I love gathering around the table. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just good food, good conversation and good people. Taking time to share a meal around the table with friends and family is one of the most important things we can do, and yet there can be so many different obstacles for us all. Yesterday’s workshop was designed for you, my weary hearted hosts/hostesses. The prospect of entertaining does not have to be intimidating, expensive, or over the top-in fact, simple is best.
I am all about homemade. I am all about simple. I am all about appropriate. I dream of uninterrupted days of planning beautiful gatherings that are centered around people and conversation. In this dream, I symphonically flow through the kitchen, creating the most delicious meal, all the while my home is perfectly ordained with simple seasonal foliage and florals. In other dreams, my family inhabits a cabin in the woods, where I spend my days gardening and tending to my chickens and goats. Then, I come back to reality where I work as a business administrator of dental office, who rises at 5am to prepare my daughter and myself for the day ahead. For the first twelve hours of my day, I reach a certain point of mental and emotional exhaustion, but it is pushed to a point of limit when I arrive home to start an evening routine of dinner, cleaning, home work, bath time, pepping for the next day, and somehow attempting to incorporate a snippet of “me time.” I say all of this to let you know that, I too am human, and although it may seem as though I have it together, I do not always. I have days that, within the first 15 minutes, are laced with tears and disappointment. The everyday grind of life’s routine can be difficult–hosting a beautiful, stress free gathering doe not have to be difficult. So, how do we simplify the daunting task of orchestrating and styling a gathering? Plan…plan, plan, plan. Once you have decided on a date, create a “to do list,” and work from it each day until the day of your event. You can do no greater disservice to yourself and your guests, then to wait to do everything last minute. Procrastination leads to poor execution.
I want to share a couple conversations from yesterday’s Q&A. Firstly, there was a consensus that everything has to be “Pinterest”-perfect in order to have company into your home (the house, the food, and the table). But the myth of perfection is just that—a myth. The most important thing is being together. As a host, your main goal should be to ensure that your guests are having a good time, and the best way to do that is to be certain that you have a good time, too. Your guests can tell if you are stressed, and it casts a dark cloud over the entire meal. A good rule of thumb is to keep everything as simple and as inexpensive as possible. Prep as much as you can, don’t overthink the menu or the table and by all means let people help. Also, do not be afraid to supplement pieces of your menu with a store-bought item or two, either. As lovely and idealistic as it sounds to offer everything homemade, be realistic.If you do decide on all things homemade…plan ahead. Remember: people first, food second.
Secondly, we discussed the importance of creating a budget and how to stick to that budget. Food and drinks are undoubtedly going to be the greatest expense. Choose only one costly dish. For the sake of your budget (and time), if your main dish involves pricey ingredients, keep the side dishes simple. The goal is not for you to be spending a fortune on a complicated meal, but to enjoy yourself and your guests.
Lastly and most importantly, we discussed styling a table-on a budget. I love decorating my table with foliage, floral, and a mixture of different textiles like glass vases, linen napkins, wicker hot pads, and vintage silverware. My table decor consists almost solely second hand items. Almost all of my table linens were purchased at local second hand stores. My bottles are old beer bottles and my vases, like my linens, were purchased second hand. Here are some simple tips:
-If you purchase flowers for your home, don’t throw them out when they begin to die, hang them from your window and dry them for later use.
-Utilize the greenery in our own yard. Forage the pine and leafy branches for a beautiful centerpiece.
-Make your own napkins out of discount fabric cut into squares and left un-himmed to create a slightly rustic feel.
-Offer something special and home made at each of your guests place setting. This may be a couple sprigs of rosemary tied with twine or a lovely piece of fresh fruit with a name tag attached.
I believe that some of the most meaningful conversations are had and the best friendships are made over the table. That might be an elegantly set dining room table at Nana’s over the holidays, a slab of wood in the middle of a field, a makeshift coffee table in a temporary apartment, an over-crowded kitchen table while canning beets. It’s definitely when our day slows down and we come together with the intention of communing, learning, and giving something of ourselves. I hope you find this helpful and encouraging for the upcoming holiday season. Here is to our future gatherings…Cheers!