Category: Hospitality FAIL

Hosted By My Own Guests

A couple weekends ago, I planned a very full schedule. Friday night: arrived home from the youth camp where I’d spoken, went straight to Matthew’s company BBQ. Saturday: day in Boston with college friend Rebecca who had come from North Carolina to visit a mutual New Hampshire friend. Sunday: speak at a local church. Then crash, exhausted.

I’m sure there were gaps where more events could fit in … oh, and I found one! Saturday night: invite 9 people over for dinner, our friends the Thomases.

Knowing I would be pressed for time, I decided on a meal that would be simple to prepare. Inspired by one of the dinner at camp, I planned a Baked Potato Bar with a Brownie Bar for dessert. Matthew asked his sister for household help while I was away, so I texted Joanna a grocery list, and she picked up all the ingredients.

I baked the potatoes and brownies Saturday morning before leaving for Boston. All I would have to do when I got home was set out the condiments and toppings. And make some chili. And straighten up the house, because the kids had “unpacked” the suitcases from our trip all over the place. Okay, so I was cutting it close.

After an Italian lunch in Boston’s North End and cannoli at Modern Pastry, Rebecca decided she wanted to try a Duck Tour. I was able to order tickets from my iPhone, and we started walking the Freedom Trail toward the USS Constitution. We found out there had been a problem with our ticket order, and we would have to take a later tour to get enough seats. I knew it would REALLY push things for getting dinner ready, but I went for it rather than lose our tickets.

It definitely stressed Matthew out, but he took over valiantly. (Him: “You need to come home right now!” Me: “Um. I’m in the middle of Boston Harbor.”)

One of the Thomas boys came over early to help Matthew straighten up. By the time Rebecca and I and my kids rushed in from Boston, everyone was sitting around eating ice cream and popsicles. “Your husband serves the best appetizers!” said mom Monica Thomas.

They all jumped in to help set the table, make the chili, and set out the toppings: cheese, sour cream, bacon. (I forgot to get out the chives.) We had so much fun around the table.

After dinner, they helped clear plates and set out dessert: brownies, whipped cream, mini chocolate chips, walnuts, chocolate syrup.

When I left with Rebecca to drop her off with our friend, my amazing guests finished cleaning up before Matthew took them to Waterfire in downtown Providence. I came home to a spotless kitchen!

The whole thing was a blur, but it was a lot of fun. I felt like I was hosted in my home by my own guests. Thank you all so much…you’re welcome any time!

I’m sure you will be more organized and timely when you host guests at YOUR home, but if you ever know you’re going to be cutting it close:

  • plan food that is easy to set out
  • plan food that can be mostly prepared ahead of time
  • don’t leave the house messy thinking you’ll have time to clean it later!
  • invite gracious guests : )

Things to Avoid for a Great Party: Edition 2

More hospitality funnies from my brother Zach.

Things to Avoid for a Great Party: Edition 1

My brother Zach and his wife, Hannah, are great at hospitality. They’re also really funny. Zach and I got talking about my blog last week, and he offered to share some tips about things to avoid to make your parties awesome (complete with illustrations). He got on a roll and sent me a whole slew of fantastic party comics. I’ll be sharing these every Wednesday for the next few weeks.

First Edition of Things to Avoid for a Great Party:

The Lost Day – Hosting While Sick

Our fun week with my brother Daniel visiting was punctuated by a small calamity… Wednesday night, we hosted our newlyweds Bible study here. Daniel helped tremendously by cleaning and baking cookies as we were getting ready. As the last couples were leaving at about 10:30, I felt a sudden rush of nausea and hurried to the bedroom to lie down, where I stayed for an hour telling my body not to throw up. Finally, between 11:30 and 12, I knew it was inevitable, and Matthew responded to my cry for help and brought me a bowl. I proceeded to throw up every hour most of the night.

At first I managed to feel happy in spite of the vomiting, because I thought maybe it meant I was pregnant, which would be great. But then Matthew started puking at about 4 am, so clearly that was not the case. So we wondered if it was food poisoning, but Daniel and I had eaten all the same things all day, and he wasn’t sick…until 7:30 or so, when he threw up too.

We called my sister-in-law Amy, and she went to the pharmacy for anti-nausea medicine and Pedialyte for us. Daniel recovered pretty quickly, but felt weak most of the day. Matthew (he took a sick day) and I spent most of the day in bed, drifting in and out of delirious sleep, achy and shivery. The day crept by soooooo slooowly. It was horrible. I don’t remember the last time I was that sick. I think the last time I threw up at all was in middle school or high school.

Amy called late in the afternoon and said she had begun vomiting as well. So there’s no way it was food poisoning. I have no idea where we got this awful bug…I think the only thing the four of us have in common the past few days is the company where Matthew and Amy both work, but no one else there seems to be sick.

We finally ate some soup late last night and slept mostly peacefully. Matthew went to work this morning and Daniel and I are up and around, although I’m still moving pretty slowly. Katherine has been totally fine, for which I am extremely grateful.

I’m sad to have “lost” more than a day of Daniel’s visit, especially yesterday…I had a huge Lord of the Rings-themed feast planned for last night. Some fellow Tolkien fans were going to come over and we were going to watch “The Fellowship of the Ring” and have a wonderful meal of all sorts of LOTR-type foods with fun names I made up…”A Shortcut to Mushroom” Stuffed Mushrooms, “We Saved Some for You, Mr. Frodo” Beef with Nice Crispy Bacon, etc.

The good thing that came out of it was that we got a new dishwasher…ours broke a week ago and our landlord has been taking forever to replace it. I emailed yesterday and said it was an emergency and we needed it right away because we now have piles of dishes to sterilize. The repair dude is installing it right now.

The Ill-Fated Rescue

For the Reader’s Digest version of this story, go here.

Saturday night, Dec. 1, I called Hannah to let her know I’d emailed her pictures of my bangs. I had forgotten she was in New York state for a Sunday afternoon wedding and wouldn’t have internet access. I’m glad I called, though, because she had a tale of woe, and since she couldn’t blog about it, I’m glad I was able to be a listening ear.

Turns out she had been given to understand that her transportation and accomodations would be taken care of, and all she needed to do was show up. When no one came to pick her up from the airport, she got an inkling of things to come. She found out about a dilapidated shuttle from the hotel just in time to avoid walking two miles in the dark and cold from the airport to the Days Inn. After finding out that, yes, she could stay in the hotel…for $100 a night, the true reality of the weekend ahead of her set in. No transportation? Check. No arranged room? Check. Oh, well, at least she had her…debit card? Nope. Still in Oklahoma. And she had Saturday and Sunday night to survive before her plane left early Monday morning, getting her back for her Tuesday morning flight from OKC to Washington, D.C.

By the time I talked to her, she was considering spending the night doing, well, THIS. Or going to the airport and surreptitiously sleeping in the baggage claim all night.

I encouraged her as best I could and then set about making a seven-layer Mexican dip for a Christmas party that night. Somewhere between the beans and the guacamole, the thought came. “HEY! Did Hannah say she was near West Point? I didn’t realized she was going to be so close! That’s only a few hours from here! Gosh, I should go and spend the night walking around Wal-Mart WITH her!”

Then I remembered not only am I not in college anymore, I also have a baby, who is laid back, but probably not THAT laid back. Still, there must be something I could do to rescue my poor stranded friend…plotting commenced. I called Matthew on the way to the party. “Want to go on an adventure with me?” I asked. I outlined Hannah’s situation and finished with several options… A. We pick her up and bring her back to RI with us. B. We find an all-night diner in Newburgh, NY, and take a re-he-he-he-he-heally long time eating. C. We pick her up and then stay with friends in New York City.

“That’s insane!” he said. “It sounds like something *I* would come up with. I love it! I’ll call Adam.” (I was loving having the tables turned. My visionary husband is constantly coming up with out-there plans, and I usually have to bring in the reality check. It was so funny for me to have the crazy idea and him to carefully think out the logistics.)

I was so excited to call Hannah later that night and tell her, “We’re coming to rescue you!” She was surprised/happy/elated/shocked/overjoyed…apparently things there had continued to go downhill.

So it came about that Sunday after church I was hurriedly packing an overnight bag and gathering everything for the trip. The true psychoticness of this idea didn’t sink in until I went to GoogleMap directions and was confronted with my previously hazy understanding of New York geography…Newburgh is 4 hours from Providence, not 3, as I had thought, and Harlem, NYC, is a further 1.5 hrs., not 45 minutes. And Hannah’s flight left at 6 am, not 7. Which meant…quick mental calculations…we would have to leave the City between 3:30 and 4 am on Monday to get Hannah to the Newburgh airport on time. After sufficiently caffeinating ourselves, we set off on our mission/quest/thing. We reached the reception site (which reminded me an awful lot of this inn) as the party was winding down and Hannah was about ready to stove her own head in out of sheer boredom. She ran out to meet us, and when I jumped out of Fritz Alvaredo, she gave me a huge hug and said something about being happier to see me than she had been to see anyone in a long time. I was thoroughly happy to see her too. As she said, it was a lot like this:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting “I knew you’d find me!” Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We ventured on to the Gahagans’ apartment and made great time getting there. They were so gracious to put us up in their tiny space on such short notice.

Me with Elasia, and Evita with Katherine:

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Adam making the girls smile:

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We stayed up way past the babies’ bedtimes talking.

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I really appreciate the Gahagans willingness to upend their schedule for us! It was encouraging as usual to see them. They are some of the most spiritually refreshing people to spend time with. Their passion and vision is catching.

We finally went to bed, Matthew, Katherine and me on the futon and Hannah on the little chair.

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We crashed for a few short hours…stumbling around blindly in the morning, we tried to hurry out the door, but I fell back to sleep instead of getting re-packed while Matthew was showering, so it was almost 4:40 by the time we sped onto the George Washington Bridge and headed northwest. NO ONE was on the road, so Matthew booked it down the highway. Finally at 5:45, Fritz pulled up to the terminal. Hannah dashed out to run through the tiny airport and board her 6 o’clock flight. We told her to call us to let us know she made it on the plane.

The phone rang a few minutes later. As if 6 am weren’t early enough…the flight had left early, leaving Hannah tarmac-bound. A couple hours of stress and repeated calls to Northwest ensued. The multiple Northwest agents she spoke with couldn’t grasp the idea of saving the airline money by consolidating her two trips – NY to OK, then OK to DC roundtrip – into one trip, so she could ride home with us and go to DC directly from Providence. Ultimately, we had to say goodbye and leave her to catch a much later flight to Oklahoma. And, as Matthew said later, by the time 11 am and he rolled around at Saint John Stone, his boss had so many things to talk to him about that he didn’t really notice how late Matthew was to work.

So. It turns out that I saved my friend from spending 9 hours in the Newburgh airport…by leaving her to spend 9 hours in the Newburgh airport.

Morals of this very long and drawn out story:

1. Our adventuring days are by no means over now that we are parents. Katherine was a gem the whole trip.

2. I love my friends and will do pretty much anything for them. But don’t ever count on me to get anyone anywhere on time early in the morning.

A Thanksgiving Story

Thanksgiving is going well so far at our house…this is the first year I’ve hosted…first year to cook a turkey…plus having a baby to take care of in the midst of cooking, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. Matthew invited his mom and siblings and two couples we know who weren’t planning to travel to see their families this year.

I didn’t think about how long it takes to defrost a turket, so I only took it out of the freezer on Tuesday night. So yesterday I realized I needed to thaw it faster. I ran cold water over it for a long time, soaked it in cold water in the bathtub, soaked it in cold water in the sink…hooray, it did thaw by this morning! When Eric Stephen and Jennifer came over for breakfast, they brought a turkey too, so we prepped both birds. Our upstairs neighbors are two bachelors, and they said we could use their oven as they were going to be away today. That was great, because we have so many dishes to cook, we needed two ovens. Matthew and Eric took the turkeys upstairs and tried to cram both roasting pans in the oven, which didn’t fit…so, rather than jam up our oven with a turkey too, they put one turkey in the upstairs oven and put my turkey on the porch to stay cold…I guess we’ll cook it after the first one is done. So much for hurriedly defrosting mine!

A little later an alarm started going off…turned out to be Boomer and Ben’s gas alarm. Apparently, their oven is broken, but they never knew it, as they apparently have never used it. Ever. Thankfully they had an alarm, or we might have ended up feeding paramedics and firefighters today, too.

So the turkey ended up taking up space in our oven after all, and we’re baking one side dish at a time. Oh, well. The ladies are cooking together and having a nice time, and my mother-in-law is holding Katherine, so I think everything will turn out okay.


Anyway, the reason I got on here was to link to a Thanksgiving story I wrote when I was 16. I freely admit that I am a geek. I have written fan fic, yes, I have. In my defense, it DID really help develop my writing skills. Ahem. Anyway, this is a JAG fanfiction story I wrote back in the day, and it’s about Thanksgiving, and here you go. Please overlook any cheesiness by remembering that I was 16 when I wrote it. Thanks.

And if you want to make me really, really, really, REALLY happy, find some way to track down all episodes of JAG ever and give them to me…I stopped watching it after about season 5 when I left for college because I didn’t have a TV, and I would kill to have the whole show on DVD.

I Anointest My Head with Oil

We had a great weekend of hospitality. It’s been a while since we had anyone over for dinner, so I guess we’re trying to catch up. Friday night, we had Shawn and Jennifer, who recently joined our young couples Bible study. They have a three-month-old baby, Faith, who is amazingly quiet! Anecdote of the evening: she started to get a little fussy, and the cats went nuts, never having heard a baby before. They both slunk around, trying to figure out where the whimpering prey was hiding so they could bite its head off. Or at least, that’s what I assume they were thinking. Maybe they were just curious. Shawn laid Faith on the coffee table to change her, and first Bugaboo then Muffin decided this sacrifice on the altar needed to be investigated. Probably the worst that would have happened is that Bugaboo would have licked her head, which is what he’s taken to doing to Muffin, and Muffin would have tried to find feathers on her person (Muff can open my giant craft drawers and dig out my feathers, no matter how deep we bury them!) but just to be safe, Matthew locked the cats away. I think we’ll be inviting over lots of couples with babies this summer so the kitties can get used to squalling infants.

On Saturday night, Eric and Kristen came over. We met them soon after we moved to RI, so they are “old friends” compared to most of the couples we know here. I won’t bore you with any anecdotes about their visit, because the key point is simply this: I made bacon to sprinkle on the salad. I poured the bacon grease into the empty gravy jar. That’s all.

Yesterday afternoon, I was finishing up the rest of the dishes (I was feeling adventurous Saturday so I made a three-course dinner. There were a lot of dishes.) and needed to throw away the jar of bacon grease. Maybe the grease had reacted with the bit of gravy in the jar, because it hadn’t set up at all. I guess I had pitched the lid for the gravy jar when I opened it, and I didn’t want to dig through the past two bags of garbage to find it. So I glanced around the kitchen for a lidded container. I spotted a big, empty plastic animal cracker jug. I unscrewed the lid and…did I carefully place the open jar of liquid bacon grease inside? Did I pour the grease into the bigger jug? No. I dropped the open jar of liquid bacon grease down into the big jug. When it hit the bottom, the cup ranneth over, straight upward in a fountain of grease. It doused my forehead, my shirt, the floor, and probably other spots in the kitchen I haven’t discovered yet.

I stood there stunned for a moment, looking remarkably like David, I’m sure. Then I went to show Matthew, trying to keep the grease from dripping off my nose, so he could laugh at my expense. Then I finally looked at myself in the mirror. It was even in my HAIR! Which proceeded to receive its second washing of the day.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The End.

Garnish Liberally with Broken Plate

Last night, my friend Mandie came over for dinner. She is a Bible college student who is several years younger than me. She asked me to get together with her once a month or so for some informal mentoring. Last night was our second “meeting” and her first time over to our apartment.

Trying to remember all these great lessons in hospitality I’ve been learning, I planned a simple meal: lasagna and salad, and Mandie said she would bring some garlic bread. I made the lasagna Monday night (my mom’s recipe – uses cottage cheese instead of ricotta – I love it!) so all I would have to do on Tuesday was just pop it in the oven.

I had been up till midnight or later on both Sunday and Monday nights painting the dining room, so when I got home from work Tuesday night, I had to clean up the dining room and living room and hang everything back on the walls. When Mandie arrived, I wasn’t finished, but I tried to remember that hospitality is more about a giving attitude than a perfect house. I welcomed her, we put the bread in the oven, and while Matthew made her a fabulous caffeinated beverage, I finished straighteneing up and set the table. (I didn’t have time to make a salad, but that’s okay – no one knows that but me! And, now, the Internet.)

We sat down to eat, and I was pretty proud of myself for how well things were going. About halfway through the meal, I stood up to serve myself another piece of lasagna. As I started to scoop it out of the pan, my plate just slipped through my fingers–so–and went down–down–down and broke, on the edge of the baking dish, into a thousand pieces, most of which ended up all over the lasagna.

I just stood there. Mandie and Matthew stared at me.

Eventually I recovered my faculties and started to clean up the mess. We realized that most of the pieces had fallen on the half of the pan that was already empty, so it wasn’t too much of a loss. We carefully picked up the pieces and moved on with the meal.

After dinner, Mandie helped me clear the table and then we sat in the living room and had a very nice time talking. We went through some scripture passages about Godly womanhood. She had to ask for a blanket at one point – oops, another boo-boo! I forgot how cold our house seems to someone who is not used to viewing a 63-degree home as “luxuriously warm” (compared to 54 at night).

Before she left, she commented, “You really do have a great gift of hospitality!” So I guess that means it turned out well after all. (Hey, at least we didn’t almost kill her, like we did with our first-ever dinner guest.)

And then I fell asleep, leaving almost every light on and about 10 candles burning. Matthew blew them out when he got home from work at 4 a.m.

P.S. I just ate my leftover lasagna for lunch. And bit down on a piece of broken plate.

The Dinner Party That Wasn’t

Today’s illustrated story is about another valuable lesson in hospitality.

See the pretty table.

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See the delicious food.

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See the empty chairs.

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This house is all dressed up with no one to entertain!

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So, here’s what happened. We’ve been trying to have one of Matthew’s old friends over for dinner for, like, two months. Last night was the third date we had set with her (she had cancelled twice before). I last talked to her before Christmas, and she said that Tuesday, Jan. 3, would be a great night for her. So I put it on my calendar.

I had Monday off work, so I put extra time into setting the table really nicely and getting a lot of the food prepped so we could have a nice, relaxing evening with her. I was very excited about the menu: Thai chicken wraps (chicken marinated in peanut butter, lime juice, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, and hot sauce, with garnishes of fresh cilantro, mint, scallions, and lime wedges), sauteed yellow squash and zucchini, and green tea, and for dessert, triple hot chocolate with whipped cream and an assortment of fine cookies.

Yesterday, I called her several times throughout the day to confirm the time – 6 pm – and to give her directions. I kept getting her voicemail. She didn’t call, didn’t call…6 o’clock came and went, and no guest.

So Matthew and I decided to invite someone else. The table was set, the food was ready, the house was clean…but no guest! (Didn’t Jesus say something about that?)

I called Karla & Phil. They weren’t home. So I called Eric Stephen & Jennifer. No answer. I called Beth and got her voicemail. Then I called Mandie, then Ariel. Neither could come, but we started making plans to get together on other days. I called Gabe & Julie, and they themselves had guests over, so we planned to have dinner with them next week. No answer at Peter & Julie’s. Matthew invited Ben and Dan, but they were having dinner with their grandparents. Then he called Paul and couldn’t reach him. Both Jen and Beth called back later, and we made tentative future plans with them. So that’s…four married couples and six single people – and no one could come!

At 7:30, Matthew and I sat down to a lovely, candlelit dinner, just the two of us. I suppose my mistake was not calling our potential guest on Saturday or Sunday to confirm the date. Lesson learned for next time…

As Matthew said, “At least this jumpstarted our hospitality!” We now have dinner dates with a whole slew of guests for the next two weeks. Hooray! So I guess it didn’t turn out too badly after all.

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