need to exercise the third key...courage! There's no doubt about it: Trying out new jokes takes guts. But the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll become. It's worth the risk. Besides, if your audience doesn't laugh, just pretend you were serious!
The fourth key is practice. You learn humor and spontaneity only by exercising your skills. I recommend you set a goal of using some humor in every presentation you give. Your humor comfort zone will increase and so will your spontaneity as you gain confidence.
A great way to practice your use of spontaneous humor is to join a Toastmasters club. Their meetings help you hone your critical speaking skills. You have the opportunity to give prepared and impromptu speeches. Testing your humorous ideas, you'll sharpen your skills. When the opportunity comes to say a few words at the close of a meeting, for example, use a bit of observational humor created out of the circumstances of the meeting. Or, if you're assigned to present a joke during the meeting, bring a "hip-pocket" joke only as a backup. Then, during the meeting, attempt to create a fresh, new joke by exercising your observational skills. It's not as difficult as it might seem at first. You'll become more observant and will eventually be able to create five or six pieces of observational humor by the close of every meeting. You can practice this technique at any type of meeting.
By using these keys of preparation, observation, courage and practice you'll become more spontaneous. You'll add a freshness to your presentation as you customize humor to your audience and your environment. Your talk will hit the mark...and the funnybone!
This is a cheesecake that I have been making for over 20 years if you follow the recipe to the tee you won't have any problem, it is also colorful as well as the most lucious piece of pastry that you ever put in your mouth.
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter ir margarine melted
2 pounds cream cheese
1 cup sugar
8 ounces sour cream
1 cup flour
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cup in total
chopped candied cherries,
red and green
raisins, walnuts, candied pineapple
1/2 cup small chocolate chips
In a 5 quart mixing bowl place 2 pounds of cream cheese and 1 cup granulated sugar and mix on low speed until cream cheese is softened and smooth, place in bowl 8 ounces sour cream and continue mixing until well blended, at this time add 2 eggs, mix for 2 minutes then add 1 cup flour, and 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, mix on second speed until your cheesecake batter is smooth and creamy.
At this time your cheesecake mixture should be fluffy like ice cream as it comes out of the ice cream machine. Add the candied fruit, raisins, walnuts, pineapple, chocolate chips, fold everything together.
Prepair your 10 inch x 2 inches springform pan, in a large bowl place your graham cracker crumbs and 2 tablespoons sugar, and your melted butter or margarine, then with a wire whisk, whisk them together until well combined, brush onto the sides of your springform pan a little softened butter so the crumbs have something to hold to, place the crumbs on the sides and bottom of the pan. Now you add slowly to the pan your cheesecake mix as not to disturb the crumbs too much, now you should have a full pan.
The total weight of the cheesecake with the crumbs on the sides should be 5 to 5-1/4 pounds if you have some batter leftover just chill it, put some whip cream on it and enjoy.
Preheat your oven to 275 degrees and not more, when your oven is hot place the cheesecake in it and bake for 55 minutes then shut off the oven and let it in there for 3 hours, at the end of this time you should have the most beautiful cheesecake you ever seen, let the cheesecake on the table for 1 1/2 hours then place it in the refrigerator for about 2-3 hours. Now remove it from the pan and enjoy.
Before serving sprinkle some red and green edible glitter that you can purchase at any store that has cake decorating supplies.
Stephen Scott, Regal Titles
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