Plan a Semi-Homemade Cinco De Mayo Party

With help from Sandra Lee

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  • Rule numero uno is to use bright, bold colors.

  • Start with the most summery, striped piece of cloth you can find at the fabric store. Don't worry about doing any hemming — this is a sewing-free idea. Just fit it on the table and top with a montage of plates in full-fiesta colors.

  • Get the party started with plates stacked in fruity flavors, like tangerine, melon, lemon and lime, with a plaid kitchen towel tucked in between as a napkin.

  • A sombrero centerpiece puts dessert on a pedestal. Wrap a cake stand in an extra dishtowel (to match the napkins) and rest a straw hat on top. Add a colorful plate of mini lime cheesecakes as the crowning touch.

  • Tequila shooters liven things up, especially when served in waves of sand. Pour colored play sand into wavy stripes in a shallow glass dish and nestle etched-glass shot glasses in the sand.

  • Toss some pillows on benches to bring in even more color — and entice guests to settle in and stay a while.

  • Spray paint terra cotta pots and plant a cactus inside for a fun party favor.

  • Turn extra votive candles into mood-enhancing place cards. Use a cookie cutter to cut colored paper into ovals. Write the guest's name on the front and punch holes on both sides. Thread a ribbon through the holes and around the votive, tying in the back.

  • There's always the limbo, but to get your guests dancing, play the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gypsy Kings or Texas Tornados.
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