Every holiday season starts out the same...


Every holiday season starts out the same way -- we picture ourselves in one of those cozy Currier and Ives paintings, the ones filled with family and friends, harmony and love, bountiful gifts and food.

But then reality always intrudes. Scurrying to shopping malls and poring over endless must-do lists pushes aside the time we'd hoped to spend on reflection and communion. The closer the holiday looms, the more anxious we become knowing that the Currier and Ives warmth and fuzziness is only a fantasy.

That's why, with several weeks still before the craziness begins, we're offering you this issue devoted to holiday entertaining. We hope it has arrived on your doorstep in plenty of time to inspire you for the festive days ahead. We've included ideas to make the occasions a little more manageable and a lot more fun.

You'll find tips from area interior designers who artfully deck their halls. (And they've used it all -- from silver-sprayed seaweed to Milk Bones to turkey basters.)

The Sun's pop music critic, J.D. Considine, who happens to be a connoisseur of both music and food, offers his suggestions for the perfect dinner party music. Hard as it is to admit, there are times when it's best to pop in the k.d. lang tape and postpone the Tchaikovsky.

And what of those last-minute guests? We love them, but how to cope? Experienced Baltimore hosts tell us how they make short-notice entertaining look so easy.

As for your own celebrations, may they be joyous and safe. Best wishes for the holidays from all of us at Distinction.

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