A few years ago my husband and I hosted his parents and sister for lunch on Thanksgiving Day. I love to cook and entertain, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to make a lovely meal for all of us. I had a blast planning the meal and enjoyed cooking so much. Cliff was a great help in getting the house ready and preparing the food. Unfortunately I totally overdid it for no reason other than not respecting my limits. Our family certainly didn't expect me to do so much, especially considering that once we all left the table I went straight to bed, too exhausted to spend one more minute awake, let alone on my feet. I was pleased that everyone, myself included, enjoyed the meal. But what was the point of spending the afternoon in bed, missing the rest of the holiday? It didn't make much sense at all, but it was a good lesson in pacing.
We haven't been entertaining much in recent years because life was so chaotic with Cliff juggling two jobs, but I've learned a lot about ways to make it work without sending myself straight to bed. I've written before about pacing, and it is truly the concept that binds together all these tips.
Go potluck. Stick to making one part of the meal and ask your guests to each bring one dish. Not only is it much less work for you, but it gives your guests an opportunity to contribute to the party and feel appreciated. Even non-cooks will be able to pick up something prepared from the store, while more experienced cooks can set their creativity free. Assign each guest a category of food to bring, such as a side dish or a dessert, so you end up with a nice variety.
Keep it simple. Instead of serving an entire meal, perhaps stick to desserts and coffee. Or have some appetizers and cocktails in place of a three course meal. Just let your guests know what to expect and remember it's more about getting together than wowing your guests with a huge meal.
Don't get trapped in the kitchen. Only plan menu items that can be made ahead and served with little last minute effort. Save your energy for socializing with your guests. People like us have such limited energy that we have to pace ourselves. It's just not an option.
Plan a group dinner out. Invite your group out to a restaurant. It need not be anything fancy or expensive. Sometimes the hardest part of getting a group of family or friends together is just making the plans. If you can take the lead and handle the organizing part no one is going to mind going dutch at a restaurant rather than being invited to your home for a fancy meal.
Plan well in advance. Make items that freeze well and get them ready days or weeks in advance. Who will know if you didn't slave away in your kitchen the day before the party?
Utilize candlelight: It hides a multitude of sins and makes you and your guests look gorgeous.
Keep your mind on what it's really about. Having people over for a dinner or party is all about spending time with good friends and loving family. It's not about impressing anyone.
What tips can you suggest? Share them in the comments.
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Content by Diana E. Lee.DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.