Q. My husband and children tell me I possess a formidable demeanor that makes some people uncomfortable when they are guests in our house. How can I change this? I am especially interested in making welcome my future daughter-in-law's family -- the father is a very laissez-faire literary sort and the mother teaches art -- when they visit us at our weekend place this summer. 

A. For dessert at their first night's dinner, prepare not one but two blueberry pies (so there is backup). But drop the first pie on the kitchen floor when you attempt to serve it. Laugh at yourself immediately, and bring on the second pie. Any embarrassing but endearing hostess moment a la ''I Love Lucy'' demonstrates membership in the foible-ridden human race, and imperfection contained and accounted for with the greatest of ease by a caring host is the secret of perfect entertaining. 

-- William Norwich, New York Times Magazine