Saturday, December 12, 2009


It's that time of year again
and even though we are only entertaining family this year,
I'm always looking for better ways to entertain my guests.
I always enjoy last page of House Beautiful Magazine, called
The Last Words.  It contains suggestions from design professionals on any number of topics....this one, for example, is from HB December 2008...

"How do you make guests
feel welcome
as soon as they enter the house?"

"Be ready.  Don't get caught wearing your robe.  It's simple, but your house should be clean and organized, and some music should be playing so that guests feel like you're just waiting to open the door as soon as they ring the bell.  Greet them all with a warm smile and a hug or kiss.  Then, make sure they get a drink!  I always have something with Grey Goose ready-made - everyone likes that!"  -LARA SHRIFTMAN,

"The minute people walk through the door, I want them to feel enveloped.  Of course, the smell of a roast or a freshly baked pie will do it, but on days when I want to fix up a speedy, effortless festive fragrance, I delve into my stash of scented candles.  At this time of year, my favorite has to be Ralph Lauren's Holiday Classic candle, with its almost spruce-and-cinnamon scent. 
It's an extravagance, but one that makes your guests feel spoiled."
-NIGELLA LAWSON, food writer, journalist and broadcaster

I don't know about the Grey Goose but there will be no "speedy roast" at my house...the RL sounds like a $125 candle....(I'll save my pennies for Cire Trudon!)...It's true that you can put apple juice and cinnamon sticks on your cooktop for several hours for an easy, inexpensive and festive holiday aroma.

"I have a well-programmed iPod with playlists for every mood, a bevy of fragrant candles lit, incense burning around the house, and dimmers on every lighting switch.  I always have something chilling in the refrigerator or iced in the freezer so I can serve a cocktail at a moment's notice - before someone asks for a drink, it's ready to be poured." -COLIN COWIE, celebrity event designer

I love Colin Cowie, but this sounds like a fireman's nightmare!

"Set the lights at a low, inviting level.  Open the door with a big smile and a hug.  If the weather is bad, line up extra slippers by the door so they can easily slip off wet shoes and get really comfortable.  Make sure there's plenty of space to hang up coats, so they can get dry and warm before it's time to leave.  Serve at least one hors d'oeuvre fresh from the oven, so they feel the warmth right away.  Think about ways to engage all of the senses.  Aroma is so important, but it should be real smells -- a crackling fire, baking bread -- not fancy perfumed candles.  Everyone loves flickering candles and fireplaces.  When it comes to sound, it's not just about music.  There's such sensual pleasure in the sound of a crackling fire or something perking on the stove.  Everyone will feel the hug of your hospitality." 

Thanks for the "fancy candles" remark....I can't afford $65 a candle.  I used to work for a store that sold a couple of very high-end lines of candles who shall remain nameless. I wouldn't have had any of them in my home (especially the red one which sold like mad and which my husband gave me for my birthday last year!) 

I am also a huge fan of crackling fires!  there will be none in our home as our fireplace, which takes up all of one wall, is bricked-up (covered with one of those iron covers). I will say that when we moved several years ago we left behind a wonderful "real" fireplace that we used all of the time. We really miss it and hope to eventually re-open our current fireplace (but fear what lies within its eighty-year-old flue!) So few people have "real" fires anymore.

"Engage the sense that leads us -- the sense of smell. A warm, welcoming fragrance is the most important thing.  I created my own blend to use at party events, which I call Winter -- a blend of cedar, juniper, and red currant.  It could be as simple as mulling spices on the stove."
-DAVID MONN, event planner

I don't know how to "create my own fragrance" but mostly pray that there are none detectable from our two beloved cats.  My husband's aunt and uncle have four large dogs, and I've never experienced any "dog smell" in their home (nor have I encountered a perfumed candle in their home)!  If you have pets, consider keeping them out of sight and smell!  No matter how precious they are to you, your guests may not feel likewise!

"A good smell in the air is an unconscious cue to everyone that they're expected, that something good is in store for them, that they're going to be taken care of.  Sometimes I burn rosemary in the fireplace, or I put it in a cast-iron pan, light it on fire, and walk around the house with the pan, letting the smoke and scent go all over the house." -ALICE WATERS, Chez Panisse restaurant

This is a new one - perhaps worth a try!

"The best way to make your guests feel welcome is to make sure you're the first person they see when they arrive and the last person they see when they depart.  Greet each guest warmly and personally.  I also like to station a server at the door with a tray of drinks for guests to help transport them into the party.  Good hosts make sure to prepare everything in advance so they can be guests at their own party." -DAVID TUTERA, celebrity party planner

As lovely as this sounds, most people I know do not hire servers for (any if not all of their) dinners!  Additionally, my entryway is small and I would succeed at the first suggestion only by never leaving it.

"If you go into a house and there's tension in the air, you can practically taste it.  Don't get edgy with family members if the food, table, or flowers aren't perfect.  It's the spirit of your home that will linger with people long after they forget what you fed them.  I'm not suggesting it's okay to serve a tasteless turkey in a sloppy home, but give yourself permission to have fun from the start - no matter what happens - and it will be a lot more fun for your guests." -DANNY MEYER, nyc restaurateur

I like this last one best
(especially as I do hope my guests will forget what I fed them!) 
Honestly, though, it's easier to critique all of these than it is to pull them off!  I most appreciate the comments about the 'spirit of the home'....because all other hosting aside,
people know it when you are truly happy to receive them in your home!

all images from