Delightful Visit

If you see a sight like this in our front entry, it's a sure thing that friends from the west coast are here for a visit!  Gosh, I love these people!


They are THE BEST guests too...so cheerful, great conversationalists, fun-loving, adventurous.  AND we all love the Lord!  Can't get any better than that for a week of fellowship!

First stop was the beach, which just happened to be having a sand castle building competition.


Our guests enjoyed discovering that the east coast beaches have nice, smooth rocks to collect, as well as shells.


A contra dance was a delightful treat, since we often danced with these friends when we lived on the west coast.  Our friend even jumped in and joined the band for one song.


They were eager customers are Colette's farmers' market stand.


We toured an historic water-powered mill that makes dry measures, piggins, and Shaker boxes.




Technohubby and I (shown here) and our friends enjoyed a lovely dinner at an old New England Inn (c. 1789), and a slow stroll and some great conversation on the gravel sidewalks of the charming town afterwards.


More pictures coming tomorrow.

Blogging Break

It’s been a busy day. Cleaning. Grocery Shopping. The washing machine has been running non-stop washing and scenting linens. Then it was out in the sun for some drying time in the fresh summer air.


As you may have guessed, all this activity means guests are coming!  Just six this time!  But precious, precious friends!  I'll be taking a blogging break for the next week.  I'll be busy enjoying every moment with them!

Sumptuous Tafetta

Sumptuous brown tafetta dress…pefect for an autumn wedding, wouldn’t you say? It’s in the shop.




Sabbath Rest


Now blessed be the Lord our God, the God of Israel,
For He alone doth wondrous works in glory that excel.

And blessed be His glorious Name to all eternity,
The whole earth let His glory fill.  Amen, so let it be.

-the doxology we sang in church today

Hospitality for a Crowd - Part VI--Dinners

One of my favorite enjoyments in life is a good dinner with friends and family followed by long, lingering dinner conversation. I love to see the faces of those I love round the table, happy and enjoying each other and the food. What a blessing! To see 28 of our dearest for five days running…priceless!

Just the part of our crowd that was 22 yrs. and younger at the top of the falls in the Flume Gorge, Franconia State Park, NH.
 Remember that my priority when we have guests is to enjoy them. And recall that when we had our crowd of houseguests, we were touring New England each day, so we were gone all day and there was precious time to prepare a nice meal. Yet I wanted to feed our guests a tasty dinner. Hours of touring every day meant that everyone was hungry when they got back to our house. Dinner had to be easy to prepare, yet delicious. Once again…advance planning, preparing ahead of time, and freezing made it all possible.

Our freezer full of food.  Most of this was gone by the time the last guests left.
Here are some dinner ideas that can be prepared ahead and frozen:

–Marinated Chicken for Grilling - Toss boneless, skinless chicken breasts in ziploc bags, pour in some Italian dressing, seal, and freeze. The dressing will marinate your chicken. Just thaw and grill.



–Sauces for Pasta

#1 – spaghetti sauce - your favorite homemade spaghetti sauce should freeze wonderfully; thaw; heat; serve over pasta.

#2 – bolognese sauce – delicious, hearty pasta sauce. I like Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe found here. I made five quarts worth, and it fed 13 of us (before other people arrived.)



#3 - Pesto Sauce – serve over a curly pasta (like cavattapi) with sliced, grilled chicken. (A curly pasta holds the pesto well.) Note: the chicken can be grilled, sliced, frozen, thawed, and reheated moments before adding it to the hot pasta and pesto. Mmmm.

This was less than half of the pesto I made.
–Chicken Pot Pie – My all-time favorite do-ahead and freeze meal! I make these for just our family and freeze them too. It is a family favorite! My recipe comes from the King’s Arms Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg and can be found here. I made three of them, and then when we found out more guests were coming, I made two more in loaf pans. This recipe is a lot of work, but it’s soooo worth it!




–Soft Chicken Taco Meat

#1 – for soft chicken tacos - easily served with tortillas, cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa on the side.

#2 – for chicken taco salads – quick and easy. Set it out like a taco salad bar and include: tortilla chips, lettuce, black beans, the chicken taco meat, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, salsa, and sour cream. It’s a one dish meal!

Soft Chicken Taco Meat

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 -2 T. oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 16 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 jalepeno pepper, seeds removed, minced
1 bay leaf
1 T. chili power
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. oregano

Poach chicken until cooked through; shred.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and saute onion and garlic about 5 mins., or until tender.
Stir in undrained tomatoes, chopped jalapeno, bay leaf, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and 1/4 t. ground pepper. Add chicken and stir well. Simmer for about 35-45 mins., but don’t let all the liquid evaporate.

Serves 6. (I made five batches to fed 27.)

–Garlic-Studded Pork Tenderloin - Cut 10 slits in a center cut pork tenderloin and insert a peeled garlic clove in each slit. Rub the tenderloins all over with a mixture of dried herbs…anything you think would be tasty with garlic. Place tenderloins in Ziploc bags and cover with your favorite marinade; mine was a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook at 375 degrees until meat thermometer says it has reached the proper temperature for pork to be done. I recall that it took a long time to reach that temperature with so many in the oven at once, and I think we bumped the oven temperature up to 400 at some point.





–Hamburgers – Hamburger meat can be mixed with your favorite add-ins (we like A-1 sauce and Montreal Steak Seasoning with ours), shaped into patties, and frozen flat on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, you can stack them with a piece of waxed paper between them and place in a Ziploc bag. They take very little time to thaw. When the men are grilling, the ladies can make a big fruit salad.



A word about grilled chicken: Grilled Chicken is so wonderfully versatile. (Not to mention, grilling chicken is a great way to keep a teenage boy busy!) Season, grill, slice or cube and freeze. It can then be: added to pasta dishes, made into fresh chicken salads with greens, be made into chicken wraps for lunch, be made into chicken salad sandwiches, and more!

What to serve for side dishes? The beauty of these meals is that they require very little to go with them! We had a BIG green salad most nights. Twenty-seven eaters will go through about 20 cups of lettuce (one large box of organic springs greens mix at our grocery store) each night for a salad. I tossed in various tasties with the lettuce: bleu cheese and dried cranberries, tomatoes and feta, strawberries and pecans, etc. I vaguely recall that we might’ve made rice to go with the pork tenderloins, since they took awhile in the oven (also served a green salad).

The one and only picture I took of the dinner serving line.
I picked up baguettes inexpensively on the bakery surplus rack, cut them into hunks, and froze.



You can also take a loaf of French bread, slice it, butter it (or butter it with garlic butter), wrap it tightly in foil, and freeze it. Then all you have to do is thaw it in the aluminum foil, and then pop it in the oven still in the foil to bake. Simple.

For beverages, we had available: water, milk, wine, and beer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of postings. If you never host 28 people at your house for an extended amount of time, I hope you can at least adapt some of these ideas for a smaller group, or even just for your own family. I hope it’s inspired you to offer hospitality to others, because “houses full of love have elastic walls.”

Hospitality for a Crowd - Part V--Lunches and Transportation

I had some great questions regarding transporation on my last posting, so I thought I would address transporation as well as lunches in this posting.

This day, after lunch and hiking, dessert was a stop at our favorite ice cream shop.  Mmm!  Can you imagine what the employees must've thought when 28 people walked in all at once?
Regarding transportation: Each family (5 of them) had their own rental car.  We had one bridesmaid who traveled mostly with our family.  But everyone switched cars a lot, because they all knew each other and wanted to socialize.  Even the adults switched around sometimes...so fun!  We have a driveway with a good size parking area, so putting that many cars there was not a problem.  No damage to parking surfaces, fortunately.

We traveled caravan-style wherever we went.  Difficult with six cars, but not impossible.  We put my in-laws large truck at the back of the caravan (easy to spot) and all those neutral-colored minivans in between my in-laws and our lead car.

Toll booths were challenging with six cars.  It's easiest to go to the lanes that are cash AND EZ-Pass.  Then we would go in first (with our Fast Pass) and then stop just past the booth and slowly inch forward as each car behind us paid, or we pulled off to the side and just waited.




We packed lunches for 27 people (one of our party being under a year old and too little to enjoy a sandwich) every morning but one. (The exception was when we walked the Freedom Trail in Boston. I just couldn't imagine 27 people toting little brown sandwich bags through the streets of Boston...silly. Plus, the opportunity to delve into the food court that is Quincy Market, with its 40+ vendors was just too tempting!) Three of us made the sandwiches each morning.

Sandwiches do not have to be boring! Sandwiches can be fabulous!

It's really great to vary the bread you use to keep the sandwiches tasty. I really love Costco's cibatta rolls for sandwiches. (The rolls freeze well too, so you can buy the rolls in advance and thaw when needed.) Some days we had sandwiches on multi-grain wheat bread. Another day we had wraps. Foccacia bread makes fabulous sandwiches, and it's so easy to make. You could make the foccacia bread weeks in advance, cut it into sandwich portions, and freeze. Bagel sandwiches could be another option.

I used deli-sliced meat and cheese bought pre-packaged at Costco. To make 27 sandwiches, we went through about 1 1/2 packages of meat per lunch. Costco definitely had the best price, and the meats and cheeses were excellent.

In addition to your breads, meats, and cheeses, the following items help to make really tasty sandwiches:

--lettuce
--tomato
--red onion (thinly sliced)
--mayonnaise
--mustards (spicy brown, Dijon, cranberry--great on turkey)
--pesto (can be made months in advance and frozen; goes great with turkey or chicken)
--hummus (mix with a bit of mayo so the sandwich isn't too dry)
--cream cheese

Here are four sandwich combinations we really like:

#1 - Turkey and provolone on cibatta with mayo., pesto, and lettuce
#2 - Ham and swiss on wheat bread with maple-mustard, lettuce, tomato, and red onion
#3 - Roast beef and meunster cheese on cibatta with garlic-herb cream cheese, lettuce and tomato
#4 - Turkey and provolone on wheat bread with mayo., cranberry mustard, and lettuce

If you're having a smaller crowd, chicken salad sandwiches on croissants with lettuce are wonderful! I would only serve this to a crowd, if I had time to make it the day before any guests arrived, otherwise it doesn't pass my test for being quick and easy enough to make with guests in the house. Here's my favorite chicken salad recipe:

New England Maple Chicken Salad

3 1/2 c. cubed chicken breasts (poached, cubed, frozen until needed)
1 c. chopped celery
2 T. chopped red onion
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 c. chopped walnuts, toasted

DRESSING:
3/4 c. mayonnaise
6 T. real maple syrup
6 t. honey Dijon mustard

In a large bowl combine: chicken, celery, onion, dried cranberries, parsley, and walnuts.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Pour dressing over the chicken and toss to coat thoroughly.
Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hrs. before serving.

Serves 6

As a side note: sandwich flavors will meld really wonderfully, if you wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and let them sit, keeping cool, for a few hours before eating. This works perfectly for making sandwiches in the morning, packing them in a cooler, and traveling to a destination. Tailgate party when you get there!

Beside the sandwich, we served some of the following with lunches (but never all at once): string cheese, Cape Cod chips, baby carrots, dips, individually packaged cheese squares, and more. Water bottles were available for beverages.

For desserts, Colette made cookies, brownies, and 7-layer bars, all of which were made ahead of time, frozen, and thawed. Mmmm.

Tomorrow - dinner! The best meal of the day!

Hospitality for a Crowd - Part IV--Breakfasts

As I launch into talking about making meals for a crowd of houseguests, let me just be clear that I am not going to tell you that you can feed 28 people for five+ days on $47.63. That’s just not happening. However, planning ahead and making and freezing does help to spread the cost out over months. For us, it was all part and parcel of the wedding expenses. This was what my kitchen looked like after my first trip to Costco.



In my experience, people will eat anything you set in front of them without complaint for lunch or dinner. But breakfast is a whole different matter. I rarely host a guest without some idosyncracies in regards to breakfast. Some must have their coffee first thing no matter what. Personally, I never drink coffee, but I need my morning glass of orange juice. My father-in-law wants his plain Cheerios every morning. Other guests we’ve had have hypoglycemia and must have protein with their breakfast. Some people don’t ever eat breakfast, while others always just want something light.

To further complicate matters, when you have 18 people all trying to use 2 1/2 bathrooms in the morning and leave the house by around 8:30 a.m., it’s nearly impossible to assemble everyone at once for a sit down meal. I never served breakfast as a sit down meal to the crowd, and not usually when we’re a smaller group either. I put it out at a general time, and people eat as they are able. This relieves everyone’s morning stress, including the cook’s. I think it helps people who aren’t “morning people” to have a more pleasant start to their day.

I set food out buffet-style on the kitchen island. Also on the island are: plates, bowls, napkins, small paper juice cups, plastic cutlery, orange juice, and milk.

To serve breakfast to a lot of houseguests, this is what I would serve over the span of a few days:

–cereals
We keep these in glass canisters and guests help themselves. Don’t ask me why, but people love the fact that they can help themselves to cereal in the canisters.


–homemade granola
This is easy to do far in advance of your guests arriving. My favorite, which has the added advantage of having a little taste of New England is:

Maple-Pecan Granola
2 c. regular oats
1/2 c. pecan pieces
1/2 c. real maple syrup
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 T. canola oil
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Combine: oats, pecans, syrup, brown sugar, and oil.
Bake at 300 degrees for 45 mins. on cooking sheet coated with cooking spray, stirring every 15 mins.
Yields 4 cups.

–quiches



Quiches are my favorite do-ahead breakfast food, because they can be done far in advance, frozen, thawed in the refrigerator overnight, and finished off in the oven in the morning. The recipe can be found at Thy Hand Hath Provided. I follow her recipe exactly. If you’re going to freeze them for guests, then under-bake by 5 mins.; cool completely. Wrap tightly in two layers of aluminum foil and freeze. The day before you’re going to serve them, thaw in the refrigerator. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

Some winning flavor combinations for quiches include:
-bacon, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, and cheddar
-asparagus, onion, bell pepper, ham and Swiss



–sweet breads
These freeze beautifully and can be made months in advance. Our favorites are: banana-oat, lemon-blueberry, zucchini, and almond-poppyseed. The Banana-Oatmeal Bread recipe can be found here. It’s THE BEST! I sprinkle the top with oatmeal before cooking. When I’m just making the recipe for our family, I make it into muffins and decrease the cooking time to just 25 minutes.

banana-oatmeal-ii

A note about serving sweet breads: if you slice the whole loaf of bread and then cut the whole loaf down the middle, it will serve more people than if you just slice it. People will be more inclined to take a half of a slice, rather than a whole one. I found that one loaf would easily serve 18 people.

–bacon (some mornings)

–scrambled eggs
Sometimes I made them in small batches as people came downstairs for breakfast. Sometimes a guest made them.

–yogurt
Fill a big bowl with ice and put an assortment of yogurts on the ice to keep cool.

–bagels and assorted cream cheeses (Let people toast them themselves.)

–English muffins, butter, and assorted jams

–fruit smoothies
These take a little time, but I make them a blender-full at a time, fill glasses, put the glasses in the refrigerator, and offer them as people are ready to eat. Don’t know how to make a smoothie? Easy: 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 3/4 c. – 1 c. juice, 5-6 frozen strawberries, a little of some other frozen fruit (like blueberries or peaches), one sliced banana. Puree. Serve with a straw and a smile!

–fresh fruit

Our group at the top of Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire, where (on a clear day) there is a view of four states and Canada.  Not a clear day, but a lovely view anyway.
Now I certainly didn’t provide all that food every morning. Here’s an example of what four days of breakfasts might’ve looked like:

Day #1 – yogurts, fresh strawberries, bagels and cream cheese, juice
Day #2 – scrambled eggs, sweet bread, fruit smoothies, juice
Day #3 – cereals and granola, English muffins, juice
Day #4 – quiches, yogurt, juice

And don’t forget the coffee!

Come visit tomorrow for lunch tips!

Hospitality for a Crowd - Part III--Bedding and Bathing


tour-guest-iii
Our guest room.
It took me awhile to figure out how to provide 18 of us with a place to sleep and how to make the bathroom routine run smoothly. Technohubby and I kept our bedroom. Another couple took the guest room (shown above). Max gave up his room to another couple. He and three other young men slept on the floor of the family room. Two younger girls slept in the schoolroom. And Felicity and Colette shared their attic bedroom with four other girls.

Everyone needed bedding. Yikes! That’s a lot of pillows, not to mention everything else that goes on a bed. I have a difficult time asking people (even children or young men) to sleep on the floor, especially for 1-2 weeks, so everyone who wasn’t sleeping in an actual bed had an air mattress. The young guys all had sleeping bags and pillows to go atop their air mattresses. The girls all had sheets, a single blanket, a pretty quilt, and a pillow. I found it best to buy inexpensive, plain white, twin sheets and cream colored cotton blankets. I opted for the neutral linens to allow the most flexibility for future giant slumber parties…no pink sheets that some 19-yr. old guy has to sleep on someday. I already owned some pretty quilts for the girls, and I picked up a couple more at antique stores (not old) for about $12-$20 each. (I store them all in the linen closet, bound round with twill tape that I marked with their size with a permanent fabric marker, so that I don’t have to unwrap five or six sets of sheets trying to find the right size.)



A word about guest rooms: When we moved from the west coast to the east coast, we knew that when friends and family came to visit, they wouldn’t just come for an overnight visit, but would probably stay for a week or more. So it was important to us to find a house with a designated guest room, so they would have a cozy home-away-from-home. We stock our guest room with: hangers, an ironing board and iron, a small sewing kit for emergency repairs, a few toiletry items that might have been forgotten at home, a lint roller, chocolates, a tote bag, books, tourist guides, local maps, pretty postcards and notecards with local scenes, first class and postcard stamps. Even if you have guests sleeping on your living room couch, you can make up a little basket with some of those items to meet their needs away from home.

A cozy afghan in the guest room is much appreciated for afternoon naps.
We have 2 1/2 baths in our home. Seven of us shared the master bath. And the remaining eleven guests (all related to each other) shared the other whole bath. The half bath was used by shaving men, girls doing their make-up, teeth brushing, etc. I let the eleven figure out a bathroom schedule that worked for them. To keep the septic system in check and everything running smoothly, it worked best for some to shower at night and others in the morning.

Our group at the bottom of the Flume Gorge, once described "as what nature looks like in your dreams" (unknown).  Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire.
All this brings us to the question, how do you keep 18 towels and washcloths straight? I pondered that one for a long time. Finally, I hit on the solution. I took two lengths of cotton twill tape per person (about 5″ long). I wrote each person’s name on the two pieces with a fabric marker. I then attached a tape to a towel and a tape to a washcloth with a zigzag stitch. Now everyone could easily find and keep their own towel and washcloth.

But how did everyone get their towels and washcloths dry? We utilized every available towel rack and hook. A few people hung their towels on a shelf with hooks in the guest bedroom. And everyone else took theirs down to the basement and hung them by clothespins from hangers on the coat rack. It worked!

After a good night’s sleep, everyone was ready for a tasty breakfast! Come back tomorrow for Part IV–Breakfasts.

Hospitality for a Crowd - Part II--The Basics

A few days before our daughter's wedding, when there were only about 12 of us under one roof, one of our guests said to me, "I know the title of the book you should write?" "Oh?" I queried. "Yes," he said, "How to Throw a Wedding Without Killing Yourself...or Anyone Else." To which my wry reply was, "It's not over yet."

Our guests listening to a park ranger give a talk about the battles of Lexington and Concord adjacent to the Old North Bridge, Concord, MA.
All kidding aside...One of the most important things to me when we have houseguests is that I have time to relax and enjoy them. I want to spend as much time as I can having fun with them, and as little time as possible hurrying about, cooking, or grocery shopping. How can that be accomplished when there are 28 people to care for? The key is to do everything you possibly can as far in advance as possible. This requires some planning. Planning starts with the guests wants and needs.

I always contact our guests and ask them what they would like to do when they are with us. (I also ask them about food allergies and dietary restrictions.) Our guests usually come from some other area of the country, and for many this is the first time they've been to New England. This is a trip they've always dreamed of, and they want to see the places they've only known from the history books and tourist guides. I usually suggest some additional places that I think they might particularly enjoy, or would fit easily with their ideas. Once they give me a list of places they want to go to and I know how long they will be with us, I do up an intinerary.

The intinerary helps the guests. In addition to helping them to know what's going to happen, it helps them know how to pack. And I hope it helps them feel cared for and thought of and loved, even before they arrive. The intinerary I sent to our large crowd of guests contained information such as: locations we were going to, how long it would take to get there, any costs they would incur, whether we would be packing lunches or buying there (so they could budget), how to dress (i.e.: casual clothes and comfortable walking shoes for dirt paths). I also sent along information about: the normal weather at the time of year they were coming, a reminder to pack something in case it rains (jacket, umbrella), our home and cell phone numbers, and any important information about driving laws in our state (seat belt, car seat, cell phone and texting restrictions, etc.)

The intinerary also helps me to plan the menus (hence, do advance cooking) for their trip. I keep a 3-ring binder full of recipes that are good to serve guests. Much more on food in postings to come.

Besides the obvious food that will have to be bought to have a crowd of houseguests, there are a lot of other things that many people will go through in a short amount of time. Here's my list of items I want to be well-stocked in:

--paper towels
--toilet paper
--klennex
--paper goods: napkins, plates (dinner plates and small plates), bowls
--plastic ware: cups (large for water, small for juice), cutlery
--Ziploc bags (gallon for leftovers and sandwich for lunches), wax paper, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil
--trash bags
--dishwasher detergent
--soap (liquid for soap dispensers and bar soap)
--coffee, coffee filters
--water bottles (we stocked a case in a couple of cars every day)

Another small, yet very important detail for those of us who live out in the country, is the septic system. We had our tank pumped a couple of days before guests arrived. Enough said.

Our guests at the Minuteman Statue - Concord, MA.

Feeding, bedding, and touring with a small army is a lot of work. No doubt about it. You should not hesitate to put your guests to work. People need to feel useful (there's a whole lot to be said about raising kids and the elderly on that topic, but that's for an entirely different sort of posting). Your guests will feel more at home if you put them to work. Help comes in many forms. Help with meal prep is essential. When we hosted "the crowd", I put one man in charge of making sure there was always ice in the large ice chest (holding extra food) in the basement. When it needed replenishing, he took himself down to the general store and bought more, and I never had to stress about it. Teenage boys were great for emptying trash, fetching and carrying, sweeping floors, watering the withering garden, etc. Teenage girls helped in the kitchen, set the table, made waffle cones, served desserts, and more. And even though we ate off paper plates, drank from plastic cups, and used plastic cutlery, there was still the meal prep mess to clean up after dinner each night. I always assigned K.P. (kitchen patrol) duty to three or four young people, who got the job done cheerfully and in no time flat, while we women who made the meal sat down with our glasses of wine and our spouses and enjoyed some good conversation.

Advance planning, stocking up on the essentials, and helping hands all make it possible to show hospitality to a crowd and still enjoy them immensely!

Come back tomorrow for tips on making a crowd of houseguests comfortable in Part III--Bedding and Bathing.

Hospitality for a Crowd - Part I--The Background

Today I am participating in the Barn Hop hosted by Homestead Revival!


"Houses full of love have elastic walls."

That's a quote from a movie based on O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. I've loved that quote since I was 12 years old, but it became more of a reality to me when I was a new bride and we lived in a one bedroom apartment. Our tiny apartment did not stop us from practicing hospitality, because "houses full of love have elastic walls."



More importantly, Scripture commands us to practice hospitality. Hospitality is not a gift given by God to certain people, but it is something all Christians are commanded to practice. Here's just a sampling of what God's Word has to say about hospitality:

--Hospitality is to be generous: "He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days." - Acts 28:7

--It is commanded: "Practice hospitality." - Romans 12:13

--It is a blessing to others: "Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy..." - Romans 16:23

--It is a good deed that godly women practice: "...is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality..." - 1 Timothy 5:10

--It is to be shown to strangers: "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

--It is to be cheerfully given: "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." - 1 Peter 4:9

After less than a year of marriage, we moved from our newlywed apartment when we purchased a condominium. Now we had 900 square feet with elastic walls! We had friends over for dinner, hosted birthday parties, baby showers. week-long stays from out of town guests, extended family celebrations, and started the tradition of an annual Christmas party. We had a baby, and another, and ANOTHER. Five people in 900 square feet requires a lot of creative storage solutions and furniture arranging, as well as daily walks to enjoy some s-p-a-c-e. There were times when I thought I couldn't stand another day in our ever-shrinking condo, and I prayed to God for another house, for a spirit of contentment, and poured out prayers of thankfulness for a solid roof over our heads and food on our table. The size of our home, however, never stopped us from having guests. I would remind myself that "houses full of love have elastic walls."

We lived in that condo for 7 years, 3 months, and 8 days (but who was counting), and have moved twice since then. Our hospitality has seemed to grow with the blessings of our home. We have had more friends for dinner, barbecues, bridal showers, out-of-town guests, baby showers, teas, monthly homeschool group meetings, musical evenings, large homeschool events, and our annual Christmas party swelled to 100+ people. More than a hundred people!?! No problem, because "houses full of love have elastic walls", and a backyard with a trampoline for the kids doesn't hurt either.

But our practice of hospitality, not just our walls, was required to stretch last year at the time of our daughter and son-in-law's wedding. Ten days before the wedding my parents arrived to stay with us. Two days later five more people moved in. Two days later two bridesmaids arrived. And a day later my parents moved out into a hotel with my aunt, and six more friends moved in. Bear in mind, we were a family of five. In case you're trying to figure this out, we are now three days before a wedding and there are eighteen people under our roof.

What a blessing to have so many friends and family arrive from all over the United States! And those staying with us were just some of them. We had more friends and family in hotels and a campground. We wanted to have a relaxed and enjoyable time with all of them, not just see them at the wedding. So two days before the wedding we hosted a barbecue at our house...for 32 people. It rained, so the barbecue moved inside. No problem! "Houses full of love have elastic walls!" (Scroll down to the bottom of this posting for the barbecue's menu and some recipe links**.)

The now-indoors barbecue.  Our formal dining room and the dining area of our kitchen abut each other, allowing us to join one 8-ft. table with two 6-ft. tables, so that most of us could eat together.  There was another table in the family room off to the right.  It was crowded, but so much fun!!!
The morning before the day of the wedding, we hosted a bridal shower brunch for Felicity, since most of her bridesmaids and all of her female relatives were here to attend. The rehearsal went well (despite rain, thunder, and lightning), the wedding was beautiful, and Walter and Felicity departed to start their life together. The fun with our guests, however, was just beginning.

Man and wife!

Period dancing at the wedding reception.
For the next five days twenty-eight of us toured New England!

Our group (minus my husband and in-laws) in front of Paul Revere's house on the Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.
There were still seventeen of us living under our roof, another nine in a hotel, and two in a campground. That's seventeen people who must eat breakfast and be out the door each morning by 8:30-9:00-ish. In addition to getting breakfast, each morning we made and packed lunches for all 28 of us for four of those five touring days. And all twenty-eight of us ate dinner each night at our home after a long day of touring. How did we do it? That's what this series of postings is all about.

Over the rest of this week, I will be sharing what we learned in a series of postings:

- Part II--The Basics
-Part III--Bedding and Bathing
-Part IV--Breakfasts
-Part V--Lunches
-Part VI--Dinners

I will be sharing tips, pointers, and recipes!

**The menu for the barbecue was themed around local and New England flavors. Appetizers were crackers and an assortment of New England cheeses


we bought while cheese touring in Vermont with the first seven guests we had. Dinner was Maple-Chipotle Barbecued Chicken topped with maple caramelized onions, a recipe from the Balsams Grand Resort in New Hampshire,



local strawberries, a fabulous salad recipe from Yankee magazine with dried cranberries and bleu cheese, and locally-baked artisan breads. We served wine, locally brewed beers, and locally bottled, artisan sodas. Dessert was an assortment of New England-themed ice creams served up in homemade waffle cones.

Come back tomorrow for Part II--The Basics.

Sabbath Rest

photo from early spring
"Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name."
- Psalm 103:1 

One Year Ago Today

It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year, but it has. Today is Walter and Felicity’s first anniversary!!! Happy Anniversary!


And now they are three!


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…”
James 1:17
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