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easy does i
how to entertain without stressing yourself out
by Yee-Fan Sun
1 2 3
Growing up, my mom was one of those super-moms who had to make everything from scratch. I'd go over to my friends' houses and wonder why all their moms made brownies that tasted exactly the same as each other's, and totally unlike my mother's. I assumed my immigrant mom must be missing out on some super special American brownie secret, doing something a little odd to her own version, which tasted perfectly good, but just, well, different. It took me ages to realize it was because all those other mom's were using the same Betty Crocker mix, a shortcut that wouldn't have occurred to my own mom in a million years. From my mom, I learned to appreciate cooking from real ingredients, and having the patience to spend time making food -- both valuable lessons, no doubt. But my mom also bred in me this notion that there was something kind of lame about taking the easy way out. Feeding loved ones, serving guests -- this was something that wasn't meant to be undertaken unless you were willing to put a lot of time and effort into the endeavor. The first party I ever threw as a semi-grown-up was a sushi party for 30. It was a feast that people raved over, but truth be told, I spent most of my time slaving over my maki rolls, fretting silently over whether I had too much of the raw stuff or not enough, worried that some folks might find the food offerings too weird.

Slowly, I've been trying to teach myself that having friends over doesn't always have to involve so much pressure. Every detail doesn't have to perfect; menus don't have to be elaborate; events don't have to be big and fancy to be memorable. Parties should be as much fun for the host as for the guests. All of which means that sometimes, easy does the job just fine.

If hosting friends chez vous tends to throw you into an anxious frenzy, it's time to quell your inner perfectionist. Check out these seven simple steps towards easier entertaining…

1 easy guests
Easy (to please!) guests are key to keeping you sane when you're playing host. Too often, we get this crazy idea in our heads that a good party must be a big party, where we invite everyone with whom we've ever shared even the briefest of encounters -- we're so afraid that we'll go to all this effort, just to have no one show up. Since we don't know all the potential guests well enough to feel secure in the fact that they'll like of us no matter what, trying to please them becomes a little bit of a guessing game. Moreover, there's this feeling that our main duty is to impress. Throwing a party becomes a competitive act where we worry that every little thing we do -- or don't do -- is being judged.

Yes, there are times when it makes sense to entertain folks you don't know that well; when you've moved to a new city, started a new job, or are otherwise looking to expand your circle, hosting new faces is kind of par for the course. But even when you're inviting near-strangers over, it just makes sense to only ask those with whom you share a good vibe. Anyone that makes you so nervous you can't be yourself around them -- save socializing with them for other people's parties, times when you're not simultaneously juggling the responsibility of providing food and drink and merriment for the rest of the crowd. In short, the first step to easier entertaining is to quit going the catch-all route, and pare down your guests lists to folks you genuinely feel comfortable around.

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