A Haven for Vee

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hospitality Thoughts (Perhaps a Tip or Two)


It has been a fun month so far reading Cheryl's excellent series on hospitality at her blog Thinking About Home. She has some great tips and practical suggestions and she makes a gal like me think.

I am not by nature an accomplished hostess nor do I even particularly enjoy the role. (Did I say that out loud?!) Only since Cheryl began writing her latest series have I even begun to think why that is. It didn't take long to figure it out: my expectations are always set way too high. As Cheryl states so clearly, "hospitality is not to impress, but to bless." I have been too busy trying to impress and it does not work. At all. Nada. Nope.

So it is true that when that hospitality gene fell from the tree, it didn't land on me. However, it did land on both my mother and my sister. They were often in cahoots together on matters of hospitality beginning with my sister's church youth group when she was a teen. (I was already off over the trail to college as I am nearly four years older than she.) They planned amazing weekly events with casserole suppers and delicious rolls and biscuits and delightful desserts. Everyone wanted to attend. It was a time of great growth for the youth group. Teens were coming from all over the place. Great things happened and continue to happen to this day as a result of those meetings all those years ago. That alone taught me that Hospitality is important.

Since I am unable to point to my own winning ways with hospitality, I'll share what I've observed watching my mother and sister in action followed by placing myself in the role of "one who can always serve even as a bad example."

First of all, my mother planned. She wrote lists. She pondered and considered the event well in advance. Then she began baking and cleaning in advance. Finally, she made sure that she was bathed, dressed, and ready for her guests in her own person. Have you ever arrived for an invitation only to find that the hostess is not there herself? I have. I may even have been that hostess. It's not a good feeling either way. Cheryl described this so well recently when she shared how her hosts all came out of the house to greet her family as they arrived. (I'd send John. ☺) So definitely leaving enough time for yourself before guests arrive is a very good thing.

I clearly remember one Christmas arriving at my parents' home to find it glowing with warmth and the smells that are so evocative of the season. Then my mother came around the corner of her kitchen wearing a red pant suit. She looked fantastic wearing red and smiling so beautifully just like the perfect hostess. I may not be able to pull off wearing a red outfit (without looking like Mrs. Claus), yet surely I can wear a smile.

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

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

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

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

The truth about hospitality is that sometimes the unexpected happens. We can't totally prepare because we had not one clue that someone was going to drop in. (Personally, I do love those who call first.) Anyway, one of my best tips for that kind of hospitality is from Brenda at Coffee Tea Books and Me who has taught me to have a "hospitality pantry." In it are kept some cookies and some specialty items such as flavored teas and even some cappuccinos and hot chocolate. It has kept me from feeling totally unprepared even if you might find me with folded laundry on the dining table.

I am learning that genuine hospitality is a matter of the heart. Thanks, Cheryl, for all your hard work in putting together this series and this party. Please find more hospitality tips *here.*


  1. Oh Vee, I am so glad that you joined the party. What a touching tribute to your mother and sister...and what a lovely essay on the "heart" of hospitality! You have shared the "nitty gritty" of why we open our homes in the first place.

    I think that for all of us hospitality is a journey...and there are always improvements to be made (you have touched on one of my weaknesses--ouch!), so I love that you are getting to the heart of the matter which is always the very best place to begin!


  2. -chuckle- I admit! I was not born with the Hospitality Gene either!

    And since I am thus Hospitality Gene Challenged, call ahead, before arriving at my door! Because depending on my mood, they could stand there all day and ring that door bell, and not have the door open to them.

    Drop-in's Not Welcome.

    Super idea for a sign to be make, by the resident woodworker. -chuckle- Who of course, was born with a tremendous Hospitality Gene! Harrumph... Such luck.

    But after all that, you have made another sweet post. Complete with nice words, and lovely pics. Total win!


  3. A very lovely post. All of us are different. Some truly enjoy it like your Mother and Sister. Some feel more like you about it. I'm more like your Mom and sister...my hubby is more like you. He really can't enjoy it unless everything is perfect. This means we have not been very hospitable for the past few years. Candles have made our home less welcoming in his eyes.

    Oh well, along came the Rabes and they love to host large groups.....
    So there you have it. God provides. We enjoy their gifts of hospitality and our marriage stays happy.

  4. I think I fall somewhere on the continuum between you and your sister.

    I make lists, I prepare in well in advance (days and days), and I too would have been mortified to have folded laundry all over the place when company arrived. In fact I like to prepare so that a few hours before guest arrive I can sit down and rest and relax! I hate being tired and stressed at the moment guests arrive.

    HOWEVER, if someone comes unexpectedly, I am just thrilled, genuinely thrilled.

  5. Hmm, crackers, cheese and undies together on the coffee table...I would have felt like you Vee.
    My oldest daughter and I have had discussions about this very topic. She married a fellow from PEI and during her first trip there saw how different life is on the island. People drop in any old time, food is brought out and musical instruments to have an enjoyable time together. Describing it to me, she said I wouldn't have liked it because no one called first, the host never worried if their place was tidy etc.
    Personally, I think my attitude comes from a stiff British background where everything must be done properly and it's not proper to stop in unannounced.
    I would definitely be a better hostess if I could loosen up and accept situations as they arise. I'll go and look for more tips, thanks for sharing your experiences.

  6. I love entertaining. I'm also one who frets over the details. I will now forever remember that it's about blessing our guests. I hope I've done that, but from this day forward I will focus on that. Your experience of running into the couple who let you know how welcome they felt in your home all those years ago is proof that making people feel welcome is most important.

  7. Vee,

    This is a beautiful post!

    Just for the record, I would have been mortified too about the laundry, and would have had the kids do what you did!!!

    But how wonderful that after all those years, that couple didn't even think of the laundry, just the fact that they were so beautifully welcomed into her home!


  8. Oh I enjoyed this! I find myself in here in that I LOVE to have company, but do I EVER prefer to know they are coming! haha I plan, WELL IN ADVANCE, make lists, think every moment out so that no one wants for anything. My intention is to bless, because goodness I don't have much to impress... ; )...I'm off to check out these other blogs. Enjoy your day!

  9. I enjoy entertaining and learned a lot from a long time friend when I was 'starting out' over 30 years ago. I had no idea how to put on tea at that time. Magazines and now blogs have taught me a lot too. I enjoyed visiting Thinking About Home and reading some of her wonderful posts. She has lots of good tips. I always try to greet my guests, on the porch (depending on the weather of course) and always keep my living areas in order. Just a habit of mine. (laundry is sorted in the bedroom) Some might say my living room doesn't look lived in but then I don't have kids here (or grands that can visit. when they are here it's chaos!). And there are usually cookies in the freezer. :D So if YOU drop by, you might find a bit of dust but I'll meet you on the front porch. Next weekend I'm co-hosting our annual college girls overnighter!! Talk about pressure!! :) I enjoyed reading of your experiences and I know any one of us would receive a wonderful warm welcome if we happened to stop by announced or not. :)

  10. This was such a heartfelt and engaging post Vee. And isn't it wonderful to still be learning. Your house looks very inviting, and I imagine you're more hospitable than you think. I promise to call before I come over (:

  11. Great post, Vee. Beautiful tribute to your Mother and your sister. I probably land someplace between you and your Mother and sister. I live in a neighborhood that is very friendly. *We* retired ones like dropping in on one another and we wave in the mornings to those going off to work and wave when we see them come home! I have a balcony that overlooks the whole block!!! Probably drives my neighbors bonkers!!!!

  12. I love this post, and I love your honesty even more. I love to entertain, but I expect perfection. If it can't be perfect I would rather not do it. Unfortunately I don't have a sense of humor when it goes horribly wrong either.... I cry. I always forget it should be about blessing our guests, instead of what we did right or wrong. Thats such a good way to remember it. What precious memories you have of watching your mother entertain. Being hospitable is a true gift.

  13. I really like this post, Vee. I had to stop and think about what kind of hostess I am. I tend to over think things so it's probably better to just drop in on me. Either way, I am happy to have company, I think I have a revolving door. My mother always had people stopping by and her house was always neat as a pin. I guess I tried to emulate that when I was first married. For my own sanity, I relaxed. I still keep the house picked up, and I can usually find something in the fridge or cabinets to serve. What I really don't like is when people drop in early in the day. I'm usually still in my PJ's just puttering around! I guess that is what we all worry about, getting caught unguarded, unprepared. How silly!

    Your mom and sister sound like natural people-persons. Things come naturally to them, like being hospitable. Maybe we can find a happy medium!


  14. I love this post Vee! I'm not a good hostess either and would really love to be. I know deep inside that I'm missing out on good times and great memories. I'll try harder.

  15. Cheryl's series is wonderful and I enjoyed reading along. Some of her hints I do as well, but the last year or so I have not entertained much. Just not having the energy or enthusiasm. But it is very true that we set high expectations of ourselves and that we shouldn't worry about the impressing part. xo

  16. Well, I'm from a small farming community in southeastern Idaho and 'entertaining' was having the relatives over for some holiday or going to their house. My parents never did 'parties' or things like that and I could have no idea even how to start being that kind of a person. That's such a different world to me. I'll have to check out her blog though. Sounds interesting. I was in a boutique store here in Mesa yesterday and the lady in front of me was purching an old wine bottle holder for entertaining. I commented on how cute it was. It had three 'buckets' about wine bottle sizing and she was going to use it for her entertaining and put napkins and silverware into each bucket. Cute idea.

  17. Hello Vee,
    I'm visiting this morning from Cheryl's Linky party (thought you would appreciate that since I read your comment about visiting that way on someone's blog):)

    I love this post. Your word picture of the tray with crackers and snacks placed amongst the washcloths and undies made me giggle.

    I'm more like you - too much of a perfectionist. I wonder what people will think of me when my home isn't up to snuff. But I've learned that it really doesn't matter to anyone but me. However, it still does matter to me, and I have to force myself to just do hospitality. Or it is forced upon me. :)

    Have a wonderful day!

  18. Vee
    This post was simply delightful, hospitality does not come naturally to me either but through the years I have gotten better at it. I kind of force myself to invite people over because I know I should and then I always end up enjoying it. I need to do it more though. I know this sounds crazy but I don't mind drop in's at all. (no pressure, no planning :) When I was recovering from surgery a couple years ago, I had them all the time, made me realize folks weren't really interested in a lot of show. I always have the basics available, flavored teas and coffees, I don't worry about anything else

  19. Thanks for sharing from your heart Vee! I love the idea of a hospitality pantry. It is true the best thing is to make people feel welcomed and enjoyed...

  20. Vee you speak of a subject near and dear to my heart. Years ago I used to teach in women's groups about it. The key is sharing yourself and your home, not putting on a big show, and you have illustrated that so well with the story of your nurse sister ... and the young couple. In fact I got a bit emotional reading it. There is another "big blog" doing a month on hospitality (31 posts.

    Love your pictures--a bit of flowers, soft candlelight and the kettle ready for a cuppa.

  21. Vee I loved this post! I think it's one of my most favorites of yours so far:) I really gave me a peek into the real Vee:)

    Enjoy the rest of you week!

  22. Vee, I fear I am more like your sister. I cannot be a perfectionist about it because I fail at being a perfectionist! Your mom sounds wonderful - I would have loved to seen her red pantsuit:)

  23. I love this post, it is one of the best i have ever read. I will never look at entertaining the same. Thank you so much!

  24. Hospitality is certainly a wonderful skill to posses, Vee, and one that I am working on improving, myself.
    My Mom and older sister were the opposite of yours and did not enjoy company or entertaining. I learned more about hospitality from my friend's Mom's when I was young and then from neighbor friends when I was older.
    I'm hoping I have friendly neighbors when I move. One of the first things I plan to do when I'm settled there is have a "open house" party and invite everyone on my block over just to introduce myself and my husband.

  25. Hi Vee,
    Hospitality is a funny thing, the beer fairy (husbane) is from the country area of NSW where it is always open house and you are always welcome to come at any time, so he was likely to turn up any time with someone I had never met, sometimes they become your friend sometimes not, I like to know when someone is coming so the house is tidy and I have something special to feed them but sometimes it is a nice surprise when people pop in.

  26. I agree that some are more gifted in the area of hospitality...but we should all be practicing it, whether it is our gift or not. I quite enjoyed your stories on the theme...with your usual humour! BTW...when I show up at your door unannounced, I'll stop by Tim Horton's on the way over.

  27. Vee,
    I am enjoying Cheryl's posts too. Your post today is a delightful read. I think I feel the same way that you do. I'd like to be more hospitable.

  28. Great post, Vee, I loved reading about your mother and sister and their take on entertaining. I didn't get the Hospitality Gene, either, and the older I get, the harder it is for me. Mainly because I'm a perfectionist. I just got a minor scolding from my friend Ell the other day because it's been much too long since I've invited her and her hubby over! She's the one who is the hostess with the mostest, think Martha S, so it's hard to live up to her standard. But, I do realize that showing friendship is what it's really all about. Not showing off our house. (well, some do that, don't they?) So, thank you for this post. It has made me think about getting back into the hospitality groove again. It's just so much easier to stay in our comfort zone, isn't it?

  29. HiVee!
    What a great story! I loved hearing about your sister's place. And how your Mom would prepare everything in advance. After all these years I've finally learned to get myself ready first thing that day and wear an apron. Always clean the day before and have your menu planned out in advance and all the ingredients and bake the night before. Exhausting but guests REALLY do like to see your smiling face to greet them. People seem to love to come to our place and that makes us feel pretty good. Thank God he made me a list maker and my hubby full of energy!! LOL I love your honesty Vee... you're fabulous!

    Big hugs, "Edie"

    PS I've been busy trying to start an Etsy so haven't been blogging much. Sorry for my absence.

  30. PSS Your Oct 14th post of Lamentations touches my heart today.

  31. Hi Vee,

    I wondered in via Cheryl's Linky Party, via Lorrie.

    Very nice post. I also have a very hospitable mother (creative and a good cook too) and sometimes feel that the bar is too high. I'm slowly figuring out that I don't need a seasonal centre piece and a salad course to entertain. Lists help too.

  32. "not to impress, but to bless" I'm guilty too many times of the first. My Mother never entertained much (worked outside the home) so I really had no idea how to go about it once I got married. I loved reading about your Mother and Sister!

  33. Isn't this the best series? I love that your sister had people in with undies laying around. I'd rather croak than do that but I admire those who can. One of my best friends is like that and people clearly enjoy visiting her home. I read the hospitality pantry ideas too. Fantastic!