Make hol­i­day en­ter­tain­ing less stress­ful and more fun

The Buffalo News - - HOME STYLE - By Mary Carol Gar­rity TRI­BUNE NEWS SERVICE This col­umn was adapted from Mary Carol Gar­rity’s blog at nell­hills.com. She can be reached at marycarol@ nell­hills.com.

Many of us have fab­u­lous din­ing spa­ces in our homes ... that col­lect dust. It’s time to fix that. This hol­i­day sea­son, and into the new year, re­solve to fill your din­ing room with peo­ple you love, gath­ered to­gether for good food and great con­ver­sa­tion.

I firmly believe that one of the great­est gifts you can give some­one is to in­vite them into your home to share a meal. Es­pe­cially in our hus­tle-bus­tle world, where sit­ting in leisure, sa­vor­ing good food and drink and con­nect­ing with oth­ers face-to-face is a rare treat.

When I am a guest in some­one’s home, and I walk into their din­ing room, with a ta­ble beau­ti­fully set, I feel like a queen, both hon­ored and hum­bled that my host took time in her busy life to make this evening so spe­cial.

Friends have shared with me they would en­ter­tain more if they didn’t find it so stress­ful. Here are my sug­ges­tions for mak­ing en­ter­tain­ing a lot less stress­ful, and a lot more fun:

• Sim­plify. De­cide where you can cut cor­ners, then do it. This will re­duce the amount of work you have to do, lower your stress level and give you more time to spend with your guests. For me, a big bar­rier to hav­ing din­ner par­ties was the sim­ple fact that I can­not cook. At all. So, for me, sim­pli­fy­ing means giv­ing my­self per­mis­sion to never, ever have to cook the meal. I have a short list of restau­rants where I can carry out ev­ery­thing from the main course to the dessert. This sim­ple strat­egy has al­lowed me to en­joy ev­ery­thing I love about host­ing a din­ner party with­out the part I hate.

• Prac­tice. Like any­thing, the more you en­ter­tain, the more com­fort­able you be­come do­ing it. You de­velop your own style and sys­tem, the rhythm that is right for you and your guests.

• Get in­spired. It’s more fun to en­ter­tain when you have a rea­son. For me, it can be the chance to un­leash my cre­ativ­ity on dec­o­rat­ing the ta­ble. I just think it’s fun.

• If you start to stress or worry, stop and re­mem­ber why you are hav­ing a din­ner party in the first place: to spend time with peo­ple you care about. The rest is just de­tails. If any­thing can go wrong at a din­ner party, believe me, I’ve prob­a­bly ex­pe­ri­enced it. When in­evitable hic­cups hap­pen, I keep them in per­spec­tive and laugh it off. Worst-case sce­nario, you can order in pizza.

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