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


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!!!


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!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Budget Friendly Shower Decorating

from Crystal

When decorating for a shower or another party have you ever gone to a party supply store, spent a fortune buying everything they hand for your theme, decorated your place and then thought "this lacks personality"? I have and here are some tips to avoid that "out of the box" look!

Tip #1 Decorate With White

Most of us have lots of white, cream or glass dishes that can easily be accentuated with pops of color for a custom look.

Tip #2 Use What You Have

Do you or the mom have a collection of miss-matched teacups or the dad is a huge baseball fan? Think about what you have on hand before purchasing, but also consider that even though you love Winnie the Pooh (or whatever you like) and have a huge collection to decorate with the mom may not be into it. So, check with her about what they would like to see for decor.

If their expecting a girl, you could have a Tea Party themed shower.

Expecting a boy? Think red, white and blue and decorate with Daddy's sports gear.

Tip #3 Print Your Own Decor and Invites

There are a plethora of free printables for games and invites online and is a good reputable source for those.

Also you cold use a print shop or digital scrapbooking program and design your own.

When the colors and designs are all tied together, simple decor goes a long way.

I hope my tips help you ladies!

Any other ideas you would include here? Let us know in the comment section.