Here's How to Be the Best Hostess When You Have No Time to Plan

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We call her the Half Hour Hostess. 

Back in the day, Southern hostesses would spend hours writing invitations, planning menus, cooking elaborate dishes, setting out the fine china and linens, and then getting all dolled up in order to throw a party. Fast forward to today, when it seems we barely have enough time (or energy) to fix a quick supper for our own family, much less a crowd. Thankfully, that desire and love of entertaining has never left us – we still enjoy gathering with friends and family to share stories and laughter. So even if we sometimes have to do things on a smaller scale, Southern hostesses don’t have to give up on the idea of having parties at home. Think you might have some friends over after work? Keep these hints in mind and your party planning will be a breeze.

Keep Décor Simple

When deciding how to decorate, even minimally, it helps to build upon a theme. Let a single idea inspire you, such as the colors in a favorite pillow or some vintage plates you found at an antique store. Buy flowers in complimentary colors and arrange them in stemless wine glasses or pretty jars down the center or your table for a bright display. Wrap napkins around silverware and tie them with colored ribbon. If the weather is nice and you are eating outdoors, use an old quilt for the tablecloth and place candles down the table. Arrange flowering branches in an old watering can or vintage pitcher. Your décor will be pretty and simple, but it will make a huge impact.

Menu Planning

Feeding a crowd on the spur of the moment can seem daunting, and this certainly isn’t the time to show off your talents by trying to smoke a pork butt or bake a tall layer cake. There just isn’t enough time! Just as in decorating, however, simplicity is the key to a stress-free and successful gathering. You may be planning your menu on your drive home from work, so keep these tips in mind as you head into the grocery store. Whatever you serve, be sure to vary tastes, textures, and colors. You don’t want all your dishes to look the same. Pair a smooth and creamy dip with colorful and crunchy raw vegetables, and serve warm, grilled flank steak with a crisp salad and soft rolls. A rotisserie chicken can go a long way in feeding a crowd, so consider serving a hearty soup that is ready in just 30 minutes. Add some warm bread and your meal is ready. Or perhaps the weather calls for a cool but satisfying chicken salad, chock full of seasonal fruits or vegetables.

Prior Planning

Keep your favorite recipes handy, and keep your pantry stocked with some key go-to entertaining staples so you can whip up some quick and easy appetizers or main dishes. Canned tomatoes and beans, jarred olives, crackers, roasted red peppers, pesto sauce and dried pasta are a few of the many store-bought items that can make your party prep a lot easier. There is no need to go to a lot of expense over a spur-of-the-moment party; serve a selection of tasty appetizers with cocktails or beer, or make an easy pasta dish to serve with wine.

Relax and Enjoy

A seasoned hostess knows not to panic if things just don’t go as planned. If guests arrive early, enlist their help with the food or ask them to arrange the flowers. After all, the point of an informal party is to get together and relax with friends and family, right? Pour yourself a relaxing drink and enjoy the night.

Don't let a busy schedule keep you from your love of entertaining. And even if you have no time at all to put a meal together, toss some fresh flowers in a vase, pull out your most colorful table cloth, and order a pizza. It's all about enjoying the company, right?

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