We entertain a lot. For example, this past weekend, we hosted dinner at our house every single night – Friday, Saturday, Sunday – of the weekend. Extra space for entertaining was one of the biggest reasons we moved. This probably sounds about half insane – and maybe it is – but I think we have a slightly different definition of what it means to entertain than most people.
You will not find any carefully curated tablescapes at my house. You will most of the time find it relatively neat, but mostly because I personally like a neat house, not because I feel it necessary to have my house in perfect order before I have people over.
You will also not find elaborate multi-course meals, at least not most of the time (if it’s your birthday, or another special occasion, I will pull out all the stops). I will generally have at least one dish that I prepared myself and that took at least a modicum of care. The rest will be store bought or brought by guests. A pot of soup with bread and salad or apples is a frequent menu. So is something grilled or slow-cooked with chips, fruit salad and four bean salad from Costco. Homemade pizza with fun toppings is usually a hit.
Sometimes we will eat off our every-day dishes (we don’t own china or “good” silverware). Sometimes we will eat off paper. There is always a box of wine in the corner bar and usually a few soft drinks in the fridge (I favor LaCroix water these days, but Matt usually has Coke around too). We usually have a few cans or bottles of beer somewhere. Matt always has whiskey to pour. Our guests frequently bring their own if they want something different We always have the electric kettle ready for tea and a ridiculous selection of teas.
But really, none of this stuff is the point. Sure, I want the meal to be enjoyable for everyone, but the point is to be together.
The kids go do what kids do best – play. Sometimes we have to handle “situations” and they usually make a mess, but those are easily cleaned up. Sometimes we setup the outdoor theatre for the kids and pop them some popcorn. They cluster together in age or gender divisions. They usually look out for and help one another. They’re typically very kind.
The adults hang around our big island or at our long kitchen table – we don’t have a dining room table – and chat or maybe do dishes. When everyone’s fed, we sometimes break out the games – Cards Against Humanity, Trivial Pursuit, Cranium, or Settlers of Catan – sometimes we just chat. Sometimes we have a project going on and game play or chatter is punctuated by people running off for short periods to put another coat of something on something. We drink many cups of tea and maybe whiskey.
It’s always nice to be together. And I’m almost certain no one minds that my house isn’t perfect and there isn’t a giant fancy spread in front of them or that I said “a salad would be great” when they asked what they could bring. They’re happy to be hanging with people they enjoy talking about tribulations and triumphs and catching up on each other’s lives. It’s a great sense of community. We get and give advice. We make plans for other adventures. We google endless things to end squabbles and share funny videos. We laugh a lot. We feel very lucky to have such great people in our lives.