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Hosting 101: A Guide for Everyone

Does the idea of hosting a dinner with friends, brunch with the family, or a Noonday Trunk Show send chills down your spine? Can thoughts of hosting cause you to toss and turn at night with visions of Pinterest flying through your head? Do you feel like hosting is just for certain people? Does the word “homemade” make you break into a cold sweat?

Friend, lay down the straight jacket and let’s chat a minute.

I grew up in a hosted world. My mom’s family is Latino, and that means we gathered! My Grandma Salazar will remain famous because of her hospitality. Whether she expected you or not, she was ready to feed you, chat with you, and her red lipstick was never too far away (gotta be glam in that apron). Hers was a world of homemade. A big pot of beans, a hot stack of soft flour tortillas, apricot fruit leather made from the tree out back, tamales made in large batches and tucked away in the freezer, ready for steaming at any moment, and of course, lots of homemade salsa from the vegetables and chiles she grew in her garden. So, looking back, I now understand why I am programmed to feed an army even if only eight people are sitting at my table.

Stephanie’s family gathering (via Stephanie’s personal blog, The Triangle Plate)

But what took me longer to learn is that hosting doesn’t have to be complicated! I’ve been hosting all sorts of gatherings for the past 20 years, and I’ve had my share of hosting highs and lows. So I thought I’d share some tips for a successful gathering because I’ve probably seen and done it all. At the end of the day, hosting should and can be fun! Good hosting is much easier than you think. 

Why Host?

This is the first question you will want to ask yourself if you are considering hosting. Are you hosting because you feel like you have to? If so, you’re probably on the path to a lame gathering. Sorry to be the party pooper here, but you first have to get your head around a simple concept: we are made to gather. We are made for community. 

And there’s no better way to foster relationships and sweet memories than to welcome people into your home and treat them to a few hours of relaxed time together. It’s actually a gift to host because you are the one who gets to create an atmosphere for laughter, story telling, and good food. You are the one who gets to bask in the after-glow the next day, remembering sweet or hilarious moments while you take out the trash or wash that pile of dishes. You are the one that has made people feel loved because of your warm welcome. It’s all about your attitude.

It’s important to remember that hosting is about your guests – not about you. You are not on stage, and this is not a performance. I remember at some of my earliest dinner parties feeling super nervous and slightly terrified. What would my guests think of the food? Was I a fun hostess? Would they know that I was completely inexperienced and had no idea what I was doing? What would they think of the way I decorated or of that embarrassing armchair?

If you start on this path of self-focus, you’ll completely lose sight of the people you are doing this for and end up stressed out, hands shaking, and stiff. The day of the party is not the time to Marie Kondo the heck out of your house. Move the pile of newspapers if it will make you feel better or clean that bathroom, but this is the home you live in, and signs of life are actually OK.

Tips to Make Hosting Easy:

1. Create a festive environment!

This is so important! Whatever the reason you are gathering, remember that ultimately you are celebrating life. I am a big fan of stringing white lights outdoors, but I even hang them in my living room to create a party mood. Pick or buy some fresh flowers, run to Target for some fun paper napkins, light clusters of candles wherever you’ll gather, a scented candle in the bathroom, and definitely don’t forget to put some upbeat music on a half hour before your guests arrive. If you end up with any early birds (you know, those people that show up 10 minutes before they’re invited), it makes it less awkward for everyone if you have your music going and look like you’re actually expecting people. If the early bird offers to help, give them a job!

2. Plan ahead, but keep it simple.

You aren’t likely to host regularly if you choose super challenging menus. There’s a time and a place for fancy pants and soufflés if that’s your game and goal, but your guests will be happy with burgers and beers for dinner, a waffle bar for brunch, or sweet and salty nibbles and a bottle of rosé for girls’ night and a Noonday Trunk Show. Make these Thyme Roasted Almonds to have out as people arrive or some delicious Homemade Guacamole for dipping!

I like to choose a simple menu that allows me to prep lots in advance, and then I can focus on one or two things that I want to give some extra effort to (like that homemade peach pie or fresh bread). Make this simple and fresh Insalata Caprese or impress with these Chipotle Carnitas Tacos (made in the crockpot!).

Friends might be laughing at this point because I love to cook, and I can get pretty adventurous in the kitchen, but I have learned the hard way that it can’t all be complicated or you will miss the party and the chance to connect because you’re busy being everyone’s personal chef. And for heaven’s sake, if you don’t like to cook, it’s OK! There’s no judgment here. Choose your favorite store-bought things and simply serve them on your own dining ware. The fact that you opened your home and made an effort on behalf of your guests is what counts the most.

3. Be a puzzle solver!  

I once hosted my entire German immersion class, my husband’s partners at work, and neighborhood friends for a Christmas party. It was our first year of marriage and we were living in Munich. I wasn’t totally sure what everyone liked to eat, but I made my favorite things, including a three-layer dark chocolate cake with ganache frosting.

Well, we lived on the top floor of the apartment building, and with all the cooking, it got kind of hot up there. The ganache was too warm, and my three-layer cake made the leaning Tower of Pisa look quite vertical — the layers were sliding in all different directions. So, in a moment of panic/genius, I grabbed a bouquet of holly I had bought at the market that day, cut the leaves off the stems and stuck them all over the cake.  My very own personal holly bush. You should have heard the compliments over my “beautiful cake.” People couldn’t get over how “festive” it was.

Moral of the story? Just roll with it! Sometimes, things just aren’t going to turn out the way you planned. But don’t stress – the party will go on! 

Try some of my simplest dessert recipes to keep the show running smoothly: Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Scones, Mama-Rita’s Brownies, Colorado Peach Galette, and Claudia’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Our nearest and dearest in life have hosted each other so much that gathering together feels like home. We all walk away encouraged and ready to take on the week ahead and slog through the challenges at hand. Does it take some time to host? Yes. Will it require effort? Definitely. But as you may have heard: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Want to learn more about hosting a Noonday Collection Trunk Show? Just head to this link.

Meet Stephanie Kunstle

Stephanie is a Colorado native who loves spending time in the kitchen and who’s always had a hunger to explore the world. “Traveling has shaped my views on so many things,” says Stephanie, “It is definitely a foundation for my connection and passion for the work that Noonday creates for our Artisan Partners.”