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Entertaining? Tips for being the life of the party

November 17, 2013
By ANITA?HANABURGH , The Leader Herald

As party season approaches, consider some of these notes and ideas.

If you can't do all of them, at least take my mom's advice:?Sweep the doorway, light the candles and put on lipstick.

- K.I.S.S.: Keep it Simple, Stupid. Keep reminding yourself that simple phrase as you select dates ("I know I have something that afternoon but I can do it!"), pick food ("this recipe looks interesting - only 14 steps!) and invite guests ("I think Aunt Tibby will get along with my neighbor this year!"). Think it through. Instead of offering several choices, focus on one. For in stance, a single unusual, special dessert can be much better, easier, neater and more enjoyable than a dessert table.

- Plan for an event, not a meal. Remember some great dinners you have attended in people's homes. What do you remember? Usually, it's the time and experience, not the food. My cousin just told me about a party where the host's 8-year-old twins answered the door dressed in formal wear, directing guests. "What was for dinner?" I asked. "Oh, the usual," was the reply. Of course, we often remember the food. I would never say we didn't: Eileen's great punch, the terrific crab hors d'oeuvres at the Malones', John's fresh-fish bouillabaisse. We also remember how items were served, activities, little extras and small details like where people sat and who was invited. Plan your time doing what matters.

- Plan a half-hour to enjoy your efforts. My friend Barb says this is a must! Remember this is your night, your lunch, your brunch, your holiday. Enjoy it! Sit down, have a glass of ice water, a cup of tea or an aperitif before the guests arrive. Look around, enjoy how the house looks (it doesn't look that way often) and listen to the music. Don't be that hassled host that get caught mashing the potatoes, putting away the vacuum and moving the plants. Face it. We do this for ourselves, and we then let the guests enjoy our efforts. So enjoy it, already!

- Before all else, look good. I don't mean you have to be dressed up, but be "fixed up." It is more important that you look good than the food or the house does (it's OK to mash potatoes when the guests get there.) My mother loved Loretta Young. At the beginning of her TV show, Loretta would flutter down the stairs in a long dress and open her front door with a welcoming smile that accentuated her high cheekbones. I believed in being perfectly personally prepared when quests arrived (just because I believe it doesn't mean I do it!). So, if you don't have the stairs, the dress or the high cheekbones, at least don't be caught answering the door out of breath with a toothbrush in your mouth.

- Use the guests. People like to help. Don't be a multitasking maniac. Put the guests right on you're planning sheet. You have nothing to prove here.

- Let the guests keep their shoes on! Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show said 64 percent of people in a survey think it's rude to ask people to remove their shoes. Clinton Kelly of ABC's "The Chew" suggests if you want your guests to remove their shoes, you should let them know ahead of time. Shoes are often part of a women's outfit and people should know if the outfit will flatten when they walk in the door. Boots are another issue.

- Crate the dog. I know you think he is really cute when he jumps on the couch next to your new minister. Not! My yellow lab wouldn't have hurt a flea, but guests have been scared if she went running at them to say hello. You may be convinced your pup is well-behaved, but a dog is a dog. A dog or cat is inappropriate at a social event.

- Drink responsibly. The only way you can act responsibly is to preserve your own judgment. You are in charge of the sobriety and safety of your guests. Hire or designate a conscientious bartender, offer juices, water, coffee, punch and other alternatives to alcohol. One party I went to had seltzer in the punch bowl with lemons and limes. You can serve fatty food and offer rides home, but most of all, you should be alert.

- Don't open the wine brought as a gift. The point to consider is why the wine was brought. If it's in a wrapped Santa bag, it is a gift to be enjoyed later. If your guest is bringing wine for dinner, then it should be opened. And if you are all friends and always bring your own wine to events, then this is not a gift but a contribution to dinner.

- Give a parting gift. What a great way for guests to remember the party. I know you're saying, "oh come on, Anita. Don't we have enough to do?" Well, it's just an idea. Maybe cut down on a food item. I like a personal note with a bit of candy or soap or a small decoration. One friend gave out crocheted snowflakes, then she didn't send Christmas cards.

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