Stress Free Entertaining -Decorating, Cooking & Serving Made Easy

A Stroll Thru Life
With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas right behind, I thought it was time to repeat this post.  Seems like this time of year has us all a little stressed so hopefully these tips and suggestions will help you entertain totally Stress Free.

This is a post that I put together three years ago, but have been asked to repeat. (Thanks you guys for your wonderful emails - here it is.)  It's a step by step of how to create an inexpensive, elegant tablescape, cook the meal and serve it with style and without any stress.  I hope there is something here that will help you relax and enjoy your holidays.  This was done for a Christmas Tablescape, but the principals apply to any holiday.  (My photography skills are a little better now, but these still share the story)

Pulling together an elegant Tablescape can seem daunting and expensive, however with a little thrift shopping through your Goodwill and the Dollar Tree, you can put a table together you will be proud of.
Most of the items to create this tablescape were thrift shopping treasures.  Shop the house for your favorite things and incorporate them in the table design.
christmas tablescape, gold and white tablescape

I started with three of my cloches.  Everything always looks fabulous under a cloche.  An Angel, Cross or Santa statue would be a fabulous centerpiece, just use what you have.   A lace tablerunner from the 99c store forms the base for the centerpiece.
using cloches in a tablescape

I used my largest cloche to set the theme for the table.  An Angel figurine to represent the season.
angel decor

A bird topped Bell Cloche was elevated on a cakestand.  Inside is a lovely marble covered orb, and a gold dove from the Dollar Tree is hanging off the side.
decorating with goodwill finds

The small cloche holds a Faberge Egg with a jeweled Christmas Tree on the front.  It was a gift from my DH many years ago.  A pretty ornament from the DT would look just as good.
faberge eggs

White pointsettias and gold leaves from the Dollar Tree create a lovely floral arrangement.  Add a few DT gold ornaments at the base to add additional interest.

I added more DT ornaments and floral picks around the table to fill in the centerpiece.  This also makes sure that each guest has something special to see.

Pull out your finest linens and china for the placesettings.  Everything I've used except for the wine glass and the sherbert came from GW or Thrift stores.  The placemats and napkins are tissue linen with a scalloped embroidery detail.  The china is Grace made in Japan found at GW layered with an everyday white salad.  The sherbet/compote glasses were a gift from a friend, and the wine glass was a wedding gift many years ago.  Everyday flatware looks right at home with the more elegant dishes.  Your everyday white dishes would look just as elegant and DT glasses would work perfectly.  The linens set the mood.  You could use a lace tablecloth, or even buy lace by the yard from Walmart and make your own tablecloth, since most lace doesn't have to be hemmed, you don't even have to know how to sew.
tablescape with goodwill, thrifty finds

Everything looks better with candlelight.  Add lots of candles in varying heights.  The candle stems that I have used I found at GW, however you can find candlesticks in varying heights at GW and the DT.  Just put them all around the table to add an elegant glow.  The candles come in a box of 3 at the DT.

 You're all done.  Light the candles, dim the overhead lights and stand back and enjoy your pretty table.
adding candlelight to a tablescape

  These are a few tips that I've learned over the years that will help you to enjoy your dinner party.


1.  Be prepared.  If you are prepared you will be relaxed and so will your guests.  (You don't have to be as formal as this setting, but I have used this as an example of "going all out".  Just subtract what you don't need and learn some tricks from the rest.) 
2.  Plan a simple meal that doesn't require last minute cooking or prep.
3.  Set up a side table for desserts and have them set out and arranged before guests arrive.
4.  I also set up a side table for wine and other drinks.  Remove the wine glasses from the table and place them on the side table along with a chilled bottle of wine, a decanter of sparking cider and a decanter of juice or punch.  Label the decanters with simple labels and let your guests serve themselves.
4.  Remove the sherbet/compote glasses from the table and fill them with a simple shrimp or crab salad layered on a bed of shredded lettuce and have ready in the fridge.
5. About an hour before guests arrive, slice all the meats and arrange on a pretty platter. Ladel some of the juice from cooking over the top of the meet to keep it moist and fresh.  Arrange all the vegetables and any other side dishes in pretty bowls, cover with foil and have ready to go into a warming oven.  DO NOT OVERCOOK your food.  It will be in the warming oven for a while, so you want it to finish cooking there.
6.  Have the salad all prepared in advance, so you can pull it out of the fridge, give a quick toss with the dressing and serve.
7.  Clean the kitchen thoroughly, guests always wander through the house, so you want to have all the work already done so you can be a guest too and enjoy your company.
8. Right before guests arrive, fill the water glasses on the table, and put all the food in the warming oven.
9. Take off your apron, freshen your makeup and you are all ready.


 None of us have help, so being prepared makes serving easy.  As a note on ettiquet also, if you are a guest at someone's house, you can offer to help the hostess, however if she declines, don't linger in the kitchen, join the rest of the party and enjoy being a guest.
1.  Put the sherbet/ compotes with your shrimp/crab salad on the plates, light the candles and call your guests to dinner.
2.  Use a tray to remove the compote glass, saucer AND the salad plate.
3.  Give the salad a quick toss with your dressing and fill each salad plate and serve.
4.  Since we live much more casual lives, I always serve the main courses buffet style.  Remove the salad plates and take everything out of the oven and arrange on the counter or island for a pleasing buffet.  Have any condiments necessary arranged on the the buffet also.  Invite your guests to bring their plates and serve themselves.  This makes them feel comfortable to come back for seconds or to try something they didn't select the first time around.
5.  Enjoy your meal and your guests and linger as long as you like.
6.  I always have coffee ready to go with a tray full of cups and saucers so guests can help themselves after dinner.
7.  While they all visit and linger over coffee, clear away the dinner plates and stack neatly in the sink.  Don't start a lot of major clean up.  Cover any left over food and just place in the fridge as is.
8.  Visit and relax, your work is done.  Your guests will also relax and linger if you are present to enjoy them.  Guests will feel free to help themselves to more wine, coffee or dessert when they are ready. You can suggest that dessert is there whenever they would like some, however there really isn't  a need to"serve" it.  Just slice the pie and cake and let them serve themselves.  Time for you to mingle and really be part of the party.

christmas tablescape, gold and white tablescape

I hope this helps you to feel relaxed and confident that you can have an elegant dinner party and still be a guest.

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