Dinner parties came to represent the movie version of my life — why did it always feel just out of reach? Having moved across the country (and LA County) several times, my social network has been a bit scattered. I went into 2022 making building my community a priority. I went out of my comfort zone and made new friends (bonus if our kids get along). My parents also moved across the country and now live a ten minute bike ride away — meaning I see them every Sunday for dinner. My mom cooks a new recipe and my dad makes gin martinis, just like his dad did for my parents when they were my age. We catch up on the week and I get to hear all about their burgeoning social network.
After the isolation of COVID, regularly seeing friends and family feels like an embarrassment of riches. I have spent so much of the past years focused on the business and raising a small human, that I didn’t realize how much these social connections could support me. Wait, you’re saying — isn’t this supposed to be an email about hosting? I’m getting there.
I’ve been approaching the dinner party — or the symbol of what they mean — all wrong. No one needs place settings or formality — a buffet of take out tacos from Homestate and a backyard hang does the trick. In fact, the more casual, the better. The pressure is low, and the focus can be on being in the moment and taking a break from screens, not whether I burnt the brussel sprouts (I always do, but I tell everyone I like them that way.)
To prep for guests, whether it’s Thanksgiving or just a Monday night pop-in, this is my formula, all of which takes less than 10 minutes, and helps keep stress for me low:
- Clean the toilets (I’ve been into these tablets) and take out the trash, if it’s full.
- I know it’s cold, so this might be controversial, but if you can open the windows or put on a fan before (or during) your guests’ arrival, it helps clear out stale air.
- Light incense — it instantly covers stinky dog or leftover cooking smells, but it also tells your guests “I’ve been thinking about you.”
- Light a few candles for mood and ambience.
- Put on a playlist. Chill, mellow vibes make people feel at ease.
Burning: Piñon Incense + Ojai Lavender scented soy candles to break up my seasonal rotation
Reading: “Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard
Listening: This is my go-to chill “having people over” playlist:
Food + drink: Lately I’ve been putting cinnamon on everything, from overnight oats to roasted sweet potato cubes. Hardly groundbreaking, but certainly seasonal.
Be safe out there and hug your loved ones,