The importance of sharing yourself with family and friends over the holidays can not be overstated! A good hostess loves to entertain her family and guests! She is happy opening her door to those she loves and cares for. Her family and guests can always feel her joy.
Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed to have two great role models in regard to hosting: my Aunt Essie and my grandfather, Paul Lang.
My Teacher – My Aunt Essie
She was the ultimate hostess! You knew you were special when she greeted you. Her genuine warmth radiated. She entertained you on an emotional level making you feel you were, at that moment, the center of her attention. She was the ‘hostess with the mostest!’ Her natural charm filled her home. Her beautifully set Thanksgiving dining room table set hers apart from others. The aroma of delicious foods, lit candles, and family laughter, hers above all the rest, made for the perfect holiday evening. She orchestrated her dinner gatherings with style.
As children, we have role models. My mother taught me sound values, the desire to be curious, and to always live outside the box. Fear has never been my partner. My Aunt Essie taught me how to make a home sing. She understood intuitively that to be a perfect hostess was an art. I have strived to be her clone.
My grandfather Paul taught me to open my door to all those left alone during the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Every year he rented the ballroom in the Kankakee Hotel in Kankakee by the Sea. Without a word spoken, he taught me the importance of helping those in need. I wish he was here so I could tell him.
COVID19 and Elsewhere
Unfortunately, COVID-19 and separation mandates have hindered all of us in Elsewhere. We have become a lonely and isolated group of citizens. It is time to re-evaluate our lifestyles. What better way than to open our doors and hearts once again? Let’s be hostesses again, darling!
My mother’s message is in my head: “Susan, it is time to pick yourself up and start all over again!”
Now, back to my Aunt Essie.
I was her second daughter. We were kindred spirits – soul mates. To this day, when I shop for new linens, set a table for my guests, refresh my home for the fall season, or pick out fresh vegetables at our outdoor vegetable market across the street from my condo in the sky I think, “Would Aunt Essie choose this ear of corn?”. I can recall even when Aunt Essie left the vegetable stall, the person servicing her felt special.
Passing My Aunt Essie’s Lessons On To You
I learned as a young girl that a successful dinner party rests on the shoulder of the hostess. It is her style, her moxie, so to speak. Style is inner warmth, a flair for understanding detail, and the ability to create an atmosphere that is entertaining and comfortable for your family and guests.
You do not need a big budget or a large home to entertain with pizazz. You need a million-dollar smile!
A large budget
A large home
Expensive flowers. (I use wheatgrass down the center of my table and tuck sprigs of flowers that have a floral scent. If I may say so myself, it is very appealing.)
1. A host and hostess who greet their guests at the door exuding their warmth
2. Organizational skills
3. A festive feeling in your home… Lit candles, dim lighting, music, and a fire in the fireplace if you have one
4. A mix of guests and family who are fun and interesting and a few additions that are new to the mix
5. Place cards for each guest
6. Delicious foods
7. An unexpected surprise
“Your parties are your vision” -Honey Good
I love to entertain. I started entertaining with small dinner parties for family and friends in my early 20s. I remember my first dinner party, it was a fondue extravaganza! Everyone participated. It was a great evening and thus began my career as a hostess. My love for hosting is still going strong!
How you can be “the hostess with the mostest”
1. Be a happy party hostess
That is what a successful party needs… a delightful and welcoming hostess!
As I mentioned, you don’t need a large home, a lot of money, elaborate food, or entertainment.
I have gone to parties given by wealthy friends, which I am sorry to say, were boring. So what is my trick? I enjoy the art of entertaining. I take it seriously!
2. Know your strengths
The first thing I would advise a hostess to do is to know herself. Plan your parties to suit yourself. For example, I do not like to entertain before sunset. I plan my parties for the evening because I know If I am a happy hostess, my guests will be happy guests. Your party is your vision and you are the commander-in-chief. The parties my husband (I cannot leave out my ultimate concierge!) and I have thrown together range from black tie affairs to large sit-down dinner parties in our home, to the most casual of casual last-minute dinners with friends. It is never hard for me to find a “reason” to entertain.
3. Know how to create a party
One summer day I was at an outdoor market picking out the most luscious-looking vegetables for a salad and flowers for our bedroom. As I held up a beautiful vine-ripe tomato in one hand and a bouquet of long-stemmed pink roses in the other, I thought, “I will host a party around vegetables and roses!”
I invited three interesting couples, one being a newcomer. I told them to come dressed casually. My ultimate concierge and I greeted our guests. We had French music playing in the background and I presented each woman with a long-stemmed pink rose. They were smiling from ear to ear! My party was off to a great start. As we sat in our den the next surprise was a short lesson on two French wines. I looked up the wine’s history! Remember when entertaining: “Nothing happens by accident.” Conversation flowed among us. Questions were asked. There was laughter galore!
We then sat down for dinner where place cards were at each setting.
Then, I gave them their next surprise. In the center of my dining room table, I placed a large beautiful old French wooden salad bowl (like this one) filled with eight lettuce wedges, whole vine-ripened tomatoes, tall carrots standing up among the lettuce and tomatoes, miniature cucumbers, and small bunches of scallions. Around the bowl were small country French dishes filled with sliced black olives, crumbled blue cheese, bacon bits, two salad dressings, and eight vegetable cutting knives.
“Make your own salad!” were the first words I uttered as they were putting their napkins on their laps! They all looked up at me with their mouths open and laughed! Needless to say, dinner at the “GOOD home” that evening was a huge success. My ultimate concierge and I were delighted hosts. To think, my theme was created as I strolled through an outdoor market!
How to Host a Large Family and Guests Thanksgiving Party
From a fall dinner party to Thanksgiving, I am always standing at the door when my family and guests arrive. I immediately give my guests a kiss and a hug. I invite them into our den and offer them a glass of champagne (check out these delightful champagne flutes!) to celebrate the holiday or send them to my ultimate concierge for a glass of wine or cocktail of their choice (check out these stirrers for an elegant twist). There are arrays of goodies of all sorts on serving platters (like this one)! Music is playing (on my Google Nest Hub of course) and candles are lit – the mood is set.
Each place setting (even when we entertain casually) has the name of my guest. A hostess should be eager to please her guests; not have them wonder where to sit. I use white china place cards and different color magic markers; depending on my theme for the night. They are reusable.
After our guests are seated, my hubby makes a welcoming toast. This is a ritual at our home. At the end of his toast, he asked each family member and guest to raise their glass as he says, God Bless the United States of America.
Everyone is happy as they begin their first course, a plated salad, followed by the main course, and dessert.
Thanksgiving dinner will consist of Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, a sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, cranberry sauce, and string beans with toasted almonds. And for dessert, pumpkin and pecan pie!
Entertaining on an Emotional Level. The Best for the Last
A charming hostess wants to add flavor other than food to the celebration of Thanksgiving.
I tell my family and friends a little-known history story that I research about the holiday in hopes they will leave my table with something in their heads!
I talk about being grateful, giving thanks, and acknowledging our forefathers who helped make the United States the greatest country in the world.
I then open the table up for conversation because a good hostess always gives her family and guests…the floor.
As a Holiday Hostess, how do you entertain on an emotional level? I’d love to know! Please tell me in the comments below.