10 Tips for Inviting People Over

welcome

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In order to have people over, you have to ask them.  And asking can be scary and/or stressful.  It doesn’t have to be, though.  After years of inviting people over, I’ve learned a few tricks that make it easier.

  1. Ask people that make sense. What I mean is – choose someone you have something in common with or a connection.  If you’re not sure or don’t know them very well yet, maybe wait a little longer before extending the invitation.  I can’t remember the exact details but I know I did this at least once.  After I asked, they looked at me like I was crazy.  I knew immediately I had made a mistake.  I can’t remember if we ended up getting together or not.
  2. Rather than asking someone to come on a specific day, give them a couple of choices. Everyone’s so busy these days that it’s hard to find time.  So if you give them a couple of options, it might be easier to get a yes.
  3. Don’t extend vague invitations unless you don’t want it to actually happen. “We should get together sometime” will never result in you getting together.  “Can you come over Friday night?” is better.
  4. Ask the right amount of people. This will vary from person to person, but for David and I, our preference is one other couple.  We’ve been to dinners with three or four couples and those are fun, too.  But when we have a choice, we prefer one couple.
  5. Don’t take it personally if they say no. Just because someone says no doesn’t mean they don’t want to come.  People are SO busy these days that sometimes they really can’t find any free time or can’t handle one more thing.  Even if having dinner with you sounds fun, they just can’t fit it in.  Don’t take it personally.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask someone because they have more money than you do or a nicer house. Years ago we had friends who told us a story about a situation like that.  There was a family in their church who was wealthy.  My friends were very poor and lived in a tiny house and didn’t have much money at all.  They really liked this couple and finally decided to invite them over – for water and popcorn!  The couple gladly accepted and told them that no one ever invited them over.  They didn’t care that my friends’ house was tiny or their snack was popcorn and water.  They were just thrilled to be invited over.
  7. Don’t assume someone won’t want to come over or that they’re too busy. You just never know.  They may be thrilled to receive your invitation.
  8. Sometimes it’s easier to invite someone via text message or email. The benefit to doing that is that it gives them time to check their schedule.  And if they have to say no, it’s easier for them and for you.
  9. Don’t extend the invitation in the middle of a chaotic situation – like passing someone in a hallway or while you’re picking your kids up from day care. Try to ask when things are calm and less rushed.
  10. After you’ve extended the invitation and they accept, ask if they have any dietary restrictions or if there’s anything they don’t like. You sure don’t want to serve something they hate or can’t eat.  And some picky eaters or people with restricted diets don’t like eating other places because of that very issue.

So no more excuses.  If you’ve been thinking about inviting someone over but haven’t gotten around to it yet, go for it!  You’ll be glad you did.

Do you enjoy having people over? Does the asking part stress you out?

Need an Extra Table Sometimes?

Folding table

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Have you ever had one of those times when you needed seating for 18 but your table only fit 8?  Or you had a big project to do but you didn’t want to cover your dining room table for three weeks while you worked on it.  Or you needed a place to fold your laundry or sort a pile of papers?  I’ve dealt with all those scenerios in the past with a great amount of frustration.   I just didn’t have a convenient place to do any of it.

Until a few years ago when I bit the bullet and bought a folding table (also called a banquet table) that was on sale for $30 at Target (see it here).  That table was one of the best purchases I ever made.  Seriously.  It’s one of those things you might not use every day, but when you need it, YOU NEED IT!

I’ve used my table for:

1.       Extra seating at Thanksgiving and Christmas and for other dinner parties.

2.       For craft projects.  I set the table up and spread out my project.

3.       To sort papers.  Every now and then I decide to clean out my home office and my favorite strategy is to put everything on my folding table, all spread out, and then work through one pile at a time.

4.       As a laundry folding table.

5.       As a desk.  When we lived with the kids for three months, we set it up in our bedroom and used it for a desk.

If you ever need an extra table, a table like this is just the ticket.  And when you’re not using it, fold it up and stick it in a closet.  It’s not light but it’s light enough that I can haul it around the house.  And it doesn’t take up much space when it’s folded up.  Seriously, I love this table and am so glad I bought it.

Folding Table

Folding table

Folding table

Do you ever need an extra table? Could this work for you?

How to Stretch a Meal

Plates

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Dinner’s planned and maybe even started and you suddenly find out you’re going to have two or three extra people to feed.  Unfortunately, you don’t have enough food.  What do you do?

1.       Turn them away.
2.       Let them sit at the table but not eat.
3.       Give everyone a teeny tiny portion.
4.       Use strategies to stretch the meal.

If you said #4, you’re a winner!  And in case you’re not sure what those strategies are, here are a few ideas:

Add side dishes.  They don’t have to be fancy.

  • A plate of cut-up fruit.
  • A fruit salad using whatever canned or fresh fruit you have on hand.
  • Pasta.  Cook the pasta, drain, add a tablespoon of butter & some parmesan cheese and stir together.
  • Salad.  You can get a lot of mileage out of a vegetable salad.
  • Steamed or canned vegetables.
  • Baked potatoes.
  • Instant rice.  Cook in chicken broth with spices or bits of vegetables.
  • Deviled eggs.

Cut meat smaller.  I rarely serve a full 6 ounce chicken breast.  I cut each breast in half and then cut the thicker pieces in half horizontally.  I can make three chicken breasts stretch a lot further cutting them in smaller, thinner pieces.  Cut other meat in smaller pieces, too, to make it go further.

Make more.  If you’re making soup, you can usually add more ingredients and more liquid to make it stretch further.  If you’re making spaghetti, add a couple cans of tomato sauce to your spaghetti sauce. Doctor them with a pinch of sugar and a little dried basil or oregano.

Add bread.  I like to keep frozen garlic bread in the freezer for emergencies (short on time or extra guests).  You can heat it up in 5 minutes.  Or take hot dog buns or hamburger buns, separate, butter & sprinkle with garlic & cheese.  Broil until warm.

If you have dessert, put it where it’s visible.  Sometimes if people see what’s for dessert, they’ll eat less at dinner to leave plenty of room.

If appropriate, add to your meal by including appetizer foods, like pickles, cubes of cheese, raw veggies and dip.

Of course, stretching any meal will be tough if your pantry is bare and your refrigerator is empty.  So the biggest secret is keeping those areas stocked.  You don’t have to have enough food to last for a year – just a few extras.  I like to keep these extras in my pantry:

  • Rice mixes
  • Pasta mixes
  • Pasta
  • Brownie Mix
  • Cake Mix & Frosting
  • Vegetables, like green beans or corn
  • Salad dressing to serve as dip

And these extras in my freezer:

  • Cheese tortellini
  • Veggies
  • Corn on the cob
  • Garlic Bread

So the next time you find out you’ll have extras for dinner, don’t panic.  Just look through your pantry and freezer and see what you can come up with.

What do you to do stretch a meal when you have extra people for dinner?

Entertaining: Just Do It!

Entertaining

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Do you enjoy having people over but you find that you never get around to inviting anyone?  You have good intentions but there’s always something standing in the way?  The only way to succeed at having people over is to

JUST DO IT!

The truth is,

  • The schedule will probably never be ideal.
  • The house will rarely look just right.  You know – perfectly clean and perfectly decorated.
  • Your cooking skills may or may not be up to par.
  • Your budget may not allow for a gourmet meal.

But those are just excuses.  If you really want to have people over,

JUST DO IT!

Schedule:  Obviously your schedule does have to work.  You can’t invite people over if you’re not going to be home.  But don’t wait for an empty evening.  Mark out a day on your schedule even if you haven’t actually invited anyone yet.  You know the rule – our appointments and tasks expand to fill the time we have available.  So if you wait for the “right” time, it’ll never come.  Just pick a day and pencil in a party.  Then start inviting.

House:  Don’t worry about the house.  I’m serious.  Don’t worry about it.  Most of the people you’ll be interested in inviting over don’t care about the condition of your house.  They’re coming to see YOU, not your house.  And if your house isn’t perfectly decorated or immaculately cleaned – well, who cares?!  People are what’s important.

Cooking.  If you’re not a great cook, that’s okay.  Do the best you can or order take out.  Better yet, have your guests contribute to the meal.  Most people are happy to help.  And remember, it’s about the fellowship, not the food.

Budget.  Yes, cooking for guests can be expensive.  But you don’t have to offer a gourmet meal.  Keep it simple and choose a meal that fits your budget.  There are lots of great recipes that are inexpensive to make.

So if you want to have people over, pick a day and invite someone over.  Then prepare to have fun!

Remember,

JUST DO IT!

Do you entertain often?  If not, why not?  What’s holding you back?

Entertaining The Easy Way

coffee cups

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Long-time friends from out of town are coming over for coffee tonight.  We haven’t seen them in at least 15 years, probably longer.  They suggested we meet at a local coffee shop or restaurant but I invited them to come to our house instead.

They were more than willing to come here but hadn’t wanted to impose knowing we just moved and were in the midst of a major remodeling project.   I appreciate that.  But as I told them, this is the perfect time to entertain because expectations are low!  I mean, we just moved and we’re in the middle of remodeling everything!  So no one expects the house to be even close to clean.  Right?  Sounds like a win-win to me.  The house can be a mess and I have a great excuse.  No judgment for my housekeeping skills!

That being the case, I still wanted to make something to serve with the coffee.  I considered homemade cinnamon rolls or cookies and checked my sparse supplies to see if I had all the ingredients.  I might have had everything I needed but I stopped checking when I realized I don’t have any salt.

But bigger than being out of salt is the fact that the kitchen is covered in dust.  Even though I have a stove now, I can’t really use it much.  David’s been installing can lights and putting up trim and doing enough sanding to make the kitchen (and other rooms) a mess.  I considered cleaning up the dust and making something anyway, but in the end, I decided I couldn’t risk mixing dust into the cinnamon rolls or cookies.  Plus David wanted to work on the kitchen this afternoon and I definitely didn’t want prevent him from being able to.

dusty counter

So . . . I was ordering pizza for dinner (since we moved here, it’s become our Friday tradition with Danny and Ashley and the grandkids) and ordered a cinnamon dessert to serve with the coffee.   It’s true.  I’m not cooking from scratch.  I ordered out food.  And you know what?  It was the absolute right decision.

And that brings me to the reason for this article.  Don’t let silly little things like a messy house or less than optimal cooking skills keep you from having friends over.  If your house is a mess, clean it up or don’t worry about it.  If you can’t cook, buy something pre-made or order delivery.  Whatever the excuse, find a solution and invite those friends over!  You’ll be glad you did.

What complications keep you from having friends over?  How can you solve them?

How to Clean Up After a Party

How to Clean Up After a Party

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We recently had a small birthday party for our granddaughter who just turned four.  Our guest list included 10 adults and 2 children.  We served dinner, dessert (cake, of course) and opened presents – not a lot of activities and not a lot of people, but we sure made a mess!

And that’s always the bad part about having a party of any size – the clean-up.  But it has to be done.  So I’ve come up with a strategy for clean-up that works for me.  Here’s what I do:

1.       De-clutter (I consider this the easy part.)

  • Remove the decorations, if any;
  • Pick up all the trash;
  • Gather all the dishes and put them on the kitchen counter;
  • Move furniture and accessories back where they belong.

2.       Clean.

  • Wash the dishes.   For this party we used paper plates and cups which eliminated some dishes but there were still a lot to be washed.  I filled up the dishwasher but then went ahead and washed the rest by hand.  I could have waited until the dishwasher was finished and then washed the rest but I wanted to get it all done.
  • Sweep and/or vacuum the floors.
  • Mop, if needed.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention putting the food away.  That’s because I usually put the food away right after the party.  But I save the rest of the clean-up for the next day.

What’s your strategy for post-party clean-up?

How to Clean Up After a Party

8 Entertaining Tips for Picky Guests

picky eater

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I’m a picky eater.  There, I said it.  I’m embarrassed to admit it but it’s the truth.  I’ve been a picky eater since I was a kid.  And going over to someone’s house for dinner is a little scary since I don’t know if I’ll like what they serve.  I can force myself to eat certain foods but there are a few that are non-negotiable.  In case you’re wondering which ones are non-negotiable, here’s a list:

  • Mayonnaise, unless it’s cooked and I can’t taste it
  • Sour cream, again unless it’s cooked and I can’t taste it
  • Mushrooms
  • Gravy (I could eat it if I had to but I really don’t like it)
  • Anchovies
  • Olives
  • Salad dressing
  • Yogurt
  • Probably more but I can’t think of them now

Because I’m a picky eater, I’m more sensitive to people’s preferences when I entertain.  I try hard to provide a meal that even the pickiest eater will be satisfied with.

So if you’re thinking about having guests for dinner, here are some ideas for providing a meal that everyone, even picky eaters, will enjoy.

1.       When you issue the invitation, ask your guests if there’s anything they don’t like or can’t eat.

2.       Keep it simple.  Keeping it simple makes it easier on you but it also tends to result in a menu that most people will like.  Picky eaters tend to like “simple” food.  Actually, most people are fine with simple food.

3.       Unless your guests are “foodies”, avoid odd or gourmet-type recipes.

4.       Have a lot of variety.  If you have plenty to choose from, even the pickiest eaters will be able to find something they like.

5.       Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t like something you made.  And don’t be offended if they eat part of it but pick out the things they don’t like (like mushrooms, for example).  It doesn’t mean you did a bad job, it just means it’s something they don’t like.  Be assured they probably feel really bad for not eating it.

And if you have a guest who doesn’t eat much or anything, don’t feel the need to find something else for them to eat.  As a picky eater, I take full responsibility for my pickiness.  If someone serves something I don’t like and I can’t make myself eat it, it’s my problem and I don’t expect any special treatment.

Years ago we were having dinner with friends and I noticed they made bean soup.  Bean soup isn’t my favorite but I was going to eat it.  Then I noticed it had mushrooms – lots of them!  That’s when I panicked.  I’m not opposed to picking out things I don’t like, but there were so many mushrooms there was no way I could eat around them.  So I decided I wouldn’t take any soup.

When we sat down to eat, I was all set to pass on the soup and eat whatever else was on the table.  Unfortunately my friend filled my bowl and set it in front of me.  Oh, boy.  I was in trouble.  I sat there and swished my soup around in the bowl trying to come up with some brilliant way to handle this nightmare.  I finally realized there was nothing I could do.  So I told them I didn’t like mushrooms and would they be offended if I didn’t eat the soup.  They were surprised but fine and I filled up on cherry salad.  It was my problem, not theirs.

6.       And that brings me to the next item – don’t put food on people’s plates.  Let them get their own.  That way they can get what they want and in the amount they want.

7.       Buffets work really well, especially with mix and match menus like tacos where you can build your meal using whatever ingredients you like.

8.       Avoid foods that people tend to dislike like mushrooms, onions (by the way, I do like onions!) and mayonnaise.

Are you a picky eater or will you eat anything?  Have you ever been in a situation where you had to eat something you didn’t like?