I'll admit it.
Behind a smile, I have often been a frazzled host.
The timing of what's on the stovetop, in the oven, on the table.
Our precious children, running fast through the house,
catapulting onto the couches, asking how much longer.
And me, wondering how I ever thought I could pull this off.
It sounded so lovely three weeks ago.
But then again, I may have overshot the centerpiece.
I probably didn't need to spend an afternoon putting together an arrangement that we could hardly see our guests through. A centerpiece so large that it necessitated a separate serving table for food.
(I wish I was kidding.)
And perhaps I didn't need to have favors for our adult friends?
So I thought that this time, I would try to keep things simple. A more relaxed evening, where a loaf of rustic bread and a small candle were the centerpiece.
Instead of flowers, I clipped some greenery and branches from the yard to add some nature to our dining room mantel.
I simplified the menu, serving a combination of homemade and store-bought foods.
I made this salmon recipe (our favorite!), mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach. I bought rosemary bread (served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar), a salad mix and Costco apple pie (served a la mode with a drizzle of caramel).
And you know what?
I noticed more laughter... from both our guests and myself. The evening seemed more natural, less orchestrated.
I once read that a French woman likes to take a bath before hosting guests, so that she is ready and relaxed for the evening.
I'm not quite there. So while you won't find me soaking thirty minutes before company arrives, I do love the idea of a relaxed evening, where the focus is on the guests, relationships and conversation.
On the other hand, I still want to make a meal with family or friends memorable. Sometimes special touches - like pretty flowers or a thoughtful favor - do help show our guests that they are well-loved and thought about.
I guess it's a balance... that I'm learning as I go. We've been blessed by friends and family who have opened their doors and hearts to us. Especially in today's fast-paced, technological culture, being invited into someone's home is a heart-warming experience - no matter how simple or grand.
Do you have any entertaining tips that have helped you along the way? Do you embrace simple entertaining, or do you have a "go big or go home" mentality? What works best for you?