A relaxed hostess moves graciously in the midst of her guests. I learned how to do this by watching my Mom and her sisters while growing up, as they were “hostesses-extraordinaire!” They had this art down. I also observed many friends over the years. I can name handfuls of gracious hostesses who have made an impact on my entertaining style!

I love getting mail from readers, and recently a newer hostess asked me a few questions that I feel are worthy of a post.

How do you move from course to course while entertaining?

In sharing with you some tips I’ve learned, and how I’ve implemented this art in entertaining, I will answer a few of her questions!

I would love to know how you move from one course in the meal to the other?
· Always think ahead, plan out your courses, and prepare what you can ahead of time (chopping, grating, mixing, etc.)
· Plan where you want to serve appetizers: patio, living room, family room, in the kitchen around the center isle.
· Make sure you have the appropriate dishes set on the table, or stacked in your kitchen ready for use (from appetizers through dessert).
· Think ahead of what your guests are bringing, and what utensils or bowls they may need and have them ready.
· As guests arrive, bring your food out onto the counter. IE, I’ll have my ginger chopped and peas washed in a bowl, salmon will be on the broiler with ingredients nearby – all set for cooking. If I’m preparing salad, it will be made up ahead of time, but not tossed until it’s time to eat. If I’m baking something, I will have the baking time in my head.
· After appetizers and everyone has been seated, I will start on course I. I usually hop up before we are finished with each course to get the next course ready, but then I’ll come right back and sit down and finish my salad with my guests.

How do you clear the table?
In between courses I’ll remove only the dirty dishes and the utensils. IE if it’s a salad course, I’ll remove the salad plate and one fork. Oftentimes one of the guests will offer to help me. Most of the time I will say, “No thank you. This is your night off!” Many times my husband will jump in and help me clear, as we really enjoy working together.

Do you ask for help?
· If I’m running a little behind when the guests arrive, I’ll ask for help. People love to help so don’t be afraid to ask!
· My husband is very good at moving graciously through the kitchen with me. Sometimes I’ll give him a little nudge if I need something, and he’s right on it.
· If I know a guest is bringing bread, I’ll set out the cutting board and a knife and will let them prepare the bread, or toss the salad (if they bring salad), or even help serve the dessert (if they bring dessert).
· I also always keep a water picture nearby, so anyone can feel free to jump up and fill the water glasses if I get busy doing something else.

Any secrets on keeping food warm?
· Of course the oven works, turning it down low. Or covering the dish with foil to keep the heat in.
· I usually try to time my dishes so that they’re done about ½ hour after the guests arrive. Sometimes I time them for later, depending on how many people are coming, and if we are having a course with appetizers.

Do you leave the dishes on the table and move to another room for dessert?
· I rarely serve dessert in another room, so I just clear the table as we move through the courses.
· There have been times when I’ve requested the guests leave the dishes, at the end of the evening. I really don’t mind doing clearing, and I’ve had my kids help!
· I don’t make a big deal of clearing – it just gets done! Sometimes when the party is over, everyone gets up and takes the dishes to the kitchen.
· This particular meal, we did move into the living room – much warmer! (Read post, here!)

I have found that the more entertaining I do, the more gracious I become! You just get into the groove, and practice makes … perfect? NO, we don’t say that word on my blog. But it does get easier, to entertain, the more you do it!

It’s a sustaining environment that draws people to our home. The ambience and an overall attitude! And a little tasty food on the table makes it even more attractive.

People can just feel your graciousness as you move from course to course.

Watch out, it’s catching!

(Related posts, read Rusty and Out of the Groove, here; Pass the Dirty Dishes, here; Before the Guests Arrive, here!)

I love new life! And here are my friend Barb’s new babies on her farm! She has a sheep farm in Wisconsin, with 18 new baby lambs. They are so precious! Tiny Lamb, Bendy Spine (“Bendy” for short), Doing Doing (pronounced “Doy-ng Doy-ng”), Pinky, Pinky Bro (for Pinky’s brother), Blackie Girl, Loppie – are a few of their names.