One of my dearest friends, the amazing Julia Walsh, gifted me a wonderful surprise for Valentine’s Day. It’s a beautiful book: Dinner Diaries Reviving the Art of the Hostess Book by Daniel Cappello. The book is filled with tips and inspiration from haute hostesses in the fashion world like Patricia Herrera Lansing and Cynthia Rowley. I love it because it’s encouraging the modern dinner party thrower to keep a diary of all her parties. I’ve kept a hostess diary for as long as I can remember — mine dates back to Thanksgiving Dinner 2006. The Dinner Diaries has several sections. The first features Cappello’s outlook and experience of the dinner party and the second part has helpful hints and a fun questionnaire filled out by the aforementioned fashion and art people. The final portion is the diary part that I get to fill with guest lists, menus, seating charts, and little notes like the wines poured and the flowers used in the table arrangements. There’s also pages and pages of blank questionnaires for me and my company to fill out. Since it’s such a fun survey, I thought I would share the questions and my answers here. What is the perfect number of guests? 10. Chic dinner in the kitchen or formal in the dining room? It depends on the occasion. You were inspired to be a good hostess by: one of my parents’ good friends, Denise Lees. Also Ina Garten and Martha Stewart. Small talk: insulting waste of time or necessary social lubricant? Unfortunately, necessary social lubricant. Your dream menu includes: oysters and caviar, crostini, pizza, pasta, and chocolate birthday cake with cookies and cream ice cream. Oh and lots and lots of sparkling rose! The place setting: American Style? European Style? Your own style? Hmmm, not sure what is the difference between American and European place settings, so maybe my own style? Will investigate and report back with my findings! Have you ever used a cocktail fork, or other obscure flatware, in your setting? A crab fork. Buffet-style service, family style or served? Family style or served. I avoid a buffet like the plague. Your favorite line of dinnerware: my china was a gift from my mother and is Noritake Ivory China Norma 7016. It’s silver, so I would love to get another set with gold. Kate Spade and Vera Wang come to mind. Your favorite line of flatware: I don’t have one, but would really love new flatware! Both silver and a set in gold. Lighting: candlesticks, candelabrum, or votives? Votives. What was the most memorable centerpiece you’ve seen or used yourself? For Halloween one year, I got a bunch of different sized pumpkins and drilled holes in them with different sized drill heads. Then, I lined them up and they glowed with candles in the dark. Geometric pumpkins! Seating arrangement: the classic alternating genders, or rules be damned? Alternate genders and split up couples, always. Music: classical, moody,or favorite online playlist du jour? Online playlist du jour. I’m not that musically inclined, so I always ask a trusted guest who is into music to curate a playlist for the dinner. Coffee at the table or served in another room? I never serve coffee. I continue to serve wine until everyone leaves. What makes for a great guest? Someone who eats everything and who can make conversation with anyone. What makes for a bad guest? Picky eaters and those who don’t understand how special it is to be invited to dine at your table. Your favorite hostess gift to give: Sparkling rose or something special and tailored to the hostess’ liking that I know she will absolutely adore. What is the number one rule every good hostess must remember? When something unexpected happens, say you burn the bread, don’t make a big deal about it. Your guests won’t know unless you tell them. If you could invite one guest to your next dinner party, living or dead, who would it be? My grandmother, Nan Hogan. She died when I was 17 and before I really got into throwing dinner parties. No dinner party would be complete without: place cards and dessert. What is the greatest dinner party you ever threw? Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s 40th birthday party in the Bahamas. (The birthday cakes I made are pictured below!) What was the greatest dinner party you ever attended? The last one I hosted, my first dinner of 2015. Words to live and entertain by: Don’t sweat the small stuff and always dress cute.