Smart Solutions: Entertaining, and throwing off the shackles of perfection

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Just like other areas in life, practice may not always make perfect, but it can lead to improvements when it comes to the art of entertaining. A recent brunch at our house was fun for everyone which should matter more than a flawless presentation.

Other than our daughter’s friends, it had been a while since we had people over for various reasons. Even though we were only expecting two other couples, I still got too much food. That might be a lesson I’ll never learn, but we were able to enjoy the leftovers and share some with our neighbors who are always there for us.

I served my usual combination of fresh bagels and Middle Eastern food like falafels and grape leaves. Snacks included cheese and crackers and olives and nuts. Shortbread and brownies from a local bakery and mimosas and red wine kept the selection simple.

Elevate your next gathering with unique serving pieces like the ones shown here from the Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Bread Street Collection.

A double-sided basket intended for nuts and shells was filled with crackers and pretzels instead. Heating up the appetizers made our kitchen smell good as our guests arrived with gifts and other goodies.

I must admit that I surprised myself this time around because I didn’t stress about the house or the preparations. Dividing the required errands into three days seemed to help with the whole process.

Rummaging through my wine crate filled with party supplies reminded me that I need to entertain more often. The cocktail napkins I chose for the brunch said: I have mixed drinks about feelings. Little details like these always lighten the mood.

When my friend’s husband had to step into the next room to take a work call, the poor guy ended up in the master bedroom where I had just stashed the excess stuff from the living room. When I mentioned the mess, he said the space was immaculate. Maybe that’s because my piles tend to be neat.

Now as we prepare for a Friendsgiving party that my daughter offered to host, I feel more prepared than usual because we already bought most of the supplies when shopping for the brunch. Since many of her guests are vegetarian, there won’t be a traditional turkey at the potluck-style gathering. All we have to provide is pizza and snacks as well as paper products, decorations and beverages.    

I’ll probably abandon my to-do list as soon as her friends arrive like I did with ours. The fact that our screen door has yet to be replaced with our storm door hints at the state of our house, but people don’t care. They say they’re just so happy to be invited to someone else’s home and I feel the same way.

We’re still laughing about all the funny conversations we had during the brunch. Our friends are witty and kind and they also happen to be consummate hosts. I know my entertaining skills will never reach their level, but that’s okay. For now, I’m just trying to be the best version of myself when I play the role of hostess and I think I’m getting a little better each time.

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