Monday, June 21, 2010

Host a House Party Without Pouting

Making guests feel welcome and comfortable is both an enjoyable art and hard work. I really love getting ready for company; my creative juices flow as I tidy rooms, arrange flowers, and plan menus.  I revel in welcoming guests, talking to them about their lives, their interests, their families.  But, sometimes in the middle of the visit, I get tired.  When enthusiasm deflates, the work of hospitality must begin, but how does the hostess maintain her joy in the drudgery?

Because I have recognized the ebb-and-flow pattern in my own hostessing, I have a developed a couple of survival techniques. First, when my energy level is high before guests arrive, I have the housework done, menus made, groceries in the house, flowers arranged, and table set for the first meal. This frees me to greet and chat with my guests.
To make the pre-arrival preparation simplier. Here's an easy-to-assemble centerpiece. At a garden center, purchase a potted plant with lots of blooms and a couple of small pots of ivy.  Rather than arranging cut flowers, "plant" the flowers in a covered vegetable and set them on a matching platter.
If our guests are staying overnight, first thing in the morning before they are up, and while I am fresh, I try to have the dishwasher unloaded from the night before, the table reset for breakfast, and coffee started.

At noon, I plan a menu which allows guests to make-their-own lunch, reducing my work.Generally, I try to set out sliced bread, lunch meats, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce and condiments.  By adding something salty and some fruit, lunch is covered.

By evening, I am beginning to wilt, so I try to keep the main meal simple. Here is an easy summer menu I put together with tips from my mother, a friend, and my daughter.

Chicken in Barbecued Chips
Dip boned chicken breasts in a mixture of a beaten egg thinned with a bit of milk.
Roll the chicken breasts in crushed, barbecued potato chips.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.

Crisscross Potatoes
Meanwhile, cut potatoes in half and score, making a crisscross pattern.
Brush with butter, sprinkle with paprika and salt.
Bake in oven with the chicken.
(Because they are halved, their cooking time should match the chicken.)

Broiled Asparagus
Spray a large, flat oven-safe pan with Olive Oil Pam,
Place washed and cleaned asparagus flat in a single layer.
Sprinkle with sea salt and olive oil.
Broil for just a few minutes.
Tomato-Cheese Salad
Slice tomatoes and any mild white, semi-soft cheese like Mozzarella, Gouda or Havarti.
Top tomato slices with cheese slices.
Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves.

Add ready-made dinner rolls.

For dessert serve mango sorbet with sliced kiwi; then if you like, add a fancy store-bought cookie on the side.

Even with easy menus and planning ahead, when guests come for several days, hostessing is just plain work.  So, how does a hostess maintain her joy, when she is tired? Perhaps a tip from a biblical hostess will help.

Anyone who has ever prepared a meal for a large group can relate to Martha. On the occasion described in Luke 10, Martha is peeved at being left with all the meal preparation for sixteen guests while her younger sister, Mary, is at the Lord's feet just sitting.

Indignantly, Martha marches into the room, demanding Christ order Mary to the kitchen.

Jesus recognizes how Martha is feeling--overwhelmed by many things.  Then he reminds her of the most important element in hostessing--the guest.

Christ's statement, "Mary has chosen the better part." reminds us that our priority in all of life should be "to glorify God and enjoy him forever".

Partying with guests, rather than pouting, is easier when our ultimate goal is God's pleasure.


  1. Great hints. I have learned over the years that it is better for everyone if I am relaxed and spending time with the guests rather than knocking myself out to impress them. Wish I had learned that earlier....

    Becky K.

  2. I found your blog through Southern Hospitality. She featured your basement on her blog. Love what you did with that space! I too am from Lancaster County! Don't we live in a beutiful part of the country?! I was blessed and inspired by your posts...

  3. I've enjoyed reading all your recent posts. Great ideas! I love seeing your warm personality shine through your writing :) --APC