It has been a LONG time since we properly entertained other people.
Like four years.
Yes, that's right.
And so I decided to start inviting people over to dinner.
I thought it would be easy, but instead I've found it a bit more difficult than I remember it. Maybe it's because I now have to cook for toddlers, too? Or maybe it's because we don't have an oven that works? Or maybe it's because I don't believe in microwaves? (my aunt told me they were bad, I didn't believe her, and then I did some research and found they alter the composition of food, significantly decrease nutrition levels and introduce toxins to the body) Plus, I have to learn how to cook at high altitude!
So long story short, everything has to be done stove top or in a crock pot or on the BBQ - and I still have very little idea as to how long things actually have to cook here. Even though water boils sooner, it takes meat longer to cook.
So what have I learned?
First the kid stuff:
1) You've got to take the kids meal as seriously as the adult meal. Only it's a different kind of serious. You have to make it nutritious, but "fun." I definitely didn't make the kids meals fun enough. The mac and cheese, that I thought would surely be a hit, was way over-cooked (thanks high-altitude) - all three times I made it (for the record, I don't have a great track record of cooking things out of boxes).
2) You've got to have "cool" drinks. Like Vanilla milk (organic) - and definitely a hit. And cool things to drink out of - the latest/greatest are Elmo plastic cups with lids. I hate them. But they are convenient and Chase LOVES them.
3) It's a good idea to have activity stations. And even though TV is NOT GOOD FOR KIDS, I have to say it really worked well to feed the kids first and then put Little Einsteins in and let the kids watch while the adults sat down at the dinner table. I thought the TV idea would be met with "what? put them in front of TV?" but instead, the adults were all like, "yah, that's a great idea."
4) Toothpicks (aka funpicks). Kids love 'em! And I lost my box. So I was fresh outta fun picks.
Now on to adults:
1) Don't plan anything too fancy (that requires any work while your guests are there). Do all prep work in advance so you can spend time talking and watching/playing with kids.
2) Don't expect your guests (or yourself) to be able to sit down at a certain time (this led to one of my meals becoming cold before we ate). So covered dishes are a must. I made the mistake of serving plates and that just didn't work well at all.
3) Don't worry about courses. Your guests are just happy to be "out."
4) Dessert. Might be best served in the living room where you can play/observe the kids. Same goes for apps.
All my secrets are out!