We are entertaining again! A little smaller, a bit more cautiously, but still. . . people! In our home! Cheese and crackers! Cake! Music and laughter and all of it in glorious temperature-controlled splendor! Oh, please excuse my overexuberance; I'm just so thrilled! The thing is, there has been something of a sea change in our society in the past couple of years. We are all eager to get "back to normal," but what does that even mean anymore? And what about the things that have changed forever? If you are looking forward to entertaining or have begun entertaining and feel that you could make your gatherings a little better, we're here to help!
But not like your mother or grandmother did for company! No one is judging the condition of your baseboards. No one cares about coffee cups in the sink or magazines on your side tables anymore. Heck, my friends happily step over backpacks and boots and the daily deliveries now that they are allowed inside again! At the same time, I would feel like a terrible hostess if I didn't have hand sanitizer near the door, good soap and fresh towels in a clean bathroom as in the fixtures are hygienic. Hygiene is everything! I like to ensure there's hand lotion sitting out for general use, too; it's a necessity with all the handwashing we do!
Lots of families switched to disposable hand towels for hygiene purposes over the past two years, but I don't care for the waste or environmental impact of disposable hand towels. My workaround is leaving a stack of clean fingertip towels or generously sized washcloths along with a basket for collecting those that have been used on the bathroom counter. Leave a crumpled hand towel in the basket and your guests will know exactly what to do. Make a large order of monogrammed washcloths or fingertip towels if you need to! It's better economy in the long run, and reusable is better for the environment than disposable!
I used to swing through the kitchen using my bare hands to put ice in drinks and crackers on platters right in front of my guests. We all did. Now, even my besties get drinks in closed containers and individually wrapped or at least individually plated sips and nibbles. I recently had a crafting party for just a few neighbors and set out a charcuterie board; and then added about three times the tongs and serving forks I used to use. Nobody likes to touch communal foods as it feels insensitive now, and one of the best things a host can do is help everyone feel as comfortable as possible. Putting more utensils in the dishwasher later is a small price for your guests' comfort. Also, set out many more plates and napkins than you think you might need, to discourage people from re-using plates or carrying around soiled napkins. Ensuring that there are accessible rubbish receptacles helps with this, too!
I also like to make sure there is an obvious "comfort station" for hand hygiene available. My family likes it, and it makes guests comfortable, too. In the same area as the refreshments, offer hand sanitizer and wet wipes, perhaps corralled on a pretty tray, and make a small wastebasket easily accessible. It's a small detail that shows great consideration!
If you have been ill, with anything contagious, wear a mask. No one wants so much as a cold, so bow out or mask up if you have even a slight cough or sniffle. It's the polite thing to do. Health officials recorded a drastically reduced number of flu cases and respiratory infections over the past couple of years, because we have all been trying to keep our germs to ourselves! It really is as simple as that in many situations, so just be considerate of others if you have been ill in any way.
I run hot, so making sure a room didn't get too warm or stuffy has always been on my radar as a host. Now, with people more concerned with indoor air quality than they have been since the 1920s, you might want to give ventilation and air flow some consideration. Air out your home before a get-together and think about airing out your home any time you possibly can, weather-wise, just for yourself. When you're having more than a couple of guests at a time, open doors and windows will make everyone feel that the air is being circulated properly. If you need to crank up your heat or air conditioning for an hour or two, that's okay. You can use it less for the rest of the day if you want to offset that usage, or you can factor heavy temperature control into the cost/impact of throwing a party. Making guests feel that their health and comfort is being considered is the most important thing! We're lucky enough to have heat and air, so go ahead and use it with the windows open if you have to!
The sad truth is that we've all been through the wringer in one way or another. This has been a hard time in our collective history, and it's important to remember that "May you live in interesting times, isn't a blessing; it's a curse." Prepare, and encourage other members of your household to prepare, a few light topics of conversation. Read an article! Watch a documentary! Practice like it's a book report! There will absolutely be discussions on the losses, griefs and frustrations so many have faced recently; we're human and we want to share those experiences and feelings with our friends to ease our hearts. So, a good host will be ready with a kind word as well as a plan to turn the conversation and lighten the mood when necessary. Outside of a memorial service, a thoughtful host will have a plan to create a festive atmosphere and foster pleasant conversation if your guests need some brightening up!
We are entertaining again! And frankly, we all need this. Lockdowns and quarantines are not how we are meant to live. Humans are social animals, and whether it's your two besties for wine and gossip, your spouse's garden club, or your kid's neighborhood pals, it's a beautiful thing to share our space with our friends. For a neighborly pop-in or a planned formal party, a few minutes of forethought and preparation can make getting together in a post-pandemic world just as fun and relaxing as it ever was. Be the hostess with the mostess in the new normal.