As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this nearly six-acre tract of land, this farmhouse, this domain—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 31 ~ Final Thoughts


Not to Impress, But to Bless





Have you been challenged with some fresh ideas, a new perspective, a renewed resolve as we have chatted about hospitality this month?  

I have.  (Don't they say that the teacher often learns the most?)  In pondering the whys and hows of practicing hospitality, I have been challenged in my own thinking.  I have confessed to some of my challenges, and I am going to keep working on overcoming them because...  

Hospitality is worth it!  


Remember, it's not about me.  It's about blessing others.  


One more thing...

This series was not intended to make you feel guilty for not entertaining enough.  My purpose was not to coerce you into opening your home every week, or month, or year.  There is no correct number of times, nor correct number of people, nor correct style of party, nor correct mode of extravagance or simplicity.  

My purpose was to make you feel comfortable in opening your home.  To remind you that hospitality is directed by God.  To help you to see that you can be a blessing to people...in your home, with your style.   

(And it doesn't have to be perfect.)  

The important thing is to be open to the opportunities to be a blessing that the Lord puts in your path!  





Thanks to all of you who have joined me here this month for 
31 Days of Hospitality!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 30 ~ Blessings For YOU


All month I have been talking about hospitality and how its purpose is to bless others.  And now, all of a sudden, on Day 30, I am going to tell you that YOU can be blessed by extending hospitality!  

It's true, you know.  

Our primary reason to practice hospitality is because the Word of God directs it, as we have seen ~here~ and ~here~ and ~here~ and ~here~.  But there are real benefits to be had by opening up our homes to others.  


Memories are made.  

Oh, the memories!  Holiday memories.  Birthday memories.  Memories with grandparents. Memories of growing children.  Memories of growing friendships.  Memories of time well spent.  

Gampy with great-grandchildren and a grandchild

Relationships are solidified.

There is something about inviting someone into your home--breaking bread together, sharing where you live, spending time together --that makes relationships more intimate.  I have experienced this in multiple ways, getting to know people on a different level than when you just meet out and about.  Hearing their stories, seeing their interactions with one another, discovering their passions...

For six years, when my older two children were teenagers, we hosted a homeschool writing club in our home.  The purpose was twofold.  I wanted my high schoolers to improve their writing skills and gain experience by writing for a wider audience than Mom.  Secondly, but perhaps more importantly, my husband and I wanted to provide a place for our kids to develop friendships with other homeschooled kids.

And all of these years later, many of those "kids" have enduring relationships with one another. They are adults now, many with families of their own, scattered geographically, but they remain involved in one another's lives and are the richer for it.

Josh, Ryan, Scott, and Joe at Ryan's wedding in 2005


Christian fellowship is enjoyed. 

Time spent with fellow believers pays rich dividends.  Aren't believers to "consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works?"  And to "assemble" and "exhort one another...more as ye see the day approaching?" (Hebrews 10:24, 25)  I am certain that those verses refer to meeting for worship and edification, but I think that they can also apply to sharing coffee and a slice of pie and talking about the Lord.  Encouraging, sharing, spending time side by side, the fellowship of believers is like no other.  

fellowship

Projects are completed.  

Nothing spiritual here.  Just real life stuff.

Sometimes having guests gives us the impetus to get that room painted or the windows washed or (don't look at me) the refrigerator cleaned out!  (Oh, how embarrassing!)  Ron has remarked from time to time, "It's a good thing to have people over now and then.  Sometimes it's the only way we get things done."   

my window partner



No, we don't show hospitality so that we can be blessed.  But we end up being blessed anyway!






Have you received benefits by opening your home?


Monday, October 29, 2012

Hold Us in Quiet


We who live on the East Coast have been following the reports of Hurricane Sandy and the convergence of storms that is predicted within the next day or so.  While it is tempting to be worried, we were reminded in our church fellowship this morning to remember the One who controls the wind and the waves.  The disciples who were in the boat with the sleeping Master were rebuked by Him for their lack of faith before He calmed the storm (Matthew 8:26).  We who are His must learn to trust Him, come storm or calm.

This poem written by Amy Carmichael has been going through my mind all day...

The Age-Long Minute

Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow,
Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea,
What matter beating wind and tossing billow
If only we are in the boat with Thee?

Hold us quiet through the age-long minute
While Thou art silent, and the wind is shrill:
Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, art in it;
Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?


Master, hold us in quiet.



***
(Click ~here~ to continue with the series 31 Days of Hospitality...Day 29.)

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 29 ~ Make it a Family Affair

Not to Impress, But to Bless


Why not begin to make hosting a family affair?  

Even little ones can get bitten by the hospitality bug!  

I think it begins when we ourselves are excited about hosting.  A cheerful attitude is "caught" and hosting becomes an opportunity for creative expression and joyful service.

making appetizers


My girls want to have people over.  They can be heard saying, "Let's invite the J_'s over sometime," or "It's so much fun to have a party!"

Kati is no longer a child (in fact she is my right arm when we have guests!), but she has been hosting parties for years.  When she was fifteen, she planned her own birthday party, from choosing the theme to making favors to creating the centerpiece to baking her own birthday cake.  For several years, she has invited friends over for a Christmas party on a night that Ron and I are going out Christmas shopping.  And in August, she hosted a birthday tea for me!

birthday tea


When Bekah was quite young (5 or 6?), she wanted to arrange the biscuits on a bread tray.  I gave her the job and you should have seen how much care and attention she gave, placing each one in a gradually narrowing pyramid.  She was so proud of her work.  (You may remember that she is still interested in beautiful food. ~smile~)

Although children do not automatically know how to show hospitality, they can learn by being included.



Children can be given real responsibilities when you have people in your home.  

~ They can help you plan the table settings.  What color napkins shall we use this time?  Can you write the names on the place cards?  What do you think about the centerpiece?  Having practice in helping with these decisions is host/hostess training!

~ They can help you set the table.

~ They can help to prepare food.  As they work alongside you, they will learn about cooking.  But they will also learn your standards of cleanliness.  They will learn about menu planning and food presentation.    

~ They can take guests' coats and hats to the bedroom or closet.

~ They can take drink orders and either fill them or report to the person who is pouring drinks.

~ They can help with the clean-up.  Of course, that's no one's favorite job.  There is not a lot of room for creative expression in that one.  But it is a necessary part of service, and it is oh-so-helpful when everyone pitches in to clean up.  (Ron and Kati are quite skilled at this.  While I am spinning my wheels and going from one mess to another, they are able to focus on one area at a time and direct an orderly clean-up.  I usually just stop my spinning and ask, "What is the best thing for me to do right now?")


These are all ways that your children can be part of your family's service through hospitality.  Some things can be accomplished by the very young.  Some are more appropriate for an older child. But all children can learn to cheerfully do their part.   

From the time that they're old enough to arrange biscuits or place silverware or fold a napkin, children are old enough to join you in the act of hospitality.  Don't decline their help or criticize their efforts.  If you encourage, one day you will be thrilled to realize that you have co-hosts! 





Sunday, October 28, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 28 ~ "Given to Hospitality"






Thoughts to ponder...

Needy saints are everywhere--the unemployed, those who have been drained by medical bills, forgotten preachers and missionaries in obscure places, and senior citizens whose resources have dwindled. True Body-life means sharing with those who are in need. 

 "Never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them" (J. B. Phillips). Hospitality is a lost art. Small homes and apartments are used as excuses for not receiving Christians who are passing through. Perhaps we do not want to face the added work and inconvenience. But we forget that when we entertain God's children, it is the same as if we were entertaining the Lord Himself. Our homes should be like the home in Bethany, where Jesus loved to be. 

 ~ Believer's Bible Commentary (William MacDonald)




Saturday, October 27, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 27 ~ Welcoming Overnight Guests

Not to Impress, But to Bless


Entertaining overnight guests is not something that I have done a lot.  A couple of times we hosted members of a traveling choir.  My sister and her family lived in a different state for several years, and they stayed with us when they came home for a visit.  And I have told you that my son Ryan and his family have lived in three different states in the past five years.  So our experience in hosting overnight visitors is limited and I can probably sum up everything that I know about this topic in one post.  

Here goes...   

Plan and cook ahead.  

When having overnight guests for a period of days, I find it helpful to have a meal plan and work ahead.  I don't want to spend all of my time in the kitchen, so planning meals ahead is a necessity if I am going to have the time I need for Scrabble games and catch-up chats and sipping coffee and holding grandbabies!  



I make a rough plan for the number of dinners I'll need, and do anything that I can do in advance.  

Then the girls and I will have a big cooking/baking day and we'll make casseroles and side dishes and bake bread and muffins and a dessert or two.  

The day that the guests are arriving, I can spend a little more time in the kitchen, so that meal may require more cooking and preparation time.  The bonus is that it keeps me busy as I anxiously wait for the travelers to arrive.  

I cook breakfast most mornings, although we do rely on the made-ahead coffee cakes and muffins  and cold cereal sometimes.  I usually cook a hearty breakfast on the morning that they leave, so that they can travel longer before needing to stop.  

The plan is flexible, of course, and we're more than ready to change things up, or not use some items at all.  But dinner at the ready is like money in the bank when you want to enjoy your visitors!    


Plan for some pampering.

Kati offers her room for a mini suite.  It is our largest bedroom, and it has a double bed, a cozy chair and a window seat, and the most floor space.  
When I change the bed linens, I mist them with linen spray.  We lay lots of big cozy comfy blankets down for kid beds.  
We hang a multi-hook on the laundry room door for towels, and stock up on toiletries and lotions.   



Provide a snack basket.  

What about after dinner or late night munchies?  I don't want to plan too many goodies, and I certainly don't want my visitors to be too shy to ask.  So the past few times that we have had overnight guests, I have filled a snack basket.  In the weeks before the visit, I pick up snacky things (cookies, crackers, nuts, granola bars) and put them in.  Each night, we bring out the basket and set it in the living room for anyone to take or leave.  






Since I have shared a recipe each Saturday during the month of October, I am going to share one of my make-ahead main dishes.


PASTA PIE




Ingredients:
  • 1-lb. box of pasta (penne, mostaccioli, you choose), cooked and drained 
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce (homemade sauce or jar sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaves

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine pasta, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, and butter.  Press into greased or buttered 9 x 13 baking pan.  Top with 1 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese.
  3. In a medium skillet, brown ground beef; drain.   
  4. Add spaghetti sauce and oregano and mix well.  Spoon meat mixture over pasta.  Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until heated through.  
  6. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.  Return to oven just to melt cheese.  

NOTES:  
~ I use my own homemade spaghetti sauce which has meat, so I omit both the ground beef and the oregano in this recipe.  

~ If you're going to make this ahead, assemble (except for the remaining 3/4 cup of mozzarella) but don't bake.  Thaw in refrigerator 24 hours before you will serve it; bake as directed.  




What are your tips for hosting overnight guests?


Friday, October 26, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 26 ~ A Simple Concept


Over and over I have heard (or read) my friend Deanna say these words.  In comments, on her blog, in emails.  And I have been mulling it over.  It is a simple concept, and yet it is profound. Have you heard (or read) her say this?
  

"People love to be invited."  


Think about it.  While it is a simple idea on the surface, it is profound in its impact.  

Yes!  People do love to be invited!  



Can you remember the last time you received an invitation?  And I don't mean one of those home-party-buy-stuff kind of invitations (although they can be fun too).   I mean a we-want-to-hang-out-with-you kind of invitation.  Do you remember how it made you feel?  Were you excited?  Did you feel loved and wanted?  Did you mark the date on your calendar and look forward to it?  

I did!  

I can remember several such invitations recently, and I remember the thrill of being invited.  

Soooo...do you want to extend that same love and acceptance to someone in your world?    

Invite them!  

It's just that simple.  And that profound.  




Thursday, October 25, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 25 ~ Music ♫

Not to Impress, But to Bless


I highly recommend playing music when you host a gathering.  I must confess that probably 50% of the time, I forget, which is a shame, because the right music can add so much to setting the mood.  

Let me tell you some of the ways that we have used music when we have opened our home to guests.  


We have had background music playing, using CD's in our own collection.  

Background music that is soothing and beautiful helps your guests to unwind and begin to enjoy themselves.  I have sometimes played classical music--Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" at a tea, Handel's "Messiah" at a Christmas breakfast,  a collection of Mozart or Beethoven at a dinner.  I have also played instrumental or vocal hymn collections.  One of my favorite CD's (for entertaining or for my own listening pleasure) is The Best of Classical Praise, a lovely collection of hymns played on piano and strings, some of which are artfully blended with classical pieces.  Gorgeous.  




We have used online music streaming, such as Grooveshark.

Oh what fun we have had with Grooveshark!  (Of course, there is lots of unsavory music out there, so be sure to have a responsible adult in charge of the playlist.) 

It began at a New Year's Eve family get-together when Bekah wanted us to hear Poirot's theme song.  Then someone else wanted to hear a song, and then another, and before we knew it, we spent the evening singing and dancing to everything from "Arthur's Library Card" to "It's a Wonderful World" to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" to "The Chicken Dance!"    

~ We used Grooveshark to play French cafĂ© music at Bekah's French-themed birthday party.

~ One Mother's Day, we had each mother choose four songs for the playlist.  There was lots of lovely music played that afternoon, and we enjoyed the generational variety.  It was such a hit, we did the same on Father's Day. 

~ We choose theme music for birthday parties.  Songs from the 30's for the Vintage Kitchen Birthday Party. Big band music for my dad's recent 75th birthday party.  


Occasionally, we have live music!

~ We have had family sing-alongs...evenings when we gather for an informal meal (like a fondue dinner) and my pianist niece Amy plays song after song after song as we sing together.  (Non-singers listen in, or chat in another room.) 

 ~ We sing a Thanksgiving hymn together before praying the blessing on Thanksgiving Day. Bekah is our accompanist for this.

~ Last year, we had two families over for dinner and one of the ladies asked ahead of time if we could sing some hymns.  So we borrowed some hymnals from church and had a wonderful time of worshipful singing and fellowship.  






Do you use music when you host a gathering?




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 24 ~ "The Sorry Hostess"


To accompany yesterday's post...


The Sorry Hostess
by Edgar Guest  (1881-1959)


She said she was sorry the weather was bad
The night that she asked us to dine;
And she really appeared inexpressibly sad
Because she had hoped 'twould be fine.
She was sorry to hear that my wife had a cold,
And she almost shed tears over that,
And how sorry she was, she most feelingly told,
That the steam wasn't on in the flat.

She was sorry she hadn't asked others to come,
She might just as well have had eight;
She said she was downcast and terribly glum
Because her dear husband was late.
She apologized then for the home she was in,
For the state of the rugs and the chairs,
For the children who made such a horrible din,
And then for the squeak in the stairs.

When the dinner began she apologized twice
For the olives, because they were small;
She was certain the celery, too, wasn't nice,
And the soup didn't suit her at all.
She was sorry she couldn't get whitefish instead
Of the trout that the fishmonger sent,
But she hoped that we'd manage somehow to be fed,
Though her dinner was not what she meant.

She spoke her regrets for the salad, and then
Explained she was really much hurt,
And begged both our pardons again and again
For serving a skimpy dessert.
She was sorry for this and sorry for that,
Though there really was nothing to blame.
But I thought to myself as I put on my hat,
Perhaps she is sorry we came.






Doesn't this old poem put things in a different light?    

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 23 ~ No Apologies

Not to Impress, But to Bless


In order to implement the rule of hospitality that I am going to suggest today, then you must truly believe my little slogan, that hospitality is "not to impress, but to bless."  And, oh boy, does this one challenge me!

No apologies.  

Well, why not?, you say.  What if my chicken is overdone?  Or my house isn't up to snuff?  What if the carpet is worn?  Or the kids left some toys under the table?  What if the cake is dry and crumbly?  What if I'm not sure if everything is "good enough" for my guests?

Here's why.

Apologies make your guests feel on edge.  They are nervous for you.  They either feel the need to reassure you, or they begin to believe what you're telling them.  

Apologies make your guests feel unwelcome, as if they are a bother.  

Apologies prevent everyone from relaxing and feeling at home.  

Apologies may cause your guests to feel intimidated.  After all, your guest may be thinking, if my hostess thinks that this meal is no good, then I certainly don't want to serve her my own cooking!  Or...If this house is a mess, I hope she never comes to mine! 
   
Apologies put the focus on you, not on your guests.  And if your aim is to bless (and not to impress), then it's not about you.  



I confess that the "no apologies" policy challenges me.  Because I want my guests to think that I have it all together.  If there is something that isn't "right," then I want to explain why and make my excuses.  

But the truth is, we are all imperfect people.  We all make mistakes.  None of us has it all together.  It is better to be real and not worry about my impression, but to focus on blessing my guests and making them feel relaxed.    



Let me tell you a true (embarrassing) story.  

A couple of years ago, I just had read one of The Nester's posts in her "31 Days to a Less Messy Nest" series...the one called "Quit Apologizing."  She told of her visit to a gal's gorgeous home, only to be greeted with profuse apologies.  She also told how it made her feel.  

I silently reminded myself that apologies make people feel uncomfortable.  

A day or two later, a friend called during school time and left a message on my answering machine.  She would stop by after her son's soccer practice to drop off some things for my daughter Kristin.  We finished our read aloud (which sometimes almost always makes me sleepy if when I have gotten into bed late the night before), and I told the girls that I was going to lie down for about 20 minutes before I cleaned up our school stuff.  I went into the living room and was quickly asleep, but my slumber was interrupted by someone  urging me, "Mom, get up!  Dana just pulled into the driveway!"  

I don't know whether Dana had changed her plan, or I had misunderstood the message, but I was suddenly wide awake As I made a hasty glance around the room, I realized that there was no way that I was going to restore the house to tidiness in the seconds that it would take for Dana to be knocking at my back door.  And somehow during that few seconds, I remembered my resolve to offer no apologies.  Oh my...could I refrain?  

I greeted smiling Dana who asked if I had gotten her message.  (Maybe she looked around the room and assumed that I hadn't.)  I assured her that I had and invited her in.  We sat at the kitchen table, school books, my planning notebook, tea mugs spread all over it.  I offered her a drink, Kati made tea, and we sat and chatted about homeschool and family and friends and the time flew and I forgot (and I hope she did too) that I was a mess and my house was a mess.  

And I succeeded!  I made no apologies!  

After our sweet time of visiting, Dana left and I was glad that I had not marred our visit by making her uncomfortable about coming.  



How about another true story?

My dear blog friend Vee wrote a lovely and candid essay about hospitality, and linked to last Thursday's linky party.  She told of a time that her sister warmly welcomed unexpected guests into her home.

...there was the time my sister and I and her two daughters and my daughter and son had just arrived back at her home after church. We were going to do something that afternoon, probably of a crafting nature. My sister worked a full-time job as a maternity nurse plus a half-time job as a home-health nurse. Her home often reflected the fact that she was a very busy and exhausted woman. That day, there was clean laundry being sorted and folded on the living room furniture and piled all over the coffee table. A few laundry baskets were perched hither and yon.

We'd not been there for more than a few minutes when there was a knock on the door. Church friends had stopped by; they were a young couple with two little ones under four. My sister was delighted; I was appalled.

Sis set immediately to preparing lunch and what a scrumptious impromptu lunch it was, too. (I busied myself with setting folded clothes in baskets so the guests would have a place to sit down.) I still remember that Sis came into the living room carrying a tray of cheese and crackers, tea, fruit juice, cookies, a dish of salted almonds and set it right down on the coffee table along with folded facecloths and undies. If I hadn't been so mortified, I'd have broken down either crying or laughing hysterically. Probably the latter.

I ran into that couple last Christmas while out shopping and they mentioned that day as a favorite memory of theirs. Really? Hmmm... I should have asked why exactly, though I think I know. It was the fact that my sister was genuinely thrilled to have them in her home.

Vee's sister knew the secret...that hospitality is not about ME!  

So if you are tempted (as I am) to offer up apologies for every imperfection, let it go. 

Apologies put the focus on ME, and not on blessing my guests.

And if your aim is to bless (and not to impress), then it's not about you.  







Are you ever tempted to apologize for perceived imperfections?  


(Sandy of Reluctant Entertainer has written about apologies ~here~ and ~here~.)


Monday, October 22, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 22 ~ Brenda's Hospitality Pantry

Please welcome my guest today, Brenda who blogs at Coffee Tea Books and Me.  

As I told you last week, I have been reading Brenda's blog for quite some time, and her thoughtful posts are often a source of inspiration.  Her musings can be anything from books to grandchildren, from cooking to living with a chronic illness, from beautiful thrifted dishes to preparedness, from homeschooling to gardening! 

Today, I have invited Brenda to share her thoughts about a simple, but ingenious concept of hospitality.  






The Hospitality Pantry

I’ve written a lot through the years about keeping a Hospitality Pantry.  It is a subject near and dear to my heart as it allows me to extend hospitality when someone unexpected stops by or to invite someone over when I’m not feeling my best.

If you read my blog, you will recognize much of what I’ve written below but I’m repeating it here as it reflects how I view a Hospitality Pantry… and how I stock such a pantry. 

I think it was in a book by Emilie Barnes that I read about the concept of a Hospitality Pantry. Since then I've seen the idea in other books about hospitality. It differs from keeping items in our normal pantry. 

These items tend to be special and more perhaps on the gourmet side...not all but some of the items. It is set aside from our regular pantry so temptation does not overcome us.

For instance, something I always like to keep in a Hospitality Pantry are a couple boxes of Pepperidge Farm cookies. Because they can be pricey, even though I normally wait for a good sale, I will be less likely to open them up during a carb attack because they are more expensive.

These items are kept in their own area, not in with the regular pantry items to make certain they are there when needed. If I could make myself forget where they are and remember only when I need them...that would be a good thing, indeed. 

In my regular pantry, I have a few boxes of mixes (brownie mix, cake mix, etc.) that I use from time to time. I prefer making things from scratch but there are days if I don't use a mix...it will not happen. In my Hospitality Pantry, I make an assumption there will be no time to bake something (added: I have collected some great recipes that start with mixes).

I also like to keep frozen baked goods in my deep freeze which are very easy to defrost and serve.  The only problem with keeping baked goods in the freezer is keeping them away from the family (or me for that matter!).

Normally I will raid the Hospitality Pantry when someone I'm not expecting stops by for a chat. However, it is just as good to have on hand for last minute tea parties with the children (or grandchildren), hubby has a bad day at work, the family has received news that is difficult to handle, and generally...when comfort is needed. Having these items on hand make it possible to put together a special "party" for one special person or our own dear family members.

My list for such a pantry will most likely be different than yours. Here is my basic list and the "deep" list...only given as an example to spark your own creativity.



Hospitality Pantry



Coffee and Tea 
The small packets sold at the grocery store and coffee shops are perfect for this. Be certain to have on hand at least one packet regular coffee, one decaf, and perhaps a flavored coffee. I keep these even though I normally have coffee on the shelf. Of course, you can store an unopened can of coffee or unopened bag of beans. If you only store one, make it decaf.

I always have teas on the shelf but I like to keep one or two boxes of Bigelow teas in this pantry. One box of a black tea like Earl Grey and one box of an herbal tea, especially one children can drink. Bigelow is best if you are putting back for storage because they are individually wrapped in foil and last for a very long time.  Otherwise, any favorite brand used regularly is fine.

Other beverages as desired: hot chocolate mix, lemonade mix for hot weather, etc. Remember, we are assuming "last minute" preparations.

Artificial sugar packets (I prefer Splenda) for those who cannot have regular sugar.

If you don’t keep Half and Half or whole milk in your refrigerator, it would be a good idea to keep a can of Milnot evaporated milk (which can be used as cream) or a shelf stable powdered cream for coffee.


A little something sweet
I know I’ve already mentioned this but having good quality store bought cookies or home baked items in the freezer is a very good idea!  Most of the time I have a friend over, it is for coffee, tea, and “something sweet”.


To "deepen" your Hospitality Pantry...here are a few ideas, I’m sure you will have your own:

A jar of Devonshire cream  (or soft cream cheese in the frig)
Very good quality jam
Scone mix (gourmet mixes are very easy and quick but can be rather expensive)
Fancy crackers
Summer sausage or salami that stores easily
A packet of shelf stable pepperoni slices
Can of good quality canned chicken, small jar of Mayo, small jar of relish
--instant chicken salad for the crackers
Pepperidge Farm cocktail breads  (I keep one pkg. of these in the deep freeze)



It can be fun to keep an eye out for items which can be placed in the Hospitality Pantry, fancy paper napkins and plates, serving dishes, and obviously fun and tasty foods.  This is an area where we are limited only by creativity and budget... well, perhaps space.  :)

I like to purchase paper plates, napkins, and such right after a Holiday when they are often half price.  Last year I found red and white paper plates at the after Christmas sale at Tuesday Morning.  Since they did not have a seasonal design, red plates can also work for Valentine’s Day and the 4th of July.

I also love to collect dishes at thrift stores and Goodwill, especially those I can use in the various seasons.  They make me want to invite friends over just to set a pretty table!  Showing hospitality is a very real and special form of ministry to your family and friends… and even the occasional angel in disguise.





Thank you, Brenda, for visiting here today...and for inspiring us with a great idea!

Readers, are you inspired to begin a Hospitality Pantry?  Or have you already begun?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 21 ~ Doing It For the King





Let's read the whole passage...


Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 
‘Come, you blessed of My Father, 
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 
for I was hungry and you gave Me food; 
I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; 
I was a stranger and you took Me in; 
was naked and you clothed Me; 
I was sick and you visited Me; 
I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 
When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clotheYou?  
Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 

And the King will answer and say to them, 
‘Assuredly, I say to you, 
inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren,
you did it to Me.’






Psst...
Remember to visit tomorrow when Brenda of Coffee Tea Books and Me will be sharing some of her thoughts on hospitality!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 20 ~ Sweets For the Sweet

Not to Impress, But to Bless


Another October Saturday, and another day to chat about food.  

So far, we have talked about appetizers, and we have talked about collecting some "go to" recipes.  But who doesn't love to talk about desserts? 





The thing is...I rarely prepare desserts.  

Oh I'll bet now you're all afraid to come to my house for dinner, thinking that you will not get dessert.  But never fear, you will definitely get dessert.   The reason that I rarely prepare desserts is that I have a resident baker!  My daughter Kati is a baker extraordinaire!  As a matter of fact, she is  hosting her own 31-day series this month: 31 Days of Decadent Desserts Go take a look (although I'm afraid you may not come back).  Oh my.  



(Perhaps now you've gone from fear of no dessert to envy of my good fortune. ~smile~)  


Desserts usually play a starring role in entertaining, don't they?  The grand finale, so to speak.  

Most people like to end the meal with a little something sweet.

I find that dessert-and-coffee time allows for lingering and chatting and sharing.  At our house, we sometimes leave the dining room table and take dessert into the living room where a small-ish group can settle into comfy seats.  If it's a large group, we usually drag chairs into the farmhouse kitchen and gather in a big circle.  

On the occasions that I have made desserts over the past few years, I have often used ramekins.  

I was introduced to the idea of using ramekins by Sandy at The Reluctant Entertainer(This is my favorite entertaining blog!)  Sandy uses ramekins for serving everything from individual strawberry pies to apple charlottes to chicken pot pies.

I love that ramekins are cute.  I love that they offer individual portions.  I love that everyone has his/her own.  I love that they are easy to serve.  

I have used ramekins for individual crustless pumpkin pies, with a pastry leaf cut-out placed on the top.  

I have made apple crisp in my ramekins, allowing enough space to add a small scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.  

And I have made the recipe that I am sharing with you today.  (And, yes, there is a small degree of decadence here too.)  






Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup espresso (or 2 teaspoons instant espresso combined with 1/4 cup water)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped

Directions:
  1. Place chocolate in large bowl.  Heat cream and milk in heavy saucepan over medium heat until just simmering.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in large bowl.  Whisk hot milk mixture into the eggs in a slow, steady stream, and return the mixture to the saucepan.  
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of spoon, about 9 minutes.    
  4. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
  5. Stir in espresso and vanilla, and pour 1/3 cup of custard into each of 16 ramekins, custard cups, or small teacups.  
  6. Chill until set, about an hour.  
  7. Garnish with whipped cream and finely chopped chocolate or berries.  
     

~ I'm adding this recipe to Kati's Decadent Desserts Link-up today! ~
  


Do you like to make desserts? What role does dessert play in your gatherings? 
Do you ever use ramekins?

Friday, October 19, 2012

{31 Days of Hospitality} Day 19 ~ Let's Make It Work

Not to Impress, But to Bless


Oh my.  I am (almost) speechless.  

Have you read the posts of those who wrote about hospitality in the Linky Party that began yesterday?  Then you may be (almost) speechless too.  (If you haven't read them, go read now...before you read another word here.  You'll be inspired.)

They shared some tips, but they also shared their thoughts about hospitality and what it is and how they practice it or how they want to practice it more.  And I was literally in tears at times. I have been writing about hospitality for the past 18 days, but my resolve to open my home has been made more sure.  

Thank you, ladies, for taking the time to share from your hearts.  

(It's not too late to join in!  The Linky Party will be open through Sunday night, so link away!) 





I have something else to tell you!  On Monday, I will be having a guest poster.  I am so excited about this!  

Brenda of Coffee Tea Books & Me will be writing here!  

I have been reading Brenda's blog for quite some time, and her thoughtful posts are often a source of inspiration.  Among many other things, she has written about an ingenious hospitality concept, so I was delighted when she accepted my invitation to guest post.  You won't want to miss it.  




Now for today's topic...

Let's Make It Work!

By now we know that the goal of hospitality is to bless others, but we're still left with our own limitations.  Not excuses, but true limitations.  

May I suggest to you that you have your very own style of hospitality?  You do!  And your style can be totally different than that of your neighbor or your sister-in-law.  


My friend Barbara can host a tea that is as beautiful and as tasty as that of any tea room, and she delights in doing it. But if you don't have a china tea pot or the gumption to make four kinds of finger sandwiches and a variety of sweets, that's okay.  Maybe you can serve a cup of tea or coffee and a plate of cookies.  

You don't enjoy formal dinner parties?  No problem.  Plan to serve something simple that your own family enjoys.  Chances are your guests will enjoy it too.  Remember: Simple fare is often the best choice.  And don't be afraid to ask what foods your guests like.  

Find your style!  

Maybe your husband likes to barbecue.  Then plan simple backyard get-togethers.

If you get overwhelmed with a lot of cooking (or don't like to cook), host covered dish affairs. Or order pizza!  (Can you really be a good hostess and serve carryout pizza?  Of course you can!)

Perhaps you love to cook, have heirloom silver and fine china,  and get excited about gourmet entertaining.  Then that's your style...go ahead and lavish your guests!  

It's not really important what your style is.  It's more important that you are open to opportunities to open your home for the purpose of blessing and serving others.  


May I also suggest that there are seasons for different kinds of hospitality? Indeed there are!  As life changes, as our circumstances change, our hospitality reflects that.  


Finances affect our hospitality.  Don't I know it!  There were times when we were...well, I don't want a pity party, but let's just say that at times our coffers were empty.  But even in the lean (quite lean) years, we occasionally invited another couple over for a simple dinner.  Or we invited someone for dessert after church.  The frequency of invitations as well as the food that was served reflected our financial challenges, but we tried to open our home when we could.  Fellowship doesn't cost very much monetarily, but it is rich.

The layout and size of our house affects our hospitality.  My parents live in a lovely home, and for years theirs was the hub of all family gatherings.  But as the extended family grew...and grew (from 4 to 26 and growing), we began hosting.  Not that our house is large.  It isn't.  But we do have a large farmhouse kitchen and almost all events are centered there.  Some people may eat at the dining room table, but after the meal, we usually drag the chairs from the small dining room and place them all around the kitchen and hang out together and eat dessert from our laps.

Do you know that you can have overnight guests even if you only have one bathroom?  (Ask me how I know.)

So your table only seats four.  Why don't you place a small vase of fresh flowers or herbs from your yard in the middle of that table, and invite another couple to dinner, or a few ladies for coffee?  There are a few kiddos in the group?  I have found that children are not particular about where they eat (child-size folding table, floor pillows, coffee table while sitting on the floor, piano bench/table, vinyl tablecloth laid out "picnic" style on the floor...) as long as they are with one another.  Or you could serve the food from that table-for-four and let all the guests eat on TV trays or from their laps. (Just keep in mind the messiness factor when planning the menu.  And use "real" plates or sturdy paper/plastic ones.)

Does health alter the season of hospitality?  Absolutely.  Illness, chronic or acute, affects the ability to serve in our homes.  Those are things that are out of our control.  Poor health may require one to scale back, doing nothing elaborate.  It may demand that we limit the number of people, or the frequency of invitations.  Or it could even mean that one must cease from "entertaining."

However, even at that point, a warm and welcoming heart can still make a difference.

I have told you of my friend Ann who passed away last December after seven years with ALS.  It was my privilege to help Ann a bit with some shopping.  But every time I went into her home, she ministered to me.  She shared encouragement, a listening ear, love, the love of Christ.  No she wasn't serving cake and coffee, but she was serving nonetheless.

Yes, seasons of life affect hospitality, but they do not prevent it.  





So what are your limitations as you extend hospitality?  Can you make it work?







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