A couple of years ago, I shared a post about hosting & entertaining well; it’s all about how to focus on people, but also offered a number of practical tips for creating a welcoming, homey atmosphere to put guests at ease for enjoyment.
I still think that these suggestions are awesome, and my friend Carolyn, who wrote the article, continues to hold the trophy as the best hostess I know.
But, what about the times when capacities are low, when the ideal setup can’t come together, or when all you have to offer is takeout and paper towels as plates??
The last two weeks have been a bold reminder to me that the best tip for hosting is:
We’ve begun a tradition, of sorts, to invite over some other parents from our neighborhood school to have a break (and maybe a fortifying drink ;) ) before school holidays begin. It began with coffee & Bailey’s on the last day before Christmas vacation, and continued with iced coffee & cocktails last week, the afternoon before school let out for summer.
I’m a very un-fussy person, generally speaking, and fairly self-assured. But, getting ready for this get together — which would take place mostly on our back deck — had me all wound up. The deck paint is peeling and needs to be redone… the chairs are faded and should be stained… our big yard is a jungle that is woefully under-tended by we non-gardeners… the new kitchen flooring has arrived but just hasn’t been installed yet, I swear! don’t trip on the peeling vinyl! … these were the thoughts that were running on a loop in my mind.
I mean, it’s one thing for my nearest & dearest to come see us in our messy life, but new friends? Neighbors? It felt very vulnerable and I was super self-conscious.
But, I soldiered on. After all, I liked the idea, I had a jug of iced coffee ready to go, and the extroversion in me is a powerful force! (but I do admit, I did leave a few of the new floor tiles out in the kitchen to, you know, entice questions so I could explain myself… )
And here’s the thing: everyone just had a good time. A fantastic time, actually! We chatted and relaxed and above all, it just seemed like our guests appreciated that the opportunity was presented to connect and commune.
I always want to go ALL OUT, and I know in this Pinterest-ing era, I am not the only one who falls prey to the all-or-nothing myth.
But the plate of watermelon slices and the thawed out baking from a previous weekend: it was more than enough. My house was far from spotless, but the bathroom was clean and the laundry was away (as in, away from the living room… I had hidden the overflowing basket away in my bedroom).
Our new friends felt welcome here.
Similarly, this week, when I found out my generous neighbor (who lets us invite ourselves over to his pool all summer, even once while they were cooking their anniversary dinner) had just returned from the hospital, I wanted to send some food. But, my kitchen was in ruin from a reno project; the stove was in the middle of the room; power tools and fragments of floor tile abounded.
Against my better judgment as a cook and lover of food, I brought him (gasp!) a grocery bag with a rotisserie chicken, bag of buns, & store-bought salad. I love to cook and bake and provide people with delicious things… it was so hard for me to give a gift of food that my hands had hardly touched.
But, when he came by the next day, did he complain that the food was lame or subpar? Of course not! He was grateful beyond anything, and thanked me for the thought.
In both of these scenarios, and many more like them, there is nothing lost... only perhaps some of my pride, which could use some humbling, anyhow. It is all gain. These weeks have been a powerful reminder to me. Hosting in a full-on, extravagant way can be very fun; but, hosting in a thrown-together, casual way is soooo worth it, too.