- A shaken-versus-stirred rule of thumb: Shake mixer-heavy drinks that can be hazy and frothy, and stir liquor-laden cocktails you wish to keep clear -- such as martinis (no matter what James Bond might say).
- Make Brunello wine sauce on the cheap by substituting Rosso di Montalcino.
- Keep white wines like Chardonnay in the fridge and remove 15 minutes before serving.
- Use a Thermos as a cocktail shaker. It keeps the ice extra-cold and doubles as a strainer.
- Slice and freeze fresh peaches to use as ice cubes in lemonade.
- Freeze cocktails overnight for a party -- the liquor makes the drink slushy.
- Stir leftover chocolates into steamed milk to make instant hot cocoa.
- Freeze tea and coffee into cubes so iced drinks won't get watered down.
- Rim cocktail glasses with crushed hard candy insead of sugar.
- Dunk champagne bottles in ice water instead of ice for a faster chill.
- Place stoneware mugs in a 200°F oven for a few minutes before serving hot chocolate.
- Keep a jar of simple syrup in the fridge to sweeten iced tea or lemonade.
- After a spicy main course, serve scoops of lemon sorbet as a palate cleanser before dessert.
- Ask potluck dinner guests to bring copies of their recipes with the dishes.
- Upgrade bread and butter for a party by whipping chopped herbs into softened herbs.
- Eat dessert on the porch and give dinner-party guests a change of scenery.
- Skip dessert and bring out a tray of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate.
- Line your cheese tray with butcher paper so you can write the name of each piece right next to it.
- Dress up ice cream with ground espresso beans.
- Scoop sorbet into hollowed-out oranges for dessert.
- Mail old 4-by-6-inch photos as invitations to your next dinner party.
- Liven up your next holiday dinner party -- just ask everyone to change seats before dessert.
- Label glasses with a grease pencil at your next party -- the names will wipe off later.
- Elevate your serving platter by using chopsticks as a trivet.
- At your next dinner party, use paint-chip cards as colorful placeholders.
- Add uncooked rice to your shaker to keep salt from clumping.
- Toss a few pieces of chalk in the silverware drawer to keep utensils from tarnishing.
- Dress up a wreath with strung cranberries and bunches of rosemary.
- Add a little lemon-lime soda to your vase to keep flowers fresh.
- Rub a little olive oil on candlesticks to keep wax from sticking.
- Dim the lights -- a 45-watt bulb casts a flattering glow, and is still bright enough to encourage mingling.
- Push a small pin through the tops of stems to keep tulips from drooping.
- Place candles in the fridge for an hour before a party. They'll burn slowly and evenly.
- Send guests home with a mix CD after your next party.
- Pamper your guests with steaming washcloths -- just dampen and roll up the cloths, then microwave for 45 seconds.
- When you're giving away holiday candy, present it in a large mug; the candy will disappear but the cup won't.
- Place a bunch of fresh basil on your outdoor table to repel mosquitoes.
- Keep a picnic tablecloth in place by tying small rocks onto the ends.