“Don't neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it” ~ Hebrews 13:2
As my friends can attest ..
The doorbell rings and the kitties run for cover, and the puppies bark and I think, “Oh dear, I'm really not up for pleasantries at the moment” So I tiptoe into the bedroom where I can clandestinely peek out the window, ever so slowly, so I can see the ringer-of-the-doorbell, but the ringer-of-the doorbell can't see me
It certainly isn't efficient, this screening of solicitors or guarding of my day. And by now, if you're a neighbor (or the flower delivery man), you've learned it's best to just walk right in and find an open spot on the kitchen counter
I tell myself, “It's ok to say now isn't a good time.” Close the front door, draw the shades, and call it a day. But for some reason, the tiptoe and peek is what I've resorted to, although I'm pretty sure the gig is up.
What, again, was Einstein's definition of insanity?
My tendency to be a recluse is one of the (many) reasons we keep the tradition of Spaghetti Saturdays alive
An ongoing commitment to leaving my front door ajar, in the metaphorical sense. Not only to welcome friends and family but to extend dinner invitations to people we'd love to know better, or those we've known forever but don't get to see very often
“Stop by. It's an open invite. Yes, anytime. Just bring yourselves.”
A reminder that that cultivating a network of good people around us is worth the effort. Sharing a meal, swapping stories, and passing a plate are beautiful things. No matter if those across the table are similar us, or not.
Everyone is dealing with something. While we know a friendly face won't solve it all, sometimes a plate of spaghetti and a glass of wine sure can brighten a day
It seems especially true in this weird and wired world. Where so many of us are floating around relatively alone, seemingly connected, but truly tetherless
Admittedly, over the years, the how can still be fuzzy at times. How to do it? How to keep the door open amidst busy schedules, last-minute commitments, or all of our quirks?
It's Not About You
Alas, you'd think I'd have this down by now. Still, there are some Saturdays when the best-laid plans aren't coming to fruition, we're rushing around at the last minute, and someone comes early, just to chat. In those moments when anxiety is getting the better or me, I'm reminded
“But I think that what you'll discover more and more as you get older is that most people aren't thinking about you at all” ~ Haven Kimmel
What are they thinking about? Themselves (of course). How they're feeling. If they're welcomed, happy, and loved.
Forget tidying and offer a hug, your undivided attention, an appetizer or three
Don't Fret the Small Stuff
Yep, no one coming to look under the beds.
Our house is relatively clean (loose interpretation), but on any given day there's likely a string of dog bones littering the hallway, clean laundry in a pile in front of the dryer. A gardening project by the back door, sticky syrup on the counter. A photo shoot of tonight's dinner scattered between the kitchen and the living room's window
It's a home, not a house. I keep reminding myself to resist the temptation to apologize for the very things that bring joy to our days
With any large group of people, there will be personalities to navigate. While we love suggestions about ways to improve, at the end of the day, not everything will work. Our solution? We smile sweetly and say
“Here's what we're able to do.”
Give yourself permission to set limitations (on either side of the front door)
Attitude is Everything
While mostly we serve spaghetti and meatballs, sometimes we venture off the beaten path. While high hopes abound, it's rarely smooth sailing when we deviate from our tried and true process
There was the time we grilled burgers. After everyone left, I opened the fridge and realized I'd completely forgotten to set out the potato salad (enough to feed twenty-five!)
Or last weekend, when crepes were on the menu
All was going swimmingly until I cut my finger shortly before everyone was scheduled to arrive. As the blood kept coming and coming, we debated .. ER/No-ER? My husband fixed it up, tourniquet-style, found a bottle of ibuprofen, and we slipped off periodically to re-bandage
No one was the wiser, and I love him extra for his first-aid skills
Give It A Try
All it takes is one time
Last weekend we extended a couple of new invitations, and they came(!) Everyone welcomed them with open arms, seats in the middle of the table, and warm conversation. They were the last to leave
“I can't believe how much fun we had. So excited for next time!”
I've rarely felt more honored
Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself
Mostly I'm proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone. It's made our lives infinitely richer (and our home infinitely louder)
This week I was surprised to learn my son does the same thing at his house.
I'm giving him time
Turns out it can take years to comprehend the beauty in simply opening your own front door
Last weekend's crepes were part of a Russian-themed going away party for one of our favorite familiesSharlotka (little Charlotte) is the cake that's made many appearances over the years, and I wanted to chronical it as part of our archives
Passed along via many generations of Russian grandmothers, it's one of the first things kids in Russia learn to bake. Another name for it is “A Guest At the Door” since to total time to make it (start to finish) is about an hour or less. The kind of thing that's welcoming, comforting, and can be whipped up while guests are taking off their coats at the door
If you can make a batch of cookies, you can make this cake; in roughly the same amount of steps. I know some find cakes intimidating, but not this one. It's essentially cookie dough with proportions of ingredients that make it more of a batter than a dough. You end up pouring it over a pile of apples that it melds with as it bakes
As you can imagine, the cake smells incredible. There's nothing like the smell of warm cinnamon in the air and the anticipation of freshly baked apples
~ Adapted from Basil of Love
Apple Sharlotka (From Russia With Love)
- 5-6 large apples (I prefer Granny Smith, but any will be great)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup of flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- Preheat oven to 350 deg F
- Lightly grease a round or 9x13 pan (I used a 9" springform pan)
- Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. I followed Deb at Smitten Kitchen's lead and cut half into four "strips" then sliced them fairly thin - about 1/4 inch - in the other direction
- Layer the apples in the pan. If you wish, sprinkle them lightly with cinnamon, sugar, or a drizzle of lemon juice
- In a large bowl start whisking together eggs. if using a mixer, do it on low-medium speed.
- Slowly in a continuous stream introduce sugar. Keep whipping or whisking.
- Add the vanilla. Then, as slowly, start adding the flour
- This could be a little challenging, so I use a tablespoon, sprinkling flour in a thin layer on the surface of the batter as I mix it. (The batter should be the consistency of yogurt - soft enough to pour, but not watery)
- Add the baking soda last and give the batter another swirl
- Pour over the apples, doing your best to cover them all.
- Use a spatula to spread where necessary. Don't worry about mixing the layers - the batter will seep into apples on its own
- Put into the oven and bake until a toothpick comes out dry and clean about 55-60 minutes
- Serve hot or cold, accompanied by whipped cream, ice-cream or by itself. It is comforting and delicious