Saturday, November 27, 2010

Entertaining on a Budget

This time of year, lots of us host parties for families and friends.  I’m sure this can really add up sometimes.  I’ve seen a zillion shows teaching you how to set a table with a fancy centerpiece and special themes etc.  I can’t imagine hosting a dinner party like that, nor am I sure I would want to be at one!

Having a party at our house pretty well always means pot luck.  As long as I can remember our group of friends has been doing it this way, and having a great time while we’re at it.  Nobody comes to my house in a cocktail dress, or wears their high heels while they’re here.  That would definitely cause a safety hazard trying to move around all the people, kids, and toys! Excuse me while I pause to laugh at the mental image of this!!  Usually the person hosting provides the meat dish, though not always.  Those visiting bring salads, veggies, munchies or desserts.  Some people bring some of each!  In fact, if you’ve had a busy day, you and your whole family could probably attend without bringing anything and we’d STILL have too much food.  It’s an ongoing joke that this group of friends has never been together and been hungry!

We have some hilarious memories from past get togethers.  Once we cooked a huge fancy supper for all the pastors and staff of our church, as well as their spouses.  Everyone made a different dish to contribute.  We arranged babysitters, and drove them all to a friend’s acreage to dine in front of the fire.  One guy dressed up as the most hilarious looking  waiter, with his pants hitched up to his armpits, a wig on his head and his back bowed, proceeded to serve everyone in a bad Italian accent.  We had the only kid in the group then, our son.  He was about eight months old and spent the entire night on Shawn’s shoulders.  We ate pizza in the kitchen and laughed ourselves silly that night.  One person forgot their camera and had some hilarious pictures to show for it…the toilet bowl (clean, I swear!), Shawn’s fleet net…  I still laugh at those pictures.

We’ve had pot luck fondues.  Everyone came and brought a unique fondue.  I have actually needed the three fondue pots I got from our wedding all at the same time!! We’ve even had unplanned potlucks! We call that “whatcha got”, and it usually happens like this: Its 5 pm, and suddenly a friend realizes they need Shawn’s help with something, say butchering a deer for example.  We bring whatever we had started cooking for supper to the friends house. With they were cooking and what we brought, there will be enough for all families.

Yes, when we’re hosting a party, we do tend to cook complicated dishes.  And that probably costs us more than our average weekday meal, but we love it.  I mean I love to throw a party!  We’re getting ready to host what is usually our biggest party of the year, Grey Cup.  We throw out an invite for everyone to come over, soak in the hot tub and watch it in HD on the big screen.  Shawn smokes ribs and burgers ( yes, we smoke the burgers).  Last year we fed 32 people, including kids.  We shipped the kids to the basement toy room, and crammed into the upstairs living room.  It’s 12X14 and we packed three couches in there for the event.  Yup, it was snuggley, and we had to open every door and window, but it was a blast!!  Shawn sets up a TV by the hot tub, and one at the BBQ station, so no one misses a minute of the game. It was NOT a happy house when the Riders lost!  This year, we’re expecting a houseful again, and I’m sure it will be loud in here!  We hired babysitters to play with the kids.

I’d like to think my house is welcoming.  I put a lot of effort into cooking fun things.  It takes us three days to make all the home made rubs, spices and sauces plus smoke the ribs.  But I think, I hope, what people look forward to most is relaxing here. I’m just glad you came.  You don’t have to worry !  Yes, you can eat in the living room.  Spilled something on the carpet? Who cares, it’s old and stained already, and I have a carpet cleaner.  Drop something on the couch? Bah! Its leather, it’ll wipe off! Dropped it on the floor? Uh, the dog will eat it!  Break my glassware? It’s cheap, I got it at IKEA and I have a cupboard full!  I have extra crocs and housecoats for your trip to the hot tub, and someone always forgets their socks somewhere!  I have never given, or expected a hostess gift at a party with our friends, but I also never worry about having to impress or outdo my friends either.

I don’t know if any of you reading feel pressure to throw a Martha Stewart-like party, but I’d encourage you to just relax and enjoy your friends.  They didn’t come to judge you, or your house.  Sit down and stop fussing! They came to be with you!

A few snaps from last year’s Smokin’ Grey Cup BBQ

DSC_0209                               20 lbs of moose and deer burger went into the smoker

Nov036                    Ribs, tenderloin, backstrap and burgers all cooked and ready to dig into!

Nov047                                               Some, though not all, of our guests!

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