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Giving a party requires a great deal of work. If you have been fortunate enough to be included in a festive soiree, it is nice to arrive with a gift for the hostess. The typical present will cost anywhere from $15-$100. What you spend will be determined by your relationship and the type of event. Is it a formal dinner? A backyard BBQ? Also, when possible, know the likes and dislikes of your hostess. If she is allergic to flowers, you probably will not arrive with a bouquet in hand.

1. Choose the table. Will you use a round that seats four or a rectangle that seats twelve? This decision will determine your centerpiece.

Warmer weather will be arriving soon, and I am seeing more of our four-legged members making an appearance in the dog parks and on walking trails. With pets taking more prominent roles in our lives, I thought it would be good to brush up on basic dog etiquette and ownership responsibilities.

Meeting friends for dinner after work, grabbing coffee with your girlfriend or just ordering pizza on a Friday night with neighbors. We all have a deep desire to be connected in a world that often forgets the importance of relationships. Many of us have the desire to entertain, but we let our circumstances keep us from extending hospitality. Often it revolves around our lack of confidence in our ability to host events. I get this!

A toast may be offered in any setting and made to an individual or a group. Increase your confidence at your next social gathering by learning the ins and outs of this ancient tradition.

A perfect entertaining year for me would be hosting a different themed party each month! Will I do that? No. Will I dream about it? Yes! If I cannot have a party every 4 weeks, I can at least help my Lisa Lou family with ideas so hopefully a few of you can carry the torch of hospitality for the rest of us.

Remember as children, during holidays, we would spend what seemed like hours creating homemade craft projects for our parents? It might be a paper Christmas snowflake sprinkled with glitter or a cutout heart for Valentine’s Day. We would address it: To: Mom or To: Dad. We would sign our name, and this became the gift we gave our parents. The act of giving is how we should view all letters, especially a thank you note. We may not be cutting out cute hearts, but when we take time to put pen to paper and share a little of ourselves with someone else, we are giving a part of our heart to another person.

A successful hostess remembers one of the most important factors to make her guests feel welcome: engage all 5 senses! When entertaining, ask yourself, “How have I embraced taste, smell, sight, sound and feel?” It is easy to do and your friends and family will be left saying to themselves, “I don’t know what is was, but that was a fabulous party!”

As your holiday social calendar is no doubt filling up, you may be looking for a family friendly party idea to get into the spirit! A Christmas Cookie Swap is wonderful for large groups and something the entire family will enjoy! I would recommend inviting at least six families so there are enough cookies for the exchange. This party idea is budget friendly for young families, the ingredients for the cookies are generally inexpensive, and your party décor is already in place with festive decorating.

  • Writer's pictureLisa Lou

Seating for a Dinner Party

When hosting a dinner party, where you place your guests around the table is a crucial element for the success of your event. You presumably put thought into who you invited to the gathering. Do not stop there. The placement of each person around the table is something that should not be thrown together at the last minute.

Depending if your dinner is formal or casual, there are two ways to seat guests. Put another way, ask yourself if your dinner is one that will follow official protocol, or one that is geared more toward matching people with similar interests. The most common approach, and often the most enjoyable for guests, is to match people based on personality and common connections, regardless of protocol.

Things to consider with your seating assignments:

1. Separate couples: When two people know each other well, it is easy for them to slip into their comfortable rolls of just talking to each other, especially if one or both tend to be shy around strangers. You want to avoid making it easy for a couple to disengage from the group.

2. Alternate male and female: Why is this important? When women are grouped together at one end and men at the other, the instinct is to only talk to those people, thus ignoring the opposite end of the table. To have a table that is fully engaged, it is best to alternate.

3. Match personalities: Think about your guests and how they interact with others. Do you have two people attending your dinner that are more reserved? If so, you do not want to seat them together. Do you have several talkative guests that love to attend parties? If so, spreading them among the others ensures there will be lively interaction as they will help carry the conversation in their section of the dining table.

4. Match interests: If you know two individuals just returned from a fabulous trip to New Zealand, it might make sense to seat them together. They could spend the entire dinner talking about their shared experiences. What about business interests? If several of your guests work in real estate, they will enjoy having this common topic to discuss throughout the meal.

5. Separate potential problems: If you have two guests attending you know do not get along, put them on opposite ends of the table.

6. One table or two? I prefer smaller dinner parties with 12 or less people. If possible, keep everyone at the same table. The synergies of conversation are always much livelier, and there are more people for your guests to converse with. This also helps avoid those awkward silent moments that occur more readily when guests are in smaller groups. For a large party more tables are sometimes necessary. Just remember that a smaller table of people that do not know each other means your ability to match your guests appropriately becomes that much more important.

7. Hostess: As the hostess at the table, it is your job to instigate the conversation. If I see two guests sitting quietly, I might say to them, “Suzy, Debbie and her family just moved to the neighborhood, and her children will be entering our local elementary school where your children attend. Do you have any tips for her that might help the transition go more smoothly?” The responsibility of the hostess to help with conversation is another reason I prefer not to separate my guests into different tables, because that means there is no hostess present to steer the dialogue. If I do have more than one table, I will choose one guest I know well to serve as the hostess for that table. My other guests never know this, but I rest comfortably knowing my chosen helper will ensure a quality time for the other people.

8. A hostess needs easy access to the kitchen. Your goal is to be able to quietly slip in and out of your chair without causing a stir. If your table is a rectangle, you will sit at the end closest to the kitchen. If it is a round table, pick whatever chair is closest.

9. Table size: If you have a choice, round tables work best for overall conversation, but all shapes will work. I have a round table in my kitchen that can seat 8 and a rectangular table in my dining room that can seat 12. Tip: My dining room is shaped to only accommodate a rectangular table. To give it a round table feel, I had a new top made that is wide enough I can put two people on either end, as opposed to a traditional table where there is only room for one at each end. This helps with conversation flow at both ends of the table as though everyone was perched around a circular table.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou

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