This is embarrassing to admit, but pretty much every time I have a party, I feel totally relaxed until the hour before the guests show up. Once the party gets going I'm fine again, but at that one-hour mark, I inevitably get really stressed out, snap at my husband, regret snapping at my husband, apologize, and spend the remaining lead-up to the party wondering if people will notice that I didn't clean the baseboards.
This embarrassing backstory is an elaborate intro to the fact that I'm trying to cut back on my pre-party neurosis by simplifying. So, with my confession out of the way, here are a few ideas I've been collecting for setting a stress-free table for a cocktail party.
• Put out a collection of cups or bowls and load them up with finger foods.
• Use all white dishes and one or two wooden bowls for a classic, simple look.
• Line up a set of basic tea lights for an instantly modern centerpiece.
• Fill a tub trug with ice and load it up with soda and bottled beers.
• Buy a bouquet at the grocery store and split it up into a few different jars or glasses.
Photo: Ferm Living Cups