Full Plates and Even Fuller Hearts

6

Mother's Day

There is genuinely hardly anything I love more than hosting family and friends in our home. Knowing people look forward to being here and feel welcomed by a rush of warmth and comfort as soon as they arrive makes my heart nearly explode with joy. (And the fact that everyone knows they will never, ever leave hungry is all I could ever ask for!) Taking care of people and providing them with a space to create memories and forget about their troubles is the epitome of everything I want to be.

There is something so special about sitting around the table, sparking witty banter, enticing stories and thoughtful conversation. Something about looking at those elated faces, grinning from ear to ear, roaring with laughter

so hard they may fall off their chair, and knowing that I’m responsible for that joy. Reminding myself that everyone wouldn’t be there in that beautiful moment if it weren’t for Hubby and I putting it all together. When friends and family reflect on wonderful occasions, we get to play a role in many stand-out instances throughout their lives. What a privilege to be part of these experiences everyone saves in their happy memory banks.

That is truly why we throw so many gatherings throughout the year. Hubby and I are fortunate to be blessed with many close family members and a large social circle of genuine friends, so any excuse to get our favorite people together in one place makes us feel lucky. We are so touched that friends will ask for party dates months in advance so they can mark their calendars, plan their work schedules around an upcoming soiree, or tell us they are counting down until the next event. I cannot tell you how much it means to me knowing how excited everyone gets to come to our house and join in the fun. Being able to be part of someone’s yearly tradition and celebrations is such an honor, more than I can ever explain.

Yesterday we hosted our 4th annual Mother’s Day lunch in our home. As usual, having the chance to give the day off to our incredible families who so selflessly devote their time to us made us feel so good. After they left, we invited two couples over to enjoy some of the leftovers from the large quantities I made just in case the whole neighborhood showed up and needed a place to eat.

That ’round two’ of entertaining is such an added bonus because all the prep is done and the spontaneity leaves no time to stress over details. (Although my friends joked about my version of ‘informal’ while one of them said, “That’s soooo Jenn!”) You know that end of the weekend queasy feeling that happens when the carefreeness is coming to a close, and the work week/real world starts up again the next morning? Well, Hubby and I agreed that this just washed all those thoughts away. Such a perfect Sunday.

I churned out handmade fettucine with That’s SO Jenn’s marinara sauce and spicy Italian chicken sausage, fresh-baked rolls with homemade butter and spreadable roasted garlic, broccoli salad with tomatoes and red onion, shaved fennel and cauliflower salad with lemon vinaigrette, and of course, Hubby’s grandmother’s deviled eggs. For dessert I made monster cookies (my mom’s favorite!), chocolate cherry bark (for my mother-in-law!) and scratch-made vanilla brownie ice cream and peanut butter cup frozen yogurt.

Sure, I could’ve slept in much later and boiled boxed pasta with jarred sauce, served a pre-made salad mix with bottled dressing, or picked up bread from the bakery. It would’ve been easy to purchase a gallon of ice cream, use butter from the store or make a less complex cookie. We could’ve used paper napkins, disposable plates and plastic utensils instead of rolling real silverware in linen and placing it over two different sized ceramic dishes. Everyone could have easily drank out of a Solo cup instead of us having to wash three glasses per person: one each for wine, champagne and water. But that sounds far less rewarding. You get what you give, right?

To me, it’s like offering what I refer to as a culinary hug. Being able to reach out to someone through food. As though my heart and soul is telling a story on a plate and sharing it with the ones I love. Hearing nonstop chatter turn to a hushed silence as everyone savors a bite, or a sensational chorus of “Mmmm”, “This is delicious” makes me feel proud and validated.

Planning my menu, preparing the house, checking off to-dos and biting off more than it seems like I can chew is the only way I know how, and if it’s okay to admit, something I don’t want to change. It enthralls me. It empowers me. That adrenaline rush. The never-ending, sometimes daunting notebook full of tasks, filling every line. It challenges me. It teaches me. It urges me to prioritize and delegate. It helps me continue to be a better person. This is my passion. My heart and soul. A reflection of who I am. My vision coming to life. And in the end, no matter how big or small my conquests are, they always get accomplished. As I constantly say, my lists have lists and my post its have post its, and it makes me exactly, well…me. I’ve decided that’s okay.

After many, many years of practice, Hubby and I have truly gotten ourselves into a flow. We work together like a well-oiled machine. He picks up the last-minute supplies while I stay home and prepare the meal. He mows the lawn and sweeps the front walkway while I vacuum and dust indoors. I cook and he does the dishes (G-d bless him, all six loads yesterday!). Eventually, I (finally) sit down and he makes sure I’m taken care of before joining me. After we eat, he clears the table while I take coffee orders for dessert. We both relish in everyones presence together.

Yesterday when the doorbell rang, the table was perfectly set, all my dishes prepared from scratch, the kitchen spic and span, and Hubby and I were dressed and ready at the 12:30 mark. I reached my goal and felt amazingly accomplished. After days straight of frantically running around to get everything done, I was able to hit the breaks when we opened the front door. Switching gears from my chef’s hat to my hosting hat to my sit-back-and-drink-a-glass-of-wine-with-everybody-while-still-taking-care-of-everything-yet-being-calm-about-it-hat is an ability that I’ve slowly trained myself to have.

Giving myself the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of my labor and reap the benefits has been the biggest lesson for me, and a way I truly feel I’ve evolved as a person. Over the years I’ve finally let it sink in how valuable it is to be present with my company rather than running around worrying about other details that may even go unnoticed. I’ve mastered time management like it’s nobody’s business, focusing on my strengths and tweaking my weaknesses to be able to reach this point. Being a relaxed host is the greatest gift I could give myself and it truly pays off in spades. A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into making something appear effortless. And it is completely worth every ounce of effort to get there.

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