genConnect was on hand at the Real Simple Holiday Pop-Up Shop in New York City's Bryant Park, picking the brains of the best food & wine, organizational, and fashion pros for tips to make your holidays simpler. Here's what they had to say:
1. Carson Kressley: Buy the Unique GiftCarson Kressley
Stylist and designer Carson Kressley recommends shopping early and sticking to a list to reduce the holiday stress and save money when looking for the perfect gift. He also prefers the unique present over a sweater or scarf - like many of the gifts recommended in the Real Simple Holiday Gift Guide . "I think as long as it has a lot of personality and makes a statement, you don't have to spend a fortune on it," he says. Carson also recommends giving to charity as a great gift. "I actually sent all my agents a letter for a charity I work with called the Al D. Rodriguez Liver Foundation that said, 'Don't buy me anything and just send a check to them.'"
2. Patrick McDonald: Wear RedPatrick McDonald (right)Patrick McDonald, better known as "The Dandy" and voted one of Gotham magazine's "100 Best Dressed New Yorkers," said men shouldn't be afraid to wear a splash of color this season. McDonald, contestant on Bravo's "Launch My Line" show, added: "Men out there should really just be more adventurous. Wear a red tie for Christmas. Put on green and red. Be festive!"
So what does The Dandy of New York give as a gift? "I love giving books," McDonald told genConnect. "Education is really important and it can be a fun or a serious book. Books are the key gift for this holiday season."
3. Candace Nelson: Serve Cupcakes
Candace Nelson Founder of Sprinkles cupcake shop and judge on the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars,"Cupcakes says cupcakesare a great, versatile dessert for the holidays - and simple to make. "Think about the classic American food that we love in this country, they're all handheld foods," Candace says. "I think it plays in perfectly with the mission of Real Simple as well. It's so simple to pick up a cupcake, there's no need for a fussy fork or a knife, even a plate really, and you can pick your own flavor, you don't have to all share one flavor of cake, so it's also sort of an individualistic sort of thing."
Her big tip for making cupcakes to please without a lot of work? Make one basic recipe - vanilla or pound cake. Divide the batter and add peppermint, orange, cloves, or other ingredients to each section to turn that one recipe into a variety of different cupcakes. "Mix and match and it will really take that one recipe and you can do a lot with it."
4. Sam Champion: Give Back
Sam Champion Still can't find the perfect gift? ABC News' and "Good Morning America" weather anchor Sam Champion says opt for charity over consumerism. DonorsChoose.org, a peer-to-peer philanthropic network that connects people to classrooms in need, is one of Sam's favorites. "If I could tell anyone to add an organization to their list of giving this year, it would be that one," Champion said. "Schools are often one of the first places where we unfairly see cuts … You can target what you're giving to that area if you'll just go online you can choose exactly what you want to do and how much money you want to give."
5. Dawn Perry: Serve BuffetsDawn Perry
Dawn Perry - Real Simple Food Editor says that no matter what you cook up in this holiday season, don't spend all of your family time in the kitchen, and offer up the food buffet-style. "The holidays are really about being together, as hard as you work to get the buffet out, at the end of the day you just want to kind of hang out with your friends and your family. So we try not to stress too much about it and give people these simple, easy ideas. Easy to prepare, easy to find," Dawn said.