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Reader Mailbag: How to get guests to mingle

It seems that whenever I write a "Basics of Entertaining" post, some really great questions pop up in the comments.  Thanks!  I love questions!  The only bad thing is that they often get missed by everyone and chances are if one person has asked this question, then someone else has, too.  I've decided to start featuring some of my faves.

Daniella asks:
What is the best way to mingle different groups at a party?

The answer:
As the host, you are the social glue that brings everyone together and as such, it's your responsibility to introduce people with similar interests and tastes.  If your space is not too big and your music is not too loud, it's easy to get people to talk and mingle.  It's your job to know a little something about all your guests (that includes guests-of-guests...spend a few minutes talking to them), and then play matchmaker.  If your college friend Kathy just got back from Japan and you know that your coworker Steve will be going next month, introduce them!  Are Mike and John both in IT consulting?  Hook them up!  Are Pat and Chris both single and like to camp?  You know what to do....

Now, there is protocol on how to properly introduce people, but when you're in a casual situation, generally it's enough to say "Kathy, this is Steve" at which point they'll shake and introduce themselves and then you say "Kathy just got back from three weeks in Japan".  Hopefully Steve will say "Oh, I'm going over there next month!" and they'll take it from there.  You can hang out for another minute, and then excuse yourself.  Soon Kathy and Steve's friends will join their conversation and before you know it, your coworkers and your college friends are chatting.  Possibly even about you.

The above advice works for people of normal social extroversion.  If someone is painfully shy, you might have to stick around for a few minutes and facilitate conversation.  Once they're doing more talking than you, excuse yourself.  It's important for the host to keep circulating and not stick with one group for too long.


Got an entertaining or party-planning question?  Let's hear it!  You can leave it in the comments below or email me.


Moroccan dinner...maybe

The other day I was at Treasure Island, buying groceries for that night's dinner. I saw an endcap of cous cous and reached for what I thought was a box of "original" flavor. Upon further inspection when I got home, I realized that I had instead grabbed tabouleh (which, I know, is spelled nothing like "cous cous"). I'd never made tabouleh salad, but it couldn't be easier...follow the directions on the box, add some chopped tomato and mint and a good squeeze of lemon. Delish.

What does this have to do with Morocco? Technically nothing, as tabouleh is from the eastern Mediterranean region, and Morocco is in western Africa. If anything, cous cous is native to Morocco, but the Mister and I make it so often it reminds us more of Wicker Park than Marrakech. But still, my accidental tabouleh purchase got me thinking about that part of the world and a themed dinner...

First, I'll check out Flavors of Morocco: Delicious Recipes from North Africa by Ghillie Basan (above, left).  The table will be dressed with Moroccan Tea Glasses from World Market and Morocco Dinnerware by CB2 (both above, right). I'll just find some Moroccan music on iTunes and, ooh! Maybe I can hire a belly dancer!

Oops. Belly dance is Egyptian.

I'll bet it goes great with tabouleh.


Clever Gift Idea

From The Knot's Wedding Obsessions blog comes this fun idea that I think would be perfect for a birthday, graduation, farewell, retirement....ok, really for any occasion when you need to honor someone.  Find their favorite artist on vinyl (it's easier than you think), get some paint pens, and you've got a great keepsake!

Photo source - theknot.com


Simple Breakfast in Bed

Sometimes it's the little things that can inspire you - take the charming rose napkin fold, above at bottom left. I found it while browsing Martha Stewart's site and immediately envisioned it as part of a pretty breakfast in bed presentation (and just in time for Mother's Day)!

Here's how to do the rose napkin.

You can serve the lucky recipient their favorite breakfast foods, or try out some new ones. This Bourbon French Toast with White Peach-Pecan Maple Syrup (above, bottom right) by Bobby Flay sounds delicious. So does this Pecan Praline Bacon. Add a small side of eggs and a Sea Breeze Mimosa (above, top left) and you've got a great start to the day!

Top off the presentation with a flower in a bud vase, some favorite reading material, or the TV remote (with a promise to not hijack it for at least an hour or so).

Photo credit: mimosa, flowers, rose napkin, french toast


Queen Bee theme for Mother's Day

queen bee mother's day

When I started thinking about themes for a Mother's Day luncheon, the image of a "busy bee" came to mind.  Many of my friends are new moms who have found themselves busy, busy, busy. Why not stop the buzz and celebrate the queen of your hive with this sweet spread?


Honey in cocktails? Sure, why not! Martha Stewart Living Radio has some delicious and creative honey cocktail suggestions (The Basil and Honey Daiquiri sounds fab!)


You don't want to go overboard with honey, so in addition to your regular lunch or brunch dishes, add these:

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and Honey (pictured above, bottom left)

Three-Bean Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Marzipan Bees (pictured above, top left)


Keep the theme going with sunny yellow centerpieces. Display yellow roses, daffodils, or daisies (any would be adorable with a black ribbon tied around the container), or put whole lemons into a vase, as pictured here. So simple!

Decorate with these salt and pepper shakers, this cute bee motif glassware (there's a whole line of tableware in the same motif), and these fun Beehive Candles (pictured above, middle left).

Bestow Mom with any number of gift sets from Burt's Bees or splurge on this Honey & Lemon Luxury set from L'Occitane.

Photo credit: marzipan bees, candles, bruschetta, flowers & lemons

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