Entertaining for me has always come second nature. Hospitality is at the very root of who I am. When you boil everything about me down to the most basic form it’s pretty simple: if I have you in my home and I feed you I love you. I grew up with a mother who truly enjoyed entertaining and I am so happy her love of it all was managed to be passed down to me.
I’d like to think that over the years I took that love and established some great steps, routines, and recipes to make it all just a little easier. Entertaining tricks and tips, if you will. When you’ve entertained a good chunk of your life, you figure out a few things. I think the biggest thing I have learned over the past few years is to acknowledge that what you are doing as an entertainer is a big thing! Opening up your home, cooking food, and making people feel welcome. Those are not little things, by any means. I used to brush it all off ‘it’s nothing at all.’ But it’s something. No matter if it’s grilled hot dogs on paper plates in the yard or beef bourguignon around a beautifully set table. I truly believe it’s important to not only acknowledge that with yourself, but for your spouse to get on board as well. You can’t be a one (wo)man show. We definitely tackle it as a team here and I feel that is one of our biggest strengths.
Ok. We’ve established what you are doing is a big deal. Now let’s get to the nitty gritty. See, as I’m sure you know, entertaining takes work. And it takes planning. Luckily I’m into all that stuff so it doesn’t generally feel like work to me. I sort of view it as a project and break it down into tasks in the days leading up to whatever I am hosting. Here’s a peak inside how my mind sort of makes it all happen. For example sake, let’s say I will be entertaining on a Saturday evening. Here is what I do leading up until then.
Tuesday: (Four days before)
-Set your menu plan based on the event, your guests, weather – etc.
-Write out a list of what you are making and when you will be making it. Be specific (i.e. make baked mac and cheese Friday afternoon. Make cookie dough Friday evening).
-Make your grocery list.
Wednesday: (Three days before)
-Do the majority of the grocery shopping. Some items I wait on, say if we are grilling steaks or need fresh bread. I will always picks these items up much closer to the actual day I am entertaining.
Thursday: (Two days before)
-Take inventory of our drink situation. Do we need to stock up on Capri Suns for the kids? Water bottles? Wine? Beer? This is when I normally let Mike know what we may need from Binnys. Also make a note to buy ice if needed.
-Set the table, including linens and any centerpiece you may use. Small white scentless votive candles are my jam and require little to no thought.
-Set out all serving platters and utensils I will need based on what I’m making. I lean a tad OCD and label them but that’s just me being strange. But I swear it helps.
-Fill water bottles to set out on the table and stick them in the fridge. I swear by these. I don’t bother with ice.
-Begin any cooking that can be made ahead of time. This is normally when I make my go to salad dressing (it’s the best!) as it’s good for a few days in the fridge.
-Send out a text or email to guests reminding them of the date, time, and who is bringing what (if you made any food assignments which I strongly suggest you do)!
Friday: (One day before)
-Continue cooking what can be made ahead of time. It is so rare I cook in front of my guests, almost everything is typically complete the day or so ahead and waiting in the fridge to be baked or warmed up. This helps so much in being able to actually enjoy your company.
-I generally make my cookie dough the day before. I think some time in the fridge actually improves it! Some days I will bake the day before, sometimes the morning of.
-Pick up any items that you could not get on Wednesday. (Fresh bread, steaks, fish, etc).
-As a general rule of thumb, 90% of my cooking is complete by the evening and I don’t cook dinner for our own family the night before I entertain. Dinner out is a welcomed break!
Saturday: (Day of)
-Bake cookies, if needed.
-Last minute cleaning around the home. This includes wiping down the kitchen counters, vacumming, etc.
-Set out wine glasses. I love to write my guests names on them with this wine pen. Seriously, it makes people smile.
-Finish any cooking that couldn’t be complete ahead of time. I will always make my go to appetizer the day of. (It’s so easy!)
-Run and unload the dishwasher so that it’s completely empty.
-Set out cocktail napkins.
-Write a post it note with reminders when to start oven (if needed) and times to put any recipes in the oven. I just stick mine right onto the oven so it’s easy to see and be reminded of.
-Right before guests arrive, turn on some fun music. Light candles. Pour yourself a big glass of water (no one likes a sloppy hostess. Ok, maybe some people do. 😉 ). Lastly, enjoy yourself and all the hard work you put in!
Spreading all your tasks out and having an established routine and a few recipes that are your entertaining go to’s (salad dressing, cookies, appetizer etc) really help the overall process of hosting and makes it feel less overwhelming. Promise. Once you get in the groove, a lot of this just becomes second nature which ultimately helps make everything feel just a little easier.
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If it’s a serious party, I do the post-it note trick too!! Total time saver!
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