Today I cooked dinner (known as ‘lunch’ to the rest of the normal world) for the crew. We have about 15 full time employees here on the ranch, and they generally eat both breakfast and ‘dinner’ at the cookhouse. 

The heart of the ranch (where the cookhouse is), is about 20 minutes outside of town, but during branding season, most of the work gets done in town, so it just makes sense for everyone to eat there rather than all head back to the cookhouse. And by town, I mean where our house is – yep the same place with one gas station, and one post office (open 12-4).

I took over duties today, and welcomed everyone into our home. At about 11 o’clock, I got SUPER stressed, worried that I wouldn’t be able to serve the food on time (ranchers are on a tight schedule because cows can totally tell time). I tried to stay calm, but at one point I was rolling out pie dough and simultaneously chopping bell peppers, with beans and rice on the stove. I remembered one of my cardinal rules for entertaining: ask for help when you need it.

So I called up one of the wive’s who usually cooks at the cookhouse, to ask for a little bit of help. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to keep my cool, so just remember – if you have a helping hand, swallow that pride, and take it. Here are seven other mistakes I’ve made in the past, so you never have to make them yourself!

Planning too elaborate of a meal: Can we have a moment? Your guests seriously don’t care about chicken cordon bleu. They just don’t. They’d be just as happy with your tried and true lasagna recipe that you’ve made ten thousand times (and that can be made ahead of time, I might add). I know it’s tempting to prepare an extra special meal for your extra special guests, but if you haven’t made the recipe before, or the recipe requires more than thirty minutes of hands on cooking time before it can be served, save it for nights with your husband when you can cook it together!

Worrying too much about every detail: Your guests aren’t going to snoop through every room of your house (unless they ask the dreaded question: “So, give us a touuuuuur!?”, which my mother does everywhere she goes). Then you better hope they don’t poke their nosey noses into the junk closet where every kind of unslightly piece of clutter was thrown thirty minutes before their arrival. In reality, though, they aren’t going to go into your guest room or master bath, so don’t stress over cleaning those like you’ve never cleaned before. Focus on the areas they will be spending time, and give yourself a time limit. Why? Because I know just how tempting it can be to “reorganize Jake’s soccer stuff in the basement” when you get into cleaning mode. So make a list, stick to it, and don’t spend more than an hour doing it. 

Spending all of your time in the kitchen: Um hello! Your friends are there to spend time with YOU! If your meal is super hands on, refer back to number one. Otherwise, remove yourself from the kitchen, pour yourself a drink, and enjoy the company of your friends. 

Forgetting those few noticeable things: Your guests might not be sticking their noses into every room of your home, but they’re probably going to be using the guest bathroom more than once, and they’re probably going to need to hang their coats somewhere. It’s important to spend your time prepping those spaces, and making them extra special. I like to light a candle in the entryway, and have fresh flowers and fancy soap in the guest bath. This might be taking it a little over the top, but I was recently at a friend’s house, and her guest bath, she had placed out neatly rolled wash cloths and a little hamper basket to put them in when you were finished. Ya know, like at a shmoozy hotel? I felt really fancy and really special. 

Forgetting to put out refreshments ahead of time: There’s nothin worse than having to get up and sit down one hundred times to offer beverages. It might help you get those steps in, but it’s not helping you mix and mingle! Instead, try putting out drinks ahead of time in a little bar area, bonus if you have cheese and crackers set out too. 

Assuming all of your guests like “insert flavor here”: I like to casually mention what I plan on cooking when I invite someone over. 

“Hey! We wanted to use some of the curry paste we picked up in Thailand last month, and were thinking of having a few people over, we’d love it if you could join us!” 

That way, any flavor or ingredient that they are highly objective to (read: allergic), can be discussed ahead of time, instead of in the moment when you’re sitting down to eat.

Don’t assume that all of your friends are going to like the Mexican spices you picked up the last time you were traveling, and most certainly don’t assume all of your guests like their food ‘Thai Hot’ (ie: death by spice). If you plan on making something unique, just make a quick mention of your menu when you send out the invite, but if you’re making lasagna or pizza – you’re probably in the clear (if you know someone who doesn’t like lasagna, then you can probably take this moment to unfriend them. Just keeping it real here.). 

Not having a great time: This is rule numero uno! You’ve got to have a good time sister! If you’re prepared, and relaxed, your hostessing skills will take care of themselves. It’s when you allow yourself to become stressed out and frantic that you start to self implode! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: gathering, in your home, with your friends, is one of the most intimate things you can share with them. They obviously already love your awesome self, so please stop worrying about everything being perfect! Make a list, check it twice, then pour yourself a glass of your favorite rosé, and enjoy your company. 

What are your favorite ways to entertain? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. This is always hard to do with my family! I just want everyone to have a good time, but someone always gets stuck in the kitchen! Haha

  2. I love this! We are planning a housewarming party and I just want it to all be perfect. These are great tips/reminders. I love the hand towel idea!

  3. Great tips! I’ve been guilty of paying too much attention to the little details, but in the end you’re most likely the only one noticing those. Plus being less stressed makes you a better hostess. ;)

  4. Great advice. I love to entertain, and even years of practice this helps. Thanks for sharing.

  5. ROFL this sounds totally like me, I kept nodding at everything you have mentioned above. I obsess over making elaborate dishes and end up spending all the time in the kitchen right before a party. Great tips, hope I can implement some of them in the future, thanks for sharing :)
    xx, Kusum |

    1. LOL! Right? The other day we had a bunch of the cowboys over and I had to resist the urge to make place settings… I am glad we are on the same page :)

  6. Oh my gosh, these are so true! Not asking for help is one that I really struggle with and lately I’ve been working on. I also totally agree about an elaborate meal, as long as people are fed something good, it’s been my experience they generally don’t complain. ;)

    1. That’s a biggie! Asking for help when needed can make or break ya! And yep – something as simple as spaghetti will be thoroughly enjoyed!

  7. mentioning what you’re making is very important because you never know about allergies or preferences. as much as i love doing dinners with friends it is nice to get a warning if its not something i’ll eat

    1. Oh I so agree! If someone new is coming you’d hate to make shrimp if they had a shellfish allergy!

  8. Love love love this post! I thoroughly enjoy playing hostess for my friends and family, but I am definitely prone to breaking all of these rules. I’m having people over this Sunday, so thank you for giving me some perspective and reminding me to relax and not be so panicked about everything being perfect!

    1. I am a rule breaker too – I always seem to find the most elaborate recipe to make at the last minute!

  9. These are great tips. I am totally guilty of spending too much time in the kitchen and not taking enough time to enjoy the guests.

  10. Great tips! I need to get out of the kitchen more! Thanks for the reminder. This was a really fantastic post!

  11. I love this! Parties like this tend to go so quick and not spending the time to enjoy them is a huge mistake we all always make!

    1. It’s something I definitely found myself doing – so I’ve been intentional about it lately!

  12. This is so good. I always stress and have anxiety about hosting, but some things don’t matter, while others do!!

  13. Great post! hosting is so hard, but so much fun. I’m glad you took on the task and learned lots. Next time will be even better.

  14. These are such good tips. I totally get myself all stressed out when we cook for my in-laws, but at the end of the day, they just want to come, enjoy our company and EAT. So thanks for this advice and seeing where the important things really are :)