Posts Tagged ‘entertaining tips’


Here are some helpful tips on setting a holiday buffet…

One of my favorite things about entertaining at home is presentation– making things look pretty. There is something so fun about deciding what serving pieces to use, what looks good where and then having the whole thing come together just before the doorbell rings.
When you are planning to entertain, think about serving the food buffet style. This method of serving does two wonderful things:
• It keeps the host from being so tied to the food and the kitchen.
•It creates a casual atmosphere where guests feel more at ease and are much more likely to mingle.
Isn’t it awesome to watch your guests connect and have fun? Kind of the whole point of enteraining (well, that an excuse to eat too much good food!)
Another thing I love about buffet entertaining is that it allows the host to get the buffet set up in advance.
Whether you are doing a single or double-sided buffet, make sure all food is within easy reaching distance. You don’t want someone dragging their sleeve or shirt-tail through a bowl of cranberry sauce.
Most importantly, have fun with it! You are the artist and the buffet is your canvas. Get creative and let your personal style shine through.
Start by placing a cloth on your table, counter or whatever surface you are using for your buffet. It can be a neutral shade like white or cream, although my go-to standard is black (hides the spills and stains!). Use sheets for inexpensive and easy care table coverings.

Next, add height to your table. Strategically place boxes, books, whatever you have on hand that is sturdy to give you some height elements.

Now, add another cloth drape over your height elements. I like to use a cloth in the same color as the base cloth. The purpose of this covering is to hide the height elements. On top of this, I add a table covering in a contrasting color or pattern. For Thanksgiving, choose something in an earthy color. Or go wild and crazy and use burlap fabric or something rustic  (rustic… but clean!  You can purchase burlap by the yard at most craft or fabric stores.)

Add a centerpiece. You’ll want it to be off to one side and to the back, if it is a one-sided buffet or in the center for a double-sided buffet. It should be the highest point on your table.

Start layering in your serving pieces. You can get the table all set up today, put sticky notes on each piece labeling it so it will be easy to remember the mashed potatoes go in the big square bowl and green beans go in the medium round bowl, etc.

Finish off the look of the table with a few candles, pine cones or nuts. If you use candles, you might want to opt for the battery-operated variety. No open flame worries there.

Some other quick tips:

• If you want a cake stand and don’t have one, flip a sturdy bowl upside down and place a platter on top. To make sure the platter doesn’t slip, you could dab on a few drops of rubber cement, which is pretty easy to remove.

• To keep your hot foods hot, warm bricks in the oven then slip them under your table coverings (place them on thick pot holders so the heat doesn’t damage your table surface). Place casseroles or plates on top and the bricks will hold the heat.

• To keep cold foods cold, you can fill bowls with ice and nestle beneath your table coverings. Set your serving bowls in the bigger bowls or pans and food will stay chilled.

• Make sure you have plenty of plates, forks and napkins as well as glassware. When we entertain, it seems like it doesn’t take long until all the forks in the house are dirty!

However or wherever you spend Thanksgiving, I hope it is with people who make your heart smile and bring you joy.

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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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If you are the lucky one hosting Thanksgiving Dinner this week, here are some helpful hints for preparing for your guests. You can find these tips and more in my free Savvy Holiday Entertaining book!


Make sure the outside of your door is clutter and dirt free. Check the interior entry area and repeat the decluttering process. Have a candle and some flowers in your entry to create a welcoming atmosphere and scent as guests enter your home. Put down a mat both inside and outside the front door to help keep floors clean.


The kitchen truly is the heart of the home and where most people gather to chat. Clean the floors, clear off the counters and then wipe down. Give the fridge a quick wipe-down inside and out and polish the sink. Set out some decorations and have something for early arrivers to do while they wait for the party to get started.  Involved guests are more likely to mingle, which adds to the fun. You could have them roll silverware in napkins, chop up salad ingredients, arrange serving platters – anything they are comfortable doing.


Of all the rooms to clean fanatically, this is the one. Scrub everything, take out the garbage make sure faucets and mirrors are shiny. Add some flowers and a lit candle in this area. If the bathroom is clean and sparkling, it is likely no one will notice anything amiss in the rest of the house. Make absolutely sure there are extra hand towels, plenty of soap and toilet paper available. Although you hate to think of it, also have a plunger tucked away for a guest to find if necessary.

Gathering Room

In whatever room you are planning to set your buffet or eat the meal, spend a bit of time dusting, polishing, cleaning floors and creating a warm atmosphere with lighting, candles and music. It doesn’t have to be perfect and remember candlelight or dimmed lights hide a multitude of dust bunnies and smudges!

Coat Closet

If you have a coat closet, clean it out completely before the party. Make sure it is stocked with plenty of sturdy hangers. Enlist an older child or neighborhood teen to serve as a coat checker. Make sure they understand their duties before the guests arrive.

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In my skip down memory lane, today’s post in my week long sharing from my Grandma’s 1961 Betty Crocker cookbook is this fun page on table settings. It gives you some great tips and ideas. In the photo, you see a double-sided buffet.

Here is a two-page spread of a beautiful buffet set out for casual entertaining. Makes you kind of hungry, doesn’t it?

I’ve written in the past about how to set up a buffet. You can find the simple tips here. I’ve also taken photos on how to set one up quickly using a holiday theme. You can find it here.

You can find all sorts of fun tips and ideas on the Betty Crocker website as well. Go to the entertaining section here and see what wonders wait for your exploration!

Happy Entertaining!


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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.


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!


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cutting boardI am in love! And yes, Hubby is aware of the infatuation.  This love affair is with the next best thing since sliced bread – crock pot liners!

OK, so I can get pretty excited about some very simple things but I just tried the liners for the first time yesterday and absolutely loved them. No mess, no scrubbing out baked on food. Just lift out the liner, toss, and rinse out the crock pot. So quick and simple.

When you are entertaining at home, make your prep work as quick and simple as possible. It will take less time and energy to clean up and give you more of both to devote to enjoying your guests.

Line pans with foil or parchment paper before baking (depending on what you are making) for easy clean up afterward.

Use resealable plastic bags for mixing messy ingredients, marinating meat or veggies. You can mix just about anything in a bag my massaging it. It also works great for squeezing our frosting and fillings. Just fill the bag, seal, trim off a corner and you are ready to roll.

Invest in at least one quality piece of heavy-duty cookware and one top-drawer piece of cutlery. The cookware will not only cook better and faster, it will also be easier to clean up. The cutlery will make your prep work go faster and you might even have more fun doing it.

Have a couple of good cutting boards. Keep the one you use for raw meats separate from the one you use for everything else. When you purchase a cutting board, look for one that has a gutter around the edge – it will keep runaway juices contained and save time on clean up.

Keep a bowl handy in which you place all peelings, trimmings, etc., in when you are doing prep work. It saves cleaning out the sink or scraping piles off the counter later.

Use paper cupcake liners to grease pans, or save the wrappers from cubes of butter to use when you need a pan greased.

Make clean up after the party simple, too, by having adequate containers out for guests to toss their garbage. If you are entertaining outdoors, you can even have a container to collect flatware, plates and glasses.

Think about the things you can do that will save time on clean-up and make entertaining even easier. If you have a favorite mess-free tip, please share it here!

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Although most of us don’t think about it, entertaining at home can really be broken down into three main areas: inspiration, preparation, and presentation. Although very different, each category has equal importance in your entertaining success.
Today we’ll focus on inspiration. It boils down to “what’s for dinner?” What are you going to serve the people you are entertaining?
The type of event or celebration will help narrow your selections. Choosing a theme also narrows the field and helps create some guidelines. Themes are a fantastic way to entertain, but we’ll talk more about those another day.
Inspiration can come from many different areas. Maybe you have been to a party and saw or tasted something there you want to try. Maybe you are under the gun to host a family event – like a family reunion. If you like food magazines or collect cookbooks, you’ll find a lot of ideas and inspiration there. The Food Network and websites such as allrecipes.com can also provide some great inspiration.
Take a look around you. What is fresh and in season? Let it inspire you! This time of year it is so fun to entertain with all the fresh goodness that abounds from gardens.
Inspiration doesn’t have to be difficult. Have fun with it and see how much your guests enjoy the fruits of your labors!
What is your favorite way to find inspiration in the kitchen? Please feel free to share your ideas!

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