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Nora keeps cookies, fruit, candy, and wine on hand for drop-in guests around the holidays. "People don't always want to be bombarded with a big meal," she says.
—Create an intriguing buffet table display by mixing different china patterns and materials like porcelain, pewter, and glass. And don't be afraid to put out your best stuff, even for a casual get-together. "If it's beautiful, why hide it away?" says Nora.
—Serve kids a special drink—Nora makes a fizzy mix of grape juice and San Pellegrino—and offer "old-school games" like charades, Monopoly, and crazy eights.