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Some dinner parties require a more formal protocol. For example, a military dinner will have strict guidelines as to where personnel will sit. If you are hosting a client dinner, you might also prefer a more formal arrangement. Even in a casual setting, you can choose to follow protocol to honor a special guest. The below description is based on a social party (vs. business), a rectangular table, and includes both men and women:

When hosting a dinner party, where you place your guests around the table is a crucial element for the success of your event. You presumably put thought into who you invited to the gathering. Do not stop there. The placement of each person around the table is something that should not be thrown together at the last minute.

I love entertaining friends and family in my home, especially during the holidays. But I must admit, it can be a bit overwhelming hosting a dinner party in the stage of life with little ones running around. The cooperation I receive from my toddlers is a significant factor in how efficient I am on a daily basis. Add in hosting a party, and it can be overwhelming. If you find yourself wanting to gather friends for a festive evening, here are my tried-and-true tips for entertaining with young children:

Planning a party can be fun, but do you know the best way to ensure everything runs smoothly? Have a rehearsal for your party. Yes, you heard correctly. You have spent a great deal of time planning your theme, creating your guestlist, and delivering your invitations. Now is the time to do a mock rehearsal which will allow you to create an action list of outstanding items around your home that might need attention. It also helps solidify any last-minute details.

These thirteen tips will get your through any dinner party. Here is a quick refresher. 

1. Leave The Cocktail Glass Behind:

If you are attending a dinner party, there may be cocktails offered before the meal begins. When the hostess signals it is time to head to the dining room, leave your drink behind. Why? The dining table has been pre-set with the glasses you will need and adding another to your place setting will only clutter the minimal real estate in front of you. Your palate is another reason to leave the cocktail behind. Many hostesses go to great lengths to pare wine with the food being served. Once seated at the table it is time to switch to wine or water.

You just received an invitation to a party, and the attire says: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture. What??? Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for a party, make it clear. We do not want our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”

Table manners are the area in which I receive the most questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in managing an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction. Even if you are unsure, most people do not care.

When attending a party, there are certain expectations we have of our hostess. We appreciate everything she has done, but we do assume there will be food, drinks, a clean bathroom, and a home that does not smell like the local pet store. What some people forget is there are also expectations of the guest. When a hostess plans a party, a great deal of time is spent deciding who she will invite. What group of friends go well together?

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party looking scared, so unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screamed, “I wish I was anywhere but here!”

You are invited!!! There is something special we feel when we receive an invitation. It is the anticipation of a celebration, the excitement of choosing what to wear, but more importantly, it is the affirmation that tells us, “I was chosen!” We know a hostess has responsibilities to ensure her party is a success, but did you know there are expectations of the guests? And your first job begins when you receive an invitation that says RSVP. Follow the six steps below and the hostess will be singing your praises!

  • Lisa Lou

Take the Stress out of Your Morning Routine



How many mornings have we left home in a state of utter chaos? Breakfast was late, children were crying, and we hurriedly throw on clothes from the night before only to realize how wrinkled we look. This mad dash makes for an unpleasant parting from our family and it is usually caused by a disorganized approach to our routine. So much of the bedlam we experience at the beginning of the day can be avoided if we are willing to implement a few tasks the night before. Once I began taking these simple steps, it was amazing how pleasant everything became. I also picked up more time, which, ultimately meant I was not dumping stress onto my family. It was a win/win for everyone! If you want a better start to your day, here are some tips my family has incorporated to make our mornings run more smoothly.


The night before:


1. Lay out all clothes for the next day, including undergarments and accessories. I have two 3M hooks stuck to the inside of a cabinet door. I hang my pants or skirt on the bottom hook and my blouse or sweater on the top hook. I then coordinate my jewelry and all accessories and attach them to the hanger followed by placing my shoes on the cabinet floor. Don’t forget the undergarments! These are also draped over the hanger. Too many times I have spent precious minutes searching for my strapless bra “I could have sworn” was in that drawer. By laying everything out the night before, you can avoid that “what will I wear” stumbling block that inevitably derails your morning.


2. If any of your clothes are wrinkled, take care of this when you are organizing your outfit for the next day. I prefer to steam my clothes, so I keep a steamer in my closet for easy access.


3. Check the weather for the next day. Will you need a coat or an umbrella? If so, pull this out.


4. Does your breakfast require any prep work? I love to eat Teff each morning (my favorite grain). I will make up a large casserole dish on Sunday that stays fresh throughout the week. I also make a batch of scrambled eggs that can last a few days. They may not be “day of” fresh, but it works for me and saves prep time.


5. Is your coffee station ready to go? I have a self-grinding machine, so I make sure the beans are in the hopper, the water is in the tank, a fresh paper filter is in place, and my coffee mug is out. I like to set the timer, so the coffee is ready to go when I walk into the kitchen. If you use sweeteners or creamer, have those ready, along with your spoon. When everything is in one place, and you are not running to one drawer for a utensil and another cabinet for a mug, it makes for a less chaotic morning, and it DOES save time.


6. Create your action list for the next day. There are so many different organizational methods, but I will share what I do. I keep a blank journal, and each January I take several pages to write everything I can possibly think of that I need to do for the year. Obviously, each month I add to this list, but by having one designated spot where I can do a “brain dump” to capture my thoughts my mind stays uncluttered. If you can get a thought out of your brain and onto paper, it reduces stress. I then create a separate page dedicated for each month of the year. When each month comes around, I refer to my “brain dump” pages and transfer any item I need to accomplish to that month. One example. I begin my Christmas gift shopping each year in October, so on the page marked October I write: Buy Christmas gifts. Buying Christmas gifts is on my “brain dump” page, but I do not need to continually write this every day or every month on one big action list, because I know I will not even tackle this until October. So, why would I put it on any other list except October? From my monthly list, I then create a weekly list every Sunday night of the things that need to be accomplished in the upcoming week. Lastly, every night I look at my weekly list and proceed to write down what I will accomplish the next day. This helps me in two ways. First, I know exactly what I need to work on that day, and secondly, I feel a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the day when I can check off my completed tasks. If I had to look at my long “brain dump” list every night, or even weekly, I would become overwhelmed. For me, by breaking my tasks down into bite-sized pieces, most nights I can go to bed feeling I accomplished a great deal. By only focusing on my daily tasks, I keep myself from being distracted and randomly hopping from item to item, emergency to emergency, which ultimately would cause me to accomplish little. For me, this system works great. Whatever technique you use, I highly recommend getting it organized the night before so you are ready to hit the road the next morning. (The system I use is from the Bullet Journal website.)


7. If you have children, create the same routine for them as you do for yourself. Lay out their clothes the night before, pack up their backpacks or diaper bag, and set everything by your car keys. If they are older, teach them to start laying out their own clothes and packing up their schoolbooks before they go to bed. You are giving your children a great gift when you teach them to successfully master their own routine.


8. Once everything is packed create an “exit” station by your door. Everything you and your children will need for the next day should be placed there: purse, backpack, briefcase, wallet, coat, umbrella, KEYS (how much time have we wasted looking for lost keys!). If you need to take it with you the next day, then it goes by the exit station the night before.


In the morning:


1. Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier than you think you need. This is important if you tend to run late. We all want more sleep, but those extra minutes of snoozing is usually not worth the trade-off of a frantic and chaotic morning. Any benefit your body has received from the extra rest will usually be eliminated by the stress you cause yourself through an anxiety provoked morning routine. You might be groggy the first week you try this approach, but your body will adjust.


2. Start with a quiet time. There are hundreds of quick devotionals online that can be read in a matter of minutes. I read 3 pages in a chronological Bible each day. This takes about 15 minutes. My heart is filled with a peace and calmness that makes the rest of the morning flow more smoothly. Maybe for you, it is meditating or writing in a gratitude journal. Whatever it might be, take a few moments for yourself to be still.


3. Ok, this is a hard one, but it is ohhhh so worth it! Never Check Email in the Morning, a book by Julie Morgenstern, means just that…never check email in the morning! It is a huge time drain. Go through your morning routine and once you are ready to walk out the door, then dive into your electronic communications. This will be difficult for many people, but if we can recognize how much time we waste reading junk emails or perusing social media to see what others are doing (things that do not help us with our morning routine), we would all become more disciplined in this area. When I am tempted to spend time on Facebook, Instagram, or any other media platform in the morning, I verbally ask myself, “Is spending time on (fill in the blank) going to help me accomplish my goals for today? Is it going to make my morning go more smoothly?” Obviously, the answer is almost always a big NO. These questions help me to refocus.


4. After I have my morning quiet time, I take a few minutes to review my daily task list that I created the night before. This prepares my mind to begin my day.


5. If you are married, and you have the luxury of separate bathrooms (or at least separate sinks) then take advantage of this. Tripping over each other while you are both getting ready can slow you down. Have your own toiletries and everything you need to get dressed. It sounds insignificant, but when you are short on time and must stand next to your spouse waiting for them to hand you the toothpaste, it wastes valuable minutes. My husband and I each have our own floss, face soap, toothpaste, and deodorant, even though we use the same brands. I never have to wait on him, and he never has to wait on me.


6. If you have children, and they are old enough, create a checklist of things they need to do each morning. When they know exactly what is expected of them (brush teeth, get dressed, make bed), it allows them to experience success in their own abilities and organizational skills. It also eliminates that small voice down the hallway yelling, “Mommy, what do I do now?” Which, inevitably, will derail your own morning routine.


I can say with 100% confidence I have nearly eliminated my morning stress by organizing my day the night before. The steps you take to get out the door each day will either be done at night or in the A.M. In the morning, though, there are usually more distractions. Plus, you are fighting against a deadline to start your day, get to work, or drop the children off at school. By organizing the night before, although you might be tired, you are not up against a clock. I feel confident you will be amazed how your morning stress is reduced just by switching your routine from morning to night. For me, it made all the difference in the world!


Together with you,

Lisa Lou