To help wage war on my entertaining anxiety, I’ve encapsulated suggestions from the experts and some ideas of my own to create these 8 principles of entertaining. Some are tenets that I’ve long accepted but haven’t consistently followed. By codifying them, I hope to benefit from their wisdom.

1.Friends Not Food- This is first for a reason: Reversing the priorities is the A-1 anxiety-inducer for me and apparently many others. An oracle of stress-free entertaining, Ina Garten, TV’s Barefoot Contessa and a former caterer,often reminds viewers of this mantra.

2.I’m Not Martha-We can admire celebrity chefs and learn from them, but we aren’t trained professionals and nobody expects us to perform like them.

3. Be Prepared- Advanced planning helps to head off last-minute jitters. I’m speaking here about an array of techniques: Among them, stocking snacks and meal-builders, acquiring linens and serving pieces, and getting a grip on house cleaning.

4.Accept Help- Having company doesn’t mean you have to cook everything from scratch. Let guests participate and, be selective, but take help from the store.

5.Less Is More- Did you ever notice that when TV chefs prepare a company meal, it often consists of two courses? So why do I feel the need to offer three or more hors d’oeuvres, a first-course, a main course with two sides, and dessert? Less is more manageable and perfectly acceptable.

6.Easy Does It-I’m famous for doing things the hard way. But just because a recipe or a method is easy doesn’t mean it’s inferior. On a summer night, could anything beat fresh ingredients nicely seasoned and grilled? And what’s better in winter than a comforting one-pot braised meal?

7.Make a Plan- Keeping track of cooking minutia can clog a person’s brain. Much of the pressure can be relieved by maintaining a written plan, complete with the serving pieces that will be used and the timing of various dishes. Caterers complete a preprinted form for each event, and the idea is easily adapted to house parties and company dinners.

8.Have Fun!- If you do, so will your guests!


  • 1
    September 20, 2011 - 9:18 am | Permalink

    Much appreciated for the information and share!

    • 2
      September 20, 2011 - 11:37 am | Permalink

      Thanks for signing on, Helen.

  • 3
    Lynne Davies
    September 19, 2011 - 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Dear Admin,

    Great blog! I’m well beyond the point of hysteria (takes entirely too much energy) but I appreciate and will profit from your tips.

    Quick question: do you have any tips for homemade lemonade?

    Tired old lady from NJ

    • 4
      September 20, 2011 - 11:37 am | Permalink

      Dear TOL: I’m so glad that you asked about lemonade. It’s not just wonderful in summer, but also as an unexpected elixir in winter! I’ll never forget what a delightful surprise it was to be served a glass of lemonade after driving through a snowstorm to get to a neighbor’s dinner party. Lemonade is easy to make. To produce 1-1/2 quarts, my recipe calls for 1 cup of freshly squeezed juice (from about 5 or 6 lemons) mixed with ½ to ¾ cups of superfine sugar and 5 cups of cold water. Dissolve the sugar in the juice and add the water. Try to find lemons that give slightly to the touch and be sure to roll them on your counter before juicing them. If the lemons are hard, you may want to microwave them for 30 seconds to release more juice. Unless you have an electric juicer, try a handheld juicing device. I find that it makes the job a lot easier. One more tip: Refrigerate the lemonade until it’s really cold and only add ice to the glass at the last minute. Adding it too early can dilute the flavor. Cheers!

  • 5
    September 19, 2011 - 10:57 am | Permalink

    Thanks for these tips. We’re going to give this a try this weekend.
    We’ll let you know how things turn out.
    Fingers crossed.

    • 6
      September 19, 2011 - 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Can’t wait to hear your report! Thanks for writing. THH

  • 7
    September 15, 2011 - 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Oh, these are definitely words to live by! #5 is definitely one of my struggles…that seems to run in my entire family!

    I’m looking forward to reading your posts. Congratulations on starting this up!

    • 8
      September 15, 2011 - 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jen,
      Funny, it runs in my family, too.;-). Thanks so much for visiting the site and for your comment! THH

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