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Posts Tagged ‘Entertaining Ideas’

Right now is a fabulous time to stock up on basic entertaining pieces. With year-end and after Christmas sales going in most every store, you can find  pretty much everything you need to get started entertaining at ridiculously low prices.

Some of the finds you might look for are:

• Table linens – yes there are a lot of holiday patterns on sale, but if you look, you can also find some neutral whites or creams.

• Cloth napkins – if you want to impress your dinner guests, pick up a few. Just be prepared to go to the work of removing grease stains and keeping them pressed.

• Serving pieces – you can find bowls, platters, tiered trays, salad sets. Go for plain styles or patterns that can mix or match with pieces you may already own.

• Dishes – amid all the snowman and poinsettia patterned pieces, you’ll find some sets of plain white dishes. Pick up a box or two to make it easy to entertain. If you find them on a 50-75 percent discount, it won’t take too many parties before you are saving money by not buying paper plates. Not only that, but you’ll feel a bit like Emily Post when you set a beautiful table that your guests admire.

• Silverware sets – I’ve seen several in the past few weeks in with the holiday stuff. Grab a set or two if you are in need of more silverware.

• Extras – candles, placemats, chargers, bases for centerpieces, are all on sale with the holiday leftovers.

While you are at it, stock up for next Christmas on things like holiday napkins, wrapping paper (but only the good kind), greeting cards, ribbon, lights, and ornaments.

She Who Needs to Stock Up

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Last week, I traveled to Milwaukee for the first-ever Willow House National Conference.

To say it was amazing, fantastic, inspiring and fabulous doesn’t even do it justice.

Conference is a place to plug in and recharge, to network with great people who understand the concept of building relationships and helping one another, and to get great ideas to jump-start our businesses for the fall season.

While I was at conference, I noticed that what was offered by the corporate staff and other consultants was basically the same things we want to offer guests in our home.

A Warm Welcome

I don’t know about you, but I like to feel welcomed when I am visiting someone. A genuine smile and a warm hug or handshake goes a long way in making someone feel welcome. Even a  “hello, I’m so glad to see you,” when said honestly makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Acknowledge people in a way that says “I remember you, my friend.”

Servant Mentality

“Won’t you come in and make yourself at home?”

“How can I best assist you?”

“Is there anything I can offer you?”

All those questions, whether spoken or implied, mean that you are there to provide assistance and help to someone. I can’t tell you how many times I was offered care and support through similar words. When people come to your home, offer them no less. Let them know you are there in the moment to make them feel at home.

Encouragement and Acceptance

We all need encouragement and acceptance. Even if the words aren’t spoken, we need to know that other people accept us for who we are and support us in our pursuits. It is human nature. The people at conference have this down to an art. We can take a lesson from them. When people come to your home are they accepted and encouraged? Your job as a host is to make sure they are. A few words  spoken from the heart offering encouragement or acceptance can mean the world to someone.

Joy

These conference attendees know how to have fun. In class, at general session or even celebrating to a 1950s themed party, they celebrate, embrace joy and have a great time. When you  entertain guests, do you have a go-with-the-flow and enjoy the moment attitude or are you flustered and frustrated that things didn’t follow your perfect party plan? Learn to let go and enjoy the guests in your home at the moment they are there. They won’t remember if the bread got a little too toasty or the punch wasn’t the exact shade of pink you wanted or if the centerpiece candle refuses to stay lit. What they will remember is if you set the tone for a fun evening by surrendering your plans and just enjoying the evening and them.

Entertaining your Heart Out

Give it your best and then enjoy the results, whatever they may be. Laugh, hug, cry, smile, be present in the moment, dream for the future and celebrate what makes each person unique and special.

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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As we celebrate and enjoy the Winter Olympics, why not invite a few friends over and make it a party?

Encourage everyone to come dressed in their athletic wear. Hang streamers, put out balloons and prepare for an evening of fun and games.

Create a few games for guests to participate in on commercials breaks, like cookie stacking, hula-hooping or even something as simple as sit-ups. Have gold, bronze and silver awards for each contest (candy wrapped in foil or wrapping paper works well… or have the youngsters create medals out of card stock, markers, crayons and ribbon). You may even want to create three blocks of varying heights for the winners to stand on to accept their “medals.”

Serve food and beverages that have an international flair, like pot stickers, empanadas, tapas or barbecued pork sliders.

Be sure you have a cd of patriotic music handy, including the national anthem, to play during the award ceremony.

Have fun with this gathering and remember the only limit is your imagination!

Happy Entertaining!

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You’ve taken the plunge, set a date for a party, invited guests and are getting ready for the event. Take a few minutes to create a timeline. It will save you a lot of time and frustration and help you from looking frazzled in front of your guests.
Start by writing down your menu. In detail. What foods can be purchased and made ahead of time? What needs to be purchased and made the day before? The day of the party? What decorations will be needed? Will you be making any decorations or will you be shopping for them? When will you do this? Where will the centerpieces come from? What cleaning tasks need to be accomplished?
Get it all down on paper and then divide the menu, cleaning and decorating tasks into specific steps for at least the seven days leading up to your party. When you break it into set tasks, entertaining can be very simple.
You absolutely do not need to do everything yourself. Children are great helpers. They can certainly roll silverware in napkins, create welcome signs, tie ribbons, make place cards. They can serve as door greeters, coat takers and a very enthusiastic welcome committee to guests.
Find the barbecue king and ask him to man the grill. Aunt Bev would be thrilled to bring her favorite salad – so let her. Look for ways to involve others while lightening your load. If friends volunteer to help, let them! And should anyone volunteer to stay and help clean up, accept their generous offer and send them home with a doggie bag as thanks for their efforts.
I’d love to hear any ideas you have for getting family members involved in the party prep process. Share your comments here!

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red wagonAs we head into the warm, wonderful days of summer, think about hosting an outdoor open house. Most people love to be outside in the fresh air and what better way to connect with family and friends than at an outdoor party!

Here are a few quick tips to make your outdoor celebration run more smoothly:

• Position ice-filled coolers, buckets or even large planters filled with small bottles of water and your choice of beverages in several locations. Make sure guests are always in easy reach of hydration.

• Fill a basket, sand-bucket or other fun container with outdoor necessities like bug-spray, sunscreen, and hand wipes.

• If you don’t have a lot of shade, bring out a basket of assorted  ball caps and wide-brimmed straw hats. You don’t want sunburned guests when you entertain.

• Have citronella candles and umbrellas at the ready to protect guests from an evening attack of mosquitoes or an unexpected downpour.

• If you don’t have outdoor speakers, bring out a CD player or radio. Make sure the music is loud enough for guests to enjoy, but not loud enough to disturb the neighbors.

• Make sure hot foods are hot and cold foods are cold. In the heat, it is very easy for food to spoil quickly. Put hot dishes in servers that can be warmed by sterno or votives or set on warmed bricks. Put cold foods on ice. Use dip chillers or create bowls of ice by placing water in a bowl to cover the bottom and freeze. Add more water, place a smaller bowl inside so water comes up sides and freeze. Once frozen, remove the ice bowl from the larger bowl. Use the smaller bowl inside of the ice bowl to serve. Make sure you place ice bowls over a pan or somewhere they can drip.  Or fill festive containers with ice and nestle your bowls inside, like the red wagon shown here.

•  Guests are generally good to clean up after themselves if you provide a place for it. Have garbage cans handy and have a dishpan or container to handle dirty utensils and dishes.

Invite some guests over this weekend, relax, enjoy and take the party outdoors! If you have any outdoor entertaining tips to share, I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment, subscribe to my newsletter or contact me directly.

Happy Entertaining!

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berry-trifleOne of my favorite desserts to make is a trifle. It is fast, easy and for whatever reason, guests always assume you’ve gone to a lot of effort to prepare it.

It has an elegant presentation and the best thing about it is you can change it up to whatever flavors you are craving or fruits that are in season.

You can make a one large dessert in a trifle or pedestal bowl or you can make individual desserts that are quite eye-catching and appealing.

The basic ingredients for a trifle include:

Cake, cut into bite-sized cubes

Pudding

Whipping Cream, whipped and lightly sweetened (add a dash of Confectioner’s Sugar)

Fruit

The wonderful thing about trifles is that you can use any combination and come up with something so tasty. You start with the cake cubes, then layer pudding, fruit and whipping cream and continue layering until your bowl or container is full.  If you are in a really big hurry or have company drop by unexpectedly, you can use a pre-made cake, instant pudding, a can of pie filling and frozen dairy topping and have a show-stopping dessert ready in mere minutes.

My favorite combination is pound cake*, chocolate and vanilla pudding, strawberries and raspberries and real whipping cream. On the layers, I alternate the chocolate pudding with the raspberries and the vanilla pudding with the strawberries. Top with a layer of the whipping cream and then shave chocolate curls across the top and finish with one glorious berry.

You can use any type of cake but pound cakes, angel food cakes and sponge cakes work well. You can also use any type of fruit. In the summer, fresh peaches, nectarines and berries are so good. In the winter,  I like to use tropical fruits like pineapple and mandarin orange sections. You can use kiwi and bananas or any type of pie filling. Use any flavor of pudding. Spring is a great time to try lemon with sponge cake and berries. Autumn is a perfect time to blend gingerbread with pumpkin pudding and candied nuts or cinnamon cake with apples and caramel sauce.

The combinations you can create are only limited by your imagination. Have fun with this and I guarantee your guests will not only be impressed, but delighted with the delicious blend of flavors.

What is your favorite combination? I’d love to know! Please leave a comment!

*For information about the pound cake I use or the serving pieces in the photo, please subscribe to my newsletter.

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Relationships are so important in all areas and aspects of our lives. Sometimes we can get so busy with life we forget it is the people in our lives that make it unique and special. Building and maintaining relationships can bring us much joy and satisfaction and sometimes those relationships can assist us in unexpected ways.

The other day I needed to send a gift and called upon my friend, who is also an amazing florist, to work her magic. She created something that far exceeded my expectations and thrilled the recipient of the gift. I know I can call on Heidi any time and she will deliver something spectacular. A step beyond that, my husband also knows anytime there is a flower-sending occasion, Heidi will take good care of him. We both refer Heidi to anyone looking for a florist because she is not only great at what she does, she is a friend.

Build up relationships with your favorite florist, baker, butcher, produce-grower, and printer. When you entertain, think about how much simpler it would be if you already had relationships with these people. Your florist can give you tips on flower selection, the baker can help you out with breads and desserts, the butcher can offer you advice on choice cuts, you’ll get the pick of the best product in season and your invitations will be beautifully printed.

Relationships make the world go round so why not start today on making the relationships in your world a little sweeter. You’ll be especially glad you did the next time you entertain.

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