You're no Martha,
but home entertaining can still be a cinch

When it comes to home entertaining, I'll admit, my guests don't usually get a homecooked meal. At most, I'll make a mean salad. As important as the menu is, it is only part of what makes a great party.

The thing to remember is that a party is meant to be fun. Not you slaving over a stove. You may or may not be the hostest with the mostest, but you can sure promise you guests a rollicking good time.

salmon sushi
In place of roast chicken
serve some thing surprising
Do not confine home entertaining to the kitchen or dining areas. One of the things I like to do is to use different spaces for different parts of the evening. When friends first arrive, I let them nibble on hors d'oeuvres in the living room, then move them to the dining area for dinner and finish with dessert at the balcony.

Besides the variety, it's a great way to set people at ease and get them talking, especially if your different set of friends are meeting for the first time.

If you are an adventurous eater (and your friends too), make a note to pick up cookbooks when travelling.

You can then recreate the local dishes you've sampled there. Be sure to try them out first before setting it loose on your friends.

outdoor picnic
New Country style home entertaining
So what if you don't cook?
Whenever you find a great restaurant, get the contact card and their catering options. Make a home entertaining list, with columns for the restaurant's contact, its specialties, price range, lead time required, delivery and service quality. Feed this list well and you'll never have guests who leave hungry.

Table setting
Simplicity works all the time. Don't overcrowd the table. Or overwhelm your guests.

As a guide, the table color should harmonize with the food and the season. Experiment with different themes and colors to inject freshness (especially if you invite a regular set of friends). New Country is great if you want something homely, Ethnic Crossover for an exotic touch, Classic Glam for sophisticated fun and Cozy Alternative works fabulously with small groups of intimate friends. Over time, you'll discover what works for you and your friends. Click to view four different party themes

mix tableware
Mix and match your tableware
for a bold, electic feel
Table ware
If you entertain regularly, consider investing in a good set of fine tableware. The set acts as your base. Then, introduce different tableware, mixing and matching, till you find the right look. One of the best places to find tableware is flea markets. Keep a look out for them and buy if it builds on to your collection. Then, choose cutlery to complement your tableware. That said, a dinner party is not a time to show off your collection. Use only what is necessary.

Mood setter
Music is the finishing touch. Choose the right pieces, to suit the theme and play them in the background. Loop your selected tracks to avoid having to run up to the player to change disks during dinner.

Lastly, remember to enjoy yourself. It's not worth the work, if you don't.

More ideas for home entertaining: Four quick party themes
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