Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dinner Parties, 1 of 4 Posts/Series


Do you enjoy giving Dinner parties? What are some of your tricks for working through them efficiently and without killing yourself in the process? We use to do it a lot more than we have in recent years. But this year we are resurrecting it and have picked up the pace. Retirement is so great for doing more of the things you enjoy and less of the things you do not! We have learned a few things that help us stream line the efforts that I thought I'd share today.


We have had or will have four sets of dinner guests in the last two weeks of this month. One thing I have noticed is the luxury of having a few days to get ready for one, cuts down on the stress and makes us both feel a lot more relaxed and able to enjoy our company.

The Crab Feed

I remember Jim's grandmother use to have things ready days in advance when she was having guests and I use to think it was strange. Now, being a grandmother myself, I am totally on board with it. You have heard me say this before but, the old gray mare ain't what she us to be! Everything takes longer these days. So by planning ahead for that, it really does make it even more enjoyable now, than when we were younger and in the frenzy of everyday life. Here are some things we have learned about dinner parties.

Carefully determine what your favorite numbers of guests is and stick to it whenever possible. You can invite all your friends, just not all at the same time. More dinner parties are more fun anyway.

Valentine's Day

We like 4, 6, 8 and at the most 10 at our table. By sticking to these numbers we only have to involve the dining room table either adding or subtracting leaves and tableware. Bringing in extra tables requires moving things all around and not being able to sit all together anyway. The logistical nightmare it sometimes produces often puts a damper on things.

We have had many, many dinner parties that were a lot bigger than the ideal, but for comfort and less work at one time, make your number smaller for sit down, more formal dining. I have learned that when we have a huge group I don't really feel like I visited with anyone very much when the evening is over. Plus all the cooking, prep, clean-up etc. is exhausting.


The exception to the numbers thing, is when we have a party out on the patio and deck. We can have a lot of people, and it is more casual. It is served buffet style and we have lots of tables. We supply all the main things and our guests usually bring a side dish or dessert or drinks. A lot can be said for that casual type of get together, but I really love doing a fancy dinner now and again too. Our cottage can accommodate a large crowd easily outside when the weather permits. Inside dining requires a lot more planning.

Having guests for dinner two days in a row is a great idea for us. As an example, last week we had the missionaries over for dinner on Wednesday and then had some long time friends over for dinner the next night. Just 4 for dinner each time.

We served the exact same dinner for both nights. I bought a large package of tri-tip sirloin steak, divided it in half, Jim threw half of it on the BBQ and then we served it with baked potatoes and the trimmings, fresh asparagus and a nice green salad. For dessert we had chocolate ice cream and some small cookies. Doing this saved a lot of thought, list making and shopping, money, time and work. And our guest were happy and we enjoyed entertaining them in this more simple way. The best part we had no left-overs, it was just perfect. It was just working smarter to achieve a good outcome each night.

I love to do fancy dinners, but sometimes simple food is best. And I rarely make a dessert. It is usually something like sorbet or ice cream and cookies or something fancy from a bakery. I don't enjoy making them, so I just don't! You can't love it all, I guess. Another thing I rarely do is try new recipes when we have company. I like going with the tired and true for our guests.

Of course I love doing the tablescapes~
that is my favorite part of getting ready!

Tomorrow night we are having our Family Home Evening group over for dinner. We host it every four months and this month we are doing a belated Cinco de Mayo dinner. These are all friends that are empty nesters, so we enjoy having this time together each month. When it is your turn, you supply everything, including a short spiritual lesson. So three out of four months everyone gets to just come and enjoy with no worries! If one of the four couples cannot attend we invite a guest couple and that has been fun too.

So yesterday I did all the planning and shopping. I also kept in mind our great-nephew, his Dad and Jim's mom are coming to dinner next Saturday. I planned to serve the same thing again for both dinners. I organized all the food, measured out all the ingredients. Jim cleaned out the frig and got things organized for the week. I combined that with shopping for the whole week so I don't have to go back to the store again. Getting that stuff done along with cleaning, etc. was enough for one day for me and Jim spent most of the day painting outside.

Mother's Day Centerpiece

This morning we got up early and set up our assembly line and made 24 of the chicken Enchiladas in a flash. Two dinners done in a short amount of time is appealing to me. I rarely cook for just one day. If you are going to make one of something, why not make another?

The hard work was done yesterday so it was just a nice time to do something while chatting and enjoying a leisurely morning together. I also got the table set and made preparations to make chili relleanos and Mexican rice tomorrow. We have planned a simple dessert and all is under control.

Another thing we have learned over the years is if your guests are coming at say, 7:00, we plan to be completely ready but 5:30 so we can just relax a bit before they arrive. It makes all the difference in how much we enjoy the evening. We know ourselves well enough to know that we will fill the time available working, unless we set a self-imposed deadline.

Entertaining and exhaustion are a bad combination for me and it motivates me to plan ahead and pace myself. Jim has a lot more stamina for the social things than me. For me it can be draining for him it is exhilarating.

So for us the pacing is essential. I know that seems weird to you young ones, but you'll be on broad with it someday yourselves. If you want to do what you've always done, you have to compensate for the old gray mare and sire, in all of us.

Compensation = growing older more gracefully.

It is also about enjoying these more stress-free, best times in our life, as best we can. We love the age we are now more than any other, we feel very young at heart. We are working on making this age the best example of compensating for the old horses within us, while keeping the glue factory at bay, for as long as is humanly possible! We are hobbling along at a pretty good pace and trying not to break a leg! They shoot horses don't they? Makes perfect horse sense to us, anyway.

Love you guys, have a great night! Thanks for putting up with my corny horse jokes!

Old Gray Mare!

Old Gray Sire!

Tomorrow...some recipes for the Mexican Fiesta and some tablescape photos. (Nellie, I got my new white dishes at long last!)


Bonnie said...

Dear Margaret,

Somehow your comment about being hungry for chili relleanos and not being able to get the ingredients disappeared. Tell me what you need, maybe I can send you a Mexican care package to Edinburgh! So nice to hear from you, hope you are doing well. Hugs, B

Marie said...

Love having people over for dinner Bonnie. Your tablescapes are just lovely here. You have such a beautiful eye for this type of thing. I am not surprised. Sending lots of love on this early spring morning from one old grey mare to another! xxoo

Nellie's Cozy place said...

Hi Again,
boy, I so agree with you on the preprepping of everything, makes such a difference. I like a much smaller group too, 6 is perfect to me, but 8 is fine too. More than that flusters me!! I have done it but find it way more stressful.

Also if you do it often you get sort of a system of doing things which makes it easier. Liked your idea of doing it 2 nights in a row, cause I have done that by accident,
maybe a few days apart but it was so much easier cause you already knew what you were doing for a centerpc. and could use the same tablecloth and napkins, so all you have to do is rewash everything and put it back on the table. Works well, and does save a lot of time and thinking!

Loved all your table shots, they were all very pretty. My fav was the header picture. That is such a gorgeous tablecloth in the mother's day one I think it was. They were all very pretty really, and all that good looking mexican food
has made me gotta go get something to eat now!! lol

Have a great weekend sweetie,
Love ya, Nellie