Be a Healthy, Happy Hostess

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I was raised in the south by a British mother, and chose a career that trains people to entertain.  You would think I would have my bases covered when it comes to hosting guests, but the rules changed and it's hard to balance normal life for all the people you live with, let alone a few extras.
Whether you're hosting a meeting for a school project, a casual BBQ with the neighbors, or a sit-down dinner for eight, the goal of entertaining is to satisfy your guests. If you are the host, be happy--you are in control!  As the host you will be wearing several hats. Among them: detective, decorator, housekeeper, and, of course, cook. Don't panic and don't cancel. Entertaining--for an hour or a weekend--is easier than it seems.
Here's what works:
Get to know your guests before they come to your home.  Any food allergies?  Pet allergies?  Do they eat early or late?  If you do the front-end work, your guest will appreciate your efforts and everyone will have an enjoyable time. 
Is the event casual or formal?  It really doesn't matter. Most people just want to be together and visit with friends or family.   Take a trick from industry: if it is a casual event and you want people to mingle don't have as many seats as you do butts.  You want to encourage people to move around so keep some of them on their feet. 
Animals should be considered within the floor plan.  If you have a lovely dog that sits in the middle of the floor or hides under a table you might want to change up its routine.  Guests who are new to your home might trip or frighten the animal. 
When the guest is staying the night, make sure you give them a tour and keep hallway lights on so that they can find their way around in the middle of the night.
I love to decorate with food and flowers.  A rule of thumb is that table arrangements should be low enough that your guests can see each other from across the table.  I also try to stay away from flowers with strong scents at the table or in guest bedrooms.  What you might love may not be a favorite of your guest--and could trigger allergies. 

For overnight guests,  include bathing towels, bottled water, and reading materials in their rooms.  Place healthy snacks such as a fruit bowl or a tray of breakfast foods within sight in the kitchen just in case your guest rises before you in the morning.  My favorite is to bake fruit scones and have them under a cake dome ready from my guest.  (Try my Raspberry-Lemon Scones Recipe!)

After every event that we host in our home I say the same thing, "Why in the heck do I clean only to re-clean after an event?"  I have learned to concentrate the deep cleaning on areas that will be used for the event or guest bedrooms if overnight guests are expected.  The events can be used as a way to keep up with the housework.  I will say that my house is always way more put together if I have an event around the corner. 
Always be mindful of entry and exit ways for your guests.  Sweep off sidewalks for a form of exercise instead of using a gas blower, plant herbs that will flower so that your landscape and recipes will reap in the benefits, or plant trees for natural shade as a canopy for evening events.
The rules have changed in this area more so than any other in event planning, thanks to e-vites. My mother is rolling over in her grave because she always insisted on formal invitations.  I am still a big fan of traditional invitations but have succumbed to using at times web based e-vites.   Although the delivery method may have changed, the sentiment and information remain the same.  The invitation should be a reflection of the theme and should state the where, when, what and the appropriate attire.
When it comes to cooking for guests, the rules have changed. Not long ago if you were hosting an event, you would never consider reaching out to your guests and asking them to bring a loaf of French bread or beverages.  Those days are over for most events.  I love to cook but I really don't mind if a guest offers to help out with the menu. Sharing makes it fun and interesting. 
One of the trends in parties now that I love is the "cook-off." Invite a group of friends or family over for a team against team cooking competition. Arm each team with a mystery basket of ingredients or decide on a theme, like vegetable pizza.  It will provide food and entertainment at the same time.  (This is a great reason to download the SparkRecipes apps for your phone or tablet!) 
Entertaining should be just as enjoyable for the guest as the host.  The goal should be the gathering of friends or family.  You and your guest will remember the funny stories told and time shared far longer than the floral arrangement that was on the dining room table. 
My favorite recipes for weekend guests: 
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Like this blog? Then you'll love "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight."