We’ll call that a success

Our housewarming party is in the history books! And I’d say it was a good one. (Not to brag, but one guest actually said it was, and I quote, “The best housewarming” he had ever been to.) We worked pretty hard getting ready, and we ran around a bit during the party itself, but we both also had time to relax, talk to friends, introduce people to one other, and just enjoy the gang that we had assembled.


The Jenga-like interior of our fridge, pre-party

The lesson for me in all of this is that in entertaining, some things matter: have enough good food and plenty of booze, with choices for everyone. And some things don’t matter: no one cares if the napkins match the plates. Or if the napkins match anything at all.

I felt like I was able to lighten up a little bit, even though, yes, I did snap at my dear husband when he put the cookies on the table in the plastic tray that they came in. But, c’mon. Desserts should be plated. He’s known me long enough to know better.

I also asked for help, and found that people were more than happy to be put to work assembling a salad or refilling the ice bucket. I’m reminded of a good friend with whom I volunteered as a youth mentor for several years. When creating the schedule for weekend events with dozens of teenagers, she would build in what she called “introvert time”, for those in the group (including her) who needed some quiet. It just occurred to me that for some party-goers on the introvert end of the Meyers-Briggs scale, a few minutes of focused alone time making a salad might be just what they need to re-charge before they head back into the social, extroverted fray.

Finally, I learned to trust other people to take care of themselves. Get them their first drink, then show them to the bar and let them help themselves to a refill. Make an introduction, and then let a conversation unfold. No one is going to go hungry or sit alone in a corner. Sure, if left to their own devices, half of your guests may end up crammed into the pantry well after midnight, drinking whisky and making music with a harmonica and your sauté pan. But isn’t that how most good parties end up?












It’s party time

I dream of being one of those people who entertains effortlessly. Who always has the right wine chilling and the right snacks in the pantry. Who can throw together a platter of cheese and fruit and crackers in five minutes. Who has serving dishes and ice buckets and cocktail shakers at the ready. Like Martha Stewart, but without the condescending smugness. Or the jail time.

Unfortunately, I am NOT one of those people. Don’t get me wrong – I really like parties. I like going to them, and getting a peek into someone’s home and life. If it’s a good night and a good party, I meet at least one or two people that I find super interesting (and I tend to monopolize those people once I find them).

Theoretically, I also like to host parties. For one thing, I want to be able to reciprocate the hospitality and friendship that have been extended to us. I enjoy bringing people from the various spheres of our lives – co-workers, expat friends, neighbors – together and seeing what happens. In the best case, everyone meets one or two people that they find super interesting.

In spite of how much I like parties, I am not a natural party-giver. The details stress me out. Party planning becomes a spiraling frenzy of questions that I can’t answer. How much beer do we need? How much food? More red wine or more white wine? Do the plates match the napkins? Do we even have napkins? When should I buy the vegetables, the cheese, the flowers? And on and on…

So it may surprise you to hear that we are, actually, throwing a party. In two days, to be exact. For about 30 people. I am nowhere near ready for this.

First, our oven is broken. Sort of. The bake function crapped out so we can only grill or broil. I had planned to make a delicious chocolate bundt cake and maybe some American-style chocolate chip cookies. I’m a pretty good baker but I know my limits – you can’t broil a cake.

Second, this is one time that I miss having a car. Getting enough food and drink for 30 people is a slow process when all you have is your bike and your fietstassen. We started stocking up on beer a week ago, buying a few bottles every time we went to the grocery store. Then we found out that our local liquor store delivers. Perfect!

I’m sure that everything will come together, and with any luck I’ll keep my cool in the hours leading up to the party. The trick is to focus on what matters, and not get so wrapped up in the trappings that I forget about the point of this whole thing: our friends.

It’s not been easy to build a community here. People are busy with their own lives and commitments. Unlike those who move here for love, we’re probably not here forever. The fact that we’re somewhat transient may make people less willing to invest their time in us, whether they are conscious of it or not. But, little by little, we have made connections and made friends. It takes effort and consistency and time, and often we needed to be the instigators, and make the first move. And now we get to enjoy the pay-off: a home full of fun, super interesting people.

Now to put them all together and see what happens…