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04.20.2006

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Dress it Up! simple ways to spruce up a meal |  1 2 3
continued from page 1

Fresh-cut flowers are another nice accent to the dinner table. Buy a bouquet of fresh flowers and arrange them in a vase. If youíre lacking in the vase department, use a nicely-shaped glass jar or a big aluminum can (with the label peeled off and adhesive thoroughly removed, of course). If you canít get all the sticky stuff off, wrap the jar with pretty paper or fabric.

get in the mood
Having perfected your table setting, youíll want to attend to the general ambience of the room. Lighting and music are both key mood-enhancers. Keep the lighting very minimal; candlelight is always an elegant option. Use an assortment of pillar candles set on a pretty plate, tall tapered scented candles set in matching candlestick holders, or floating candles in a glass bowl. And if youíve got a fireplace and itís winter, go ahead and light a fire. Meanwhile, play relaxing background music Ė itíll help the flow of dinner conversation by masking any potentially uncomfortable pauses. Whether itís jazz, big band, classical, or salsa, be sure to choose music that sets the appropriate mood.

serve it up with style
For your ordinary weekday meal, it can certainly be practical to use the cheap plastic cups and the chipped dishes. When entertaining guests, though, thereís really no excuse for not breaking out the nicer stuff. If youíre serving salsa or dip, for instance, serve the dip/salsa in a pretty bowl, or use half a bell pepper (de-ribbed and with the seeds scooped out). If youíre having salad, donít bring those plastic squeeze bottles out to the table Ė either serve the salad with a simple oil and vinegar dressing or, if you simply canít do without that pre-made ranch, pour some into a small bowl and serve with a small spoon. If you do make your own dressing, and itís light and non-creamy, serve it in a wine bottle with a pour spout attached (available at liquor stores).

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