We love having friends over whenever we can, though it hadn’t been happening as often as we wished ever since the baby was born. But we are at a point now when we can have dinner with friends, and actually enjoy an uninterrupted conversation.
Most of our friends have kids of their own, so we have a house full of guests when we entertain. We have come up with a system which lets us take full advantage of the house floor plan and the space we have.
I mentioned before that we turned the very front room in our house into a living room which flows into a formal dining room (it is one long space).
Our original thoughts had been that both formal living room and dining room is a wasted space. But after living with this floor plan for some time and making note of how we use the space, we realized that this is the perfect solution. The rooms are still evolving, we need some new furniture and decor, but they have come a long way.
After a couple of dinner nights we figured out the flow that maximizes the space and works best:
– We serve appetizers in the living room: it is more relaxed and allows for a better flow of conversation since we are sitting down and facing each other, as opposed to lining up/crowding near the kitchen island.
– Dinner is served in the dining room for adults, and in the kitchen for the kids. We make sure that the kids have their food and drinks all ready and served to them, and they are safe (appliances turned off, no knives in easy reach, etc.). This solution has saved us constant interruptions and hearing complaints about the food. Somehow when the parents are not in the direct sight, picky eaters forget to be picky. Peer pressure is a powerful thing.
– After dinner kids go to play and the adults carry the conversation (and the wine) to the living room.
This flow has been working really well for us right now. I am sure we will revisit it when the kids get older: in line with the rule of making the best use of the space, you have at a particular season of your life.
A few more words on logistics that help me make entertaining my guests easier:
1. Plan your menu a few days ahead: you will (hopefully) avoid last-minute trips to the store. Stick to “tried and true” easy recipes. (Note to self: last minute experimenting is never a good idea.)
2. Make sure to ask your guests about food restrictions. It will save you a major headache trying to come up with an all-accommodating menu.
3. Prepare ahead of time anything that can be prepared in advance, don’t underestimate the small things– they turn out to be the biggest time suck. Usually, recipes specify what can be down in advance.
4. Set the dishes, serving platters, silverware, etc. out ahead of time. Set out drinks before your guests arrive. It sounds like a small thing but who wants to start filling 10 glasses with water, or reaching for chilled drinks in the fridge trying to exchange “how’s-it-been-goings?” at the same time?
5. Set out an outfit you plan on wearing in advance, and actually try it on! Nothing worse than ending up with “nothing to wear!” 2 minutes before the guests are supposed to arrive. Major stress factor (can you tell I am talking from experience?)!
Can you share what sanity-saving tricks you use when you have company over? I would love to know!