Posts Tagged ‘party’

Helpful Hints for Showing Hospitality WITH Young Kids

Monday, September 29th, 2014

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t looking to be impressed. They’re longing to feel like they’re at home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd.” –Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine



If you don’t remember anything from this hospitality series, memorize the above quote. The same exact thought rolls around in my mind often, but she communicates it more eloquently than I ever could (which is why she wrote a book and I write on this self-published blog).

I really think that is why so many of us are afraid of hospitality, especially once kids arrive on the scene.  We realize that it’s hard to juggle  time between kids and creating a Pinterest-worthy dinner party, so we settle for nothing.

After I wrote the first post for this series, a good friend of mine reminded me that she wishes her friends with kids would let go of worrying about hoy many toys are put away or baking the best apple pie; she just wants to be with them, to be seen and known.

We all want the same, deep down. But we’re surrounded by sleek images of dinner parties for 15, with decorative name cards, two kinds of glasses, matching plates filled with roasted parsnips and beets, prepared with goat cheese and arugula,  then drizzled with honey, and we think: “If that’s hospitality, I don’t have  time for it.” So we settle for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong: I kinda love a cooking challenge and I like to serve things that are  outside of the box.  There’s nothing wrong with that. But, there have been plenty of times when I’ve served scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls or a big pot of chili.

I’ll tell you another secret.  I have a small house and 4 kids. I don’t have a dining room and we call our fenced-in front yard the bonus room. It can be frustrating at times to have guests over, especially in the winter when we can’t rely on the “bonus room.”

But we’re committed to a life of hospitality with the resources we’ve been given. You probably won’t get filet mignon at my house, and you certainly won’t get name cards, but you will be fed and we hope you’ll laugh (or cry) while you’re here, too.

So, with that in mind, let’s get to the main point: Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Young Children.

#1 Lay a foundation.  Kids, even as young as two,  can help around the house.  Get them started with easy chores while they still think it’s fun. My two-year-old is actually quite proud of himself when he hands me the clean silverware from the dishwasher to be put away in the drawer.

If they start helping now, it becomes part of a normal routine. Then, when the time comes to have people over, they’re already used to helping out.

#2 Keep things accessible. For young kids, it’s important that you keep some things on their level. At our house, we have an entire lower cabinet dedicated to kids’ dishes, cups, snack bowls, etc. That way it’s easy for them to serve themselves, but also to access meal necessities when other kids come over.

#3 Prep, prep, prep. This might be a no-brainer, but do everything you can before your guests arrive. It’s really hard to fuss with cooking as your guests arrive while you’re shouting at your 2-year-old to get out of the trash.

Crock pot meals are great way to prepare in advance. Plus, your house smells good all day long. Often, if I’m making a dessert, too, I’ll make it the day before so I don’t have too much to do in one day.

#4 Let the kids help in the kitchen.  Speaking of dessert, baking is one of the best ways to introduce young children to cooking. They love to  scoop, pour, and sprinkle (with a little help, of course).  You’ll have a little extra clean-up, but again, if you start them early, they’ll think it’s fun, not a burden.

Abby is now at an age where she can make cookies totally on her own, and that’s a sweet reward (literally) as a mom.

#5 Plan ahead. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” (C’mon, you know THAT movie.) Sometimes we have the best intentions, but if we don’t put it on the calendar, it won’t happen. Take a few minutes each month to schedule hospitality  into your life. You’ll make somebody else’s day in the process. Don’t you like getting invited over places, especially after you’ve had kids?!

#6 Embrace the chaos. It’s not always pretty. There’s nothing wrong with throwing a Pinterest-worthy dinner party, but serve some grilled cheeses once in a while, too. The most important thing is to have people over (homework: memorize top quote).

Also, if you have kids, chances are you’re having other kids over, too (though I suggest inviting over all different kinds of people in different stages of life). It can be loud and chaotic. I used to dream of having a playroom, one where I  could shut the door and talk to our guests uninterrupted. It never happened. But the guests at some of our most chaotic dinner parties have become some of our best friends.

It just takes time. Hang in there. Don’t settle for nothing.

We have, each one of us, been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes.  We’re spending them according to our values, whether or not we admit it.” -Bread and Wine

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Disclaimer: I like Pinterest. I think it’s a great digital filing system. I actually find and file most of my recipes there. Cookbooks are virtually obsolete in my house (that’s another subject). BUt I do think there’s a negative side to Pinterest. It’s so darn pretty that I do think it creates pressure to be extraordinary, when ordinary would be just fine. Glennon Melton from the blog, Momastery,  wrote a GREAT article about this idea called Pinsanity. Read now! It’s hilarious.


// Let me know if you have any more helpful hints to add to this list in the comment below. //


5 Best Party Snacks

Monday, August 11th, 2014

party, snack, Trader-Joe's,

Alright, I don’t want to say it, but it’s true. The end of summer is here.

I felt it keenly at Target today, as I squeezed through small spaces crowded by grocery carts and school supply bins and little kids, like ants, carrying twice their weight in looseleaf and glue sticks.

I had a little talk with myself as I wandered the aisles of endless three-ring binders and No. 2 pencils.

It went something like this: “Don’t lose it, Julie.” (repeat 20X)

That’s not my strong suit–remaining calm in a frantic environment. (Which is why I had 4 kids.) So, the next part of my talk went like this:

“Even if you don’t get everything you need, you can come back. By yourself.”

So, that’s what I did. I left without crossing off everything on the list. It was a battle between perfectionism and sanity, and sanity won…for once.

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Sheesh, all that to say that the end of summer means the end of the Summer with Trader Joe’s series. I’ve enjoyed it and I hope you have, too.

Today we’re talking party snacks and here is my list of the top 5 at Trader Joe’s.

party, snacks, Trader-Joes

1. Cheese: What’s a party without a good cheese plate? My favorites at Trader Joe’s are the Double Cream Gouda (left) and the English Cheddar with Carmelized Onions (right). So, so good.
If I only had one choice, it would be the English Cheddar. Hands down.

2. Crackers: If you’re going to serve good cheese, you have to serve good crackers. Trader Joe’s Classic Original Water Crackers are hard to beat. They’re good AND they’re cheap at just $1.39 a box. Yowza.

I also really like the Brioche Toasts. Think Melba toast, but better and thicker, though still airy, with a touch of sweetness. In the picture above, I served it with the English cheddar, a sliced grape tomato, and a basil leaf.

3.  Chocolate: Everyone has their favorite  Trader Joe’s chocolate candy. I bypass all the chocolate-covered fruits and nuts and go straight for the gold: Mini Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.  They should come with a warning: “So cute and little, you won’t actually believe you’re ingesting any calories or fat.” That’s why you should serve them at a party: to get rid of them as fast as you can.

4. Nuts: Any sort of nut mix is great to have around at a party. It’s easy to grab a handful and people usually crave something salty, especially if  the party includes cocktails. I fill small bowls with Trader Joe’s Sweet Salty and Nutty Trek Mix aka crack. It might just be my absolute favorite on the list. The mix includes natural and honey-roasted peanuts, almonds, cashews, AND chunks of peanut brittle. Divine.


trek-mix, trail-mix, trader-Joes, snack, party, nuts


5. I bet you thought I forgot. No way. Last, but certainly not least, is Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Hummus. You know how people like their eggs cooked a certain way–sunny side up, over easy, scrambled– I like my hummus creamy and really smooth. I don’t want pasty and certainly not chunky. This hummus has a perfect texture and with a shallow pool of oil and pile of pine nuts on the top, it wins best hummus at Trader Joe’s by far.

hummus, party, snacks, Trader-Joes


So, now it’s time to throw a party.

Go celebrate something…like escaping Target without losing it.

It doesn’t have to be big and it can be simple, especially if there’s a Trader Joe’s in your town.


**There’s no link up, but I’d love to know what your favorite Trader Joe’s go-to items are for a party. Share them with me in the comments section!**