W Publishing Group
General Interest/House & Home
If an old friend from high school phones and says she's in town and wants to drop in, do you fly into a panic? When it's your turn to host a Bible Study group at your house, do you pretend you have the flu? If you're intimidated by the idea of hospitality, look no further than SIMPLE HOSPITALITY for inspiration.
Jane Jarrell rightfully realizes that our problem with offering hospitality usually begins with our overwhelming stresses. Before offering any tips, recipes, or outlines for entertaining, she encourages women to do a "heart attack" --- a self-evaluation. Jarrell then suggests asking, "What do I want to do… be…have…and who do I want to help? Prayer, focusing on obedience, and making priority adjustments are all part of the hospitality package, she believes. "We can't give love, share empathy, or offer intimacy to another if we are carrying the weight of the world on our plates," she writes. She rightly observes that until we practice some self-care, we won't have energy or confidence to care for others.
Her book spans the gamut from getting your home ready for company to taking hospitality on the road. Jarrell, a former professional food stylist, really shines in her culinary tips for entertaining. The key here is "simple." She hates housecleaning and makes baking easy even for the culinary-challenged. Can you slice refrigerated cookie dough? Unwrap a pack of tortillas? Then you can take some basic steps toward opening your heart and home to others. Most of her recipes use pre-made foods as a base. In "The Twelve Doughs of Christmas" she uses refrigerated dough or box cookie mix as a starting point, then suggests 12 mix-ins (cranberries, white chocolate chips, red and green cherries, candied orange rind, etc.). Making a culinary gift can be as simple as blending together hot chocolate ingredients in a canning jar and tying a pretty ribbon on the top. My favorite chapter was "The Kitchen Magician," in which she shows how the humble tortilla can be adapted 10 ways to create everything from an appetizer to a dessert. Her recipes were mostly simple, cheap, and brand new to this reviewer.
Jarrell sees hospitality as encompassing a broader scope than you might think. In addition to her self-care tips and culinary know-how, she also includes chapters on gardening and decorating. The gardening tips are basic, aimed to help a beginner get started on the yard (avid gardeners won't find a lot of "ground-breaking" new information here). On the decorating side, there's a good section on creating an inviting entrance, from the front door to the foyer. However, as someone who eschews the country/antique look for a more streamlined ambiance, I found some of her decorating ideas verged on clutter (stacking old trunks to make an end table, for example, or using a grouping of antique teacups as a centerpiece). Probably a matter of personal taste.
What I appreciated more was her correlation between our willingness to be hospitable and our despair over keeping a clean house. An avowed housecleaning avoider, I find myself often passing on entertaining company because of my aversion to picking up the mop. I found her willingness to admit to hating housework refreshing (like Jarrell's husband, my husband is the Mr. Clean of our family --- I had to learn a lot about housework from him). Her tips on making housecleaning less of a chore were funny ("get out your can of Pledge, spray it straight into the air, hit the eye-level spots with a paper towel, and you are good to go") and mostly practical (the best time to wash a kitchen floor, various ways to use clear ammonia).
Jarrell offers some specific gift ideas for taking hospitality to others, including ideas for "Friendship Baskets" (a "relaxation basket" full of gifty bath items, for example). She also includes a special section that offers some quick tips for hospitality during the holidays, a stress-filled time for most of us.
This is a book crammed full of simple ideas on cooking, decorating, gardening, and gift-giving that provide inspiration for showing hospitality. It bears repeated readings as you revamp your lifestyle, your home and garden, and your attitude toward serving others and caring for yourself. You'll also want to keep it handy for when last-minute company is on the way, a new family moves in next door, or your best friend needs a pick-me-up.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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