Instead of putting off that party, get it into gear

It's said that only about 1 in 10 people can be counted on to give a dinner party. The rest of us are put-offers. For one reason or another, our best intentions go awry and we end up shelving our entertaining efforts until ``later.'' Many times we get overwhelmed in the planning stage. If this is the case with you, here are some hints to get you going.

1. The first thing is to take the plunge and invite the guests. That commits you. Invite them no longer than 10 days in advance. That locks you in.

2. As you plan, lean on a few reliable adages such as ``Guests make the party,'' and, ``What matters is getting people together, not what you serve them,'' and ``You're not trying to impress your guests; you are trying to make them happy.''

4. Be simple. Try a big pot full of stew, spaghetti, or chili. Serve a lot of bread and rolls and salad. For dessert try some ice cream balls rolled in nuts in advance, served with chocolate sauce.

5. Minimize the place settings. Just use the silverware you really need. Put out the dessert forks later. Or serve cookies and forget the forks.

6. Be practical about the final putting away, refrigerating leftovers. Nothing is harder to clean up than dirty dishes after midnight.

7. Don't try to be the star. Think of your guests first and make them feel comfortable. Don't start clearing the table too soon -- people might think they're being rushed. Let them talk. And don't do the dishes while company is still there.

8. Be humble. Don't try to outdo someone else's dinner party. You want people to feel so good that they'll be eager to invite you back.

If you follow these tips, your social calendar should be full for some time; then you can gracefully fall back into the put-offer role until it's time for another party.

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