Or, “Do I really have to write that?” I always talk about entertaining at home but what about when you’ve been invited to someone else’s home for a dinner party or an afternoon in the back yard?  Do you need to send a Thank You note (I’ll get to email later) or is just saying ‘thank you’ as you leave enough?  Expressing your gratitude at the end of the day or evening is critical but so is taking the time to actually write a thank you note later and here’s why. Think about how much time you put into planning and executing a gathering at your own home.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just family, business colleagues or your best friends who are the ones on the invite list.  You expend effort and energy on the planning of the guest list, the menu, cooking or picking up from your favorite…

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The best places to get the freshest flowers for your home. I love how fresh flowers look in my home.  I have some in my foyer, some on my breakfast table and usually a few stems in the powder room and in my bathroom (of course!).  I even make sure I have a stem or two next to my bed.  Of course, if I’m entertaining, I add flowers to wherever we are having cocktails and they are ever present as part of my tablescape in the dining room. Fresh flowers brighten any room and bring life to any space they’re in.  It’s interesting, guests mention that my home always feels welcoming but they don’t equate part of that feeling to the fresh flowers that are always present.  But, I’m here to tell you that those flowers absolutely contribute to it. Many people think that you need to go to a…

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Do the Wine Math: It’ll save your party every time. I get asked a lot about how much wine is needed for a party and my answer is always the same: do the Wine Math. No, it’s not New Math which is very complicated and completely unnecessary. It’s Old Math where we use addition, multiplication and a very small amount of division. All you need are some numbers to start. Wine math is just that simple. First you have to know how many glasses are in a bottle. Then you need to figure out the kind of party you’re having, how long it will last, the number of people that are coming, and exactly who you’ve invited (meaning what type of wine drinkers they are). Once you figure all of that out, it’s a very quick calculation. Of course, if you’re having a break-up pity party with just you and…

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More important, how to I obtain it? I often talk about sophisticated living and how everyone can live their lives that way.  But, I think many people are confused about what I mean and how to achieve it in their daily routines. Most people assume that to live a sophisticated lifestyle you have to have a lot of money and spend it lavishly.  I’m here to tell you that sophisticated living has absolutely nothing to do with how rich you are or your spending habits.  Instead, it has everything to do with putting effort into what you choose to surround yourself with – the items you touch on a daily basis, the things that you use not only with your family but also with your friends and colleagues when you entertain.  It has to do with everything that lives behind the cabinet doors in your home. Your cabinets should be…

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The simplest spritzer to help keep you cool in this heat. It’s summer. It’s hot, even in the evening. You have friends coming over and no one wants red wine. Even rosé just doesn’t seem cold enough. What to do? What to serve? Spritzers are a great summer beverage for a group at any time of year but when the temperatures rise they are especially good. Depending upon who you ask there are as many variations and nuances as the number of people in the conversation. Some who are more cocktail aficionados might have definite opinions as to what is a ‘real’ spritzer. They could say that it is a combination of any Prosecco with the addition of an aperitivo (think Aperol or Campari), served over a lot of ice with a dash of club soda and a twist of some citrus or perhaps an olive. There’s even one that…

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How do you know if you’re doing it right? Picture it:  You’re at a good restaurant with friends and one of them is a self-proclaimed wine snob so you hand him the wine list.  He chooses what he says will be an amazing wine.  You take a sip and you are seriously underwhelmed.  What happened?  There could be several reasons – you don’t enjoy the same wine profile (but you could swear that this was a wine you loved the last time!), the bottle is ‘corked’ (i.e. the wine has been contaminated by a fungi from the cork and it smells like wet dog!) in which case it won’t hurt you but it does indeed stink and affect the taste of the wine, or it wasn’t stored or served properly. This can happen at home even easier than at a good restaurant but here are some easy tips to avoid…

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It’s so easy to create a place for coffee or tea in your kitchen. We all have our routines that we follow in the morning.  It might be that you jump up and head straight to the gym with just a bottle of water to get you going with the knowledge that you’ll enjoy your breakfast and whatever hot beverage you like after your work out – as sort of a reward. Or, you might be like my friend who has a small 2-cup coffee maker on the night stand next to her bed that she sets up before she goes to sleep at night.  That way when she wakes up (not really even opening her eyes) she just leans over, flips the start switch and within a few minutes she has her first cup of coffee ready. That would be great for some, but for someone like me who…

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Thinking about Napa. It’s so much more than just a place to drink wine. One of the best things I learned over 20 years ago when I opened my first restaurant was that Napa is not just a place to drink wine.  It’s much, much, more. With my first restaurant I had to learn about wine lists and how to build them with my customer in mind – not just what I liked to drink.  I’ve been drinking wine since college (not always the best wines – trust me!!). In the beginning there was a budget to pay attention to.  Building the wine list had me looking at wines in a whole new way and I realized that I didn’t know much about them other than what I liked: a dry white, a dry ‘big’ red, and I hated jam.  I still always say that you should never chew your…

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How to replace ‘pack and move’ with a little ‘edit and love’. I love my clients and I love my friends even more. So, when a great friend, who is also a client, calls me and says she’s sold her big house faster than she thought would happen and is moving into a townhome but she has only 30 days to do it – I shift into overdrive and fly across the country to do what I do best – help her delete (not pack and move) what she doesn’t want or use for entertaining.  Then we pack up what IS getting moved and I’ll fill in the ‘holes’ left from the ‘purge’ with things she will actually use and love. Almost everyone I’ve ever spoken to has shared that they’ve packed and moved much, much more than they needed to.  They realize this only after they are in their…

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For every meal you host, there’s a place setting that’s perfect to celebrate the event and mood. When I think about all the best dinners I’ve attended or planned, I found that the tiniest details made a huge difference. That’s why we invest so much time and energy no matter if it’s a formal event or a casual gathering. After we pay so much attention to the menu and preparing the food, it only makes sense to pay as close attention to how your home and table setting looks. So, when we look at that table setting, what do we see? Dinnerware, silverware, napkins, glasses, centerpiece, and… how about placemats? That’s one detail that I think is often overlooked and that can add just a touch of sophistication and creativity to your gathering. I can’t tell you how many settings I’ve seen where I saw placemats that were a complete…

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How to make your morning more beautiful with the perfect way to serve coffee. I’d love to share a food memory with you. It was several years ago on one of my many trips to Italy and I was staying in a really lovely hotel in Palermo. Early in the morning, my room steward would appear at my door with a beautiful pewter coffee service. I would open the window and let the morning breeze mix with the smell of fresh coffee.  The morning view from my window, the amazing cup of Italian coffee, and the special feeling of enjoying my first cup from the beautiful coffee service was nothing short of heavenly.  The feeling was so warm and happy that I decided I’d take that feeling home. Today, one of my favorite morning rituals is that first cup of coffee in the morning. Sometimes with the windows open overlooking…

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Often overlooked by you, but not by your guests. As my mom used to say, “A little soap goes a long way.” I’m not sure this was what she was thinking of but the sentiment is good.  Checking for that little bar in the powder room isn’t usually the first thing you think of when you’re hosting a group but it definitely needs to be on the last-minute checklist. I prefer small bar soaps for the powder room because they can be changed frequently and will always look fresh. They don’t drip like liquid soap dispensers often do – making a complete mess, and they’re not as clumsy as large soap bars. That’s why I don’t like to use them no matter how pretty they are. I’ve even seen a clever dispenser that dropped little flakes of soap on your hand.  The soap flake idea is novel, but the flakes…

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