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March 28, 2016

How to host a girls night on a budget - gatherings

When was the last time you had the girls over for a visit?  Friday night I did just that.  It was nothing fancy, just a few appetizers and a couple of bottles of supermarket wine, but that’s all it took to get us to slow down and reconnect.


If you’re like me, you can think of a thousand reasons not to gather friends together in your
home.  It’s not clean enough, decorated enough, quiet enough or I can’t afford it right now. These are all excuses I have used in the past to convince myself not to even think about it.  But here’s what I’ve learned over the years, even if all of those things are true you still have so much to offer.  

I don’t have to tell you that what your friends want is you…your company, your ear, your heart, your encouragement, your laughter, your tears…just you.

hosting a girlfriend party

To show how easy it can be, I've put together a quick girls night gathering using mostly (if not all of) what’s in your cupboards already.  You’re going to need to trust me on this.  Ready?  Okay, let’s go…

In a pinch, here’s how I prepare my house for company quickly.

    1.  Grab an empty laundry basket or large empty box and place everything that doesn’t belong in the dining room and living room in it and stash it in your bedroom. 
    2.  Feather dust your surfaces, sweep and vacuum.
    3.  Load the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen floor and wipe all the counter tops with a cleaning smelling disinfectant.  Now is not the time for homemade vinegar sprays.
    4.  Take everything stuck on with a magnet off the fridge and spray it down as well, our goal is to eliminate clutter.  You can put all those schedules and homework papers back up once everyone leaves.
    5.  Depending on the clutter in your bathroom, you may need to repeat step one in here as well.
    6.  Give the sink and toilet a good cleaning and sweep the floor, put out your prettiest towels, make sure the soap dispenser is full, there is an extra roll of toilet paper visible and close the shower curtain.  Just before your friends arrive light a pretty scented candle.


Getting the table ready for guests. (You are not setting the table so just stack and cluster all these things together.)

1.  If you have a pretty table cloth, throw it on the table first.  If not just make sure the surface is wiped down and free of crumbs and sticky jelly and juice spills before gathering your dishes.
    2.  Open your cupboards and grab enough of the prettiest dinner size plates you have.  (I usually do the number of guests plus one extra.)  This is now your color scheme.  Set the plates on your island or wherever you will be serving from.  If it’s on the kitchen or dining room table then place them there.
    3.  Gather water glasses and wine goblets, if you are serving wine, and set them there as well.  I keep extra ball jars in a cupboard and will use them for gatherings like this.  If you plan on offering coffee or hot tea grab your mugs and place them on the table now.  Remember matching is not as important as making your guests feel like you planned for them to come over.
    4.  Think about what you are serving and grab the necessary forks, spoons and knives and lay them on the table as well.
    5.  I use paper napkins and always have better quality white ones on hand but if you prefer cloth or have some pretty paper ones that fit your color scheme left over from a previous party, now is the time to use them.   Lay out a stack of napkins on the table near the utensils.
    6.  I tend to arrange all the plates, glasses, utensils, etc. on a side board or counter and place the food on center of the table so that refills are easy and discreet but do what works in your space.


And now, what to serve your guests?  If you have the time and want to go all pinteresty then go for it.  That makes it fun as a hostess but if you are on a budget or short on time, any of these suggestions will do just fine.  Pick two or three and display them on pretty plates or bowls and no one will be the wiser.

    1.  A big bowl of popcorn.  Seriously, microwaved or air popped works.  If you have the time to make this simple caramel syrup to pour over it that’s great but your guests will be happy with movie theater butter, too.
    2.  Cheese and crackers.  Any kind of cheddar, jack, pepper jack cheese you have in the fridge is fine.  I cut it into smallish chunks and arrange it on a plate with wheat thins, saltine or ritz crackers again, whatever you have on hand and serve them on a wooden cheese board.
    3.  Apple slices.  Simply core the apples and cut them into wedges.  You could squeeze some lemon juice on them but they won’t turn brown in the hour or so they are sitting out and should be just fine without the citrus acid.  Grapes or any other bite size fruit you have in the house arranged on a plate.  This cream cheese dip is great with fruit if you have a brick or tub of cream cheese in the house and some brown sugar.
    4.  Cut up veggies, cucumbers, celery, carrots, broccoli and a small bowl of bottled ranch dressing.
    5.  French bread sliced and buttered and heated in the oven just until the butter melts.
    6.  Store bought cookies arranged on a plate (break out those girl scout cookies you have frozen or even the oreos for the kids lunches will due).
    7.  A can of olives drained and served in a pretty bowl.
    8.  Chips and a jar of store bought salsa if you don’t have time to make fresh salsa.
    9.  A bottle of red and a bottle of white wine.  This may be where you add the expense but check around at your local liquor and big box stores.  On sale you should be able to get a decent bottle of each for under $20.00 together.


Let’s make it feel like a party.

    1.  Light a couple of unscented candles.  I have found that even the best smelling candles can become overwhelming, especially to allergy sufferers, after an hour or so.  (I do use a scented one in the bathroom for obvious reasons.)
    2.  Go outside and cut an arrangement of whatever is growing even it’s just a few evergreen tree branches or pick up a five dollar bunch at the grocery store and place them in a pretty vase.
    3.  Grab your 90’s boom box and softly play a CD on repeat or tune the TV to your favorite music channel.  Dead air, even among friends, can become uncomfortable.
    4.  If your family is home bribe encourage them to play in their rooms or set up a movie for them to watch in another room.  Chances are your friends have children and won’t be alarmed by normal family chatter but it’s nice if they can give you as much grown up time as possible.
    5.  Allow time to freshen up yourself before your guests arrive.  Brush your teeth, apply some lipstick, fluff your hair and breathe.  Remember these are your friends, they have come to see you, not to critique your hosting abilities.
    6.  Most importantly, smile and have fun.


I don’t know about you but I really need my girl time and always have.  It’s funny how the subjects have changed over the years, from newly married young women exchanging recipes and trying to figure out how a man thinks…to young moms trying to tame unruly toddlers and then headstrong teens… and now somewhere between grandbabies and decorating we ended up on the subject of aches and pains and sleeping schedules (ours, not the babies)!

It can be easy to think everyone else has it all together and if we try hard enough eventually, (in the future) we will too and then we can start entertaining.  When the kids are older, when my house is bigger, when I have a great recipe or a fancy bottle of wine, then I will do those things that I want to do…then I will start living a beautiful life.

But I have news for you, this is your one and only life, you don’t get another.  Don’t squander it waiting for everything to line up perfectly, chances are it never will.  Don’t let that stop you from living the life you long to live anyway.

xo, Patty

p.s.  If you love fresh salsa, I posted the recipe for my super simple salsa last year.  Once you make it from scratch, you'll never go back to the bottled stuff.

11 comments:

  1. This is a great post Patty! I appreciate the advice to just make it simple because I sometimes get too caught up in the details and the worry and end up not wanting to have the gathering. The food is what trips me up, every time! So I love the idea of just pulling together enough snacks and finger foods to make it interesting.

    (by the way, I tried adding your site to my blog on WPress and it doesn't compute for some reason. If you have any tips for me, please let me know.)

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  2. Girlfriend time is very important to me too! I just happen to have a Pinterest board for girly parties. :)

    Love all of your ideas. Quick clean ups and candles make everything good.

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  3. It's so easy to let time just slip away from us but we need that time with friends to refresh ourselves and strengthen our friendships. Don't know why we make it so hard for ourselves. Great advice and easy ideas. :)

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  4. Patty - Thanks for lots of good ideas! I need to do that real soon. We get so caught up in the activities of life that take away so much of our time that we forget how special true friendships are. Thanks for the inspiration,


    Judy

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  5. Great ideas and a good kick in the pants to get out there and enjoy our friends!

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  6. Your routine is almost exactly what I do when I know "company" is coming! Even if it's family, I always feel like my house should be "just so", clean, clean of clutter and look nice. Sometimes I try to do too much and its overwhelming, and makes me not want to have company, which is pretty sad. Like you said, they are coming to see US or ME, not my house (I hope so anyway!). My test lately has been to try NOT to do so much.. not to feel like it has to be picture perfect, and let those dust bunnies lie or let my furniture be dusty, etc. We get to the point sometimes that we just don't ever encourage anyone to come to our homes, because it's too much stress to clean it, etc. I remember my mom entertained alot, and never ever remember her frantically cleaning the house before they came! And I'm sure they didn't notice a not so clean floor, or dust on the furniture or wonky towells in the bathroom. I'm trying to become more relaxed about it, but don't know if that'll ever happen! I'm trying though. I've learned also to use the food I have.... not running to the store buying all sorts of stuff that I can't afford... like you... I've learning that chopping just about anything up and putting it in a pretty bowl, makes it seem extra special!

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    Replies
    1. Marilyn, I understand as I'm usually like you and feel the need to majorly clean before guests, but my husband has encouraged me to get over that perfection. He especially loves having our friends over and knows how overwhelmed I can get in a flurry cleaning and cooking! You're right about simplicity (using what we have on hand) and then maybe I won't be as tired when the guests arrive. :)

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  7. What wonderful suggestions you have! I would love to come to your place for a ladies night, but since I can't I can use your suggestions here! The visual of that delicious bread setting out looked so good and with some dipping oil...YUM! Thanks Patty:)
    Blessings,
    Leslie

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  8. I love girls nights. We still have them when the kids come along though.

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  9. Happy to see someone else who does the 'sweep and wipe' that I use before a partying. Cleaning is what needs to happen after!

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