Imagine my surprise getting a phone call from Chico’s asking if I would guest star in their upcoming holiday catalog & InsideChic blog? I hopped on Delta for a quick trip to NYC where I felt a bit like a cross between Alice in Wonderland & Cinderella, with fittings & call times, makeup artists & hair stylists extraordinaire then an all day photo shoot with the incredible Melanie Acevedo. What a way to kick off the upcoming holidays! Now off to do a little shopping….
Stylish, witty, glamorous and totally gracious, Danielle Rollins is one of our favorites. She inspires and encourages others to celebrate any and every opportunity—and gives you the tools to do it with the least fuss and the most joy. It’s no wonder she’s been featured everywhere from Veranda, to Southern Living, to Martha Stewart, to Oprah.com. We were lucky enough to get her thoughts on how to holiday.
We love to entertain, but it can be so stressful. What are your tips/tricks for making entertaining easy and fun over the holidays?
Danielle: I think too often we think it has to be a large event to justify being “fancy”, especially for the holidays. One of my favorite things to do is to have a very small group of friends over to celebrate the season—whether it’s a dinner or just cocktails—and get very dressed up. A select group feels especially festive and puts me in a holiday state of mind. Smaller is more intimate, easier to manage, there are fewer table settings, and fewer dishes you have to do! You can also be more thoughtful since you don’t have to please as many people.
What is your approach for dressing around the holidays?
Danielle: I love being as creative with my clothing as I do with my interiors or table settings! I recycle looks because I know what works on my body, what makes me feel good and I hold onto my favorite pieces forever. I’ve had some items for over 20 years! However, I rarely wear anything the same way twice. I change the shoes, the jewelry, the scarf. If a woman understands her core basics of wardrobe building—the bones of an outfit if you will—experimenting with different looks and ways to wear things becomes a joy!
I dress a bit differently for entertaining at home than I do for going out to parties. I like a more casual relaxed approach to at-home attire. I like to be ever so slightly less formal than my guests, often choosing something that is loose, fluid, comfortable and doesn’t encumber my movement. I love wearing pants or even silk type hostess pajamas with heels, long skirts with a plain white blouse, caftans or long jersey dresses with evening sandals. When I’m the guest I like a much more structured outfit, and I love going all out! And why not? Holidays are only once a year, so you might as well pull out all the stops!
Ok. Let’s talk entertaining. What are some of your favorite unexpected holiday color palettes for the holiday table?
Danielle: I love camel with crimson, reds mixed with burgundies, charcoal with forest greens and deep jewel tone colors—amethyst, citrine, mandarin, emerald, topaz, ruby, garnet and sapphire! And sparkle! Holidays are the time to shine!
What are your holiday plans this year?
Danielle: Since my children are older now and the older ones are only briefly in town from college, they like to be with their friends as much as possible. This year I’m going to host a multigenerational holiday sing-a-long cocktail party. I have hired a person to play holiday tunes on the piano, and I am inviting family and friends, as well as my children’s friends and their parents! I know the kids won’t stay all that long but it’s a nice way to catch up with everyone, and I like a party where people have an activity to do sometimes. And after the teenagers leave, I will still have the adults linger over cocktails for some holiday cheer, plenty of champagne and lots of laughter. I don’t believe in trying to make the holidays more complicated, but I do believe in extending a little bit of extra effort and stopping to celebrate to make them more enjoyable!
Danielle’s picks: To Give
Danielle: I love how fun and quirky this key ring is! It’s one of those surprise gifts you get that make you smile every time you open your purse. I’d buy a few of these as stocking stuffers for my friends.
Danielle’s picks: To Get
Danielle: The holidays are all about glamor and sparkle. This necklace can totally turn the volume up on any outfit, from a sweater and jeans to an over-the-top dress (Is there such a thing? Not at the holidays!)
We have to ask. What are some of your go-to holiday recipes?
First, I love to serve French 75s. It’s a drink that’s sparkly and festive—with a little kick. Named after a French 75mm field artillery and still used as a saluting gun, what could be a better holiday drink?! What a way to end a year and celebrate the holidays!
12 ounces Boodles British gin
8 ounces lemon simple syrup (see recipe below)
8 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice (8 to 10 lemons)
1 bottle Champagne, chilled
8 chilled Champagne coupes filled with crushed ice
In a large pitcher, combine gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice and stir.
Fill chilled Champagne glasses with crushed ice and fill the glasses about one-third of the way with the gin lemonade. Top each glass with about 2 ounces Champagne just before serving.
LEMON SIMPLE SYRUP
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 to 3 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
Combine 1 cup water and sugar in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and the liquid becomes clear.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring continuously, 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Add lemon zest and juice.
Pour into a container.
Syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
For a sweet treat, Sticky Toffee Pudding is my all-time favorite holiday classic. Oozing with rich warmed caramel soaked into a dense spice cake, it’s the dessert equivalent of a hug. And if that isn’t enough, it’s one of those cakes that gets better with time, which means it’s a perfect holiday make ahead. It freezes beautifully too.
STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING
2 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup pitted Medjool dates, chopped,
plus 8 whole dates for garnish
3⁄4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, halved
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon baking powder, salt, and chopped dates. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes. Drain and reserve dates.
Butter and flour a 9-inch square cake pan. Cream butter and brown sugar in bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed about 2 1⁄2 minutes. Add vanilla (scrape the bean, if using) and egg.
Sift flour and the remaining 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder together; fold in the date mixture and add to the bowl. Reduce mixing speed to low and mix until smooth. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake until the top is springy and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Place cake in pan on a cooling rack. Poke holes at 1-inch intervals all over the cake using a chopstick. Pour half of Sticky Toffee Sauce over the cake and let it rest about 20 minutes. The cake can be stored up to 1 day in a sealed container in the refrigerator and reheated just before serving in a 350°F oven about 20 minutes, adding more sauce if it seems too dry.
To serve, slice the cake into squares, heat the remaining sauce, and heavily drizzle it over each slice, topping with Cinnamon Whipped Cream and garnishing with a whole date.
STICKY TOFFEE SAUCE
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 cup brown sugar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Whisk to incorporate. Reduce heat to low, continuing to whisk until mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes.
CINNAMON WHIPPED CREAM
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a chilled metal bowl and beat (with a standing mixer, hand-held mixer, or by hand) until thickened but not stiff. Do not over-whip.
Chill, covered, until ready to serve.
For more of Danielle’s picks, check out her page on Chicos.com. Read the entire article “Holiday Style: Meet the Experts.”