Entertaining and creating pretty spaces doesn’t always mean elaborate and it certainly doesn’t always mean expensive. Aside from the menu and decorations there are other things that need your attention.
First Things First
Cleaning is one aspect of entertaining that’s often overlooked. All public rooms need a once over or possibly a deep cleaning. That being said the outside of your home is a great place to start. Beginning with the entryway, remove any debris from the path where your guests will enter into your home. Remove any possibilities of a slip and fall. If you live in a cold weather climate and it’s winter have plenty of salt and ice melt on hand. Make sure the entryway is well lit also. Standing outside in the dark waiting for your host to let you in isn’t the most comfortable feeling. Another consideration is parking. If you’re expecting a crowd and parking will be at a premium, ask your neighbors if they’re willing to share their driveway for a few hours. Send them a plate of goodies as a token of appreciation if they’re not among the invited.
Before You Cook
Make sure all public areas are clean and free of clutter. Guests shouldn’t have to trip over the cords to your laptop or your kids toys. If you plan on dining or just hanging out in the kitchen make sure it’s as near to spotless as you can get it. This doesn’t mean a remodel, just clean. In the days before your event clean out your refrigerator and freezer. This is a good inventory for what you may need and frees up room for any party food that needs to be refrigerator or frozen. Wipe down the cook top and counters so there are no grease or food splatters. Yes you should mop the floor and please clean your tables. As much as you adore your children’s artwork, consider removing it from the front of the fridge for the evening. It goes without saying that there shouldn’t be dishes in the sink, but sometimes in the haste of preparing and serving food this is an area that can be overlooked.
When you have guests in your home you don’t want to shudder when they go into the bathroom, and neither do they. Toilets, sinks and floors should be spotless. Clean the mirror, and remove any personal items from the counter. Hand or paper towels with liquid soap should be within reach and eyesight. Check periodically to see if toilet paper needs to be replenished. Reed diffusers or plug in freshners will leave the bathroom nicely scented for the partygoers.
Sit and Reach
Whether food is served buffet style or it’s a sit down dinner you’ll need adequate seating. All of your chairs don’t have to match, they just need to be sturdy. If you don’t have enough borrow or rent them. If you decide to rent chairs or any other equipment make sure it’s returned in a timely manner, you don’t want to lose your deposit and/or pay a late fee. Choosing dinner can be a headache and it shouldn’t be. If your guest list is long I’d say nix the idea of using your best china and crystal, accidents do happen. If you have enough of the other real stuff, go ahead and use it. Again, it doesn’t have to match. The same holds true for flatware. Another alternative when using real dishes, flatware and glasses is to check out your thrift stores. You can score some major bargains. Scour the shelves for trays, platters and candleholders napkins and tablecloths as well.
Paper or Plastic?
There are tons of pretty and affordable options when using paper plates. Unless it’s an outdoor picnic the ridged plates don’t hold up well unless you use the straw holders. Get the most sturdy ones you can afford. Don’t forget colorful and soft napkins that match or compliment your plates. Some hostesses opt for paper napkins also when using linen to avoid stains that are hard to remove. The linen napkin is placed in the lap and the paper used to wipe the mouth. Use cutlery that’s in your color scheme or clear and make sure there’s enough. A good rule of thumb is to have at least two forks and spoons for each guess, the same goes for glasses. Guest don’t always remember to save their utensils. They also will set down their glass and forget where they put it.
You’ve Been Served
Due to space restrictions you may have to serve from the stove and from the pots or pans the food was cooked in. Do what you have to do, just use the best that you have and make sure the lids fit properly.
Different scents in every room tend to compete with each other. They can also be nauseating and offensive. Choose one scent like a soft vanilla that leaves a pleasant aroma and won’t do battle with the scent of the lovely meal you’ve prepared.
Ice Ice Baby
If you have an ice maker, start putting it away in bags a couple days ahead of the party in one or two gallon size zippered bags. You can also go to the party store or gas station and buy a couple of bags the day of the party. Use an ice-bucket or glass bowl along with a pair of tongs for serving ice. You don’t want anyone reaching in with their hands to retrieve the ice, that would be a tad on the nasty side.
Adventures In Babysitting
As much as we love our kids, sometimes we need a break. Trust me, they want a break from us sometimes too. There are occasions though when the young ones are included in your party plans. If space allows have a separate room set up for them with games, movies and an older child or teenager to supervise. Make them feel special by setting up a make your own ice cream sundae or decorate your own cupcakes, if space is available. If this isn’t an option, good old popcorn always works. Lightly buttered, caramel or kettle corn are always a winner. Bottled water or juice is a great go with. Should you decide to serve juice check with the parents to see if their kids are allowed to have it. Leave room in your entertaining budget to pay a babysitter if need be.
From personal experience I can tell you that a party or other event is not the time to go all Martha on your guests. Stick with tried and true simple dishes. Save the recipes with an arm’s length of ingredients for another occasion. Make and bake from scratch may be your motto, but using ready made or boxed items can and will save you time, money and your sanity.
Music is the perfect background for most parties and events. Whether you’re entertaining at home or elsewhere you’ll want music for background ambience or to get your boogey on. Let Pandora or other internet radio stations be your DJ for the night. They have music in every genre and for every occasion. One word of caution for Pandora; if the music stops Pandora will want to know if you’re still listening. A quick trip to the laptop to press the “I’m still listening” tab will keep the party going.
At The End of The Day
You did it! Your guests had the perfect dining experience thanks to your planning, entertaining and culinary expertise. Before you pat yourself on the back and put your feet up, you have to clean up. The best time to do this is right after the last guest leaves. If they offer to help, let them. First, put away all food. Buy plastic containers or used zippered bags to store any leftovers. Before you put the food away, remember the neighbors that lent their driveways for parking spaces. Share some of the food with them. Load the dishwasher if you have one or wash everything by hand and put it away immediately. Wipe up any spills and treat any linen that may be stained. Sweep the floor and prepare any rentals that may have been used for return. Inspect the bathrooms also. You don’t want to face any surprises in the morning.
While the evenings events are still fresh in your mind, take notes on what went well and what didn’t. Jot down any changes you’d make the next time around. Relying on memory doesn’t always work.
The Day After
Hopefully you can have this day to yourself or just with your family. The only thing on your to-do list the day after an event is Chillaxin. Put your feet up, stay in your jammies and feast on the leftovers. You can now proclaim yourself the hostess with the mostess, take a bow and get some deserved rest.
**All images are from 123RF.