The Consummate Host

March: Inviting People Over, Inviting People In

I’ve always wondered about the use of that word, “consummate,” especially its pairing with the word “host.” To the extent it implies perfection, I can’t make a claim to it. But given that its primary meaning as a verb is “to bring something to completion,” I’ve decided it just might fit.

As I round the corner from March into April, I’m happy to report that I’ve completed my goal of hosting 4 gatherings in my home in just 30 days!

Here’s a rundown of who was there, what we ate, how it went, and what some of my key takeaways were from of this most-fun-I’ve-had-yet Project Reconnect challenge.

March 1st: Food and Friends…and Food

Guests: Andrea, Eric, Chase, Celeste, Danielle, Kody, Me, James and Sophie

This was a group of old coworkers and their spouses/significant others. We all share a love of real, organic, nutrient-dense food, but truthfully don’t have that much more in common. I was nervous and fussy this first time around, and as a result it took me half a day to get everything ready. But I definitely started out with a bang!

Menu: Grassfed Roast Beef, Polenta, Roasted Tomatoes, Spinach Salad, Einkorn Sourdough Bread, Homemade Stevia-sweetened Lemonade, with Gluten Free Cupcakes and Strawberries for dessert. Seriously.

Highlights: I hadn’t seen some of these folks in quite a while, and I wasn’t totally sure we’d have much to talk about. So I used the Vertellis card game to move us gently from smalltalk to more intimate conversation, and I was totally amazed at how quickly everyone opened up. Even guests I hadn’t met before that evening were sharing deeply, and everyone felt recharged and reconnected as a result.

Biggest Takeaway: After running into these folks all over town for two years, and saying more times than I could count, “we should get together!” we have now, officially, gotten together. And it was well worth the effort. Next time, instead of saying “let’s get together,” and leaving it at that, I plan to offer up the very next Friday night I’m free, and get it scheduled right then and there. Why procrastinate the feel-good fun of a gathering?

March 8th: Long Lost Cousins

Guests: Taylor, Samira, James, Me, and the littles: Sophie, William, and James

Taylor is one of James’s numerous cousins, but other than saying polite hellos at countless weddings and funerals, I’d never spent any time with him–or his wife and kids. So when I remembered that they’d recently moved to the town where we live, I knew we had to connect.

Menu: Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie, Leftover Polenta Jazzed Up with Cheese and Chives, Spinach Salad, and Lemon Bars for dessert

Highlights: What I loved most about this gathering was that it went on and on. Our guests got to our house at about 5pm on Sunday afternoon, and didn’t get on their way until almost 10pm. It reminded me of the culture of visiting in the Middle East, where I lived for six years. No one was ever in a hurry to leave and get on to something else. A visit was a comfortable, settled-in occasion that could go on for hours. I miss that, but got a little taste of it at this, my second experience of hosting.

Biggest Takeaways: “Man, so many shared memories,” James said as we closed the door after having said our goodbyes. As Samira and I chatted and got to know each other, Taylor and James had been reminiscing about their days running around together as cousins. In our modern, mobile culture, we often lose the sense of rootedness that comes from deep, multi-generational connections. It was a gift for James to renew that, and to see the weaving together of a new generation of Garrett cousins, making memories to carry forward.

March 24th: Old Friends Made New

Guests: Leann, Corey, Scott, Jocelyn, Me, James, and the littles: Sophie, Evyn, Pheobe, and “The Tooch”

Leann and I went to college together more years ago than I care to admit, and Scott and James grew up going on epic shared family vacations back in the 80s. Somehow, decades later, we all ended up living in the same town and working as wellness coaches at the same resort. It was long past time to get this crew around a dinner table.

Menu: Asian Fusion Tacos, Guacamole, Mixed Green Salad, and Homemade Tapioca Pudding with Strawberries for dessert.

Highlights: These friends were a lot of laughs, but we also did some surprisingly deep sharing about current goals and struggles. The conversation didn’t need much boosting, but just for fun we tried out the School of Life’s Confessions Cards, (minus the “sex” questions, which were a little too “adult” for the lot of us).

Biggest Takeaways: It just feels like hosting dinner parties isn’t a “thing” where I live. But maybe that’s true everywhere? Everyone who came was so impressed and grateful that I would pull something like this together. And that made me happy–but also sad, because things as elemental as breaking bread with friends and wiling away the hours talking have become uncommon ways to spend our days. I’m excited to make this a regular part of my life going forward.

March 26th: Connecting with Family

Guests: My brother, Cameron, his wife, Remi, my Dad, Me, James, and Sophie

Menu: Balsamic Glazed Chicken, Pesto Pasta, Roasted Zucchini and Tomatoes with Fresh Mozzarella, Garlic Sourdough Toast, and Homemade Tapioca Pudding for dessert.

Highlights: Remi had never been to our house before, and when she walked in she saw hanging in our entryway a handmade piece of art her grandmother had given me as a gift many years ago. She was so touched it nearly brought her to tears. It reminded me of how precious objects, lovingly cared for and revered, can be important cords of connection holding people together across time and space.

Biggest Takeaways: Cameron and Remi live in Japan, and visit St. George once or twice a year. They’ve been doing this for so long that it’s come to feel commonplace, and it seems like anymore we rarely do anything special to welcome them. But this time I decided to invite them over and cook a nice dinner, which I could tell they really appreciated. Hosting a dinner in our home–instead of just hanging out at my parents’ house–felt special, and seemed to forge new pathways for connection. I came away more committed to making the most of family visits going forward.