Practical Hospitality: How Clean is Clean Enough?

Let’s talk housekeeping. Not ordinary housekeeping. Not “Do the Laundry on Wednesday and Clean the Bathrooms on Fridays” housekeeping. But, rather, “Friends are Coming Over Tonight, and We Need to Get the House Ready” housekeeping. What exactly, in that scenario does “get the house ready” mean?

This is an important question, because how you answer it determines: 1) How free you feel to have people over; and 2) How crazy you make yourself and everyone in your household prior to your guests’ arrival.

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Baked Pesto Tortellini

The other day, I was chatting on Facebook, and brainstorming about putting together an e-cookbook for entertaining. A friend, who has been reading the blog for the past year, suggested maybe I should start a food blog first.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about recipes, hasn’t it?

Well, in my defense, blogging about food when you don’t have a kitchen is hard. Blogging about food when you’re not cooking because of an adorable bundle of chunk who is keeping you up night and day? Even harder. But, now that we do have a kitchen, and the baby is sleeping through the night, I am back at the stove, so I figured it’s time to start putting up the occasional recipe—especially recipes that make it easier for you to invite friends over for dinner and keep the natives from burning down your house while you prepare the meal.

So, here you go.

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How I Do Advent: Extreme Entertaining

Once upon a time, I had visions of Advent activities dancing through my head— visions of Jesse Trees, sweet little wreaths hung from dining room chandeliers, and rows of tiny shoes left out by the fireside for Saint Nicholas to fill. Those visions, however, went hand in hand with visions of a house overflowing with babies. Since the latter visions haven’t come to pass, neither have the former.

As most single Catholic woman will tell you, come Advent, it’s easy to feel left out in the cold. So many of the Church’s loveliest traditions for the domestic church are traditions best enjoyed in the company of children. Or at least another person. So, what’s a liturgically minded gal to do?

Borrow other people’s children, of course.

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Hosting 101: The Guest on the Special Diet

Everyone’s got one: The friend who’s gone Paleo. The son-in-law who won’t touch animal products. The co-worker who swore off nightshade vegetables, canola oil, and foods that start with the letter “B.”

Feeding any one of those people can be a challenge—especially when you have no idea what qualifies as a “nightshade vegetable.” Feeding all three of them together, at a dinner party, is enough to make any sane person swear off entertaining for good.

It didn’t use to be this way. Once upon a time—like five years ago—you could invite a gaggle of friends over for dinner and feel reasonably certain they would all eat the spaghetti and meatballs you put before them. Back then, throwing a dinner party in no way resembled an episode of Iron Chef. Now, it does.


To use or not to use? That is the question.

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Pinterest Lies: The Secret to Successful Entertaining

In 2015, at the ripe old age of 39, I have a fancy new stove, a pretty little kitchen, and grown up dinner plates to match. When I have people over for dinner, I try to make the most of those things. But it hasn’t always been this way.

The first two years I lived in my house, I cooked dinner for 20-plus people every week in a kitchen that bore more than a passing resemblance to a crack den. The walls were nothing but bare, unpainted, crumbling concrete. The floor was covered in filth that I couldn’t wash off. Only one side of the sink worked. And from there, it got worse.

Here are some not so pretty detail shots for you.

The stove hood

Behold the glory of the stove hood.

One of the nicer kitchen walls.


No, that’s not dirt on your screen. It was my floor.

My classy plumbing solution.


As for the meals, they were good, but simple. I mean, you try cooking fancy food for 20 people on a decades-old range with only three working burners and an absolute inability to reach an internal temperature higher than 350 degrees. Not surprisingly, we ate mostly soup and pasta.

If Pinterest were to be believed, not a single person should have shown up for those dinner parties. There were no quail eggs laced with truffle oil. People didn’t dine off china plates that I hand-painted myself. No crafty mason jar chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Mostly, there was just construction dust. And a lot of it.

Yet those 20-plus people kept coming back week after week. They didn’t care that the city probably should have condemned my kitchen. Or that none of my silverware and plates matched. All they cared about was that at my home they felt known and loved. The food helped…but really, it was just an excuse to bring people together. It was the means. It wasn’t the end.

Although, admittedly, it was a pretty tasty means.

Soup 2

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