Entertaining Made Easy

A Welcoming Space

With parties -- just as with people -- first impressions count. So make your house exude a feeling of fun and hospitality, from the walkway to the table. Special touches ensure that long after the party ends, thoughts of your home's amiable atmosphere will linger.

The most important touch is you. Spend as much time as you can with your guests, and they'll know you value your company. And nothing makes a party more special than good company.

Decorate from the Outside in

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Little touches say "welcome."

You might want to start outdoors by lining the driveway and walkway with luminarias. Everyone will enter your house feeling more splendid.

When figuring out how to make guests feel welcome, use your nose and ears as well as your eyes. Set out potpourri, fresh greens, and other fragrances to give the whole house a special scent. Soft background music will also add to guests' comfort. If your guests will be arriving with coats, boots, or umbrellas, be ready to store their gear. If friends will arrive with gifts, clear a table near the door or ask someone to take the packages.

Plan for safety as well as good times. Candles give a festive feel, but be sure to keep flames away from paper, greens, or other flammable objects. Make sure candles or chafing dishes aren't placed where party goers will knock them over or brush against them with their clothing.

Tabletop Touches

At the dining table, simple touches are often the most effective. You might want to tie a sprig of holly to the base of each guest's water glass, for example, or wrap dessert dishes with pretty tufts of ribbon. Include a little gift at each table setting. Small wrapped boxes containing homemade chocolate truffles or ornaments make fun, inexpensive gifts and get everyone in a festive spirit.

When it comes to centerpieces, fresh flowers are always appropriate, but they needn't always be expensively and intricately arranged. For an autumn party, try arranging brightly colored leaves and ornamental corn into a table decoration. You could create a fragrant Christmastime centerpiece by wrapping a few bunches of cinnamon sticks with holiday ribbon, then arranging them in a wicker basket with fresh, aromatic pine branches. A bowl of fresh fruits can make a charming centerpiece, as well as a refreshing finale to the meal.

Be similarly resourceful with dinnerware. When artfully mixed, china and stemware of various styles will create more intrigue than perfectly matched sets.

Continued on page 4:  Party Countdown Calendar


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