Category: Impromptu Hospitality

Impromptu Ladies’ Night

There’s no new Castle episode tonight, so we won’t be having our weekly Castle-watching party. One of the regulars, Meghan, is also our hair dresser. By “our hairdresser” I mean she comes over to our house and cuts the hairs of our whole family. Tonight she is coming over to cut Matthew’s hair before his Bulgarian boss arrives in the States for the week. She suggested an impromptu girls’ night tonight with another frequent Castle-guest, Nichole.

Meghan is coming to join us for dinner at 6 before the haircut. It’s 4:45 and I haven’t yet showered and dressed. The house is a mess, with luggage from our weekend trip strewn about. I have errands to run. And I haven’t defrosted the salmon, much less prepared to cook it.

Ooops.

Not sure what I’ll do with the ladies tonight…probably watch a movie on Netflix. We may need to run out for Ben & Jerry’s.

Being “Company Ready”

I have really been struggling with my home not being “company ready” lately. I’ve realized it’s a function of my personality (INFJ) to compartmentalize, so when I get busy with work or a project, I can only focus on that, and I tend to tune out other things like housework. (And vice versa – when I get focused on cleaning, I can organize and clean all day to the exclusion of other things). I really want to learn how to balance all this better – keep up with work, volunteering, projects, enjoying motherhood (although that’s the easiest…it doesn’t take much for me to set aside everything else to play with the cutest child in the world), AND have a generally company-ready house.

With the Red Sox heading toward the World Series and now being in the World Series, and the fact that we have a projector-theater-room now set up, our home has been the hub of much baseball watching. Tired of being embarrassed by dirty dishes and baby toys everywhere when hordes of guys suddenly “drop by” to catch the game, I’ve been working on keeping things more straightened up. Matthew and I have been busy running here and there in the evenings, so it’s been a long time since we actually sat down together for dinner, and that was another thing I wanted to change.

Yesterday I texted him and cordially invited him to a sit-down dinner at home. I’m so glad I was getting prepared for a nice dinner when he called from his racquetball league and said, “A friend is in Rhode Island tonight…can I bring him to dinner?” While the bedroom is the messiest it’s probably been since college, the kitchen, living room, and dining room looked pretty good, and I was already cooking stroganoff.

“Sure, that would be great!” I said. I finished clearing off the table, set plates, and lit a candle. Our upstairs neighbor was able to join us as well, and later, two other guys came by to watch the game.

I feel like I’ve had a lot of hospitality failures lately, so it was wonderful to feel like a success last night. Matthew even made sure to tell me several times that I had been a great hostess. Last night reinforced my desire to keep our home company-ready…not to mention that those of us who live here deserve a peaceful, clean environment as well.

Now I have to run, because another long-distance friend is flying in this afternoon to spend the weekend with us, and I need to tackle our bedroom…

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.

Hospitality Successes

Because I’m such a perfectionist, I’ve never been comfortable with last-minute entertaining. If people stop by unexpectedly, I’m usually paranoid about stuff like, “Did I remember to clean the toilet?” or “Did I leave panties lying on the bedroom floor?” And since I’m used to cooking for two, and since I plan my menus ahead of time and shop accordingly, my husband’s look that asks, “Could we have them stay for dinner?” is usually met with a hissed, “No, there’s not enough food!”

In my quest to remember that hospitable means “given to generous and cordial reception of guests,” I am trying to get better at spur-of-the-moment events.

I feel pretty good about two recent experiences on this front.

We know a couple named Eric and Jennifer. They were friends of ours when we lived in Oklahoma a couple years ago, and I remember the first time we invited them over. It was a casual Sunday lunch – I should have made something like burgers and fries. But no, I spent HOURS making these elaborate chicken breasts stuffed with some sort of lemon-olive mixture and several obscure vegetable dishes on the side. When I served the plates, they weren’t so much impressed as…puzzled. At how to actually eat this stuff. Or maybe even what it WAS, exactly. When they said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble!” I knew not to take it as a compliment.

Anyway, jump forward to a few weeks ago. They recently moved to Rhode Island, so we’ve reconnected with them. Late one Sunday afternoon, they stopped by our apartment for a few minutes. Everything was a mess, and I didn’t have much food around, but when Matthew signaled, “Can I invite them for dinner?” I said, “Sure.” I made spaghetti, hoping it would stretch four ways, and Jennifer buttered and garlicked a loaf of bread while I made a salad with whatever was in the crisper drawer. We shoved all the junk off the table and sat down to a fun, relaxing meal.

Then there’s Bobby and Jacqui, a couple we recently met. I’d been wanting to invite them over for dinner, so I finally emailed Jacqui on a Friday. I asked if Monday would be good for them, knowing it was the only night we had open for a long time. I didn’t know that she only checks her email once a week, so when I didn’t hear from her over the weekend, I figured it wouldn’t work out, so I didn’t prepare anything. Then on Monday, I had an email reply from her saying, “Yeah, today would be great!” Surprise! Oh, and then there was the postscript: “Bobby is on a strict no-carb diet…I hate to inconvenience you, but would it be possible for you to make something with no carbs?”

Matthew and I have never met a carb we didn’t like…so I quickly emailed a friend who had just started South Beach and begged her for a recipe. I ran to the grocery store on the way home from work then straightened up the house and threw dinner together (thank GOODNESS they were late!). They loved the Southwest stir-fry and fresh salsa, and we really enjoyed getting to know each other. They didn’t leave until after midnight! I’d say that means they felt “generously and cordially welcomed.”

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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