Category: Post-Mortem

Dinner at the Hampson Estate / Using Serving Trays

We went to the new home of our friends the Hampsons for dinner on Saturday night. This was our first visit to their new-ish home overlooking the Jamestown and Newport bridges. They’ve finished restoring an 1899 historic inn. The ProJo featured the home as the House of the Week in 2006, which is how the Hampsons happened upon the property.

The home has a ginormous wraparound porch overlooking the bridges, and the Hampsons took advantage of the cool evening to hold dinner al fresco on the porch. Besides the beautiful views and lively company, my favorite thing about the dinner was Ann’s use of serving trays. If I had to transport various aspects of the dinner from the kitchen to the porch, I think I would have tried to juggle things in my arms and then arrange them on the tables. Ann used some lovely serving trays to compartmentalize and carry appetizers, drinks, and dessert, and to clear the table after dinner. It made everything feel organized and tidy.

She served cold soup made from their own garden veggies:

And brought out drinks and cups on a tray. Then we had a big summery dinner of grilled meats, corn on the cob, and garden salads.

We had brought dessert. (Price Rite had Ben & Jerry’s on sale for $1.99 a pint. How you can pass that up?)

So I didn’t:

Ann arranged the ice cream, spoons, cups, and toppings on a tray. They had all survived the trip from Providence to North Kingstown intact…except for the whipped cream, which had had an unfortunate incident in the car on the way over.

Noise: Pfffhhhwewwwhhh…

Matthew: What’s the noise?

Becky: I have no id…oh, frick. I stepped on the whipped cream can.

(Which reminds me…I still need to clean the floorboard of his car.)

After dinner, the Hampson’s son Josh (about to return to school in Scotland) gave us a tour of the house.

“This is our Harry Potter cupboard,” he said.

Oh, why, yes. Yes, it is. (I laughed very hard.)

There may have been lengthy and animated discussion about using their home to hold my EPIC Harry-Potter-party-I’ve-been-planning-for-two-years at their home in November…details as they develop.

And … rarely in my life has my mouth dropped open. But it did when I walked into this room:

Having just read this that morning…I climbed the ladder and sang “I’m the King of New York.”

So. Even if you don’t have spectacular views of the bay, a four-story historic home with a library, an under-stairs cubby, or an expansive veranda, you can still use Ann’s ideas for serving trays when you’re hosting dinner at your home.

Hospitality Post-Mortem: Nichole and Meghan

Well, I got dinner ready an hour later than planned, but it was delicious. And healthy! Thanks, South Beach cook book.

Of course, we were hungry an hour later. Thanks, Sour Patch Kids.

Good:
-Dinner was delicious
-Nichole and Meghan are good enough friends that I don’t worry about things being perfect for them. Makes me feel more relaxed.
-Picking out a movie with a group of people can be difficult and take forever. Always lots of different tastes to account for, and trying to find something that either no one has seen or those who have seen it don’t mind watching again can be tough. We did well – all flexible – and settled on Josie and the Pussycats.
-I had never seen it, and it was adorable.
-We passed over ice cream for veggies and hummus. Go, us.

Bad:
-Our garbage disposal broke a few days ago and the landlady hasn’t fixed it yet = Dishes ALL over the kitchen. Yuck.
-Joshua was squirmy and didn’t want to watch VeggieTales in the other room, so he was a distraction till I put him to bed.
-I didn’t have many snacks in the house. Need to keep the snack pantry stocked better.

Overall, I would call it a success. The ladies stayed till 1 a.m. talking, and we got deep. I am thankful for friends who open their hearts and lives to me.

Recuperating from Hospitality Overload

I finally felt “UP” yesterday…I have felt “down” for the past two weeks. Today I have energy and vitality and spark again!

Two weeks ago when Hannah visited, I overcrowded the week and wore myself out. I had some major work projects that fell that week…speaking briefly at my church on Sunday, speaking at the rally at the State House on Monday, media committee meeting Thursday night, and giving a presentation to 45 high schoolers on Sunday. I didn’t realize till those things were over how very much they had been stressing me out. Even though I can do my teen workshop in my sleep now, and I love doing them, preparing to get up in front of people makes me tense and irritable.

I feel really badly that those all fell the same week as Hannah came. I also tried to pack in AS MUCH FUN AS POSSIBLE! So we were going-going-going. The next time we get together, I’m going to schedule nothing but sewing, dancing, watching movies, eating, shopping…dang it, see? There I go again.

The week culminated in Matthew’s Super Bowl Party of His Life dot com. He had told me he wanted to have one and asked if I could help…I told him I couldn’t do much since Hannah would be visiting, but that I would straighten up the house and make a huge pot of chili.

Saturday night came, and we sat down to talk logistics. I asked Matthew to go over the RSVP list and it went on and on…neither of us had realized till then that 30 adults were planning to come, along with 8 children. We have a smallish apartment with only one bathroom. Matthew realized he had literally invited too many people. The thought of almost 40 humans crammed into my home sent me into an internal panic. And I realized that after the crazy week we’d had, “straightening up” the house would take hours, and we would need a lot more food than a pot of chili.

Hannah and Matthew both helped a ton, and Dan and Jenn came over early to help with last minute prep, and by the time 5:30 rolled around, we had 6 screens (laptops and TVs) set up throughout the house, chairs dispersed, drinks filling three coolers, and snacks spread out on the table. Total count ended up being 33 people. It took the rest of the next week to clean up, but we also got comments all week long about how much everyone had enjoyed the party.

By the time I had recovered myself and the house, it was time to get ready for a baby shower I was co-hosting with my friend Bekki (thankfully at her house, not mine!) on Saturday the 7th. The mom (Onalee) is doing the nursery in a circus motif, which provided a great party theme (most of the guests had all been involved in a couples Bible study for several years, so we’ve done SO many baby showers for each other that we were running out of themes and games!).

Katherine got sick on Thursday, and especially after staying up till almost 3 am Friday night getting ready for the party and catching up on other things, I was very sick myself by Saturday afternoon. (Joshua was a huge help – he actually slept 7.5 hours straight Friday night! 11 pm to 6:30 am) I doped up on cold medicine and ringmastered the party, but by the time it was over I was a wreck. Jenn took care of me afterward since the significant others were mostly all playing video games at my house still. I got worse and worse, and she realized I was in no condition to drive, so she had Dan bring Matthew to drive me home.

I spent Sunday in bed…Matthew left for church giving Katherine instructions to stay in her room till Mommy got up. By the time I did, around 1:30, K was naked (?) in the living room and Cheerios covered the floor in 70% of the house. (Sweeping was a small price to pay for that blessed sleep.) Then Katherine and I watched Back to the Future movies till bedtime.

So I’ve spent this week so far recuperating from the sickness and decompressing from all the hospitality. We’re mostly all well now, except for Joshua, who has a terrible stuffy nose.

Gwyn put it really well when I told her about the Super Bowl party: “wow. that is a becky nightmare + fantasy. the hospitality! but the PEOPLE! but the hospitality! and the cooking! but the PEOPLE, and muffliato isn’t WORKING!”

I think God knew He had to give me the gift of hospitality to combat my introvertedness, or I would live in constant disobedience. As it is, the two work in tension with each other, causing me to cycle through wearing myself out and recuperating. Hopefully I’ll continue to work toward finding a better balance.

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…

Mexican Food, Newport, and My Baby Squirrel

We had dinner with Micah and Nichole last night. And it just so happens to be their anniversary today! We had a lot of fun. So much fun that we didn’t leave till after midnight! I didn’t realize it had gotten so late, and they were too polite to kick us out. : )

Their apartment in Newport is beautiful. It’s in a huge Victorian home that has been converted into eight apartments. (Nichole said that in the 1930s, it was 16 apartments!) Their apartment felt very open and airy, with calming paint colors on the walls, high ceilings, and hardwood floors. I can’t imagine how HUGE the house must have been when it was a one-family dwelling.

They made a great hosting team. Micah did most of the cooking and served us a fabulous Mexican feast. The food just kept coming. I brought chips and homemade salsa, so we started with those and “Mexican Fudge,” which is really more like a spicy quiche. Then we had a salad with toasted tortilla strips, then beef AND chicken enchiladas, AND Spanish rice AND refried beans. And then chocolate cake. Nikki graciously made us coffee, and even though she and Micah are coffee-teetotalers, they each bravely downed a cup. We played The Dice Game and Dutch Blitz, both brought to us courtesy of Gwyn.

The only downside to the evening was my squirrley baby. Used to be, we could take her anywhere to anything and she’d be fine. Nice restaurant? No problem, she’d either sleep or sit happily in her carseat. Church meetings, volunteer meetings, no problem – I could hold her and she’d be fine. Only occasionally did she cry, and that almost always meant she was hungry. If I was trying to do something at home, she would be content in her swing or playing on her play mat. If I put her somewhere, she stayed put.

No longer. Scratch all of the above. She has recently learned how to Army crawl AND how to move from sitting to her stomach without smacking her face on the ground. All these developments came last week when I had a house full of people who were more than happy to watch her and play with her. Then all of a sudden I was alone with her again, and she had turned into Super Scooting Baby, and I’m not quite sure what to do with her! She wants nothing to do with her swing. If I sit her on a play mat, she turns onto her belly, scoots her torso to the edge, and drags herself and the play mat across the floor. I put her in her car seat on the living room floor a few days ago and went into the kitchen, and when I came back a moment or two later, SHE WASN’T THERE! I hadn’t buckled her in, so she must have slid out, rolled over, and dragged herself along, because I found her heading under the dining room table.

This is what she was doing last night. Dragging herself across the floor, gnawing on chair legs, pulling everything out of her diaper bag, arching her back and trying to throw herself out of the papasan chair we had pulled into the kitchen to contain her. Oh, and talking. And screeching. LOUDLY. This is the other reason we can’t take here anywhere anymore – she talkatively takes after her dad, but hasn’t yet learned his restraint.

She finally wore herself out enough to slowwwwwwwwwwwly driiiiiiiiiift offfffffffffff to sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m having so much fun watching her grow and develop, and I love the constantly increasing level of interaction we enjoy. I just feel like my mothering rhythm is off. I had it down…I knew how to take care of her, how to respond to her, how to meet her needs, how to keep her safe and entertained. Now she is changing so fast I can’t adapt quickly enough, so I feel off my game.

My dream room right now is a big, giant space, freshly carpeted, with nothing on the walls or the floor except for a bunch of toys, a room where she can crawl around and explore to her heart’s content and I can turn my back for a moment without worrying that she’ll peel varnish off the hardwood floor and eat it.

Live Blogging Dinner with the Borregos

Q: What do you get when you put together two avid bloggers and their husbands?

A: A dinner party that ends up being a live blogging session for the ladies while the guys play fetch with the cats.

Ashley and Paul are in New England for their Northeastern wedding reception. It worked out for us to have them over for dinner tonight.

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It’s not SO weird having people over who we met through The Internet…because we have a lot of mutual connections. More than we even realized!

Paul grew up and went to school with the Sorensens (including Karla) in Massachusetts – the Sorensens are lifelong friends of Matthew. (In fact, Ashley is currently sitting on the orange couch in our living room, which, before it came to us, resided in the Sorensens’ living room for about 30 years.)

Ashley and Paul also went to the same college as Dan Sorensen. Tonight we found out that Paul lived in Wiesbaden, Germany, for a while, the same place I lived in Germany. And we also realized that Ashley’s parents worked at the same missions base as Matthew’s Uncle Al, at the same time…so we called Uncle Al, and they called Ashley’s dad, to see if they remembered each other…

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“Dad, do you remember an Al Reitz?”

They did indeed remember each other…In addition to working together, they were also volunteer firefighters together in their spare time.

It’s a small world after all…

How to Annoy Your Introverted, Task-Oriented Wife

Book the whole weekend full of activities with PEOPLE when there are THINGS that need to be done! GOSH!

Read more »

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.

Hospitality Lessons from a Bachelor

On Tuesday night, Matthew and I went to the home of one of our church’s missionaries for dinner. Karl is a single guy in his late 30s, and he is currently in the US for a year before he goes back to Central Asia. He was so hospitable to us that I saw my own lack in that area very sharply.

Karl had dinner ready for us when we arrived, and the table was already neatly set (I am infamously bad at timing the cooking of meals, and I am always a long way from serving the meal when guests arrive). His little home (the downstairs of his brother’s house) was immaculate (I almost always have clutter lying around). He served two simple but delicious dishes – a Middle Eastern tabouli and a Central Asian rice-chicken-beans-carrots dish (I often forget that the guests, not the food, are the focus of the evening, and I try all sorts of crazy dishes that may or may not turn out well…I have, on more than one occasion, made guests feel awkward by making ridiculously fancy meals that are silly for the purpose of a friendly meal together).

When he prayed over the meal, he also prayed for the people of Pakistan in such a way that it sounded like this is his normal practice – to pray for a different people group each day (What a cool practice, and what a great way to impact guests – and our future children – with a passion for missions!). During the meal, he anticipated our needs, pouring drink refills, urging second and third helpings (I am often too consumed with getting all the details of the meal right, and I forget to be attentive to my guests). There was more than enough food (I am bad at estimating how far food will go, and I have sometimes made far too little, leaving guests hungry).

We stayed for several hours after dinner over chocolate cake and green tea, talking about missions (I sometimes find myself anxious for guests to leave so I can clean up and go to bed).

Karl’s apartment is spartan, his cups and plates vintage, the food simple. But everything was served with a large dose of kindness, servant-heartedness, and generosity.

My apartment is spacious and nicely appointed, my kitchen things new (the benefit of being still a newlywed!), my cooking skills well practiced. But I often fail to show true hospitality.

Lessons learned.

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