The Orange Slate

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Conversations About Hospitality – with Shannon

March 2, 2015


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On Monday mornings around here, we talk about issues near and dear to our hearts. In January and February (and this first week of March!), we are chatting about hospitality. Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation!

Shannon is a dear friend and I so wish we were still neighbors. Her two little boys are absolutely precious and always love pretending that we still live near each other through her Instagram feed and her blog. Although we went to the same church plant in D.C., the very first conversation that I ever had with Shannon was about blogging. She’s such an inspiration to me as both a mom and a creative. I was so happy that she joined our conversations over here about hospitality!

1. What is your favorite event to host?

When it comes to hosting I love feeding people around my table. The act of breaking bread together and providing nourishment to guests deepens relationships and strengthens community. I come from a big Greek family, so serving people food comes naturally. As my marriage and family have grown, I have found the role of hostess to be an incredibly rewarding one.

With two young boys (ages 1.5 and 4 years old) we have gone through different seasons of hosting brunches, lunches and dinners. Right now we love dinner, especially on Friday nights. Something about having people over on a Friday night gets your weekend started and even allows you to kick back on Saturday morning without feeling sluggish or stir-crazy.

2. What is the most ambitious event you’ve ever hosted? 

Just this past weekend I hosted my best friend from high school and her family. She and her husband have four kids ranging from 6 years old to 10 months. Plus our two boys, the parents were quickly outnumbered. Oh, and did I mention we live in a tiny DC apartment less than 800 square feet? It was tight quarters, messy, loud and absolutely wonderful.

3. What was your favorite thing that you’ve ever hosted?

My favorite events are always the ones that weren’t planned. Passing a friend at a park and talking about how we need to find time to get together and having the “how about now?” effect. As a typically structured and plan-oriented person, there is something magical about a spur-of-the-moment dinner with friends that goes well. Again, the Greek in me means I generally have enough food on hand for a national emergency, so quantity is never the problem. But stretching a meal from four people to six or eight brings me great joy. Once everyone has gone home, the dishes are done, and the excited buzz of hosting calms, my husband and I always look at each other saying, “that was so good.”

4. What is your go-to dish for a crowd?

This is constantly evolving as I try new things. In the warmer months, I gravitate towards barbecue chicken sammies (also a favorite meal to take to new moms!). For brunch I love this dish. But this past weekend when six kids needed to be fed, I turned to my friend Bridget’s Tamale Pie. I doubled the recipe and cooked it in two rounds because a few extra people joined us and I ended up cooking for 12!

5. What was your biggest hosting mistake?

My biggest hosting mistake is when I let my desire for perfection control the day. The floor doesn’t have to be clean. The kids don’t have to put all their toys away. I promise you that the second friends walk in the door, no one will notice all the last-minute touches that make you snap at your husband or yell at your kids. When the prep work ruins other people’s moods (or even just your own), it takes the joy out of hosting.

My husband and I try to talk through my expectations the day before so we can get a jump-start on the most needed items and he can help me decide to skip a few to-dos. This always helps keep me sane as the hour ticks down. Did I mention one of my biggest life stressors is feeling late or rushed?!?! Not a great combo for hosting with young kids…or really doing anything with young kids…

6. What is your hosting “signature”?

Oh man, I don’t have one. I have read about people and their famous rolls, or great music, or fabulous iced tea. I think some day I will get there. For now, I just want to pull the event off with a bit of grace intact. If you also don’t have one will you join me in knowing that it is okay?! We can be signature-less together.

7.Why are you motivated to host?

Hosting is an incredible way to serve other people, to welcome people into your home with whatever baggage they bring or concerns they carry and accept them as they are. I think that is what Christ called us to do first. Hosting is how I love my neighbor. It’s how I love my church, my friends, my family. Between the many demands of life, I don’t often feel like I serve people. But hosting a simple dinner – even one dish and no sides – can be transformative for people.

8. Any fun hosting plans for 2015?

We just inherited a kitchen island from friends who remodeled. This means there is more than two square feet of counter space in my kitchen. I am not sure what the plans are yet, but I know with this extra space something fun is bound to happen!

9. Any tips for those who would like to host more in 2015?

If you are intimidated by hosting, here is my advice to make it work:

Save something for the guest to bring or do. Bringing dessert or bread is easy. Similarly, leaving the bread to cut, candles to be lit, or glasses to be filled gives your guest a way to contribute when they ask the inevitable, “how can I help?” (even if you have a backup plan in the freezer).

Also, keep it simple. Make a dish you love and cook often. If kids are involved, be prepared for mess and plan accordingly. My white linen napkins haven’t seen the light of day in over three years. But it keeps me from worrying about mess. If you are going to worry about something, skip it. The worry isn’t worth the effort.

If you want to know more about my thoughts on hospitality as well as a few tips for how to be hospitable, I started a 31 day series (that I didn’t finish…ha!) about the subject that you can find on my blog.

Thanks for joining, Shannon!

Don’t forget to check out the other conversations in this series with Kathy, AbbieAmy, Emily, and Jess.

If you need some extra encouragement or inspiration as you entertain others, check out one of the sweetest food memoirs I’ve ever read, Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage.


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