1/6/08

Change it Around (Part I)

(The following post is about our New Year’s Eve sit-down-dinner party in correlation with my Commandments #1 through 5.)

Hospitality is not a word to fear! I used to think of hospitality as a “potluck dish,” but I now know it is far more than that. It is a gift I have – and a gift I am to use (C #1)! Most recently, my passion for hospitality led to this fun New Year’s Party that my husband and I hosted a week ago. Let’s just call it: Change it Around!

Our “Change it Around” party was a success! But much of that success was because I was organized, having planned ahead and delegated (C #2). I put a lot of thought into who would come, what the menu would be, I organized the idea of “changing the seating around for every course,” and considered just how we would do this (in a rather small, cramped setting.) I made a lot of lists that kept me on track, planned out the seating and delegated the appetizers, soup, salad, and pizza, snacks & dessert for the kids.

The table setting was a blast (C #3). Using everything that I already had (I’m not big into having to purchase “new” for every party, only to impress others and put a big dent in my budget!), we put two tables together with matching tablecloths, keeping the dishes and centerpieces with a fun NYE theme and pretty candles. We played lively music all night long, a notch higher in volume than normal (which we learned to do for larger group parties.)

I gave up perfectionism a long time ago (C #4). I have to remind myself that parties may not flow perfectly, and one might find it easy to critique or criticize it afterward. Although I do evaluate and think of things that I could do differently, I stick with this belief: If everyone has a good time – It’s a Success!

There’s been so much curiosity from readers regarding what questions we asked our guests that night! I think people so much want to create a fun, lively atmosphere – and I’m telling you, that is important, but conversation is where it is at! (C #5) You can have delicious food and horrible company – and what you walk away with is remembering the not-so-great company – and not even the yummy meal!

So for my readers, who keep checking back because they so want to know what we talked about – here is what you’ve been waiting for! The big conversation questions!!

We started our evening off with appetizers and drinks, where everyone mingled freely and enjoyed catching up. For our first course (Italian soup – brought by one of the guests), we seated our guests sitting by their spouses (immersing single people in between). No conversation starter was used for this course.

All the ladies were so helpful and they each had their own job. The person who brought the course would serve, and then help bus the dishes. A couple other gals took on the job of taking my seating chart and moving place cards to the “new spot,” as the guests hung onto to their cloth napkins and glasses. (Did you know that you can take a Sharpie marker and put names on the bases of the glasses? It wipes off easily after washing.)

The next course started off with yummy salad (which I also delegated to another wonderful cook!), as all the men sat at one end, and the women at the other. Our first conversation starter took place: What is your middle name, and how did you get it? Mmm, many of us thought we knew “everything” about each other (some of our friendships going back 25 years!) Nope – this conversation starter caused a lot of laughter as unique stories were shared.

Changing it aroundagain – we then moved to the main course, where I served yummy homemade linguicia lasagna, and scrumptious dill bread. Our conversation starter was a little more serious this time as my husband asked the group: Who in your growing up years (through age 12) was the most influential in your life? Way more serious, this was a joyous time, but also very contemplative, as every person came from such different backgrounds. In the end we realized that the most influential individuals in our lives were evenly split between the sexes (female and male).

My husband and I both realized that the questions we asked went deep into that person’s history implying, “What made you - you?” and even deeper, “Where did you come from?”

Last summer I had a dinner party for ladies, and recently one of the ladies commented to me about how special that part of the evening was for her, because even the “quietest person” got to share, not overshadowed by the more dominant personalities. The wonderful thing about conversation starters is that everyone gets to respond. My husband and I learned early on in our marriage (through a book, though we can’t remember the name!) to use this technique with our guests.

Changing it aroundone last time – we moved again (again, sitting by someone new) and indulged in apple cake with hot custard on top.

For hours we connected – kept it real, opened up – all by sharing in a safe, fun atmosphere with each other. As I mentioned before, Paul and I thought this was our most unique party ever.

We don’t think we could ever re-create it – so we won’t even try.

(Please stay tuned for my upcoming post, Change it Around – Part II using Commandments #6 through 10)

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm going to enjoy this very much, Sandy!

Had to laugh at your "small, cramped setting" comment, because looking at your notebook, you already have ample seating for triple my home's capacity! But, it's all a matter of perspective. I have learned to do my big parties May-September when we can host outdoors, and save wintertime hospitality for small lunches or cocktail type events.

LOOKING FORWARD ! Thanks,

deb meyers

Anonymous said...

This leaves a totally inaccurate impression. I don't do "cocktail" parties, what I meant to communicate was small finger-food type gatherings. Dessert after theatre or evening church services, or like tonight, hamburgers for 5 people.

ANYWAY, I am enjoying learning so much from your blog about getting to people's hearts.

Thanks, deb meyers

Meredith said...

Deb and I always have a lot in common!

I know I've said it before, but I'm really enjoying your blog and this series in particular.

Hospitality has been my personal challenge for the last year, but I've yet to host a real, sit down dinner party.

Maybe soon.

Shari said...

I'm new to your blog - found it through my friend Rhonda.

Sounds like a great evening. We've hosted small groups and used some of these same questions... here I am 10 years later and can still remember some people's answers... the question and answers left a lasting impression.

Jen said...

It sounds like a lovely evening. I enjoy your posts on this. I find hosting to be so joyous.

anya* said...

great post, and i look forward to reading part 2. i still feel so overwhelmed with the idea of sitting down, to place settings, with more then one other couple...but i want to do this because it sounds so enjoyable. i am most interested in hearing what you did with the children! also, was that a consideration in choosing the guests?

momrn2 said...

How very fun and creative this sounds!! I have a question for you.

What is it that you have learned that causes you to turn the volume up a bit more with larger groups? I would have thought the opposite would be true to alleviate "extra noise" with so many people already in attendance. Just curious as to why that would be and what your experience is with that.

Sweet P said...

What wonderful questions you asked. DH and I will soon be moving into a new condo, our first real estate purchase. I can't wait to have our first dinner party and use some of your questions.

Nadine said...

You have some unique ideas that always seem to work out so very well.

Knitting Mania said...

I've been enjoying your blog for the past couple of months, first time leaving a comment though. Love to entertain too, but not in a place to do so right now, we are building a new home in Montana and living in our rv at the moment. But soooo looking forward to my new kitchen, new location, new friends, and endless possibilities!

suburban prep said...

What creative hostessing.

mindi said...

It looks like you had a great time. I wanted to say that you also have some great photos there - makes me feel like I'm a part of the party!!

Gayla said...

sounds like so much fun.. What a great idea, and the questions were to the point and so much fun to think about.

A Woman Who is: said...

Thanks for getting to those questions. Love that you had help with several of the courses you served. I find that to serve a big meal to many people, cook, clean, and set an atmosphere can be such a big job for me these days. I love how you incorporated help.

Kathleen Grace said...

I love this idea! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful ideas on sharing and entertaining others!

Kirstin said...

Sandy,
I just love your posts. They are so inspiring and "simple". My hubby and I like to entertain, though for the last year and a half we have not actually lived in our own home due to home building. I cannot wait to get back into it again!