"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mop Philosophy Monday

 I found new clothes pins for my outdoor laundry line.  Did you ever paint these oldie time pins to transform them into little dolls?  That sort of craft takes more patience than I have but the end result can be darling.
I had some friends around for drinks and sandwiches last week.  It's the easiest way to entertain and here's my thinking: you can't just invite friends around for drinks, they are hungry and stay into the dinner hour anyway.  Yet serving a proper dinner often causes crying in the kitchen, so much work and so stressful for the hostess...
Setting out sandwich fixings is dead easy and everyone eats properly, though casually.

The Returning Hospitality Issue
The other problem with inviting folks around for a proper sit-down dinner is the unmentionable outcome: often this hospitality isn't returned.  Have you noticed this?  Are the times a-changing because  I always thought a dinner invite meant one in return... thoughts?  Observations?  How is this dealt with in your social group?
Gingham napkins and Spode placemats for Drinks and Sandwiches.
 I bought some bourbon but I haven't opened it yet.  I'm not a liquor drinker though I like the idea of it, so ruined-handsome-Don Draper-ish.
 The weather around here has been gorgeous.  Witness the setting sun on the night of my daughter's birthday:
 How do you like this gift wrap arrangement?
 Don't forget!  We discuss The Razor's Edge this weekend.  Our book club typically commences on the Saturday morning but this week I'm planning to post the club up on Friday afternoon.
I loved reading it again so much, I actually had to slow myself down.
I did however watch the Bill Murray movie version of the book and I was very unimpressed... we can talk about that during our book club discussion.
I hope your week is off to an excellent start and please weigh in on this whole Returning Hospitality issue, I find it somewhat vexing.
xoxDani

59 comments:

  1. Love those placemats. Bourbon is a nice summer drink - makes me feel like sitting on a porch and asking that someone peel me a grape. Hospitality has changed: so few people make meals for their families let alone a wider circle. All signs of a crumbling civilization I suspect. Glad you are keeping up the side (even the clothes pegs are civilized!)

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    1. Jen, it's true and that's a good perspective, family meals themselves have ended so why are people going to actually have dinner parties? It's too bad, I always thought dinner was the best part of the day. I don't think I would have survived The Rascals without family dinner, they always loved it and they always behaved for it, even if their behaviour in other areas was Rascal-ish.

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  2. I do get tired of the phrase " we should get together sometime/soon". Well actually invite me! This was something I have spent a lot of time in prayer and have just had to let it go. I used to get quite upset. If I am thinking of a friend, I call. If I want to see a friend, I invite. Why the favor is not returned...I try not to take it personally because they always seem happy to hear/see me. I am half way through the book and am hoping to finish by Friday. Life has gotten a bit busy and the power keeps going out on us with all these thunder storms we keep having. Mr H is a bourbon drinker and always recommends Buffalo Trace if you can find it.

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    1. BB I'm glad I'm not the only one and you are offering great advice here: don't take it personally. I was pretty upset about this during this long winter as there were invites that should have been returned by friends but were not, it made the winter longer somehow. I should have just kept inviting folks here but it does get tiresome if it is always one-sided!
      Power outages are not fun, so many storms, you've had a strange spring with that snow you had as well?
      I bet Hunter could teach me to throw back the bourbon!

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  3. Hello Dani,

    How well we remember making the clothes pegs (as we called them) into peg dolls. A scrap of material for clothes and dabs of paint for faces, we made whole families of them!

    We came to the conclusion some time ago that people rarely entertain in any way anymore. And, what is worse, they do not always know how to behave when they are invited to an event. Table manners have long since been a cause for consternation with us. And, perhaps, as entertaining diminishes so how to behave goes out of the window too.

    We never bother about hospitality being repaid. What matters for us is that our dinner party and cocktail party guests have great conversation and know how to handle a knife and fork!

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    1. Jane and Lance,
      You make an excellent point as it is quite upsetting to see people sawing at their food, pointing their fork to make a point (so alarming!) and sometimes not even using a napkin properly which a three year old should be able to do.
      I guess people just don't entertain anymore so the old rules have flown...reading The Razor's Edge has had me thinking about the return of hospitality, especially when the narrator invites his friends out to lunch at The Ritz, his flat was too small to return an invite but that didn't stop him from doing so!

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  4. I just started rereading The Razors Edge last night so I hope I get through it!

    This is so funny to me. We have friends in many different circles. People around here ALWAYS reciprocate a dinner invitation, though of course it may take a few months. In my close circle of friends we throw dinner parties constantly and they go from house to house. We are all gourmet-wannabes and have a grand time cooking for one another, or doing pot-lucks and these dinners almost invariably end up with a dance party at the end.

    I have probably been guilty of pointing my fork, I have to say, and I don't stand too much on formality, though we use proper linens every night for dinner. What I really want is for people to come and feel welcome and have fun and we almost always succeed at that.

    I don't think this is my circle only. We have lots of acquaintances and they all seem to be entertaining as well. Could it be an Ontario thing? I know my brother and his crew entertain constantly in Alberta. Have you ever asked people directly why they don't ask back? This seems so odd to me and it is definitely not the Maritime way.

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    1. Wendy you have an excellent group of friends, don't trade them for anything!
      Our closest group of friends at one time entertained more and we had some good times. But people move on to other groups and I have asked a couple of friends why they don't reciprocate... the answer is they don't like to entertain: too much preparation/clean-up etc. I for one feel funny being invited without putting together a reciprocal invitation in place. ( I'm wondering if this is once more my small town upbringing, you didn't go for dinner without having those same folks back around or taking them out. I remember my Dad talking about!)

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    2. It is a funny thing and frankly I have never experienced it. We know folks who are not big entertainers, but even they host. To me the issues is: do you like hosting regardless of whether you get an invite back and if the answer is no - then arrange to meet them out somewhere so you don't have the bother! It could be a small town thing, but then all of NB is a small town. The one thing I don't do now is do things because I should, including entertaining. And we have been known to serve hot dogs on the barbecue or buy take-out so it's not work.. Your problem is that you are so darn charming in your charming house - who would want to go anywhere else????

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  5. Happy Monday, Dani! I did a lot of "work-related" dinners, well, I used to call them the "deadly dinners," in the first years of our marriage. Thank heaven for Julia Child! Dinners with friends - those were fun, turned into long boozy evenings with great discussions about everything and nothing. One night Himself vanished, if anyone thought about him at all it was that he was in the bathroom so the disappearance was tactfully ignored. A few hours later it was discovered that he'd just gone to bed, and the next day he claimed he'd repeatedly said that he had to be up early to catch a plane and obviously this wasn't as interesting a topic as peace and sex. I guess not.

    But as time wore on, it became more and more difficult to get even a small group together. People's kids were in school production or needed to be visited, others were going out of town, had regular bible study or baby-sitting or night school or choir practice or phone shifts on some desperate hotline or other - all very praiseworthy endeavors, but no two people ever seemed to have the same nights open. For me, the final nail in the coffin was food intolerances. 'Nuff said.

    I miss the days when I did enormous holiday dinners, and I can't imagine why I was so petty as to hide in the kitchen so I'd miss the sight of the cannibals and their friends grabbing reaching talking with full mouths -

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    1. Fred - doubt I would cut it at one of your dinners with my food allergies!

      I am feeling though from reading your comments that there is a judging of the guests, though I do not think you feel like that (or maybe you do? ;-)) I have to go with Anon below. I think you invite, and don't worry and then be glad people came. But I grant that I am a simple soul!

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    2. I do always ask about allergies/intolerances now especially as nut allergies are so common. One of our friends is very allergic to kiwi so I did not use that to decorate a fruit tart I made. I former partner had a mustard allergy so that was omitted from the vinaigrette. On the flip side, I try to remember things people really like, too ( I now have to write these down, though).

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    3. not at all judging the guests, it's just that it's become so difficult to get together with more than one couple as people's lives become more and more complicated. And I'm very sympathetic to allergies, it's when every time I see someone's charming girlfriend, she's added another prohibition to her list of no-now. Since they've been together, she's moved from no veal to no meat to totally vegan, non-fat, no-carb - and now gluten-free. Also no-soy because of the hormones.

      I recently learned that an allergy to mangoes is just as dangerous as peanut allergy. Who knew?

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    4. The raw food people-- impossible!

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  6. Is that not the point of hospitality, you do it without any expectation of it being reciprocated?
    In most cases, people either reciprocate in kind or in some other manner.
    Anyway, to use one of my mother's favourite phrases 'cast your bread upon the waters'.

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    1. Anon I had to look that up and it is a good one so thank you. I feel a sort of social embarrassment when I've had someone around my house 3 or 4 times and they don't reciprocate, do I wait before I invite them again? I like your suggestion of giving a dinner without the social expectation of a resulting invitation... it's generous and it also doesn't interrupt the fun.

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    2. 3-4 times! Does seem rude, somehow.

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  7. Wishing and HopingMay 26, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    Dear Dani.
    Vexing it is indeed.
    I wouldn't take it personally. I see it as a definite sign of the times of people who are juggling way too much in their lives and minds. Last thing they too need, is "crying in the kitchen." Our solution was to cut back on feeding the masses at our place too. This way, no-one gets offended.
    So true, the drinks hour will inevitably lead to providing dinner. I selfishly always avoid this time.

    We have the major events of Christmas, Easter and some milestone birthdays that revolve a huuuge amount of cooking and entertaining large numbers. We've come to accept that. However, our climate does lend itself to doing a lot of the cooking outside on the BBQ or roasting in the Weber too. Takes a lot of the pressure off the oven, stove top and the cook!!

    We decided years ago that having our dearest friends over had more to do with the pleasure of their company and not what we were going to serve for dinner.
    We tend to do one of the following with our friends these days.
    1. going out to dinner together. Fantastic - as there will definitely be NO crying in the kitchen or in the bathroom, lounge room - anywhere which needs a major clean/tidy to accommodate guests stylishly.
    2. tea and refreshments right after the lunch hour. This way they are full after lunch. You provide, nibbles, drinks (and I find mini quiches, chicken wings thrown into the oven really easy and satisfying for the bigger appetites.)
    3. After dinner drinks/coffee. This is a really cosy one. We tend to do this after a dinner out. Friends come back for a night cap, and the evening continues in an idle and reposing manner. We loll about and amuse ourselves with the directions our conversations go.
    4. Recently, brunch has become en vogue. Lovely way to start a weekend if there are no afternoon obligations. And a walk afterwards with lovely friends is delightful.

    After all this is what it should really be about. Being thankful for being blessed with some beautiful friends.
    The photo of the spires are gorgeous (cathedral/ university?). And one can just make out the buds on the trees! Hooray for Spring!
    And a Happy Birthday young MissBP! Helen :)

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    1. Hi Helen,
      Cathedral! Isn't it so pretty? Good suggestions all of them. We like going for dinner and I had forgotten how festive it is to have drinks at home afterwards, we've only done that a few times but it is a fun party.
      I would go for the BBQ parties, that's as easy as Drinks and Sandwiches! For now I think I'll stick with my Friday Sandwich parties and forget the dinners with the exception of special occasions: no crying. I also enjoy buying mustards for sandwiches, they look so attractive grouped among the platters.
      People are juggling too much, us too. Which might explain my crying in the kitchen!

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  8. As a heterosexual bachelor expectations regarding returned hospitality are thankfully quite low...gay men achieve distinction in this area I've found. I've got several really bad habits I've been trying to mend such as being habitually late. Several hostesses give me an arrival time well before everybody else anticipating this. I have discovered a wonderful compensatory practice that suits all my needs as I always call while en route to see if any last minute items might be needed (ice, cocktails, mixers, etc.) as it has the wonderful quality of having my tardiness received not with the usual arched eyebrow but the far more fittingly appropriate hero's welcome as I saunter in 45 minutes late to thunderous applause with all those save the day items that make hostesses swoon and have the fair maidens race to the powder room for a touch-up.

    Table manners are currently under re-construction as an Army tour has made me as yet unworthy of MopPhillian (rhymes with reptilian) or Hattattian (rhymes with Alsatian) hospitality which as we all know is the very best to found on the their respective continent.

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    1. GSL well I didn't know you had this Late Problem. Tsk tsk my dear, it's something that causes me so much anxiety. "Five minutes early is on time"! (I got that from Lisa.) I know people who are up to TWO HOURS late on a regular basis, what can you even do with that?
      My own MrBP is always late, he has that bad habit of trying to do one more thing when he really should be moving out the door... so I forgive you and good hero tactics!

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    2. Yes, GSL, I had a couple in a previous life in another state like that, up to an hour late, so I gave them their own special time ("I hope 6 isn't too early for you?") and usually they'd arrive by 7. They were otherwise such dears I didn't mind; I don't think they ever caught on either! At their place-- they always repriciprocated--I was always served the exact.same.dinner. Omaha steaks, SaraLee frozen baked potatoes, steamed broccoli ( her from scratch offering) and a very formally set table in their condo. I learned to offer to bring dessert to give everyone something to look forward to.

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    3. Lane, I do this too with 'late' friends! I have one very good male friend who is stunningly late, in fact he was once almost 3 hours late. I now text/call/generally spam him to ensure he isn't too tardy. Like GSL, he is wonderful at saving the day with forgotten things etc, so I always forgive him. Plus he's so charming it's hard to be cross.

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  9. Dani I am frantically trying to get through the book - no fault of the book but since I have come back from Korea there are so many things to do and catch up on so just warning you that any opinion might not be based on the full book!!

    Dinner parties are an odd thing. I like to hold them but they are hardly every returned...I don't mind so much except after a few years one can't help but notice the discrepancy. People here blame the size of house on hosting but maybe it's just me but i dont' care about the size of house - i have had plenty of fun times in a studio flat. its the company isnt it or are we getting older? But making dinner is a lot of effort and energy and time and actually a more precious thing than just handing over an expensive gift so perhaps it is another one of those things that are a sign of the times...

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  10. Oh...awkward...and timely. We were invited to a lovely dinner by my husband's coworker and his wife a month or so ago. They even happily invited our three young children (clearly this was the first time we'd been to their home). I have not reciprocated. And you're right, I should. I supposed I fall back too easily on the "what do we serve adults?" conundrum. We're deep in the chicken nugget and hot dog years, but a turkey in the oven with the fixings is easy...mainly because the husband always cooks the turkey.

    Laura

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    1. Laura they sound like great people, have them for drinks and sandwiches! If your husband can fix a turkey I bet he makes a mean sandwich. Then you can have a visit with the kids running around and no one goes hungry.
      I like to place everything on the table so people can serve themselves (and their preferences, food allergies etc). This way I can having charming mustards and pickles placed all around, a few olives and some potato chips for the kids.

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  11. Lovely spires, those; and the gift-- for you or from you?

    I think some people procrastinate invitations and then feel embarrassed, so continue to procrastinate. It may be nothing more than that. A sin of omission. Up here, we have not had that experience, but did back in the "big"city; MLane thought perhaps we were intimidating(?). I serve much simpler food than I once did, I think, as well, so spontaneous parties seem easy to me now.

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    1. Lane simple food wins! That was a gift from me, I like wrapping presents though I'm fairly bad with the corners and I need to buy pre-made bows. It could be procrastination which does snowball I agree. I love a dramatic spire myself!

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  12. Hi Dani, I'm more with Anon above. In the few times a year I invite people over, I just want everyone to have a great time. My affairs are informal though and most bring food that my table is groaning at the end of the evening. With time and space constraints, this is how they want to reciprocate, by preparing well-prepared dishes that many will enjoy. I do get your point though and I do not think it is proper for guests not to reciprocate in any way after being invited many times over. You are such an excellent hostess though that maybe they think their efforts cannot match it (though I know you don't expect them to). They wait until they can prepare, then life happens and the plans get waylaid on the sidelines and they think it's too late to do anything.

    Apologies for missing the last book club discussion (I've let down your cutie Scout and our dog Atticus). I'm on my last few chapters for the next one and I hope I can finish today.

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    1. Marie life does get in the way of good intentions I agree! We've been so busy and with our excitable puppy haven't wanted to entertain, but I really wanted to see my friends so had the drinks and sandwiches thing. It was hectic but really fun so I'm glad I did, and like Jody's NZ people I didn't think about it too much which perhaps is key!

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  13. Our friends are very good about invites and entertaining. It is so nice to be asked to dinner and as a hostess I know how much work goes into the meal. Setting the table, planning the menu and cleaning the house before the guests arrive...your idea of serving something simple is quite refreshing Dani and I might try something like that myself.
    I have been too preoccupied to read The Razor's Edge and it sounds like a good book. I find most movies made from books that I have read are rather disappointing...I suppose it is because we compare them to the visuals that we have imagined based on the text.
    The only bourbon I like is Tabitha's blog Bourbon and Pearls!
    I am happy to hear that your weather has improved and you are now hanging out the laundry in the sunshine with those adorable wooden pegs.

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    1. Hostess I have to say I enjoy the prep work when I have set aside the day to do so. It's so much effort and thought however and if it's one-sided it doesn't feel the same, it's not as enjoyable. I think maybe invites have to be returned in kind, like-for-like!
      Yes the weather has turned and I need to get down to my laundry room to get the wash started, it's beautiful sunny here today, perfect clothes-drying weather!

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  14. Your linens always look gorgeous, this makes me want to go and buy some pegs. We've spent 11 years having some people over for all sorts of things including fancy birthday and casual barbies and never been invited back. I've found in the US and particularly in this area a lot of people want to do things very formally or very perfectly and so never get around to entertaining. When they do invite you back it's really over the top and they often have it catered (!) or spend all week running around getting stuff and cooking. This does not happen in NZ where people don't think things through that much and everyone is expected to bring wine and a plate. The people we've really gelled with - see every week - are couples or just friends who thinking nothing of having you around at an hours notice. It does annoy us sometimes that some people have never never invited us back - I put an end to a lot of our entertaining, nowadays I'd prefer to spend the money on eating out.
    Also I think galling is when you've had people around for years and years and then they have 50th birthday drinks or dinner somewhere really expensive and you pay for your own. Just a few drinks at home is perfect, people only need to entertain or reciprocate in a way they can afford,
    This has turned into a rant sorry...

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    1. Jody good points all and that is galling. I agree reciprocate in a way that is manageable and affordable, people are just thrilled to be invited back. I have some friends who could thrill me no end by inviting me to their house for dinner, they could give me tomato soup for all I care.
      I also have other friends who issue impromptu invites and it is really fun, there's less pressure then and it seems so easy for everybody.
      I think the attitude in NZ of not thinking things through much is a very good one!

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  15. Dani, I agree with Jody. People in California aren't good about reciprocation. I've had many nice dinners and very few do that anymore back or even write thank yous. I do think it's about getting relaxed about having people over. I wasn't raised that way though. I was raised everything has to be just so including house perfection before one has anyone near! Needless to say it has given me anxiety about entertaining. I try to have BBQs because that is casual and easy with a pool. I want to try the sandwich idea. Great thought. You are so right that you can't have them over for just drinks. It runs into dinner and then everyone goes home hungry! xx Kim

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    1. Kim I think that BBQ's by the pool sounds ideal and then there isn't the stress about the house being perfect. Sandwiches are excellent because everyone is fed and there is nothing worse than people lingering while I wonder what the heck I can feed them for dinner. Another thing I've been working on is having some good cocktail snacks available for those friends who pop by after work and don't leave until 7:30, sometimes I end up inviting them for family dinner which can interrupt The Rascal routine, not optimal! It's best to feed kids at the usual time and then have a grown up dinner later, I don't know about your boys but my daughters get a bit out of sorts if they don't have their usual 6:30 dinner. I hope you're well Kim!

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  16. I guess I must consider myself lucky b/c in our little social circle we always always reciprocate. It's so much nicer that way. But I have to say our get togethers are not that fancy. Just good friends and good food. Perhaps that is why we get together often, it's not a whole heck of a lot of work on anyone.

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    1. Janet you are in a good groove with your friends! They sound like an excellent bunch. And I agree the food just needs to be good not fancy.

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  17. In my neck of the woods, I do not see a lot of dinner parties or large gatherings except for special occasions. There is a lot more of meeting friends for dinner at restaurants. As someone else mentioned that is the norm for many people even for family meals. We do have one couple we socialize with that are the consummate hosts. They have the entire group over for dinner nearly every month. People bring things or help cook or grill while there, but the planning, prep and expense falls on them. I must admit, shamefully, when we take a turn we usually take people out partly because our home is further away in the country and also because it is easier. Driving is an issue when drinking is involved! Most of the group never reciprocates. My daughter's in- laws live in a more central part of the US and they talk about a social life centered on their church and neighbors, so perhaps it is more regional. I really haven't experienced that as much in the New York tri-state area. My sisters and children are my most reliable social contacts.

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    1. Teacups interesting and of course driving is an issue to be sure when drinks are involved. We live in a neighbourhood that is quite close and our friends can all walk to each other's houses, making taking turns really the ideal situation when it happens.
      My Dad lives in Alpharetta Georgia and everyone goes out there, it's really fun and takes the pressure off of hosting. I'm always surprised when we visit at the sheer amount of people out in restaurants, in groups, on a Friday night, it's so fun!

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  18. Dani, we also have lots of friends that don't reciprocate, but nearly all of them always ask what they can bring, and if the answer is nothing, they often show up with flowers or a yummy bottle of wine or -- bourbon!, which happens to be our current drink of choice. Anyway, we also don't do the fancy anythings, it's always always buffet style, and always including kids. Appetizer hour usually lasts for a couple, so lateniks are never an issue -- I sympathize with them because I am a chronic one (although I am rarely more than 15 minutes late).

    I will say that we had one couple who we were very close to, but as the years of non-reciprocation wore on and they actually started bringing whatever houseguests they had with them to our house (they had a open door, which was very gracious of them, but hard when led to them assuming ours was open as well) we stopped with the invitations and the friendship ended up just fading away. It did make me think about whether this reflected anything about non-reciprocating friends in general, and I decided it did not...

    On other topics, I am LOVING The Razor's Edge! I found it a little hard going at first, as I do with many older books, but got over that after the first chapter or so. I am about 2/3s through and the writing is so careful that I put the book down as soon as I feel myself getting tired because I don't want to miss anything! Thank you for a wonderful recommendation!

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    1. AudreyS very happy you are loving the book!
      Your couple with the extra guests, that sounds a tough situation. Funny too that they would have houseguests which is very work-intense but wouldn't reciprocate dinners etc? Not surprised the friendship faded, sometimes it's hard to hold up an overloaded end!
      The last time I had a drinks and sandwiches for 10 people I stated my expectations: 6pm and please bring wine and a salad. It worked out great, in the past I've said "just bring yourself" but then when guests would arrive without wine or food I'd feel the burden. Which isn't fair as I myself had not stated expectations!

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  19. I love inviting people for diner. I love cooking but I have stopped trying to set unreasonable expectations. When it comes to returning invitations, I had the problem the other way around. People would invite us, we would drive all the way and then when we return the invitation, they would never find the time to come over. It has make a drastic cut in our social environment... I don't mind going around, but I also like others to make the effort to ride about...

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    1. Steph that is so unusual! We have friends who live in the city and the drive there is often terrible, we try to take turns going back and forth. Those dinners have to be planned well in advance because of the long drive in traffic! Actually there are two couples we haven't seen in months and we miss them, if I don't arrange something now the summer will go by and we still won't see them. It is difficult! I hope you are well Steph.

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  20. Very timely post. We love entertaining, but due to cramped kitchen, we only have small dos at the moment. Our social group are generally excellent at reciprocity, but there are a couple of newish friends whose invitations we haven't reciprocated yet. I was just thinking that we must have some of them over soon. Life is so hectic, though, that time just seems to run away. Perhaps that's why some of your guests haven't repayed your hospitality?
    I love your idea of drinks and sandwiches. We often do 'bring a dish' dinner parties with a culinary theme, so the burden of crying in the kitchen isn't an issue. Any friends who don't enjoy cooking have to do cocktails or play butler!
    I am longing for our renovations to be done so we can have bigger dinners.

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    1. Ruth I agree life is so hectic. I think some people just don't do that kind of entertaining which is why they don't reciprocate invites, I myself might be loathe to accept something I couldn't return. (We do have that situation when we are invited to cottages as we don't have one ourselves, in the past we compensate by bringing lots of wine, food and a gift.)
      You seem to have a great group of pals, how goes the reno? Our elevation drawings were just finished for our kitchen, it will be much easier to have any sort of party once we have more space. I don't think I'll be crying in a new kitchen! ;)

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  21. Great topic! I used to hold huge holiday parties but they fell away after kids arrived. Now it seems like you socialize with the families of your children's friends. As the children leave the nest, I can see a return to a more robust social life. I unfortunately am a perfectionist and feel like my home is too in need of updating and repairs to have people over. Maybe when I get all those projects done......

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    1. Shopping Celle, I feel the same way about my home right now, so much needs to be done. I have those perfectionist tendencies which can be good and bad!

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  22. This was a timely post - we just hosted my husband's parents for dinner this past weekend, and I was 'crying in the kitchen', or rather, freaking out with stress level at 150%. Amongst our circle of acquaintance, dinner parties don't really happen: it's just too difficult to do with babies and small children, and everyone having different schedules. We usually have a big get-together for a major event (the past few times, it has been baby showers), for Christmas and for Midsummer, and it's almost always a potluck lunch with lots of disposable cutlery and plates, so there's minimal effort involved, and very little that needs to be washed up afterwards.

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    1. Louise the only way to have friends around with young kids is to make sure the kids get fed and that there is something edible for the parents. Have a few drinks and let the kids play and no point cleaning in advance as there will be a mess afterwards anyway!
      It's the dinners that have had me crying in the kitchen, so much self-inflicted stress and I've even had this with family over, it's just exhausting. Family holiday dinners must be done but socially these sit down dinners with friends are becoming a thing of the past and perhaps rightly so, so much work and it is really noticed if an event of that nature isn't reciprocated.

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    2. Louise and Dani - I hear you both, family dinners usually are completely stressful esp. when you are one of two family members who end up hosting something! So annoying. The expectations are unreal.

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  23. I view entertaining like I would giving a gift. If I give a gift, I don't expect one to be given in return. I am giving because I want to give. If someone gives me a gift, great, but I don't expect it.

    Another viewpoint on this is that some people (ahem, coughcough, such as myself lol) are not comfortable with the condition of their homes or the skills at putting together even a simple meal for guests. From reading your blog over time, your home sounds lovely and restful and you seem so thoughtful about everything about your home and your life. I love reading about your life because it's so restful and lovely, but it is so unlike my own. Having anyone over causes me major anxiety because getting the house guest-ready is a monumental task here. Having people who are good at this stuff over to my house is very intimidating. Anyway, just another side of the coin, from an infrequent entertainer.

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    1. cate this is a good point of view to have in light of the fact that old ideas around reciprocity seem to have changed, very interesting and I'm so glad I brought up the topic. No point waiting for return invites and if I want to have dinners etc I should just do it myself and do it easily, like the drinks and sandwiches type event.
      When my kids were young my house was often a disaster, one of my friends had an immaculate and stylish home filled with antiques, art, all perfectly dusted and arranged. I finally invited her for dinner and apologized in advance for the state of my house to which she replied "I don't give a rat's a**, I'm so happy to be invited and I never ever notice other people's houses, what can I bring?" After that we became excellent friends. I always remembered her attitude and I thought, yeah most people probably feel the same way!
      Thanks cate for the other side of the coin!

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  24. I heartily agree with the rule of reciprocation. I think everyone in my circle does also.The problem lies in the practicalities RE young children and evening activities. Rarely is there a night where more than one other couple is free at the same time and when the occasion does arrive we are so anxious to take advantage that we cookout/order out, throw the kids outside and relax and laugh til the wee hours.
    It has turned out to be rather a child-centric issue: the family with the youngest child usually hosts. That way the parents can stay up later and the child sees his/her usual bedtime. This is not a formally agreed upon situation, it is simply the easiest way to see one another. We will have more formal dinners when we are older. Although we do put out a rather nice spread

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    1. Bebe when our children were young it was easy to have these kinds of gatherings and fun for the kids. Reciprocity wasn't as much of an issue, as long as the kids were fed and played happily and we could have a few drinks, fine! We stopped doing this as our kids got older and really needed to have quiet family dinners every night (which was key for us getting through the teen years). Two of the families still hang out constantly even to the point of going on their holidays together, not something I could ever do quite frankly.
      I think when kids are young it's easier to get together as families, tires out the kids and really it's the only way young parents can socialize, finding babysitters is tedious and expensive!

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  25. I've held so many parties and dinners that haven't ever been reciprocated that I finally got pretty sick of the whole thing. Honestly, sometimes I think society has degraded beyond repair. The same thing goes for keeping in touch with people. I'm at the point in my life that I don't need to be the one always putting out the effort towards some of these people. They can't return even an email?

    Another bone of contention I have is houseguests who think we're going to wait on them hand and foot - and then they stay way too long. I have only myself to blame on that, I built a nice guesthouse for visitors and now have to keep them at bay.

    Just sign me,
    Miss Grouchy Pants.

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    1. Vava I could also be called Miss Grouchy Pants at times! Houseguests can be very demanding and especially if they stay too long. I had a friend over on Friday night who had a houseguest for 3 weeks, she nearly lost her mind!

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    2. I completely agree with everything you said Vava!

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