There comes a time, usually 5-6 hours before friends are due to arrive for dinner, when I think to myself, "Why did I want to have company? I'd like nothing better than to sit down in front of the television with a tray of leftovers."
Then, once I begin executing the plans I've made, I feel much better and look forward to the evening. For me, planning and working ahead is key. One evening earlier in the week I ironed the tablecloth and napkins of vintage linen.
Things that can be done ahead I do the night before - this time it was peeling and cubing the butternut squash, trimming the brussels sprouts, and making the salad dressing.
For this particular get together, one friend offered to bring dessert and another brought appetizers. I augmented the latter with a bowl of nuts. Tim takes care of the wine.
Saturday morning I vacuumed and dusted, and cleaned bathrooms. I would have done those things on Friday but didn't have the energy after working all day.
I really enjoy setting the table and do that before I begin cooking so I can take my time. This table setting is simple. The photos were taken during daylight, and in the evening, with the lights low and the candles lit, the space was cozy for the six of us. Years ago I purchased a box of tiny brass stars. These I fling over the table in a scattered constellation. They catch the light and are often played with by dinner guests as we chat late into the evening.
I started cooking around 3:00 and had plenty of time - enough to decorate the mantel and set out the nativity set.
So what was on the menu? To start, a salad with greens, avocado and orange slices, sprinkled with cinnamon candied almond flakes. For the main course, stuffed chicken breasts, potato stacks, butternut squash with brussels sprouts and cranberries, and steamed asparagus.
Hospitality is something I learned from my mother. Having guests over was a regular occurrence in our home. My mom still entertains regularly. She taught me the value of working ahead and having a plan.
During our years overseas I had plenty of opportunity to practice the skills Mom taught me. Guests at the dinner table (and breakfast and lunch) were a part of life. They came from the four corners of the globe - Europe, Asia, the Americas, and the South Pacific.
The conversation last night ranged from politics and literature to boating and religion. Lots of laughter. Some teasing. Yes, the food was delicious, and I took extra care last night. In the end, however, it's the people sitting around the table who are most important. Sharing life. A bowl of soup and chunk of bread can accomplish the same meeting of minds.
After the guests left and Tim and I finished cleaning up the kitchen, I went to bed content with the evening.
After church on Sunday morning, the same six of us went for a boat ride (not ours). And we enjoyed another meal together in Fulford Harbour on Saltspring Island. Once again, it's all about the people in our lives.
Do you enjoy having guests in your home? What tips help make things simpler for you?
I'll be linking to No Place Like Home, hosted by Sandi of Rose Chintz Cottage.