Simple suggestions to ease the stress of entertaining.

By Julia Dowling Rutland
November 25, 2003
Charles Walton IV

  • • Plan your menu at least a week in advance. That will give you time to locate hard-to-find items and shop the sales. To avoid long checkout lines, visit the grocery during weekdays or off-peak hours.
  • • Skip the experiments. Prepare items you've successfully made before. Besides, guests may be looking forward to your specialties.
  • • Use a few convenience foods. For a quick appetizer, top a whole Brie wheel with prepared mango chutney and serve with plenty of thin ginger snaps.
  • • Set out plates, serving pieces, glasses, and flatware the night before. It's less stressful to search for that stray serving spoon without an audience.
  • • Clean as you cook. Unless you've enlisted a kitchen helper, stopping to wash and put away pots and pans will save time at the end of the day (when you're most tired).
  • • Don't overclean your house. Remove clutter, dust large items, dim the lights, and set out a few candles and perhaps some poinsettias or other bright floral arrangements. That's all you need to create a festive ambience. Focus cleaning time on the guest bath―it's brighter in there.