The Art of Entertaining: Always Be Prepared.

The surest way to appear to have mastered the art of entertaining, is to always (yes, always!) be prepared to entertain. An impromptu cookout, a neighborly visit, or a last-minute "lets meet at your house" can easily leave you feeling inhospitable without properly being prepared for a gathering.

The secret ingredient to making you stand out as a host is all in the details. Things don't have to be elaborate, just thoughtful.

Here is a quick checklist of things to keep on hand to ensure you can whip up a

celebration for almost any quick gathering!

Cocktail napkins - consider a monogrammed napkin with your last name initial

Wine - always have at least one red & one white (chilled) on hand so guests can choose. consider something that stands out, either from a vineyard you traveled to, with a funny name or label that is meaningful to you in some way, or simply something different that you can introduce to someone who doesn't know anything about wine.

Drink - Get a nice bottle of water or gourmet lemonade and keep it in the fridge for such occasions.

Crackers & Cheese - again, keep it simple, yet impressive.Β  go for a cracker that has some pizazz, such as herb infused or sesame seeded type that looks earthy. and a cheese that requires little to no preparation - like a small wheel of brie that you can keep on hand to quickly whip out.

Herbs - grow an herb garden - there is nothing better to add garnish than fresh herbs. Parsley to garnish the cheese & cracker plate, mint to garnish a dessert or drink, cilantro, thyme, sage, lavender - just a handful of plants can make a world of difference.

Something Homemade - Of course not everyone has fresh baked goods lying around at any given time, but having something homemade on hand to offer your guests is always a treat. I prefer keeping a jar of Grandma's homemade chocolate sauce in the fridge, with some vanilla bean ice cream in the freezer, with a mint leaf for garnish!

The Presentation - At the end of the day, it's all in the presentation. be sure to have some unique serving dishes, cake plates, bowls, glassware, etc. on hand to make a good presentation. Flexibility is key. A simple tablecloth for a patio table & a jar of candles goes a long way too.

Signature - Find a signature something to fit

your entertaining style. Maybe it's a food, a game, music, a treat or a goody bag - but find something that you can call your own & be known for it.

Would love any other wonderful tips you might have!