I love entertaining in my home. There is something very cozy and comfortable about having good friends and family in to celebrate the season. I find the process of planning at least part of the fun. The first step I make in preparing for a dinner party is selecting a theme i.e. Fall Feast, Backyard BBQ, or Christmas Dinner. This theme will serve as a guide for selecting menu items and table settings.
The second step in my planning is to peruse my cookbooks and recipe files for a suitable meal. I try to keep in mind my schedule the week leading up to the event since I usually have to plan on making time for cleaning, shopping for food and flowers and cooking. Since I work full time, it is important for me to be realistic with the menu. I make sure the menu is not too ambitious. Your friends and family will love most anything you prepare due in part to the fact that they didn’t have to prepare the meal themselves! If my schedule is crazy I will sometimes buy some part of the meal rather than prepare every single item on the bill of fare. I find appetizers and desserts especially easy to find ready-made. These items will help you focus on a more complex main course and nothing will be lost for some help from the market or bakery. The last thing I want to be is overly stressed because I attempted to cram too much into a short amount of preparation time. Don’t be afraid to attempt a new, never prepared before, recipe. Sometimes I find the only time I will attempt certain ‘new’ recipes is when we are having people over for dinner. I’ve had very few utter failures. This process should be fun, enjoy the adventure!
Once the menu is set, I enjoy thinking about which dishes, table linens, and the overall color scheme and decorative items to be used as the centerpiece of my table. Let your imagination run wild. There are no real rules for the centerpiece other than keeping the items or arrangements low enough on the table so as not to inhibit conversation or eye contact. Nothing is worse than not being able to see your neighbor across the table. I’ve used miniture antique Toby jugs in a fall arrangement of leaves, acorns, pumpkins and pomegranates with great effect. At Thanksgiving I enjoy using some minutre turkey figurines I found at an antique store along with fall foilage and flowers—and keeping with the Thanksgivng theme, I place a chocolate foil-wrapped turkey from a candy store at each dinner guests place. The more surprising the table setting, the more your guests will delight in the attention and effort you have put into entertaining them.