Why You Should Host A Dinner Party

IMG_4045I have this awkward habit of inviting people over and then cooking something I’ve never cooked before.

Cooking in general isn’t one of my talents. Let’s just say I set a pot on fire a few months ago making noodles.

But I don’t let that stop me!

… Maybe I should.

Well, anyway, last weekend I invited my coworkers and friends to enjoy a home cooked cuban meal. The main attraction for the night was congri, a rice cooked in black beans so it turns out kind of grey. Really it’s delicious…. except I’d never made it before. So I spent the night experiment… it wasn’t unlike a mad scientist… and after three pots of it, one of which was inedible, I had made something that even my grandma would approve of.

I also fried up some yucca, shredded some rotisserie chicken, and made a salad (with the help of a friend).

And I loved every second of it! Having people over is scary. We feel a need for perfection—perfect food, perfect setting and perfect us.

But, especially for a new graduate making a community in a new place, hospitality is key to connecting with new people.

So, in the hopes of encouraging someone out there to take that step and invite a group of people over, here are some things I learned from my first time entertaining a large group of people.

  1. Perfection is a myth. And, it’s the imperfection that will add charm to your gathering. My apartment fits about 6 people comfortably, and I have enough seating for four. On Friday night 11 people squeezed into my apartment. My boss brought a table with some chairs, a couple people shared chairs, and we made it work! It was tight quarters, but everyone laughed and had a great time and nobody stormed off in a huff because of the lack of elbow room.
  2. You’re busy, so don’t stress about cooking everything. Obviously you’re inviting people over for some good ol’ home cookin’. But it doesn’t mean everything has to be home cooked. I had a busy week, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to make the chicken without driving myself crazier than I already am, so I bought a couple chickens and shredded them up. No one judged me, at least not to my face, and I saved myself loads of stress.
  3. Be organized. This is something I should have done that I didn’t. I knew what I was going to make, but I wasn’t organized about my grocery shopping or cooking schedule, and it added undue stress. When making a lot of food for a lot of people during a busy work week, make a schedule. Don’t plan on cooking everything on the day of.
  4. If your house is clean, you’ll be fine. I was definitely a little stressed about the ambiance of my place. I pictured pinterest flower arrangements and perfect music playing in the background when everyone walked in, with a beautiful display of food on my tiny table. Reality was wildly different. My coworkers and I rushed over from a late video session where we were playing fake football. So when I got home, at the same time as some of my guests, I had crazy braids in, a tank top and yoga pants. Aaaaaaand I probably smelled like sweat. I still had to cook some things up so I put on some Pandora (Celia Cruz… Azucah!) and got right to it. One of my friends offered to cut up the salad, and 45 minutes later we were eating. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun! and everyone was so curious about the yucca I was frying, people kept peering over my shoulder asking over and over again what yucca is, how to pronounce, what it tastes like (it’s like a starchy potato, btw).
  5. Take photos. I didn’t do this, I was so rushed and taking photos is never my first instinct. But it’s always fun to have these memories, so make sure you have a camera set up near by, ready to take some snapshots of a crazy fun night.

Don’t worry about how picturesque everything you do is. You set the mood in your house, if you’re relaxed and having fun, everyone else will be too. So don’t hesitate to have people over!

And, here are some pics of food (Thanks to the people who take them) 🙂

 

 

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Starbucks and Cusco

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South America! I’ve been dreaming of visiting Peru since I was eight years old and saw a picture of Macchu Picchu in a travel magazine (yes, I’ve been reading those since I was eight). Now, that dream is reality! And it’s surpassing all my expectations.

On Saturday we arrived in Lima, which has the absolute biggest billboards I have ever seen. I’m talking a full blown statue of a coke six pack, a sort of homage to Coca-Cola.

Also, we had “tacos”. Except they were more like burritos wrapped in crepes. So I’m not sure what was going on there.

On Sunday we flew out to Cusco and dedicated the day to exploring the city. We climbed through small alleys (and got attacked by dogs, another story for another day) and ate the most amazing food from ladies selling on the street. They had sugar cane (a favorite amongst Cubans so obviously we bought about 5 bags and immediately chewed the hell out of them), meat on a skewer with potatoes and tamales de elote. We walked and walked until we found the Plaza de Armas, and it wowed us beyond words. So, we bought Starbucks and sat on a curb to speechlesly enjoy the street dancers, towering cathedrals, tourists milling about and little kids running around.

This morning we hired a taxi to drive us to Ollantaytambo (try saying that fast five times haha) while stopping at the salt terraces and two different Inca ruins.  If I were a better author I would describe the wondrous mountains hunching over us and countryside dotted with red villages and llamas, but I’m not so I’ll just leave it at that.

So far, Peru has captured my heart and my imagination, and we still haven’t even visited Macchu Picchu.

 

Getting it done

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The complete first draft of my senior thesis is due . . . next THURSDAY. Go ahead, ask me how many pages I have. I dare you.

I have four. FOUR out of at least 25 pages.

So why am I blogging? Well, in the past couple of days, as jokes about procrastination and not graduating have taken a panicked edge, I really hunkered down to business and in the process I’ve discovered some tips to help me get it done.

And because you’re my friends (and also I’m still procrastinating) I’d like to share my plan to getting it done with you.

  1. Wake up to music! I can’t begin to tell you how much of a difference this makes for me. I hate that annoying beep beep beep of my alarms, and I can’t stand waking up to the same chorus of the same song over and over again. So instead, I use the Pandora alarm and set it to my All Sons and Daughters station. I set it to at least a half hour before I actually have to stumble out of bed, so I have at least a half hour of uplifting and relaxing music to start my day.
  2. Start early. This is the worst. I really hate waking up. It’s not that I don’t enjoy mornings and sunrises, because I really do, I just wish they happened later. But honestly, when I wake up early, I find myself being 100% more productive, and it gives me that many more hours to get it done.
  3. Get ready. Obviously (hopefully) we all at least brush our teeth in the morning. But I’ve found that one of the keys to getting it done is not just doing the bare minimum, but taking some effort to make sure I feel good about myself. If I’m distracted by my own . . . ratchedness (for lack of a better word) . . . or if I feel too comfortable, I just don’t work as well.
  4. Get out. A home office or organized desk have the same effect, but if like me you don’t have either, get out. For exactly four weeks I’ve sat at my kitchen table nearly every morning and I’ve written a grand total of four pages (plus a few homework assignments). At home, I get distracted with just about everything (one morning, I spent the entire morning figuring out how my insurance works haha). So  today, I’m sitting at The Harbor Coffeeshop getting it done.

There you have it guys. no matter what you’re working on, make sure you set yourselves up for success. Okay, I’m out now. I have to write at least 10 pages today. No big deal.

Good luck today on getting it done!

The aftermath

October 29, 2015. The date of my last blog published.

November 2, 2015. The day my grandfather was in a car accident. A young woman was driving drunk and drugged, coming home from a night of clubbing. A man was driving steady, going to pick up his truck for a day of work. She went the wrong way in the express way. Neither of them stood a chance.

November 11, 2015. The day a wonderful boy, Moses Arevalo, the brother of one of the best friends I could ever ask for, passed away in a car accident. Also the day my grandfather, after a long battle in the hospital, was declared brain dead.

November 12, 2015. The day I got on a plane out to Miami and cried next to four strangers, none of which patted me on the back, praise God. Also the day we gathered as a family in the hospital, laughing, crying, remembering, and preparing to let my grandfather go.

November 15, 2015. The funeral. We wore red, because he liked red and why the hell not. We closed the casket because it didn’t even look like him.

November 16, 2015. The day we began to let go.

Some bloggers blog their pain. Some people just need to talk it through, be heard, loved, understood. Held.

Others, prefer a quieter approach. Don’t ask, don’t tell, conceal, don’t reveal. Is it just me or is this starting to sound like Frozen?

For the past few months I haven’t been telling. I haven’t wanted to be asked. Doug has had to deal with random bursts of emotion, but he’s been wise about it. I cry, he puts his arm around me, we act like nothing weird is happening. It’s not that I’m not facing the problem, it’s just that I don’t know what to say to people.

But I’m back now. Ready to start talking again. I’ve missed you guys.

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My brother, grandparents, and me celebrating New Year’s in Dubai, 2014

The art of “I’m sorry”

IMG_0214I’ve been stressed this week. I mean, every week brings elements of stress, but this week has just been crazy! After a weekend trip to Pennsylvania, I’ve been playing catchup with the newspaper, begging for homework extensions, and stressing over my midterm grade. Not to mention I had to have a some difficult conversations with a couple of my staff. That’s never fun 😦

A side effect of this stress is emotional instability. My emotions have been all over the place. Just three days ago while Doug and I cuddled on the couch, I burst into tears because I “didn’t feel pretty or successful.” Doug held me and didn’t tell me I’m an emotional mess, which was really sweet of him. But let’s face it, I really am.

The point of telling you all this is that yesterday I reached a new low. One of my editors texted me asking a question about staff photo day, and I blew up at her. I replied with a passive-aggressive text, emphasizing how I’m really busy and have everything under control (clearly).

Not one of my high points.

So, this morning I had to woman-up and apologize to her. I’m still ashamed at how I lashed out, but she kindly thanked me and we’ve since moved on.

It’s amazing what those little words−I’m sorry−do to mend a relationship.

But they only worked when used right. Here are things I’ve learned are key to make my apologies sincere.

  1. Don’t use “but.” I’ve found that when I say use the word “but,” my apology is no longer valid. “I’m sorry I reacted this way, but I’ve been so tired.” My editor didn’t really care why I attacked her for no reason, she just cared that I did, and I’m sure it sucked.
  2. Do recognize the other person’s value. When I lashed out at my editor for sending me a reminder, I basically told her that her reminder, and her duty to help me stay on task, was not valued. Therefore, when I apologized, I made sure to assure her that she’s a great and valuable part of the newspaper team.
  3. Do recognize your error. I had to recognize that I was wrong. I didn’t intend to come across as a vicious ingrate, but I did, and it was hurtful. I had to admit my wrongness to my editor by recognizing that my response to her was totally inappropriate. It’s never fun, but in the end it’s worth it.
  4. Do be humble. Humility is so hard. It’s so hard for me to say that I’m wrong, that I regret my actions or words, and that I want forgiveness. But and apology without humility is really not an apology at all.

It’s never easy to stand in our wrongness and just be wrong, but ultimately an apology not only mends a relationship, but grows it as well. What do you believe is essential to the art of “I’m sorry?”

In the morning when I rise . . .

I strugglemorning-262423_640 to find time with God.

With all the craziness going on, it’s easy for me to just slip a quick prayer in before bed and call it a day.

Sometimes I’ll even read a short devotion from a book Doug gave me for Christmas, but even then I feel guilty. I mean, those little devotions are only a couple paragraphs. Isn’t personal worship supposed to be done in the hazy hours of the morning, with a warm cup of coffee and an hour to dig deep into God? Aren’t I supposed to be keeping a faithful prayer journal, where I can go back and see the way God has answered my prayers?

I’ve spent so much time beating myself up over not having the perfect devotion time, but I haven’t really spent time taking steps to realistically build in that time with God. It’s just like time with friends, family, or Doug. If I’m not intentional, it doesn’t happen.

Here are a few things which have helped me this week in being intentional with God

  • 15 minutes is okay. Here’s the thing, I’m not disciplined enough to carve out that hour with God. Not yet, anyway. Instead of beating myself up about my lack of discipline, I’m starting small. On the days when I’m just too tired and would probably skip God time, I dedicate 15 minutes of quality time to him. I intentionally put everything away and use those minutes to connect with my heavenly father. It’s not a lot, but it adds so much worth to my day and to my relationship with Him.
  • There’s no one way to do it. I have a very definite idea of what my time with God is supposed to look like. Early morning meditation, a cute journal and Bible, a warm cup of coffee in a colorful mug, a desk sitting by the window, illuminated by a small lamp and the early morning pink light . . . you get the picture. The truth is, we all worship differently. If reading isn’t your thing, try singing. Or maybe a prayer walk through nature. Make your time with Him unique.
  • Make the evening your morning. Mornings are the worst possible time for me to connect with anything, let alone God. Did you know that in Genesis 1, the days are actually counted with their beginning in the evening, not in the morning? God intended for our days to begin with rest, not with frenzied mornings. So, if mornings aren’t your thing, make evenings your mornings, and watch how your time with God gains more meaning and depth.

Keeping these three things in mind, I’m off on a journey of getting to know God more through quality time with Him. Wish me luck, and share what helps you stay consistent in your walk with Him!

The value of friendship

Free coffee and mugs fro LaMar's Donuts on International Coffee Day

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art . . . It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

Life just keeps getting crazier and crazier! Things with the newspaper are really picking up. I spend most of my days trying to in squeeze answering emails and Facebook messages and editing between the cracks of work, homework, classes, and random meetings.

Not to mention trying to find leads on jobs for after graduation.

With all this going on, it’s so easy to forget to spend time with my girls. It just seems like time not spent on the grind (or on Date Night), is wasted time.

But the truth is that without these girls and their support and love, I’d go crazy! And the few golden minutes I spend with them really makes a difference.

Last week LaMar’s Donuts down the street had free coffee and mugs for International Coffee Day (I know–free MUGS!). My roommate came in after her morning run and we took a quick walk down there. I had piles of homework waiting for me and I was definitely stressing over the three messages I had in my inbox from my editors, but going to get coffee with her refreshed and reenergized me.

Friendship is just one of those things that adds color and joy to life. Making room for some quality time with a friend during the day makes all the difference. And I’ve realized that the time we spend doesn’t have to be a lot. It took Debbie (my roommate) and me about 20 minutes to walk down there and get some coffee.

As C.S. Lewis says, friends may not be necessary, but they add incomparable value to my day, and to my life!