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As I prepare to entertain for the first time in ages, I’m inspired by the recent experiences I’ve had in other people’s homes. My friends have demonstrated time and time again that a little creativity goes a long way when you have company.

Since I’ve learned the hard way that everyone has their own comfort zone when it comes to hosting, I don’t feel compelled to cook an elaborate meal or take out the fine china.

There are other ways to create a pretty presentation, such as a cheese tray featuring tiny bowls with olives and nuts, or a refreshing cocktail in a crystal glass with crushed ice that makes it feel extra special.

One of my talented friends made a veggie train instead of a veggie tray for her Super Bowl party. The adorable creation was inspired by an image she found on Pinterest. I went bonkers over the hollowed peppers filled with broccoli, carrots, celery and dip as the train cars with cucumber slices as the wheels.

However, if I tried to make one, it would look more like a train wreck.

For her party, my friend also made an amazing meal as usual in addition to the appetizers that included the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had.

My husband and I also enjoyed another lovely dinner where the husband and wife make everything look effortless. The fact that this couple loves to travel made me realize that being in their home feels a bit like a European vacation complete with heavenly cappuccino and homemade desserts perched on a pretty cake stand.

One of the details I’ve come to appreciate about the way they entertain is that we start off in the kitchen with appetizers and drinks before sitting down for a delicious dinner in the cozy dining room. Lastly, we head to the living room for coffee and dessert and late-night conversation.

Another friend, who travels for work, somehow managed to have a little get-together after the holidays with a mix of women that she thought would get along and we did. Though she loves to cook, she kept it simple this time around by asking everyone to bring an appetizer, which turned out great. It’s hard to believe she greeted us after coming straight from the airport following a business trip.

Though my party plans are still in the works as I get the final guest count and decide what to serve, I want to do something different whether it relates to the tablescape or the selection of appetizers and snacks.

As I scour my cabinets for entertaining essentials, I discover some hidden gems I forgot I had like some gold cutlery I found at Target that’s disposable. Since entertaining can be a great motivator, I also started to do some editing that has already made such a difference.

Experience has taught me that you don’t always have to roll out the red carpet when it’s your turn to host. Sometimes it’s about sharing your home with others and doing the best you can.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.

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