Friday, January 21, 2011

Entertaining at Home

Often times, I think the thought of entertaining guests in our home can be a bit intimidating or overwhelming, and it doesn't have to be this way. We put way too much pressure on ourselves to orchestrate the perfect event, even though we likely don't have the necessary resources, tools, time and/or money to pull it off.

Events you host in your home should be a reflection of your everyday life. This is YOUR home turf, a place where real life occurs. This should be a beautiful picture, a reflection of YOU at your very best. We should be hosting events in our homes because we want to be more relaxed and comfortable, not an attempt to appear like something we are not.

So here a few tips that I hope will help you survive your next home dinner party. First, don't pretend, for the sake of a party to be something you are not. It's phony and will come across as a cheap knock-off. This is not the memory you want your guests to take home with them. Second, do that thing YOU do well. Third, inventory your resources. You would be surpised at the talented folks you have at your disposal, without spending a dime! Last, budget your time and your money wisely.

There is absolutely no reason to attempt to cast an image you saw in the glossy pages of a magazine, or on HGTV. Life is about stages, and if your current stage in life involves toddlers, Veggie Tales and hotdog dinners, trying to turn your playroom/living room into the Ritz-Carlton ballroom for a 7 course haute-cuisine dinner party is a disaster waiting to happen. Likewise, hosting a 5 year old birthday party in a swanky bachelor pad is inviting a whole slew of problems and potential dangers.

Do that thing YOU do well
Have you been perfecting your grandmother's prize winning cake or pie recipe? Do you or your spouse have a knack for smoking the perfect brisket? Your best bet for a dinner party that your friends remember fondly, and an event you can be proud of showcases YOU at your best, so it stands to reason that your best talents are on display. Not a cook or baker? There is no shame in hiring a caterer (I know a reasonably good one if you want a reference!). A catered dinner doesn't have to be a big budget affair either. And good food from a good caterer will taste all that much better when its paired with your All-Star Margarita recipe or served on dishes that you got on your last shopping excursion.

Know Your Friends
I was looking through my Facebook friends list just the other day and marveling at all the amazing talents that I am surrounded by. Seriously talented people, some of which are professional artists, and others who are devote hobbyists. A quick review of my friends includes several photographers with keen artistic eyes, bakers and cake decorators, videographers, florists, a painter or 2, web designers and developers, an insanely meticulous green-thumbed landscaper, and several engineers. Now, it probably wouldn't be entirely appropriate for me to ask all of these friends to make their talents available to me at my whim, but I bet more than a few of them would gladly help me if I asked. I bet if I asked Donna, my friend who designs floral arrangements for weddings, she would love to help me put together an awesome arrangement or 2 for a dinner party, and I bet it wouldn't cost me the fortune that my local florist would charge me. Which brings me nicely to my last suggestion.

Budget Wisely
Now, there is a big difference between budgeting wisely and being cheap. Keep in mind we aren't just talking about budgeting money, but also our time. Afterall, your time is extremely valuable, and increasingly in short supply. If you don't have the luxury of lounging around your home eating bon bons all day, chances are that your home isn't passing your "white glove" cleanliness test. There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling in a cleaning service, and you might be surprised at how reasonable the cost is. What a great use of your dinner party budget to save yourself an entire weekend of cleaning so that you can focus on food prep, or just getting in some family-time with the kids. Also, hit up the farmers market. Most cities have several markets to choose from on Saturday mornings. Many cities will also have a handful of mid-week markets available as well. Talk to the vendors at the markets. These people are often the actually farmers who grew your produce, or raised the animals to supplied the milk, eggs and meat you are purchasing. These people will also have some great suggestions on how to prepare them.

As far as food goes, just because you are hosting a dinner party doesn't mean that you have to prepare every single morsel of food on the buffet table. Go to a speciality store or warehouse club and pick up a couple of prepared appetizers. If you can make a homemade spinach artichoke dip and pair that with store bought mini-quiches or bruschetta, then you will be that much farther ahead on the planning and you won't be stressed over all the details. Same goes for dessert. Hit up that amazing baker friend of yours to see if they will make their famous coconut cake or even a simple sheet cake and then pair that with a store bought tray of cheesecake bites or bakery cookies. You will stretch your food dollars further and have far less stress in the hours leading up to your event.

One more thing, don't forget that you wanted to host this party because it would be FUN for you and your guests. If you aren't having fun, then it wasn't worth doing. So please remember to relax and enjoy the company of your guests. And if all else fails... well, call a caterer. My number and email address are on the About Us page, located in a tab at the top of this page!

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