Guest Post: Mary DeMuth on Cooking, Hospitality & The Irresistible Table

How exciting it is for us to welcome Christian author Mary DeMuth to the Hospitable Hearts series.  Head over to Hive Resources for today’s post where Mary is talking about cooking, hospitality and her new cookbook, “The Irrestible Table.”

My favorite quote from her post:

There, our home was constantly open, and every week I fed 30 or so people at one time. I learned the art of teeny-tiny kitchen cooking, and I became more laid back in the way I welcomed people. Laughter and conversation took precedent over a “perfect” meal. Creating an irresistible table meant welcoming people, providing nutritious and yummy food, and being peaceful in the process.

>>Read more of Mary DeMuth’s guest post here. 

15 Tips to Become the Hostess with the Mostess

It was years ago.  But I can still remember it as if it was yesterday.  There was no Mary Poppins finger snapping and magically my work was done.  No, for me, it was calling out names and poof, my tasks were addressed.  Linens were placed.

Tables were set.  The sweet aroma of a beautiful flowers filled the room.  You see, once upon a time, I had a staff.  In my professional life, I was a wedding and event planner and before that, a banquet manager.   Talk about dream jobs for someone who likes to entertain.

Whenever I needed something, I had a group of responsible adults and phenomenal teenagers who could take care of the task at hand.  And when they worked with me long enough to know the way I liked things, it was even better.  Sounds luxurious, doesn’t it?

Enter the stay-at-home mom world with two young kids and there went my staff.  Adios.  Sayonara.  Catch ya later.   Let’s face it, in every day life, we are our own staff.  We live in the real world where we make the decisions and we carry out the decisions.  We set up, we create, we cook, we bake and we clean up.

We are the hostesses.  

As if maintaining the right heart and focus on hospitality weren’t enough, we need some tricks up our sleeves so we don’t burn out in opening the doors of our home to others.  Entertaining can be a lot of work!  (Incidentally, I did just use my 3 year old to help me hang a party backdrop and she did surprisingly well, but let’s just say . . . it was not quite the same.)

So how does the everyday domestic diva become a Hostess with the Mostess?  How can she make entertaining easier, less stressful and more fun . . . when there is no staff to take care of every task?

Here are 15 Tips to help you become the Hostess with the Mostess.

1.  Build Up Your Pantry.  Have items that make entertaining easy regularly on hand.  Try keeping a jar of salsa, some great spreads, assorted crackers, nuts, chocolates or even tea cookies.   A box of pasta with your favorite sauce can make for a quick and easy dinner.  My cousin always keeps a bag of chips, a container of sour cream and party dip seasoning on hand.  This way, even if she has some unplanned company stop over, she can whip up an easy order of chips and dip.

2.  Freezer Cooking.  I am a huge fan of freezer cooking.  I love having  items in my freezer that are great for entertaining.  Not only can you keep little appetizers or desserts on hand, but main course items (casseroles, meatballs, etc.) make life much easier and less hectic on the day of your gathering. Some of my favorites are Baked Ham & Swiss Sandwiches or the Santa Fe Hot Dip from Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer.

Search out recipes that you can prepare, freeze and then thaw when you have company coming over. Money Saving Mom recently shared a freezer chocolate chip oatmeal cookie dough recipe that would make it so simple to pull out of the freezer and bake fresh cookies for your guests.

3.  Develop a Cleaning Routine.  This is one of my goals for this year.  Imagine if you didn’t have to break your neck cleaning every time company was coming over.  A routine would have you doing bathrooms one day of the week, floors the next and etc.  If you happen to have a good cleaning routine, please share it in the comments!
4.  Be Open to Inconvenience.  Let’s face it, everything doesn’t go the way you plan when you are entertaining.  (Did you read Melissa’s post from yesterday??)  Inconviences happen.  Learn to expect and accept them.What happens when a friend calls you in need of a listening ear?  It may not fit into your schedule to invite her over, but a focus on relationships and people will make the invitation easier.  A hospitable heart is open to interruptions and sees them as divine interventions.[1]


5.  Think of the Details.  What little detail could make your guests feel extra special?  Try putting out a dish of your friend’s favorite chocolates.  Stock your guests’ favorite sodas.  Has your guest raved about a particular dessert?  Why not make it when your company comes over and also a little extra for them to take home.6.  Let Go of the Details.  I realize I am totally contradicting myself from above.  But there are times when you will be less stressed if you can let go of the details and focus on the purpose of hospitality.

7.  Have a Trademark Treat.  Find your dessert.  This is your go-to, no-fail, tried and true, “you can practically do it with your eyes shut” treat.  And do it well.

8.  Compile a Great Play List of Music.  We subscribe to Spotify, an online music service where you can create and share as many playlists as you like.  We have developed quite a repertoire of Christian modern music, instrumental and kid-geared music.

9.  Have an Entertaining Task List.  This list will serve as your reminders for the usual entertaining tasks.  Mine includes last minute cleaning tasks, lighting candles, turning on the music, lighting sterno if needed and even choosing the appropriate serving spoons and utencils.

10.  Ask in Advance if Your Guests Have any Dietary Restrictions.  With the prevalence of gluten-free diets, other food allergies and vegetarian pursuits, your guests will appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness in accommodating any restrictions they may have.

11.  Prepare Early So You Can Enjoy Your Guests When They Arrive.  While you don’t need to have everything done when your guests walk in the door, you do want to be able to greet, welcome and converse with your guests.  Have as much done as possible before they arrive.

12.  Give Your Guests Something To Hold.  When you are meeting new people or have invited people who are more introverted, putting something in your guests’ hands can set them more at ease.  This may be a plate of appetizers or something to drink.  Isn’t it easier to talk when you can fidget with something in your hands?

13.  Don’t Do It Alone.  While your family won’t necessary qualify as your staff (and too bad), don’t be afraid to recruit help.  Entertaining can be a lot of work.  Ask your husband to vacuum or cook a meal on the grill.  Think of tasks your children can manage like setting the table.  Use this as an opportunity to teach them to serve others.

14.  Be a Good Conversationalist.  Learn the art of asking questions.  While you don’t want to interrogate your guests, genuinely ask questions that will spur on conversation and allow you to learn more about them.

15.  Keep a Hostess Journal.  In a notebook or even inside the back cover of your favorite cookbook, write down the date, who came and what you served.  This will help you plan future meals when the same people return to your home.  

* Be sure to join us tomorrow over at Hive Resources.  We have a special treat for you!  Christian author, Mary DeMuth is guest posting and sharing about her new cookbook, The Irresistible Table.  To see the entire Hospitable Hearts series at a glance, click here.

Want to keep up with what I am pinning for parties and entertaining?  Come check out my boards &Follow Me on Pinterest

The Giveaway {expired}

And now for our giveaway!  Creative Chics is an Etsy Shop that offers a full collection of vintage style aprons with a modern twist.  And they have graciously given us a waist apron to help you become that Hostess with the Mostess.  It is simple to enter!

Creative Chics Hostess Apron Giveaway
(petticoat not included)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Special thanks to the Creative Chics Etsy Shop for not only giving us a great apron to give away to our readers but also for use of the fabulous apron in the title image.  Head over to the shop to see their full collection of vintage style aprons with a modern twist.  You’re sure to find something you’ll love!Giveaway ends Thursday, February 14, 2012 at 12:00am.  Open to U.S. Residents, 18+.  Winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond.
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[1] Shirer, Priscilla.  “Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted.” Nashville:  LifeWay Press, 2010.
(Please note:  this post contains some affiliate links.  For more information, go here.)

Do Not Disturb: What the Pursuit of Hospitality Says About Your Faith

Are you developing a hospitable heart?  I have been challenged each day of this series to re-examine the way I look at hospitality.  It started with what our pursuit of hospitality says about our hearts and then we looked at having a focus on people rather than worrying about things.

Today, Melissa Deming of Hive Resources is taking us through what pursuing hospitality says about our faith.  You’ll love it and you’ll be challenged.  Well, you may not love what happens to her in the opening story.  But I guarantee you’ll be able to relate to a little chaos!

Here is where she starts:

Five minutes before our small group was to arrive, my pride broke a world’s record in the longest nose dive.

The food was prepped, the toilets were scrubbed, and I had even managed to sneak in a shower. I was feeling pretty smug. I bet Martha Stewart had never attempted hospitality with three-year-old twin boys in tow!

But it was the smell of poop that first alerted me that something was amiss.

Curious about what happened next?  >>Go here to read the rest of the post.

Boiled Down Hospitality

Cooking Spaghetti — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

 

Your company is arriving in one hour.  The kids just pulled out all the toys you spent 30 minutes putting away.  The family room is now a wreck (for the third time that day).  Your meal isn’t turning out the way you hoped.  You are asking yourself why, oh why did you decide to entertain at all.  The stress is building, your patience with the children is running low and then your well-intentioned husband asks to invite someone else.  Please can someone just call for pizza?

 

Have you been there?  It is in those last moments before company comes over that I can feel like the biggest home-making failure.  I’m concerned about my house looking neat and clean.  I would like to serve food that is not only edible, but delicious.  And I want to come across as the girl who has it all together.

 

Then the doorbell rings.  And that is when everything that just happened in those last 59 minutes flies out the door.  I can greet my guests with a smile.  I’m excited they are here.  I’m interested in their lives, their joys, their challenges.  I’m looking forward to connecting over a half-decent meal and the mess that will most definitely ensue when all the kids enjoy playing together.

 

You see, while it is wonderful to serve amazing food, run everything on time and have your house be perfectly clean, when you boil it down, hospitality is about people.

 

The best hospitality focuses on the guests you invited into your home.  It is about making them feel welcome, comfortable and valued.  How easy it is to get wrapped up in the mechanics of entertaining and lose focus on the heart and reason of why you are doing this at all.

 

 

Take a look at Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,”the Lord answered,“you are worriedand upset about many things,42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Martha incorrectly maintained a focus on the busy preparations, even after her company had arrived.  Mary had chosen to focus on Jesus.  And while a meal still has to be cooked and a house prepared, how would our outlook change if we remind ourselves that genuine hospitality maintains a focus on people and not all the distractions that may arise?

 

What would happen if we prayed before we entertained?  What if we went into the afternoon or evening looking for ways to give God glory and engage Him into the conversations?  What if when hearing about any struggles your guests were facing, before your time was over, you prayed with them?  How would your focus on hospitality change?

 

Reminders for Hospitable Hearts:
  • Keep it simple. If you regularly try to overdo it and you end up stressed out, try keeping it simple and enjoyable.
  • Pray before your guests arrive asking the Lord to give you a heart focused on people.
  • Don’t stress when something goes wrong.  Inevitably, it will.  Give yourself grace.

So the next time you’re standing over the hot stove, feeling a little too warm (and wondering if you need to go put on something cooler), remember boiled down hospitality is all about the people.

Enjoy!

 

* Don’t miss out on tomorrow’s post where Melissa from Hive Resources will be talking about the connection between hospitality and faith.  And, if you’d like to see the Hospitable Hearts series at a glance, go here.

Hospitable Hearts: What the Pursuit of Hospitality Says About Your Heart

What does hospitality say about our hearts?  Today, we start our new series on hospitality.  All week, we’ll be looking at what it means to have a hospitable heart.  Won’t you join us?

Today, hop over to read the beautiful thoughts of Melissa from Hive Resources.  She writes:

It was through a shared meal that God first spoke to our hearts about helping plant a church in the heart of Pittsburgh.

The first time we visited our church, it wasn’t even a church yet. The pastor invited us to share a meal immediately following the service, and the entire congregation could fit around one long conference table.

The food was simple, but the intimate community it afforded was not.  I still remember what was prepared – potato soup, fat chunks of crunchy bacon, leafy greens, and the best homemade croutons I’ve ever tasted.

The individuals weren’t just sharing breadthey were sharing life.

>> Click here to read the rest of this post.

A New Series: Hospitable Hearts

Do you like entertaining?  Maybe you already consider yourself a hospitable person.  Or maybe the thought of opening your doors to welcome guests over for dinner simply overwhelms you.

I am excited (ok, I’m super excited) to be partnering with Melissa Deming of Hive Resources next week for a great series on hospitality.  We’ll be covering things like how hospitality relates to our faith and practical tips to becoming a fabulous hostess.

Plus, we have a special guest post from women’s author Mary DeMuth on her new cookbook, The Irresistible Table.  Doesn’t this sound exciting?  

Here is what we’ll be serving up next week:

You won’t want to miss a day of this series.  So be sure to connect with Melissa on Facebook and Twitter before Monday.

Melissa has a sweet heart for the Lord and for others.  She is a seminary graduate and has a degree in Journalism (this girl can write!).  Most recently, she and her family have been helping to start a new church plant in Pittsburgh, PA.

Hope you’ll stop on over for a visit each day and enjoy a look at having hospitable hearts.

 

Host an Afternoon Tea (Part One)

 

 

Do you ever long for a slower pace to your day?  A special moment to share and connect with the special ladies in your life?  If so, then maybe it is high time for you to host an Afternoon Tea.

 

Afternoon Tea is a delightful way to celebrate a special occasion or simply to enjoy the company of others.  Rich conversion over a cup of brewed tea, petite tea sandwiches and tea fancies for dessert . . . the elegance of fine china.  I’m already feeling relaxed.

 

Reasons to Have an Afternoon Tea:

  • Celebrate the birthday of a dear friend or relative
  • A special way to say thank you to someone
  • To get to know someone new from your church or neighborhood
  • A Bridal or Baby Shower
  • Because you are in desperate need of some fancy girl-time
  • Just because!

Where to Start:

  • Select your date, time and guest list.
  • Invite your guests (send invitations or ask in person)
  • Buy/borrow books or magazines about Afternoon Tea.  Here is a favorite that I have borrowed from my mother many times:  If Tea Cups Could Talk by Emilie Barnes
  • Gather tea accoutrements
  • Tea pot, tea cups, luncheon plates, serving dishes, cream and sugar, tea ball, tea strainer, demitasse spoons, napkins
  • Select your menu (We’ll talk about the menu in Part Three)
  • Select your table décor
  • Select your tea music
  • Consider a favor for your guests
“But I don’t have enough china or the right items.” – – You can ask each lady to bring their own tea cup (or two).  Another option is to not worry about using china and use whatever you have.  Afternoon tea is about the heart, not about the dishes.   Also, I purposely didn’t match the china at my tea.

 

In the next post, I’ll share what I did for the Spring Tea I hosted.

 

(Please note:  most product links in this series are my Amazon referral links and I will get a very small percentage of any sales using these links.  If you’re uncomfortable with that, please go directly to Amazon or another source to find the product.  I am linking most of all to show the kinds of products you may need for your tea.)