I love entertaining! Or perhaps a more accurate statement would be that I love hanging out with my friends in the comfort of my home. There is something so carefree about kicking back in a private environment and laughing with the girls. Cooking and cleaning before events … well that’s not exactly something I look forward to. I pretty much have my entertaining down to a science. We always use the living room “or grown-up room” as its known in my house, and I keep it simple. I don’t try to impress with my culinary skills (believe me, that would not be impressive at all), instead choosing to go for a variety of foods and drinks that have a nice impact. With the summer months here, I want to share some of my tried and true hosting rituals. DRINKS My group of friends is very social. We work hard and play hard, so spirits are a must at each event. Wines are a staple, but it’s not always easy to cater to each taste. Honestly, I’m not what anyone would consider a connoisseur of wine so I stick to well-known crowd pleasers. My go-to wines are blends and I prefer Ménage a Trois in both the white and red. They are reasonably priced bottles — usually between $10 and $12 each and taste wonderful. I enjoy cocktails too, but don’t like to fuss with mixes and measurements. Luckily with the choices of flavored vodkas available, I can mix an impressive drink with little effort. Whipped cream vodka with club soda and a touch of cranberry juice looks and tastes amazing. Raspberry vodka also goes great with soda and you can put in some fresh berries for an added visual effect. I’ve also been known to serve cake vodka with an organic energy drink, which is always a crowd favorite. The point is, it doesn’t take much effort to put together an impressive bar — just round out the above with bottled water, beer and soda pop and you are all set. FOOD When I teach dining etiquette I always tell participants that eating with others is never about the food — it’s about the social interaction. I hold true to that when I entertain and don’t go overboard. My goal is always to cater to a variety of tastes and dietary restrictions. Some staples that have worked well for me are flavored almonds (I usually serve the wasabi soy ones, which have a great kick), a simple sweet snack like the two-bite brownies found in the bakery section, a veggie platter, crackers and cheese and a heavier tummy-filler like shrimp cocktail or tortilla chips with some sort of dip. Since these choices are well-liked in my house, I make sure to buy plenty so there is no chance of running out throughout the evening. I think it’s more about the presentation than anything. Candles on the table make everything look fancy. Or if I use disposable plates I use the small clear plastic ones and usually have some sassy disposable napkins that can be found at specialty party stores. You don’t’ have to break the bank to have an inviting snack buffet for your guests. AMBIENCE My life is hectic between my small kids, work and all of the activities that go with each. I don’t always have time to clean my house from top to bottom to have guests over, so I make sure to cover the necessities. I keep my food and drinks near the entertaining room, so I don’t have to worry about a few dishes in the sink because guests don’t go into my kitchen. The guest bathroom is the first priority when people are coming over, which fortunately for me is a half-bath. Using the living room helps since my family doesn’t use it day-to-day. We don’t have pets so I don’t have to contend with fur, dander or smell. If you are a pet owner, I would highly recommend that you clean up hair, keep pets in a separate room and use a light air freshener to mask any animal smell. I never have the television going when friends are over, but light music in the background is a nice touch. Keeping it casual and comfortable is my main objective, so I never ask people to remove their shoes or not drink red wine on my white carpets. Life is too short and spot removers are plentiful! However you choose to entertain this summer, do it in a style and in a way that allows you to spend your time enjoying the moment — not fretting about having everything “just so.” Life is meant to be lived, so invite a few friends over, kick up your heels and create some memories!
Shelley Davis Mielock
Shelley Davis Mielock is a certified business image coach and the founder of Mieshel Image Consulting, a Lansing-based firm that specializes in image development for individuals and businesses. She is also a co-host of In Her Shoes, a a weekly women’s talk radio show. To ask Shelley an image question, please e-mail her.