Well, well, here we are… December already, with Christmas less than three weeks away. I have missed the last few link ups; we’ve had a rough month here in our household with our daughter’s health and somehow by the end of the day, I lacked the mental capacities to sit down and write anything coherent. Things aren’t necessarily improved any, however, I realize that writing is a great outlet for me, and I need to do something for “me”. So, here I am, back in the saddle again!
This week’s topic is on hospitality, an interesting one. I think we are seeing an era where while the word hospitality may have the same technical definition, culturally, it has changed. Or at least, the opportunities for extending hospitality have changed.
I grew up with a grandmother who was without a doubt, the perfect hostess. Her hospitality was legendary, and she knew how to throw a party. Her Christmas Eve party was a popular event and is one of my favorite childhood memories. The tradition started roughly 50 years ago, when my father was just little. After Christmas Eve service, as many as 30 or 40 friends and family would crowd into their little two-bedroom home. There would be Christmas music playing in the living room, a Christmas movie on the television in the family room, and food and drink (non-alcoholic) galore. My grandmother would bake for weeks, preparing for this party. My grandmother always loved to entertain.
She grew up in an era of course, where hospitality was a common practice. She loves recalling stories of how she and her husband and their circle of friends would visit a different person’s house every Friday night, playing cards and just enjoying time together. Sundays were for big family dinners at some family member’s home. And of course there were family dinners for Easter, Thanksgiving and birthdays, or gathering to watch a play off game. Sometimes there was no reason for a gathering at all, other than someone just popped in to say hello – a quick visit which would normally extend into staying for a meal.
Does this even exist anymore? Over time, especially in the last 20 years, as both members of the household work more hours per week, as stores are open more days per week with longer hours, and shift work has become more common, where parents are too busy running their children to sports practice all days and hours of the week, hospitality (or at least the opportunity for hospitality) seems to have gotten lost. Even when someone might be able to schedule something into their calendar, they are just too worn out to even think about going visiting. So instead we sit home on the couch with our iPhone in hand, and catch up on Facebook, and fool ourselves into thinking we’re more connected than ever.
I’m reading this as I’m writing and hoping I don’t sound too bitter, but I confess – I feel the loss. I am very much like my grandmother, and I love entertaining. I love having a house full of people for dinner, consequently I typically host holiday dinners. I used to try to do a Christmas Eve party similar to my grandmother’s, but we live 30-40 minutes away from most of our family and friends, so it was too far to drive on such a busy night. We used to do a Superbowl party, but over the years, people became too busy, and it was just as easy to watch it at home on their own big screen. And so it goes…
And really, I understand it, because we too are busy. And there have been times I have turned down social opportunities because I/we are just too worn out from running the roads to hospitals and doctors, or my husband needs to work on his lesson plans etc… But sometimes I wish we could all just grab a remote control and press pause on this thing we call life, then perhaps hit the rewind button, where we could go back to a time where life was just a little less hectic.
So, now that I have effectively had a rant, let’s get into the questions of the week!
1. What’s your go-to “someone’s coming over” recipe?
Hmm… that depends. In the summer we often fire up the BBQ and do hamburgers and salad with strawberry shortcake for dessert. The rest of the year I’ll typically roast a chicken, and have a fairly traditional meal of roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, maple glazed carrots and string beans. Sometimes I’ll do a hodge podge on the side. For those not familiar with this traditional Canadian dish, it’s a dish of yellow and green beans, diced carrots, peas and corn, cooked in milk and butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. It’s delicious served with buttered brown bread. Dessert is often brownies or cake.
2. You have 5 minutes to tidy before guest arrive. What are your tidying shortcuts?
Well, thankfully, it is rare that I only have 5 minutes to tidy before a guest arrives. See above where I mention that we live 30-40 minutes from most of our friends and family. While this has it’s downfalls, in this case, it’s a perk! However, it does happen occasionally, especially on those days when I’ve completely forgotten that we have a home visit from the occupational therapist.
So, if I really only have a few minutes, I admit that I am totally one of those people that runs through the main rooms, grabs all the clutter, throws it into our bedroom (which is off the living room) to be dealt with later, and then I shut the door. Voila! Then I run into the bathroom and wipe down the toilet and sink/counter, make sure there’s an extra roll of toilet paper handy. And then, I run to the kitchen where I typically find myself in the middle of trying to frantically unload the dishwasher while the guest arrives. As for dusting, I normally invite them to plant a seed on the entertainment center – wood heat is the main source of heat in our home, and the stove is in our living room. The wood is stored in the basement and has to get carried through the living room. Need I say more about the dust?
3. What sort of music sets the mood for the perfect gathering?
Music. Right. You see, I have young children. Who are always present when we entertain. That’s pretty much all there is to say on the topic of ambiance music in our house.
But for the sake of playing along. Let’s pretend for a moment, that my son stopped talking about Pokemon for more than a minute, that the television wasn’t playing one of their favorite cartoons, and that my daughter wasn’t putting on a show, singing and dancing in her cowgirl boots and hat. In such a wild and crazy scenario, I would probably choose some light jazz, maybe some Dan Gibson’s solitudes, something quiet and soothing. My husband on the other hand, would choose Prince, or Bruce Springsteen, something upbeat and lively. You know what they say – opposites attract!