Last ditch tips for entertaining

Just in time for the weekend, my shortcuts for entertaining. I love to entertain but I sometimes commit to more than I can reasonably pull off.  Here are my rules for those times when guests are on their way and you’re running out of time.

  • Dress blues. Get yourself ready first. People will stand about and chat with you while you prepare food or set out snacks. They will be less inclined to visit with you if you’re still in the shower when they arrive.
  • Quick pick-me-up: Get a large laundry basket. Load all loose items and detritus into it and stow it in a room your guests won’t be in. If necessary, get two baskets.
  • Clean sweep: From my friend, Liz Truesdale-Witek, clean your bathroom. If that’s clean, your guests will assume the rest of the house is clean.
  • No whining: If you’re low on wine (or you’re down to the $3 a bottle good-enough-for-us wine), make sangria. You can throw darn near any fruit or juice you have in the fridge in there and it will taste fine.
  • Food for thought: Serve food the guests can assemble themselves – sandwiches, tacos, build-your-own pizza, or a pasta bar. It saves a whole step in food preparation and everyone gets to choose something they’ll actually eat.
  • Just desserts: If you have some time, buy a gallon of good-quality vanilla ice cream and make Martha Stewart’s Cherry-Almond Brownies – they taste like you expended more effort than you did. If you have little time, skip the brownies and just buy the ice cream. If you have no time, serve a lot of wine and no one will notice there’s no dessert.

And one last note – If I’m still trying to pull together food and arrangements, I have the kids meet guests at the door, take their coats, and escort them in. The kids like to do this and it seems to give guests the impression (at least temporarily) that they are well-behaved.

Have any other tips we can share? Post your comments or send them to – I’d invite the “owner” of the best tip for dinner, but I’m guessing that by now that does not have much allure.

Next up: Shortcuts for household chores. Yippee!