Monday, November 14, 2011

What's in a Name?

guest post by Amy H.

What's In A Name?

There is just something personal and special about hearing or seeing your name.

When inviting others to our home, I like to think of different ways to communicate to them personally, "I am expecting you! I am excited that you're here! You're special and have a special place in our home!" Often it's in little details that don't take much time, but hopefully offer a warm welcome. Here are a few ways to welcome guests, by name!

As I was on my way home one day I found this easel out by a curb with a free sign. I quickly pulled over and loaded it up! After a coat of white paint it found a spot on our front porch. Day to day it has a welcome friends message, but when we are expecting guests my children often write a personal message on the white board. Do your children already have a similar easel? This could easily be made with a board and chalk board paint or an inexpensive white board.



Did you know that you can use dry erase markers or chalkboard ink pens on most plates? Our dishes are simple and I keep one on a little easel inside our front entry. It's a perfect place to write Bible verses, holiday or seasonal messages, and to welcome guests! When you're ready to change it, just wash it clean and write a new message!



Cups are another place for guests names. It's so nice to not be wondering whose cup is whose! With a little chalkboard paint on inexpensive plastic cups you are always ready for guests! I used painters tape to mark off my painting area and then followed the directions on the chalkboard paint, giving the cups 2 coats. After the second coat I promptly removed the tape and allowed the cups to dry for a week. Then, per directions, I colored over them completely with chalk. These cups do need to be washed by hand. As a warning, the paint could be scraped off; however, I used my set all summer and didn't have any trouble. Also, condensation on the cups may cause your chalk to run but we could still make out the names. That said, we really enjoyed using them as did our guests! They're re-usable, inexpensive, and won't break.



Place cards are another way of personally welcoming guests. I also think that place cards are helpful in letting guests know where to sit. My children often get to invite our guests to the table while I am finishing up last minute preparation in the kitchen. At times I've noticed our guests awkwardly wondering where to sit. With place cards they can confidently find their place! A 4x6 plain index card folds perfectly into a place card. We often stamp them with stamps to suit the "theme" of our table and then my children color them in and write the names on the cards. For Thanksgiving last year we made turkey place cards with my children's fingerprints (my pinkie made the body of the turkey, each of them used a different color ink pad and made the feathers). Prior to the meal we set out the cards with pens so we could write inside and communicate our thankfulness for each person. Not only did these serve as place cards, but were a keepsake and an encouragement for everyone.




How do you personally welcome your guests?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dinner for Six :: Building Community

guest post from Barbara H. at Stray Thoughts



When I mentioned on my blog how much I enjoyed our new church’s Dinner For Six program, Carrie asked me if I’d write more about it. I am delighted to do so.

It was begun in our church by a couple who had had a similar program in the wife’s former church. It had originally started as a group of eight, but eight people for dinner usually drifted into two groups of four, so they changed it to a dinner for six.

The basic idea is that whoever would like to participate in the program signs up at church on a page where they list their name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. It’s good to allow a good two or three weeks of announcements (via church bulletin and/or pulpit announcements or however your church does it) for word to get out and for folks to have time to respond.

Then the coordinator pairs people up in groups of six. Usually these are three couple, but singles are welcome as well. Sometimes a couple of girls or guys will team up to provide a meal when it is there turn, or sometimes an older single person might just be grouped with another six, making their group seven – it just depends on the person and situation. The coordinator does try to mix up the ages. The idea is to meet people you don’t already know.

When the coordinator assigns the groups, she then notifies them by either e-mail or a printed card who is in each group. Within a group she lists the couples in order from 1 to 3 with their contact information with explanation that the first couple hosts the first dinner and prepares the main course, the second couple listed brings salad and bread, and the third couple brings dessert and beverage. The first family listed (usually someone who has been at the church longer or who has hosted “Dinner for Six” in the past) contacts the others to decide on a date for the first dinner. Then after the first dinner, the second couple listed hosts the next one, the couples rotate what to bring, and the date for the next dinner is decided on, usually at some time while at the first. And finally the third couple hosts, the others rotate what to bring, etc.

The dinners usually take place over the course of three months, each couple hosting once a month, then there is a month in-between for announcements, sign-ups, and creating the new groups, then the next groups of six take turns hosting dinner over the next three months, etc.

Also, since it is designed for adults to get to know one another and since there are other activities and fellowships at church for the whole family, this is designed just for the adults, and those with children are expected to find baby-sitters (except when hosting dinner at their own home, of course). However, exceptions can be made within a group if desired. For instance, in one of our groups, two families each had one teen-ager at home, so when each of them hosted they invited the other teen to come. In another group, the host family had a teen daughter who volunteered to watch the child of another family in a group so they didn’t have to get a baby-sitter. But usually parents ask family members to watch their children or trade off with friends or hire an older teen or college student for the evening. Individual groups are free to have full family get-togethers if they want to. That is just how our church does it: anyone adapting this idea can decide to handle this differently if desired.

So far in the three times we have participated, everything has gone beautifully except for the first time: with that group, we had and enjoyed our first dinner as scheduled, but the second month, the grandmother of the host family was severely ill, and they were unable to participate then. The last month of the three was December, and the six of us just couldn’t find a date with all of the other things going on that month that would work for the three of us. Finally in January, while the new groups were being formed, we scheduled a night to get together at our home. The wife of one couple got sick that day, but the husband decided to go ahead and come since we had had such trouble setting a date, and the third couple forgot about it completely (lesson learned – touch base with everyone a few days beforehand to confirm that the date is still good for everyone.)

So our initial experience was kind of a fiasco, but every time since then has worked out great. It’s understood that things come up and a group may not be able to meet three times within the given time frame, but everyone just does their best.

Overall we have really enjoyed the Dinner For Six program, especially as we were new to this church. It was an opportunity to better get to know people we had already met and to become acquainted with people from different ages and stages we hadn’t met yet.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Proper Place Setting

from Carrie



You do this, right? RIGHT?!?!

Yeah. I do too. (*Cough*)

Remember as you look around at various Martha Stewart homes this fall season -- food served on paper plates but with a smile is just as delightful (perhaps more so) than the most formally set and perfectly decorated table.

Let's make sure our hospitality spills forth from a proper heart attitude rather than a perfect place setting.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Easy Hospitality :: Take a Hike!

from Carrie


In the past we've discussed various ways to enjoy the fellowship and hospitality of others - particularly those having children that are not as well mannered. I'm not here to revisit that particular topic (although it can always stand to be revisited every now and again!) but to remind you that you don't necessarily need to avoid fellowship with those families but to remind you to be creative in the ways you do it!

Of course, summer provided (provides?) ample opportunity to play outdoors but you might find a few more chances to get out and explore the great outdoors before winter weather sets in. If you're going on a hike some evening or weekend, why not invite friends along to join you? You can walk and talk at the same time and the children can have loads of fun running about exploring the great outdoors!



With limited time left to enjoy decent outdoor weather (at least in my opinion) what could be better than grabbing some friends - or extended family members - and trekking out to breathe in the fresh air?

This past summer/early September we've tried to get out of the house as much as possible. Two or three times we invited other people to join us in our romps through forests and up hills. Once, we joined a group for hiking and then brought them back to our house and we made s'mores over the firepit in our yard. A few different times we invited people to join us for dinner, after which we hiked off the calories. Another time we met people for a walk and then went out for ice cream afterward.

Really, this is a fantastic way to connect with others, get some good exercise and enjoy a treat or two. You don't have to think about coming up with entertainment because entertainment is to be found in crooked trees, long walking sticks, fall foliage and fresh breezes that cool you down as you skip (or huff!) along. The kids run off their energy and the adults also get a chance to clear their minds, unwind and refocus.

Being outdoors is refreshing. Being with others just adds to the blessing. So - take a hike! But take someone with you!


P.S. Happy First Day of Autumn!


***********

Other Easy Hospitality posts:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Autumn!

Hello hello hello!

Well, the summer flew by before we really knew it. Here we are looking at the first day of fall (this Friday) already!

Have anything fun planned to celebrate the changing of seasons?

Fall brings a lot of opportunities to celebrate any variety of things with family and friends and we look forward to sharing some new ideas with you, as well as gleaning ideas from you.

If you would like to provide a guest post sharing how you and your family intend to celebrate some aspect of the season, please e-mail Stephanie and Carrie at: offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com

Also, if you have a question regarding some aspect of practicing hospitality that you would like to pose to us and our readers, please e-mail us that as well.

We'd love to hear from you!

In the meantime, we've got some stuff in the works so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer Holidays


Provided the sun has made an appearance in your neck of the woods, the chances are that you are enjoying spending more time outdoors, soaking in the sunshine.

Summer is typically a time of exploring the great outdoors and traveling to spend time with family and friends.

The same is true of us here at Offering Hospitality so we're going to take a little summer break and will see you back here in the fall ~ which will be here before we know it. (Time is flying!)

In the meantime, if you have any questions or topics you would like us to address in the fall, please leave us a note in the comment section below and we'll prepare to respond to you. (Feel free to also send us an e-mail with your ideas, suggestions or to inquire about preparing a guest post for us.)

Enjoy your summer, ladies! Make the most of it! We'll see you soon!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sickness: A Hospitality Opportunity?

Guest post by Amy H.


I was just finishing getting my sick daughter settled in and the mess cleaned up when my phone rang. It was a friend who knew my daughter was home sick and called to check on us. Through the conversation she encouraged me, offered to run to the store for me, and even offered to take care of my younger daughter or keep my older son after school. Wow! I was so thankful! My friend had taken an unexpected opportunity to show me hospitality as our family dealt with sickness.

We've all experienced sickness and I think can agree it's never fun! How can we offer hospitality in the midst of sickness? With a little thought and some advance planning we can be a little more prepared when the opportunity comes, and this is one opportunity we know will come!

Here are a few ideas for helping others when they're experiencing sickness:

When children are sick, consider making a little care package that might include:

*books
*movies
*games
*printed coloring pages/ coloring book
*new crayons or markers
*fun straws or cups to encourage fluids
*a get well card made by your children
*stuffed animal
*beads with yarn to make bracelets, necklaces, etc.
*a bath toy
*a "fun" box of tissues
*puzzles (even homemade!)

These items can often be found inexpensively. Library sales sell good books for almost nothing, crayons and markers will be on great sales in August in preparation for back to school, and coloring pages can be printed out for free and customized to the child's interests. One time my daughter received a stuffed animal that was "pre-loved". Her friend chose one of her own to give away and her mom washed it before giving it to us. It's even more special than if it was brand new!

When dropping off a care package, it is best for only the parent to get out of the car. Call ahead to make arrangements which may include just leaving the gift by a door or knocking instead of ringing a doorbell. Also, prepare all children that they will not see their friends (unless it's a wave through a window!). Preparing them ahead will give them realistic expectations. And remember, this is a drop off and not a visit.

For the parents of sick children:
  • give a phone call, ask how they're holding up and what they need
  • offer to run errands
  • if you can keep siblings then offer
  • inquire if they want any homework collected from school
  • bring them a little treat or cup of coffee
  • bring them a bouquet of flowers to freshen up their home
  • bring them magazines to browse for enjoyment, encouraging them to rest!

In closing, I had an opportunity that I am so thankful I took! It meant a little schedule rearranging, but it was so worth it! A friend's daughter was sick, and upon a doctor visit was diagnosed with strep throat. Of course this meant a trip to the pharmacy, once the prescription was ready. Thankfully this mom knew her daughter needed to rest at home, and called me with her need. Would I come over while she ran to the pharmacy? Yes!

I went over and kept my children in the car, happily entertained with books, and went in her house to check on her daughter about every 5 minutes. This allowed my friend to run the errand, her daughter to rest, and our family to be blessed by helping. She asked me and I was truly honored. I was thankful to be able to help and appreciated her honesty in what she needed, especially since I wouldn't have anticipated it on my own!

I've experienced hospitality in the midst of sickness and learned that it is an opportunity to offer hospitality!

How can you offer hospitality in the midst of sickness? 

________________________________________

Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister. Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Meal With Jesus, by Tim Chester (Book Review)

from Carrie



Hospitality involves welcoming, creating space, listening, paying attention, and providing. Meals slow things down. Some of us don't like that. We like to get things done. But meals force you to be people oriented instead of task oriented. Sharing a meal is not the only way to build relationships, but it is number one on the list. (Chapter 2, Meals as Enacted Community, page 47)


Crossway Books kindly offered me the opportunity to read a copy of A Meal With Jesus (linked to my review), which is subtitled Discovering Grace, Community and Mission around The Table. It's a very thought-provoking read and one worth considering when thinking through the how and why of offering hospitality.

I invite you to read my full review of this title over at Reading to Know today, as well as join in on the discussion! See you over there...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

HOSPITALity : Meals for Caregivers

Guest post by Amy H.

Bringing meals is common after the birth of a baby or even after a death in a family. But, take a minute and consider, when else might the provision of a meal be a true blessing?

A family in our church recently experienced an unexpected, long-term hospital stay. While they had lots of family in the area, and their children were all grown--this was certainly a time when bringing meals was appropriate.

Caring for an ill family member can be very consuming, and meals are generally not a priority. This was one need that others could meet. For me, as a SAHM, it was a perfect ministry and I was thankful for the opportunity!


In this case, the meal would be eaten at the hospital so:
  • The meal must be in all disposable containers. There should be nothing to wash or feel the need to return.
  • Everything necessary for eating the meal must be included. A cooled bottle of water, a plate, napkin, plastic ware, and even condiments if needed.
  • This is a single-serve meal. Leftovers will be difficult to keep although I did include a few snack items (like chips that come in a can allowing them to easily be kept for future snacks).
  • The food must be ready to eat when delivered, meaning no heating up or refrigeration required.
  • Because I wanted my children to be involved, I invited them to make cards for the family to be included.
  • Writing out the menu is a nice touch. This can easily be included on a tag or in a card.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables might be refreshing, especially if they've been eating in cafeteria or take-out. For one meal I included a caesar salad with the dressing, Parmesan cheese, and croĆ»tons all separate to keep it fresh.
  • Since I was thinking of my meal as a gift, I wrapped it up in a gift bag, which also made for easy transport!

Coordinating drop off will be important and will vary in each situation. Offering Hospitality has previously posted some helpful tips for organizing meals.


This is the first time I've been involved in bringing meals in this type of situation; however, it got me thinking! I will certainly remember this for the future and be on the look out for unique opportunities to offer hospitality!

When else might providing a meal be a blessing?

~~~~~~~~~~~

Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister.  Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Keeping a Hospitality Journal: Reflection

Guest Post by Amy H.

Remember when I shared that I didn't know how to cook when I got married? Well, one Sunday I prepared pork chops with barbecue sauce in our crock-pot. When we got home our apartment really smelled wonderful and I anticipated a delicious meal to serve our guests. We sat down looking forward to our meal. Then we cut into the pork chop. To say it was dry is an understatement! Clearly our guests were attempting to be polite, but the pork chop was awful! Thankfully we had dessert that day because it quickly became our lunch!

After this lunch, I began the reflection portion of my hospitality journal. I was keeping track of my planning so that I could reference it in the future, but this was one meal I didn't want to repeat! Or at least, I didn't want to repeat it the same way. By entering a note on my planning form that in the future I needed to use more barbecue sauce in this recipe I was sure to not repeat my mistake!

Over time, I realized that taking a few minutes to reflect after offering hospitality was an opportunity for me learn.


In offering hospitality, one of my goals is make my guest feel important and to get to know them! If I write something down then I am much more likely to remember it! So, over time I learned to also write down a few things that I learn about my guests because I want to remember them!

For example, I know that one of my friends enjoys catsup on just about everything. So when she comes for a meal I always put catsup out! Another friend enjoys half-and-half in her coffee. It's easy to keep that on hand for her visits! In a recent visit a friend mentioned that Smarties were her favorite candy. A few weeks later I found a huge bag of Smarties for a bargain. It brought me such joy to take them to her, knowing that she would enjoy them! By keeping a few notes, I know I am truly getting to know my guests better!

I have also learned that taking time to reflect is an opportunity for me to minister more personally to my guests.


For the reflection portion of my journal I make notes on what worked well, what I would do differently the next time, and what I learned about my guests. I write my reflections on the back of my planning form to keep them for reference. Here are a few questions that help me think more clearly:

  • Set-Up:  Were my guests comfortable? Did the seating arrangement work out? Did I move any furniture or arrange anything differently?
  • Menu:  How was the food? Did the recipes lend themselves well to the occasion? What was I able to prepare before the guests arrived so that I could focus on them? How much food and beverage was consumed (this is especially helpful to know as you entertain larger crowds)? Anything I didn't have enough of or that I had a lot of leftover? Also, make notes of any changes you made to the recipes for future reference.
  • Personal Information:  What did I learn about my guests? Do they have favorite foods or games? Any allergies mentioned? Are there things that they do not enjoy? Any special interest that they mentioned? Are there any significant events coming up in their lives? I usually put these events on my calendar, especially if I want to follow up with them in the future. What prayer requests were shared? Take time now and pray for them!
  • Follow-Up:  Was there anything that you offered to do for them or give them? Maybe they asked for a copy of a recipe, this is the time to go ahead and get it sent to them. If appropriate, go ahead and send them a note thanking them for coming, encouraging them in an area of struggle that was mentioned, or simply mentioning a favorite part of your time together. Let your guest know that you enjoyed the time with them and heard what they shared!

My hospitality journal has changed over time, yet has consistently proven very helpful! Taking time to plan and reflect has made preparation easier, helped me to learn from experience, and minister to my guests in a more personal way.


I shared about my dry pork chops. Do you have a hospitality experience that you would rather not repeat? 

~~~~~~~~~~~


Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister.  Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Keeping a Hospitality Journal: Planning

Guest post by Amy H.

When I first got married I did not know how to cook. Yes, growing up I spent time with my mom in the kitchen but personally preferred helping cleaning up rather than learning to cook. 

What I haven't mentioned is that we frequently invited college students into our home, and not just any college students, but CULINARY students. It was admittedly a little intimidating! We also hosted parties and had our family come for overnight visits. 

Planning for each opportunity seemed to take so much time and there seemed to be so many details to remember! I knew there had to be a way to make the planning easier!

This is how my hospitality journal began: to make planning easier! 

At first it was a notebook where I would write my planning notes. This way I could look back and re-use already planned menus instead of thinking about everything all over again. Over time, my planning developed into more of a system.

Now I use a three-ring binder with a prepared form. I've found the binder to work well for now, my journal is always changing to meet my current needs. With my binder I am able to plan several events simultaneously, keeping them separated with dividers, shopping lists are easily included in each section, coupons can be kept in the front pockets, and paper invitations can be kept there, too.

In addition to keeping my planning all in one place, right now I also keep a list of people that we would like to have over or spend time with soon. When I'm planning our calendar, I reference my hospitality list and begin making plans with someone from the list.  The more I have written down, the less I have to remember!


Each hospitality entry is divided into two main sections: planning and reflection. Today I'll share primarily about planning and tomorrow about reflecting.


For the planning portion, I have created a simple form that I keep in my binder. Here I record planning in the following areas:

  • What:  Will this be just coffee, dinner, or a party?
  • When:  Date and time
  • Location:  If not at your home, include address, phone number, contact person, etc.
  • Guest List:  Include phone numbers or mailing addresses. I highlight names when an RSVP is received, if applicable. Sometimes this is a separate page, but it is helpful to have all of this information close by when planning a larger event.
  • Invitations:  Will I invite in person, with a phone call, e-mail, or snail mail? When will invitation need to be given or mailed?
  • Favors:  Will I have any little gift for my guests? Anything to set at their place or by the door to give them as they leave? If overnight guests, am I prepared with items they may have forgotten or need?
  • Menu:  I write down everything, including details like the condiments. This helps me think through my grocery list and table setting, and also helps me not to forget something! The more detail you include, the more useful this will be for the future. Why plan and think through the details twice? Also consider how you will serve: sit down or buffet?
  • Decorations:  Will there be a theme? Any special music to play? Will I use any special paper goods or set the table any certain way? What serving dishes will I use? Do I need to move any furniture, clearly mark an entrance, or provide an area for coats? If there is anything I want to remember then I take pictures to include in my journal.
  • Entertainment:  Any special activities or entertainment for children? Are we planning to play any games? If it's a movie night then what movie will we be watching? For overnight guests, will we visit any area attractions? Will I provide information about the area?
  • Notes:  Are there pieces of furniture I want to move? Candles I want to remember to light? Do I need to pick up small toys because there will be a baby or maybe a high-chair or booster to set out or ask the parents to bring? Do I need to set out a trash bag or trash can for the party?
Keeping a journal has made offering hospitality easier and hopefully made my guests feel more comfortable and cared for. I have found it helpful for small groups, large groups/ parties, and out-of-town house guests.

Your journal will suit your needs and look different from mine! I am simply offering an example of what works for me. Maybe there will be one thing that you can take away that will help you? I hope so!

How do you organize your hospitality planning?

~~~~~~~~~~

Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister.  Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Break for Offering Hospitality

Just a quick little note here to let you know that Offering Hospitality will be enjoying it's own little Spring Break here for the next two weeks.

We're just going to take some time to enjoy Easter with our families and take a short break from posting.

We'll be back again in May with new posts from our regular writers as well as guest posters.

Hoping you all enjoy a blessed Easter week.

See you again very soon!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Celebrating Easter with Family

Guest post by Amy H.

Here are a few ideas of how our family will celebrate Easter this year!


Exodus is my favorite place to start reading.

Each time I read the account of the Passover I am reminded of Jesus' sacrifice! The richness and true meaning of Easter is clearer to me as I gain understanding through the Old Testament. Then I move on the New Testament and read about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. He is our passover lamb, the ultimate sacrifice!


Ask someone to join you.

Easter is an excellent opportunity to invite someone to church. Ever notice that church is fuller on Easter than most Sunday's? It's because people who don't generally attend will come just because it is Easter!

Are your children involved in a special program for Easter or is there a Good Friday service? Great opportunities to extend an invitation!

Or what about lunch after church? We love college students and have had the privilege of spending several Easter afternoons with students who couldn't go home. And, since we don't live near family we've always appreciated invitations to spend Easter with friends in our area!

Or maybe a picnic lunch or play-date that includes coloring eggs and an egg hunt? There are lots of opportunities! Which one will you take? Go get your calendar and see what might work for you and then go ahead and extend your invitation!


Spruce up your home.

Spring is a traditional time to deep clean your home. Maybe you go all out, or maybe you get to one room. I recently deep cleaned our bathrooms. I washed walls, scrubbed the shower, and washed all the rugs and curtains. Truthfully, it only took a few hours and the results were amazing! It was so encouraging for me as the bathroom had been on my list for months! What area of your home needs a little extra attention? Go ahead and do it!

Flowers are another easy way to spruce up your home. Living in the northeast, it doesn't feel or look like spring yet. I've learned a $5 bunch of flowers can easily be divided into 5 different small bouquets and stays fresh for at least 2 weeks. I use bud vases, small glasses, and creamers to display the flowers throughout my home including our dining room, kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and bathroom. That little investment really adds freshness to our home!

If you've already extended an Easter invitation you might find yourself motivated to spruce up a little. Or maybe you'll spruce up your home and then be motivated to extend that invitation. Either way, I know you and your family will appreciate the freshness!


Think of Easter as a season.

Plan activities and reflections for the weeks leading up to Easter instead of just for a week or even a day. We have a collection of Easter books that we begin reading a good month before Easter. One of our favorites, Journey to the Cross by Helen Haidle, is more of a chapter book. Our family reads it together as a morning devotion in the weeks leading up to Easter.

For weeks my children enjoy indoor egg hunts with our resurrection eggs from FamilyLife or you can make your own. After the eggs are all found we snuggle up to read Benjamin's Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs, opening each egg as we read about it. I can't tell you how many hunts we've already enjoyed this year!

How about reading the events of Holy Week and encouraging your children to draw pictures that can be strung together into a banner or drawn along a time line to give them (and you) a deeper understanding of sequence and timing. This year I hope to teach my children where the story of the crucifixion is in the Bible and help them learn to find it themselves. This won't happen in a day, but in our house Easter is a season!


Ears are for listening.

Make an Easter playlist of cross-centered songs! Consider current worship songs as well as hymns. Compile your favorites together and listen to them often! It's amazing how music in the background can liven up an otherwise normal day, calm you in the midst of chaos, and focus your mind on the true meaning of the season. Rich lyrics will help you and your family meditate on Easter.


Really make meals special.

Resurrection Rolls are something we enjoy making together. I use this recipe, but use 2 crescent rolls for each one to be sure the "tomb" gets sealed well. We talk as we prepare them and then linger over our meal as we enjoy them!


In the past we've also had the opportunity to be part of a Christian Seder meal. I learned so much and would take the opportunity again. I've even considered planning a Christian seder for my family or planning with a group of friends to enjoy it together!

Meals can also be made special as children create place cards or other table decorations. This year my children colored pictures of flowers, taped a mini muffin paper in the center, and filled the muffin holder with jelly beans. They are so cute and will be a welcome addition to our table as we welcome guests this weekend. Just a little something different can make meal time memorable!



How will your family celebrate Easter this year?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister.  Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tips for Offering Hospitality to Strangers

guest post by Annette from Live, Learn, Love



Some of us forget to invite our neighbors over for a visit on a quiet afternoon, so it certainly feels foreign to invite a stranger into our home. Yet, there are times when it might be appropriate. Maybe there is a missionary on furlough needing a bed and a few meals while they stay in your area. Possibly you have relatives with whom you have recently been in contact, though you have never met them. Or maybe, just maybe, the blogging world has helped you develop a friendship.

My experience in offering hospitality in my home to a stranger occurred when my blogging friend, Jenny, traveled with her family to Pennsylvania from Arkansas on vacation. (You can read her account here and mine here.) We were very honest with one another in preparation of our time together, and here I will share a few thoughts.

Be honest about sleeping arrangements. When we recently hosted this family of five, we had two of the children sleeping on the floor (or very close to it)! It's what we could offer. Jenny was also very willing to use a hotel, but we both wanted to spend as much time together as possible, and floors weren't scary to her children. Our son used a Pack n' Play so one of their boys could use his bed, but my daughter was of an age that it was best for her to sleep in her familiar bed. We did get creative and let the youngest guest sleep on a crib mattress though! I would have felt awful if they were expecting a bed (or pull-out couch) for each person only to be disappointed and uncomfortable with the floor space.

Discuss expectations. If you are in a situation like ours where your guests would like to do some touristy things while visiting your area, you may want to offer ideas on activities close by and a bit further away. Will you be joining the family for every event? Do they want you to? Are afternoon naps a priority? Will your home just be a place of rest at night while they visit the attractions by day? By knowing these answers in advance, it can save awkward moments and unrealistic expectations.

Question food preferences. For many of us, hospitality is about food. Many, many people have food allergies, diabetes, or food preferences. My family tends to be a bit fussy when it comes to food. However, we often have visitors with allergies or diabetes. When Jenny and her family visited, it was important to me to ask a lot of questions about their vegan lifestyle so that I could accommodate them. By discussing this at detail, we were able to come up with meals familiar to my meat-eating family that Jenny's family could enjoy and eat, too. (We had oatmeal for breakfast, PB&J on homemade bread for lunch, and spaghetti with black beans or meatballs for dinner.) I even found a vegan dessert recipe since mine call for dairy products in one way or another. Not only should food preferences be considered, but drink options, too. Maybe skim milk is necessary or that morning cup of coffee. Some have a soda preference. Water may be the drink of choice, and you don't need to prepare any special drinks.

Meet the children. If children are involved, you might want to share family photos in advance so they can get to know one another. (Blogs sure make this easy!) Also keep in mind that though they are guests in your home, there are some house rules that you may want to share, while letting other things go. If your children tend to fight about sharing toys, you might ask in advance if there is one toy they would like to put aside that is special to them that they would not be required to share. Remember kids are kids. They won't get along perfectly all of the time. (Well, mine certainly won't!) Some children are shy, others are not. Just be patient as the children get to know one another.

Welcome friends. Some people keep meticulous homes. I am not one of those people. When having company, I do try to make sure my home is clean, yet still comfortable. (No one will ever be shocked that children live and are welcome in our house. It's evident everywhere.) Upon our friends' arrival, we welcomed them. The children immediately began playing with something or one another, and the grown ups got acquainted before tucking the children in for the night. While some families have a true guest room, we do not. We have a spare bedroom that is a true catch all. To prepare for Jenny's visit, I boxed up many piles of "stuff." I didn't take the time to look through the piles, but I did get it out of sight. Some would suggest flowers on a dresser or night stand for an extra touch. Most guests would appreciate that special touch, but find what is comfortable for you. Flowers are nice, but not my style. However, I did place a card on the bed to welcome Jenny and her husband.

Offering hospitality to strangers is not something that everyone will go out of their way to do. However, if you have (or make) the opportunity, I hope you will take that leap and are blessed with the rewards of deepening a relationship and making true friends. My family and I had wonderful experience welcoming Jenny's family into our hearts and home. Though there were thoughts of wondering if it might be awkward or weird, upon meeting Jenny, any fears were quickly put to rest. We had a great couple of days together and look forward to their next visit!

Hebrews 13: 2 says, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Though you may not have Moses' experience of hosting a messenger from God, you can trust you will be blessed as you bless your new friend!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Helping Military Families as They Move into Your Neighborhood :: A Guest Post

Guest post from Alicia at Experiencing Each Moment.
I have been a Navy wife for 10 years, and in that time have moved out of state 6 times.  As military moving to cities with no family, and usually no friends, we truly depend on those who show hospitality.  
I love that Webster's defines hospitality:
1.  the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
2.  the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
And better yet is the Biblical parallel for each:
1.  Hebrews 13:2  "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."
2.  1 Peter 4:9  "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."
We recently transferred from San Diego to Great Lakes, IL (Chicagoland), so I have a fresh take on what being the "new kid on the block" is like.  We experienced many examples of hospitality:
  • We had friends here who went out of their way to take pictures of our two potential homes and email them to us since we had no other way to know what they looked like before we had to decide on one! 
  • These same friends left a note on our front door when we moved in "welcoming" us!
  • Our neighborhood was having a block party and even though we hadn't received keys to our home (and were still living in a local hotel) our neighbors invited us to this festive bonfire. 
  • These same neighbors chatted casually with me about which doctors I should pick AND which to avoid!  Very critical!
  • Some Campus Crusade missionaries brought bottled water and sodas to our house for us and our moving crew on a very hot day. 
  • They also made food for us that night since we hadn't unpacked our kitchen items! 
  • Friends and acquaintances along the way have donated winter items to us since they know our San Diego wardrobe lacks them and also told us about places to get great deals. 
As I look back over that list, several things stand out:
  • Some aspects of hospitality were planned (cooking a meal in advance) and some were impromtu (doctor suggestions)
  • Most were done to us as total strangers
  • Many of these people did more than one thing
  • We feel gratitude to this day for each one of these acts, even though they are all so different
A final observation is that HOSPITALITY BEGETS HOSPITALITY:

  • I can't wait for the day that some military friend calls me and says, "Alicia, we're moving to Great Lakes, and I have no idea what the housing looks like.  Can you take a picture for me?"  Yes, I can!!!  I was given a selfless example by friends who went out of their way for me, and I will happily pay it forward!
  • All the tips that my neighbors have given me on cheap(er) items and doctors, I've been able to pass along to neighbors "newer" than I am. 
  • When the missionaries offered to bring us food, it gave me a chance to invite them to dinner (without having to cook!)  They accepted that invitation, and we had the privilege of learning how God led them into the ministry and what God was currently doing in the ministry!  They host about 50 single sailors every other weekend (talk about hospitality), and after they so kindly gave to us, we have now had the opportunity to give back to them!
Because we are part of the Body of Christ, when we demonstrate hospitality (to military and non-military) 3 John 1:5-8 says the following result happens:

"Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you.  They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.  It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans.  We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth."

What ways do you exercise hospitality to military families or the "new kids on the block?"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Easy Hospitality :: Craft Nights

from Carrie

Looking for a way to connect with other women but aren't really sure how to conveniently do that?

It's hard work being a mom and trying to find time out to get together with friends for fellowship. Time out with friends is a valuable and valued thing - but it's hard to reconcile sometimes against the idea of family priorities and productivity levels.

One thing you might consider, should you be a craft person, is hosting a Ladies Craft Night with members from your community or church.



For the record, I am NOT a crafty person. But I do like to scrapbook and I have trouble finding the time to do it! Inviting ladies over to my home in the evening, closer to my kids bedtime, has proved a fantastic way to get to spend a few quiet hours talking with other women while keeping the hands busy and occupied, accomplishing something that I wanted to get done and just couldn't find the time or the excuse to do! (Hosting an event such as this after dinner hours is typically more convenient for most women who want to be able to put supper on the table and get their kids headed for bed before they head out the door!)

A few months ago I started hosting a ladies craft night for the women at my church. The first month we had 14 women enthusiastic women there and it was a lot of fun! There was a lot of talking, a lot of laughter and we each accomplished the better part of our goals. One lady sewed a zipper onto some pants, another lady brought and set up her sewing machine, another did some beadwork, a few knitted and I finished several pages in my scrap book. Not everyone has to do the same thing - and not everyone will want to! The point is: fellowship. The additional bonus is, of course, that we can share creatively with one another and feel like we were spending truly worthwhile time with one another.

The second craft night I hosted was much different. Only two ladies were able to come but that was also a delight because it enabled the three of us to get to know one another much better!

The great thing about such a set up is that you can determine how many people you can accommodate (you do need table space!) and go from there. Maybe you just want to invite over 2-3 people. That's fine! Have those few people over. You might have space for more and that's awesome as well!

Here are some things to think about:

1. Determine how much space you have to accommodate people whose craft projects might take up more room. Are there quilters among you? Will someone want to bring their sewing machine? Scrap bookers? Or knitters who just need a comfy chair to sit in?

2. By hosting an event later in the evening, I've discovered that ladies are less likely to indulge in great quantities of food. If you have a budget issue, a craft night is a great event to host because just having a yummy beverage on hand is easier on the calorie counter's conscious. The first craft night I hosted, I made a small snack and had drinks available. The second, I just had drinks. It worked well.

3. People are coming for the fellowship, and for the chance to get something done. You really don't need to come up with entertainment. Consider your crowd and maybe select some light music to play in the background if you want.

4. Check in with people whom you think would be interested in coming. Try to find an evening that accommodates the majority.

5. I make a point of stressing to non-crafters that they are also welcome to come just for the fellowship! You can't put a bunch of ladies in a room and expect silence. Everyone (and their personalities) are welcome for a very fun evening out.

Other than these things, not much preparation is necessary!

My husband totally doesn't mind my taking one night a month to fellowship with other ladies. (He actually doesn't mind a few nights out a month because he's great that way! I'm just referencing craft nights here.) The added benefit is that I'm scratching something off my "to do" list. Not that my personal projects should be my primary motivation in hosting - but it sure makes the "to do" item much more fun!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Party Hospitality Challenge - SHARE YOUR LINKS!


Earlier in the month we challenged you to throw a Family Party in order to celebrate the changing of the seasons. Did you manage to pull it off? We can't wait to find out who participated and how! We love gleaning ideas from our readers and hope that you found some inspiration and enjoyed a fun time of celebrating the arrival of SPRING with your family!

Here is my own post on Spring Picture Books and Parties in which I shared what our family did to ring in this beautiful season of life!

Link up your posts in the comment section below and if you do not have a blog but just want to share your ideas and thoughts on how you decided to celebrate the occasion, feel free to do so!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Teaching Children Hospitality as the Guest

Every party has two groups of people present: the hostess and the guests. Teaching my four year old daughter, Ellie, to be a considerate guest is just as important as teaching her to be thoughtful hostess.*

As Ellie is getting older, she is receiving more invitations to play dates and birthday parties. I am using these social events to teach her appropriate guest behavior.


Practice polite behavior at home

If I want my daughter to act politely as a guest then I must teach and require the behavior at home first. By doing so, appropriate behavior becomes habitual and second nature. She won't have to think about how to act.

One way we do this is by always using polite words ("yes, please;" "no, thank you;" "yes, ma'am;" "no, sir;" etc.). I model this behavior for my daughter and require it of her also. Honestly, I sometimes forget but we are working on it.

Another way we practice guest behavior is by eating together at our kitchen table. We wait patiently to eat until everyone is served. We sit on our bottoms in our chairs. And no one leaves the table until everyone is finished eating (unless they need to use the bathroom). We also talk about the days events. Each of these unwritten rules trains my daughter how to act is a social situation.


Discuss appropriate behavior BEFORE attending a party or play date.

As we drive to a party I verbally remind Ellie of what I expect from her. I also ask her "what if" questions to help her understand how to apply the rules.

Here are some of the Guest Rules I have given my daughter:
  1. Use your polite words.
  2. Listen to and obey the adults who are present.
  3. Stay in the rooms where your hostess says you may play.
  4. Respect your hostess's possessions. Handle toys carefully so you don't break anything.
  5. Your hostess might not want you to play with certain toys because they are special to her. Go along with her wishes.
  6. Eat and drink what is offered to you. Don't tell your hostess you don't like a certain food and ask for something that hasn't been put out for you. If you don't like something just leave it on your plate and don't talk about it.
  7. Stay in your seat while eating until your hostess and other guests have finished.
  8. Help your hostess clean up toys and clear the table before you leave.
Good guest behavior continues after the party ends.

I try to let Ellie know what time a party will end and give her a reminder a few minutes before it's time to go home. This helps her transition smoothly from having fun to saying good-bye and we leave with smiles instead of tears.

When it's time to leave, Ellie asks for her coat and says, "Thank you for inviting me to your party (or home). I had a fun time." And then we drive home.

Once home, if it was a play date, we will write a hand made thank you note to give to our hostess.

With a little instruction and practice, my daughter is learning to be a polite guest. And that makes me happy.


How are you teaching your daughter appropriate guest behavior?


* In this post I have used the term "guest" and used my daughter as an example. It should be understood that I am using the same methods to teach my sons to be welcomed guests.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Teaching Children Hospitality as the Hostess

Have you ever viewed a play date, birthday party or special event as more than just a fun occasion for children?

My four year old daughter, Ellie, recently hosted a play date for her friends from our home school co-op. Because I want Ellie to one day be an excellent hostess I took a little extra time and included her in all of the hostess tasks*.

Ellie (in the denim jumper) with her friends

We planned the event together.

Ellie wanted a special play date so we decided to make it a tea party. As we discussed food for the tea party I steered her toward ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, fruit salad, and lemonade. I explained to Ellie that we wanted to keep the food simple and easy to make. Also, that we wanted to choose foods that our guests would enjoy eating.

Ellie helped clean and prepare our home for her guests.

In all honesty, she resisted cleaning her room at first, and by resist I mean refused with much whining and crying. But I reminded her that the party was for her and that as the hostess she needed to help get ready for it. She agreed that we want our home to look nice for our guests. Eventually she came around and cleaned up her room.

Once her room was clean, we moved her child-sized table and chairs to the living room for a special place to eat. We also brought up her girlie toys from the basement and placed them in her room. As we arranged the toys we talked about how it's important to share with our friends - that she can play with her toys anytime but her friends will only have a few hours to play with them.

We greeted Ellie's friends as they arrived.

As each friend came to our door I called Ellie to come and say "Hi, [Friend's Name]! Come in. May I take your coat? We are playing in my room right now." Then she would take the girl's coat to the boys' bedroom and join her friends in playing.

Now, please understand that she's only four years old so I didn't expect perfection. Practicing a new skill always feels awkward and uncomfortable the first time; so she didn't say all of this every time and she often mumbled it as she parroted me. But I am satisfied with her efforts as a first time hostess.

We also practiced serving our guests.

Ellie didn't help me prepare plates and carry them to the table but she did practice eating last. As she grows older, I will have her help me refill glasses and offer guests second helpings. For this play date the lesson of letting your guests go first was enough.

Our event was just a play date but I'm not sure how I would handle this if it were a birthday party. What are your thoughts on the birthday child being served last at her birthday party? It is her "special day" but isn't it good manners for a hostess to meet the needs of her guests first?

Ellie thanked her friends for coming.

As her friends left, I instructed Ellie to retrieve their coats and make sure they took their coloring pages (our activity for the afternoon) home. She then walked each one to the door and said, "Thank you for coming to my tea party. I had a lot of fun." As the last girl left, we stepped outside and waved as they all drove away.


Ellie learned that hostesses still work AFTER guests leave.

After her friends left, Ellie helped me clean up her room (again). We also returned her toys and table to their usual places. My goal was to teach her that cleaning up immediately after a party is much easier than procrastinating.

One thing I DIDN'T do, but will do next time, was to write thank you notes. Even though this was only a play date, it was a special day (we don't usually have play dates with these girls) and made a good opportunity to practice writing thank yous. Blank white note cards are wonderful for children to practice hand writing a note thanking their friends for coming. Including a photograph or link to event pictures on line would also be appreciated by guests.

Teaching my daughter to be a thoughtful hostess is important to me. It takes a little time and effort on my part but that investment is well worth it!


How are you teaching your daughter to be a competent hostess? At what age did you begin the lessons?


* In this post I have used the term "hostess" and used my daughter as an example. It should be understood that I am using the same methods to teach my sons to be proper hosts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Entertaining vs. Hospitality by Sheila Wray Gregoire

Reprinted with permission from author Sheila Wray Gregoire.


I received a book to review a few months ago that I was actually pretty excited about. It was talking about entertaining for people who didn't really like to entertain or didn't feel like they knew how. And I thought, that's for me!

I'm not a detail person. I find it hard to put on a party, because when people come I get so caught up in talking to them I forget about little things like oven timers and when food has to be turned on.

So I thought: this can help organize me!

Instead it just depressed me. It was all about how to make your home beautiful, and how to do gorgeous place settings, and how to make canapes. I'm never going to make canapes.

Now maybe you have the gift of entertaining, and you find this sort of thing fun. But what I find fun is having a pile of people over, serving something easy like chicken fajitas with lots of fixings, and then eating wherever you can find a chair while you talk nonstop, and then playing board games afterwards while the kids scatter.

In fact, after reading this book, I began to think that maybe I'd never actually thrown a dinner party in my life! I've had tons of people over for dinner, but I've never thrown a dinner party! I've only ever "had people over". I had thought I had thrown dinner parties, but my table never looked anything like the tables in that book.

Please understand; I am not saying there's anything wrong with that kind of entertaining. But I just don't know if I have the time to put in that kind of work in order to have people over. The author of this book gets her kids involved, and it's a family affair, and that's wonderful. But I'm not that kind of person. I'm a lot more laid back. I like a lot of laughter, not quiet music playing in the background. I like big debates, not tame conversation. So I'm not a dinner party gal.

I worry that if we expect that anytime we have people over for dinner it has to be a big production, that we will stop inviting people over. One of the best things you can do to encourage friendships for your children (and yourself) is to have people over. Invite other families over. Talk. Instead of watching TV tonight, talk to friends! Share food. Have people bring something and contribute. Let's function more like a community.

But will we do that if we think that we must have elaborate place settings for people? Or we must plan a menu to reflect the seasons, or the fall colours, or the summer bounty? What if I just want to clear out my freezer?

I'm not saying I don't put any effort in; I guess it's just that I see a difference between hospitality and entertaining. Hospitality says, "come and share my life". Entertaining says, "I will do something out of the ordinary and extraordinary for you". Hospitality says, "I'm not really making extra effort; I just value you and so I want to include you in what we're doing because you make it better by being here." Entertaining says, "I went out of my way for you."

One isn't wrong and one right, it's just a different philosophy. I would rather just share my life, and so I don't do the whole "posh" thing. But some people are very good at posh, and it comes naturally. So by all means, go ahead!

But let's not think that in order to have people over we have to be posh. No, you don't. Do you know how rare a home cooked meal is today, even if it's just spaghetti? Anything you do is probably impressive. So don't be afraid to share, even the little you do have. Remember the five small barley loaves and two small fish? They weren't much, but they fed a ton of people and everyone had a big party. You can take the little you have and give people a memory.

I figure that what people remember is the feeling of community and the interaction. Others who focus more on entertaining may feel they remember the beauty, and the grace, and the effort. Both are fine. But that beauty and grace and effort, while lovely, is not necessary.

Don't let fears that you can't entertain stop you from having people in. Just share who you are, and laugh, and talk, and play, and have fun, and people will remember, even if it's not a traditional dinner party. And if we all got back to inviting people in once a week, rather than hibernating in our own homes watching TV, we'd be a much healthier society.

Is there a difference between hospitality and entertaining? Is your hospitality style dinner parties or just having people over?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sheila Wray Gregoire is "a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences".

You can read more from Sheila at her blog, To Love, Honor, and Vacuum or on her Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Party Hospitality Challenge

from Carrie & crew


Spring is in the air! Crystal's post yesterday really inspired me to find a special way to celebrate the changing of the seasons with my family and so I'm about to pose another hospitality challenge to you.

It's been a little while since I've thrown my own family party (our last being an Alice in Wonderland party which took place almost a year ago! Shameful!!!)

Now, first and foremost, we want to care and tend to those who we are directly responsible to and for: our families. Doing special things and hosting fun events for others is all very well and good and is something we obviously make a point of promoting around these parts. But sometimes? Sometimes you just need to Focus on the Family and so our challenge to you all is to find a way to have a Fun Family Spring Party this month.

Here are the details: The first day of Spring is Sunday, March 20th.

Your mission (should you choose to accept it!) is to find a special way to acknowledge the day either on Sunday itself or thereabouts. You have over a week and a half to come up with a plan!

Then, we invite you to share what you did as a family on your blog or in the comment section which will be open on our link up post which will appear on Monday, March 21st.

PLAN a party (big or small!) for your family. CELEBRATE with those who are closest to you! Write up a blog post and/or come back and leave a comment on Monday, March 21st to share what you did.

Simple or complex, any little thing you do to celebrate with your family will be very much appreciate by them, we are certain, and will go towards making some very pleasant memories with those that you love.

Go forth! Be creative! Have fun! Make the most of it!

Happy Spring!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

SPRING Party

from Crystal

Looking for fun ideas for an upcoming Spring Party or St. Patrick's Day celebration? Here are a few ideas I've found around the WWW. (These could even be used as part of a Noah's Ark shower!)



Martha Stewart has probably the most famous Rainbow Food Cake. (Linked to recipe.)



I've made this cupcake version which I found in the FamilyFun magazine.



Pioneer Woman has these gluten-free pancakes on her Tasty Kitchen Blog.



A classic treat, popcorn gets a rainbow touch thanks to Jell-O.



On a less sugary note - Rainbow Pasta Salad!



Giggleberry Creations has these yummy fruit kabobs, as well as other rainbow foods on their blog. (You really should check out their entire post in which the fruit kabobs are listed for lots of ideas for rainbow fun!)

Have fun planning ways to celebrate the upcoming season and holiday with your family!

Do you have ideas to share with us? Please leave them in the comment section.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Homemaking Meme

from Carrie

Today Barbara H. at Stray Thoughts posed a little Homemaking Meme to the rest of us. I thought it would be interesting to play along today so that you can see how our house generally runs. (This is a good way to get to know me a little bit better. You can see that my house is NOT always spotless!!) As I've said before, my husband and I like throwing large parties but we don't always keep the house in tip-top shape for it. Here are my answers to Barbara's questions. Click over to her site and play along - if you dare!

1. Do you make a plan for the week? The day? Or just go with the flow?

I may have a general idea of what I would like to see happen on any given day, but I've also grown way more flexible with the additional children added to the family! I do like to complete projects around the house but - being 8 months pregnant! - I am subject to the energy flow. And that's low these days. I'm learning to just let things go.

2. When is your best planning time?

I usually make mental lists for myself as I'm going to bed at night. So...late in the evening. Whenever I'm drifting off to sleep.

3. Do you clean room by room or task by task (e.g., do you dust the whole house at one time, or do you clean the living room completely before going on to another room?)

I'm somewhere in the middle. (Sheesh! In answering these questions I'm feeling terribly random! I tend to think of myself as organized but now I'm thinking perhaps not!) I usually start in one room and as I'm cleaning things up and putting things away I inadvertently clean other spots in the house as I go along. For example, if I'm cleaning the kitchen, I'll take the towels to the laundry basket and along the way I may stop in various other rooms and pick up laundry so as to save myself a trip later on!) I call it Energy Conservation Cleaning. ;)

4. Do you do certain tasks every day every week, like a shopping day, a laundry day, etc.?

Definitely not. I'm a mixture of a homebody and someone who needs to escape. So I tend to save errands for the day when I feel like I can't stay in the house for one more minute! This varies from week-to-week. Laundry used to be done on Wed/Thursdays but, again, pregnancy has kind of messed with that plan. Now it's being done when the pile is high and someone is out of clothes.

(If you can believe this - we're still hosting events in our house during this time. If we didn't, I don't know that our house would ever been truly clean!)

5. What’s your least favorite housecleaning task?

Dusting! I am an anti-knick-knack person as a result. The fewer things that need dusting, the happier I am!

6. Do you have a favorite housecleaning task?

I'm with Barbara - there isn't a particular task that I really ENJOY. However, I don't really mind cleaning up as a "project" because I do like the results! Usually we do set aside one evening a week as a family to do a round of cleaning/straightening up. I like thinking of cleaning as a "project" rather than a "cleaning." Calling it a projects suits the I-Want-To-Be-Productive side of my brain and there is a sense of accomplishment when you've cleared out a room and set things to rights.

7. What do other family members do in the way of cleaning the house?

I have three great helpers. My husband always (and has always) washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen after meals. The deal is: I do the cooking, he does the cleaning. He also takes care of all the trash. Lately he's been doing the bathrooms as well. And he does tons of other things as necessary. The list would be long if I typed it all up!

My four year old clears the table after meals and is learning how to sort laundry into stacks. (I have been paying him for helping with the laundry of late because it's been a bigger job and it's something *I* normally do but have a hard time bending over to tend to these days!) He also is generally in charge of keeping his toys put away and he replenishes the toilet paper supply in our bathrooms. (He thinks the toilet paper deal is a game of yet.)

My two year old picks up all stray shoes and socks and puts them in our shoe cabinet and then he goes about the place picking up all of our strewn books and stacking them into the bookshelf. (And if you've ever read my other blog, Reading to Know, you know we have a LOT of books strewn about, generally speaking. And perhaps specifically speaking as well!)

My general duties (the things I ALWAYS do) are the cooking, the laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, generally keeping the house in order, the groceries (shopping and putting away) and cleaning stuff out so that our house doesn't clutter up with STUFF.

8. What, if anything, do you do to make housecleaning more enjoyable, (e.g., play music, set a timer, etc.).

I've sort of answered this already. We call it a project. If we've picked an evening to "clean the house" then everyone works together to pick up and put away toys, etc., and then at the end of our task we all share a treat of some sort. Incentive!

9. What things make a room seem messy or unclean to you?

Clutter. Things just laying around. Stacks.

10. What are particular areas that are standouts to you that other people miss?

Hmm. I don't know. I guess, having little children in our house who are learning to wash their hands by themselves, I would have to say underneath the sink. (We have a pedestal sink in the bathroom and it's amazing how much water and dirt can be splashed beneath the bowl!)

11. How do you motivate yourself to clean when you don’t feel like it?

Seriously!? I invite someone over. =) Then I have motivation and desire and the job inevitably gets done!!!

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Hop on over to Barbara's to participate in these meme and let me know that you played as well! I'd love to see your answers.

At the bottom of Barbara's post she has links to other articles and thoughts to encourage Christian homemakers. I urge you to go take a peek!