In pursuit of a simple, fabulous, imperfect life at home.

{Simple Hospitality, Day 18} Hospitality on a Budget

Tips for extending hospitality when money is tight

We've been a one income family for most of our marriage and I know what it is like to have to get by with what some people would consider an unreasonably small grocery budget.  And I know what it is like to spend your last 12 bucks on eggs and rice just to get through to pay day. And I don't want to  pretend for a minute that finances aren't a very real barrier to entertaining and hospitality. But I do want to encourage us all to rethink what hospitality looks like and to find ways to fit it into the budget when possible.  Here are some practical ways we entertain on a budget:

1) Serve soup and bread.  A homemade soup and some good bread (maybe homemade?) can feed a crowd on the cheap and is a cozy chance to gather around the table and build connections over good food!

2) Host a potluck.  Split the cost of a get together with your guests by each contributing a dish.  Not only is it thrifty, it's a casual and low stress crowd pleaser.

3) Extend an evening invite for snacks or dessert.  Why not have friends over for popcorn and board games?  Or tea and conversation?  Most of the people we invite into our homes have food in their own refrigerator and are hungry instead for personal connection, words of warmth and love and encouragement.

4) Use what is on sale or in season.  Check the grocery ads before making your menu so that you can reap the benefits of local sale prices.

5) Serve simple foods you would normally eat.  Please don't feel like you always need to serve baked brie and roast beef and individual lava cakes. Having friends over for your regular spaghetti or taco night won't add much to your grocery bill and will likely be thoroughly enjoyed by your guests.

6) Use what you have.  Decorate the table with flowers from the yard or a vase full of twigs and pine cones, or not at all.  You don't need to create a magazine-worthy table in order to bless your guests and be blessed by their friendship.

7) Cheap out on pricey ingredients.  Sometimes when I'm doubling a recipe to share, I don't fully double some of the most expensive ingredients.  Add a little less chicken and a couple more potatoes to that casserole, or top things with a little less cheese than usual.  Sometimes I even dilute the cream with some milk when making cream based sauces and soups.  Nobody will even know and your grocery dollar will stretch just a little bit further.

This is day 18 (several days late!) in a series about simple hospitality.  Click here to see more.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  

{SimpleHospitality, Day 17} A Moms and Tots Brunch (And a Giveaway!)

*** This Giveaway is now closed. ***

Today I had the pleasure of hosting 9 lovely women and their young children for a moms and tots brunch.  The food was quite a spread but all the other details were super simple. A grocery store bouquet, one lit candle on the stove top, lots of chit chat and laughter, a sink full of dishes and toys on the floor.

A group of women with very different lives and struggles and experiences, united through food and friendship and faith.

It was exactly what my spirit needed today.  And I have a feeling that some of the other ladies felt the same way.

And Now for the Giveaway! 

Five of the recipes I made this morning were from my friend Beth's new ( as in, released today) cookbook ebook: The Breakfast Revolution: Recipes from Outside the Cereal Box.  And goodness friends, they were amazing.  Her Southwestern Frittata is about to become a regular around our house and the Pumpkin Oatmeal Bake? Autumn Awesomeness.

Plus, the recipes are gluten-free and made from real, good, healthful foods.  Chocolate Avocado pudding with no sugar, anyone? For breakfast?  Um...yes please!

With gorgeous photographs, 85 beautiful pages, over 40 kid-friendly real food recipes, and Beth's friendly down-to-earth words, this eBook is a valuable resource.  I can't say enough good things about this eBook.

And this week, 10 of my readers will get it for FREE!  Here's how to enter for a chance to win:

1) For your first entry: Just comment below.  Make sure to include your email address so that I can contact you if you win!
2) For a bonus second entry: Share this post with your friends through facebook, twitter, google+, pinterest....whatever!  And then come back and leave a second comment so that you'll be entered twice!

On Friday I will pick 10 (Ten! Woohoo!)  winners at random.

Plus, if you just can't wait until Friday to see if you win, Beth has a coupon code available right now (here)  to save 30% off the $8.95 purchase price.  If you win the giveaway and have already purchased the book, Beth will refund your payment! 

Good luck!

*** This Giveaway is now closed. ***

This is day 17 (several days late!) in a series about simple hospitality.  Click here to see more.

{Simple Hospitality, Day 16} Planning with Sticky Notes

I love sticky notes for  organizing.  I keep packs of them all around my  house for various tasks. Hosting get-togethers is no exception!

I like to use them to sort out what I will serve each part of a meal on and in. I make a note for each menu item and then find a vessel for each note and set it on the buffet the night before.  That way, as foods come out of the oven and are ready to be served you know exactly where to put them! No more last minute panic because there's no dish for the mashed potatoes!

I also use them for my last minute to-do list when I'm making a number of different recipes.  It can be hard to keep track of everything that needs to be done and in what order, and miniature notes on the fridge can easily be rearranged if things don't go as planned.  When all the notes are gone from the fridge, I know I'm all set!

This is day 16 (several days late!) in a series about simple hospitality.  Click here to see more.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please take a moment to "like" me on facebook or sign up for my RSS feed.

{Simple Hospitality, Day 15} Simplest Holiday

Two of the greatest blessings I can think of are those family members who indisputably have crossed over to become close friends and friends who are family in every way except by blood.  We are so blessed to have both.

Some of the latter joined us for an impromptu Thanksgiving after being ill and missing their own family celebration.  It was last minute, stores were closed, the meal was simple.  But it still felt like Thanksgiving.

I served turkey soup made from our holiday leftovers,warm bread, pie.  They brought cider and laughter and we sat on the porch while the children explored the yard.

There were no decorations or appetizers or fancy table settings.  It wasn't an event, it was a holiday for everyone involved.

The night ended too soon with whiny kids and dishes stacked high and lives to return to with work the next morning, but we all parted feeling full and loved and refreshed and....


This is day 15 (several days late!) in a series about simple hospitality.  Click here to see more.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please take a moment to "like" me on facebook or sign up for my RSS feed.

{SimpleHospitality, Day 14} You Are Enough

You know that scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin William's character just keeps saying  over and over again, "it's not your fault, it's not your fault..." ?  That's what I wish I could come into all of your living rooms today to do with this truth: that you are enough.

And then when your mind starts to wander to all the ways you feel you are failing I would say it again, you are enough.

Because you are.  You are enough.  You aren't perfect.  You don't have your sh*t together.  Nobody does.  But you are enough.

We waste our lives trying to excel at meaningless things, trying to live up to a lie that we need always clean houses and always gourmet meals and that we never wear paint splattered pajamas at four in the afternoon.  And we push other women away because we think that everything we have to offer of ourselves isn't enough.

Friend, you are enough.

So yes, sure, set the table pretty and scrub the floors and plan the perfect menu if it makes you happy, but don't think for a second that those things make you worthy of deep meaningful relationships or will add value to you or make your day more worthwhile.  They are good things that may make your guests smile, but without them, you are enough.

Because sometimes the most hospitable thing we can do is open our door in our pajamas and invite a friend in for a store bought muffin (this grace was extended to me just this week and I was truly blessed.)

So open the door, friends.  Because the dirt on the floor, the dishes in the sink, the holes in your heart and the snappy tone in your voice: this is life, this is humanity, perfect is a lie and you are enough.

You are enough.

This is day 14 in a series about simple hospitality.  Click here to see more.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please take a moment to "like" me on facebook or sign up for my RSS feed.

{Simple Hospitality, Day 13} Simple, Fun, Elegant Napkin Folding

4 simple ways to fold serviettes / napkins.

Fun, fancy serviettes are a cheap and beautiful way to make an ordinary table setting a little extra special.  Why not practice these tonight on your own family?   I bet they'll be thrilled!

#1.  The fan in a glass

Take an unfolded napkin or serviette and lay it out on a table. Accordion fold it back and forth every inch until you get to the other side, fold in the middle and place in a glass. If necessary, use a small paper clip to secure the middle of the fan at the back.

#2. The Menu Envelope

Lay the serviette face down on the table.  Place the menu on top,  also face down, protruding one edge. Fold the sides of the serviette in to match the sides of the menu, and then flip the menu over to meet the far edge of the serviette.

#3.  The Bow Tie

Fold the serviette in thirds and then fold the long ends in to meet at the middle.   Flip over so that the loose ends are the the back. Scrunch in the middle and adhere with a small strip of cardstock and some tape.

#4.  The Napkin Bowl

Fold serviette in half on the diagonal.  Turn the folded edge up about half way.  Fold one end over and then the other (see pictures for clarification).  Flip the remaining tail around and, in a movement not dissimilar to rolling socks, flip the flap down over the front of the bowl securing everything in place. (It's easier than it sounds...just fiddle around with it until you have that "ah-ha" moment!)

Fill with a flower or candy and a place card, or in my case, chop-sticks!

This is day 13 in a series about simple hospitality.  Click here to see more.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  

{SimpleHospitality, Day 12} Easy Bruschetta Appetizer

Simple, quick and delicious bruschetta recipe
I love serving bruschetta to guests.  It is simple, elegant, tasty and even kid friendly if I restrain myself on the garlic. And although it makes a fabulous appetizer, it can also be a lovely lunch when served with a Caesar salad.

In a bowl, combine:
  • 3 large fresh tomatoes, diced
  • one bell pepper, diced
  • one small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic,minced
  • one handful of fresh herbs such as  basil, oregano and parsley
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp kosher salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper
Let this mixture sit for at least half an hour to give the flavours a chance to mingle.

Lightly toast slices of a good homemade or artisan bread in a toaster and lay out on a baking pan.

Put your topping mixture on bread and add some sliced mozzarella cheese.

Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is  melted.  Serve while still warm if you can.

Make ahead tips: 
  • Before guests arrive, mix your topping, toast bread and arrange on baking pans, and slice your cheese.
  • Pile on the topping and cheese after guests arrive to keep bread from getting soggy, and then pop under the broiler for a couple minutes. (but keep a close eye on it so that it doesn't burn!!!)

This is day 12 in a series about simple hospitality.  Click here to see more.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  

{Simple Hospitality, Day 11} Use The Good China

This article is republished from the archives, from way back when only I and my mother-in-law read this blog. It seemed fitting for these 31 days.  

As we passed the time at a farmers market one spring morning, a friend told me a tragic story.

Her beautiful table linens,
the ones passed down from her great grandmother,
the ones with beautiful intricate designs and embroidery,
the ones that where just to good to use....

...had been eaten by mice.

The linens she had gently washed and pressed and folded and then placed safely in a drawer, each one separated by a piece of parchment paper....

 ...destroyed.  Garbage.  Gone.

Friends, use your good stuff:  the antique silverware, the irreplaceable china, and yes, great grandmas linens.
My friend was saddened to see her linens destroyed.  Of course she was, they represented something important to her.  But the only difference between when she had those linens and now is that now she's got a drawer freed up to fill with things she will actually use.

Be it  mice, or fire, or a dinner guest dropping it on the floor, one day you will be separated from all of your beautiful things. Accept this. Say good bye to all of those beautiful things.  And then truly appreciate their beauty as you use them to serve the people you love most.

Once you have already said good-bye, when that trying-to-be-helpful dinner guest drops a supposedly priceless heirloom and the whole room comes to a standstill and everyone turns to look and see how you are going to respond... you can smile.  And tell them you knew that would happen eventually.  No harm done, except for maybe a couple tears shed in the kitchen while the coffee brews.

When my friend told me her story of the linens, I started to wonder if maybe the things we own, no matter how sentimental, are completely meaningless until we have used them to serve somebody else. Use your beautiful things.  Use them to serve the people in your life who are truly priceless.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. {Matthew 6:19-21}

{Simple Hospitality, Day 10} 8 Ways to Simplify Kid's Birthday Parties

Keep your childs' birthday party simple and stress-free with these tips

Am I the only one who thinks that birthday parties have gotten a little out of control?

Most of our mothers knew how to throw a simple birthday party.  There was cake, balloons, and presents, and dollar store pin-the-tail-on-the donkey.  We wore our best dresses and played musical chairs and didn't even notice the apparently tragic lack of ponies and bouncy castles, centerpieces and tiered cakes. - When I was a kid there were only 2 birthday party themes: Dollar Store Kitsch and Shut up and Eat your Cake.

Here are 8 tips for hosting a simple, meaningful birthday party for your kids.

1. Don't even consult pinterest.  Seriously, don't do it!

2. Keep the cake simple.  Pick it up from the grocery store bakery or bake some cupcakes at home.  Cake from a box is okay.

3. Keep the guest list small.  More people does not necessarily make for a better shindig.

4. Invite the parents of each guest too.  We invite whole families to our children's parties, that way we get to spend some time with the parents of our children's friends, siblings don't feel left out, and there are plenty of adult hands around to help the party run smoothly. 

5. Make your child's favourite meal. Generally this will be something easy, cheap and kid friendly.  And the birthday boy likely won't have a  dinnertime meltdown at his own party.

6. Consider a colour scheme instead of a theme.  It's often much easier to get a bunch of pink and gold decorations than to find princess emblazoned everything.

7. Consider saving parties for every second year.  I have a wise friend who throws birthday bashes for her kids every second year and does something as a family in the in between years. 

8. Skip the party favoursPretty pleeeeeease.  Nobody needs a bag full of trinkets and candy sent home with their kid and you can save yourself a little bit of time, money, and stress.  The fun time with friends is reward enough for attending.

What did I miss?  How do you keep birthday parties simple?

This is day 10 in a series about simple hospitality.  Click here to see more.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  

{Simple Hospitality, Day 9} Take-Out is Okay

It's not about the food.  Right?

It's about connection, warmth, a smiling face nodding compassionately across the table.

It's about favourite jokes and embarrassing anecdotes and the occasional "yeah, I've been there, that's tough." 

I mean, perfectly un-lumpy gravy and handmade biscuits and grandma's famous apple pie are all good, wonderful, beautiful things, but they aren't what most of us really, really long for. 

So friends, believe me, take-out is okay.

Like the time we were tired and stressed out for our daughter's 5th birthday so we invited over an aunt and an uncle with a slew of presents and ordered pizza and a grocery store cake.  Or the time we showed up to a friends house just moments after their marriage had taken a  punch and we ordered Chinese food and talked and tried not to cry but cried just a little anyways.

Or the countless times we've invited people over after church or a parade or whatever and welcomed them to toys on the floor and laundry piled high and takeout.  "So,  um, we're just ordering pizza, but we'd love it if you'd come."

Because, oh-my-goodness friends, it isn't about the food. 

Because if we impress people with our skills in the kitchen but never step out of our comfort zone and sit weak and weary beside them then we will always have people at arms length.

And because the glossy magazine spreads that show us how easy it is to pull off the perfect party are selling us something we don't need.  We want authentic, deep, powerful, simple...not easy and perfect.

Because not every event is a freaking wedding and sometimes we need to lower the bar just a little.

Friends, take-out is okay.

This is day 9 in a series about simple hospitality.  Click here to see more.

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please take a moment to "like" me on facebook or sign up for my RSS feed.
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