When it comes to entertaining, there are many ways to make life easier and more fun for you, the host. Consider adding some of the following resolutions to your New Year's list and discover how easy entertaining can be.
10. Use a caterer more often.
Nobody ever said you had to do it all yourself. Shop for a good, dependable caterer, and you may find that the prospect of entertaining is not nearly so daunting. You can use one to help with the food preparation, tending the bar, or serving and cleaning up after the party. Decide what causes you the most stress when you plan a party and go from there.
9. Be more spontaneous.
Host impromptu gatherings and you'll have no time to fuss. With a last minute party the expectations are lower, creating less pressure to have everything done perfectly. Remember that few people are judging you on the perfection of your canapés. They care much more about your gracious attitude as a host.
8. Purchase white dinnerware.
It doesn't have to be expensive. White dinnerware makes the perfect neutral backdrop for your food and garnishes. And like a chameleon, it will blend into the rest of your decorating scheme. It looks equally attractive on a red table cloth that is covered with holly leaves for Christmas or on a green shamrock cloth for a St. Patrick's Day bash. Why do you think caterers use it all the time?
7. Broaden your culinary horizons.
There are so many ways you can expand your food knowledge and skills so resolve to try something new this year. You can take a live cooking class where you can ask the chef questions; follow along with a cooking video on your computer, iPad, or television; try out a new dinner party menu that you find online or in a magazine. The more new things you try, the more you'll build confidence in your cooking abilities.
6. Develop a few signature dishes.
I used to have a bad habit of trying out new recipes on my guests. Although they usually turned out fine, I made my life more stressful than necessary. Over the years I've slowly begun to save and repeat recipes that I know will turn out fabulous each time. That way if I'm planning a last minute party, I don't have to spend hours planning my menu. I can anticipate the time it will take to cook these familiar recipes, and I gain extra time to focus on other entertaining details.
5. Select a theme for your party.
A theme helps to pull all the elements of your party together. From the music, to the food to the decorations, a theme gives you a clear focus for all your party elements. And the finished product comes across as much more professional.
4. Keep it simple.
You don't need many courses to make a big impression. Nor do you need to spend a fortune on decorations. A few quality, carefully chosen dishes can make a stronger statement about your party theme. And a small selection of wonderful dishes will enable everything to be savored more fully than at a buffet where guests can only handle a small taste of each item.
3. Involve your family in your preparations.
Instead of trying to work around your children, get them involved with you. Children are much happier when they feel useful. Let them create place cards, napkin rings or centerpieces for your table. Allow them to wash the salad, knead the dough or cut out the cookies. The results may not be perfect, but I promise you there will be a lot less pre-party stress in your household than if you're constantly shooing them out of your kitchen.
2. Stop seeking perfection.
There is no such thing as perfection, so don't stress while trying to achieve it. You may think you have control over all events at your party, but you don't. It might be that your guests become stuck in traffic on the way to your home, the dog eats your roast, or there is a power failure in your town the night of your party, but there will be things you cannot control. Once you accept that, you can easily allow for small imperfections.
1. Remember - it's just a party!
Yes, this may sound like heresy coming from the Entertaining Guide, but it's true. There are many more things in life to worry about than having friends and family over to your home for a good time. So concentrate on the spirit of the gathering and enjoy yourself!