I hate spending money on kitchen stuff. Hate it. I have a sick obsession with wine glasses and kitschy cocktail napkins, but beyond that, I'm lucky if I have as many matching plates as I do friends (and I'm not that popular).
Over the last few years, though, I've picked things up that are either essential to the process of preparing a party, or that have made my life so much easier that they're worth holding off on new J.Crew skinny jeans until next week.
Every once in a while, I'll be bringing these items to your attention (by store, for organized shopping). I hope you'll share some of your favorites with me - after all, getting to entertainment easy street is an evolution, not a revolution.
Here are my picks from Crate & Barrel:
Two-piece chip and dip
As lovely as a Tostio's bag looks on the cocktail table, this pretty glass chip and dip makes even the most store-bought salsa look a little fancy. I have a few of these (unfortunately not this one... yet) and have found that they can house much more than chips and dips, like this one stocked with tasty little empanadas. ($36.95)
The most important part of your party is the food. Trust. All I care about in life is food, so if I'm full, the house can burn down and I'll still thank you for a marvelous evening. However, I've found that occasionally, it's the little touches that most people don't think of that get the most attention. These reusable place card holders can be stocked with any paper to create a seating arrangement and add a little control to the table (not that I'd ever want to control people...). Use your work paper cutter to cut a bunch of ivory card stock into sizes you like and keep them on hand for impromptu impressing. ($9.95 for four)
8x10 Picture Frames
Okay, so you probably don't need to pick this up at C&B, but having this frame on hand for buffet-style dinners will save you explaining the extravagant menu you've put together. Simply write or type the menu (be funny - guys totally dig funny) on a regular sheet of paper and frame it by the food. You can acknowledge vegetarian vs. meat dishes, feta vs. goat and the presence of gluten without standing intimidatingly over people's plates. ($24.95 - check outlet for better deals)
Tiered Cupcake Stand
Saying goodbye can be such sweet sorrow, but this sweet little cupcake stand will leave you parting on the right note. It's more reusable than fresh flowers and won't block anyone's view. Whether you slaved over homemade cupcakes, picked some up at Magnolia or threw in some Betty Crockers, this tiered cupcake stand doubles as a lovely centerpiece to remind guests to save room for dessert ($29.95).
Once dinner has been served and people are starting to slow down on the wine (not that my friends and I ever slow down on wine), offering coffee is a sobering signature end to a great meal. But just try carrying all those mugs back to the table - just try. You won't be able to, unless you have this trip-saving stacking mugs set. How smart is that? ($19.95)