and how I learned to overcome them.
I love to host.
Freely, I admit it. These days bringing the people together to our house is easier than the alternative between planning for five children, including one of those not-very-flexible toddlers) and a slew of animals on our growing farm. But even before that, I loved to host. Whether we lived in the country, in town, in the perfect house for gathering or a smaller subdivision house with a tiny backyard, to today’s farm with its quaint farmhouse layout, generous backyard and a barn which we plan to use for a gathering for the first time this year.
Hosting can be hard and I have likely made all the mistakes that make it hard. Read on to learn my mistakes and the lessons learned. Maybe there will be something in there to help you, should you find yourself with one hand basting a roast beast and with the other calculating the guest list totals.
I obsessed over cleaning.
The ugly yelling kind of stress bubbled over as we struggled to clean up the kitchen, the floors, the toys, while still being in charge of tiny humans.
A friend encouraged me when I shared the wish that I could clean my current house more or better. “I don’t think people really come to the country expecting it to be something other than country.”
Now I try to keep perspective.
What is realistic cleaning?
What cleaning adds to my guests’ comfort (yes, clean the bathrooms, restock the toilet paper in a place clearly visible) and what cleaning is simply the cleaning I meant to get to in spring but feel I should do now? I do the essentials for the comfort of guests, and if we get to the rest – super, but I won’t sweat it if we don’t.
I was busy all night in the kitchen trying to get the timing just right.
It’s a pleasure for me to have people over. I am an extrovert. It’s true, I actually want to speak to my guests. If I planned to serve a hot meal with all the fixings, that probably meant piles of pots, pans, cooking tools, dirty floor, dirty countertops and on top of trying to get it all cooked, I wanted to tidy up as I went or after it cooked to make the house look nice because the kitchen is an irresistible spot for guests to gather.
If the event is a dinner, I make ahead whatever I can.
The day before Thanksgiving, we make mashed potatoes and store them in a casserole dish. I make cranberry sauce. My husband bakes bread. We assemble the green bean casserole. On the day of Thanksgiving, we pop the mashed potatoes and casserole into the oven to reheat or cook while the stuffing bakes and the turkey rests. The number of dishes I have to make Thanksgiving Day is cut in half.
But if the party is cocktail style, I put my money on the party platter.
Hawaiian rolls, ham, pepper jelly, and a few pickled peppers. Three kinds of cheeses (one hard like aged cheddar, one soft like brie or goat, one mild like gouda), cured Italian meats (try the Costco pack), olives (Trader Joe’s medley and crackers. I assemble my platters before guests arrive. Set up a buffet. And I’m done. I can visit with the folks who came to visit with me.
I moved nonstop before the party, I moved nonstop during the party, I moved nonstop after the party.
No matter how successful or unsuccessful the party felt in the end, I was exhausted and didn’t really have fun.
So now, the thirty minutes before guests are expected, I stop what I’m doing, accept the status of the house as it is, I get a snack or small meal, and I sit down.
I rest. I relax. This way, when guests arrive, I am, both in my home and in my heart, ready to receive them.
The rest is all incidental. It doesn’t even matter if we wash all the dishes that night.
Be realistic, plan ahead to save yourself tasks later, and remember that guests come to see you and yours.
That’s the stuff that matters. The dust bunnies in the corners can wait for spring.