-A guest post by the inimitable Liz Faria of A Mothership Down . . .

Something that I’ve long known has come to the forefront of my attention lately, which is that I am a total disaster as a hostess. Am I friendly and inviting toward guests? Sure. But my skills stop there. I simply cannot get my shit together to properly host womanly events, and I’m almost 35 years old, for goodness sake. Time to STEP IT UP.

This problem – my ineptitude when it comes to certain domestic expectations – first surfaced in my mid-twenties, when the type of college parties I was used to throwing were no longer acceptable. You know, once it was no longer the norm to buy a keg and huge plastic tarps for the floor and call it a day.

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I was good at those kinds of parties, and good at finding ridiculous props and joke items to add flair to events. Kiddie swimming pool for the living room at a “spring break” party? Check! Sombreros from the dollar store? Check!

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Serving platters for homemade appetizers? Uncheck.

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The level of my problem became apparent circa 2003, when I was invited to a girls only TV night/dinner. I understood the event to be a sort of “BYOF” deal (bring your own food). So, I picked up a steak bomb and threw 4 stray beers into a plastic bag and headed on over. As soon as I arrived at the gathering I realized my error. All of the other girls had come bearing lasagnas, quiches, salads to share and the like. Nobody else had loose Bud Light cans in a plastic bag. Certainly nobody else had a personally sized steak bomb. When did this social seismic shift happen? Well, at least a decade ago, apparently. I just missed it.

But all that is going to change.

Why is it going to change now, a decade after first recognizing my problem? Because in the last few weeks I’ve twice attempted to host small scale events, and both times I was in a panic, paralyzed by my inability to put together even a basic spread. Also, I have a CHILD now, good Lord. For the sake of my baby and our future as a normal family, something’s got to give.

I had a few local mom friends and their babies over a few weeks ago at 11:00 a.m. on a weekday. Some people might say to themselves, in that situation, maybe I will pick up some orange juice and bagels! Perhaps some fresh fruit. I picked up three $2 bottles of wine at Trader Joe’s (which, can I just say – what a deal!), and some spaghetti. I got one jar of sauce and reheated some eggplant parmesan that Brian had made 4 days earlier. Voila! A lovely (albeit heavy) mid-morning Italian spread. I rationalized this menu with the thought that people with babies always show up late to events, and even though I invited people for 11:00 they would probably show up at noon, and noon is a fine time for a drink. Any earlier would just be tacky.

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I also realized that I should clean up a bit for this event (note: my house is always neat. Neat and clean are different. It’s not always clean). Anyway, I noticed that my rug had a lot of hair on it (which is common given the fact that Nolan and I are both part wolf), and there were going to be lots of little kids sitting on the floor. So I considered vacuuming for a second, but I still have some trouble managing our vacuum cleaner with all its various functions. I ended up compromising by picking up stray hairs off the ground with my fingers. I didn’t feel totally great about this.

Nolan and Ellie

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Nolan tried to make up for some of my hosting deficits by being overly affectionate with the guests. You can see in this photo he is coming on a little too strong with his friend Sebastian.

And then for the 4th of July I had an out of town friend visiting, so we had a few people over for a small BBQ. This was a low stakes event by all accounts. Just some grilling of hot dogs and hamburgers, which Brian was in charge of. Thirty minutes before party time and it came to my attention that we had absolutely nothing ready for guests, and so I threw some chips in bowl and put a bunch of waters in a cooler. Did I realize that beer should go in the cooler, not water? No. Did I remember to set up any dips for the chips? No. Did I have napkins ready? No. Did I have anything ready whatsoever? No. Do people like Doritos? Yes. They really do. But that isn’t enough.

My friend Ben texted me before the BBQ to ask what he could bring, and I said a pizza. He thought I was kidding. I wasn’t kidding. This is the level I’m at.

Furthermore, in the last few weeks I have twice gone to events held by my sister-in-law Melissa, who is an amazing and very crafty hostess, and the juxtaposition between my events and Melissa’s was really just too dramatic to ignore. Check her out on Pinterest to see the level of craftiness and organization that she aspires toward (and attains!). It’s very impressive and also kind of cripples me, as I will never achieve this kind of excellence. At least I can go to her events and steal her food though.

Here are some photos from a baby shower Melissa just hosted for her sister Sue. I think you will see what I’m talking about.

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This is a cupcake IN A MASON JAR! How would you even do that?? I’ve never made a cupcake. Never. I’m not exaggerating. If I ever do make one I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to get it in a jar.

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All of the various jars holding an assortment of treats were labeled in adorable ways! It was a Pinterest miracle.

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These napkins have been fashioned into little bow ties! I didn’t even have napkins for my last two events!

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If you came across this on my lawn, I can assure you it would mean that our dryer was broken and I was desperate to air out Nolan’s clothes. On Melissa’s lawn it is a decorative touch in keeping with a baby boy shower theme.

In light of all of the above information, I’ve decided that I’m going to rectify this situation. Well I’m going to try to rectify this situation. This is my challenge. I will plan and execute, entirely on my own, a small dinner party. Here is what I will NOT do, that I normally WOULD do:

  • Order pizzas
  • Give guests paper towels instead of napkins
  • Spend less than $4 on wine
  • Rely on Brian to plan a menu and/or cook the main dishes
  • Serve leftovers

Instead, I will do this:

  • Cook the food I am serving (not to be confused with re-heating or defrosting)
  • Place utensils appropriate to the meal out on the table before guests arrive
  • Make at least 2 appetizers
  • Spend between $6-$12 on wine (classy!)
  • Have a non-alcoholic beverage on hand other than milk and tap water

I am going to plan my menu before I even invite any guests. That will ensure that I actually have food available for these guests, versus what I usually do which is invite people with no plan and then throw scraps of food at them.

Wish me luck. Dinner Party 2.0 will launch sometime before my 35th birthday next month. If you have any good tips for hosting that won’t cause me anxiety and/or distressed bowels as a result of anxiety please leave them in the comments section.

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How hilarious is this woman??? I adore her way of turning the everyday into the extraordinary. For more from Liz, be sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter

11 Comments

  1. Tip #1 order food… and baked treats.. no need to cook.. put in fancy dishes that look like you cooked them

  2. Liz, I’m an OK hostess (for the record, it took me a few tries to spell hostess correctly there)–no one will be pinning my spreads, but when it comes to appetizers and booze, I’m pretty good, which I think is better than OK. Here are my tips. Go to Costco (this is key–Costco is like a party store) and get some frozen mini quiches; a wheel of brie, a hard-ish cheese, and a spreadable cheese; some crackers; maybe a package of the deli meats (salami, etc.); a veggie tray with dip included; a case of beer; and maybe some liquor (if you live in a state where you can buy liquor at Costco–it’s a magical thing). Go to a grocery store that let’s you make a six pack of wine–it might be overkill for a small get together, but stored correctly, wine won’t go bad before you drink it–make a six pack of wine and grab some grapes. The grapes go well with the cheeses you bought at Costco. All the food except the mini quiches can easily be placed on platters and set out without much fuss. For the quiches, you might read instructions that say, “bake at 350 for 15 minutes.” That’s bullshit. Pop those suckers into a 400 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes and the crust will be golden and the eggy part won’t be too soggy. If you’re up for a visit to another store, go to an actual party store or the dollar store and get several packages of cocktail napkins to have on hand when you have get togethers. Otherwise, just set out some regular paper dinner napkins. Nonalcoholic beverages? I guess you could have some soda on hand? Nonappetizer food? No idea. My husband usually does that. Good luck! Looking forward to hearing how it goes!

    • I was considering joining Costco! This glowing report, coupled with the fact that I know my local Costco does sell liquor, is pushing me to take the leap. And also – YES about the quiche! I actually tried baking a store made quiche the other day at the recommended 15 minutes/350 degrees, and it was soggy and gross. 400 degrees for 20 minutes it is. I kind of feel like I’d like to hire you as a personal life consultant, based on this comment.

  3. I only realized on Tuesday that my kid’s birthday party, which is this Saturday, didn’t have any proper supplies. That is what Amazon Prime is for. Voila, we have green plates, some clearance plastic Christmas tablecloths that can pass for “hungry caterpillar” themed, and a few stamps for the “activity”.

    Trader Joe’s is also awesome for pre-made apps. And I’ve never ever been to a party, dinner, baby, or otherwise, where I’ve been disappointed by take-out pizza!! I would just be impressed that your house is neat, because my house is neither neat or clean.

    • Casey, I like your attitude. And I especially like that you found a way to turn Christmas clearance into a classically themed children’s book party. …you’re one to watch 🙂

  4. PS. Nolan’s got it right – enthusiasm and affection can make up for any perceived “lack of hostessing” skills.

  5. Parties are horrible and should be banned. If I absolutely had to attend one though I’d pick one with reheated leftovers any day over cupcakes in a jar. The strange mix of jealousy and contempt that such efforts arouse in me iscevery unsettling.

  6. Ha! This comment cracked me up. Personally I am a party person, just not one with my shit together. Cupcakes in a jar don’t cause me any unsettling feelings of insecurity, more like incredulity that it’s even possible to do such a thing that defies the laws of physics.

  7. I’m great at the planning part, the cooking part, and the cleaning part. Where do I fall apart? When everyone arrives and I turn into one of the guests! I’m REALLY bad at offering food and drink and acting all hostessey. I’m more like, “I got you here, now help yourself. I’m busy talking. “. The last few parties we had, (just family but about 15 people), my MOM had to say, “Amy, do you think you should serve dinner now?” I’m all like, “My dinner is liquid so….what were we talking about?” In fact, during our family Christmas I went and took a nap. (Please see prior comment on liquid dinner.) And for the record, I just turned 40. THAT party was at a restaurant. They get paid to feed people and shit.

  8. And now I’ve started reading your blog and if I lived in Boston I’d totally stalk you and make you my friend! (And if I lived at Disney World (that’s where you live, right?) I’d make you my friend, Kristen!) Is that legal to put parentheses inside parentheses?

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