Interviews

Conversations About Hospitality.

July 6, 2015

Kitchen | The Orange Slate

Coffee art | The Orange Slate

Lately, while I invest a bit of extra time behind the scenes around here and line up some exciting topics for the late summer and fall, I’ve been sharing interviews from past series. (If you are excited about upcoming interview series, subscribe by providing your email in that box in the upper right-hand corner.)

I’ve so enjoyed talking to the friends who have been willing to share their hearts, but the series on hospitality was especially inspiring and challenging to me.

Hospitality is really about so much more than new recipes or beautiful table settings. It’s an attitude, a perspective on life, and I’m so inspired by the way this is evidenced by the incredible ladies who shared their thoughts in these conversations.

I hope you enjoy these interviews on HOSPITALITY with Amy, Kathy, Emily, Abbie, Jess, and Shannon (along with my own answers!).

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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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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Interviews

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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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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Interviews

Conversations about Hospitality – with Jess

February 23, 2015

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

Although Jess and I have never met in person, she feels like an old friend. (Isn’t that a funny thing about the internet?) A mutual D.C. blogger friend connected us through social media and we immediately hit it off. Jess is a blogger and even has a little one about the same age as Miles. Jess also loves to host. In fact, her blog is called The Perpetual Hostess. So naturally I was thrilled when she proved willing to offer her experienced advice!

1. What is your favorite kind of event to host?

I’m most comfortable when I’m hosting a big dinner (or brunch!) party.  Event design is not one of my biggest strengths so though hosting baby/bridal showers and birthday parties is fun, I’m at my best when my my main objective is to feed people and spur on good conversation.  There’s something about a sit-down meal with lots of people around the table that gets me very excited.  I also love hosting dinner parties because I don’t think many people my age host them anymore, so I have found people really enjoy being invited.

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

Our annual Friendsgiving dinner requires weeks of planning and minute by minute execution the day of the event.  Outside the realm of dinner parties, the most ambitious event I ever hosted was my sister-in-law’s ‘sip and see’.  I was SO glad to have a co-host because when you add favors, flowers, and a theme to my normal approach of ‘make enough food so everyone is full when it’s over’, I get stressed!

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

My favorite is my annual Friendsgiving dinner.  Andy and I have friends from our Bible study over for appetizers, a formal four-course meal, and dessert as a fun and slightly alternative Thanksgiving meal.  The menu each year is different and I try to incorporate less traditional side dishes that won’t be served the following week around each person’s family table.  No matter what is on the menu, I just love having our friends around the table and this past year, everyone stayed well past dessert to hang out and talk some more!

A close second was a ‘Pizza and Bourbon’ night I hosted for a friend’s going-away party.  Thank goodness for Kraft paper and a sharpie, take-out pizza and my husband’s bourbon collection for making that a perfect party for a guy friend.

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

Lasagna.  Seriously, who doesn’t love a good, warm, inviting lasagna?  Pair it with a simple salad and garlic bread and you have the perfect meal.  It is by far my most frequently used ‘go to’ meal!  I recently learned that some of my family and friends have never made a lasagna, so if that’s you as well, I’d love to share my Mom’s awesome recipe with you!

5. What was your biggest hosting mistake?

Sometimes I get ideas in my head and even when the logistics of pulling them off are insane, I try anyway.  For example, I once drove 45 minutes away to pick up fresh peonies on the morning of the birthday party I was throwing myself.  Not smart.  Do yourself a favor and let it go!

6. What is your hosting “signature”?

My tabletop.  Like I said above, I’m not an event designer, but I do love to put together a coordinated tablecloth, place settings, candles, and sometimes confetti to make a table look special.  I start putting it together days ahead of a dinner party and usually enlist my husband to help.

7.Why are you motivated to host?

I love creating an experience for my family and friends and bringing them together in large groups.  To me, sitting around a table is the most intimate version of throwing a party and I’ve found it is a space where community and friendship is truly built.

8. Any fun hosting plans for 2015?

We are currently house-hunting and so I’m REALLY looking forward to throwing a house-warming party and entertaining in our new home, wherever that might be.

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

Just do it.  You don’t have to have a fancy table, multiple courses, or decorations to host your friends and family.  Start with having a group of friends over on a Friday night for take out pizza and games and then try making French toast for brunch on another weekend.  People will love to be invited no matter what!

Thanks, Jess!

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

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.

_______________________________________________

*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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Interviews

Conversations about Hospitality – with Emily

February 16, 2015

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

I normally like to jump into the conversation towards the end. So today, here are my own answers to the questions I’ve been asking others about hospitality.

I feel sort of convicted by this interview, because since we had a baby and moved into a much smaller place, Mark and I have hosted much less consistently. Part of it is simple strategics (Our kitchen + living room + dining room = < 400 square feet). Part of it involves the scheduling demands of our current life – my work + Mark’s school + reserve duty weekends keep us scrambling calendars constantly. Part of it is that entertaining and planning with a little one is just harder and less predictable. But Miles is a little bigger (read: more predictable) now and I’m just sort of out of excuses that are not ridiculous. So. More hosting for the McCords on the horizon!

What is your favorite kind of event to host?

Brunch or lunch after church. There is no more low-key event to host (who is stressed out on a weekend morning?), expectations are reasonable, and I just love the idea of hanging out and enjoying company in the middle of a sunny day, when everyone is fresh and relaxed. I also hosted a baking party one time that was so absolutely fun and unique – I definitely would love to do something similar again.

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

Last New Year’s Day, right at the end of my first trimester, I somehow decided it was a great idea to throw a huge New Year’s Day afternoon buffet. I planned the whole thing meticulously, knowing we would be out late the night before, so I did a lot of the cooking in advance. Looking back at the pictures, I’m still not sure when or how I made so much food, but a lot of very dear friend showed up and it was such a fun day (and I remember being really excited by some of my dishes).

What was your favorite hosting experience?

Easter dinner a few years ago. Mark and I were dating and both away from home for the holiday, but various extended family and old family friends were nearby and so Mark and I hosted Eastern dinner at my house, a huge dilapidated old mansion on Capitol Hill. It was such a completely random collection of people and conversation, but it felt so cozy to feel like we all had somewhere to belong that Sunday afternoon and now I have one holiday gathering under my belt.

What is your go-to dish for a crowd?

This is so lazy, but if I am worried about food quantity or the size of the crowd, I make a bowl of pasta salad with tons of fresh colorful tasty additions. It’s easy, it’s healthful, it looks attractive in pretty tableware and it always gets eaten. For dessert, bundt cakes are simple and can feed a big group.

What was your biggest hosting mistake?

Stressing too much ahead of time. It never fails – I spazz while I’m cooking or planning, often venting my emotions in the general direction of Mark who is unfailingly such a good sport; the guests show up and we all have a great time; then when they leave, I wonder why I stressed in the first place. Here’s unsolicited advice that I have to continue reminding myself: no one else notices the things that you as the planner, host(ess), and cook do. If that pre-event stress is preventing you from hosting (and it does hold me back, often!), remind yourself that your hospitality is a gift to others . Your reticence is only preventing others from enjoying the fruits of that gift, not increasing their enjoyment (or yours!).

What is your hosting “signature”?

Taking annoying pictures while everyone is trying to eat, perhaps? I always try to make a meal with others feel special and pretty. Whether the extra touch is fresh flowers, floating candles, cloth napkins, or a pretty dessert, I like the time to feel festive and just a little overdone.

Why are you motivated to host?

In today’s helter-skelter world, community and conversation are such gifts. I want to foster an environment in my home where people feel welcome and where life, learning, and connections happen around the table. Consistent attempts at hospitality are a step in this direction.

Any fun hosting plans for 2015?

Just – more. We’re in a new place this year and I’d love to begin to build new friendships around our table.

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

Start. Just pick up the phone and invite a couple of friends over for a meal which you can comfortably and confidently pull together. Incorporate hosting into your routine (one dinner a month, perhaps) and stick to it, even when life gets messy as it always does. Don’t stress about the details or about your space or about your decorating – hostesses stress about entertaining for more frequently than guests leav .

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

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Interviews

Conversations About Hospitality – with Abbie

February 9, 2015

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

Abby was one of the first people I met in College Station. Before we knew almost anyone, or were completely unpacked, she and her husband and two adorable little girls, who happen to live right down the street, had our family over for dinner. I was so touched by their hospitality, but soon, I realized that this wasn’t an anomaly. Abby and her family regularly (and by regularly, I mean, weekly) have other families or individuals over for a meal. I am continually so inspired by their consistency, their generosity with space that is barely bigger than our own tiny apartment, and the totally unflustered way in which Abby hosts amidst their own busy schedule. I was so excited when Abby agreed to chat on the blog!

What is your favorite kind of event to host?

 I’m very much an extrovert and am fueled when I am surrounded by people and can truly engage in their lives. That being said, I love hosting events that are more casual, like a birthday party or open house of some sort, where I also get to enjoy being part of the crowd and mingling with friends. If I have to spend too much time facilitating food, I don’t get nearly as much satisfaction.

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

My family has a yearly New Year’s Eve tradition of doing a “Good-Sport Breakfast”. A coded food menu is created, with items on the code menu corresponding to a secret real menu. For instance, all of the drinks on our menu were represented by various Christmas carol titles. The menu is complete with drinks, desserts, and utensils.

The guests order blindly from the code menu, not knowing what they’re actually ordering. Then each guest has to be a “Good Sport” and eat whatever shows up, with whatever utensils they blindly ordered. So a person could get cold cereal with no milk, and then have to eat it with a whisk or a potato masher. It provides a lot of fun and really good laughs.

Every year, my mom does this breakfast for hoards of kids, teenagers and family, and I have participated for as many years as I can remember. But this year we were not going to be at my parent’s house. Not wanting to lose the tradition, I decided to host my own. My husband and I invited friends, put together our own menu, introduced the concept to our friends, and served them all. 
It ended up being a much bigger project than I ever imagined, and I spent a good part of the dinner preparing and serving food to our friends, but it was fun sharing a beloved tradition with a new crowd.

What was your favorite hosting experience?

 A couple years ago, I hosted a Christmas party for my husband’s team at work. We had such a fun group of people show up. We did a gift exchange, played “iPod Idol” and enjoyed a great variety of wings and salads. I probably loved hosting that event so much because I didn’t have to worry about the food or budget for the party, I just got to decorate and organize beforehand, then enjoy the fun when it all started.

What is your go-to dish for a crowd?

For an appetizer, I usually default to a cream cheese and chutney cracker dip and for a salad, I love making my 7 Layer Chef Salad. Other than that, I really try to mix things up.

 

What was your biggest hosting mistake?

My biggest mistake was probably trying to do too much for the Good Sport Breakfast. We really didn’t have a chance to sit down and talk much with our friends, and it got pretty overwhelming trying to get all the different dishes out to people in a timely manner. I took for granted all the help my mom has enlisted over the years to make the Good Sport Breakfast happen and thought I could do it all on my own.

What is your hosting “signature”?

I’m not sure I actually have a “signature”, but most often, we host small groups of people, like maybe another couple or two, have snacks or a simple dinner, and play games. With our small apartment, this offers the greatest amount of comfort, while also supplying my extroverted self a chance to enjoy some time with friends.

Why are you motivated to host?

Like I said before, I am fueled when I am surrounded by other people. Hosting gives me the opportunity to reach out to others and plan something fun on my own calendar. With young kids at home, we have a lot going on, but when I am the host or party planner, the events always fit into my schedule.

Any fun hosting plans for 2015?

I’m sure there will be . . . . Nothing big planned yet, but my husband will finish his MBA this year, so there will no doubt be something fun there.

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

If you haven’t already caught on, I am a no-stress party planner. Events, for the most part, should be fun and enjoyable for ALL parties involved. If you keep it simple and have fun, anyone can host!

Thanks, Abby!

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

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.

_______________________________________________

*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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Interviews

Conversations About Hospitality – with Amy

January 19, 2015

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On Monday mornings around here, we talk about issues near and dear to our hearts. This month and next, we are chatting about hospitality. Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation!

Today, my lovely friend Amy agreed to chat with me. Amy is a wonderful hostess who pours her heart into events, whether it’s dinner with another couple, small group at her house, or an elaborately planned bachelorette party. She’s a classic extrovert (the opposite of me!) and watching the energy and excitement with which she plans is inspiring. (She also has two of the cutest twin girls EVER.) I was so excited when she agreed to answer these questions.

What is your favorite event to host?

I really love hosting life event parties like baby showers and wedding showers.  Celebrating with others over blessings that God has given them encourages me personally and spiritually.  Watching God work in people’s lives and throwing a party to celebrate that makes me beyond happy!

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

My sister’s wedding shower, which was out of town (4 hours away).  My sister and I are only 18 months apart and very close.  Throwing her a shower was important for me, not because she and I are close in age, but because I am inspired by her and wanted to show off her diligence to God’s will.  She waited until she was in her 30’s to marry and was happy with her singleness and where God had her.  I wanted to invite all her friends and throw a “perfect” shower to celebrate her faithfulness and uniqueness.

What was your favorite event to host? 

My sister’s shower was the most special to me but a baby shower I hosted for a single female friend of mine had the most impact on me.

What is your go-to dish for a crowd?

Spinach dip!  I’m a big fan of dips and I think finger food is always the easiest for guests.  

What was your biggest hosting mistake?

For my sister’s shower I recorded a video of her now husband answering questions for a game and we could not for the life of us get the video to play on the TV.  So when it came to the game I had to play the video on my phone, which could not really be heard by a room of people.  It was a flop as the video was meant to be a hilarious icebreaker to set the tone.  OOPS!

Why are you motivated to host? 

I truly believe my spiritual gift is hospitality.  God gave me an outgoing personality and a deep care and compassion for others and their needs. Getting the chance to celebrate with others in the ways God has blessed them (babies, weddings, etc.) brings me more joy and excitement than anyone would think.  I get to see first hand how God is at work.

Any fun hosting plans for 2015? 

I will soon have my twins’ 6th birthday (in April) to plan! Children’s parties at this age are so fun. I like to keep my schedule open so that I can celebrate any occasion with friends and family as things arise – we always have things to celebrate.

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

Those who host often get excited over the details, the food, the decorations, their house’s cleanliness, etc.  I do, of course, worry about those things as I don’t want to poison anyone or have an unsanitary home.  Sometimes, though, I am so busy running around making sure people have drinks or food that by the end of the event I realize I didn’t have one meaningful conversation.

There are always people and things to celebrate, even small things need to be recognized and celebrated!  Find others, even people you don’t know well, and take the initiative – throw them a party to celebrate blessings.  Keep the food simple so you can spend the time talking and engaging with the guests.  When guests arrive, make sure things are set up so that you’re not running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  

In summary, find any reason to celebrate, keep the food simple so you are not chronically checking on it, and, above all, make sure to spend the time at the event connecting with others!

Thanks, Amy!

Don’t forget to check out the first conversation in this series with Kathy.

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.

_______________________________________________

*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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Interviews

Conversations About Hospitality – With Kathy

January 5, 2015

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On Monday mornings around here, we talk about issues near and dear to our hearts. This month and next, we are chatting about hospitality. Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation!

Today, one of the best hostesses I know – my mother! – agreed to sit down and talk. Through the years, Mom has hosted an enormous range of events, from birthday parties to showers to work parties to political fundraisers for groups of all sizes. Even though I’ve been witness to her wonderful hosting on so many occasions through the years, talking to her about her hosting memories provided me with a delightful new perspective. Also, although she isn’t currently blogging, her former blog Bona Vita has a wealth of wonderful recipes upon which I frequently rely.

What is your favorite event to host?

Showers of any sort. You can focus on the theme; you can be elaborate; it makes the guest of honor feel so special. The guest-list is generally all women who gladly comply with dress codes! Every one is (generally) well-behaved. Children are often welcome. Because I think people don’t expect as much from a shower, they are pleasantly surprised when the hostess expends extra effort.

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

A formal Christmas dinner party in my home for over 100 people (my husband’s Operating Room team) a few years ago. I served stuffed herb-roasted turkey breast and filet-mignon, twice-baked potatoes, raspberry pine-nut salad, several appetizers, and desserts.  I served it buffet style at room-temperature. The presentation was elegant and festive. 

What was your favorite event to host?

A spontaneous New Year’s Eve party with several of my young adult children and their friends. Eeryone dressed up; we served terrific finger-foods and desserts; it was snowing outside. We had Chinese lanterns and a lot to drink! You should always have great music – it covers those awkward pauses and sets the mood.

What is your go-to dish for a crowd?

I’m pretty eclectic – I use different dishes for different occasions. I love tarragon chicken salad for sandwiches at showers, cilantro chicken for a main dish at a  dinner party, great breads, exotic cheeses, always baby quiche!  Fun alcoholic and non-alcoholic punches are good. 

What was your biggest hosting mistake?

I’m never dressed on time!  We made all of the cupcakes and bundt cakes for my daughter’s wedding last summer. Somehow we never got around to frosting anything until midnight after the rehearsal dinner and I frosted cupcakes and bundt cakes until 3:00 am. The wedding was wonderful but the frosting crisis was a nightmare. 

What is your hosting “signature”?

I don’t like to use paper goods  – I almost never use them for events. 

Why are you motivated to host?

I love to cook and love to entertain and love great conversation! 

Any fun hosting plans for 2015?

We’re taking a long vacation next summer with family members coming in to join from all over the country – so casual entertaining for extended family! The challenges of that will be working with an unknown kitchen and serving large numbers over five weeks. 

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

Be spontaneous! Always have ideas of some dishes you can serve on short notice. Don’t shoot for perfection – it’ll only frustrate you. Go with the flow!

Thanks, Mom!

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.

_______________________________________________

*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

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15 Creative Ways to Make Memories with Friends and Meet New People

January 14, 2014

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Humans are defined by their need for other people. Regardless of one’s age, relationship status, socioeconomic standing, career track, or education, we all need friends. But sometimes the same old Happy Hour at the same old haunt begins to feel a little repetitious. Even simply trying new restaurants can start to feel old (and can get expensive!). Also, as life changes, sometimes the same old routines become impossible. Marriages, children, and different schedules can make “the good old days” simply a distant memory. Creating new, fun contexts in which to spend time with people can be a wonderful way to create new rich memories.

I’ve also been struck by how many of my friends have set out to intentionally meet new people and spend time in new social contexts this year. The same principle applies – if you keep doing the same thing and spending time at the same place, you’ll continue to see the same people. If your goal is to meet new people this year, you need to change your routine.

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I read a lot of entertaining blogs and am blessed to be surrounded by a lot of creative, social friends, and I’m always impressed by the fresh, fun ideas for parties and social gatherings.

So here is a collection – all in one place – of 15 creative (and fairly low-maintenance) ways to connect with other people, strengthen old friendships, and make new ones. These ideas can easily be modified to fit the needs and schedules of couples in a new city, moms trying to meet other moms, singles trying to reach outside their regular network, or social butterflies who just want more friends.

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1. Host a mini-progressive dinner party. Serve appetizers and wine and then head out together to attend a play, movie, or concert. Short on picnic blankets? Use these tablecloths for the table and then use them for a picnic blanket later on in the evening. 

2. Identify a day and time in the week when it is consistently easy for you to host. Mentally reserve that time and have a new person or group of people over each week. Saturday brunch not really your thing? Try Sunday lunch.

3. Host a blind dinner party. Invite 4-6 friends over for dinner (fewer could potentially be awkward and more might be too overwhelming). The caveat? Each of your guests is required to bring another friend along that no one else in the group knows. This can be a great way to meet new people and blend networks!

4. Discouraged by the cold weather? Host a chili party. Chili and cornbread are fairly easy to make and can feed a crowd. As the host or hostess, you won’t have to spend the entire evening watching the meal and will have the freedom to relax and mingle. Want to make it more interesting? Ask a few friends to bring a pot of their favorite chili. Have a taste-off!

5. Share dessert. Invite 5-7 acquaintances over and ask that everyone bring their favorite, homemade dessert. Simply provide the wine. Hosting dessert is often less intimidating than arranging an entire dinner party; also, it’s often easier for guests to commit to a couple of hours after dinner than to an entire evening. Purchase a few of these awesome  tablecloths in advance to make cleanup a breeze. 

6. Host a baking party. Ask everyone to bring a favorite recipe for cookies or another baked good, along with any specialty ingredients. As the host or hostess, you simply need to provide the flour, eggs, and oven.

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7. Sign up for a cooking class with a friend. You’re guaranteed to learn something and you know everyone in the room is interested in the same thing!

8. Gather 2 or 3 friends who like to read. Pick a book, set a deadline, and organize a book discussion. The caveat? Again, everyone has to recruit another friend that no one else knows to participate. Here are a few titles to get you started:

9. Plan a hike, a visit to some local wineries, or an afternoon at a nearby beach and encourage friends to invite their friends and co-workers.

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10. Initiate a local photography project. For instance, the goal could simply be “30 photos of our city in 30 days.” (To increase visibility, create a hashtag for the event.) Encourage friends to tell their networks about it and to publicize their project on Instagram and Twitter. At the end of the project, invite everyone who participated over for a time of wine and snacks to share the results!

11. Find a local outdoor concert or play and gather a group of people to picnic together and attend. The only rule? Everyone has to bring a dish to share.

12. Arrange a reglar BYOB backyard Happy Hour. Set a regular date (say, the third Thursday of every month) and take turns hosting. Invite friends, acquaintances, and co-workers as the opportunity arises. Soon your new tradition will be a favorite!

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13. Pick an outdoor activity that you enjoy like running or biking. Set aside a regular time every week or month to participate with friends who also enjoy the activity. Create an “open-door” environment so that friends feel comfortable inviting others to participate whenever the opportunity arises. Soon you’ll have a fully-fledged running/biking/walking/jogging club!

14. Gather other local bloggers for an evening or afternoon of sharing ideas, inspiration, and disaster stories.

15. Enlist the help of two or three energetic, creative friends and have a dressy, multi-course dinner party. Invite as many friends as you can seat, and insist that everyone bring a date or a friend. Everyone has fun dressing up! (And at the end, if you used your magical tablecloths you can simply throw them into the washer for easy clean-up!)

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Life

Holiday Thriving Series: A Thank-You Note Basket

November 11, 2013

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The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration. They should be filled with fun parties, reunions, hours of memory-making, scrumptious dessert nights, and more -than-usual evenings of getting to play dress up. All too often though, the mere thought of Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s and everything in between is enough to cause even the most laid-back woman to break out into a panicked sweat.

Sometimes, amidst the pressures of an extra-busy schedule and seeing friends and family that one doesn’t see often, it’s easy to lose sight of the joy and fun of the season and simply wallow in stressed-out, frazzled, rushed, guilty misery.

But this year, the holidays won’t catch you unprepared, guilty, or frazzled. I’m about to teach you how to make 5 baskets that will rescue the joy of your holiday season and allow you to focus your energies on the things that are important.

Ready? Here we go with Basket #1.

(Before we begin, go subscribe by entering your email into that little box on the upper right and then clicking confirm in the confirmation email so that you don’t miss any of the installments of this series.)

First, we’re going to make a thank-you note basket. Thank-you notes are so easy to write. But really? Are they? When was the last time you actually wrote a thank-you note after two dinners/parties/dessert nights/cookie exchanges in a row? Exactly. I always have the best of intentions after a dinner or party and then time soars away from me, leaving unproductive guilt in its place. No thank you notes get written; I wallow and feel really legitimately terrible for a little while; then life moves on.

Thank-you notes are such a lovely, warm gesture at any time, but they are especially meaningful around the holidays when everyone is running around like crazy and no one has extra time.

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Supplies: (see below for sources)

  • A small basket or box (Make sure it’s small and pretty enough to keep somewhere out in the open – like your hall table – where you can easily access it.)
  • 15 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of colored or white cardstock (plain cardstock stores easily and is easier to buy in large quantities than note-cards).
  • A paper cutter
  • 15 8.5″ x 11″ envelopes
  • A book of stamps
  • 3 or 4 good black ink pens (I assume I’m not the only person who has neglected to write a thank-you note because I lost my pen a few moments before).

Directions:

  1. Cut the sheets of card-stock in half using the paper cutter.
  2. Write your return address on the envelopes.
  3. Stamp the envelopes.
  4. Arrange the card-stock, envelopes, stamps, and pens in the basket.
  5. Place the basket somewhere very accessible where it can remain for the entirety of the holiday season.

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The goal here is low maintenance. Effective people minimize the barriers between themselves and the accomplishment of a specific action item. By collecting all of your supplies and partially preparing the envelopes for mailing, you are minimizing the time it will take you to write a thank-you note.

Now that your Thank-You Note Basket is created, all you need to do after your next dinner/party/dessert thingy/cookie exchange is jot a few lines on a piece of card-stock, drop it into an envelope, and address the note.

Acknowledging gratefulness is good for the soul and there is something so delightful about receiving a hand-written note. Your thank-you note basket will help you send thank-you notes out promptly and frequently and will make your holiday more joyous and less guilt-ridden.

 

Sources: Cardstock. // Envelopes. // Paper cutter.//

Other Posts in the Series: 2.Holiday Thriving Series: A Hostess Gift Basket.//

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Life

Let the Madness Begin

March 17, 2012

I don't normally consider myself a sports fanatic. I can certainly appreciate the occasional football or basketball game during the year. But I just haven't attained the attention span required to follow a team or sport for an extended period of time. The period in early winter when basketball and football are both occurring is still confusing to me.


Also, I attended a tiny liberal arts school. Although my school had a lot of great qualities, our athletics department was weak at best. So I didn't catch the sports bug that many catch during college years while attending a bigger state school.


But for the last couple of years, during a few weeks in March, this all changes. Something about the intensity, the fast pace, the limited time-period, the viewer participation, and the fact that I can finally pretend to know what I'm talking about during sports-related conversations at parties….I'm hooked.

My bracket's triumph in my office last year sealed the deal. Who correctly put Butler in the Final Four? This girl. 

During March Madness I become a different person. Normally I don't even watch television. During March Madness, I yell at mine and sometimes throw things. Normally, I work in blissful ignorance at the office while the guys discuss recent games. During March Madness, my morning greeting consists of questions like "Who saw the VCU/Wichita game last night??" and "Can you believe that call?!" 

So, the normal Emily will return on April 3. Until then…..let the madness reign.

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