Working 9 to 5 organising someone else’s life is what most EA’s do right? We forget that they also have full weekends organising their own life and in addition that the balancing act of trying to fit time in for their relationships, children, family and friends.
I used to invite family and friends over for dinner on a Saturday night. I would wake up early Saturday morning and go to the supermarket, spending a lot of time there buying everything I need for the dinner and the week ahead. I would then get home, start my washing, clean my entire house, and then start preparing the evening’s three course meal from about 3pm. One word: STRESSFUL! By 6pm I was exhausted, rattled and taking out my frustration on my husband all while being annoyed at myself for wasting a beautiful weekend frazzled and not relaxed.
So that I can actually wind down and relax with my husband over a weekend, I now arrange our catch ups with family and friends during the week. Dinner parties are back ‘in’ (after the Global Financial Crisis we are all trying to save money!), and we like to put on dinners for our friends and family that make them feel welcome and special. This may sound like too much work after a long day and impossible when you think of getting your house and kitchen ready for the occasion, but with the right preparation and planning, it can make your life easier and you might just get your weekends back!
Are all EA’s (or women in general) on the quest for perfection, i.e. an organised home makes you a domestic goddess? I’m keen to hear your view, as I think this is a bit outdated in some people’s minds!
- Organise your meal to take place preferably earlier in the week. I find that by Thursday my house is MUCH messier than a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, after my thorough clean on Saturday and Sunday. Why this is I have no idea!
- Online Shopping anyone? Don’t underestimate this service. I shop early in the week about once a fortnight and plan my meals around the specials at the time. In my experience, my fruit and veg is much fresher than anything I can get off the shelf, my meat is cheaper and I can be checking my pantry and not second guessing what I may or may not have at home. It is delivered to your door in a timeframe that works for you. I haven’t had a bad experience and have found I saved money in the long run as it removed impulse buys – so can highly recommend it.
- Planning in this way means getting organised, let’s have a look at a calendar example that breaks up your housecleaning and chores to hopefully make your life easier:
- Don’t forget to tell you boss you have to leave on time that day (make sure you tell them either at the start of the day or day prior.) I have a flexible working environment so I can tell my Manager the day before and work 7.30am to 4pm instead of my usual 8.30 to 5pm, meaning I’m home by 5.30pm and dinner is well and truly prepped and ready for 6pm. We always forget that we need time to get ourselves ready!
- Always pick a meal you have made before, preferably that is tried and tested. If I’m hosting a lot of people one month, I will cook the same meal so it runs like clockwork. Anything I make for friends and family has to be something my husband loves – so he doesn’t get sick of it!
- Meals that do most of the cooking in the oven are much more social than slaving away over a hot stove – meaning you are giving full attention to your guests from the get go. I find that if this is the case guests don’t feel the need to stay too late after the dinner, and when it is a weeknight you definitely want an empty house by 10.30pm!
- Meals made in the oven also keep your kitchen clean. My guests walk into a clean house, tidy kitchen and a delicious smell wafting through the room. This is as close to a domestic goddess as I will ever get!
- Buy flowers two days before, so they have a chance to open up and look their best.
- Set the table and make the dessert the night before. For those people who don’t have a Thermomix that whips up a dessert in seconds, preparing this part a day early this will make all the difference! Even if you do have one of these super quick machines, I recommend preparing a cheesecake or something simple the night before so you are only worrying about the main meal on the night.
- Don’t forget to make sure there is wine and beer in the fridge the night before if you are planning to serve some. I usually leave the drinks up to my husband…
- Some people may also like to prep their vegetables if they are roasting the night before, so they are cut and ready to go straight in the oven. I prefer to have an empty dishwasher, and all the serving ware and cooking utensils I need out and ready to go.
- Having a dinner the night after work, means it starts at 7pm at the earliest, removing the need for any fancy or filling entrée. You would find on a weekend you might tell people to come over from 6pm and you might not eat the main meal until 8pm, where if I’m just getting home at this time, it isn’t suitable. (They don’t need to know I left the office at 4pm do they?!) Something light, like nuts or bread with olive oil and balsamic is tasty and easy, and can be transferred to the table to have with dinner also – keeping your guests full!
- If you have a lot of dishes, put a small load into your dishwasher and turn this on for a quick cycle after main. It will be quick to unpack, and means everything is hidden away and your kitchen is remaining spotless! I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t have a dishwasher, this is as important as a fridge or oven to me!
- If you have used the oven, hide the roasting pans and dirty trays back in there when you are done with them. Leave them to soak overnight once your guests have gone and clean them tomorrow. No point staying up late scrubbing away when they are easily out of sight.
- Using these tips, my dishwasher is usually on and kitchen doesn’t look as though it was even used as the guests are departing. My guests are full from a meal (always remember bread – a great filler) and I have been able to sit and talk to them, not leaving my husband to host the entire night. I’m so organised my guests won’t feel guilty for not lifting a finger, and I should hope they are impressed that my kitchen isn’t a disaster zone!
What if I’m a guest?
Surely all you have to do is turn up and eat? NO!
- Make sure the host is aware if you don’t eat anything. It is important if you have any strong aversions or allergies to make sure you raise them.
- Never, EVER arrive earlier than the stated time. I once had a dinner guest turn up at my house half an hour earlier than I requested, about 10 minutes after I got home from work and they have never been invited back.
- 7pm to 7.30pm means 7.30pm at the latest. After then you have the chance of ruining dinner and all of your hosts planning and hard work
- If you are not going to invite them back for a meal, you must bring something. Flowers need to be tended to straight away, so wine or a homemade food gift is a must in my books.
- Don’t overstay your welcome and become a burden. On a weeknight, 10.30pm is late. On a weekend, anytime after 1am is rude if you haven’t helped with the clean up. As soon as one person yawns, it’s time to go!
- If it’s your first time at someone’s house, send a thank you note the next day. Your host has gone to a lot of trouble to have you, and this handwritten token really shows your appreciation.
Here is an idea of my Perfect Midweek Dinner Menu:
– Store bought olive bread, served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
(can be prepped that evening)
For Summer and Autumn: Chicken breast rested on a few cloves of garlic, baked with olive oil, lemon juice and rind, cherry tomato’s, green olives and parsley for 45 minutes, served with green beans and pesto pasta.
(Chicken and dressing can be ready to go the night before to place straight in the oven once you are home from work, green beans and pasta can be made the evening of)
For Winter and Spring: Marinated butterfly lamb, slow roasted for 1 hour and served with roast vegetables.
(Lamb and vegetables can be ready to go the night before and taken straight out of the fridge into the oven once you are home from work)
For Winter: Sticky Date Pudding with Vanilla Ice-cream and Caramel Sauce
For Spring: Brownies with fresh raspberries and cream
For Summer: Crème Brulee
For Autumn: Rhubarb & Vanilla Lattice Pie, served with Vanilla ic-cream.
If you would like any of the recipes I use for my dinner parties, please comment on this post and I will send them to you.
Did you know it’s not common to know table etiquette anymore? This isn’t just required for personal events, but can make you look a lot more professional if you know what you are doing at a business breakfast, lunch or dinner. I will cover this off in addition subsequent to this post over the next week, please let me know if you have any other etiquette tips you would like to hear.