Our dining room seats six adults around a large round table where everyone can see each other. The upholstered chairs make dining comfortable and we enjoy staying at the table a long time after the meal, so everyone can visit. Entertaining and celebrating friendships comes easy for me now, but it didn't used to be that way. I used to plan, worry about what I would fix and then hope it turned out as desired. Sometimes my wishes came true, sometimes not.As the years passed, I came to realize that friends don't come to our house to check out how clean the floor is or if the unfolded laundry is dumped on our bed. I don't think they care about what we have to eat as long as the hosts are happy, smiling and welcoming. I invite company for feedback on the meal, and I expect an honest answer; I don't take it personally but see their responses as a learning tool. There may be reasons why I have an "off" cooking day. Maybe the soup got boiled and a little scorched on the bottom of the pan but that's because I started watering some flowers outside and the time got away from me.Last week, I made a wonderful casserole for my family and they brought the salt bowl to the table; I am well known for under-salting my food creations. I don't like much salt. So, what did I do? I laughed! One can always add salt but if you get too much, it can't be "undone." No one expects me to be perfect, so I've learned not to expect it of myself. Entertaining for a dinner party is meant to be fun. If one doesn't enjoy doing it, it may be more comfortable meeting friends at your favorite restaurant. The reason we don't do much of this is because, sooner or later, you have to leave the place in a timely fashion because others are waiting. And then there's the matter of privacy. Guests should feel free to say what they want, sitting around our table.Yesterday, we went to a new place for lunch, just the two of us. The noise level made the experience not relaxing or enjoyable. The food was good, the ambiance was not. I couldn't wait to escape to the tranquility of our car. Last week, we invited two couples over and today I want to share how we made the experience both easy and fun. I selected two couples who are about our age and like to laugh and tell "old war stories." We stayed in our chairs from seven until ten in the evening; we had such a pleasant time. First Course:I opened two boxes of Trader Joe's Organic Tomato soup and slowly heated it right before the dinner party. I served it in small bowls garnished with a fresh basil leaf, grated Parmesan and 1/2 slice of a cherry tomato. On the side, I had placed some croutons on the table. For our dinner, one couple had brought a bottle of white wine, another had brought a small bouquet of cut tulips for the center of the table. See why we like our dinner party friends? Second Course:I brought out a simple salad in chilled bowls. I had bought washed and cut up, ready to eat Romaine lettuce. I made the dressing the day before. My French Salad Dressing: ( Makes 2 cups)1 rib of celery-finely diced1 small white onion, thinly sliced2 cloves garlic, minced1/3 cup white wine vinegar1/3 cup ketchup2 teaspoons Dijon mustard2 Tablespoons sugarDash paprikaDash Worcestershire sauce"Pinch" salt2/3 cup vegetable oilCombine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well and keep stored in fridge until ready to pour over lettuce leaves. Shake well before using. The Entree:Dee Dee's Asparagus Divine(This makes 6-8 servings-Perfect!)1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed1/2 cup Hellman's or Duke's mayonnaiseGrated Parmesan cheesePaprikaBlanch asparagus in boiling water 3 minutes. Plunge into cold water. This makes them crisp, not soggy.Remove from water. Layer asparagus in a buttered 9x13x2-inch baking dish. Spread mayonnaise over all. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.Thompson's Shrimp and Rice CasseroleI make this up in the morning, and bake it when guests arrive. It will go in the 350 degree oven along with the asparagus but this one bakes for 35 minutes. I set a timer to remind me, because guests like to visit and when the timer goes off, I can easily exit the dining room to the kitchen.3 cups cooked rice2 pounds shrimp-cooked, peeled, and de-veined (or you can get it pre-made at the fish counter.)1/4 cup chopped sweet onion1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper3 Tablespoons butter3 Tablespoons flourOne 10 3/4-ounce can chicken broth1 cup whipping cream1/4 cup dry sherry1/2 teaspoon salt1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1/8 teaspoon nutmeg1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice2 Tablespoon chopped pimiento1/2 cup slivered almondsCombine rice and shrimp. Place in a 2-quart baking dish. Saute onion and green pepper in butter about 5 minutes, or until soft.Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat. Gradually add broth. Return to heat. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Add cream, sherry, salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon juice and pimiento. Pour over rice. sprinkle with almonds. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until heated thoroughly. The Final Finish:We always perk coffee and offer with the dessert.Dee Dee's Lemon Chess PieI think this pie complements the menu. It's not difficult to make and the guests enjoyed it.1/2 cup butter (one stick)1 3/4 cup granulated sugar2 Tablespoons flour4 eggs, well beatenFresh juice of two lemons1 Tablespoon lemon rind, grated1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crustCream butter and sugar, and flour together. Slowly add the eggs, lemon juice and rind. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes (until set). This served six people with a couple slices left over.• Yesterday, I visited my favorite plant nursery and brought home some glazed ceramic pots along with flower fertilizers and organic (no chemicals added) potting soil. If the weather cooperates, I hope to be starting some cherry tomatoes from seeds. The veggie garden is bare, cleaned out of any weeds or grass and is ready to be tilled. Now all we all have to do is be patient and wait for days that won't freeze and ruin our early-bird planting efforts. Visit nurseries now and plan ahead-beat the spring crowds. Have a good week. Invite a young person into your kitchen to help you make a batch of cookies. Your example might just rub off, inspiring them into learning more about kitchen cuisine. Keep well, enjoy each day as we get closer to spring.