Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Easy Entertaining. Chick Chat. Disconnected Communities.

Steve and I love having people from our church to our house for dinner; it gives us a chance to get to know them better and also lets them get to know each other better.  Unfortunately, when most people think of having a lot of people over a meal, they get a bit panicked over two main things:

  • Having enough money to buy food for a group.
  • Having enough time and energy to cook and clean up for a group.

We have solved those two dilemmas with one easy solution:  At our dinner parties, everybody is asked to contribute something.

Now that is not to say that I just call up a bunch of people and say, “Come over Saturday night and bring something.”   No, that’s a bit risky—unless of course, we wanted to end up with four pans of brownies. (Which, come to think of it, I would be perfectly okay with.)

The easiest way I’ve found to be sure we get a variety of food is this:  When I invite someone, I let them know right off the bat that it’s a potluck type gathering. Then I tell them we need two main dishes (one chicken, one non-chicken), a couple side dishes, and two desserts  (one chocolate and one non-chocolate) and I let them take their pick.  If I invite a single man or someone who isn’t big on cooking, I just assign soft drinks and tea for them to bring.

After everyone has chosen what they want to bring, I see which menu holes need to be plugged and that’s what I prepare—usually it just ends up being one or two items.

The great part about this is that it’s not a lot of trouble or expense for anyone, everyone gets to try everyone else’s cooking and it makes clean up a cinch because everyone takes their dish(es) home with them. We recently had a dinner for ten people and when everyone had left, Steve and I had the dishwasher loaded and the kitchen/dining room completely clean in less than fifteen minutes.  (Our wonderful daughter usually does clean up for us but she was gone that night.)

The most gratifying part of this whole thing is watching people who have gone to church together for years say things like, “Really?  I didn’t know that about you.”  It’s seeing newcomers sit for a couple hours with good people over good food and start to feel like they belong.  It’s being able to give people the increasingly rare experience of spending time together where conversation is the only entertainment. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me in the days following a dinner,”We just had such a good time at your house.  It was so relaxing and refreshing just to sit and talk; we hardly ever get to do that anymore.”

In short, that sort of evening is a win win, all around.  We absolutely love doing it and highly recommend it!

As a variation on that theme, over the past two years that Steve has pastored here in Manteo I’ve been wanting to find a way to get the women of the church together for some “get to know you” time without making it a lot of work for any one person.  I finally came up with a simple plan and named it Chick Chat.  Here’s a little ad I put together that I run in the church bulletin and on our church website. 

chat

The concept is beyond simple.  Everyone shows up with food for themselves.  That’s it.

The only prep involved is spreading out a plastic table cloth, lighting candles, starting a CD, putting out name tags, and laying out some chocolate.  (Those are my only non-negotiables for each evening:  name tags, chocolate, music, and candles.)

friday  october 320

Some ladies bring leftovers from home (that’s what I do) and others grab something from a drive through.   (This was taken a few minutes before starting time; the table ended up being packed.)

friday  october 324

It never fails to amaze me how much fun it is just to sit down with a bunch of women--we represent a fifty-year age span--and just enjoy simple (non gossipy) conversation. 

We have chortled and laughed and we have listened to a cornucopia of stories—some from younger career women, some from busy housewives, some from single women and newlyweds, and some from the older ladies reminiscing about life on the Outer Banks back in the day.   (May I just say that we have some really funny women at our church and the older ones are the funniest!)

In a world that is aggressively interconnected by Facebook, blogs, social networks, e-mail and cell phones, I think that people are more hungry than ever for simple conversation and simple time spent together, bypassing altogether the electronic connections that so often pass for relationships.

So tell us—is there anything you do to make entertaining a bit more simple? To encourage conversation among your friends and family?  To make non-technical connections between the people around you?

I think this is an increasingly important topic in an increasingly lonely world and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Comments

I posted this picture last week and got several queries asking what it was. 

And in fine, helpful blogger fashion, I told you that I didn’t know.

_DSC0235

While I was not able to venture a guess, my helpful blog readers jumped in with some great ideas:

Becky said, “I think it is one of those big birds tangled up in a net.”

Nancy Irving said, “The objects in the picture look like some kind of buoys.”

Anonymous said, “Could it be some kind of strange jelly fish that washed up? I know when I have visited Hilton Head (forever ago) and other places with large beautiful bodies of water they would wash up on shore, dead, and then someone had the job of "Official Removal of Dead Jellyfish" would come by and dispose of them. That's all I can think of by what I can see in the picture? All I can say is Google images of dead jelly fish on the shore??? Gross, yes, but maybe the answer. How about showing the pictures to one of the "locals" from Church and see of they know?”

(I actually posted the picture on FB no one has yet come up with a definitive answer.)

 

A few days ago,  I was at another beach area and saw more of these “thingie,” this time with stuff growing out of them!

friday  october 388

friday  october 389

When I get it figured out, I’ll let you know!

I also got a comment/question in regards to this picture I posted yesterday.

_DSC0167

 Becky M said, “Just trying to understand more, what were they dancing about? That is the best way I can think of asking.”

Hi Becky, thanks for your great question! 

I guess the best answer would be that they weren’t really dancing “about” anything;  they were doing a choreographed dance as an art form and using that creative art form as a means of worship, just the way music and singing are used in church as part of a worship service.

 

15 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Sue G said...

I haven't been able to figure out how to throw a dinner party without much work. When I moved into this house two years ago, I pictured lovely dinners to meet new neighbors. My kitchen is huge, very conducive to cooking for a crowd. And the layout of the dining room, kitchen breakfast area and living room allow any one in any of those rooms to see and talk to whomever is in the kitchen.

Well, my mom used to say in Yiddish, "Man plans and God laughs." (I actually found that once in the Bible but can't find it again.) I moved in. I got settled. The cancer spread to the hip bone, making standing and walking a bit tiresome. I went on chemo, making the fatigue daunting and not conducive to parties. (Before my daughter's wedding, I had to pray that God would give me the strength to stand in the shower.)

When I am again able to host parties, I will ask everyone to bring something. I have learned that through this cancer journey. I have also learned that people feel more a part of something if they are allowed to contribute.

So, again, I have written too much. I do tend to go overboard on most things.

OH, one more thing. The reason we older people are the funniest is because as we age, our filters that weed out certain comments tend to fade and we just let loose with the truth as we see it. Yep, not much of a filter left for me!

Jodi said...

I change my mind about the jelly fish now that I have seen it up close. Ginger, amazon potatoes (okay, totally kidding). How about taking the picture to the Manteo Visitor's Center and ask them. I think we all really want to know now.

Anonymous said...

It looks like some type of root.

Kristy said...

Becky, our "Church Ladies" gather in what we call a "Gaggle." The hostess invites as many as she can accomodate for a weekday evening and picks a theme. The last one, at my house, was for 22 women and the theme was "Stuff You Can Eat With Your Hands." The rule is that your dish has to come in the door ready to serve (cut in pieces, heated, with a spoon, etc.). When you leave, take all your stuff along. Everyone has one dish to deal with. We also try to come up with one off the wall icebreaker question each time: Are you doing today what you wanted to do growing up? If you had a baby tomorrow, what would you name it? Did you or their father teach your children to drive? That kind of thing. Leads to great conversation!

Sheri Holthe (Oleson) said...

I amguessing it looks like part of a tree that was washed into the sea by the hurricane...have you touched one? Is it hard or soft?

Anonymous said...

Regarding your beached mystery photo.......
EEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWW!
Jojy

MN Mom said...

I love the Chick Chat idea! Impressed also that you set up the table in more of a rectangle than a long line. The square or rectangle is so much more conversation friendly, and gives everyone a chance to see and talk to the others at the table. My brother has a 60" square table with two leaves that allows 14 of us big people to enjoy a meal together. Helps to have a large dining room, however.

Karen said...

I have that same candle holder!! I love it! I really like the idea of chick chat. Having RA I can barely cook for myself much less a group. I'm going to suggest it to some friends!

Anonymous said...

here is a fun and inexpensive way to have fun-invite 10 people to your house and ask them to bring a wrapped 5-10.00 item(decide on an amount) and also ask them to bring a small dessert-enough for 2-4 people so you don't get inundated with desserts.
Play bingo and each time somebody wins, they pick out a wrapped item, open it, and sit it next to them. When all the gifts are gone, set about another hour aside where you play and "steal" from your friends if you win(since there are no more wrapped gifts). It is tons of fun and usually everybody ends up going home with something. I did christmas ornaments one year and you can do a theme for the gifts. the host supplies the beverages and you have such a fun evening

Anonymous said...

I was in a singles Sunday School Class and we had what we called "Dinners for Six", but sometimes it grew by a person or two. We selected a date and different people signed-up to have the event at their homes and others signed-up under their names or was it we just assigned that certain people to go to a certain home. The host or hostess called the guests and gave them a choice of what to bring. The host/hostess provided the beverage(s), meat and assigned the others something to bring (i.e., appetizer, vegetables - three participants to furnish, dessert), which gave everyone something to bring. Sometimes, someone other than the host or hostess provided the meat, which was their choice. It worked out just fine and everyone had a chance to get to know each other in a small group setting.

Anonymous said...

The blob looks like it might be something like cypress knees which are the roots that grow up out of the water. Are you near any swamps?

Christie Howard said...

In regards to the dancing ladies... I love watching creative worship! I have had several friends on a worship team. The only thing better (to me) is watching a children's team. My son was on one for almost 2 years and my daughter was on the same team for almost a year. They both stopped recently, but I have awesome memories!!

Christie Howard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christie Howard said...

At our church (which is very large), we have a monthly women's meeting. We call it H.U.G.S. (He Understands Girl Stuff). There is praise and worship, a speaker/lesson and then they eat! It is a great way for the women to connect in such a large church. It's a great time of fellowship and support! I should probably clarify why I'm not including myself with the ladies... I'm generally behind the scenes, in the nursery taking care of their children!!

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