Forks go to the left of the dinner plate.You've spent the entire day in the kitchen cooking the perfect holiday meal. But it's an hour before your guests arrive and you find yourself standing in front of the table listening to that little nagging voice inside your head.

Do the water glasses go to the right or left? What side does the knife go on? Should you go ahead and put food on the table before guests arrive, or wait until everyone gets there?

"We hear from so many panicked people this time of year looking for a crash course in how to set the table and proper manners," says etiquette coach Jill Slatter. "Most of us are stretched so thin juggling work, school and home that we don't have time to sit down together for a proper meal except at the holidays, and then the pressure is on to be perfect."

Slatter is the etiquette expert for Replacements, Ltd., billed as the world's largest retailer of old and new china, silver, crystal and collectibles. Based on their most frequently asked questions, Slatter shares a holiday etiquette 101 crash course that's sure to help you impress your guests.

Set the perfect table

Forks to the left, knives and spoons to the right. The sharp side of the knife blade should be turned toward the dinner plate. Only include utensils in your place setting that will be used for the courses you are serving. "If you're not serving soup or salad, you certainly don't want an extra spoon or fork in your place setting," Slatter says. "Not only will those get in the way and create extra work for you, the extra utensils may confuse your guests."  

The bread plate goes on the left of the dinner plate, glasses on the right.

Wait to pour. Water glasses should be the only glasses filled before your guests arrive. Iced tea, wine and other beverages should be poured once everyone is seated. Wine glasses should be filled halfway, not to the rim.

Salad and bread should be the only food on the table when your guests arrive.

Are you the hostess with the mostest?

Remember, the hostess always sits last.

Passing isn't just in football. Always pass food around the table counter clockwise to the right and refrain from serving yourself first. Always pass the salt and pepper as a set, even if you're only asked for one.

Can your guests see each other? Sure those flowers you spent hours arranging for the centerpiece are pretty, but they will only get in the way if your guests have to crane their necks to see each other. Make sure your guests can look over any table adornments.

Be a gracious guest

"There is nothing more disruptive than a cell phone ringing at the dinner table," says Slatter. "Turn your phone on vibrate, or better yet, don't even bring it to the table. Holiday gatherings mark the time to enjoy the company of the people you are with, rather than ignore them by chatting with someone who's not even there."

Wait for the signal. Your hosts will let you know when it's okay to begin eating. They may offer a blessing or statement or perhaps start by passing a dish.

If you're not sure which utensil to use with each course, start on the outside and work in toward the dinner plate.

If you need to excuse yourself temporarily, gently place your napkin on your chair to indicate you will be coming back.

Signify you're finished with the meal by placing your napkin to the left of the dinner plate, and your fork and knife side by side diagonally across your plate with the sharp side of the knife blade facing inward and the fork tines up.

"Another big question we hear concerns what to do if you accidently break a piece of the host's dinnerware," adds Slatter. "You should certainly offer to replace the broken piece especially if it has sentimental value for the host or hostess."

Slatter says don't lose hope if your host doesn't know the name of the pattern or the manufacturer; you can always take advantage of Replacements' free pattern identification service.

If you're still in doubt about holiday etiquette 101, help is just a mouse click away. You can watch more of Slatter's tips on Replacements' YouTube channel. You can also find cheat sheets of place setting guides diagramming how to set the table for various meals at the company's website, www.replacements.com. Bon appetit!

IMAGE CAPTIONS:
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Caption 1: Forks go to the left of the dinner plate.

Caption 2: Always place liquids to the right of the dinner plate.
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How to make your holiday event stand outWhen you open your home to family and friends this holiday season, you want to give your guests the best impression possible. But, it's likely that you might not have everything that you need to accommodate your visitors.

Hosting a large gathering is not something you do every day, so many of the necessary items are not things you'll have sitting in your kitchen cabinets, garage or basement ready for use. Fortunately, you won't need to break the bank buying everything you need. If you can't find what you're looking for in your home, your local rental store will be able to help.

Here are a few things you can do to make your holiday event one to remember:

* Not enough seating? Consider renting some tables and chairs. It's better than having to haul the card table up from the basement and offering your guests a cold folding chair.

* Set your table with the latest styles of linens, china and silver. If these aren't items that you, or another family member, has at their disposal, find them at  your local rental store.

* Don't forget that elegant lighting and centerpieces will go a long way to creating the perfect look and feel for your special holiday event. Small things like this can make a huge difference in the ambiance of your gathering.

* Add some extra flair to your event and have a champagne fountain or margarita machine on hand. These types of fun rental party items make for a special surprise for your guests.

* The outside of your home is the first impression. Make sure that your outdoor decorations are just as elegant and beautiful as the ones inside.

* If you're hosting a particularly large group, it may be difficult to keep food hot when it comes time to dine. Renting food preparation items, chafing dishes or other warmers will ensure every one of your guests enjoys a delicious dining experience.

To get a better idea of what types of items you can rent for parties and to locate a store near you, visit www.rentalhq.com. Think it sounds out of your budget to create a perfect event? Not necessarily. Your local rental store has everything you need and can offer service and advice to help eliminate stress. You'll also save money on items you will be using only once.
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Calgary and Okotoks Realty Roland J. Darel. With the countdown on to check off everyone on that holiday gift list, the swelling crowds in malls may make shopping less appealing. The upside? Easy ways exist to navigate the stress of last-minute shopping.

"Canadians can satisfy all of their shopping needs with the click of a mouse when they visit airmilesshops.ca, a unique Canadian online shopping portal," says Andy Wright, president, AIR MILES Reward Program. "We've partnered with more than 100 of the top retailers in both Canada and the U.S. to offer one-stop-shopping, plus the opportunity to earn AIR MILES reward miles from the comfort of your own home."
 

As experts in online shopping, we offer these essential holiday shopping tips:
 

• Prepare a detailed list that includes everyone you need to shop for. If you have the time, create categories to make it simple to search for items all at once online.
 

• Stay tuned into social media to keep up with deals and coupons at favorite online shops and with your loyalty programs. For example, 'like' a loyalty program's Facebook page to stay on top of current promotions, and check in occasionally to their website for bonus offers and more.
 

• Set up newsletter alerts with favorite retailers and schedule a time during the week to review them for any hot deals on items from your list.
 

• Have a budget in mind and find a system that works to track all purchases. Whether the information is stored electronically, or on a notepad, making a note of spending will help to cross-reference when the credit card bill comes in.
 

• Schedule a time to shop – and stick to it. Like scheduling Saturday hockey practice or dance classes with the kids, it's important to set aside a couple of hours or more each week to finalize purchases.
 

Every organized step made toward efficient holiday shopping means more quality time spent with loved ones during this special time of year!

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From baking cookies with loved ones to caroling through the neighborhood or celebrating with family and friends, fond memories of holiday traditions abound. Each year, scents, sights and sounds promote the season's spirit - continuing long-standing traditions and creating new memories.

Here are some ideas for stimulating your senses and evoking the warmth of the holidays in your home:

Savoring seasonal scents
Home fragrances create a warm, inviting environment during the holidays and all year-round. A whiff of a familiar scent often calls to mind memories of holidays past. The scent of cinnamon and vanilla conjures thoughts of freshly baked cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, while a blend of evergreens, cedar, and musk reminds many of Christmas tree hunting in the woods.

One of the safest ways to recreate holiday memories is with scented, wickless candles. With no wick and no flame, there's no worry or mess. After selecting a favorite seasonal fragrance, it's easy to place a cube or two of the scented wax into a decorative, ceramic candle warmer. Just one whiff and you are on your way down memory lane.

"A festive, welcoming atmosphere stimulates our senses and reminds us of holidays past as we celebrate with our family and friends," says Heidi Thompson, president and co-owner of Scentsy, a leader in home fragrance. "A home filled with classic holiday scents not only evokes  memories but inspires new seasonal traditions for young families."

Behold the sights
Twinkling lights fill the indoor and outdoor landscape during the holidays. To capture the spirit of the season and add a shimmering glow to any room, consider a simple string or two of miniature lights strung along a mantel or displaying a holiday-themed wickless candle. From snowmen to Santa, there are festive designs in all shapes and sizes to complement any decor.

Sounds of the season
The sounds of the season create happy holiday memories. Adding traditional tunes from Bing Crosby or modern interpretations from Harry Connick, Jr. can set the mood as you decorate your home, entertain dinner guests or simply escape the hustle and bustle of the season. Music creates a cheerful atmosphere and often encourages listeners to sing along.

Enjoying the scents, sights and sounds of the season is simple. To learn more about how to fill your home with festive fragrances and decorate with wickless candles, visit www.Scentsy.net.
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Calgary and Okotoks Realty Roland J. Darel. Home life is changing, so sound dampening is more important than ever. Life is getting louder inside and around the home. Televisions, home theaters, computers and video games blare from almost every room. Family cell phones ring or buzz, making life loud.
 

Your home's insulation can do more than keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. With the right selection, your insulation can help transform your home into a quiet retreat and sanctuary from the outside world.
 

Sound dampening is becoming a requirement for modern families, so if you have the opportunity to re-insulate your home, sound-proofing insulation is an excellent choice to escape the everyday hustle and bustle. Stone wool insulation, for example, is a top choice for professional recording studios. This material is an excellent acoustic barrier that actually absorbs the sound. For homeowners, retailers point to a performance tested product called, Roxul Safe 'n' Sound mineral wool insulation. It provides higher sound absorption against low frequency (bass) ranges that other types of insulation struggle to block.
 

For the best soundproofing results, install the mineral wool insulation in your home theater, basements, home office, laundry room, furnace room and even the washrooms. Installing mineral wool insulation on the interior walls will control sound, delivering peace and quiet.



Courtesy of Newscanada
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(NC)-Taking holiday decorating to extremes is fun. But accidents can happen, especially when using a lot of electronic decorations on the outside of the house.

Follow these safety precautions for outdoor decorating from CSA Group, a leader in electronic product testing and certification, to help make sure your house gets noticed for the right reasons:

• Put your faith in the magic of the holidays but don't fall for fakes: Whether it's a waving Santa, rocking sleigh, or light-up Rudolph, avoid counterfeit electronic decorations that haven't been certified for safe use. Look for the mark from an accredited certification organization like CSA Group on light strings, extension cords, and animated displays. Make sure they are marked for outdoor use and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

• Keep old holiday traditions, not old holiday lights: Carefully inspect light strings each year. Discard any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders or loose connections.

• Sparkle without the spark: Turn off the electricity to the supply outlet before working with outdoor wiring. Unplug light strings before replacing bulbs and check to ensure replacement bulbs match the voltage and wattage of the original. To avoid a shock from damaged wire, use insulated fasteners rather than metal nails or tacks to hold light strings in place.

• Stay dry: Keep electrical connectors for outdoor lights above ground, out of water, and away from metal eaves troughs. Connect outdoor lighting into receptacles protected by weatherproof ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). These can provide protection from electric shock by sensing ground leakage and cutting electrical power.

• Don't be silly with strings: Make decorating a family activity by planning out this year's theme with the kids, but don't let children or pets play with light strings.

• Don't overextend yourself: Use heavy duty extension cords for high wattage decorations and large electronically-animated displays and don't overload extension cords.

• It's more than a faux-pas to keep lights up all year: Outdoor holiday lights are made for seasonal use only; extended exposure can lead to damage. After the holiday season, take down decorations and store them in their original packaging to keep the proper use instructions for next year.

You can find more safety tips at www.csaholiday.com.



Courtesy of Newscanada
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