Have you ever had a circumstance that made you ask, “What was I thinking?” but at the same time knowing that there was no way around it? Sometimes things just converge and you have to cope because relationships are more important than relaxation. That was us recently.
We hosted a family of four overnight Friday and fed them breakfast. Then at noon Saturday, we hosted a family reunion for 25, then Sunday, a group of ten for dinner, overnight, and breakfast. Usually, any one of these things would be enough. But due to crazy summer schedules, they all happened on this one weekend. Oh, did I mention that we were flying in on Thursday after a week in Ireland and picking up our kids from camp Friday? Wait, the story gets better!
In Dublin, as we were getting ready to leave for the airport on Thursday morning, we received notice that the flight was delayed, then again, and I think a third time, until it was cancelled. CANCELLED! CANCELLED!!! They put us on the same flight the following day. That would be Friday, getting in seven hours before our first guests. Okay, re-read what we had going on for the weekend.
After the initial shock, I realized that we wouldn’t get home in time to get our kids from camp! After waiting until America woke up (five-hour time difference), I texted my friend, Jodi, whose daughter we were supposed to bring home from camp with ours. She was on it! Within a few minutes she had sorted out rides for all three kids with three other parents. Many thanks to my church friends, Cassandra, Heidi, and Nate, for bailing us out! Then there was the dog! Fortunately, “Grandma Jackie” was not going anywhere and was able to keep Zoey and intercept our kids. Whew!
Okay, back to entertaining. If I would have saved the work for that weekend, there is NO WAY we could have made it through. One word sums up how we pulled it off: PLANNING. So that is what this blog is about.
Pretty much as soon as I knew about the three groups we were going to be hosting that weekend, I started making lists of what I would serve and mapping out where everyone was going to sleep.
Our first group only had breakfast with us so I used a tried and true recipe along with a new one from Pinterest.
Freezable Cinnamon Rolls
To make life easier on myself, I decided that the two large groups we were feeding dinner to were going to get almost the exact same meals.
Marzetti Coleslaw (Winners Eastwood Salad for Sunday)
Chocolate Chip Cookies (Texas Sheet Cake for Sunday)
One month ahead:
Smoke four pork butts, pull the meat, bag, and freeze it. (They take 14 hours so we never do them on the day we plan to eat them.)
Two weeks ahead:
Make two grocery lists: 1) for everything that is needed for prepping ahead that includes all ingredients that will hold until the event, 2) for last minute perishables
Purchase groceries from List 1
Prepare all non-bean components for baked beans and freeze
Boil macaroni, bag, and freeze
Make cookie dough, scoop into balls, freeze on cookie sheet, then bag and refreeze.
Make crust-less quiche and freeze.
Make cinnamon rolls and freeze before baking.
Make any guest beds you possibly can and add finishing touches like towels, water bottles, and amenities.
Have all clean sheets ready to go for beds you can’t do until the last minute. In our case, we were fortunate that two of our kids were going to be gone on the weekend in question so we could use their rooms. But they left the day we did so there wasn’t time to make their beds ahead of time.
Have table linens ironed, if necessary
Have a plan for table decor
The week of:
Do an online grocery order for your local market. (Unfortunately, I was prohibited from doing this from Ireland.)
Plan to have someone clean your house while you are gone. (Admittedly, this is a luxury, but well worth it.)
The last 24 hours:
Make last grocery run (including flowers if you don’t have any in the garden)
Thaw frozen foods
Shred cheese and assemble macaroni and cheese
Prepare salad ingredients
Prep sundae bar toppings
Make remaining beds
Add all the extra touches to guest spaces.
Do final tidying
Cook everything. (I know I don’t really need to write that. But if you plan to eat at 1:00, for example: time everything to be done at 12:15-12:30. I have done this enough times to know that especially when cooking for large groups, everything takes longer than expected. You can always put your oven on warm if things are done early. Just be sure to keep mac and cheese covered so it doesn’t dry out.
Trick for reheating pulled pork:Unless you have tons of meat juice, pour apple juice over the pulled meat then lay pats of butter over the top. I used one stick for two butts. Why the butter? Just adding liquid doesn’t make it have the right feel; it just makes it wet but not “melt in your mouth” velvety. It’s like putting only vinegar on a salad. You need the oil. Trust me.
I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS (AND HUBS)
I was very fortunate in that my Friday guests were very laid back and the wife, Brandee, who is the one to give me the beans recipe, by the way, was super helpful in the kitchen while I was prepping for our Saturday group of 25. Also, this kind of thing is much harder to do without someone like my hubs. Page is truly my other half. He handles what I don’t: outside set up, music, lighting, beverages, and things I forget. Big props!
THE FINAL PUSH
There was still a lot to do on Sunday to prep for the arrival of our ten guests. The food was essentially a repeat but I had time to make a batch of our Kerith House BBQ sauce along with a salad and Texas Sheet Cake. We had lots to do in the housekeeping arena but were all ready by 4:00.
IN THE END
Everything went well, albeit a bit hectic. But it was so great to have all those people, to catch up with old friends and show hospitality to new ones. We built our house to share and we thoroughly enjoyed it. But I have to admit, by Monday I was exhausted and was very content to just do laundry and watch T.V. while I ironed.