An hour before guests were due to arrive -- just enough time to shower and dress, put the appetizers in the oven, and move the food to the kitchen island "buffet."
But first ... I spent five minutes snapping photographs.
I stacked white ironstone plates at the end. They're the swirl pattern -- mostly Johnson Bros. "Regency" (UK), with some Myott Staffordshire "Old Chelsea" (UK) and Sheffield "Bone White" (USA). The shades of white vary slightly, but I think they work well enough together to use this way.
The vintage glasses are among my favorites - Libbey/Rock Sharpe 3005.
I took a tip from Martha of Lines From Linderhof and opted to have guests use the same glasses for both cocktail hour and dinner. Otherwise the "welcome" wine glasses end up on the tables, mingled with the dinner wine glasses (and, even if they don't, it involves additional glasses to wash afterward).
Naturally, after the holiday became a really scary one (because of threats/media hysteria concerning the dangers of unwrapped candy and homemade treats), the cupcakes became her "reserve stock," offered only to relatives and friends. She always asked the parents first. Many of the young parents also gladly accepted one for themselves, remembering them fondly from their own childhoods.
Hers tasted better than mine (and definitely looked better!), but this is the general idea.
The iced beverage glasses are Imperial's "Cape Cod" pattern. There was iced tea available, but only one person requested tea -- water for everyone else.
Do you do that? ;)