|Some dear friends who were often in our home when we lived in New Mexico. Sitting on "the couch" no less! |
(Don't kill me, Meg)
From my teeny collage apartment to our first house, my living space is constantly a gathering place for friends. Barbecues, bridal showers, casual get-togethers and large crowd shindigs, we've had it all under our roof at one time or another. These days having 30 people in our home is often a weekly occurrence!
Along the way I've learned a few things about how to stress less and enjoy the art of showing hospitality more.
1. Get Organized - At least a week before an event, I make a plan. I write out four lists: names of those coming, the menu, a grocery list based on the menu, and everything I want to do to prepare. Sometimes these lists are no big deal, like when we're only having one other family over for dinner. But if five or six families are coming, I dare you to get between me and my lists!!
2. Start Early - After I make the lists, I determine what can be done in advance. I try to have as little as possible to do the day of the get together. This means making the dessert, fixing the tea, even chopping salad fixings beforehand. There is always more to do than I anticipated the day of, and having some margin in the day leaves room for the inevitable "life" that happens.
3. Keep It Simple - It only took a few elaborate menus to realize that trying to get and keep multiple foods hot at the same time was a delicate balance. One that is impossible with toddlers underfoot! I now go for a very simple menu; a main dish, one side or salad, a bread and a dessert. Doing a few foods well beats having most of the meal being either burned or cold.
4. Share The Love - Early on I made a major mistake when having people over. I would insist that I do all the cooking for the meal. I didn't want to burden those I was trying to bless! But over time I have discovered that most people enjoy contributing in some way. Many feel downright awkward arriving empty handed. These days, if others offer to bring something, I let them!
5. Let Them Help - One of the most wonderful things about having people in my home is inviting them to be part of our family for the time they are here. One of the best ways to do that is by allowing them to help finish meal preparations once they arrive. Ask them to put ice in glasses, fill a tray with bread, or set out plates and silverware. They will be glad for a chance to participate rather than simply observe.
6. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - Take a deep breath and say it with me, "Everything I want to get done will not get done." If you stress about things that aren't important, like the fact that you didn't have time to mop or didn't set out all your fall decor, you will only succeed at working yourself into a state. (Please tell me you know what I'm talking about here...or am I the only one?) And when you get bent out of shape, that pleasant and inviting atmosphere you want to offer goes out the window. Why? Because hospitality is much more about the state of the people in the house, than the house.
7. Don't Forget Your Family - More than once I have been guilty of being so focused on preparing to have people over, that I leave my family on the back burner. Worse, I can be short tempered and have unrealistic expectations of little ones who are still in the process of learning. Offer gracious hospitality to your friends, but don't run your family off in the process.
There you go dear ones. Now go call a family you haven't seen in a while and invite them over for a meal next weekend!
*I love hearing from you! What other good advice do you have about offering hospitality?