5/4/08

Moving Graciously ...

A relaxed hostess moves graciously in the midst of her guests. I learned how to do this by watching my Mom and her sisters while growing up, as they were “hostesses-extraordinaire!” They had this art down. I also observed many friends over the years. I can name handfuls of gracious hostesses who have made an impact on my entertaining style!

I love getting mail from readers, and recently a newer hostess asked me a few questions that I feel are worthy of a post.

How do you move from course to course while entertaining?

In sharing with you some tips I’ve learned, and how I’ve implemented this art in entertaining, I will answer a few of her questions!

I would love to know how you move from one course in the meal to the other?
· Always think ahead, plan out your courses, and prepare what you can ahead of time (chopping, grating, mixing, etc.)
· Plan where you want to serve appetizers: patio, living room, family room, in the kitchen around the center isle.
· Make sure you have the appropriate dishes set on the table, or stacked in your kitchen ready for use (from appetizers through dessert).
· Think ahead of what your guests are bringing, and what utensils or bowls they may need and have them ready.
· As guests arrive, bring your food out onto the counter. IE, I’ll have my ginger chopped and peas washed in a bowl, salmon will be on the broiler with ingredients nearby – all set for cooking. If I’m preparing salad, it will be made up ahead of time, but not tossed until it’s time to eat. If I’m baking something, I will have the baking time in my head.
· After appetizers and everyone has been seated, I will start on course I. I usually hop up before we are finished with each course to get the next course ready, but then I’ll come right back and sit down and finish my salad with my guests.

How do you clear the table?
In between courses I’ll remove only the dirty dishes and the utensils. IE if it’s a salad course, I’ll remove the salad plate and one fork. Oftentimes one of the guests will offer to help me. Most of the time I will say, “No thank you. This is your night off!” Many times my husband will jump in and help me clear, as we really enjoy working together.

Do you ask for help?
· If I’m running a little behind when the guests arrive, I’ll ask for help. People love to help so don’t be afraid to ask!
· My husband is very good at moving graciously through the kitchen with me. Sometimes I’ll give him a little nudge if I need something, and he’s right on it.
· If I know a guest is bringing bread, I’ll set out the cutting board and a knife and will let them prepare the bread, or toss the salad (if they bring salad), or even help serve the dessert (if they bring dessert).
· I also always keep a water picture nearby, so anyone can feel free to jump up and fill the water glasses if I get busy doing something else.

Any secrets on keeping food warm?
· Of course the oven works, turning it down low. Or covering the dish with foil to keep the heat in.
· I usually try to time my dishes so that they’re done about ½ hour after the guests arrive. Sometimes I time them for later, depending on how many people are coming, and if we are having a course with appetizers.

Do you leave the dishes on the table and move to another room for dessert?
· I rarely serve dessert in another room, so I just clear the table as we move through the courses.
· There have been times when I’ve requested the guests leave the dishes, at the end of the evening. I really don’t mind doing clearing, and I’ve had my kids help!
· I don’t make a big deal of clearing – it just gets done! Sometimes when the party is over, everyone gets up and takes the dishes to the kitchen.
· This particular meal, we did move into the living room - much warmer! (Read post, here!)

I have found that the more entertaining I do, the more gracious I become! You just get into the groove, and practice makes … perfect? NO, we don’t say that word on my blog. But it does get easier, to entertain, the more you do it!

It’s a sustaining environment that draws people to our home. The ambience and an overall attitude! And a little tasty food on the table makes it even more attractive.

People can just feel your graciousness as you move from course to course.

Watch out, it’s catching!

(Related posts, read Rusty and Out of the Groove, here; Pass the Dirty Dishes, here; Before the Guests Arrive, here!)

I love new life! And here are my friend Barb’s new babies on her farm! She has a sheep farm in Wisconsin, with 18 new baby lambs. They are so precious! Tiny Lamb, Bendy Spine ("Bendy" for short), Doing Doing (pronounced "Doy-ng Doy-ng"), Pinky, Pinky Bro (for Pinky's brother), Blackie Girl, Loppie – are a few of their names.

16 comments:

Jen said...

I enjoyed your answers. I need some of your recipes...lol.

Wendy said...

Thanks for this! You answered a couple things I had wondered about too.

Appreciate your blog!

~nanashouse~ said...

I'm preparing to entertain in a whole new way. My ailing, aging parents are moving in. My father will spend his last days here with us. I want my home to speak of Jesus in every room. I want it to look and smell clean. I want every need of theirs met in a home filled with the love of Christ. Good food, good company, much love. Thank you for all your ideas. I am already planning to implement many of them! Candlelight is the great master of disguise :-)

Grace said...

i learned at an early age not to get too attached to the animals on my family's farm. i definitely wasn't allowed to name them, although i secretly did. it was always a sad day when i couldn't find powder or porky or fatticus...

but hey--great tips! :)

Barb said...

Hey Grace--We usually don't name our sheep unless they're "keepers," but working with them in the day-to-day, it's hard not to pick up on some of their characteristics and give them nicknames accordingly. Obviously the names Miz Sandy listed are not "keeper" names! And btw, great hospitality inspiration today, Miz Sandy!

Myrna said...

Back when we were 'playing farm', we named the animals by their ultimate purpose---"Beef", "Hamburger", "Lamb Chop", "Fricassee"
The kids did fine with that, with a clear understanding of our food sources and that was our main concern.

**I like to serve appetizers on the kitchen island for guests to help themselves as I finish preparing supper, (this is great for those guests who have a tendency to run a bit late---or those who come with small children that are hungry NOW!) Salad/bread can be on the table before guests arrive, so it's easy to transition. I like to serve the main course either family style (pass the serving dishes) or buffet, (get up and fill your own plate)---this allows for control of portions and preferences without making anyone feel conspicuous. If I stay relaxed, my guests do too. Menu choices make a huge difference for "gracious serving"---the less last minute preparation the better.

Classic MaMa said...

Great answers. Since I'm a relatively new entertainer, I'm enjoying learning how other people do it.

Two blessings from above said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

You have a beautiful blog, one I can learn a lot from and will save with all my other favorite blogs.

Your camera takes really nice pictures. What kind do you have?
I think I might be getting a Nikon for Mother's Day. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

I will be checking back for some great ideas that you have posted.

Have a great week and enjoy spring.
God Bless.

Kirstin said...

Hey Sandy,
I like this post. Though I've yet to really do the "course" meal. We just kind of have everything together, then dessert afterward. But it never hurts to try something new (C: Last night we did a bonfire, with people bringing different items. Very low key, but very fun! I even found a table cloth that I could drape over the plywood that was sitting on the sawhorses...someday I'll have an actual picnic table or sideboard outside to serve from, but not while we're building.

Thanks for stopping by today. I love making meals for the family when I"m going to be gone...hubby doesn't cook and I know they love and appreciate it. Even if it is a little extra work...I don't mind.

mrsjones6 said...

Fabulous ideas Sandy! We love to entertain in our home. Sometimes it goes smoothly....sometimes, not. I hope that by using some of your tips things will become a little more smooth. Have a fabulous week!
Jen

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Happy Monday to you too, Sandy!!! That photo of those little baby lambs is absolutely precious!

Great tips here, as always. Truly inspiring!!!

Hope you are well and enjoying some warm sunshine (earlier today!).

Blessings,
Melissa

Stephanie said...

Im getting ready to entertain a small army and this was nice to read! Thank you for the great tips :)
Stephanie

keeper of the chocolates said...

i am inspired! sandy, once again,your beautiful 'servants heart' shines through this blog like a great big light unto the world. it is my prayer that my daughters will be at natural as you, unlike me, in the way that i am utterly intimidated by 'being the hostess'...i love to have people over and i love serving them, but i am totally lame at it! your blog has really inspired me once again my friend!

hugs
shelbi

Michelle said...

What a fantastic blog. So glad I checked in and will be a regular reader. Thanks for the information.

Make mine pink said...

I LOVE your blog...you are my new inspiration! Thanks for taking the time to share your life - you definitely have the gift of exhorting others to live life to the full! I am excited about learning hospitality from you.

Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years said...

So then...my screaming and sweating and complaining is putting people off?

Oh. ;)

I'm actually still in the casserole stage simply because I can't seem to get hot food to the plates, despite low heat in the oven until serving time, foil over the side dishes, and ceramic plates in the oven! I think my dining room might just be a cold spot in the house...