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Cooking Smart Magazine Offers Etiquette Tips For Handling Holiday Party Pitfalls
The holidays offer plenty of opportunities for fun and festivities, but the busier your calendar, the more chances you have to make social blunders. Smart magazine talked with etiquette expert Maralee McKee of the Protocol School in Orlando, Florida, who offered simple solutions to five common party problems.Q. You're running late for a party and haven't picked up that all-important hostess gift. Is it better to be even later and have the gift, or arrive empty-handed?A. First, call the hostess to apologize for being late, and ask her to start without you.

There's no need to delay things further by picking up a hostess gift on your way to the party. You can have flowers delivered the next day, or drop a gift off with a thank you note any time over the next several days.Q. There's just one crab puff left on the serving platter. Is it all right to take the last one?A. It's perfectly acceptable to take the last of an appetizer on a tray that's being passed.

There's a good chance there's more of the item (or something similar) on another tray in the room. At a seated dinner, it's polite to ask if anyone would like the last of anything before taking it for yourself.Q. The hostess just keeps pushing seconds. How can you stop her from ruining your diet?A. First, it's fine to smile and say, "Thank you, that was delicious, but I don't want to overeat." If she's eager for you to have seconds of her pasta with cream sauce, you could suggest a less-fattening alternative -- and, like a first helping, a second helping doesn't need to be more than a spoonful.

When a hostess is "pushing" a dish on her guests, what she usually is doing is seeking approval or compliments for her cooking. You can usually substitute a glowing compliment for an extra serving without offending her.Q. You bring a casserole to a party, and there's a fair amount left over. Would it be rude to take it back home?A. Offer first to leave

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