Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How Does Martha Do It?

Last night, Darby and I had the college group from church over for a cookout. It was my first "big" use of the grill, and I learned an important lesson: Keep the heat on LOW when cooking burgers. We created a lot of smoke, not to mention a couple of charred burgers.

I love cooking for people and having people over, but here's my problem: I don't really enjoy myself when I'm the host. I feel like I'm running around constantly trying to make sure there's enough food; that silverware is out; that cups are filled with ice, etc. I'm not sure why I seem to have so much trouble with this. I am a fairly organized person, and I always try to get as much done ahead of time as possible. I also try to know my limits and not take on more than I can handle. (For example, I made homemade ice cream for last night, but I did not do any sides; people just brought chips.) But somehow I always end up feeling more than a little harried. And I don't get to sit down and really enjoy being with my guests.

Part of the problem might be the size of my kitchen. There's just not enough counter space to keep everything I need out, so I have to tell people where stuff is. Also, my personality is not what one would call "laid-back" in any situation.

But, I want to be that person who makes entertaining seem effortless. I've been to people's houses where it's like that. Are they just putting on a good act? Or do they really not get stressed out?

I'm hoping that with more practice, I'll get better at striking a balance between making sure everyone is taken care of and actually relaxing and having fun as well. If you are a good host, give me some tips. If you get stressed out like me, let me know, so I don't feel so bad. :)


Brenton and Jenna Lane said...

Kayla, WOW... what you just said fits me perfectly! Don't feel bad at all! Everytime I go to someone else's house, they're siting in a chair laughing the night away. I wonder... "How are they able to do that?!?" I ALWAYS freak out. I stress over where to place things... the plates, silverware, food, dessert...etc. We have plenty of counter space, but I worry about what is MORE convenient... mustard and mayo by the buns or by the hamburger meat, etc. I feel like I never get to even laugh or listen and watch someone talk because I am running around like a mad woman!!! I need some advice as well... so everyone, please leave comments... I will be checking this!

Erin Voss said...

As my mother always said, the party's not nearly as fun when you're the hostess. I totally agree with you, and perhaps feeling harried is just part of the job description. Martha probably has numerous minions to take care of the small stuff for her :)

Carolyn said...

I feel exactly the same! I've gotten to where I'm pretty good at setting stuff out and/or delegating responsibilities, but then I stress about whether everyone is having enough fun and making friends with everyone else!

Mary Kay said...

It is because Martha has a huge staff of people doing all the work for her! She can look great, her shirt is always starched and not a hair out of place!! The important thing is you are trying, learning and entertaining will get easier and easier! Or maybe you just get more and more relaxed! Hang in there and hats off to you for entertaining! Your guests are blessed I am sure!

Sallie said...

Sometimes I might err on the side of not being attentive enough to my guests. When entertaining a crowd, people don't seem to mind getting their own refills of drinks, throwing their trash away in the container provided, etc. I do as much ahead of time (would probably never be able to grill unless ahead of time and reheated). I don't worry about the food as much as I enjoy the people. No Martha Stewart here! It bothers Dad more than it does me!

Clint and Whitney said...

wow, lots of responses here. I guess I worry more about having enough food and making sure everyone is having a good time. Something our friends started doing was, the hosts provide the sides and everyone else brings their own meat. It's fun because the guys all head outside to do the "manly" grilling and all I have to do is whip up some sides and provide drinks. I usually don't stress but I think I'm like Sally. I'm not too worried about being Martha, at least I try not to!

Jenn said...

Oh honey, everyone who hosts feels that way! Here's my tip, unless you are having a formal event (I'm talking china and crystal), then pretend that your guests are your roommates! Make things accessable cups, plates, silverware) so that if they run out, people can just find it and refill on their own! Just let them know that your home is their home and that they are welcome to help themselves to anything!

Then, sit back, relax and just check on things every now and then! (Set a timer if you need to... only make the rounds to check on refills, etc. when it goes off).

Make a point to try to say hi to everyone once throughout the night, but a true friend understands that they are not going to get one-on-one attention from the host/hostess. If you can introduce people who have things in common, great! But if not, that doesn't make you a bad hostess. Plus, it's okay to rely on your friends to take some of this burden (they can introduce themselves/start a conversation) just as easily as you can! :-)

By making your home accesable to your guests (aka, letting them wait on themselves), you make them feel comfy... like they are at their own home! Remember, every one at your party has at least one thing in common - YOU!

Now, having written that, once you and Darby have kids and you are entertaining a house of two-year olds, this advice does not apply! :-)

Kalyn Gensic said...

Just think, in three weeks you will be experiencing my mad-hosting skills. I'm sure I can teach you a thing or two about civilized, effortless, composed hosting. Surely. Yeah right.

Laura said...

Hmmm. I have had the same experience. It's not so fun to be the hostess. (I think I have more fun planning the event or dinner than actually participating in it--ha!)

I love all the ideas people have given here. Here is my additional solution: put other people to work. In my case, it's usually Dan or my sister. (A good friend will work just as well!) I have them fix all the drinks, take food to the table, make the salad, greet guests at the door--whatever someone else can do easily. This makes a huge difference in my stress level.

Guests usually offer to help, too, so I take them up on it as long as I have things I can delegate easily and we can keep from tripping over each other. (You know how little counter space I have!) I've basically learned that I can't do it all and do it all well, so I'm learning to ask for help.

For more formal parties, I got this idea from a friend. . . . I went to a Christmas open house a few years ago at this friend's house, where all the food was set out buffet-style. She had hired a college student for a few hours simply to restock the buffet, refill the punch, clear plates and cups and wash them, etc. The hostess was able to mix and mingle and enjoy the party, and when it was finished, all the guests' dishes were already done. I thought this was a wonderful idea. You could hire a high school student to do the same--they make a little money, and you get to enjoy the party!

Other ideas. . . . Put pitchers or bottles of drinks and even ice buckets on the table so that you're not getting up a million times to refill drinks, leave the dishes for later or let someone help you with them while you visit, and don't be afraid to let people help themselves.

I have the same struggles, as others here obviously do, so you're not alone! Your guests are definitely enjoying whatever you're hosting, though, so here's to hoping you get to enjoy it, too! :)