Have you noticed that hospitality is easier in the summer? We seem to give ourselves permission to keep it simple! Yahoo!
Just like we follow a recipe for favorite dishes, we can follow a recipe for hospitality. Don’t make this overly complicated or expensive. The most important ingredient is your love. By taking the time to invite people into your home, you are expressing that love in a rare and precious way. You are creating an opportunity for friends to gather around your table.
A table is for eating and sharing and talking and laughing! When we gather around the table, we are stepping away from the busyness of life. We are giving our bodies and our minds a chance to slow down and savor the moment. This can happen with paper plates, plastic plates, chipped dishes, or fancy china. This can happen with sandwiches, soup, salad, or a five-course meal. The people who sit around the table are more important than anything that is on the table.
Three essential actions make hospitality a refreshing experience:
- Anticipate that you will be using your table for a meal. This might sound obvious, but too often we let our table become a temporary storage space for unfinished projects, unsorted mail, unfolded laundry, and dirty dishes. Make it a habit that you keep the table clean and clear. Then it is ready to be used for those moments of hospitality!
- Anticipate that you will be preparing simple menus. Think about what you enjoy fixing and your family enjoys eating. Think about what is easy to prepare in the crock pot. Think about dishes that are easy to prepare ahead of time and store in the fridge or freezer. I recently served Crock Pot Baked Beans with cut up hot dogs, macaroni salad, watermelon, chips, and brownies. It is OK to repeat the same menu on several occasions all summer long. Or host an ice cream social! Or just desserts!
- Anticipate that extra people will be in your home. Look at your furniture arrangement and determine the easiest way to accommodate more people. I keep my dining table on sliders so that it is super easy to add extra leaves or to move it around. Plan ahead to borrow extra folding chairs or purchase some to have available.
- Schedule hospitality when it is convenient for you! Sunday nights or Thursday nights happen to work out great for me. Be realistic about what you will do to prepare. Don’t repaint your living room or redecorate your kitchen. Schedule about one hour to quickly refresh your home. Give yourself about 30 minutes to arrange your serving area and set the table with plates, cups, napkins, and utensils. I prefer 10” sturdy paper plates!
- Schedule time to go to the grocery one or two days before your event. Stick to your list and your plan, while making changes due to availability of items. Go to just one store and make it work. It helps to have one less thing to think about when you know you have on hand what you want to serve.
- Schedule time to prepare as much of the food in advance. Take advantage of using your crock pot, refrigerator, and freezer. Nothing makes you feel like an efficient hostess than calmly pulling out a prepared dish from the fridge or simply taking the lid off of the crock pot. Save the last minute activity for pouring delicious tea or lemonade! My favorite macaroni salad recipe is included at the end of this blog!
- Enjoy getting to know other people! That requires taking time to listen. It is very entertaining to hear stories about other people—where have they lived, how did they meet, where have they traveled, what are their hobbies, what are their favorite charities, what are their children doing, what movies do they like, what music do they like, what talents and abilities to they have, what dreams do they have—just a few conversation starters!
- Enjoy playing games with other people! Keep a variety of games available to involve both children and adults. It’s OK to simplify the rules! I treasure the memories of playing Dominoes, Yahtzee, Pit, Skip-Bo, Twister, Scrabble, Rummikub, Boggle, Secret Door, and Respond with family and friends.
- Enjoy singing with other people! I love hosting a “Hymn Sing” in my back yard. I usually ask people to bring their own lawn chairs. I have a supply of hymn books. We sit in a circle and everyone gets to pick their favorite songs. Children and adults enjoy this so much. It does help if at least one person can get the singing started on the right note! Sometimes people share why a song is their favorite. This works well with having desserts afterwards.
Offering hospitality in the summer is such a delight. Don’t let the busyness of summer keep you from enjoying this summer treat! What is your favorite summer dish to serve?
Try out Olive’s Easy Macaroni Salad at your next gathering!
OLIVE’S EASY MACARONI SALAD
12 oz elbow or small shell macaroni, cooked & drained
Carrots, shredded, one bag
Red, yellow, or orange peppers, chopped
White or purple onion, chopped
Frozen peas, rinsed under cold water
Kidney beans, rinsed under cold water, 1 can
White corn, rinsed under cold water, 1 can
Sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated, one bag
Ranch dressing, usually about ¾ bottle
Morton Nature Seasoning, according to your taste
Mix together in huge Tupperware bowl. Stir in dressing shortly before serving.
Add, delete or adjust each ingredient to what your family likes.
Just make sure it looks colorful!
(Check out this post from the archives for more on simple hospitality!)