When hosting get-togethers, keep it SIMPLE

It was a Saturday and I was expecting guests the next afternoon to celebrate my 6-week old baby. I was staring at a tray of cake crumbs stuck together with blobs of icing. They were supposed to be Petit fours. I had followed Martha Stewart’s step-by-step instructions in a book on loan from the library.

 

But these didn’t look anything like the photos. These weren’t even these. They were a big pile of this.

Mom listened as I poured out my dilemma to her over the phone. I had several other dishes to serve, but this was going to be the showstopper. The ooh and ahh moment of the buffet table.

It was at that moment that my amazing mom calmly told me how to fix it.

She said, “Take a spoon and the dish into Russ and tell him to enjoy it.”

Then she asked, “Do you know the difference between hospitality and entertaining?”

I didn’t yet, but I was about to find out.

I don’t remember her exact words, but I have never forgotten the idea. Entertaining is about making yourself look important, hospitality is about making the other person feel important.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could tell you that from that point on I “got it”?

Alas, that would be as far from the truth. The truth is, I’m still getting it. It is still so easy to get caught up in hosting the perfect get-together. Impeccably cooked food on an elaborate table with all of the right guests. Everything would be served at the perfect temperature with no stress and a perma-grin plastered on my face.

What I can tell you is I have learned (for the most part) to keep it simple. That doesn’t mean I’m never daring. What it means is when I try new things, they don’t take too long and they don’t use a lot of ingredients.

Saturday morning, we invited some friends over for dinner and firepit in the yard that night. When they accepted, I threw a casual tablecloth on the outdoor table and wove a table runner through some paper lanterns. Grabbing some pork chops out of the freezer to thaw, I paired them with a peach/mango/habanero sauce and we were ready to go.

While everyone else sat around the fire, I ran into the kitchen. I quickly whipped up a berry cobbler, stuck it in a cast iron skillet and set it on the fire. It took forever to cook. We all took turns trying to solve the mystery of an outdoor cobbler in between telling each other our stories.

The cobbler never really got done. We finally gave in and dished it up. It was still delicious, albeit imperfect. What was perfect was the fun we had. The memories we made added to this new friendship. It built relationship, which is what having people over should be all about.

As we were putting things away that night, I remarked to my husband, “It’s fun to do just enough for people to feel special but not so stuffy that no one is comfortable.” It was one of those moments that I know would have made Mom smile.

It made me smile, too.

 

(This was originally posted at The News Review website)

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What Hope Can Do (New Post at The Glorious Table)

Just a few months ago, my dear friend passed away after a relatively short illness. It has depleted my heart in ways I didn’t expect. I’ve felt loss before, but this ache is different, and although I hold the hands of others through pain, I didn’t expect to respond the way I have. The layers of emotions left to sort out are piled high, my soul is drained, and my body feels weak.

Sherry had the gift of hospitality, inviting everyone into her home and serving delicious meals with a side of laughter and honest conversation. She didn’t want a traditional memorial or what she referred to as “a big hullabaloo.” In lieu of a formal service, we hosted an open house to encourage friends to drop in to tell stories, comfort the family, and pay their respects. The family requested my help arranging the food. Her daughters and I pulled out beautiful serving trays from the closet, and my husband brewed pots of coffee to welcome her guests.

As I was standing in the middle of the kitchen halfway through the open house, Sherry’s niece Tiffany leaned over and said, “Jemelene, you need to breathe.”

Read the rest at The Glorious Table.

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How To Live Out Your Dreams Without Boundaries (New Post at The Glorious Table)

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Finding Beauty in the Being (New Post at The Glorious Table)

Christmas. Just the word evokes images of experiences, both unique to our hearts and common to those around us. Trimming trees, baking, shopping, and decorating fill the lists of activities we engage in to make Christmas “feel like Christmas.” The phrase “It just isn’t Christmas without __________ (fill in the blank)” sets us all up for disappointment on those days when real life finds its way into our celebrations.

Read the rest here at The Glorious Table.

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Dear World, From Roseburg

Dear World,

Before yesterday most of you had never heard of the City of Roseburg. Now when you hear that name you will link us to the tragedy that happened on our small community college campus yesterday.

That is not who we are.

We are a logging community tucked into a beautiful valley with some of the most beautiful tree covered hills you’ve ever seen.

The waters of the Umpqua river flow through our town and Umpqua Community College sits above its banks.

The same interstate that brought reporters and government officials is the same road that’s welcomed back our own Charlie Company from more than one tour protecting our nation.

Our children bring their livestock to show at the county fair on the same fairgrounds that welcomed busloads of students to frantic families anxious to see them step off the bus. Local pastors, relief workers and counselors were waiting too.

The Thursday night sky filled with candlelight in the park where music fills the air every summer on a blanket covered hill.

In July our streets fill with classic cars as families line the sidewalks of downtown, waiting for a history to roll by. The same streets rocked by an explosion more than 50 years ago.

On Veterans Day, those same streets welcome war heroes, marching bands and flag waving children, sometimes in pouring rain.

Photographs of the injured being rolled into the hospital doesn’t tell the whole story either.

Most of our babies have been born at Mercy and lives are saved there everyday, not just the tragic ones.

Umpqua Community College is the place where too many will remember for the wrong reasons. You won’t speak of the thousands of graduates who’ve learned to be nurses, dental assistants and anything that would put them back to work in our once thriving timber economy.

We’ll still show up at Jacoby Auditorium as it fills with local actors and musicians throughout the year.

In July, the track on campus fills with walkers as we join the Relay for Life.

There is so much more to remember about us than the day this tragedy tore into our lives and changed our community forever.

Today you will hear names and get to know a small bit of who we lost.

We will hear the names and feel the loss.

After the media is gone, we will still be here. We will return to celebrating in our streets, dancing in our parks and holding each other up when they are too weak to stand.

As the story continues to unfold and details emerge and you speak the name of our city please remember this, our city and college is not the name of a tragedy.

We are not here to provide an argument for your agenda or to be on a horrible list somewhere.

We are here because Roseburg is our home and that is the on thing about us that can’t be changed.

This post originally appeared at NRToday.com/moms

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