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easy does ihow to entertain without stressing yourself out by Yee-Fan Sun |  1 2 3
continued from page 2

2 easy prep
Good news for cleaning phobes: tidying up for a party is all about superficial efforts. You've got plenty of other things to take care of without having to go nuts giving the pad the deep clean. Instead, concentrate the clean-up on what people will actually notice. The dining table and the coffee table definitely need a quick wipe down, but dusting the bookshelves? Not so much a priority. And barring the existence of giant dustballs rolling across your living room like tumbleweeds in the desert, you can probably skip the vacuuming. Unless you're making folks sit on the floor, no one will notice if it's less than eat-off-it clean. Dim the lights to a nice soft glow, and things will look fine.

3 easy timing
It took me a long time and far too many cold/overcooked dinners to realize this, but when you're serving up hot food at your party, it is perfectly okay to still be cooking when the guests get there. In fact, most of the time, that's the way things should be. After all, chances are good that people will arrive at least 10-15 minutes late; moreover, it's nice to give guests a little time to chill before you start rounding them up to dig into the food while it's still hot. Basically, it's generally safe to assume that you won't get hot things on the table until 30-40 minutes after you've told people to arrive (give even more leeway if you know for a fact that your friends tend to be the tardy sort). All of which means there's no sense in freaking out if you hear that first knock on your door, and the main eats still have a ways to go before they're ready. Take your time; you're doing absolutely fine. Folks can join you in the kitchen as they show up; you can even corral them to help. Meanwhile, tide hunger pangs for prompt guests: fifteen minutes before start time, set out some bowls of…

4 easy nibbles
If you've been planning this party for weeks, and prepping fancy little finger foods just for the occasion, fabulous: by all means present your amazing goodies to the guests. But if you're running short on time and energy, don't feel bad about taking the quickie route. Just pour some good-quality potato or vegetable chips into some attractive serving bowls (it takes two seconds: no serving straight out of the bag!); scatter them where guests are likely to gather, and folks will happily munch away while you finish up in the kitchen. For something a little healthier, a bowl of Kalamata olives (with pits, please -- tastier and less expensive to boot) paired with a bowl of mixed nuts works dandy. These snacks serve two-fold: (1) they're filling and salty, which will help to stave off the stomach rumbles, and (2) they give folks something to do while they wait for the real food.

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