This is a request post from a friend who thought that I was crazy doing a birthday dinner tonight.  However, if you follow these really simple steps it is easy as pie and you will actually enjoy spending time with your guests.

1)  Invite people who are not going to look at the dirt in your house.  In fact weed your friendship garden and only have people like this in your life.  We clean on Saturdays and by the end of the week we are still tidy but it doesn’t smell like cleaning products and dust has begun to settle again.  Set the table the night before and move any furniture that needs to be moved.  My house is not large so when I have a big group over (10 and above) I make my dining room table smaller and serve everything as a buffet.  Drinks are served in the kitchen on the island.  Hot food is also in the kitchen and is usually out of a big pot.

I’m not actually serving an inverted blue bowl.  The cake is underneath.

2)  Make something that will babysit itself and be ready when you get home.  Have all of your cooking done WAY in advance and pick dishes that allow you to make everything ahead of time.  We’re having beef stew, homemade bread, homemade pickles, chunks of cheese, rosemary spread, lots of champagne, coconut cake and cake pops.

Here’s the stew in the fridge waiting for its slowcooker time today.  Letting the veg (use baby potatoes or they will brown) and meat sit in the wine and spices overnight lets you have a more flavourful stew anyway.

If something isn’t working then don’t force yourself to do it.  Last night when I was finishing the cake the icing that they suggested was just not going to work.  I didn’t have the fridge space to keep it happy and had forgotten two ingredients and had no intention of going out and getting them.  SO…I made a glaze of lime juice and icing sugar and soaked the cake in it and made one of my favourite icings instead and topped each layer with coconut.

The icing that I made is called seven minute icing and is cooked so it doesn’t need to be refridgerated.  Once again, this is a Grandma Gibson recipe and it is lovely.  Be prepared though to have it everywhere as I’ve never made it without it spraying all over and coating everything in sticky goodness.

Over a double boiler combine: 1/3 cup of boiling water, a scant cup of white sugar, 1/8 tsp. of cream of tartar and 1 egg white.   Beat with an electric whisk (trust me-do this with an electric one or your arm will literally fall off) until the whole mixture is warm but has quadrupled in bulk.  It will be thick but lighter than a buttercream and VERY lusterously white.

Excuse the photo, I turned the flash off and couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on.

Don’t be too precious with how you ice this.  It is meant to be homey and over-the-top.

3)  Have a friend bring something.  I forgot salad and my friend Michelle has come to the rescue and offered to bring the salad.  This means I can boot home and run the vaccuum over the front room instead of stopping at the grocery store.

4)  Use the good stuff.  Don’t save your crystal, silver, china for “good”.  These are the good times.  Who is so special that you are saving your things for-isn’t that your family and friends?  My Grandma Kelly had nine kids and used “the good stuff” all the time. 

5)  Have the dishwasher empty.  This is a trick of my mom’s, she always had an empty dishwasher (no dishwasher-have the sink be empty) ready at the start of a party.  This lets you load dishes in right away.  A party is time to spend with your guests and not to be frazzled and frantically washing dishes because you think it is going to take until midnight to wash-up.  Put the dishwasher on when everyone leaves and worry about the rest tomorrow.

6)  Have some fun.  One of my favourite movie scenes is from “Parenthood” when the great-Grandma is explaining her secret to a happy life.  She used the analogy of a roller coaster; some people laugh and enjoy the ride and others freak-out (I paraphrase here).  I want to be one of those people who laugh and enjoy the ride.