Re-Living the Bugle Days
We’re living in the midwest glory days at present. Sunny skies, perfect temperatures, and just enough breeze to keep things pleasant. Yes, this is the year’s sweet spot and we are soaking it up with lots of time in the backyard and al fresco meals as often as we can. In fact, over the weekend, we hosted a back porch brunch in honor of my daughter’s first birthday (cue the happy tears).
We strung some balloons, threw out a tablecloth and some flowers, and used paper plates. The food was unfussy and fresh. The playlist was packed with summer-feeling motown favorites. There were hoses, water guns, bubbles, and beach balls. When all was said and done, it took us about 15 minutes to clean up. Read: It wasn’t a fancy affair.
This is my favorite kind of entertaining—the kind that says, “Come over! We’re outside. Pull up a chair!” It reminds me of the parties my parents and our neighbors used to have in the cul-de-sacs of my neighborhood growing up. Us kids would run amoc entertaining ourselves by climbing trees, riding bikes, and playing rousing games of “500” with spare tennis balls. We’d take regular trips to the food table, loading our fingers up with bugles and ranch dip while our parents visited, laughed, and let us run free.
I fear that my time working in lifestyle magazines has somewhat confused my idea of hospitality with entertaining. Hospitality says “join us!” The entertainer says “Wait, keep the door closed for a minute more. The house is a disaster! I just need to....” I want to cultivate more of the open-door, easiness of a true hostess, but there’s a more self-conscious, perfectionistic entertainer who keeps on showing up uninvited.
So, here are a few tips I’m trying out, with the hopes that by practicing, I’ll be able to shed the impulse to impress and welcome more people into my home (and yard) this season.
1. Invite more often.
Sometimes I make get-togethers a little too complicated. I need to just practice the art of inviting. In this article, author Rosaria Butterfield asserts that the key to practicing hospitality is to do it regularly—turning it into an ordinary, regular occurrence.
2. Resist the urge to plan a fancy meal.
I really like to cook, trying new recipes out, and experimenting with more obscure ingredients. I’m not banning myself from operating this way. But I do want to pinpoint when the hurdle of planning a menu of new, exciting things is keeping me simply extending an invitation. Having people over doesn’t have to be about wowing the taste buds of my guests (though that can be a bonus). It can be as simple as inviting someone over for popcorn after church.
3. On an ordinary day, make extra food.
Hospitality doesn’t always mean making something special. Sometimes, it can just mean making more of what you were planning on eating anyway. It can simply mean staying open to the possibility of adding a few more chairs to the table.
4. Get creative with what and when.
In certain seasons (read: ours right now), sometimes hospitality is limited by budgetary constraints. For this reason, it can be helpful to get creative. Maybe you can’t afford to invite a group of people over for dinner, but you could easily accommodate a crowd for strawberry shortcake after dinner one night or for happy hour one evening.
5. Take the party elsewhere.
This is another budget-friendly tip when concerns about feeding and entertaining become a little overwhelming. Or, maybe you don’t have space to have people over. Suggest that people meet in a park for a picnic with everyone providing their own food. Or, host a potluck at the community pool. We’ll bring the pizza, you bring the popsicles!
Summer is the perfect time for me (and all of us) to really exercise these hosting muscles. The more we do, the easier the inviting will get. And, if you want a ready-made way to send out word of your next low-key gathering, try my write-in party invites!