Whether cousins are crashing or a college friend is coming to town, summertime is sure to be jam-packed with visitors. From fresh flowers to thank-you-for-coming gifts, these expert tips will have overnighters begging for an invite back.

How to Prepare for Guests

  1. Declutter the entryway so friends know right where to drop shoes and purses.
  2. Place a list of must-see sites on the bedside table (next to bottled water and fresh flowers).
  3. As a thank-you-for-coming, leave a small gift – like a scented candle or hand-painted tray – on the bed.
  4. Tape labels on the back of each remote with how-to-use instructions.
  5. Keep towels, toilet paper, and soaps in plain sight so guests don’t have to search.
  6. Preset the coffeemaker so overnighters wake up to a fresh brew.

 
Don’t be stressed by spontaneous visits. The Guest-Ready Home: Inviting Furnishings Boutique opened Thursday, June 5, at 11AM ET.

By Julia Ivins, Staff Writer

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June 5, 2014

Whether you’re barbecuing for the whole block at home or taking your feast to the beach, here are your can’t-live-without essentials.

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Continue reading “Fire Up the Grill: Memorial Day Dining Must-Haves” »

May 23, 2014

Dinner can be plated, but your pristinely frosted indulgences deserve to be shown off. Let stylist and Rue Living Inspirer Matthew Mead turn your sweet side table into a spectacle. First step? Mead suggests placing your table in front of a mantel: “This gives you additional layers and tiers to create a fantasy atmosphere.”

Matthew Mead's Tips for the Holiday Dessert Buffet

Layer Cake Stands
Cake stands turn whatever is on top into the star of the show. Use multiple stands in different heights to create that bakery-store-window effect. Guests will crave a slice of each.”

Send Guests Home with Gifts
“Fill smaller jars with wrapped candies and tie with a ribbon and gift tag. Guests can take some of the fun home with them.”

Show Off Texture
“Pizzelle cookies are graphic and tempting in an oversized candy jar decorated on the outside with pretty ornaments and a flourish of ribbon.”

Embellish Your Display
Ornaments in multiple colors and designs look spectacular in a large jar. Use it to bring interest to the mantel or on the center of a dining or coffee table.”

Craving more? Check out Matthew Mead’s latest book, Christmas All Through the House, then shop The 12 Days of Merry: It’s Time to Get Baking Boutique on Sunday, November 24, at 11AM ET.

By Julia Ivins, Staff Writer

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Matthew Mead is a stylist, writer, author, photographer, lifestyle editor, and noted style expert. The former style editor of Country Home magazine and Editor in Chief of his own magazine series with Time Inc. Home Entertainment, Matthew is the official food photographer for the Associated Press and is a regular contributor to Better Homes and Gardens and other noted national shelter magazines. Matthew has also written 12 books and produced countless magazine spreads and ad campaigns for noted companies such as Pottery Barn, Dove Chocolate, Target, and Stonewall Kitchen.

Matthew is known for styling beautiful spaces using vintage treasures, guiding others to entertain with ease in a stylish way, and inspiring homeowners to create beautiful food and living spaces which they can proudly share with family and friends. To view Matthew’s portfolio, visit his website, matthewmeadstyle.com, or his blog, holidaywithmatthewmead.com. His recently published books include Recycled Style, Halloween Spooktacular, Christmas All Through the House, and The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook.

November 24, 2013

 

The perfect cheese plate. Knowing how to assemble it – and match it with wine – is a hosting essential. So before you throw together a hodgepodge of grocery store cheeses for your next dinner party, peep these tips from David Seaton, former cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen and now the wine, cheese, and charcuterie director at Spoke Wine Bar, opening in February in Somerville, MA:

Cheese Plate

Choose Your Cheeses

  • Start with a simple, balanced mix of cheeses, such as a mild goat cheese, a buttery Brie, and an earthy, hard cheese like Gruyère.
  • “A ‘tasting portion’ of cheese should be in the realm of 3/4 of an ounce per person,” Seaton says, “but if you do have some left over, there are worse problems!”
  • Buy your cheese the day of or the day before your gathering and leave it out at room temperature (65 – 70 degrees). Serving cheese cold will “mute or mask the flavors,” but if you do have to refrigerate it, “make sure it is wrapped in butcher paper or cheese paper and keep it in the crisper section” to prevent it from drying out.

 
Add Your Extras 

  • Accoutrements should be “a backdrop to the cheese.” Seaton suggests offering a jam or marmalade, roasted mixed nuts, and fresh or dried fruit for texture and flavor. As for the vehicle? Bread and crackers “are both pretty neutral, so you won’t do much harm even choosing a seeded bread.”
  • When it comes to cured meats, the occasion is king: “If you’re having a formal gathering, charcuterie should be on a separate platter. If you have guests coming over to watch the hockey game or Golden Globes, do what you want.”
  • Serve your cheese on a wooden cheese board for a rustic appearance, or make your own cheese plate.

 
Continue reading “Assemble a Party-Ready Cheese Plate” »

January 16, 2013

With each generation, things change – holiday dinners are hosted at a different person’s house, or a meal that was traditionally a sit-down affair evolves into a buffet-style free-for-all. And as tradition shifts, so does hosting etiquette. What still applies to the modern-day gathering? Here, find four classic etiquette myths – and the modern truths behind them:

Myth #1: Traditional holiday menus are a necessity.
Who says the holiday potatoes have to be mashed rather than roasted, baked, or scalloped? You’re the host – so feel free to change up your dishes and recipes. Just be sure to share your menu plans with any traditionalists (or vegetarians, or guests with food allergies) who might protest. If it won’t be a real holiday dinner to your mother-in-law when she can’t have her favorite fig-preserve appetizer, let her bring it.

Myth #2: The bar must be stocked with every kind of alcohol and mixer.
It’s not always feasible to keep a bottle of every liquor known to man. Relieve the pressure by mixing up a signature sangria or cocktail for the event, just like at a wedding reception. Stock the ingredients for that one drink, plus a couple of different beers and both red and white wines. Add a few essentials – vodka, rum, tequila – for guests who like it straight or on the rocks, and you’ll have something to please everyone.

Myth #3: Paper and plasticware should always be shunned.
It is true that linen napkins, matching plates, and attractive silverware are the norm for a fancy dinner. But if you’re hosting family and friends in a more casual setting – especially if children are involved – it’s not uncouth to go disposable and lay down some colorful paper napkins, high-quality paper plates, and those metallic-hued plastic forks. Just stick to your décor’s color palette and give thanks for having fewer dishes to wash.

Myth #4: The more elaborate the better.
Rather than setting the table with every fork and spoon in the set – widely considered an outdated (and confusing) practice – it’s more than okay to start with only enough to get guests through the main course. Cutlery for later courses, like a dessert spoon, can be offered along with the dish. Also, a simple yet thoughtfully designed table can be more functional and just as beautiful as an elaborate setup.

Remember that entertaining has one primary goal: pleasure, for your guests and yourself. Do what is comfortable, fun, and thoughtful – regardless of any supposed “rules” – and you can’t go wrong.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Have any other classic hosting wisdom you love to ignore? Sound off in the comments below or tweet us at @ruelala.

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November 28, 2012

Entertaining, in a nutshell, takes practice, courage, and a little imagination for repurposing furniture and objects into party central. I love throwing a party regardless of my small floor plan. Pick a party theme that embraces the coziness of your mini-sized space and start planning:

  • Create different party zones even if you live in under 300 square feet – an area for conversation, games, drinking, and dancing. Keep seating away from drink central to avoid congestion.
  • No room to spare for guests’ coats?  Time to hit the showers! I have a collapsible coat rack that fits right into my shower and moonlights as a coat check for parties. To be fun, you can create “numbered” claim check tags printed with a guest photo to hang on each hanger. Try to keep hangers all the same color so they look neat and tidy.  I also provide baskets underneath to hold purses and briefcases.
  • Not enough table space? Grow up! Put everything on a footed platter and start stacking. I use regular white plates (a dinner, salad, and dessert size) and stack them with white eggcups. Reusable Museum Gel keeps everything attached and stable. When the party is over, plates store flat in their cabinet until the next gathering.
  • Create an invite and menu around miniature appetizers and tiny martinis. Mix up a signature cocktail for the night, which always makes guests feel special and festive.
  • Have a few friends help pitch in for a “short” bartender.  Even in a small space, having someone dedicated solely to ice, shaking cocktails, and filling glasses elevates the cool factor for the night and instantly relieve hostess anxiety.
  • Invest $50 of your party budget toward a folding butler’s tray table that you can transform into a portable bar. You will use it over and over again. The best part is that everything folds up flat. Another recessionista-style option: a cheap luggage rack can double as a second drink station.  Just top it off with a tray that you own, and guests will be partying until the sun comes up.
  • Lighting is key so put your main lights on dimmer switches and opt for flameless candles everywhere – safety first! Flameless tea lights can safely add a glow to bookshelves, windowsills, baseboards, and bedrooms… places you would never use real flames.
  • Petite Party Favors To Go: Personalize miniature cupcakes with photo icing for each guest… in take-out form. Just upload your favorite photo to any of several custom icing websites, and they’ll send back edible photo sheets that dissolve into icing.
November 7, 2012