Thursday, January 14, 2010

Opening your Home to Friends and Family

If you've read previous posts about my progress (or lack) in The Pantry Challenge, you'll have noticed that I had a number of food stuffs that were originally intended for/left over from a holiday party. We hosted four gatherings in the last 2 weeks of December, and there were two additional gatherings we had planned that had to be cancelled due to bad weather. I also hosted a book club meeting and several play dates in December (both involving coffee and snacks). These numbers don't include the various gatherings that we attended at other people's homes. It was a busy month!

Yes, I love to entertain. I think it is an important part of home life that doesn't happen as frequently as in the past because people are intimidated by the potential work and expense, which really aren't as bad as they may seem. It seems easier for people to meet up at a restaurant if they are getting together socially at all. Don't get me wrong, I really like restaurants, but eating at restaurants all the time can be expensive, both financially and calorically--is that a word? If you are hiring a sitter to watch your kids while you go out, the expense goes up even higher. If you are bringing your kids along, the food options for them are limited, as well as the amount of time you have to work with before your kids can't stand sitting still any longer and start running around the restaurant like maniacs (or am I the only one with this type of child?).

I also find it difficult to have a substantial conversation at a restaurant that is crowded and loud, whether my kids are there or not. The art of conversation, the opportunity to get together face to face to exchange ideas or to just laugh with one another is so valuable, and I want to do what I can to encourage people to see their home not only as the place they go to eat, sleep, clean, and relax, but a place to connect and socialize with friends and family.

With that in mind, I am going to write a series of posts that explain my strategies for entertaining. I hope that sharing what I know will inspire someone to host some sort of get together that makes them feel more connected to someone they know. An added bonus would be to help someone feel more comfortable with the idea of entertaining at home once you see how easy it can be. 

The first get together I want to share is a Sunday Brunch I am hosting the first weekend in February for my husband's coworkers. I'm expecting 8-10 adults and 1-3 kids (not including my own family--one spouse and 2 kids!)

The benefits of hosting a Sunday Brunch (that I can think of right now) include:
  • You have all day Saturday to prepare (if you don't prep in advance, which is what I prefer to do)
  • If you have kids, the gathering doesn't interfere with bedtimes. The kids may play better together because they are fresher than they would be at the end of the day.
  • Brunch foods are often easy to prepare, easy to prepare in advance, and affordable (eggs!)
  • You have plenty of time to clean up before it gets to be The Middle of the Night. (And, in this case, before the Super Bowl starts...)
  • You don't need to have everyone sit down together, like at a dinner party. People can sit whereever, eat as they feel like it, and hang out!
General tips for planning a brunch:
  • Keep it small. 12 adults is about the maximum for us indoors--unless we are hosting my husband's family, that immediate family totals 24 people including ourselves. Those parties are pretty busy! A brunch with only a few guests can be a relaxing get together. 
  • Don't invite guests any earlier than 11 AM. This could give your guests the opportunity to attend services Sunday morning if they do so, and also gives you adequate time to set up. (Feed your kids as usual when they wake up so that the brunch is their lunchtime.)
  • Serve foods that can be prepared in advance. Omelets or pancakes are kitchen intensive down to the final minutes before serving. Try quiches or casseroles made in advance, as well as breakfast breads and bagels. I also try to focus on foods that are easy to eat and that can still be enjoyed at room temperature. Be sure to check out potential allergies with guests--I usually ask people to let me know if there is anything they can't eat.
  • Start planning about 3 weeks in advance. Invite your people (phone, email, or Evite) and find out who is available to come. Plan out a menu and a strategy for getting everything ready. Don't get in over your head; try to make selections that are Easy and Affordable. This is where we will start in my next post.

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